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Tbaytel dividends to city total $21.1 million

President and CEO Dan Topatigh says in addition to an $18.5-million dividend, a special dividend of $2.6 million will also be turned over to the city, which owns the utility.
Tbaytel president and CEO Dan Topatigh.

THUNDER BAY – A year of COVID-19 had no impact on the annual dividend Tbaytel is providing to the City of Thunder Bay in 2021.

In fact, things went well enough the municipally owned utility will be able to give a special $2.6-million dividend cheque, over and above the $18.5 million regular dividend.

President and CEO Dan Topatigh on Tuesday said while the company saw a drop in travel-related data packages, due to travel restrictions in place, they also saw at-home users spent more time at home and the demand for higher-quality Internet service grew.

“Every product line was up, but most prevalent was the need for more broadband speed, which was certainly heightened. Our employees were there to respond in a safe and responsible manner,” Topatigh said during a Zoom news conference.

He added the company also had to include some strong cost oversights during the first year of the pandemic, without jeopardizing capital spending plans.

“We managed to navigate through the pandemic very well and the end result of that was that our net income ended up at $20 million and that helped to translate into a performance dividend for the City of Thunder Bay of an additional $2.6 million, which we’re very proud to have achieved.”

In addition to the dividends, the company also gave out $458,179 to 95 organizations in 11 communities through its Tbaytel For Good program, including the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

Topatigh said Tbaytel was not unlike most businesses, having to reinvent best practices and standard operating procedures in order to fight through the pandemic, which did take away from the company’s bottom line.

“We transitioned a large part of our workforce to work-from-home, and that certainly was a change that we needed to accommodate in short order,” Topatigh said.

“We had the typical types of expenses that related to ensuring that our employee base could do their jobs safely and I think that was typical of most organizations that found themselves needing to respond. But I think the thing that we’re most proud of the response to the community needs.”

Topatigh said whether that was supporting customers who needed more flexible payment arrangements or other unique supports given to front line workers and school boards and other agencies to help them solve the challenges the pandemic brought, it felt good to be able to help solve the communications portion of the problem.

“It felt quite good that we managed to respond to the community.”

The city last year asked Tbaytel to increase its dividend between 2020 and 2023 from $17.5 million to $18 million, with any amount above $17.75 million put in the general capital reserve fund to help cover costs of replacing or repairing municipal infrastructure. Tbaytel gave the city $18 million a year ago, reducing the property tax levy by 9.3 per cent.  This year it’s estimated to be equal to a nine per cent reduction to local taxpayers.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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