Cornwall hit ‘sweet spot’ in ’98 sale of Cornwall Electric

Former Cornwall mayors Ron Bergeron and Dick Aubry make a presentation to city council on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. Bergeron says timing and market conditions were just right in the 1998 sale of Cornwall Electric. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A former Cornwall mayor says it was the “sweet spot of value and timing” 21 years ago that allowed the municipality to sell its “crown jewel” – Cornwall Electric.

Ron Bergeron was joined by another former mayor, Dick Aubry, in making a presentation to council on Monday night on the 20th anniversary of the electric utility.

Facing more competition in the electricity market at the time, Bergeron says the council of the day made “discrete inquires with possible buyers” for about two months before sealing a $68 million deal with Consumers Gas at nearly twice the book value.

The sale was delayed due to the 1998 ice storm, but that only helped by proving Cornwall Electric was a “rock solid organization” that kept the lights on during a crisis.

Bergeron says he was “never so proud” of how the utility functioned. “We had to get it right or people would die,” he said.

Since its creation, the $25 million Progress Fund has generated $20.5 million in income, which has helped pay for the Cornwall Community Hospital redevelopment, Cornwall Hospice, the Aquatic Center and the Benson Center among other projects.

Cornwall Electric is owned today by FortisOntario, part of Fortis Inc.