Two utilities in northwestern Ontario are one step closer to becoming one, after a public meeting was held in Kenora, Ont. on Thursday evening about the proposed merger with Thunder Bay Hydro.

"We signed the letter of intent, I believe, a year ago," said Dave Sinclair, the president and CEO of Kenora Hydro, adding that "[they] have been engaged in discussions about merging ... [for] probably 20 years, at least, at various points in time."

He said the utility business is changing in northwestern Ontario and the lack of customer growth coupled with rising costs has made it challenging to run the business over the last few years.

"Our revenue from additional customers coming in, from a lack of growth, it remains the same, unless we raise rates," Sinclair continued, "so it's become a difficult situation because our costs continue to rise, obviously."

He said some advantages of the possible merger include extra support on the administrative side, as well as the opportunity to access Thunder Bay Hydro's resources and skills.

The public meeting allowed customers to give feedback and ask questions about the proposed merger. Sinclair said the utility will prepare a report in about a month to inform Kenora city council on whether the merge should go ahead. 

"We'll have a look at what we are hearing from customers ... to try to address any concerns that they might have," Sinclair added, and "I think status quo frankly, is off the table, [because] I just don't see that as being viable anymore."