The future operations of Chestermere Utilities Inc. are being reviewed with a focus on finding a new way forward for the utility company.
To that end, at the Sept. 4 meeting, council voted to retain the city auditors, KPMG and legal council, McMillan LLP, to, “provide a report recommending alternative options for the restructuring, or the dissolution of CUI.”
Chestermere Mayor Marshall Chalmers said that the work that KPMG is being tasked with is very focused and intended to lay out the best way forward for the city.
“They’re tasked with the specific mandate to assist both the CAO and ultimately council on what is the best path forward,” he said.
All options are on the table from CUI being dissolved and rolled back into the municipality to restructuring to improve financial policy and improve efficiency in the utility company’s operations.
“What option is not on the table is the status quo,” said Chalmers who said that all of council heard this message from residents during their election campaigns.
For this reason, the review of CUI was incorporated into council’s strategic plan for the city.
While Chalmers admits that the future of CUI is complex, they are actually ahead of the schedule they set in the strategic plan.
“It’s actually earlier than what’s established in the strategic plan, but we felt because it’s such an important topic that we were at that point where we could begin to initiate a process that would give us a clear direction,” he said.
As they work to discern what the best path forward is, Chalmers said that they have been lucky to have two experienced Chief Administrative Officers (CAO), interim CAO Pat Vincent and the city’s new CAO Bernie Morton, provide input on the review.
“We’re very fortunate that we’ve had…two very seasoned CAOs… to assist council and review all the documents,” he said.
The city has been working closely with the CUI board to fully understand the utility company and its operations.
“We’ve taken our time, we’ve been very diligent working through…to get a good understanding and understand the agreements and now it’s time to start moving,” said Chalmers.
“We’re moving forward consistent with the strategic plan and we will take our time we’ll allow the CAO the opportunity he needs to best advise and give him support through both the KPMG and legal,” he said.
“It is complex, but we’ll work our way through it.”
The report is scheduled to be submitted to council at a special meeting of council on Oct. 22.
Whatever the future of CUI, the cost of utilities in the city won’t simply vanish.
“The cost of utilities is the cost of utilities and there’s a lot of agreements,” said Chalmers, “your water and waste water those are contracts that are in place with the city of Calgary.”
“Everybody wants when they turn the tap, they want to make sure they’ve got safe clear clean water.
“So that’s our responsibility and we’ve got to ensure we’re providing that and of course the rest of the services,” said Chalmers.
Former council candidate, Al Kersch said he’s happy to hear that the city is working to restructure CUI.
“If they make a good, solid decision moving forward based on those options they’re looking on, I think, you know, we should be in pretty good shape,” he said.
“My concern is that they don’t throw out the good in CUI, cause there’s some good,” said Kersch.
He said that in his opinion, the leadership at CUI has been good.
“They were dealt a tough hand at the beginning and they just went through and did what they could, and I think they came up with some good solutions initially,” he said.
In addition to reviewing the future of CUI, council also appointed all members of City Council to the CUI board.
The move was made by council as a way to ensure all city councilors stay fully informed on CUI’s operations.