After close to 13 hours of discussion, Hamilton city councillors have voted 10 to four in favour of merging four local electricity distributors.
This week, city staff released a report recommending council approve a Horizon Utilities merger. Hamilton will now hold the third-largest stake in the new utility company.
The company will serve nearly one million customers in York, Peel, Barrie, Hamilton and St. Catharines.
Hamilton is currently an 80 percent shareholder of Horizon. With the merger, the city will only have about 18 percent control — that’s compared to the city of Mississauga, which will have about 30 percent ownership.
Earlier Friday, some councillors were worried about the loss of local control and said they wanted more time to look over the staff report.
Max Cananzi is the President & CEO of Horizon Utilities: “That’s money that will be reinvested into the community whether it’s reduction in what customers pay on their bill or whether it is a dividend that is flowing into the city. Combine those two together, you are looking at 11-12 million dollars back into the community.”
Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla: “We need to short circuit this process. and ensure we have full open transparent discussion. Today, I brought a motion that would make this public and that’s important. This is a public entity and cannot be jeopardized in private. And I am offended that some people are suggesting that we the councillors should have made private contact with Horizon to get clarification. That means people were advocating secrecy over public and open government.
Horizon says customers will see a savings of 40 dollars a year, but that’s not until the year 2020. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger says, on average, the merger will inject almost 11 million dollars more into the city’s economy each year. But it also means there will be job cuts. Horizon wouldn’t say how many, but the losses would be addressed through voluntary retirement.