March 28, 2012

Official town crier appointed

As published in The Erin Advocate

Hear Yea, Here Yea! The Town of Erin now has an official town crier.

Andrew Welch was appointed by council on March 20. The tradition of criers goes back to medieval times when there were no newspapers and many people could not read. Criers were hired by royal courts or towns to make proclamations and be a reliable source of news.

There's no salary for the position or any cost to the town. He will be available to be hired by local groups to add a dramatic touch to various events, though his services may be offered free for charities. He appeared at the recent Upside Down Sale put on by the Business Improvement Area, and the St. Patrick's Day gathering at McMillan Park.

He will occupy the position until the end of the current term of council in 2014. Last September the Alton resident was appointed Town Crier for Caledon for the same term.

At the council meeting he added some pageantry for the good-will tour visit of Wellington County Warden Chris White and senior staff. He whipped up a poetic proclamation on short notice, which included this description of his duties:

"A crier is a photo-friendly way
to greet folks from far and near.
A splendid way the Town can say
we have both fun and history here.
A simple thing to add some zing to fairs and such,
to lead parades or open things,
a crier adds that special touch.
Town criers give a welcome face
to all that makes a town unique.
They gather crowds, create the space,
and introduce the folks who speak."

Welch is a member of the Criers Guild and was featured in the last summer's edition of Sideroads Magazine for Caledon and Erin.

He has broad experience as a performer, including various films and TV series, radio projects, live theatre, audio books and motivational/educational speaking engagements. He is also a software developer. For more information, go to www.andrewwelch.ca.


Photo (L-R): Mayor Lou Maieron, Warden Chris White, Welch

Station Road dam repair could be costly

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council has authorized an estimated $15,000 in engineering work to plan repairs to the Station Road dam in Hillsburgh, despite concerns about the high cost of the entire project.

The road over the earthen dam and causeway started to subside last fall, and was closed after damage and unstable ground was detected in an underground culvert, west of the main spillway.

Closure of the route, which is next to the fire hall, means that emergency vehicles must travel an additional 6 km around the block to serve residents on the west side of the ponds.

The Town had been requesting direction from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) on how to proceed with repairs, but there was no reply for four weeks. After the fire department had a delay in reaching a resident suffering a heart attack, there was pressure from the Town and MPP Ted Arnott, and a response arrived on March 13.

The MNR assessment creates a problem for councillors, since any option other than restoring the functions of the dam to their recently existing state could constitute a change to the area environment and fish habitat. That might involve a long design and approval process that could leave the road closed for an extended time.

"We have to get on with it – let's get it fixed," said Councillor Barb Tocher.

Another problem is that the approval agencies have used "assumptions and unconfirmed information" to determine flood elevations, according to Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck. This has resulted in a "High" hazard classification, referring to the consequences (not the probability) of a dam failure.

The MNR points out that, based on Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) floodline mapping, the minimum "Regulatory Flood" depth is more than half a metre higher than the existing road level, meaning that the dam would be inadequate even if restored to its normal condition. Van Wyck believes the mapping is inaccurate, but that the Town must do a survey of the pond to prove it.

"They have some old information that is incorrect, and it's not based on a topographic survey," he said. "They have no idea how much water is being held on the north side of the road [or] on the south side of the road. The elevations of the floodplain used in the correspondence we received is higher than the elevation of the floodplain for which they approved the design of the fire hall."

In the next few weeks the Town will assess the volume and capacity of the pond, which could lower the hazard rating. A detailed design will also be created for full replacement of the existing culvert.

At the council meeting, Mayor Lou Maieron speculated that rebuilding the culvert area could cost between $250,000 and $500,000. While supporting restoration of the road, he questions the need to rebuild the culvert at its present location. Still, he voted with all other councillors in favour of the engineering work.

"I want to get it fixed, but I don't really want to go to all this trouble and expense for a pipe that doesn't serve the road," he said after the meeting. "If it doesn't serve the taxpayer, if there's no purpose for it, why have it go under the road?"

The culvert is considered part of the hydraulic function of the whole dam, increasing safety by adding an extra passageway for water, and the MNR requires that this function be maintained. Maieron raised the possibility of rebuilding the culvert away from the causeway, but was told this would take too long.

The quicker and less expensive possibility of repairing the existing culvert with an insert and grout would not be approved by the MNR. In his report to council, Van Wyck said that option "will not be acceptable as there is not sufficient bearing strength in the soil" according to current dam standards.

The water level in the pond has been lowered to reduce pressure on the dam by removing some boards in the control structure. If they stay out, it would increase the dam's ability to resist a flood peak and could reduce the hazard rating.

Van Wyck told council that if the pond level is lowered by removal of all the boards in the control structure, which would require removal of the sediment behind them, the MNR might not permit re-installation of the boards.

Marcy Quayle, who owns the land on the north (upper) side of the dam, does not want to see the pond drained.

"I am not interested in the removal of the dam structure, this includes the spillway under the bridge and the raceway. Now or in the near future. Nor am I bearing any costs that this may bring as the land owner," she said in a letter to Van Wyck.

John Kinkead, Director of Water Resources Management & Restoration for CVC said in a letter to the mayor that although CVC has no budget for helping remove the dam, that could be the best option.

"We all understand that the most fundamental requirement in moving forward is to ensure public safety," he said. "In light of the apparent cost and technical uncertainties around addressing hazard considerations should the dam remain in place, the preferred solution might in fact be the appropriate 'decommissioning' of the dam."

A 2002 fisheries plan authored by the CVC and the MNR identified the Hillsburgh dams as potential targets for "mitigation or removal" to benefit overall fisheries health. Dams block fish movement and result in higher water temperatures due to the ponds.

In a letter to council, Ron Moore, who recently moved to the area, said draining the pond would be a "detriment to the wildlife that inhabit the pond and the wetlands surrounding it" and that higher property taxes could be justified to preserve it.

"No one likes to pay more taxes, but I believe many in the area, not just those whose property backs onto the pond, would support keeping the pond as it is," he said.

Town struggles to keep gravel roads open

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town crews have been scrambling to keep gravel roads passable during a spring thaw that Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck called "the worst on record".


(Second Line)

He reported to council last week on the impact of unseasonably warm weather, which has made small sections of many roads dangerously soft and muddy. One short-term strategy is to scrape off the top layer and put down a layer of large crushed stone, ideally filling the mud hole down to a firmer base and bridging the weak spot.

"It is a band-aid at best, but there is no other solution," he told council. "A large number of houses will be inaccessible if we don't do this. We're having limited success, and if it rains it may be worse."


(Fourth Line)

School buses are getting through, using caution, he said. Crews are trying to spread the wet gravel out over longer distances, hoping the wind will dry it out. There is no tally on the cost yet, but loads of stone are more expensive than gravel. The Town has three graders, each responsible for 65 km of roads.

Mayor Lou Maieron said people should call the roads department so the Town will be aware of all problem areas. He noted that it is not feasible to simply pave the surface of existing roads – they need to be built with a proper base and drainage, sometimes with a higher road level, which is an expensive process.

"There has been an evolution of rural roads, moving on from paths or country trails to roads, and probably there are sections that were not properly constructed," said Maieron.

Van Wyck said many of Erin's rural roads were built as one-lane dirt roads suitable for public needs 100 years ago. Residential traffic volumes on gravel roads have increased dramatically with the increased popularity of country living, and the agriculture traffic has steadily increased in size and weight, he said.

"It is a fact of life, if you live in the country," said Councillor Josie Wintersinger.

Resident Karen Seitz wrote to council to say that sideroad conditions near Hillsburgh have gotten steadily worse over the last eight years.

"I have been told that there is nothing to be done at this time, but that is not good enough," she said. "This is a safety issue, and injury or death is not an option. You need to at least try something to make these roads drivable. We pay our taxes to have these things taken care of for us, so that is what we expect to be done.

"Not only are our vehicles being ruined, but our lives are in danger. My tire got caught in a mud rut last evening and it almost pulled me into a ditch. This is ridiculous and something needs to be done right away."

Another resident reported seeing pieces of logs from the original corduroy-style construction emerging from the mud.

"Each year the number of problem areas varies, but this does seem to be particularly bad relative to other years," said Van Wyck. "Spring thaw starts from the top down, which leaves an expanded, saturated layer of mud over a barrier layer of frost and ice...that prevents moisture from draining down or away from the surface."

This annual problem was made worse by a large amount of rainfall in the fall, followed by unseasonable freeze/thaw cycles in January and February.

"Typically, we don't see this kind of freeze/thaw until later in the year," said Van Wyck. "There is little we can do to smooth a road when it thaws, turns to mud, gets rutted, and then quickly freezes again (we can't grade a frozen road or a road that is mud). We faced a seesaw of freeze/thaw, which made any type of road maintenance virtually impossible. In addition subsequent rain further eroded the already rough gravel roads."

The Town will have access to a supply of low-cost gravel this year when Hydro crews finish the new line of transmission towers through Erin, and the temporary roads needed for that construction are removed. Those 4,000 truck loads may end up being stored temporarily on a section of Barbour field that is not being used for sports, said Van Wyck.

Local property taxes up 8.48 per cent

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council unanimously approved its budget bylaw last week, thanking Wellington County for a low tax increase. This has allowed the town to raise extra revenue for road improvements without hitting residents with a large overall tax increase.

Based on estimates approved at the final budget meeting on March 7, Town taxes will increase by 8.48% for 2012. For an average house assessed at $363,750, that will mean an extra $74 per year on the town section of the tax bill, bringing the payment up to $946.

Most of that increase ($41) will go to an "infrastructure renewal" reserve fund, with $200,000 to be used mainly for improving roads.

The total property tax bill for an average house will now be $4,293. The Town budget accounts for 22% of that bill. The education tax, accounting for 18.8% of the bill, is up only 1.4% to an average of $804. The county tax, accounting for 59.2% of the bill, is up only 1.9% to an average of $2,543.

When these rates are blended in proportion, the overall increase is estimated at 3.19%, or an average of $133.

"We tried to keep the [county] tax increase down to give the lower tier municipalities more capacity," said Warden Chris White, who was visiting Erin council on a good will tour with senior county staff. "There's one taxpayer, so it's good if we can work together."

Councillor John Brennan offered his thanks to the county for the "budget room", and Mayor Lou Maieron said, "We get a lot for our tax dollars, so it is important to let people know."

The Town's total budget of $13.3 million is up almost 22 per cent compared to 2011, but increased revenue from grants, reserves, fees, permits and new debt have offset the tax requirements. Regular Town operations will cost $8.3 million, while capital projects will cost $5 million.

Levies for the Grand River and Credit Valley Conservation Authorities will cost the Town $135,804 this year (up 3.5%), and CVC got an extra grant of $5,000 towards the purchase of park lands in Erin.

Director of Finance Sharon Marshall noted that the budget only approves the first year of a five-year Capital Investment Plan for renewing local infrastructure, as required by the province. Council will have to consider the rest of the plan this year.

The Fire Department accounts for a large share of 2012 capital spending, with $1.5 million for the new Hillsburgh fire station, funded mainly by new debt. The total project cost will be about $2.2 million. There is also $408,700 for a new Hillsburgh pumper/rescue truck to replace a 1984 pumper, and $33,000 for a new pickup truck.

Reconstruction of bridge #2046 on the Fifth Line will cost $449,126, funded by Federal Gas Tax revenues. Reconstruction and resurfacing on the Erin/Halton Townline will cost $456,339, partially funded by the gas tax, reserves and development charges. Reconstruction of a section of the First Line will cost $175,000.

A new roads department truck and plow will cost $219,310 (half of which was paid last year), while repairs and painting of the Erin water tower will cost water ratepayers $110,000.

Completion of three watermain projects for $259,600 this year will get two-thirds funding from a provincial grant. Completion of the multi-year construction of the Hillsburgh Pumping Station has been allocated $769,208 in provincial funding.

Construction of the new Erin skatepark is in the budget for $100,000, with substantial fundraising, donations and grants offsetting the cost.

A sampling of other smaller projects includes:
• Shower tiles in the old dressing rooms at the Erin arena, $26,000;
• Computer hardware and software upgrades, $33,000
• Financial software, $25,000
• Streetlight improvements, $15,000
• Replacement of retaining walls, $52,875
• Trail system upgrades, $7,300

March 21, 2012

A heartwarming journey of love and friendship

As published in The Erin Advocate

Romantic Comedy is perhaps the ideal title for a funny play about love – everyone knows what to expect, from that awkward first meeting, to the witty dialogue and those unexpected twists of fate.

The script is by Bernard Slade, a writer from St. Catharines who gave us The Partridge Family and The Flying Nun on TV, and Same Time, Next Year on stage and the big screen. The current production is by Century Theatre Guild in Hillsburgh, opening for a two-weekend run this Friday.

After dropping in to observe a rehearsal recently, I can report that there is some very funny material, both verbal and visual. I wouldn't review something before it is ready for the public, and I cannot claim to be totally unbiased, since I have acted in small roles with this group. But still it is clear that the lead actors are skilled, confident and having a good time.

Titillating and heartwarming – it is a sure-fire combination for audiences when everything comes together well. That's the challenge for Dale Jones, an experienced actor now directing his second show for Century Church. The first was last year's Farndale Murder Mystery.

"To direct a play is to take words on a page and make them come to life," said Jones, after watching his cast run through a scene without scripts in hand, fine tuning expressions, stage positions and sound cues.

"It's got all the human emotions," he said. "What is marriage? That's what he (Slade) is talking about, and it's really well done. Everyone has had mucked up relationships or knows someone who has, so they can relate."

Jones has never seen the play done elsewhere; he just read a series of scripts and picked his favourite.

"It's the one you can't put down," said Frank Rempel, who plays Jason, a playwright who, on the day of his marriage to Alison, meets and falls in love with the fascinating Phoebe. He happens to be naked at the time, since he was expecting a massage therapist, not an admirer who would become his playwriting partner, with each married to someone else. The roles of Jason and Phoebe were premiered on Broadway in 1979 by Anthony Perkins and Mia Farrow.

The story spans 14 years of failure and success in both writing and relationships, as Phoebe, played by Stephanie Baird, goes off to Paris with her new husband Leo, played by Martyn Worsnop.

Jennifer Bartrum is Jason's agent Blanche, Lindsey Papp is Alison and Sharon Ching is Kate, who plays a key role in the breakup of Jason's marriage. The Stage Manager for the production is Charlotte Sue.

The racy bits of this show are mainly in the innuendo, but it's not really suitable for younger kids. Performances are March 23, 24, 30 and 31 at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons March 25 and April 1 at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $18, and the box office number is 519-855-4586.

Forests offer escape from noise and straight lines

As published in Erin Country Routes

Do you ever need to escape the well-trodden sidewalks, the din of cars and trucks and the straight lines of buildings? There are public tracts of forest in the Erin area set aside for just that purpose.

In addition to popular routes such as the Woollen Mills loop (off Millwood Road) and the Elora Cataract Trailway, there are trails on parcels of rural land maintained by Wellington County and the Grand River Conservation Authority. No hunting, no dirt bikes, no snowmobiles, no bicycles – just walkers, and dogs.


There are no spectacular views of the escarpment, and the trails don't lead anywhere special. They are simple loops winding through half-concession lots where the terrain is too irregular for farming.

The Peacock Tract is a Wellington County Forest, near the communications tower on Trafalgar Road, 1.3 km north of County Road 50 (the former Peacock Sideroad). The trail goes past wetlands and mossy rock outcrops, as it cuts behind neighbouring properties.

Initially there are stands of spruce and cedar, but further in there is a wide open maple bush. The whole loop takes about 40 minutes, or a bit longer if you are walking an unruly hound, with a tendency to dash off after scents and wrap her leash line around trees.

The Ospringe Tract, managed by the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), is located on the Fourth Line of Erin, .7 km south of County Road 124 (turn at Denny's).

On a sunny winter's day you can hear the water gurgling under the ice as it drains away from the cattails. You can hear the trees crackling in the cold and see the trails of deer and coyote tracks in the snowy fields nearby, with sweeping views of undulating farmland and scrubland.




Most of it is natural growth forest, but a small section was reforested many years ago, with the conifers towering over 80 feet tall. This hike also takes about 40 minutes.

Another forest managed by the GRCA is the Johnson Tract, located on the Second Line of Erin, just south of the Garafraxa Town Line. For more details, see the Erin Insight column from May 4, 2011, at erininsight.blogspot.com.

Also worth a visit is Scotsdale Farm, a beautiful piece of land just south of Ballinafad, which has been open to the public since 1982. Stewart and Violet Bennett lived there for 40 years, raising Arabian horses and Shorthorn cattle. Stewart was President of the Beardmore Tannery in Acton, Vice-President at Canada Packers and President of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The couple bequeathed their 219 hectare farm to the Ontario Heritage Foundation to ensure its protection. (They also donated $1.3 million to the Georgetown Hospital, which created the Bennett Centre for seniors.)

Archeological evidence of an Iroquoian village from the 1500s has been found on the land. The original farm homestead was built in 1836 and the barn is at least 130 years old. The farm has been used as the setting for several movies and The Campbells TV series, and as a conference centre. The Bruce Trail runs through the property, which features a moraine, escarpment outcrops, forests, wetlands and pastures.

The farm is suitable for picnics, exploring with children and hiking. The 3.9 km Bennett Heritage Side Trail branches off from the Bruce Trail just south of the entrance to Scotsdale, and goes between the farm buildings. It crosses a small dam on Snow's Creek, which flows south and east from Ballinafad. All streams in this area drain to the Credit River at Norval.

The Bennett trail meets the Eighth Line, where you could cut south, and use the Maureen Smith Side Trail join the main Bruce Trail, and loop back to Trafalgar. Or you could follow the Bennett trail farther east as it crosses Owl Creek, then runs beside Silver Creek, ending up at 27 Sideroad. This creates a much longer loop back to Trafalgar, so check the posted maps, or download one (Google "bruce trail bennett") before you set out.

There are hiking videos available on YouTube for Scotsdale, the Peacock Tract and the Johnson Tract, courtesy of foottrek.com.

In other trail news, the Bruce Trail Conservancy is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Caledon Hills Club will mark the occasion at its annual meeting and potluck dinner on April 1 at Caledon Village Place, starting with a hike at 10 am.

The afternoon meeting will include a presentation to Dr. Phil Gosling, the club's first president. In 1962, he took a year off work to lay out the Bruce Trail from Niagara to Tobermory, meeting with landowners and organizing local clubs. For more information, go to caledonbrucetrail.org.

March 14, 2012

Big Shamrock monument could be a lucky charm

As published in The Erin Advocate

Looking through the 2012 Festivals and Events Guide produced by Wellington County, I could not help but wonder what Erin might do to really stand out above the crowd among local tourist destinations.

The County is quite proud of its 2011 tourism promotion, since both the events guide and website won top honours for their categories in the Marketing Canada Awards.

Distribution of this year's printed material was mainly to populations further west, such as Kitchener and London, but for the on-line version, go to www.wellingtonfestivals.ca. Check out the mini-vacations and events there, including video clips, or download a guide – hopefully they'll have the 2012 one posted soon.

The profile of Erin says: "Please come and visit our amazing downtown shopping area, unique local restaurants, play a round of golf, attend our Fall Fair, or enjoy a stroll or ride along our beautiful trails."

Our events include the Upside Down Sale, with a Town Crier hired by the Business Improvement Area (BIA), this Saturday on St. Patrick's Day.

We have the Quilt Festival, Made of Wood Show and Home & Lifestyle Show in April, the Summer Celebration & Sale in May, the Garden Tour in July, the Rhythm & Ribs Fest and Spirit in the Hills Fun Day in August, the Studio Tour and Carrot Fest in September, the Fall Fair in October and the Window Wonderland, Tree Lightings and Santa Claus Parade in November.

These are all good events, but with the exception of the Fall Fair, they do not attract really large numbers of visitors. We could do more, but it would require coordination and funding by the Town or private investors, not relying primarily on organizations such as service clubs or the BIA.

Erin's Marketing Department should focus public attention on our most recognizable asset – the Irish aspect of the town name. Erin, of course, is a form of the Gaelic work √Čire, meaning Ireland. The famous phrase "Erin go Bragh" means Ireland Forever.

Surveyors back about 1820 called it Erin Township, to balance the Townships of Caledon (named after Scotland) and Albion (named after England). No matter that our early settlers were Scottish.

Irish is the 4th largest ethnic background in Canada, numbering over 4 million, so the emotional connection (and tourism hook) could be very strong. In the tradition of St. Patrick's Day celebrations, Irish can be a state of mind available to all.

We already have the Shamrocks hockey team, and a Shamrock Room from which to watch them. We have shamrocks on our town welcome signs and streetlight banners. That's not much, really, in the marketing game. Mayor Lou Maieron has the right idea in proposing a St. Patrick's Day Parade – he's even bought a kelly green suit for the occasion.

How about a Shamrock Festival, with lots of good food, high-quality entertainment and all the Irish-themed events we could come up with?

How about building a Big Shamrock, a huge, green icon of our identity that could be known around the world – in the same way that the Big Nickel has put Sudbury on the map?

That 30-foot replica of a 1951 nickel, which overlooks a mining slag dump, was built in 1964 through the efforts of a community-minded entrepreneur, despite the opposition of Sudbury City Council. It included education facilities about mining and coins, and is now known as Dynamic Earth, operated by Science North.

I checked through the more than 300 monuments erected in Canadian municipalities, catalogued on the website www.bigthings.ca, and it seems no one has yet built a Big Shamrock.

Vegreville in Alberta has a big pysanka (Ukrainian easter egg). Glover's Harbour in Newfoundland has a replica of the world's largest giant squid. Leamington has a huge tomato.

A shamrock is not such a radical idea, since it would have broader appeal. It could be funded by the sale of commemorative medallions. It could become a destination for pilgrims – if we make sure there's plenty of parking.

The marketing pitch could include: "It is said that anyone who has their picture taken with Erin's Big Shamrock will have good luck for the next three days." It's blarney, not rocket science.

Could Erin become known as that town with the nice stores, excellent fall fair, beautiful scenery AND the Big Shamrock? Does anyone have a better idea?

March 07, 2012

Terry speaks his mind to councillors

As published in The Erin Advocate

When Terry Hryhor sees something around town that is not quite right, he is more than glad to point it out to Erin politicians and staff.

After Mayor Lou Maieron recently urged people to get more involved in municipal affairs, Hryhor made an appointment to speak as a delegation before the regular meeting of Town Council on February 21.

He told the politicians that Erin needs to do a better job of communicating with residents, and of promoting the town as a great place to live and do business.


He wasn't happy with the amount of information on the notice board at McMillan Park, which for some time simply had "Happy 2012" and a request from last fall for people to bag their leaves. Hryhor would like to see that board actively managed as a source for a current community information.

The Town website, www.erin.ca, does have a lot of details about municipal business and community events, including various ways to make contact. The What's On section has both an event listing and a monthly calendar view. There are also sections for local Facts, History, Council, Departments, Public Notices, a Photo Gallery, a Community Directory, a Business Directory, and links to documents and to other public agenciess.

Not everyone is in the habit of checking the town website, however, and Hryhor suggested the Town reach out to people by putting more information in The Advocate, and publishing its calendar on paper for people to have handy.

He said there are various unresolved issues where the Town should be actively seeking solutions, noting for example that he first heard the discussion of a truck bypass for Erin village back in 1974.

He would like to see more affordable housing, along with a sewer system that would make it possible. He was surprised to see a country house for rent recently, at $4,000 per month.

"How many condos or apartments or semis have been built in the last 20 years? You could count them on one finger," he said, adding that the Town should promote basement apartments, making the regulations clear for homeowners.

"There was also a suggestion that you were going to try to bring industry to Erin, and if you look around there are several opportunities."

As for community celebrations, he feels the Town leaves too much of the burden on service clubs and other community groups. He recalled the big party at the Erin Village Centennial, but was disappointed see nothing similar on the 125th birthday in 2005. He lamented that, compared to other Wellington County communities, there is very little in Erin for Canada Day (other than the Orton fireworks) or the rest of July.

Erin has "great facilities" that are not getting enough use, noting that Stanley Park (which is privately owned) could be the site of some public events.

He also promoted the idea of a highly visible Farmers' Market (which the Agricultural Society is actively considering).

Hryhor is no stranger to community involvement. As a builder, he developed the Valu-Mart store and plaza. He was on the board of directors at East Wellington Community Services (formerly EWAG) and contributed significant time and materials for renovation of their building at 45 Main Street. In 2008, he was honoured with a spot on Erin's Wall of Fame.

There are many ways to get your opinions, questions or information to the Town. You can phone or email the mayor, councillors, town manager or departments heads. You can write a letter to council, that will appear as correspondence on the council agenda and be available for other members of the public to read – be sure to include your name.

To appear before council, you must fill out a form (by noon on the Thursday before the meeting), stating your purpose – which could be a specific request for action, or simply general information. This enables your issue to be put on the meeting agenda, normally a requirement for anyone addressing council. People make their presentations or present petitions at the start of council meetings, and then can leave if they wish.

Delegations are limited to 15 minutes, but if there are two speakers from a group, each can speak for up to 10 minutes if they have something different to say. Members of council can ask questions of the delegations, but are not supposed to enter into debate with them. Questions from deputations to council are addressed to the chair, normally the mayor.

Sometimes after a delegation is finished, council may vote on a motion related to the presentation. Sometimes they may refer an issue to staff or a committee for further investigation, or they may simply take the information and opinions into consideration for future decisions.

Free e-book downloads popular at libraries

As published in The Erin Advocate

Wellington County libraries are reaching out to an increasingly on-line public with an expanding selection of audiobooks and e-books that can be downloaded at no cost.

"In 2011 the library circulated approximately 10,000 e‐book titles and that number will increase in 2012 as e‐readers become more prevalent and collections of e‐titles are increased," said Chief Librarian Murray McCabe in a report to the County Information, Heritage and Seniors’ Committee.

He said the current level of e‐book technology is still far from user friendly, but that e-book vendors are working to simplify downloading procedures.

"The public library continues to fulfill its role as a guide to the use of information technology, a service much valued by the public."

Many patrons, especially seniors, are not familiar with installing software, setting up on-line search criteria or downloading files.

"Lots of people got e-readers at Christmas," said librarian Janine Morin, who has been teaching people how to use their devices with seminars at the Erin branch. "Kobo seems to be the most popular."


In January, there were 2,157 e-books borrowed county-wide, compared to 85,135 physical items such as books, magazines, DVDs and CDs. But the e-book total is almost six times the total for January 2011, and up about 54 per cent from December 2011.

There are some restrictions compared to a regular book: when your 7 or 14-day borrowing period is over, your copy of the material goes dormant and is unusable. There are never any late fines, and if no one else has reserved it, you can download it again. You cannot lend your library files to someone else. Some e-book publishers allow you to burn a copy of their digital files to a CD to keep, while others do not.

Wellington has only 150 titles of its own, but through a partnership with the Southern Ontario Library Service, local residents have access to 18,000 titles. Libraries buy the rights to a limited number of materials, so if someone else has "borrowed" the digital item you want, you have to wait – just as with a regular book.

The category of e-books includes not only downloadable books, but also audiobooks, newspapers, videos and music. Audiobooks were originally in cassette tape format, and can still be borrowed on CDs instead of downloading.

A new audio product available free at the Erin library is the Playaway book, with selections for both children and adults. It is a small, battery-powered, plastic device weighing only two ounces, with only one book on it. Just plug in headphones or link it to a car audio system, then push buttons to play, pause, skip chapters or change the speed of narration. Essentially, it saves you the trouble of using a CD player or loading book files onto an MP3 player. There are also video productions loaded into Playbook View devices – only five ounces, with a small screen that looks like a smart phone.


To download library materials, go to the library website, which is a section of www.wellington.ca, and click on the download icon. Click on Getting Started for advice. You'll need to install Adobe Digital Editions on your computer, to manage books like iTunes manages music. You may need to install Overdrive Media Console to enable reading on various devices.

Log in to the Overdrive system of the Ontario Library Service with a valid library card (they expire every two years), browse the material, put items in your cart, then check out (download) up to five of them. You can read them on your computer, or transfer material to devices ranging from an under-$100 e-reader to and over-$500 iPad. Some devices, especially the Kindle, are not compatible with Canadian library e-books. Call or visit the library if you need help.

Wellington is also researching the 3m Cloud Library, which will compete with the Overdrive system. It includes in-library discovery stations, lendable e-reader units, a simplified set-up and log-in process and an option to either check out or buy an e-book. You could start reading a book on one device, then add bookmarks and continue reading on other devices, including computers, smart phones, tablets and some e-readers. Your digital "bookshelf" would reside in the internet "cloud", instead of on your computer.

A new Wellington County website will be launched this year, including a new base page for the library. It will have links to the on-line catalogue, advanced search features and improved navigation. The library subscribes to various databases that are especially valuable for students.
They provide reliable and reputable information not available through Google or Wikipedia, all available for free with a library card.

The current website provides access to the main iBistro catalogue, allowing you to search and to manage your own account. It also has branch details, the LINK newsletter, and information on book clubs and programs for pre-schoolers, older kids and teens.