Ascent sale is finalized, and now ratepayers are waiting for financial disclosure


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was late Friday afternoon when the media release arrived announcing completion of Spark Power’s acquisition of Ascent Solutions Inc., a division of Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy).
The pending sale was announced at the beginning of March and involves the Oakville, Ontario firm’s purchase of Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
Both will operate as members of the Spark Power Group of Companies but function as autonomous, highly integrated operating teams, according to the release.
Tiltran and Tal Trees specialize in constructing and maintaining medium to high voltage substations and power lines, engineering services and equipment sales and offer 24/7 emergency response.
The combined businesses include 53 employees based in the two locations. 

Although the release landed after 5 p.m. Friday, Jason Sparaga, co-CEO of Spark Power, was more than willing to elaborate on the purchase, answering all questions except for that critical consideration: the sale price.
More on that later.
stthomasenergyjpg“The acquisition went very much as we hope it would,” advised Sparaga. ‘We’re very happy with how it went. It was a fair process. Everybody was professional and we got it done in a quick and timely manner.”
Can’t help but shake that nagging feeling Spark Power got themselves one hell of a bargain at the Ascent fire sale. We asked Sparaga how his company was made aware of Ascent’s willingness to part with it’s Solutions division.
“We were aware of some of the things going on at Ascent just because we are in the industry. The companies we own and the companies Ascent owns, there are people that worked together in past lives and they had some conversations.
“Similarly some of the advisers and people around the Ascent situation, we were familiar with,” Sparaga continued.
“I would like to say it was kind of a mutually logical conversation and it just kind of happened. It seemed to be such a logical fit, quite frankly.
“The people who were working with Ascent to try to work through the situation knew to pick up the phone and call us and say, ‘Hey, would you be interested, you seem like a logical fit.’ And, we were game.”
All right, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What was the purchase price?
“I’d have to defer . . . we’re a private company so we usually don’t (reveal financial details),” advised Sparaga.
“We’ll have to defer on that point to the people in St. Thomas. Through Rob (Robert Kent, Ascent acting CEO) and Wendell (city manager Wendell Graves). I’m not at liberty to saying anything under non-disclosure. If they want to, they are perfectly free to do that.”
So, Ascent and the city could, when asked, release the purchase details.
Neither was available for comment on Friday.
Now, which member of city council — acting on behalf of the true shareholders, the ratepayers of St. Thomas — stand up during Monday’s meeting and request public disclosure of this information?
Because when you hear comments like “some of the things going on at Ascent” and “some of the advisers and people around the Ascent situation” you can’t help but conclude the pulse remains weak over at the utility.

Laverty, John jpg

John Laverty

Combine that with the sudden, and unexplained, departure of acting CEO John Laverty last month, and we’re not seeing a pretty picture.
Like the revelations contained in the Dobbie report, the lack of information coming forward from the city manager, the mayor and  councillors Linda Stevenson and Gary Clarke – the latter three council’s representatives on the utility’s board of directors — on the financial health of Ascent  is cause for alarm.
Especially in light of the mayor’s pledge for greater transparency at city hall.

Related posts:

More comfort needed at Pinafore Park comfort station?

Is Ascent realignment sign of a turnaround at the St. Thomas utility?
A duty upheld on the rarest of occasions
Council waffles on future of cemetery
Over-extended reach ultimately hobbled Ascent
Ascent CEO pulls the plug: resigns as of Sept. 30
From bad to worse over at Ascent
Ascent financial picture a shocker
A return to core business or fire sale at Ascent?

MY PLEASURE
A wonderful thank-you note this week from St. Thomas history buff Ryan Belanger, whose persistence played a key role in the recovery of the McLachlin Hall cornerstone on the Alma College property.

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St. Thomas history buff Ryan Belanger, left, and London developer Gino Reale, owner of the Alma College property, hold the tin container that served as a time capsule unearthed  inside the McLachlin Hall cornerstone found buried in the rubble. The capsule, believed lost, contained newspapers, drawings, coins, a postage stamp and other items.

“I can’t believe how much of a response it (the May 5 Times-Journal story) got,” writes Ryan.
“It’s been a joy for me to have been a part of this story and I’ll definitely let you know if I come up with another discovery!”
Surely just a matter of time.

Maki, Trent - Amino jpg

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Cause I don’t really need a bunch of people coming to my door asking for a job right now.”

Trent Maki, president of Amino North America Corporation, responding to T-J reporter Jennifer Bieman on why he would not answer her previous question dealing with the type of individuals the firm might hire as a result of the plant expansion announced this week.

City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to imccallum@postmedia.com.

 

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