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Letter: Town of Olds council's O-NET actions cause loss of faith

Letter writer says it is necessary for council to apologize to the citizens of Olds for past mistakes and wrongs and restore a sense of trust once again between citizens, volunteers and staff at various levels
opinion

Open letter to Town of Olds council

To: Mayor Judy Dahl and councillors Wanda Blatz, James Cummings, Dan Daley, Heather Ryan, Harvey Walsh and Darren Wilson. 

It was with a great deal of disappointment that I attended the annual meeting of Olds Fibre Ltd., operating as O-NET, now a municipally-controlled corporation of the Town of Olds on July 8; a Friday night in the summer. Who holds a public annual meeting on a Friday night unless you don’t want people to attend? And, who holds an annual meeting with no opportunity for questions or discussion or a report by the general manager?

After two years and actions of council, we are now at this point:

On May 4, 2022 the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development held its last meeting to pass a motion to proceed with bankruptcy and to proceed to wind up the society. After 20 years of volunteer-driven initiatives, the organization no longer exists.

The Town of Olds has taken control of Mountain View Power and controls its income. Mountain View Power was started by volunteers and profits were used to fund volunteer-driven activities in the community. The Town of Olds has taken $270,000 from Mountain View Power and moved it to Olds Fibre Ltd.. 

The Town of Olds has disregarded $750,000 in private equity money that helped Olds Fibre Ltd. expand its network and grow its customer base. 

The actions of council has caused other communities that were looking to Olds and O-NET for services to lose faith and withdraw from contract discussions. This has cost O-NET undetermined amounts of income.

Council has appointed itself as the board of Olds Fibre Ltd. even though they have no experience in telecommunications.

The council has added the approximately $1 million legal and bankruptcy trustee bills to the Olds Fibre Ltd. debt even though the company has done nothing to justify these costs. Council represents all citizens of Olds and their actions should be paid by all citizens of Olds and not be placed on O-NET who has received no benefits from these actions by council. By placing this debt on O-NET, the council avoids criticism for these actions as they are not added to your tax bill. 

The ad for the annual meeting suggested that Olds Fibre Ltd. had missed payments and this is totally not true and offensive. There is no tax money used for Olds Fibre Ltd. as it is a profitable company and has paid all payments as they came due.  

There is a total lack of promotion to the citizens of Olds by the Town of Olds for O-NET and Mountain View Power even though these two entities bring so much value to our community. The savings realized and the profits benefit everyone and all citizens should be customers of both. 

So, the net result is a 20-year-old volunteer organization is gone, the Mountain View Power income is controlled by the council and we are approximately $1 million further in debt due to legal costs with not one positive outcome to show for these actions. 

While these actions were not instigated by this current council, it is nonetheless necessary for council to apologize to the citizens of Olds for the past mistakes and wrongs and restore a sense of trust once again between citizens, volunteers and staff at various levels. To do anything less shows a lack of responsibly and transparency. 

Joe Gustafson, past Olds Fibre Ltd. chairman,

Olds