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Letter: Given O-NET debacle, only one candidate to vote for

We need a written-in-stone promise that taxpayer money will not be used by the successful candidate to bail out this business nightmare

The federal election is over and now we are faced with the town election.

Best of the worst? Six of one, half a dozen of the other? More pandering and promises. These are usually my sentiments.

However. Given the O-NET debacle, and how the town ended up involved with this money and life sucking sycophant, I think there is only one candidate to vote for. 

My time, trouble, and effort (not to mention my taxes) are worth quite a bit. While I may like the opposition as a person, the result of the O-NET involvement is one that the town will be fiscally responsible for, potentially for decades to come. I cannot, in good conscience, vote for the individual who was responsible for the town’s involvement in this disaster.

That being said, I think we need a written-in-stone promise that taxpayer money will not be used by the successful candidate to bail out this business nightmare as has been done on a recurring basis – taxpayer money has been used, as has the town ‘reserves’ which also primarily constitute taxpayer money. I hope this is a lesson to the town. The town should have no involvement in private business.   

I am certain there were exceedingly convincing business plans and intentions presented to the former mayor and council to make such a persuasive argument. Apparently the road to O-NET and Olds Institute has long been paved with good intentions. Good intentions don’t pay the bills. Good intentions do not attract multimillion dollar corporations to establish offices in Olds based on the fibre content of the community.  Hope is not a strategy.

Why were the members of the board not actively recruiting and enticing big business to relocate to Olds, thus making O-NET a viable and sought-after service?  With other service providers already established, it does not take much to observe that the home market was already saturated. A partially executed business plan does not pay the bills. Resting on laurels does not pay the bills! Yet, it would seem, that the original as well as subsequent board members, did just that.    

Let’s discuss money owed for a moment. The amount of money that the town just paid ($452,647) to keep the loan from defaulting, is one of two such payments required each year. Joe Gustafson indicated that O-NET made around $320,000 last year. Was this gross? Net? Unfortunately, Mr. Gustafson did not mention expenses. 

Allow me to speculate and give Mr. Gustafson the benefit of the doubt as to what was meant. If that amount was, indeed, profit, why was it not applied to the principal? If, in fact, that amount was total income, it does not even come close to making one interest payment, let alone two, and the principal remains untouched. Please keep in mind I am only able to surmise actualities as O-NET has never provided a look at their books, and information regarding their profitability has been highly limited and sketchy at best. 

So we have as candidates, our current mayor who has recognized what a sinking ship O-NET is, with the board having fired all the torpedoes at the company themselves. The one candidate is trying to ensure citizens of Olds do not lose their service and the employees of O-NET do not lose their jobs. 

Then we have the former mayor responsible for this fiasco who jumped ship four years ago when our current mayor threw his hat into the ring. Yet, this former mayor has not indicated any plans for solutions to resolve the O-NET crisis. Instead, in her interview in the Albertan (September 7, 2021) she stated she has no concerns.  She also went on to indicate that she has “key messages” and goals she would like to accomplish but, apparently, “now is not the time to reveal them”.

Really? When is the time? Any candidacy shrouded in secrecy; and demonstrating a lackadaisical attitude toward $35,936,803.60 level of debt (most of it directly attributed to this former mayor and council’s decisions to get involved with O-NET should be construed as flippant. Definitely a complete insult to the taxpayers who have already had to bail out the sinking ship.  

I think it’s time to man the torpedoes. Tax paying citizens have the right to information to ensure they can make an informed decision. Even though it took years of complaints by numerous citizens to rid the town of a former peace officer's bullying and abuse, (and it will take longer to deal with the consequences of his behaviour and restore confidence in peace officers) - but I digress - I know how I will be voting. 

Dr. Tara-Jean Wenc

Kimberley, B.C.