November 27, 2013

MNR looking at ways to fight Round Goby

As published in The Erin Advocate

Arrival of the invasive Round Goby fish species in Hillsburgh has the Ministry of Natural Resources scrambling to control it, and trying to decide whether to attempt eradication with poison.

“This species is spreading throughout Ontario even faster than Zebra Mussels,” said Art Timmerman of MNR in a delegation on November 19 to update Erin Town Council on the situation.

“There is a lot of concern about what this species can do to native fish communities, in competition with them, eating their eggs and displacing them.”

The short-term response includes containment, with screens placed at dams, and shutting a bypass channel to stop fish from moving downstream.

MNR staff are working on a long term solution, which will require environmental assessment, extensive public consultation and funding by the ministry. Control measures could include frequent removal through netting, trapping and electrofishing (temporary shocking).

They could use pheromone baited traps, and combine a winter draw-down of pond levels with electrofishing, or with application of piscicide, a chemical poisonous to fish.

“This will kill anything that breathes with gills,” said Timmerman. “The effect goes until it is diluted.”

The procedure would likely include capture with electrofishing of many other local fish, which would be stored safely and re-introduced later to re-populate the affected area of the Credit River.

“Limiting the population and limiting where they can go might be your better bet, because I don’t think you’ll achieve totally eradication,” said Mayor Lou Maieron, suggesting introduction of a cold-water species like speckled trout to control gobies during the winter.

The Round Gobies are native to Eastern Europe, and were first found in Ontario in the St. Clair River in 1990, probably transported in the ballast water of ships. They are known to live in Lake Ontario and the lower sections of rivers, but their discovery in Hillsburgh last August was unusual. A dumped bait bucket is the likely source. They have also been found in Belwood Lake, part of the Grand River watershed.

They have been caught or spotted in the privately-owned ponds north of the Elora-Cataract Trailway, but surveys have shown no evidence that they have spread downstream. The species prefers the relatively warm water of ponds, which also have small mouth bass and sunfish, to the cooler flowing water favoured by trout.

“In trying to control or eradicate these animals, we’re depending completely on the good will of land owners to make that happen,” said Timmerman.

Mill Pond Committee wants to save mill pond

As published in The Erin Advocate

The citizen committee studying the Hillsburgh mill pond issue has presented council with a recommendation to save the pond and repair the existing roadway and bridge at the Station Street dam.

The committee reviewed various pro and cons for each of several possibilities, and supported preservation of “existing aesthetics, social, recreational and tourism uses” as well as maintaining current heritage value, wildlife habitat and wetlands.

Preserving the pond would avoid changes to the water table, maintain flood control and respect the rights of area landowners while improving public safety, the committee said.

They acknowledged the plan would cost more than removing the dam and draining the pond, that warm pond water is not ideal for downstream habitat, that there is increased liability in owning a dam and that having the control structure on private property is a problem.

They recommended that the Town not buy the pond and control structure and not relocate the roadway to the Elora-Cataract Trailway. They also rejected the idea of doing nothing, since it would increase the chances of dam failure and violate a provincial order to find a solution.

They said the Town should seek legal advice on issues they had discussed in closed session regarding landowner water rights.

Mayor Lou Maieron suggested that the committee do further study of the issues, but council received the recommendations without asking for more work by the committee. Council will debate the issues once again when they attempt to make a decision on the issue.

No Town job ads if internal candidates qualified

As published in The Erin Advocate

A proposal to require external advertising of all Town job openings was voted down at the November 19 council meeting.

Mayor Lou Maieron said advertising both internally and externally would open up an opportunity for people with suitable qualifications to compete with existing staff for available positions.

“There are concerns from the public that we are hiring from within generally, and as a corporation, we should be an equal opportunity employer,” said Maieron.

“The internal candidate will only be given preference when their qualifications, experience and other relevant factors are deemed equal to those of the external candidate,” he said.

John Brennan supported the motion, noting that the evaluation of qualifications would be made by Chief Administrative Officer Kathryn Ironmonger.

“It’s a good practice to look everywhere,” said Brennan. “You need a healthy mix.”

The motion was defeated by Councillors Callaghan, Wintersinger and Tocher, who referred to the extensive effort put into training existing staff to take on additional responsibility through succession planning.

“I firmly believe that it is a solid business practice,” said Tocher, supporting the existing policy of advertising externally only when there is not a qualified internal candidate.

She said it is important to build loyalty in the workforce, and that often in the past new employees have come to Erin to get some experience, then moved on quickly to larger municipalities.

Maieron is not opposed to the hiring of internal candidates, but said, “The Town has to do the best by its residents, and new blood is not a bad thing. It brings in some vigour and new ideas.” Bringing in new people can also produce a cost saving, he said.

The Town has recently advertised externally for a Compliance Administrator for the Water Department and for an Equipment Operator for the Roads Department.

Fill bylaw revisions won’t help enforce it

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin has a new Citizen Guide for fill concerns and is working to improve its bylaw, but lack of enforcement remains the biggest problem surrounding the issue.

Planner Sally Stull reported to councillors on November 19 with a Citizen’s Guide that no longer has requirements for people to get information from people suspected of illegal fill dumping.

“The real issue is that the Town does not have the resources to monitor these applications,” she said. “It’s been very clear, dating back through our problems with site alteration, that enforcement is a difficult part of what we do.”

The group Citizens Against Fill Dumping plans to make a presentation at the December 3 Council meeting. A public education meeting on the issue will be held in the council chamber on Monday, December 9, at 7 pm.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many people who place fill on their property do not apply for permits – there were no Town applications this year, and only one last year. Other people apply to the conservation authorities, which manage about half of Erin’s land area.

Others get permission for fill through a building permit, which is not covered by the site alteration bylaw, while cases related to aggregate pits or suspected waste dumping are under provincial authority. Sites with less than 20 truckloads of fill are not covered by the Town bylaw. The Town normally has one part-time bylaw enforcement officer, but that position is now vacant.

“The proposed changes to the site alteration bylaw will have no effect in regard to any complaints received or investigated, as no applications are being made and are generally not in the Town’s jurisdiction,” said Stull.

She also pointed out that fill operations are not prohibited in the neighbouring municipality of Halton Hills, where 70,000 truckloads have been allowed through a case by case approval process.

Council has approved a simple form that residents concerned about fill operations will now be able to download from the Town website. It mainly requires the location of the suspected problem and the name of the complainant (which will remain confidential). Contact phone numbers are provided for other regulators.

Council deferred approval of proposed changes to the bylaw, which include removing the right of staff to approve projects up to 200 loads. All applications would now need council approval, after notification of neighbours and those on the haul route.

The exemption that allowed excavation and backfilling within 10 metres of a building permit site would be removed. Applicants would have to make a security deposit to cover possible damage to Town or County roads.

Fill has also become an issue at the County level, with some other municipalities having concerns.

“As a result of the anxiety over the fill operations in the Town of Erin this summer and the beginning of construction activities on WR50, a request for a speed limit reduction on the gravel portion of Wellington Road 50 was received,” County Engineer Gordon Ough told the Roads Committee this month.

He is recommending that the speed limit be reduced to 70 kph from the Third Line to the Fifth Line.

At the same meeting, Warden Chris White and Erin Councillor Ken Chapman put forward a request that the County and local municipalities review truck traffic impact from fill operations and make recommendations to the Roads Committee on potential solutions.

Proposed rural distillery will need zoning change

As published in The Erin Advocate

A plan to distill whiskey and rum on the Third Line near Hillsburgh, including a tasting bar and bottle shop, has run into a roadblock with Town Council.

Last Straw Distillery had hoped the proposal to produce 15,000 bottles of spirits per year could be deemed an agricultural use, since they would be growing grain for their products.

Planner Sally Stull said that distilling is a High Hazard Industrial use under the Building Code, and cannot be permitted without an amendment to the zoning bylaw. She said the need to age the whiskey a minimum of three years would result in “significant volatile product storage”.

“There would be minimal environmental impact, and hopefully a strong and lasting economic impact,” said company representative Michael Hook in a delegation to council on November 5.

He had taken some encouragement a mention of “vineyards” as an agricultural use in the bylaw, and from a letter written by Wellington Planning Director Gary Cousins, who said, “The County does support value added uses related to agriculture, and your proposed use seems to generally fit that category.”

But Cousins did warn that rezoning is normally needed and that it is a Town issue. Town Council agreed with Stull, who also noted that there could be issues on this gravel road, requiring a safety and maintenance study, due to increased truck and weekend visitor traffic.

Even the retail shop would not be currently permitted in the agricultural zone.

Stull said a distillery would be a restricted use, since it is a “combustible product”. The firm would need licensing under the federal Excise Act to produce alcohol, as well as provincial approval to sell alcohol.

No revisions for now to staff Code of Ethics

As published in The Erin Advocate

A push by Mayor Lou Maieron to make the Town’s Employee Code of Ethics match the Council Code did not get any traction at the November 19 council meeting.

The mayor went “fishing” for seconder, but did not get one, for his motion to hire a consultant “to review and revise the Staff Code of Ethics to bring it into conformity, where applicable, to the Councillor Code of Ethics, and that the Staff Code of Ethics consider including a standard of public service component.”

Councillor John Brennan said he has a problem with that idea, since he is not aware of which differences between the Codes are at issue.

“Before we go spending any money to hire a consultant to come in and look at this thing, I would like to see what are the areas of concern,” he said. “Maybe it’s simple enough that we don’t need a consultant.”

“I just want to do a comparison,” said Maieron. “It’s much more onerous on the council ... I don’t think we should be held to a higher standard than the staff. There’s certain things that only belong to councillors, but the general policy should apply across the board.”

The mayor is currently the object of a July 4 complaint under the Council Code, the nature of which has not been made public. Normally, complaints are to be investigated and council given a report within 90 days. Integrity Commissioner John Craig had been granted a one-month extension of that deadline, to November 4, but as of November 15, no report had been received.

The Employee Code is a section of the Town Personnel Policy. Unlike councillors, staff can be fired for serious violations. The Code guards against conflicts of interest, ensures that personal and Town interests are kept separate, limits the value of hospitality gifts to $100, and prohibits the use of a position, Town property or confidential information for the benefit (or perceived benefit) of an employee or their family members.

Since a general review of the Personnel Policy is currently being done, councillors felt it was better to allow that process to be completed before discussing the Employee Code.

November 20, 2013

Development decisions ‘defensible’ says CAO

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town has admitted to some “discontinuity” in its management of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), but long delays in the process will not put Council at risk of having its decisions overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), says CAO Kathryn Ironmonger.

Her comments are in a letter to Shelley Foord and Liz Armstrong of Transition Erin, after questions were raised about the SSMP process at a recent Council meeting. Councillors referred the questions to their lawyer and Project Manager Dale Murray of Triton Engineering.

The Town expects to complete the study by next June, and “does not anticipate that the Town's position in any future Ontario Municipal Board process relating to any development applications will be compromised,” said Ironmonger.

“Council is entitled to make decisions for the municipality regarding when, where and whether or not to implement any particular servicing options for the Town and the Ontario Municipal Board does not have the authority to change or overrule the Town's decisions about such servicing issues.”

Foord said the Town’s letter was “not adequate”, since it “danced around” the issues and ignored some of the questions Transition Erin had raised. For example, Foord had asked whether the action plan suggested last May by Water Superintendent Frank Smedley would be pursued, but this was not mentioned in the letter. The group is working on a more detailed response.

Ironmonger said the Town appreciates the public’s involvement in the SSMP process and expects that Transition Erin and the Concerned Erin Citizens group will provide “important perspectives” through their membership on the Liaison Committee.

Foord had asked who has been in charge of supervising the SSMP process over recent years. Ironmonger said while Council has ultimate responsibility, the CAO manages oversight and may seek the advice of Murray, who has been the Town’s Project Manager “throughout this project”. There is also a Core Management Group, including Town and Provincial representatives, Murray and Matt Pearson of BM Ross, but it has rarely met.

“Unfortunately, due to the retirement of the former Town Manager [Lisa Hass] and the hiring of a new CAO [Frank Miele], there was some discontinuity in the Town's oversight management of the study process,” said Ironmonger. “The new Town CAO apparently believed that the draft report was much closer to being complete than it was in fact and expectations were raised at the public meeting that the report was close to completion. It was soon realized by Council that those expectations were not realistic.

“It is not unusual that studies of this scope and magnitude take longer to complete than originally anticipated and it is not unusual that unanticipated costs result in the need to modify the original budget for such studies.”

Murray has told council that during much of the work done by the consultant, he was not instructed to be involved. He has been active this year, advising Council of deficiencies and working with BM Ross to plan completion of the study.

Both Murray and Pearson have urged Council to decide soon about where housing development will occur, but Ironmonger said the current draft of the SSMP report contains insufficient information to make such decisions.

“If Town Council determines that there is capacity to service new development and obtains the necessary approvals for one or more sewage treatment options, the location of such new development would be the subject of the planning process under the Planning Act,” she said.

“Those decisions would be made by Council at the appropriate stage in the process and be subject to provincial plans and policies and to the public participation process requirements. I expect that Council will make decisions on any development applications in a reasonable and defensible fashion.

“This report will be making recommendations for the future of the Town relating to sanitary servicing, water supply and transportation issues. The question of how much assimilative capacity is potentially available in the West Credit River will also be comprehensively addressed.

“Perhaps the most fundamental decision facing Council will be whether or not to pursue an Environmental Assessment approval process for one or more servicing options. Other issues that may require Council decisions include questions such as how servicing capacity should be shared between Hillsburgh and Erin Village; how much capacity is required for servicing existing rather than future development; what costs would be associated with different options; and whether those costs will be funded by existing development or new development.

“These are important decisions for the future of the municipality that require full and complete information and public consultation before Council can reasonably decide them. It would be premature for Council to make such decisions on the basis of the existing information available.

“BM Ross will be providing analyses of different servicing options in the final report based on certain assumptions and development scenarios. The consultant has been seeking some guidance from Council about the scenarios that should be analysed to ensure that they cover the full range of reasonable options.

“The decision on whether to pursue any particular servicing option and the decision on where development will ultimately be located will be made by Council, after considering all relevant input. There will be no predetermination of these issues in the SSMP study.”

Private money for bridges could be tempting

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin should be wary of allowing a private firm to finance and maintain its bridges and other infrastructure. Eventually, however, it may be forced to go that route.

Municipalities have responsibility for bridges, but often cannot afford to repair and replace them. They must go begging for grants, which are subject to political whims and the occasional need to stimulate the economy.

A report released last month from the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) and the Residential and Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) studied the bridges and culverts of Wellington County.

It estimates that over the next seven years, the county and its local municipalities will have to spend about $132 million for upgrades and replacements. That is $19 million per year, in 2011 dollars, not accounting for inflation. The annual cost should drop to about $11 million after 2020, but only after the massive current backlog of bridge work is done.

There are 635 bridges and culverts in Wellington, with the county owning 194 and local municipalities responsible for the rest. Erin has 48, including 9 bridges and 8 culverts that should be completely replaced by 2015, the report says, with an estimated life cycle cost of $8 million. The Town still has six bridges that were built between 1910 and 1920.

Sticking close to provincial policy, the report encourages the use of Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP), also known as Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs or P3s).

“The recent positive AFP experience in Ontario should inspire partnerships to be developed with the private sector, the Ontario government, and neighbouring municipalities,” says the report, which will be reviewed by the Town.

“The AFP model brings together private and public-sector expertise in a unique structure that reduces the risk of project cost increases and improves project delivery schedule when compared with traditional project delivery methods.”

Not all AFP experiences have been positive, most famously the Brampton Civic Hospital about 10 years ago, when P3s were new. The auditor general later found that $200 million could have been saved if it had been a public project.

More checks and balances are in place now, but AFP’s still have two major financial drains. Private firms have to pay higher interest rates than governments to raise the required funds, and they have the right and obligation to make a profit. Can these be outweighed by entrepreneurial efficiency, while maintaining high quality? The federal and provincial governments say, “Yes!”

AFPs are attractive to governments because they get a fixed price with delayed payments, and technically are not borrowing as much. But the revenue stream still flows from the wallets of taxpayers. For bridges, the Town would have to make regular payments to the company doing the construction or maintenance.

The strategy remains hotly debated, with opponents citing studies that show higher costs. Part of the confusion comes from the difficulty in putting a value on the risks that are transfered to the private sector.

The Wellington report says most AFP projects are done on time or early, and with cost savings estimates ranging from 13 to 30 per cent. Savings are expected to come from reduced design, pre-engineering and construction management costs, and from bidder innovation and value engineering based on performance-based specifications. Taxpayers would be shielded from cost overruns, and an accelerated schedule could reduce financing costs.

The report also envisions a county-wide consortium of municipalities that would bundle their bridge projects into a long term contract – for example, a 10-year plan to design and build, or a 30-year plan to design, build, finance, operate and maintain.

There would certainly be economies of scale, but Erin would have to make long-term budget commitments. The Town would not control negotiation of the contract, and might not have as much control as it would like over how and when their bridge work is done.

The Town would have to do a Value-for-Money analysis for any type of AFP, and should question all the projected benefits and possible cost savings before making any commitments.

All the province has to do to promote an AFP system is to be stingy with their grants until municipalities get truly desperate, or to favour AFP-based projects in their funding decisions. If it becomes a choice of getting with the program or getting left out in the cold, it’s not really much of a choice.

November 13, 2013

Lower flow in Credit could restrict new housing

As published in The Erin Advocate

Lower water flow measurements in the West Credit River could drastically cut population growth in Erin’s urban areas, according to the Town’s consultant for the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP).

New data has been gathered by Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), but its methodology is being questioned and population limits will be the subject of negotiation in the coming weeks, said BM Ross consultant Matt Pearson, appearing before Town Council last week.

SSMP reports have previously estimated the possible maximum urban population (Erin village and Hillsburgh combined) in a range from 6,500 to 13,500.

“We suspect it could be lower by 50%,” said Pearson. “The concern is, it gives you less opportunity to do stuff.” The final number remains uncertain, and Pearson would not speculate on what it might be, since the previous range was so wide. The Town currently has about 4,200 urban residents, and 7,000 in the rural areas and hamlets.

Pearson laid out a schedule for completing the SSMP by June 17, with the only full public meeting just two weeks before that. There would be three meetings of the Liaison Committee (also open to the public) with the first one on December 4. A Council workshop will be held in March to discuss alternatives and review costs with consulting firm Watson & Associates, but it is not clear whether the public will be invited.

The Liaison Committee will not get a new mandate to have more control of the process or report directly to Council. Pearson said with new members from two citizen groups, he expects there will be an improved “opportunity for dialogue”, but he reiterated that the SSMP is not intended to evaluate specific wastewater technologies. That would be done after Council has chosen a general strategy.

Councillors hope to finish the SSMP before next October’s municipal election, deciding on whether to proceed with the next stage of environmental assessment that would lead to construction of a sewer system. Pearson said if they can’t get a definite population limit by Christmas, it will throw the schedule off.

Council also approved spending $100,000 in 2014 from the Environmental Assessment Study Reserve Fund, the amount estimated for finishing off the SSMP process.

This includes $54,000 previously approved for BM Ross, $17,000 for Triton Engineering, $9,000 for Blackport Hydrogeology, $15,000 for Watson & Associates Economists and $5,000 in expenses for advertising and public meetings. Council will now get monthly status reports on progress of the SSMP.

They face a dilemma, since the urban areas have far more land available for housing growth, especially with the high densities demanded by the provincial government, than the river will be able to handle using standard wastewater methods.

If it was not for the wastewater restrictions, current urban lands could accommodate 6,000 more lots, said Pearson. Developers have had housing plans put on hold for about 10 years, and face the possibility of insufficient sewage allocation.

Pearson and town representatives met with CVC and Ministry of the Environment (MOE) staff recently to get an explanation of the new stream gauge data, which when combined with previous data, enables a measurement called 7Q20.

It is the minimum seven day average flow over a period of 20 years (i.e., in any given year there is a 1 chance in 20 that the average flow in the river over any seven days will be equal to or less than the 7Q20 value).

“It drives how much treated effluent you can put in the stream,” said Pearson. “They’ve redone this number. It will now be analyzed, but there is some question still about how they got to the number. Your hydrogeologist Ray Blackport, and the MOE people even, are questioning how CVC did their number. The number came in obviously lower than the number they used before in the environmental study report.

“Lower has implications for the whole program. Lower means less effluent can go into the stream, which means less population to work with.”

The 7Q20 number will be used to calculate an Assimilative Capacity (AC) number, a limit on the combined future population of the urban areas. When BM Ross estimated the AC number in a range from 6,500 to 13,500, CVC warned it would likely be near the low end of that range.

“It will probably take a month of negotiations, discussions and lighting fires under them to move forward. The MOE has to take a crack at this, and Ray’s going to have a crack at the methodology,” said Pearson.

“Our goal, we always thought, was to get you the highest [AC] number we could, because we’re only going to get that number once.”

After questioning by Mayor Lou Maieron, Pearson conceded that the AC number could in fact change in the future, depending on environmental conditions and wastewater technologies.
“That number is a constantly moving target,” said Maieron.

“That number will always change,” said Pearson, but suggested that might not happen for 20 years.

“Maybe down the line there will be things happening. But right now, we’re going to get a number approved by these approval agencies who have to give you a permit to discharge. You don’t get to play with a range. I need the number so you can make some decisions.”

He said if development took place, and was found in the future to be too hard on the river, regulators could demand a higher level of waste treatment, which would be a “multi-million dollar surprise”.

He said while the SSMP is also about other issues such as storm water management, it is the sewer issue that will be the “constraining factor”, one which will require a “generational decision” on the future of the Town.

Lawsuit info research would tie up town staff

As published in The Erin Advocate

A request to dig up archived information related to a lawsuit launched against the Town of Erin by Mayor Lou Maieron will take so much staff time that a researcher will be hired for the project, council decided last week.

Clerk Dina Lundy received three Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from the same person on October 29. The mayor would not confirm directly that he made the requests, but he did declare a conflict of interest and left the council chamber during the discussion.

The first request, regarding a disputed woodlot, seeks all related letters, emails, notes and phone records, dating back to 1997, between the Town (and its consultants or lawyers), and a series of organizations that includes other defendants in the mayor’s lawsuit.

“These requests are going to take probably months to compile,” said Lundy. “The staff time that is going to be required will interfere with our operations. We are going to have to enlist some help...I imagine it would be hundreds of hours. ”

The Town does not normally charge for responding to FOI requests, since the staff time required is minimal. In this case, council agreed with the clerk’s request to hire a researcher, and to charge as much of the cost as permitted by law back to the requestor.

“Once an estimate of fees has been completed form each request, the requestor will be required to pay a deposit equal to 50 percent of the estimate before any further steps are taken to respond to each request. The remainder of the fees will be payable before access is given to any of the records,” said Lundy in her report.

“It is not known if the fees charged to the requestor will fully compensate for the cost of the researcher and other related costs.”

Lundy has consulted with the CAO, a Senior Policy Advisor from the Ministry of Government Services and the municipal Solicitor.

“It is important that the petitioner understands that the fees that will be charged are for the examination and processing of these record, not for what the final product will be, said councillor John Brennan. “Technically it is possible that the person could pay hundreds or perhaps even thousands of dollars, and at the end of the process get nothing.”

The Town is obliged to respond to FOI requests, but may hold back confidential information, and may have to consult other parties named in the documents. Lundy said the fee is payable regardless of her decision on whether or not to grant access to individual records.

The cost of legal advice on what to redact (edit out or withhold) will not be charged to the requestor, and CAO Kathryn Ironmonger said there will be “significant cost to the municipality that may not be recoverable.”

The request about the land dispute targets communications with “the OMB, Gulia et al, Erin Brook Subdivision, Charleston Homes, John & Cheryl Leenders, Birdseye Farm, and any respective principle thereof and any government agency, the CVC, MOE, MNR, DFO, or other etc.”

The mayor’s lawsuit was also on the agenda for a closed session, for which the mayor declared a conflict of interest and did not attend. Councillor John Brennan reported to the public afterwards.

“We reviewed a Statement of Defense with our legal counsel regarding court file 687/13, that is the lawsuit with the plaintiff Lou Maieron, and a number of defendants including the Town,” said Brennan. “We have directed the lawyer to file it with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.”

No information about the Statement of Defense was immediately available, but it becomes a public document once it is filed with the court.

The second FOI request is for all records of communication between Town staff and Integrity Commissioner John Craig, who is expected to report soon on a Code of Ethics complaint against Mayor Maieron. Most of that communication is expected to remain confidential. The nature of the complaint itself has never been made public.

The third FOI request if for “a full accounting of all expenses for all Town of Erin Councillors and the Mayor from start of this Council term”. The information will be relatively quick to retrieve, but it will take extra time to sort since it is “to include all receipts, credit card invoices, cash payments etc. with a breakdown of conference costs, meals, accommodation costs, travel and other associated costs.”

The Municipal Freedom of lnformation and Protection of Privacy Act allows the Town to charge 20 cents per page for photocopies, $10 for each CD, $7.50 for each 15 minutes spent by anyone to search records or prepare records for disclosure, $15 for each 15 minutes for computer programming, plus any other costs of the search for which the Town is invoiced.

Minister won’t commit to regulate fill dumping

As published in The Erin Advocate

A call for improved regulation of the disposal of fill in rural areas has been given the brush-off by Environment Minister Jim Bradley.

The issue has been high-profile in Erin recently, with MPP Ted Arnott writing to the minister on behalf of local residents, renewing his request for an Interministerial Committee to establish provincial policy and regulations.

“I understand that the Ministry has recently established best management practices for soil management [fill], but would question how these are being enforced and if there is any enforcement at all,” said Arnott in his letter.

Bradley replied that the soil guide was still being finalized “with consideration to all the comments we have received”, and that it will provide “essential guidance” for the Town and Conservation Authorities, which can issue permits for fill. He did not respond to the enforcement question.

“As we move forward, we will evaluate if future actions are needed,” he said, noting that the ministry “encourages the reuse of excess soil for beneficial uses as long as it can be done in a way that is protective of human health and the environment.”

The Town of Erin is in the process of reviewing both its fill bylaw and a proposed guide that would help residents report suspected problems.

The Citizens Against Fill Dumping group is continuing to attend council meetings, and has come out with a brochure to make people aware of their concerns about the impact on the environment, residents’ quality of life and their property values. They also have a web site:

“The GTA continues to grow exponentially and with that growth comes an increasing demand for places to dump its unwanted excavated material,” the website says.

“The primary concern is that some of this fill could be contaminated. The current bylaws governing Wellington County and Erin are simply inadequate to deal with this issue. They are neither stringent enough to protect the best interests of the Town of Erin and Wellington County residents nor are they rigorously enforced to ensure accountability and transparency.

“We want to convince Town of Erin Council and Wellington County Council to eliminate importation of fill. We want the Provincial government to regulate the Fill industry in Ontario.”

Firefighter honoured for service

As published in The Erin Advocate

Firefighters from Hillsburgh and Erin turned out in force at the November 5 Council meeting to honour Rick Adamson for his contributions over the last 20 years.

The communications room at the new Hillsburgh Station 50 will be named after him. MPP Ted Arnott presented certificates from himself and MP Michael Chong, and a Governor-General’s medal.

With other volunteer firefighters, he has dedicated time and effort to finishing the newly-constructed fire station. He is also the president of Wellington-Dufferin Mutual Aid, which coordinates assistance among municipalities in the event of major or multiple emergencies.

Councillor Deb Callaghan paid tribute to Adamson’s service.

“Rick is usually the first person at the station when a page is put out for an emergency in the community. In arriving first, Rick becomes the communications operator, something he is very skilled at.

“It takes a lot of experience to anticipate what is going to be required at an emergency scene, and by analyzing the incoming information from Guelph dispatch, Rick is often requesting Mutual Aid or other agencies to attend an emergency before the incident commander has time to request them.

“Rick is like Radar on the TV show M.A.S.H. – he seems to be able to read minds and make things happen before they are needed. Thank-you Rick for all the effort you have given our community.”

Rick Adamson was honoured for 20 years of service as a Hillsburgh firefighter. Left to right are MPP Ted Arnott, Councillor Jose Wintersinger, Adamson, Councillor Deb Callaghan, Mayor Lou Maieron and Chief Dan Callaghan.

Library offers free access to magazines

As published in The Erin Advocate

There may be nothing truly free under the sun, but when it comes to services for which we have already paid, it does make sense to use them when it is convenient.

That is the case with an on-line magazine service called Zinio, now offered to the public at no charge by the Wellington County Library.

It fits well with the library’s mandate to making interesting material freely available. Assistant Chief Librarian Chanda Gilpin said they knew there would be a demand for a magazine service because of the popularity of their other digital services.

You can access eBooks and eAudiobooks, as well as catalogue searches and research tools, and manage your personal account, without actually going to a library.

“We’re always trying to anticipate and adapt to the needs of the community,” said Gilpin.

You can still get paper copies of magazines at library branches, which is better than paying $5 for one issue at your local drug store. But if you can get used to reading them on your computer, tablet or smartphone, it is very efficient for both users and the library system.

“We can put a print magazine in each of our 14 branches and provide access to one person at a time at each location,” said Gilpin. “Or we can pay approximately half that cost and make the same magazine available through Zinio to every single library member in the County, all at the same time. Zinio also comes with all-hours access, no worries about fines, and no damaged materials.”

Wellington currently offers access to 44 magazines through Zinio, which is not a lot in the competitive magazine market, but it is a good start. They cover some of the most popular sectors, with titles for women, men, teens and kids.

You can learn how to age well with Zoomer, absorb some Canadian culture with The Walrus, read a tribute to Lou Reed in Rolling Stone, make cookies with Canadian Living, check out the 2015 Mustang with Car and Driver, discover dinosaurs with Chirp or read up on 38 naughty holiday games with Cosmopolitan.

There is no due date, and back issues are available for many titles. Notably missing from the Zinio line-up are magazines including Macleans and other products from Rogers Media, Canada’s largest publisher. They are launching their own paid service and app called Next Issue.

Zinio is also a paid service, and you can subscribe to a much wider selection of digital magazines by going directly to their retail website. When you are viewing your library selections, you will have the opportunity, but no obligation, to buy other subscriptions.

To access the free ones, you will need a library card, which is good idea in any case. At, go to Library under Resident Services, click Online Resources, then on eBooks and More, then on Zinio to sign up. There’s a tutorial video, and branch staff can answer your questions.

The minor inconvenience to the process is that you set up a Zinio account with the library, but after you choose some magazines, you end up at where you have to set up another account with the exact same user name and password.

Once you set it up, it works smoothly – picking titles at the library site, and seeing your current batch and reading them through the Zinio site. You don’t actually download the magazine files. You just stream the view as needed to your computer.

You flip through the pages, ads and all, and the Table of Contents will have links for quick navigation. There’s full-screen viewing, bookmarking and an option for printing pages.

You can also download free Zinio reader apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire/HD, Win 8, Blackberry and Nook HD/HCD+. You still have to use the website to check out new issues of magazines. Once that is done, your accounts will sync on a wireless connection and the issue will be ready to read on your mobile device.

November 06, 2013

Photos of Mundell mill fire

The story on the fire is in a separate post.
The first four photos are by ‎Andrew Greggain, supplied by Erin Fire Chief Dan Callaghan.

Photo of mill a few years after it was converted to a planing mill by Ben Mundell in 1896:

Photo of mill by David Clifford, just four days before the fire:

Photos by Phil Gravelle, eight hours after the fire started:

The vertical drive shaft of the mill, powered by water diverted through a mill race from the Charles Street dam.

Brian Oates demonstrating the mill's woodworking equipment at the Doors Open tour in 2010:

A series of photos taken by George Beshiri in 1975, published by Tim Inkster of Porcupine's Quill in his 2009 historical booklet McMillan's Mills. The first is of current owner Dana Mundell chopping away ice in the turbine area, and the rest showing the vintage machinery and drive system.

Historic Mundell mill destroyed by fire

As published in The Erin Advocate

The historic water-powered planing mill at Mundell Lumber was destroyed by fire on Halloween morning last week, leaving the community shocked at the loss of a familiar landmark.

There were no injuries and arson was not suspected said Erin Fire Chief Dan Callaghan. Ontario Provincial Police have asked to speak with any witnesses.

Investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office were at the scene Thursday, but no information on the possible cause of the fire has been released.

The 911 call came in at 2:25 am after a cat woke up a neighbour, said Callaghan. When firefighters arrived, the 175-year-old wooden structure was fully engulfed in flames.

“The historic machinery is non-replaceable – it’s a huge loss,” said Callaghan.

Volunteers from the Erin and Hillsburgh stations contained the blaze, protecting the Rona store on Main Street and nearby warehouses. The building included the lumber yard office and was mainly used for storage. A flatbed truck with a forklift and another truck, parked near the office, were seriously damaged.

Neighbour Peter Brumm, whose apartment overlooks the mill area, said the fire appeared to have started in the northwest corner, but spread to the whole building within minutes.

“A part of the history of this town is shot,” said former village reeve Jim Mundell after surveying the damage. He has many fond memories of the mill, including sweeping the floors for five cents a day when he was a kid.

“This was one of the last remaining water powered mills,” he said. Many mills were built in the Credit River watershed during the mid-1800s to saw lumber, grind grain and produce textiles, as settlements grew throughout the region.

The mill itself had been run only occasionally in recent decades, but it was the last operable belt-driven water mill in the Credit River watershed. The machinery included a turbine and drive shaft at the south end of the building, powered by water diverted under Main Street from the Charles Street dam. There was a system of gears, pulleys and canvas drive belts, with levers to engage various woodworking machines.

The planing mill once employed about 60 people. Even though the importance of mills generally declined in the early 1900s, the Erin mill continued to be used regularly into the 1960s.

Bill Mundell said the mill’s heyday had come and gone, and that it’s too early to know what will be done with the site. His son Dana Mundell, current owner of the business, was out of the country at the time of the fire.

He also owns the stone-walled flour mill built by McMillan in 1849, just 100 metres downstream, which is in very poor condition. A little further along the river, in the Woollen Mills Conservation Area is the site of McMillan’s 1840 wool carding mill, the remains of which were demolished for safety reasons in 1995.

Long-term Mundell Lumber employee Bob Kirkwood said the planing mill was a “priceless” tribute to the past.

In a Facebook post, Store Manager Mike Magill said he was “devastated” by the loss of “a place that fueled Erin’s early development...from way back when times were simpler.” He thanked the firefighters who had worked a very long shift.

The structure was built in 1838 by Daniel McMillan as an oat mill. He had already been operating both a saw mill and a grist mill just downstream of the Charles Street dam. He realized he could generate far more power (about 30 horsepower) by diverting water from the pond through a flume (ditch) to a new mill on the east side of Main Street. The water dropped seven metres before rejoining the West Credit River.

“Few mills in Ontario were sited as cleverly to take advantage of local topography,” said Steve Revell, in his booklet A Brief History of Erin Village, published by Porcupine’s Quill in 2007.

McMillan persuaded his friend William Cornock to build an adjacent distillery, which operated until 1860 using tailings from the grain to make cheap whiskey. It sold for 25 cents a jug or a dollar a keg, said Tim Inkster of Porcupine’s Quill, who published A Brief History of McMillan’s Mills in 2009.

According to the book Main Street, A Pictorial History of Erin Villlage by Jean Denison (available at the library) Cornock took over the oat mill and in 1889 sold it to Dr. Henry McNaughton. Benjamin Mundell bought the mill (including the 999-year lease on water rights) from McNaughton’s widow in 1896.

“Mundell converted the facility to a planing mill, which complemented perfectly his skills as both carpenter and contractor,” said Revell. “Benjamin’s son David took possession in 1918 on his return from service overseas. David’s eldest son Bill joined the firm at the close of the Second World War, and Bill’s younger brother Jim signed on in 1952.”

With files from Metroland News Service

Mountainview hydrants spark safety complaint

As published in The Erin Advocate

Residents of the Mountainview subdivision at the south end of Erin village are finally getting fire hydrants, but notices from the Town saying they should not drink tap water for up to 10 days during installation and testing have prompted a complaint from County Councillor Ken Chapman.

He said that even if there is a small risk of contamination from the work, the Town should give residents more details on how to safely use tap water, including how to boil it for drinking.

Erin Water Superintendent Frank Smedley said people in the subdivision should not drink the water at all. He said a Boil Water Advisory is not appropriate, and that both the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) have no problem with the Town’s process.

“A shutdown of water does not create an adverse water situation,” said Smedley, noting that similar notices are used for other maintenance and repairs, and that the Town has not previously received complaints. “We are following our set operating procedure that outlines not drinking the water until satisfactory samples are received.”

He said the Town will supply bottled water to any affected resident if they request it, but that it is not standard practice to issue it automatically. Chapman said the availability of bottled water should have been stated in the Town’s initial flyers.

“If I can’t drink the water, you’re telling me it may be contaminated,” said Chapman. “For kids and seniors, this could be big trouble. I’m only over-reacting if no one gets sick. This is slip-shod, not giving people what they need to know. People should be treated with respect.”

Smedley said Chapman is very familiar with water department functions, yet has refused to discuss the issue with him, as requested in Town flyers.

“If he is suggesting that the water is unsafe, that is not true – these are precautionary procedures,” said Smedley. “He should know better than to do this.”

Shawn Zentner, Manager of Health Protection at WDGPH confirmed approval of the Town’s process and the notice that Mountainview subdivision residents not drink the water until notified otherwise.

“It is a prudent, reasonable and cautious step,” he said, noting that a Boil Water Advisory would only protect against bacteria, while not drinking the water at all protects against any potential contamination.

Smedley denied a statement in a flyer Chapman gave to residents that provincial officials are “putting pressure” on the water department to provide more information, including boiling procedures. In a report for this week’s council meeting Smedley said he did receive advice from MOE and Public Health on the wording of public notices.

The Town issued a third flyer to residents on Friday, offering bottled water on request, and asking residents to disregard flyers from other sources.

“Town of Erin Water Department staff work very hard to instill confidence in Municipal Water Operations,” said Smedley in his report, referring to a 100% rating in a recent MOE inspection.

Hydrant work for the 41 homes was initially expected to be done last week, but was delayed until this week due to parts availability. The Town’s first flyer said two shutdowns of the water supply would occur:

“After we notify you of the first shutdown, please do not drink the water. The Town of Erin staff will inform when the required sampling has been completed and it is safe to drink the water. You can wash dishes and bathe with the water.”

The actual work is expected to take two or three days, and the testing up to five working days (not including the weekend).

Chapman, a former Town Councillor, appeared at a special council meeting last week asking to be heard as a delegation. While he had the support of Mayor Lou Maieron, other councillors followed the advice of Clerk Kathryn Ironmonger and refused him permission to speak, since the meeting had been called for a different purpose.

In written comments released to the media he said it was a “very serious health and safety matter”. He wanted the Town to request fast-tracking of the testing to reduce the restriction time. He suggested the Town alert local doctors to possible contamination symptoms, and had questions about using tap water for washing fruits and vegetables and for cooking.

The Town’s second flyer included a warning not to use the water for food preparation. Work on water pipes can release rust, but Smedley said temporary discolouration of the water is only an aesthetic concern, not a safety issue.

Connection points for the four hydrants were set up when the subdivision water pipes were replaced in 1996. The Town insisted that local residents pay for 6-inch pipes rather than 4-inch, in order to accommodate hydrants.

The hydrants were never installed, however, which would have cost about $11,000 at that time. In September this year the project was awarded to Drexler Construction at a cost of $33,000, plus HST. Council had allocated $50,000 in the 2013 water budget, from the Water Reserve Fund.

“This will enhance the fire protection situation for residences in the area,” said Smedley at that time.

Boil Water Advisories are issued by Public Health, normally in response to known contamination, but they can be issued as a precaution in cases where there is sufficient risk of contamination. Boiling water only kills bacteria. If there was chemical contamination, boiling could concentrate it.

There was no Boil Water Advisory in effect as of Monday. Any time there is one, people are told to use bottled water or bring tap water to a rapid, rolling boil for one minute to kill possible bacteria for drinking water, according to instructions available on the local Public Health website.

Unboiled contaminated water is not considered safe for washing ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, making ice cubes, or mixing with infant formula or other uncooked products. It is not safe for brushing teeth, but is safe for bathing or showering if none is swallowed.

If there is no other contamination, it says unboiled water is safe for cooking, since the heat from cooking destroys disease-causing germs. It is safe for doing laundry. It is safe for cleaning hands and household items, but rinsing with a 10% bleach and water solution is recommended.