SaultOnline received the following Open Letter from Mr. Larry Guerriero, Chair of the PUC Board of Directors. The letter is a response to statements made by Mr. Christian Provenzano, a candidate for Mayor, during an interview which was published on another local media website.
September 10th, 2014
Mr. Christian Provenzano, B.A., LL.B.
369 Queen Street East,
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Dear Mr. Provenzano:
As Chair of the Sault Ste. Marie PUC Board of Directors, I feel it is necessary to respond to your critical comments as reported last week on Sootoday.com (September 2nd) regarding the operations of our company. Your comments were disappointing given they were not based on factual information, information that we would have been happy to provide to you.
You have suggested that having the Mayor on the Board as an official or unofficial member would have somehow changed the direction the company took in dealing with issues including discoloured water. I would like to remind you that there are three city councillors involved in overseeing PUC operations. All three members of City Council sit on both the PUC Inc. and PUC Services Inc. Boards of Directors and are actively involved in Board discussions and decisions. Additionally one of the three city councillor sits on the Board of the Public Utilities Commission, the body that directly oversees municipal water treatment and distribution. Those councillors represent the interests of our shareholder, the City of Sault Ste. Marie and have played a prominent role on the Board. Also, you may not be aware of this, but PUC Board meetings are open to the public. Any member of the public (yourself included) is more than welcome to attend the meetings.
You also question the trustworthiness and competence of the PUC in dealing with the water issue indicating the company “screwed up” in the first place. Again I am disappointed and frustrated with the lack of factual information contained in your comments. Furthermore, I find those comments insulting to the Board, PUC employees and the Steering Committee that developed the Water Quality Improvement Strategy to resolve the discoloured water issue.
As we have explained many times over, we did not randomly decide one day to change the city’s drinking water. We have been making changes to the water for more than ten years now, all because of changes in provincial regulations that obligated us to alter the way in which we disinfect the city’s drinking water. The changes we made were based on the best information available and were the right choices to be made at that time.
You may not be aware but the Steering Committee that oversaw the development of the Water Quality Improvement Project included representation from City Council (3 councillors), PUC staff, Ministry of the Environment and Algoma Public Health officials, engineering consultants, and members of the public that are knowledgeable in this area. We believe the strategy put forward by the Steering Committee is the best long term comprehensive solution to this issue. Your comments appear to have taken an incredibly complicated issue and superficially simplified it by cherry picking for your own political purposes suggesting you would bring in your own “professional advice” to review the strategy.
Mr. Provenzano, let me assure you there is no quick fix for the discoloured water problem. There certainly is no political solution.
Discoloured water is unacceptable and that’s why we have put so much time, effort and expertise into researching, developing and implementing the Water Quality Improvement Project.
Regarding your comments on the construction of the new PUC building on Second Line, this was a well-researched business decision based on the age and deteriorating condition of our three existing buildings. We had outgrown the facilities and all three required costly renovations to meet our long-term needs. The cost to renovate and repair those facilities would not have been money well spent in the long-term. While our employees did move from the downtown offices to the Second Line facility there was no loss of jobs. Furthermore, redevelopment of the vacated facilities will result in overall job additions and increased commercial tax base for this city.
The PUC group of companies has proven to be a valuable asset to the City of Sault Ste. Marie. Not only have we given $32 million in shareholder dividends to the City since 2001 (which has resulted in significant tax savings to our citizens), but we have substantially increased the value of PUC assets that are ultimately owned by the City.
In conclusion let me assure you we are well aware of our responsibility to provide essential services to our community.
Larry Guerriero, Chair
PUC Board of Directors
cc: PUC Board of Directors
Mayor and Council
PUC Management & Staff