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Industry looming over harbour lands

FarmTech payback terms still undecided

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Halloween may have been over a week ago, but councillors got quite the scare on Nov. 6.

During a presentation from Bruce McArthur, the City of Oshawa’s representative on the Oshawa Port Authority (OPA) Board, it was made public that there had already been interest shown in the lands previously slated for the much-maligned, and eventually scrapped, ethanol plant.

And while the threat of an ethanol plant may be gone, councillors quickly realized that there could in fact be something much worse in its place, as McArthur gave word that a propane facility had expressed interest in the land.

He was very quick to point out that OPA board members were “horrified” by the idea, and that a “scathing” response was received from Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services, to the potential idea.

“I think the port authority may have learned its lesson,” McArthur said. “It will, in all probability, not go forward.”

Following a lengthy arbitration case with FarmTech Energy, the port is on the hook for an award of $4.1 million. The impact of that decision was made clear when the port’s auditor released the federal entity’s financial statements for 2016 this past summer, within which the auditor raised serious concerns about the impact the payout will have on the port’s future, noting the settlement and associated legal fees “casts significant doubt upon the Port Authority’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Moving forward, McArthur said the OPA hopes to reach an agreement with FarmTech that could see them pay back the money over a period of years.

“We hope to grow the port and perhaps pay off FarmTech from revenues we receive over time,” he said.

However, nothing has been set in stone to this point, as McArthur notes that FarmTech lawyers are trying to get the federal government to pay the entire award outright.

“At this present time, the federal government is fully engaged with FarmTech,” McArthur noted.

The arbitration award still has some councillor shaking their heads.

“It bothers me to no end,” said Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki. “I just can’t understand that.”

It was a sentiment shared by McArthur.

“We thought we were on solid ground, and we were quite surprised when we basically were at the other end of $4 million.”

Moving forward, McArthur says that the OPA will be “aggressive” in marketing the port to potential tenants. Most recently, the port welcomed McGinnis Cement as its newest tenant.