December 26, 2012

Change is inevitable, but resistance is not futile

As published in The Erin Advocate

To simply say that change is unacceptable will not be a useful argument in the upcoming debate about population growth and sewers in Erin. Changes to our environment are clearly inevitable, so people have to decide if they have the energy and interest to have some influence on what happens.

It can start with a nostalgic feeling that this is a good place to live, with many things worth preserving. But it needs to step up to some practical strategies about what can be done to make the changes as acceptable as possible.

"Let's do nothing and see what happens" will only slow things down for so long, and if we remain passive, we may be very unhappy with the results. It's relatively easy to say what should not be done, but much harder to decide what should actually be done.

If there is to be an effective resistance, it has to be a constructive one.

Like it or not, we live in a high-growth region. With towns all around us taking their share of new population, have we somehow earned the right to stay the same?

Population growth appears to be Plan A for the federal, provincial and county governments, all democratically elected, and Erin's Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) report in February will conform to those policies.

If we disagree with Plan A, we need to come up with Plan B, C or D. Sensing political danger perhaps, town councillors have said virtually nothing in public about where they stand on these issues. Soon they will have to vote on the SSMP report, and I hope they will each offer some words of explanation for their positions.

We should first decide what we really want, among the realistic options, and not allow other governments to dictate everything and take the blame. Once we have a long-term plan, we can pursue the funding to make it happen.

In the 20 years from 1961 to 1981, Erin village more than doubled its population, going from 1,000 residents to 2,300 residents. It wasn't done particularly well, but was the charm of the village destroyed? Some might say yes, but I think most would say no.

Many people didn't like the development of large-lot subdivisions in recent decades, but this is still a great place to live. I think the Town is a better place to live now, than when I moved here in 1985.

Now we have the prospect of doubling again over 20-30 years through the Solmar proposal, not to mention other serious developers. I don't think such growth is bad in and of itself, but it makes a big difference how it is done.

This could be a chance to do it much better than we have in the past. Erin could still be a jewel, but with some additional carats. The proposed growth is still moderate by Southern Ontario standards.

There is no chance that we will ever look like Brampton, or even experience growth like that of Georgetown.

I went to a recent meeting of the SSMP Liaison Committee for an educational session called Wastewater Treatment 101. It seemed strange to be discussing the pros and cons of various sewage treatment methods, when we haven't even decided whether to go this route. We still have no idea how many millions of dollars a system would cost, and how much the relatively small portion of Town residents on the system would have to pay for hook-up and ongoing sewage bills.

"Wastewater has to be paid for by the people who use it," said Mayor Lou Maieron.

Regarding the effluent from a sewage plant that would have to flow into the West Credit River, the SSMP will include an Assimilative Capacity Study. This determines the level of treatment needed to meet the water quality standards set by the Ministry of the Environment (MoE). Advanced levels of treatment would be more expensive and allow more homes to be built, but there will be a maximum.

"The extent to which we have to treat the sewage ultimately is established by the MoE," B.M. Ross Engineer Dale Erb. "The West Credit has a quality that is better than the objectives established by the province. The current criteria that we're working with is fairly stringent. It's going to require a well thought out treatment process, but it is attainable. Of course, in the end, it just means dollars."

Project Manager Matt Pearson said that the SSMP will recommend a tried and true processing system, instead of a relatively unproven alternative method.

"It's nice to be cutting edge, but you have to be right," he said. "This is too big of an investment to make a mistake."

Councillor wants raise for staff reconsidered

As published in The Erin Advocate

Councillor Jose Wintersinger has given notice that she will ask council to reconsider the 3% raise recently approved for Town staff and councillors.

The issue will be discussed at the January 8 meeting, amid some confusion about the impact of the 2013 pay increase, which is being given in two stages.

After last Tuesday's council meeting, Wintersinger said that the total raise should be no more than the current annual increase in the Statistics Canada Consumer Price Index, which is about 1.2%.

She voted against the 3% raise when it was approved, without a recorded vote, at the December 4 council meeting. Council's procedure bylaw says that a motion of reconsideration cannot be introduced, unless it is moved and seconded by members who originally voted in favor of a motion.

The bylaw, however, does not restrict a member from giving notice of their intent to introduce a motion of reconsideration.

At last week's meeting, Mayor Lou Maieron said he did not fully understand the mathematics involved in the current raise plan, and had not been able to confidently answer taxpayers' questions about it.

As it stands, staff and council will get a 1.5% raise on January 1. They will get an additional 1.5% raise on July 1. Simply added together, that means employees would eventually receive 3% more pay. (If the second raise had been compounded with the first one, the total increase would be 3.02%.)

The original motion for a 3% raise was made by Councillor Barb Tocher, seconded by Councillor Deb Callaghan, and supported by Councillor John Brennan. Wintersinger and Maieron voted against it.

The raise was reported as having a 2.25% impact (totalling $66,460) on the 2013 budget. That is because the money for the second 1.5% raise would only be paid out during the second six months of the year, making it the equivalent of .75% for the whole year. So the first raise costing 1.5%, plus the second raise costing .75%, equals a cost for the full year of 2.25%.

So, while some money was saved by delaying part of the raise, employees will still be getting 3% more as of July 1.

Cedar Valley bridge top priority for grant

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council has voted to put the bridge just east of Cedar Valley at the top of its priority list for a new provincial grant program, overturning a staff plan to seek funding for Hillsburgh's Station Street bridge and dam.

The Town had recently been turned down in an application to a federal infrastructure funding program, to cover $1 million of the Hillsburgh project, which has a total estimated cost of $2.6 million.

But a new provincial funding opportunity arose last month through the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative (MIII), with 90% funding of projects, and a maximum of $2 million. About $90 million will be available across Ontario over the next two years. Council had to pick its top priority immediately, since initial applications are needed in early January.

The Cedar Valley bridge project, at a cost of $663,671, was initially the second priority for Town staff, with a potential grant of $597,303. The current bridge is seriously deteriorated and has a load restriction. It is on Station Street (Sideroad 24), the same road as the Hillsburgh project (known as the Station Street Dam).

Council decided that issues concerning the Hillsburgh dam, including preservation of the mill pond, will be discussed at a public meeting on January 29, 7:30 p.m., at the Hillsburgh Community Centre.

The staff report on the Hillsburgh project noted that the MIII program will give consideration to projects that address a "health and/or safety problem". The Ministry of Natural Resources wants the dam upgraded to be capable of withstanding a Regional Storm Event.

"The main objective is to address the most critical roads, bridges, water and wastewater projects," said Town Financial Analyst Larry Wheeler.

"The safety of property and residents downstream is of course in jeopardy and this project  remedies both the potential liability and safety concerns," the report said.

The Cedar Valley project also has a safety component, since it is 2 km west of the new fire hall and ambulance bay.

"In the event this bridge deteriorated to the point that it was deemed to be impassible, particularly by heavy emergency vehicles, then the health and safety of rural residents and residents of the hamlet of Cedar Valley would be in jeopardy."

Mayor Lou Maieron was reluctant to seek funding for a project that had recently been turned down for a grant.

"Maybe it would make more sense to go for the medium priced project, with a better shot of achieving it," he said. "Unfortunately, it's a bit like gambling."

He also speculated that the chances of getting the $2 million grant were low because the project is the subject of local controversy, and because the Liberal provincial government may want to spread the available funding among a large number of municipalities. He noted that Erin tends to support the Progressive Conservatives.

"Without sounding too political, we are in a chronically blue municipality, and it's not a blue government," he said.

Councillor Barb Tocher argued that the Hillsburgh project fits the grant criteria "perfectly", and she was supported by Councillor Deb Callaghan in opposing a motion to give the Cedar Valley bridge top priority. In a recorded vote, the motion was passed, with Councillors Jose Wintersinger and John Brennan and Mayor Maieron in favour.

The mayor also noted that while council approved temporary work to make the Hillsburgh dam safe for traffic, it has not decided what to do as a permanent solution. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), in allowing the temporary work, ordered the town to upgrade the dam within two years.

"The opportunity for funding is putting the cart before the horse," he said.

Councillor Wintersinger was not optimistic about getting the $2 million grant, though she also believes the Town cannot afford to do the project itself.

"I know what the MNR said, but you can't get blood out of a stone," she said. "I would ride along and see what happens."

The smaller Cedar Valley project is still larger than the entire section of the town's 2012 capital budget that is funded by local taxes. If funded independently by the Town of Erin, it "would result in many critical capital projects being delayed for years," the report says.

The cost of the Hillsburgh project "would be almost five times as large as our entire 2012 tax funded capital budget, which of course is overwhelming."

While Cedar Valley requires a simple bridge replacement, the Hillsburgh project could include not only a new bridge, but reconstruction of the road eight metres wide, with curbs, gutters and storm sewers. The earthen dam would be upgraded to current engineering standards, and a sidewalk could be installed from Trafalgar Road to the Elora Cataract Trailway.

There could also be a water main and sanitary sewer pipe to serve future residential development.

December 19, 2012

Residents not impressed with Town budget process

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town officials were roasted by ratepayers last Wednesday at a meeting designed to get public input on Erin's 2013 budget. Those in attendance were unimpressed with a tentative tax hike of 17% in Budget Draft #2, even though it was down considerably from the 32% increase in Draft #1.

There were angry questions about cost overruns in the construction of the new fire hall, increases in administration costs, and the "embarrassing" condition of Erin's rural roads. Some were outraged that council agreed to give staff a 3% raise (phased in for a 2.25% impact in 2013).

"A 17.5 per cent increase for administration – that, to me, is just plain unacceptable," said resident Ford Ralph. "We can't afford these kinds of increases. We're all ratepayers. A bunch of us are retired, on fixed incomes, and we're not getting a 17.5 per cent increase in pensions to pay for the tax increases. If you're still working, most companies, if you're lucky, will give you two or three per cent."

He said it might be reasonable for Draft #3 to come in with a 3-4% overall increase, to allow some important initiatives to proceed.

The current plan is to maintain service levels, but the latest draft includes a hiring freeze and a 25% reduction of overtime, in all departments. New initiatives, and some capital costs, have been cut or deferred. Grants to community groups will be reduced 25% overall, though the amounts have not been decided, and the Erin Cinema program is to be cancelled, for a saving of $16,687.

CAO Frank Miele said was important to set aside money in the Administration budget for economic development initiatives ($35,000), since this could help boost the boost the commercial-industrial tax base and reduce the burden on residential taxpayers. Increased salary and benefit costs for the new CAO position also mean an additional $55,255 for Administration.

Treasurer Sharon Marshall explained that some new costs in the budget cannot be avoided, including $65,400 in reduced provincial funding, an extra $6,126 in conservation authority levies, plus an extra $136,971 in debt servicing and $190,000 in unexpected costs related to the fire hall. Combined with the lack of a surplus in 2012, these "non-discretionary" costs alone would bump up the tax rate by 14 per cent.

An average property assessed at $383,000 had a Town tax bill of $995 in 2012. The Town portion represents only 20% of the whole bill, with the County at 55% and Education at 25%. Draft #1 would have increased the Town portion by $323, while Draft #2 increases it by $170.

Some at the meeting promoted the concept of zero-based budgeting, justifying every expenditure instead of adding percentages to the previous budget.

Bruce Hood urged the Town to make better progress on improving the condition of gravel road, some of which are impassable in the spring.

"The status quo is not very good," he said. "I am embarrassed at the condition of our roads."

Matthew Sammut got a round of applause when he said, "It's as expensive as heck to live in this town, but  sometimes I ask, 'Can I stay in this town?' We live in very difficult times. We can't afford the bills we're getting, let alone the increases. You've got to slash, painful as it is.

"Clearly, numbers are getting out of control. It's a slippery slope – once you get on these paths, it can get worse year after year. As much as we have to fight hard to ensure that next year we have some fiscal responsibility, we have to ensure that the future for this town continues to show fiscal responsibility."

From Draft #1 to Draft #2, about $711,000 has been cut from operational costs. Some departments are below 2012 levels, but capital spending for the roads department was increased from $6 million to $7 million. That will be offset by $4 million in revenues, but the overall roads increase to be covered by taxes is still up by about $500,000.

 "You are the shareholders of the corporation," Mayor Lou Maieron told the crowd about 50 at Centre 2000. "We are trying our best to come in with a reasonable budget. I'm a believer in saving for what we want to do. We need money for roads and infrastructure."

Councillor Barb Tocher was in attendance, but Councillors Josie Wintersinger, John Brennan and Deb Callaghan were absent due to other commitments. The proceedings were recorded so they could hear the taxpayers' concerns.

There were complaints about the meeting format. Draft #2 was not available on the Town website prior to the meeting, so people prepared their comments based on Draft #1. Also, some of the figures on the screen were too small to read, and there was difficulty in hearing the staff presentations, since there were no microphones.

The full presentation from last week's meeting can be downloaded from the Town website, Members of the public can continue to provide input by contacting council members or CAO Frank Miele. Staff will be providing council with additional recommended changes. The next public deliberation of the budget will be the January 8 council meeting, at which time it could be approved.

County Councillor Ken Chapman used the occasion to launch an all-out assault on the town's Planning Department, saying it should be abolished. He echoed public comments made by Mayor Maieron in the past year, arguing that Erin could have all of its planning needs provided by the Wellington County Planning & Land Division Department, to which the Town already contributes about $200,000 a year.

"All told we are paying $345,000 annually for planning, of which $145,000 is not necessary," he said.
Planner Sally Stull was not at the meeting, but had included a warning in her section of the draft budget that Erin will need to allocate more planning staff and resources "to proactively manage and address upcoming development pressures".

Chapman asked if this was "the beginning of the empire being built". He asked whether a proposed $50,000 roads deficiency capacity study (not approved) was a "make work project for the planning department". He also was of the opinion that the department had caused "unnecessary delays" in the construction of the Medical Centre and Tim Horton's buildings.

Erin's Bookends store now serves the world

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Book Ends store in Erin has thrown its doors open to readers throughout the world with the launch of its Online Bookstore.

People can still drop in and browse through the regular collections at 45 Main Street, but now there is a special section, with 1,200 books set aside for internet sales.

"It's been a wonderful experience – the world has opened up to Book Ends," said Coordinator Eleanor Kennedy at the launch event last week, praising the volunteers who have worked on the project for East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) over the last two and a half years.

The Erin store is now part of a network of independent booksellers through the website, which can be accessed directly or through a link at Based in Victoria, BC, provides access to thousands of booksellers and 140 million books.

The Erin section of the site has been active since March, but they did not hold their grand opening until they worked out some technical challenges and built up a collection of unique, out-of-print and collectable publications. There's now an inventory valued at $20,000, and the most expensive item ($300) is an early leather bound edition of Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man.

Most of the online books are in the $10 - $30 range. Shipping can add $9 or more to that, but local residents can save by going in to pick up their purchases. People can also browse in person by reading through the catalogue binder and make purchases at the store from either the regular shelves, or the glassed cabinets of online books.

"The world's a book, and it's open to you," said Kennedy. The volunteers received congratulations from Town Councillor John Brennan and Board President Allan Alls at Friday's reception.

The project was originally started by Enid Acton, with the help of Zina Darling. Gerry Wright later took up the major task of researching potential books for the online collection, and pricing them based on their condition and the existing market value at other on-line stores.

About 300 books have been sold so far, generating $2,500 in profit for the EWCS Food Bank, Seniors Programs and Children's Programs. They have made sales throughout North America and Europe, and even to Australia and Taiwan.

The site enables shoppers to browse the EWCS Book Ends collection by Author, Title, Keyword or ISBN Number. Each book has a detailed description, and they may eventually all have a photo of the cover.

The categories include Fiction, Travel, Cooking, Children's, Gardening, Coffee Table Books, Sports, Crafts, Poetry, Music, Humour, History, Health and Photography.

You can place an order at any time, but volunteers will only be at the store to process and ship them on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1-4 p.m.

1912 Advocate delivered lively slice of modern life

As published in The Erin Advocate

In 1912, Erin readers could rely on The Advocate not only for local news, but for national and international affairs, on-going excerpts from novels, and a relentless stream of advice from the unscrupulous makers of patent medicines.

There were just 511 residents in the village, a total that would not be surpassed until the 1940s, but it was a busy hub for the district, and proud to take its place in the modern century.

As Christmas approached, there was news that the Canadian government had allocated the astronomical sum of $35 million to the Royal Navy, to build three Dreadnought battleships, part of Britain's naval arms race with Germany. There were also weekly reports about the first of two Balkan wars, with Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria overpowering the Ottoman Turks, helping set the stage for World War I.

To liven up the Christmas season, the Young Ladies of Erin held a Ball at the Town Hall, which The Advocate reported was "nicely decorated for the occasion, making a very pretty appearance by Electric Light".

Some things never change, such as the newspaper promoting local business. Publisher Wellington Hull wrote, "Shop Early. Only 2 weeks to Xmas. Our merchants are making attractive Xmas displays."

Hull also reminded taxpayers to pay up any amounts owing, or face extra costs. In addition to also being the local printer, auctioneer, money lender and issuer of marriage licenses, he was on salary with the village as Tax Assessor and Collector.

Erin village had a bylaw that allowed businesses to open in the evening only on Mondays Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Township was being urged to pass a bylaw limiting Hillsburgh evening shopping to Tuesdays and Thursdays.

You could buy fur coats or groceries at the Ritchie & Ramesbottom store. Steel & Foster had Motor Hoods for ladies and Natty Mufflers for men. Whole wheat Triscuits were advertised as the "Toast of the Town". The serial romance novel at that time was entitled The Invitation; Or The Bird That Pecked at the Window.

There was a report of Fergus working on a water works system, with half of the debentures taken up by local residents. Erin wouldn't have such a system for another 50 years.

On Christmas Day, 1912, there was an essay on Page 1 from "Luckenuf, Belfountain". It was penned by Charles W. Mack, the eccentric philanthropist who had invented the cushion backed rubber stamp, and owned the land that is now Belfountain Conservation Area. In the gate post of the stone wall in front of his summer retreat there, he cemented the word Luckenuf.

He questioned whether Christmas customs were losing their hold on the popular mind, "since the marvels of science began to usurp the seat of authority".

"Are the parents doing their duty to-day? The answer is, no, a thousand times, no. Far too many are leaving their children to shape their own destiny, to grow up as they may. How many parents make themselves companions to their children to find out their thoughts and acts and treat them with gentleness and consideration, giving them thoughts of rich character building, instead of being afraid of this and that subject?

"The complicated apparatus for alleviating the woes of the community has sprung into being, piece by piece, out of an overpowering sense of social necessity. Efforts to deepen the sympathies of young people and to lighten the lot of the sick and afflicted, or to brighten days that are apt to be dull, amid the general jollity, has not grown stale or out of date.

"There is no better time to attempt kindly acts than while the atmosphere is charged with good feeling and the sense of brotherhood now in the hearts of the true and real."

Ads for dubious remedies revealed not only the limitations of medicine in 1912, but a condescension toward women that was common in the media. Dr. R.V. Pierce of Buffalo, America's most famous patent medicine man, promoted his Pleasant Pellets for "the weaknesses and disorders peculiar to women", at the top of Page 1:

"Woman's most glorious endowment is the power to awaken and hold the pure and honest love of a worthy man. The woman who suffers from weakness and derangement of her system soon loses her personal magnetism, good looks, amiability and womanly charm. Dr. Pierce has devised a successful remedy to regulate and purify the stomach, liver and bowels. It makes weak women strong, sick women well."

Meanwhile, from England, there was news of militant suffragettes seeking volunteers to bomb the House of Commons. Full voting rights for women (not just for those owning property) were not granted in Canada until 1918, and in England, not until 1928.

December 12, 2012

Community Services launches Christmas appeal

As published in The Erin Advocate

East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) has launched its Annual Appeal, hoping to raise $25,000 to support more than 50 local programs and services.

"Thank you for coming out and supporting us – we really appreciate it," said Executive Director Kari Simpson, to the group that gathered to hear Town Crier Andrew Welch proclaim the start of the campaign.

"The secret to getting the most from this season is sharing with others," he said. "Please be generous in spirit and charity, add your light to peace and diminish disparity."

While donations of money and food are necessary, Simpson stressed that contributions of time multiply the value that the organization delivers.

"We have a huge volunteer program," she said. "All our stores in Erin and Rockwood are volunteer-run, as well as our front desk. Our food bank is primarily run by volunteers, and key staff.
We have our transportation program – we drive seniors to medical appointments, to the adult day program, and we also do some outings with our active seniors and shopping trips."

Information on the appeal has been sent out to people on a mailing list, but information is also available by calling 519-833-9696, visiting (where you can download a donation form) or simply showing up at the EWCS office, 45 Main Street, at the corner of Millwood Road.

Regular monthly giving is promoted, but one-time gifts are also appreciated. Receipts will be issued on request for donations of $10 or more.

Soil problems will add costs to Solmar project

As published in The Erin Advocate

Soil problems will make it more expensive for Solmar to build its proposed subdivision, and require strict inspection by the Town, according to Water Superintendent Frank Smedley.

In a report to council, he highlighted initial concerns about reports submitted by the developer, as part of a plan to build a new commercial-industrial area and 1,240 homes, over 30 years, on 300 acres in the north end of Erin village. These include soil analysis reports paid for by Solmar, available on the Town website ( Smedley's full report is also on the site, in the Nov. 20 council agenda.

Since the current Erin Water System has no capacity to supply these homes, a new pump house will be needed. It would be fed by two closely-spaced wells, plus two more wells, outside the capture zone of the first ones.

The Bel-Erin well, just south of County Road 124 on the Ninth Line, is not currently in use, but may need to be put back into service, said Smedley. A new filter system would be needed.

He also questioned the proposed water supply projections, and said that the developer should be required to pay for financial plans for both the water and sewage systems. He said the Town should update its Servicing Standards to deal with this development.

As of Monday, Solmar's Functional Servicing report was still not available on the Town website. Smedley noted that Solmar has a good location for its proposed sewage treatment plant (Tenth Line at County Road 52), but that it is outside the village urban area.

"It is in the Green Belt," he said. "Getting approval to put it in that area may be a problem."

He also suggested that since the Town has no Waste Water Department, council could consider using "a company like the Ontario Clean Water Agency to operate the sewage system under a contract that requires them to train Town staff to take the facility over after five years."

Soil tests show that the area between Dundas Street and County Road 124 does not drain well because of silty clay, glacial deposits of till and boulders, and layers of sand. Smedley said this is a "big problem" and that sandy areas could have ground water issues.

The engineering reports says, "The topsoil contains appreciable amounts of organic matter; it is unsuitable for supporting structures and must be stripped." The water level is already very high in some areas, and removing the topsoil means it will be even closer to the surface.

Some of the topsoil could be used for landscaping, but the high content of roots and humus "will generate an offensive odour and may produce volatile gases under anaerobic conditions."

The tests were done with 35 boreholes, about six metres deep, in 2011 and 2012. Test pits and more laboratory analysis may be needed.

Smedley said rigourous inspection is essential, because "if foundations, driveways, parking lots, roads, sewers and water mains are not installed properly" a series of difficulties could ensue.

Excavation must be deep enough, and compacting of trenches done according to detailed procedures, to avoid future ground settlement, which could lead to leaks in water lines, and infiltration of ground water into sewer lines. Sewer connections may need to be wrapped or waterproofed. There are many large boulders, which must be removed.

"Future sewer and water main repairs will be more expensive due to soil instability issues that may require dewatering," said Smedley. Improper construction could lead to "uneven road, driveway and parking lot surfaces", "basement settling and cracking with some leaking issues" and "higher infrastructure life cycle costs due to shorter life cycles".

Road sub-drains are recommended by the soil engineers. Sub grades must be "proof-rolled" to test for soft or watery areas – these must be sub-excavated and filled with solid material. Smedley suggests that the final coat of asphalt not be applied until the base asphalt has been in place for three years.

The construction of house foundations may require extra precautions, including digging extra-deep trenches and immediately filling them with concrete up to the normal level of the footings, and reinforcing the foundations with steel rods. After construction, perimeter sub-drains, damp-proofing and polyethylene slip membranes may be needed to reduce the risk of water or frost damage.

"The last thing the Town needs is a large number of foundation failures on buildings that the Town of Erin Building Department approved," said Smedley. "The Town needs to act proactively to ensure these foundations are completed properly and documented as such. Settling, cracking foundations are not easy to repair."

Solmar's inspection of the site revealed no visible signs of excavated pits, but Smedley said gravel was being removed from the south-west corner of the property up until the late 1980s. That is the area where Solmar plans to collect some of the subdivision storm water.

Because of the high groundwater and low permeability of the soils in the area, Smedley recommends against the use of Low Impact Development (LID) storm water devices. Such a strategy attempts to detain runoff close to its source, allowing it to evaporate or filter into the ground instead of going to large ponds and into the river.

"Standard storm water ponds should be used," said Smedley. "Structures like storm ceptors should not be used unless there are no other options."

Stormceptor is the brand name for a product that slows stormwater in a large container, allowing oil to rise and be held back, and sediment to settle. It requires regular inspection and maintenance, including removal of the oil and sediment by a waste management company.

Smedley said the current plan to allow some storm water to flow east into Core Greenlands, without a stormwater pond, may not be allowed by Credit Valley Conservation.

Subdivision would boost potential shoppers

As published in The Erin Advocate

Solmar Development Corp. says its subdivision should be good news for Erin businesses, eventually providing thousands of new potential customers.

Maurizio Rogato, Director of Planning and Development at Solmar, spoke to business owners at a meeting of the East Wellington Chamber of Commerce last week.

"A healthy business community makes for a better community overall," he said. "There is a real need to create some jobs."

Solmar has proposed 1,240 new homes north of Dundas Street over 30 years, a commercial zone on County Rd. 124 and an industrial zone. There are 60 acres of space for recreation, trails and parks.

There are 770,000 square feet of employment area and estimates of 900 permanent jobs and 3,646 construction jobs.

"We really are serious about trying to reach into the local talent. We believe there are great local suppliers, and we'd like to come up with some sort of procurement process where we can work locally."

More information is available in the Public Notices section of the Town website,, and in previous columns, at

"Growth is a scary thing – the first thing people don't want is somebody to come in and change everything. That is not our intent. This is a phased-in long term community plan. At the same time, we have to ensure that the rate of growth offsets the investment that Solmar is bringing to town."

He admitted Solmar will not solve the problem of so many people commuting long distances to work, but said their plan "lays the necessary foundation" to attract quality employers and give people a choice.

"We do building and land development, so we don't just come in and put in the sewers, streets and sidewalks, then leave. We stick around and build the actual product.

"Solmar is a strong supporter of the Chamber network. We do a lot of work throughout the GTA, and beyond, and in every community we work in, we try to support the local organizations.

"One of the biggest challenges is, how do we get 300 acres developed, yet maintain the distinct characteristics of the village, and not upset the apple cart. We believe that the plan we've come up with definitely strives towards that, or it's at least a great start.

"There is a need for different housing types, to accommodate different age groups. The predominant housing forms are single detached. There are semi-detached units, and there is also a beautiful central square, which aligns the main drag into the development, surrounded by medium density housing or seniors housing.

"If you look along the edges of the development, it's pretty much traditional housing forms, because it needs to blend in and work well with the existing community fabric." He said the amount of green space (in the wooded wetland area in the east part of the property) has been increased from 40 acres to 60 acres as a result of community comments.

The Chamber of Commerce, covering not only Erin-Hillsburgh, but the Rockwood-Eramosa area, was formed in 2010. It is now attempting to become more active in current affairs.

"There is power in numbers," David Netherton, the new chair. Membership information is available at

He said the group has adopted no official positions yet about the Solmar proposal, but that  they want to "develop an atmosphere of cooperation, and not a polarized community, over these issues."
Erin businesses, of course, would be in much better condition if the people who already live here would do more of their shopping here.

Obviously, Erin cannot compete directly with the big box stores in Orangeville and elsewhere. But they do compete well on service and quality in certain sectors. We have no obligation to buy locally, but we should give them the opportunity to win our business. Browsing small shops for Christmas gifts can be a rewarding experience.

A whole new subdivision of people will not likely shop locally at first. But the numbers could make it feasible for entrepreneurs to open a wider range of retail outlets here, the lack of which has been part of our problem.

Everything will change in the local business landscape, especially with the Solmar zone having its own commercial lands, so competition will increase. More consumers will increase the size of the pie, but businesses will have work hard to get their slice.

December 05, 2012

Community Services promotes a gift of time

As published in The Erin Advocate

Now that we have entered the Christmas gift-giving state of mind, it is a good time to consider wrapping up something more precious than the stuff you buy in stores.

East Wellington Community Services is appealing not only for money and food bank supplies, but for people's time – a gift of volunteering.

"One of the best things you can give to anybody is time," said Erika Westcott, Manager of Community Services and Volunteers. "Three hours a week is huge – but you're not signing up for a full-time job."

EWCS can provide various volunteer experiences, with different amounts of time needed, and can help high school students get their required community service hours.

They have more than 50 programs and services, such as the food bank, children's services, the seniors adult day programs, active seniors activities and a new telassurance and friendly visiting program, through partnership with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON).

"Without volunteers, there are things that we just wouldn't be able to do. You are really helping people in the community."

It is also an opportunity to build new friendships, share your expertise, learn new skills or share in the responsibility of tending to some aspect of the operation.

"Volunteers bring in fresh ideas and talent," she said.

If you volunteer at the New To You thift clothing stores, or at the Bookends store, you are not only delivering a valuable service to the community, you are helping generate additional revenue for the agency. (The Hillsburgh store was closed recently, when it became too expensive to operate.)

There is also a need for drivers to take clients to medical appointments and transport materials. Volunteers also answer the phone, greet people at the front desk, handle supplies at the food bank and help transport seniors to the day program at Centre 2000.

Of course, a social service agency has to pay staff and many other expenses, and although they receive government funding for some things, they rely on local fundraising events and donations to support their budget.

"It helps to build a resource of stable funding," said Westcott. "Even five or ten dollars a month – it doesn't seem like a lot, but it makes a difference."

This week EWCS launched its Annual Appeal Campaign, with presentations by Board President, Allan Alls and their new Executive Director, Kari Simpson. A mailing has gone out, urging people to consider starting a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation to the agency during upcoming holiday season.

Simpson is a resident of Erin, and has more than 20 years of experience in the health and social services field. She was previously the Director of Health Services at Caledon Community Services. She knows EWCS very well, since she previously served as Board President.

Food donations are greatly appreciated at all times of the year, but a special effort is made to help food bank clients at Christmas. Food and toys are needed for Christmas hampers. If you would like to sponsor a family, or find out more about how you or your organization can help, call 519-833-9696 or visit

December 02, 2012

Just strong enough

Here are the words of my reflection, offered at the Blue Christmas Service, in the basement of All Saints' Anglican Church, Erin, on Sunday, December 2, 2012.

Jesus tells us that we must stand firm to the end.

The evangelist Mark, writing in apocalyptic style, quotes Jesus as saying, "The sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling down from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. ... When you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the very gates."

He was speaking of the end of our world. But as individuals, we can also have an event that shakes our personal world so severely, that it seems like an apocalypse. In times of distress, we need to stay alert, because it is an opportunity to feel the nearness of God. When our world is turned upside down, we need to listen, to find out what we should do next.

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, she was "greatly distressed" – that could well be an understatement. Her life was thrown into turmoil. But when God's plan was revealed to her, she said, "I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled."

And Joseph was surely in distress, upon learning that Mary was pregnant. But when God's plan was revealed to him, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him.

When our son Thomas died six months ago, we were unsure about God's plan, and we felt the need to pray. God reached out to comfort us. He sent his angels – friends, family, Father Joe and the musicians at the funeral, and total strangers here in Erin.

The rituals surrounding death did their job, helping us to be outward with our grief and to acknowledge our pain. Through my work with the newspaper, I was able to be open about the difficulties of dealing with mental illness and suicide, and brought  some comfort to other people struggling with similar challenges.

We are fortunate to be optimistic, action-oriented people by nature, with no feeling that we are entitled to an easy life. Billions of people have grieved the loss of a child, so we're not all that special.

We all know we must suffer, but it always comes as a shock. We have to remember that God is not the source of evil and misfortune, but He does ensure that we need not face them alone.

We are not commanded to understand. We are commanded to love. We carry on for the glory of God, which makes it a joyful duty.

To carry on, we need healing. That requires comfort, a restoration of confidence, and a firm kick to put us back into action. That is a natural process, but for me it is helped along by hearing God's word.

I need constant reminders that I am the same person I was when I was born; the same one who was a little kid in school, the same one who fell in love, raised children, worked and played, and who is enjoying the privilege of growing old.

I need constant reminders that the evils of this world are temporary. That my body and my mind, and all these emotions, are temporary.

I need constant reminders that death has been defeated, that we are loved without condition, and that our souls will continue to praise God, even after time itself has come to an end.

Heavenly Father, teach us how to use our times of sorrow to become more humble. To focus on the really important things. To forgive, and to accept forgiveness. To grow closer to our families. To care for our neighbours. And to love you with our whole being.

Let us heal, and grow just strong enough to do your will. Amen.