At a meeting of Town Council last evening, Council approved the naming of the new hydro plant as the "Brian J. Gallagher Generating Station". Brian was the former General Manager of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of the Corporation of the Town of Almonte. The PUC operated the original generating station at the top of the falls (across from the Victoria Woolen Mill). After deregulation of the hydro business in Ontario in about 2000, Brian became a consultant to the Mississippi River Power Corporation (MRPC) which owns and built the new power plant in the Lower Falls.
The Board of Directors of MRPC attended at Brian's residence last evening to break the news to him. He was totally unaware of the naming movement which over the past year or more had been spearheaded by Desmond J. Houston, President of MRPC and former Clerk of the Town of Almonte.
John Brian Gerard Gallagher was born in Almonte on August 27th, 1943 to parents John and Mary Gallagher. Along with 2 brothers and 1 sister, he attended St. Mary’s School and graduated from Almonte High School.
Brian's days at Almonte Hydro began on August 24, 1961, as a summer job. In addition to his job at Almonte Hydro he had a small cow/calf beef farm for several years, and renovated an old three story stone building on the main street in Almonte. Since his start with hydro in 1961, he has been a summer student (labourer), lineman, line-superintendent, and was general manager from the early seventies until his retirement in 2000.
In addition to all of that, Brian has been very dedicated to this town, the downtown in particular. He served as president of the Business Improvement Association for many years, sat on the organizing committees for multiple downtown events (including inaugural chairman of Light Up The Night) and volunteered his time/equipment/tools for numerous others.
In the late 1980’s, in addition to conducting the hands on operation of the old generating station with Almonte Hydro, Brian was the primary driving force behind the major rehabilitation of that generating station. During that process, he applied for government grants, completed the painstaking approval processes, coordinated with equipment suppliers and contractors, and completed a major portion of the actual labour (along with the other Almonte Hydro employees) in order to complete the rehabilitation. The station grew from a maximum output of 840 kW to 2.4 MW.
It was an extremely difficult process as 3 different main suppliers/contracting companies went bankrupt during the rehabilitation. As a result Brian and the line crew worked many long nights. They would work all day at their regular jobs, go home at quitting time, eat dinner, then come back to work at the generating station from about 6pm until 1 or 2 in the morning. They would be back up for work at 7am the next morning. The rehabilitation lasted close to 3 years, principally due to the bankruptcies of supplier companies and the difficulty locating parts. Coordinating all of that and seeing the project through to completion was an enormous task, but with the support of the Commission, Brian put his heart and soul into that project and made it happen.
In the late 1990’s the electricity industry was deregulated in Ontario. Most towns were quick to sell their hydro assets to Ontario Hydro for a one-time payout, but Brian, as part of the Hydro Transition Committee, championed the idea that Almonte (MM) should maintain these assets. He organized a series of meetings with all other municipalities in Lanark County and tried in vain to convince them that perpetual annual dividends and local service far-outweighed a one-time payout. While all others decided to sell, Mississippi Mills held on to the assets and are now seeing the benefit of the foresight of Brian and the transition committee.
When Almonte Hydro was dissolved, Brian officially retired as general manager. He agreed to stay on, on a contract basis, sharing his vast knowledge and expertise, to bring the new board up to speed and help with the initial startup of the company. At one of the early board of directors' meetings, it was Brian who suggested that the board should create a prioritized list of potential options for expansion. That suggestion led to a request for proposals for a Lower Falls Redevelopment Feasibility Study. Brian was involved in the Lower Falls Project at every stage as a consultant for MRPC.
On August 24th, Brian will celebrate an astounding 50 years of service to the hydro in Almonte. That puts him second only to Doc Metcalfe, who had 51 years of service as a Commissioner on the Public Utilities Commission. The park at the Lower Falls is named after Doc Metcalfe, and it’s only fitting to name the Lower Falls Generating Station – the Brian J. Gallagher Generating Station.
There will be a small, private ceremony in early to mid September, to celebrate the occasion with Mr. Gallagher's family, and present and former co-workers. That will be followed by an unveiling of the plaque on the building and open house, later in the fall.