The Township of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal is launching a governance review of its largest asset, the Port of Prescott.
The township has owned the St. Lawrence River port since 2000, when it assumed ownership from Transport Canada, and the governance review will explore whether to incorporate the Port of Prescott as a company with the township as the sole shareholder, or to establish a port authority.
“We're just looking at all the different scenarios of how it could be,” said Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Mayor Bill Sloan.
“We've owned it 10 years, and we just think, for liability reasons, that it's (time) to see what's the best way to have it structured.”
The township is in the process of hiring an Ottawa-based consultant to examine the port's governance and offer possible alternatives. The report is not expected until early 2014.
The Port of Prescott, with the help of an American consultant, is in the midst of completing a business strategy, which it will present to council in November. Robert Dalley, the port's general manager, said the port is looking at its business strategy moving forward and reviewing its business model.
A $35-million new dock is slated for completion within the next two years. Dalley said the Port of Prescott is looking to expand its marine operations with the completion of the facility.
“First of all, you've got to make sure you have the infrastructure, and we didn't. Our wharf was failing. Now, the infrastructure is about 80 per cent complete,” Dalley said.
“We never had that space before at the port, but with the new dock, we've got an additional 15 acres of lay-down for potential cargos, and that's one of the things we're going to be looking at.”
Edwardsburgh/Cardinal chief administrative officer Debra McKinstry said the port's business strategy is being done because of its recent expansion.
“At the same time, and sort of in conjunction with that, we're going to take a look at governance,” she said.
“Right now, the port reports to a committee of council, which happens to be made up all of council. But, there's other ways of doing that.”
The Port of Prescott annually generates $2 million to $3 million in net profit revenue.
However, despite the profit, Sloan said there is a lot of cost for the township to keep it up-to-date, including $1 million this year to update its electrical system.
“It's a big upkeep. We're putting a new transformer and everything in,” Sloan said.
“It's not all profit; you've got to put the money back in because it's an old facility and you've got to keep updating it.”
Sloan and McKinstry both said the governance review will be examined by Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Township council when the report is completed in early 2014.
“There are a lot of different options, and all the different options have implications as far as things like taxes and liability and all that type of stuff,” said McKinstry.
Sloan said the township has a liability to its ratepayers because of the age of the Port of Prescott.
“You've got to be careful, because it's an old facility and it's a grain elevator. We just want to protect our taxpayers and ourselves too,” he said.
“We're just doing it to update our structure, that's all.”
PORT NAME CHANGE
The Port of Prescott will officially become the Port of Johnstown on January 1, 2014.
The township decided earlier this year to rename the grain elevator to better reflect its geographic location.
“We're going to start putting the word out shortly,” said Edwardsburgh/Cardinal mayor Bill Sloan.