Two highly-respected leaders in Hamilton’s Public Works department are gone. City Manager Janette Smith sent out an email this morning saying that Public Works head Dan McKinnon “informed me that he was going to retire from the City effective immediately.” Then in the early afternoon Smith sent out a second email reading “I wanted to let you know that effective today, Andrew Grice, the Director of Hamilton Water, is no longer with the City of Hamilton.” While no details were released it appears the two departures were linked.
McKinnon had headed the city’s Water and Wastewater division before being promoted to the head of Public Works in 2016 when Grice took over Hamilton Water.
Under both men, the department had won praise from local Environmental groups such as the Remedial Action Plan for the steady progress that had been made in improving water quality in Hamilton Harbour. That progress was set to make another leap forward with the completion of the upgrades to the Woodward Water Treatment Plant, a project that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars when completed, and was being overseen by Grice and apparently was progressing well.
McKinnon and Grice took justifiable pride in their work in improving water quality in the Harbour, but their efforts received a setback in 2018 when it was discovered that 24 billion litres of sewage-contaminated water had been released into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise as a result of an undetected gate malfunction at the combined sewage overflow tank near the 403. Council was informed of the situation in January of 2019 but the public wasn’t aware until details were brown-enveloped to the Spectator in November of that year.
In the leadup to the 2022 municipal election the departures will hand council another hot potato. The timing of the departures promises to trigger calls for a more fulsome explanation of the moves, as both McKinnon and Grice were respected by community stakeholders for being forthright and dedicated public servants, qualities that observers think may have put them offside with council at times. McKinnon is still expected to offer testimony in the Red Hill Enquiry whenever it gets underway.