Is Ascent realignment sign of a turnaround at the St. Thomas utility?


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Is the latest grim news over at Ascent in reality a turning point for the beleaguered St. Thomas utility?

In a phone conversation Friday with acting CEO John Laverty, he confirmed rumors swirling on social media of further layoffs.

“We had a small number of folks we let go,” noted Laverty, “but we added the same number back in different areas of the company. So the net loss to the corporation is zero.

“It’s realigning some of the business units, ones that were not being financially productive and we were running out of work for them. Continue reading

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Council waffles on future of cemetery


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It’s proving to be a hand-to-mouth existence for St. Thomas Cemetery Company after it came up $9,000 short in funding from the city this year.
The board of directors had originally requested a $59,000 operating grant but on Monday received $20,000, to go with an initial instalment of $30,000 in April.
This money is applied to the board’s almost $200,000 operating budget.
The municipality began funding the company in the mid-1980s to avoid a takeover.
Council voted 7-1 — with Coun. Mark Tinlin in opposition — to support the cemetery board through reduced levels of funding over time. Council could also consider advancing funds for minor capital replacements and expansion in services if other financial resources are not available at the time.
What remains up in the air is how this yearly amount would be determined. Continue reading

It could take three years to get Ascent ‘back on stream’ – acting CEO John Laverty


While the utility is turning the corner after racking up a substantial operating loss in 2014, the acting CEO at Ascent advises it could take up to three years “to get back on stream.”

With the departure Sept. 30 of former CEO Ron Osborne, board chairman John Laverty takes over the helm at the former St. Thomas Energy Holdings Inc., on a temporary basis. It will be Laverty’s responsibility to guide the process that will result in the hiring of an individual tasked with hauling the utility out of the financial quagmire in which it finds itself to the tune of $14 million in losses and money owing the city last year.
Continue reading

Ascent CEO pulls the plug: resigns as of Sept. 30


Less than three years after taking over the helm at Ascent Group (formerly St. Thomas Holdings Inc.) CEO Ron Osborne has tendered his resignation, effective Wednesday.
He is stepping down just 10 days after the utility’s dismal 2014 financial statement was presented to city council.
In 2014, the Ascent Group rang up an operating loss of $6.8 million. That compares with a $1.4 million profit in 2013.
Furthermore at the end of last year, Ascent owed the city another $7.9 million for deferred payment of water bills which it collects on behalf of the city. Continue reading

From bad to worse over at Ascent


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We laid bare last week the grim financial picture at Ascent — the former St. Thomas Energy — which bled more than $14 million in red ink in 2014.
It’s an ugly scenario the mayor and city council were loathe to reveal publicly and you really had to have a penchant for picking over financial statements to get a sense of how dire the situation is.
As shareholders, the city was not going to issue a media release to ratepayers in an attempt at damage control.
And there’s another dramatic turn of events this week at Ascent: City Scope has learned CEO Ron Osborne has tendered his resignation.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the shareholders to confirm that one either.
Continue reading

Ascent financial picture a shocker


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You may not realize this, but as a city ratepayer you are, in essence, a shareholder in the former St. Thomas Energy or what is now known as Ascent.

With that in mind we offer a word of caution: take a deep breath and sit down before proceeding any further.

Monday night, city council will be in receipt of the 2014 audited Ascent financial statement — although as shareholders and with two members sitting on the Ascent board of directors — the gory details were laid bare some time ago.

This corner has warned the picture would be grim — we never could have imagined it is more a financial free fall.
Continue reading

A return to core business or fire sale at Ascent?


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Couldn’t help but notice this week the Ascent office/workshop on Harper Rd. was not only for sale, but now had a ‘sold’ sign out front.
Seems odd in that the media were invited out to that same location earlier this year to get a first-hand look at the projects undertaken at the former ECM Controls, purchased by St. Thomas Energy in November, 2010.
At that time, ECM Controls employed 10 people who designed and built industrial controls. As shareholder and owner of St. Thomas Holding (the parent company), city council unanimously green-lighted the move, asking no questions nor providing comment on the move.
So what happened in the intervening five years? Continue reading