September 24, 2014

War means cutbacks for Erin Fair

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
The Secretary of the Erin Agricultural Society, A.C. McMillan has received a letter from the Department of Agriculture: “Owing to the outbreak of war and the general financial conditions resulting therefrom, I am instructed to advise you that the Government will be unable to furnish Expert Judges for the Fall Fairs this year, and will also be unable to pay more than 50 per cent of the regular grant next year. You will agree that the situation is one unprecedented in the history of the Province and calls for sacrifices on the part of all."

The French city of Rheims is reported to be in ruins after three days of German bombardment, with the death 400 civilians. The famous Cathedral of Notre Dame has been destroyed, killing many wounded German prisoners who were being sheltered there.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Leach paid tribute to early settlers as they hosted a celebration of the Centennial of the Binkham Schoolhouse, entertaining 75 friends. They bought the school house in 1963 and have renovated and decorated it in pioneer style. Mrs. Robert McEachern and Miss Shona McIntyre appeared on the lawn in costumes of the 1860s.

Terra Cotta Conservation Area had 15,000 campers and 73,000 day visitors this year, making it the most popular destination in the Credit River area.

Douglas Gregson of Hillsburgh won the Premier Breeder and Exhibitor Awards at the Holstein Breeders’ Black and White Show.

The Hillsburgh Girls, led by pitcher Barb Johnston, have won their semi-final match in the Western Ontario semi-finals. They also won the “Brampton Evergreen Trophy” in a tournament, defeating Streetsville 15-10, the Mississauga Millionaires 21-5 and the Dixie team 13-3.

The As We Were column recalled that in 1929, school was suspended two weeks for students of the Senior Room in Hillsburgh, so they could pick potatoes.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Housewife and former teacher Jean Denison has been appointed as the new public school Trustee, replacing Virginia Kennedy who resigned. She is on the Parents’ Council at Brisbane School, where her children are in French Immersion.

Toronto hockey legend Eddie Shack visited the Caledon Ski Club, helping Randy MacDonald and Tom Birchall with the Monte Carlo Night to raise money for Vietnamese refugees.

Christine Hallett, 19, of Orangeville has opened Christine’s Hairdressing Salon on Main Street in Erin. She is a native of Portsmouth, England.

The Hillsburgh Juvenile Boys’ team has won the championship of the Ontario Rural Softball Association. Down 10-3 in the deciding game, they scored 16 runs in the sixth inning. Member of the team are Roy Spear, Kirk Smith, Steve Barry, Barry Brown, Shawn O’Connor, Dennis Sherratt, Wayne Tarzwell, Scott Kennedy, Glen Cheyne, Stewart Chantler, Kent McArthur and David Wilson. The coach is John Wilson, the manager Dennis Barry and the scorekeeper Hanna Wilson.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Captain Wilf Moore and Lieutenant John Thompson of the Hillsburgh Fire Department organized a mock disaster in which the Hillsburgh Rest Home was evacuated as though it had an electrical fire, plus the rescue of a boy who pretended to be unconscious, with electrical burns and smoke inhalation. Fire Chief Wayne McIsaac was very happy with the exercise – except for the congestion of parked fire trucks.

The Hillsburgh Pee Wee Girls ended their season on a high note, completing a three-game sweep of Palmerston to win the Intercounty Fastball Championship with seven wins and no losses. The team consisted of Deanne Bayko, Angela Coxe, Jodi-Anne German, Pam Gorman, Angelina Heidbuurt, Shari Hunter, Robin Keeler, Tanya Kemp, Wendy McIsaac, Jody MacPherson, Tracey Noblett, Michelle Oliver, Melissa Petruniak, Krista Robertson, Jennifer Tocher and Cyndy Whaley. The coaches are Henry Heidbuurt, Wayne McIsaac and Gary Robertson.

Always a market for danger – with a photo

As published in the Erin Adovcate

Do you cut people some slack on their wedding day, even if they’ve done something stupid, or do you throw the book at them?

Nobody got hurt when a wedding party had to scurry off the Forks of the Credit trestle bridge on September 13.

Naturally, the OPP want to discourage high-risk behaviour – about 30 people die every year in Ontario while trespassing on rail lines. Still, I would not want the job of tracking a couple down on their honeymoon to lay a charge. And I wouldn’t want to be at the controls of a train going 90 kph, knowing that it would take 1,600 metres to come to an emergency stop.

“By the time a locomotive engineer sees someone on the tracks it is already too late to stop the train,” says a release from Caledon OPP. This wedding party was in no mood to wait around to speak with them, and the police are now asking for witnesses and Crime Stoppers tips.

A trespassing conviction under the federal Railway Safety Act carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or one year in prison.

I happened to be on that sightseeing train, which fortunately was moving very slowly, attending a seminar on the Greenbelt organized by Credit Valley Conservation. More about that in a future issue.

The situation was more alarming at first, since it was announced to the passengers that the train had struck someone, but not caused a serious injury. That turned out to be a false rumour.

I didn’t witness the wedding party on the tracks, but saw them from quite a distance afterwards, arguing with the train crew. Mike Davis, co-publisher of Niagara Escarpment Views Magazine, was in the front of the viewing level and got the photo of them on the bridge that really pushed this story to a wider audience.

It’s not every day that a reporter from the Toronto Star calls with a bunch of questions. They found the photo and story interesting enough to run on Page 1. I was even contacted by CTV News, but they dropped the story when they discovered there was no video.

Martin Lamprecht Photo

After the people left and we were waiting for the OPP, I saw Erin photographer Martin Lamprecht outside taking pictures of the train. He happened to be out for a hike and came upon the scene.

“I got almost arrested when the police arrived and I was near the tracks,” he said.

I received another story of a bride on that bridge, from Jo Fillery, formerly of What’s Cookin’ and now with Central Counties Tourism:

“On April 9, 1988, we went for a hike along these same tracks with our family. It was the day after our wedding and we had stayed overnight at the Cataract Inn. After breakfast, we all went for a walk along the tracks (assuming they were no longer in use).

“We had actually walked across the trestle bridge and when we came up to Forks of the Credit Road, that's when we saw the sign forbidding access to the tracks. We then switched our walk to the road and about 15 minutes later, when we were well around the bend and the tracks were out of sight... we heard the unmistakable whistle!

“At the time, we all thought it was quite amusing. When I saw this current story, I realized how damn lucky we were!”

Matt Sammut seeks funding partnerships

As published in the Erin Advocate

Matt Sammut wants to build partnerships with senior governments, as well as developers and private investors, to make sure the burden of new servicing in Erin does not fall on local taxpayers.

As a former banker and now president of his own investment advice business, he believes he can help the Town create a winning strategy. He has also served on the Liaison Committee on urban servicing, representing Concerned Erin Citizens.

“We need to crystalize a brilliant vision for Erin, and re-invent it as a place that people want to come to,” he said. “We have to create the vision together, and politicians have to drive it.”

He says the Strategic Plan recently adopted by Town Council is a good start, but that it still needs an over-arching vision. That could mean a short list of goals, such as becoming known as a tourist destination, a retirement community and a welcoming place for small businesses.

He says the Town needs to find alternative sources of revenue, control expenses and tax increases, and allow moderate growth, while preserving the attractive small-town environment.

“If we don’t change, we will continue with a worsening economy. Industry does not want to come here, property values are going down and there are few services for taxpayers. If we can’t be big, let’s maximize what we have.”

He said “in a perfect world”, everyone would have sewer servicing, but that it may not be feasible. Servicing should be done for those who really need it, but some existing or new homes could still be on modern septic systems, he said. He will consider alternative technologies and is open to privatization of some public services.

He envisions a strategy in which the Town decides where it wants new homes, and then negotiates with developers.

“Why go through an Environmental Assessment until we know what we want. Let’s do our homework first. Let the developers pay for the EA.”

He believes that if we cultivate relationships with people in the federal and provincial governments, and present plans to make Erin a major asset within the regional economy, we will get the funding we need for improvements.

He favours incentives for businesses to improve their properties, wants a by-pass route for transport trucks and hopes to provide better public access to the river. Under the right conditions, local people will be willing to invest their money in the community, he said. For those struggling financially, he does not want to see new costs from the Town make things more difficult.

“We have to ensure that these people are protected.”

Josie Wintersinger says progress being made

As published in the Erin Advocate

Josie Wintersinger hopes that the next Council will be supported with more public participation in decisions that affect the Town’s future.

She is running for re-election, and is pleased with Erin’s accomplishments in the last four years, despite extensive efforts spent by council and staff in dealing with questions raised by Mayor Lou Maieron.

“It was a very difficult term,” she said. “Council worked quite well together and tried very hard to keep frustrations under wraps.”

She and her husband have operated a tree farm in the Town since 1983. She is happy with the new fire station in Hillsburgh, the Skatepark, the Five-Year Capital Budget process and the decision to accept the Servicing and Settlement Plan recommendations, moving forward with further study of sewage options.

“You can’t just say ‘No sewage’, but there’s great concern about how it can be done. We have to look at new technologies,” she said. While uncertain if all urban homes should be brought onto a sewer system, she said first priority should be given to homes that really need the service and that the Town should provide low-cost loans to spread out the cost.

She believes it was proper to complete the Strategic Plan before starting the Operational Review, and is determined to start that review immediately.

While unable to fulfill her goal of more affordable housing for seniors and young families, she plans to keep pushing the issue. She also hopes people will be willing to get involved with advisory committees such as Environment and Economic Development, which have fallen apart due to volunteer burnout and uncertainty about their role.

“Continuity is important,” she said. “We need brainstorming on a wider scale. We have not been welcoming to new businesses. We have been putting up roadblocks, and it’s got to stop.”

With substantial industries unlikely to come to Erin, she favours promoting small business growth, but points out that market forces affecting the community are not under the Town’s control.

She feels that Centre 2000 is not being put to effective use and wants to see more programs for young people, with partnerships between the Town, the School Board and local community groups.

On a County issue, she believes that the new library planned for Hillsburgh is not needed, and that the money could be better spent on other things.

John Brennan stresses council experience

As published in the Erin Advocate

Councillor John Brennan is happy that Town Council was able to accomplish some of its goals in the past term, despite the frequent controversies, and he’s hoping to provide some stability to make the next council more effective.

“We’ve spent far too much time rehashing the past,” he said. “There has been a high level of hostility. We need to spend more time working for the future.”

The eight-year veteran is seeking re-election with a platform of fundamental values. These include protecting the quality of life, clean water and air, and maintaining a sustainable community where young adults and retired seniors can afford to live.

He wants decisions made locally wherever possible and a council that can work cooperatively. He favours sound fiscal management, efficient use of resources and “informed strategic planning so we can take advantage of future opportunities and effectively deal with future adversities.”

He is supporting Allan Alls for mayor and Alls is backing him as a voice of experience. “A combination of new ideas and experience makes council more effective in a shorter time frame,” said Brennan.

He is pleased to have worked in support of the Equine Task Force. He’s disappointed that residents were not willing to come forward to serve on the Economic Development Committee, but he has pushed for a new staff person who will help focus efforts to not only attract businesses, but to retain and expand the ones we have.

He’s not happy that the SSMP took so long, but supports continuing the Environmental Assessment process to learn all the costs and technical options for sewers, and wants to start lobbying for grants.

He is concerned about the residents whose lots are too small for modern septic systems, and about those on fixed incomes who can’t afford major additional costs. He is open to building sewers in stages and the possibility of a Public-Private Partnership.

He supports the new Strategic Plan and hopes that the Operational Review will ensure that tax dollars are spent efficiently. The review should “invigorate the people who work here, and help provide a higher level of customer service”.

He has served on the Grand River Conservation board of directors and in the next term hopes to be appointed as the Town of Erin representative on the Credit Valley Conservation board.

He has also put a lot of effort into the Green Legacy Program that has provided 40,000 trees to Erin residents, and served as the Erin representative with Hills of Headwaters Tourism.

Craig Porterfield wants citizen participation

As published in the Erin Advocate - written by the candidate

I have lived in the SW Town of Erin for 25 years with my wife and two now grown children. I have worked as an environmentalist, a teacher, and a surveyor, but for the past 25 years I have owned an Industrial Automation business. This is my second election for Council; even though I was unsuccessful, I sat on the Environment Advisory Committee for 3 years and the Center 2000 Committee for 4 years.
During my tenure on these committees, I became convinced of their value for citizen participation in government, however their efficacy can be improved, and if elected I will do so. I was disheartened by the discord amongst the Council and Staff, however, and pledge to regain the symbiotic relationship between these pillars of our government.

This must be done soon, because momentous decisions are looming for Erin. The SSMP report has been tabled, and the next step will determine development and tax burdens for years to come. Other issues facing the Town that are just as crucial is the Fill bylaw, which is critical to our rural way of life and environment, and limiting rural development which threatens to change our economic base in ways we cannot predict. Development must be done according to the rules and regulations, and not impede the neighbours reasonable expectation of enjoyment of their own properties.

We have little control over other more macro issues affecting our Town. Some experts say extreme weather events will continue; whether global warming is the culprit is open to discussion. What is clear is that the Town needs to prepare itself for weather emergencies. The Towns response to the ice storm, especially in the rural areas, was inadequate. Emergency communications and location of warming centers were not communicated in a timely fashion. I hope to change that.

Whether or not climate change is the culprit, a change from consumer to conserver societies is the only way to reduce energy use. The Town needs to be a leader in conservation, and audit energy use. Monitoring use in Town buildings, reducing idling in Town trucks, and judicious use of resources will all help. Citizens can do more; so many of us commute I would like to see bus service to the Acton GO train. Generation of renewable energy locally is preferable to the grid.

Support me (or not), but vote on October 27

Barb Tocher seeks return to County seat

As published in the Erin Advocate - written by the candidate

I have lived and worked in the Town of Erin for 47 years. I am married to Lee and we operate a small business in Hillsburgh. We have two grown children, two grandchildren and a dog.

I have had the privilege of serving this community for 21 years (6 terms) as a Councillor, Mayor, County Councillor and Warden.

Why after 21 years on local council have I put my name forward for Ward 9 County Council?

I believe it is time to restore and enhance the collaborative partnership between the Town of Erin and the County of Wellington. Having served on County Council as a councillor and Warden for 6 years I have built strong relationships working with many of the County Councillors and staff.

I believe it is time to think outside the box.

Is it time to consider having the County manage water and wastewater for all seven municipalities, as is the case in many Counties and Regions? If there is a one large user base will water and wastewater become more affordable, more efficient and more consistent? Small municipalities simply can’t afford the astronomical costs associated with this service.

Currently the County and the Town maintain, repair and construct their respective roads. Is it time to re-think this duplication of services? Should we consider, local municipalities doing repairs and maintenance on ALL (local and county) roads and the County doing all construction and reconstruction of ALL local and county roads?

Do we need a transfer station closer to Erin and Guelph-Eramosa, for those items we can’t put out on garbage day?

I don’t have the answers to these difficult questions, but I do believe we should have these conversations.

Fifty five cents of every realty tax dollar we pay goes to the County. Many of us don’t even know what services the County provides. As your county councillor I would pledge to act as your resource and liaison person regarding County issues, questions and concerns. Communication is the key to understanding. I would be happy to write a regular column in the Advocate (with their consent) to keep local resident current on County issues.

In asking for your support, I offer you my experience, my vision and my pledge to represent you fairly and to the best of my ability.

Please feel free to call me at 519-855-4984 or e-mail me at to start the conversations.

September 17, 2014

Jeff Duncan hopes to return to council position

As published in the Erin Advocate

Jeff Duncan says Erin Town Council needs to rebuild residents’ confidence in local government, and he wants to be part of it.

Duncan was on Council for two terms, from 2000 to 2006, but stepped down when he found it difficult to balance his work and Town commitments. He has recently retired after 25 years with a private land use planning firm and will have more time for municipal business.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I have some experience and skills to communicate with people, facilitate agreements with folks and find some middle ground.”

He has continued to work on behalf of the Town, now serving 17 years on the Committee of Adjustment, including eight as the chair. While on council, he was the founding chair of the Heritage Committee and the Erin representative with Hills of Headwaters Tourism.

He wants the Town to be open to new investment and suggests having a person on staff as an advisor and advocate for people wanting to expand or start businesses here, rather than dealing mainly with legal impediments.

“It is unfortunate that there has not been much growth – we’re starting to lose opportunities,” he said.

While sewage treatment may be needed for some areas, he feels the Town should look for affordable ways to do it. He believes that sewer service is not absolutely necessary for attracting business, and that residents in areas that already have good septic systems and wells should not be forced to hook up to municipal sewers and the water system. He said he has “faith in people” to maintain their septic systems and wells.

He wants to find ways to make it less intimidating for residents to bring their questions and comments to council, and more ways for people to volunteer their time and talents through the Town on behalf of the community.

He was part of the committee in the 1990s that raised money to help the Town buy the Hillsburgh mill pond, which the Town decided later not to do. He still wants to see the pond preserved, but says changes may be needed to satisfy environmental and safety concerns.

He said it is important to know where election candidates stand on current issues, but that issues may be different a few years from now.

“We need people with a good ability to make decisions on behalf of the community and get things done,” he said.

“Local government should be boring. It should be run efficiently so residents don’t need to worry about it. It shouldn’t be full of drama.”

EWCS holds 30-year celebration

As published in The Erin Advocate

Members of East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) were thanked last week, and reminded of the importance of maintaining Canada’s social safety net, by someone who was helped to great success by the system.

Joe Roberts, known as the Skid Row CEO, spoke at the 30th Anniversary Celebration following the EWCS Annual Meeting at the Legion Hall. It also included a Walk Down Memory Lane, with photos from the agency’s history.

“A sense of humour is the best weapon against adversity,” said Roberts, now a successful author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. He told of a period in his life when alcohol and drugs provided temporary protection from his troubles, but trapped him in a difficult street life in East Vancouver.

“I leaned heavily on resources in the community for food and clothes,” he said. “I was loved where I was at and not rejected. They took me as I was. There was a seed of possibility, as a space I could move into.”

With the help of many people, especially his mother, he was successful in rehabilitation, education and eventually the business world. It started with a prayer and a promise that if he got a chance at success, he would pay it forward and “do something for the next guy”.

EWCS paid tribute at the annual meeting to its volunteers, including the board members. Mary Ellen Miller and Deanna MacKay are retiring, as is President Allan Alls, turning the reins over to Brett Davis. New members are Wayne Stickley, Brad Boland and Bob Porter.

Alls touched on some recent EWCS highlights including increased funding support, increased staff pay and research into new youth programs.

The event had started with some controversy when member Jane Vandervliet rose on a point of order to challenge the legality of the meeting. She said that the board had failed to have updates to corporate bylaws approved by the members at last year’s Annual Meeting, and that notification of recent efforts to correct the situation did not come in the proper form and time frame.

Alls acknowledged the bylaw problem, but argued that it was not practical to defer the issue to a future meeting. Members voted to carry on with the meeting. CEO Kari Simpson provided an overview of the changes to the bylaws and members voted to accept them.

Financial Statements show that EWCS had total assets of $613,583 as of March 31, 2014. Salaries and employment benefits were the major cost at $510,688, followed by occupancy costs at $46,624. Total expenses were $774,241.

Revenue came from numerous sources, including the Ministry of Health at $197,392, Ontario Early Years at $144,072, fundraising, events and general donations at $122,482, retail sales at $82,101, Guelph-Wellington United Way at $70,049, Seniors Program income at $51,727, Wellington County at $29,325, the Township of Guelph Eramosa at $16,000 and the Town of Erin at $13,302. Total revenue was $768,756, an increase of $44,953 compared to 2013.

Canada to benefit from war

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)  
Dr. Adam Shortt, Civil Service Commissioner in Ottawa, says Canada will benefit economically from the war due to the heavy demand in Europe for food supplies and natural resources. Quebec has donated 4 million pounds of cheese to the “Mother Country”. Shortt said economists in England believe the war will be over in a few months as Austria and Germany are starved into submission.

F.E. Walker, Manager of the Union Bank in Erin, says a branch has been opened at the Valcartier Military Camp so money can be transferred directly to officers and men there. In England, the Earl of Darby has offered his private grounds for mobilization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The Erin Advocate and the Family Herald of Montreal have a joint offer, for the next 30 days only. For just $1.50, subscribe to both papers for one full year and get a free War Map, 30x40 inches, showing every city, town, village and river in the European war zone.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)  

The first meeting of the Pax Bible Class for high school students was held in the Christian Education Building at Burns Presbyterian Church. There was a reading by Sean Richardson and a scripture lesson by David Herbison. The chairman for the evening was Brenda Bruce, and the usher was Ken Steen.

In an exciting game before a large home-town crowd, the Hillsburgh girls’ baseball team defeated Rockwood 23-8 – their seventh straight playoff win. Barb Johnston was the winning pitcher and Captain Mary Wetering accepted the Jackson Trophy for the Tri-County Championship. The coach is Jack Hunter and the manager is Isobel Bayne. The team will now meet Belgrave in the Western Ontario semifinals.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)  

The OPP has started foot patrols in the Village of Erin to counter the recent surge in vandalism. News of Erin citizens patrolling the streets in CB-radio equipped cars was noted in the Globe and Mail, and camera crews from four TV stations were in town to cover the story.

Judges Bill Doole, Bob Dixon and Joanne Page picked the winning entries in the Village of Erin Centennial Flag and Crest Competition, but village council could not decide whether to accept them, how they will be used during 1980, and whether to create a medallion. Designs were to be guided by the “origin, culture, heritage and early industry in the village”.

Auditions have been completed at Burns Presbyterian Church for the CHCH-TV New Faces Show. Selected were the Jeff Barry Band, the Graham Sisters, the Howlett Family, Sharon Sweeney, Bobby Reynolds, Ken Ransom with his fire eating act and George Davis, the oldest fiddle player in the area.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)  
The Fall Fair will have their annual Craft Show and Sale after all. Earlier, the event in the upstairs dance hall at the Agricultural Building was cancelled after a Fire Marshall’s inspection. Village Fire Chief Brian Ritchie has granted a 120-day extension so the show can be held, but until major renovations are done, no events involving alcohol are allowed.

The Erin Legion held its first-ever open house for the public, and World War I veteran Bob Inkster, 90, was on hand. Membership Chairperson Joan Conway says they hope it will be an annual event. The Erin branch has the largest membership for a small community in Ontario, with 700 members including 100 in the Ladies Auxiliary.

Strategic Plan approved

As published in The Erin Advocate

After discussing the need for a Strategic Plan for years, Erin Councillors have approved one as their term draws to a close.

The document prepared by Joanne Russell-Haas of The Human Factor was the subject of a public meeting in August, where it met with general approval.

It will be subject to possible fine-tuning by the new council after next month’s election, and will serve as an over-arching guide to the Town’s objectives when decisions are being made.

Sidewalks to Tim Hortons urged

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin’s Mayor and Roads Superintendent plan to meet with the County Roads Committee to accelerate the construction of sidewalks on Main Street leading to the Tim Hortons restaurant.

Developer Shane Baghai has contributed almost $100,000 for sidewalks in front of the Medical Centre, Tim Hortons, and the property that now includes the Prime Beef Bistro. The full sidewalk including Town-owned lands to the south is expected to cost $310,000 and is not scheduled until 2017.

James Kennedy of KLM Planning Partners urged council on September 9 to build them sooner. Mayor Lou Maieron agreed, saying it is a safety issue with so many students walking through the area.

The Town is responsible for sidewalks, but it is a County road, so both governments have to be involved. Issues include construction of a curb and gutter, drainage in two parallel ditches, and the location of a possible sewer line in the area.

Two streets set for reconstruction

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town Council has approved a $257,301 bid from Steed and Evans Limited for the reconstruction of Water Street and Waterford Drive in Erin village.

Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck said the work would start soon and take about three weeks.

Up to $300,000 had been allocated in the 2014 capital budget for the project, which will include removal, regrading and repaving of the road surface, and replacement of the asphalt gutters with concrete curbs.

Driveway entrances and areas behind the curbs will be restored to match the new roadway. Notices will be delivered to area residents in advance of construction.

No water supply upgrades are needed along these roads. If traditional sewer service were eventually to be provided, one half of the surface would need to be dug up.

Sewer assessment to proceed

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin Town Council has voted to move forward with an environmental assessment (EA) of servicing options for Erin village and Hillsburgh.

It was the final element of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) process, and councillors were eager to tell the public that it was not a decision to actually build a sewer system, but to study how it should be done.

The motion approved by Council in a vote of 4-1 also approved the recommendations of the SSMP Final Report. Mayor Lou Maieron was the only member opposed, saying there is too much uncertainty about possible housing development and the cost of an EA. He said the goal seems “unattainable” and that he has a problem with “writing a blank cheque” for the process.

“I’m not saying don’t go ahead,” he said. “Leave it to the next council to get answers.”

Councillors John Brennan, Barb Tocher and Josie Wintersinger each said the EA is the only way to get the answers about actual costs and sewer technologies, so decisions can be made on development. If it is too expensive, the Town won’t do it, said Brennan.

Tocher said the Town has made no commitment or exclusion about the type of sewage treatment or the method of financing. Up to 500 new homes could be in Erin village, Hillsburgh or both, including intensification in existing neighbourhoods.

The SSMP recommendations are quite sweeping, but were not debated individually. They say that the Town should do the following:

• Proceed with the remaining phases of the EA (the SSMP was Phases 1 and 2 only) to plan a sanitary sewage collection system for the urban areas, based on the scenarios in the report.

• Seek senior government funding.

• Undertake water servicing upgrades to be ready for future growth.

• Amend its Official Plan to implement the SSMP and allocate growth within the urban boundaries. The County of Wellington should revise its Official Plan to reflect the Town’s capacity for wastewater treatment, including adjustments to population forecasts.

• Deal with stormwater and roads issues related to new growth.

• Use the information in the SSMP Report “to further the ongoing advancement of the municipality so that it will continue to be a place that people will want to live in as defined by the Community Vision Statement.”

New signs for Hillsburgh

Lloyd Turbitt, Chair of Let's Get Hillsburgh Growing, made a successful request to Town Council for $4,000 to help pay for new welcome signs at the north and south entrances to Hillsburgh. The old signs are quite weathered (below), and an artist's rendering (above) shows the new design. The group has already raised the rest of the funds needed for the $12,000 project, which is planned for this fall. The Town contribution will come from the $5,000 set aside in the budget for streetscaping.

Town to submit major grant applications

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town Council has approved applications for a total of $3.4 million from two major funding programs.

Erin will seek $1.8 million from the new Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, covering 90% of the cost of the Daniel Street Infrastructure Renewal Project. This includes rebuilding the watermain, road, curbs, sidewalks, streetlights and storm sewers – with allowance for sanitary sewers – on Daniel Street from Dundas to Church, plus sections of Scotch, Spring and English Streets.

There will also be an application for $1.6 million for the Station Street Rehabilitation Project in Hillsburgh through the new Small Communities Fund. This would be two thirds of the cost of road widening, sidewalks and improving the dam, with allowance for future sewers, watermain and gas works. This qualifies in the “Disaster Mitigation” category.

Ballinafad to get 24 new homes

As published in The Erin Advocate

Construction of 24 new homes in Ballinafad, originally approved in 2006, is expected to begin this fall.

Erin Town Council voted on September 9 to enter a development agreement with Homes of Distinction for Silvercreek Meadows, located east of Trafalgar Road, and north of the existing homes on 32 Sideroad.

Two new cul-de-sac roads will be built off Trafalgar, named for local soldiers. Turner Crescent will honour William Turner, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006 and Perryman Court will honour Allan Perryman, a native of Ballinafad who died in World War Two.

More than 16 hectares of wetlands, stormwater lands and buffer zones will be dedicated to the Town of Erin and left in a natural state. An intermittently-flowing tributary of Snow’s Creek runs through the area.

There is no formal parkland, but the developer has paid cash-in-lieu of parkland, contributing toward larger facilities such as soccer fields within the Town of Erin that will benefit the future residents.

“A trail system is provided through the stormwater management area, however Credit Valley Conservation did not support a full trail system through the eastern part of the conservation lands,” said Planner Sally Stull. She expects the project to proceed in three phases.

Technically, it is called a “vacant lot condominium”, originally planned to have narrow, private roads. It was decided the project should have full-width municipal roads, since the Town was concerned it could eventually be responsible for road maintenance. There is one small commonly-owned piece of land, but overall it will be like a regular subdivision.

The original approval, zoning amendment and official plan amendment were part of applications under the Planning Act, with notification, a public meeting and a Town Council decision in 2006. The County gave approval in 2007. Credit Valley Conservation had concerns about stormwater management and basement levels, however, and it has taken several years to come to agreement on those details.

The hamlet of Ballinafad is not within the study area of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan, and was not affected by the restriction on new subdivisions in Hillsburgh and Erin village.

Everything you need to know about the election – and more

As published in The Erin Advocate

Voter turnout for the last two municipal elections has been pretty good – 40% in 2006 and 41% in 2010 – but with some major issues on the table and a simple mail-in ballot system, we should have even more participation this year.

The election is October 27. Voting kits will be mailed out to registered voters on September 26. Then you have a choice: mail the postage-paid voting kit back by October 18, or bring it in person to the Town Office at 5684 Trafalgar Rd. by election day.

Sealed kits can be delivered to the Town at any time of the day or night and you do not have to show identification. After hours, the entranceway is sealed off and voting kits can be dropped through the mail slot. You can also wait until election day to deliver your kit – the deadline is 8 pm.

The election page on the Town website ( has the names of all the candidates, with their addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

It also has an instructional video describing the voting process. Your kit will contain four items: a ballot, a declaration form with instructions, a ballot secrecy envelope and a mailing envelope.

Sign the form to attest that you are an eligible voter. Tear off the form and put it in the mailing envelope (but don’t seal it yet). Make your choices on the ballot. Put the ballot into the secrecy envelope and seal it. Put the secrecy envelope into the mailing envelope, making sure the municipal address is visible, and seal it. Mail it by October 18 or deliver it to the Town Office by October 27.

Sounds relatively simple, but the several steps and the change from tradition did cause confusion when the mail-in system started. In 2006, more than 10% of Erin voters failed to complete the proper steps and their ballots could not be processed, but it was much better in 2010.

If you mail the kit after October 18, the ballots are still valid if they get to the Town Office by 8 pm on October 27. Every election, a few people drop the kit in the mail the day before, significantly reducing their chances of having their vote counted.

Property owners and established residents should already be on the List of Electors, but if you have moved to the area in recent years or are uncertain, contact Town Clerk Dina Lundy at 519-855-4407 ext. 233.

The Town website has the forms to fill out if you want to be added to the list (or removed) or change your information. It also has a form to challenge the right of another person to be on the list, which will require a hearing with both parties.

If you are entitled to vote and don’t have a kit, go to the Town Office with some identification showing your address during office hours (8:30 am to 4:30 pm) or 10 am to 8 pm on election day. You can sign a declaration and receive your voting kit immediately. You can fill out the ballot and submit the kit immediately, or take it home and return it later.

Voting kits are customized to your status on the List of Electors. If you are a separate school supporter or have French language rights, only the school trustee candidates you are entitled to elect will be shown on your ballot. The four types of trustees are English Public, English Separate, French Public and French Separate.

All electors can vote for one Mayor, one Wellington County Councillor and a maximum of four Town Councillors. You are allowed to leave any section of the ballot blank and to vote for less than the maximum number of Town Councillors. If you vote for more than the maximum, that section of the ballot only will be invalid.

One scrutineer may be present for each candidate at any one time in the secure counting place. They may object to a ballot, but the returning officer has the final say on its validity.

On election night, the public is welcome to assemble in the council chambers after 8 pm to await the results.

Naraysingh wants to boost quality of life

As published in The Erin Advocate

Preserving and improving the unique quality of life in Erin should be accomplished without the burden of high taxes and increased debt, according to Town Council candidate Chris Naraysingh.

He and his family moved here 14 years ago, attracted by the green space, attractive architecture and the friendly community, then moved his business from Brampton in 2006. He operates Rapid Rentals in Erin village, manufacturing and renting material handling equipment.
Business people are saying that there has to be some change,” he said. “We are at a tipping point in our history. Are we going to go in the right direction to build a better community, or are we going to continue to see taxes driven up, more demand on residents for infrastructure costs and more For Sale signs?”

A sewer system and some growth need to be part of Erin’s future, in order to broaden the tax base, but he says it must be done while preserving the small town atmosphere.

He wants the construction of sewers to be done without any of the costs falling directly on current residents. Funding should come from the federal and provincial governments, developers and private investors through a public-private partnership (P3), he said.

The Town should be more receptive to residents’ needs and requests, and more welcoming to new business ventures, he said, and improvements to the local trails system should be part of a plan to attract more visitors to the area.

“We have to show others that we are very committed to improving the Town, to prove that we are professional and responsible and that we have a vision of where we want to go. It’s going to take a strong group of councillors to make solid, definitive decisions to improve the quality of life for residents.”

The current municipal government has been “dysfunctional” and a “fresh start” is needed to get everyone working together, he said.

Significant borrowing for infrastructure improvements would not be acceptable to him. “If we can’t do it, we can’t do it – we need help,” he said.

His community involvement has included the WECARE program to improve the West Credit River. He was on the steering committee that launched Erin Radio, and chaired the steering committee that brought the Erin Rodeo to town. He is a Past President of the Rotary Club of Erin, and a recipient of their Paul Harris Fellow Award.

He is promoting his campaign on Facebook, at “Chris Naraysingh for Erin Town Council”.

Shawn Wilson wants to serve community

As published in The Erin Advocate – written by the candidate

My name is Shawn Wilson, my family has lived in the Erin area for generations. I care deeply for this community, and it’s my heart felt wish to contribute service to this community as your councillor. To see Erin on a path of revitalization, making Erin a destination to visit, experience and live. I feel sensitive to the needs of our community and have the vision and tenacity necessary to work together for a better Erin! 

Real Issues that are of heightened concern to me are…..

The exodus of people leaving town; property values dropping.

High taxes and limited services with a high price tag.

The dormancy of the downtown core, it represents a “first impression” and we need to make a good one.

The need for us to provide and attract business.

The potential of a waste water treatment plant which has limitations in the amount of volume it can discharge.

Promoting the industrial sector and new business which will provide jobs.

Our resources and putting them into use for the benefit of the town.

Regenerating a family based life style in contrast to the bedroom community,

.…but my greatest concern is that of losing hope in the future of our town, our “home” town, its a time to overcome adversity, become improvisors and adapt to the changing demographics.

If elected I hope to work together with the new council in a creative way to see through the many issues facing us as a town. I own a local plumbing business and am the Musical Consultant of the RainChild project. The RainChild song is a song of hope for kids struggling with bullying. The RainChild project is an upcoming GLOBAL Youtube challenge that will be launched with our partner TAKE it GLOBAL. WE, the RainChild project is thrilled to have been invited to preform at an upcoming international symposium on "Inclusion". The symposium, Moments of Inclusion will explore Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness: Global Innovation and Local Practice, to be held in Toronto. We are delighted to be a participant and to join with a distinguished group of global leaders for the inaugural international symposium. Among those who will be part of this historic, invitation-only gathering are Timothy Shriver (Chairman, Special Olympics); Zainab Salbi (Founder, Women for Women International); Sabina Alkire (Director, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative); and Matthew Bishop (US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief, The Economist). The event is co-convened by the Samuel Family Foundation and the Synergos Institute, in collaboration with a network of organizations including the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Special Olympics International, Community Foundations of Canada, and TakingITGlobal.

The RainChild project link,

Please support me on October 27th for a seat on Erin council.

September 10, 2014

MOE rejects lower standards for West Credit

As published in The Erin Advocate

A suggestion by Mayor Lou Maieron to relax strict pollution standards so more new homes can be built in Erin has been rejected by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).

The mayor is upset that Orangeville, on the main part of the Credit River, is allowed to plan for substantial growth when it has higher levels of contamination than Erin, on the West Credit tributary.

“Why should Erin’s growth be limited to clean up (dilute) water pollution issues originating from Orangeville?” he said in a letter to Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). “Maybe Orangeville’s growth numbers should decrease and Orangeville can clean up their discharge rather than expect Erin not to grow.”

The MOE says the areas must be considered separately. It confirms that Erin will have to meet a much stricter set of rules for sewage discharge because the West Credit River is classified as a Policy One stream, meaning that the existing water quality is better than provincial standards and must be preserved.

The Credit River downstream of Orangeville is a Policy Two stream, already degraded to levels that are worse than provincial standards. Orangeville will be allowed to grow, including a 21% increase in sewage flow, but only if it uses treatment improvements and water conservation to avoid any higher contamination of the river. Maieron is asking why Erin cannot employ a similar strategy to allow for more growth.

For phosphorus in treated sewage effluent, Erin could only discharge .1 milligrams per litre (mg/L). Maieron suggests the limit could be raised to .2 mg/L, possibly enabling more homes to be built. Orangeville’s MOE objective for phosphorus is .4 mg/L, and Maieron says in his CVC letter that they are currently discharging at .5 mg/L.

The first column shows the strict provincial sewage standards for the West Credit River 
that are limiting the Town of Erin’s urban population growth. The second column 
shows the more lenient standards issued in 2009 for the more polluted section
 of the Credit River south of Orangeville. Some parameters have no direct comparison.

The mayor is looking for ways to accommodate provincial demands for population growth and promote economic development. He also wants to find solutions for developers like Solmar, whose subdivision plans are threatened by the population cap imposed by the MOE through the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) that has just been completed.

Between 2011 and 2031, Orangeville’s population is expected to grow from 28,000 to 36,500 if sufficient water and wastewater servicing is available. If the Town of Erin continues to reserve sewage capacity for its existing 4,500 urban residents (including Hillsburgh), only 1,500 new residents (500 homes) will be allowed once a sewer system is built. Growth would be about 30% in both cases, but Erin’s would be on a much smaller scale.

The mayor’s arguments about the river only hold water if both sections are treated as a single entity, based on combined water quality downstream of the Forks of the Credit. The MOE says the two branches must be regulated separately, with maximum protection in the west, and no further degradation in the east.

“The circumstances are so significantly different that it is inappropriate to compare the two settings,” said Mark Smithson, Regional Manager for the Technical Support Section of the MOE, in a letter to the Town of Erin.

He said Orangeville’s discharges have no impact on the assimilative capacity of the West Credit and that the MOE has followed a standard process that would apply to any Policy One stream, including a slight reduction in population to account for impacts of climate change.

The MOE does not provide infrastructure funding, and Smithson said discussions between the MOE and CVC were on technical points, since neither “has the ability or authority to make decisions that allocate development potential to a community.”

He noted that Erin would be building its first treatment plant, subject to today’s standards, while Orangeville’s dates back to 1929, and that sewage treatment would not be withdrawn from Orangeville.

“Each time that the Town has sought approval to permit expansion of its sewage treatment capacity, assimilative capacity studies have been required to demonstrate that the expansion would not result in any further impact,” he said. “In order to discharge a greater volume of effluent, Orangeville has been required to make process improvements that resulted in effluent of higher quality.”

Smithson says “improvement of water quality is encouraged”, and Orangeville’s quality is much better than it once was, but it appears the MOE is content with merely avoiding further degradation. With the Greater Toronto Area expecting an additional 2.5 million residents, for a total population of 8.9 million by 2036, perhaps improvement is too much to expect.

Still, it is worth asking, what if the MOE required sewage treatment improvements, without any housing growth? What would it take to transform the Credit River south of Orangeville into a Policy One stream? The answer is probably a whole lot of money and a more aggressive approach to the problem.

Sewer study for the benefit of existing residents

As published in The Erin Advocate

Residents who spoke out at the final public meeting of the SSMP last week were not enthusiastic about the prospect of building a sewer system in Erin, but they generally agreed that the Town should proceed with further stages of environmental assessment (EA) to ensure maximum benefits for existing residents.

Town Council was meeting on Tuesday this week to consider the options laid out in the Final Report of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan and whether to proceed with the next phase of study.

This would provide information to enable a Town decision on sewage collection and treatment technology, the location of a treatment plant and the locations for new housing – which is now capped at 500 new homes for Erin village and Hillsburgh, including intensification in existing neighbourhoods.

There was an overflow crowd at last week’s meeting in the council chambers, with about 25 people in the lobby. Everyone observed a moment of silence for Town Water Superintendent Frank Smedley, who passed away August 28.

Some people were angry that a larger room had not been arranged for the meeting. Chair John Brennan apologized and offered to try to schedule a second meeting if needed. In the end, however, despite an attempt to rotate people in from the lobby, there were only 10 speakers and the meeting was done in just over an hour.

Allan Alls, who is running for mayor, said the Town must move forward with the EA after investing so much time and money.

“If you sit still, you die, and this town is dying in many ways,” he said, noting the high cost of fixing septic systems in order to sell a home. “We’re not asking you to come up with money now – we don’t even know how much money it’s going to cost. Let’s look at different technologies that will push us forward – we’ve got to do it folks.”

He has no doubt that financial help will be available from the provincial and federal governments, but it is not possible until the Town knows how much it needs.

“I have nothing against development, but it’s best that people who live in this community determine our future. Best use the capacity that’s there to look after our waste. Then if there’s something left over, or there’s new technology that will increase the growth that developers want to do, as long as it’s controlled, fine. But let’s look after ourselves first.”

Pierre Brianceau, who is running for County Council, said there has been discussion since 2005 about alternatives to traditional sewage treatment. He expressed frustration with the length of the SSMP, which was mandated in 2004, started in 2009, and is now finished. Future study would be Phase 3 of an EA.

He criticized the way the Town has handled development planning, and said there are fears that if existing urban residents don’t use the sewage capacity, developers will use it to build additional homes. He believes servicing could also push up costs for rural residents. He said it is crucial to get definite answers on what the Town’s choices will be.

“We have to admit defeat and accept that for the good of the community, council needs to proceed with the next phase,” he said, advocating clear terms of reference to minimize delays and avoid unnecessary costs.

Shelley Foord of Transition Erin said council should not “Do Nothing” – one of the options outlined in the SSMP, and that the decision should not be deferred to the next Town Council.

If the Town does nothing, she said developers could proceed with their own EA and build more homes, “leaving the existing community without any future servicing possibilities.”

She said the option of a $58 million traditional gravity sewer system “is too costly and too disruptive to both residential and business communities”, and that alternate technologies have not been fully examined.

She said the Town should outsource the financing and operation of the waste servicing, and use a “performance-based EA solution”, with companies submitting quotes for the contract.

“It should be the existing community and not the developers who decide how the limited 6,000 serviceable population is allocated,” she said. “How it’s allocated will define the Town’s future character.”

Mat Sammut of Concerned Erin Citizens noted that the West Credit River is in good environmental condition now, and said that with cash-strapped senior governments, it may be difficult to get grants for sewage treatment.

“We’re not going to have a lot of room for growth. I’m not saying we needed significant growth, but we have hurt ourselves fiscally now by saying we can’t get that growth,” he said.

“We’re seeing a town on a downslope. And you’re here for a reason, because you love our town. But if a town goes down, so do our property values, yet costs won’t. We’ll continue to pay more as we see a big asset in our lives continue to dwindle.”

He supports the idea of a “performance-based” sewer process and says the Town must avoid cutting up Main Street again since it would kill businesses.

“What do we want for growth and how are we going to define that growth, and then we have to go after it and partner with developers to get the growth we want.”

Jay Mowat asked council for assurance that alternatives to traditional sewers would be studied “fairly, honestly and completely”. He said the consultant had been recommending a traditional system.

Matt Pearson of BM Ross responded that it was not in their mandate to research alternate technologies and that the SSMP report does not actually recommend any method. They had only used a traditional system as the basis of an approximate cost estimate, he said.

One speaker, who identified himself only as Steve, said he moved to Erin for the nice small town atmosphere, and that it was not right to make changes to that for the benefit of a developer. He also said it was 20 years too late to try expanding the Town.

“You want these good people to pay for your mistake – it’s wrong, and you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

Mark Corscadden said there’s nothing wrong with moving forward, “but this town isn’t doing it”. He said the trend is away from manufacturing and into different technologies that take less out of the environment, and he asked if a sewer system is really needed for where we’re going.

“We’ve done very well over the years. I’ve been here 22, and it’s been a great run,” he said. “But we keep going backwards. Every time I come home there’s another place closed up. There’s folks that can’t afford to even breath, let alone run a business. That was your job, to encourage the entrepreneurs and keep prices down, but the prices just keep going up. If this thing goes through, I’ll be another resident who has to leave town.”

Looking Back – Training for war

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)

Horace McArthur of Erin wrote to The Advocate from Valcartier, Quebec where he is training for the war, to say that he and fellow Erin boy Elmer Green are doing well with camp life. McArthur was just transferred from the Ambulance Corps to A Company of the 48th Highlanders.

A despatch from Ottawa says that 15 prominent Vancouver citizens have donated a carload of horses valued at $7,000, to be used as officers’ chargers. A despatch from London says the Germans are becoming demoralized, after whole divisions of their infantry had been “blotted out of existence by the deadly fire of the British.”

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)

Mrs. Chester Burt will petition the Department of Highways to place a caution light at the corner of Dundas and Main Streets in Erin Village.

Village council received a proposal from Messrs. Carr, Angus and Rogers to build a new subdivision on Dundas Street across from the Legion.

Erin Reeve Roy Brown and Brian McFarlane of Hockey Night in Canada made the draw for NHL hockey tickets at the Final Tournament of Erin Minor Softball. The winners were Doug Cunningham and Murray Falconer. Brian Falherty sold the most tickets (455) and was awarded two tickets in the blue seats at Maple Leaf Gardens, plus a personal visit with Bobby Orr.

A Department of Transport hearing was held on the application by W.S. Leitch of Erin to operate a bus one day a week between Erin and Guelph. It was contested by the Georgetown Transportation Company, recent purchaser of Elliott Bus Lines. They were told at the hearing that they must provide five-day-a-week service to Erin if they want to protect their franchise.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)

Recent vandalism is prompting a group of 16 citizens in Erin village to plan street patrols. They say they will be observers, not vigilantes, and will report potential problems to the OPP with Citizens Band (CB) radios installed in their cars. Just last week, someone smashed the front window at Weddell’s Funeral Home.

Deputy-Reeve Bill Weber says the 50-year-old bridge over the West Credit on Dundas Street, slated for rebuilding for the last four years, will likely be replaced in 1980. The Ministry of Transportation has promised funding, and a design that includes a sidewalk has been approved.

Cliff Lougheed and Arthur Brecken were the winners of the Erin Horticultural Society’s “Street Beds” competition.

The Hillsburgh Seniors Women’s Baseball team were the winners of the Guelph Professional Firefighters Tournament. Pitcher Mel Rhynold won two games, while Pitcher Marilyn Eagles won one game and took home the Most Valuable Player trophy.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)

EWAG spokesman Ian McGibbon says the group will accept a zoning bylaw for its proposed building west of Erin village on Hwy 24 “under protest”. EWAG President Rick Bates says restrictions on rental of space for fundraising are a serious problem, and that they will seek changes to the bylaw.

Duncan Bull, organizer for the Ninth Annual Terry Fox Run, is hoping for more participants this year, compared to the 45 last year. Promotions are being done in the schools to promote student participation.

The Jim Dandies baseball team from Ballinafad are the 1989 champions of the Acton Ladies Powderpuff League, winning all four games in the final tournament. Marion Prowse was voted Most Valuable Player in the championship game. The team set a record of seven home runs in one earlier game thanks to Lisa Longstreet, Sharon Marshall, Marion Lumbard, Sandra Prowse (2) and Kathy Martin (2).

September 03, 2014

Finnie hopes to lead Erin into a new era

As published in The Erin Advocate

Rod Finnie hopes to return as Mayor of the Town of Erin, saying his experience will help him lead council through major decisions about the community’s future.
Finnie, a land surveyor, president of the Rotary Club of Erin and mayor from 2000 to 2010, is running against Allan Alls, a real estate broker and president of East Wellington Community Services. Current Mayor Lou Maieron will not seek re-election as mayor, but may run for the County Council seat.

Potential candidates have until 2 pm on September 12 to register, and the election will take place October 27. Erin voters will receive their ballots by mail and have the option of mailing them in or submitting them in person on election day.

Finnie agrees with Alls that it is important to increase commercial and industrial assessment, to reduce the burden on residential taxpayers. He supports county efforts to bring affordable, reliable high speed internet to rural areas like Erin, as an essential support to business.

He supports moving ahead with further environmental studies after the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan is complete, in hopes of finding a practical way to deal with wastewater.

“I don’t know the answers, but we need the study to find a system that is affordable to the community and not a tax burden. If we don’t put something in place, taxes are going to go through the roof.”

He believes moderate, higher-density development should be encouraged to help young families move to Erin, while finding “creative ways to preserve the charm and the environment.”

He says currently development charges are not out of line, and that the Town cannot offer direct incentives to businesses, but that the Town could be more positive and encouraging – presenting solutions instead of problems.

“It’s a challenging time and an interesting time, and hopefully it will be a rewarding time for the next four years. This is a wonderful place. It’s close enough to the city, and yet it’s remote enough that you feel it’s a community. We’re at a stage in our evolution that the town has an opportunity to become something really special – to create something new.”

While the recent council has had serious problems, Finnie is glad that they have developed a five-year capital budget and a Strategic Plan.

“The Town of Erin has to decide what we want to be, and then we can see what we need to do to get there. It’s going to require everybody doing something. We’ve got a lot of talented people, and we’ve got to make use of those talents because we can’t afford to go out and hire experts to do everything for us.”

He said council could make better use of citizen advisory committees by assigning them specific tasks. He also thinks Erin politicians should stop viewing Wellington County as an enemy and start working cooperatively for mutual prosperity. He said while Erin pays a higher share of county taxes because of its property assessment, no changes are expected to the system and we have to work within it.

He would like to strive for more county investment here, and find a solution to reduce truck traffic on Main Street in Erin village. He supports the Operational Review to increase efficiency, but says it is difficult to cut expenses without cutting services – many of which are required by law.

Finnie was first elected to council in 1997, and chosen as deputy mayor. He was elected mayor in 2000 and was re-elected twice before losing to Lou Maieron in 2010. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for the federal Liberals against incumbent MP Michael Chong.

Here are the current council contenders so far, in the order they have registered: Jamie Cheyne, Evelyn McLean, John Brennan, Josie Wintersinger, Rob Smith, George Silva and Jeff Duncan. For county council, the candidates so far are Barb Tocher and Pierre Brianceau.

Looking Back – Hillsburgh boys off to war

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)Hillsburgh is contributing its share to the defence of the empire. Messrs Hugh McMillan and Howard Cox are now at Valcartier, Que. training, along with former Hillsburgh boys Alan and Ernie Royce. A Patriotic Song Service will be held in the Methodist Church on Sunday evening, with a collection devoted to the War Fund. Songs will include Onward Christian Soldiers, The Sons of God Go Forth to War, Quit You Like Men - Be Strong, the Marseillaise, When the Angel of Death Shall Call and God Save the King.

Women’s Institutes are donating money to supply a hospital ship to the Imperial Navy, along with donations to solders including pillows, flannel shirts, handkerchiefs, socks, mending kits and knitted cholera belts – intended to avoid disease thought to be caused by chilled abdomens.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Parents of students at Ospringe School staged a protest march, after the kindergarten program was shut down. They objected to the school board’s decision to bus the young students up to 30 miles to Brisbane and Ross R. MacKay in Hillsburgh.

Wellington Construction Safety Inspector Gilbert MacEachern reports that the Erin area is having a building boom, with building permits valued at $1.4 million recorded in the second quarter of the year.

Minister of Municipal Affairs D’Arcy McKeough will meet with representatives of Wellington County and the City of Guelph to discuss the possibility of Regional Government for the area.

Wayne and Doug Gregson of Hillsburgh had the Junior Champion Holstein Bull at the CNE, Argo Acres Marquis Lad. Elizabeth Pitfield, 11, of Tweedhill Farm at RR1 Terra Cotta had the Reserve Grand Champion at the CNE open steer show.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Dave Balmer, who recently called the rowdy youths on Erin’s Main Street “The Zoo”, has had his Cadillac set on fire and destroyed. Balmer also recently opened a pizzeria, to replace the one closed by Ralph Ciccia due to vandalism. The new shop has had the words “The Zoo” spray painted on it, and a rock has been thrown through the plate glass window. Guelph OPP have no suspects.

Reg Patterson of Hillsburgh is upset that the Village of Erin hired a Mount Forest firm and did not consider him when they decided to have garbage collection done by a private contractor instead of municipal staff. His firm already has a contract to collect trash for Hillsburgh and does private collection in Erin Township.

Erin and Hillsburgh firefighters sprayed water for five hours on 40 tons of molten fiberglass that escaped from a furnace tank at Graham Fibre Glass. One spectator and two firefighters were overcome by high temperatures.

Kent Tocher will provide musical entertainment at the Queen’s Ball this Month. Contestants must be local single women, 15-24. Wearing a streetlength dress, they will deliver a 1-2 minute speech on “What I like about living around Erin”.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Stanton Trott, 73, of Huttonville died and his wife Cecilia was seriously injured after their van was struck by a fuel truck at the intersection of Highways 24 and 25 at Brisbane. Residents have seen many accidents at that location and are demanding a traffic light.

Margaret Langdon and her daughter Emma have been chosen to be featured in a national pamphlet for the Matching Mothers program, as part of the War Amps Key Tag Campaign. The program provides help to families when they have a newborn child with a birth defect or a child that has had an amputation.

The Thrifty Drug Mart opened its doors last week, to the delight of Hillsburgh residents who have long awaited such a store. The 4,000 sq. ft. facility is owned by pharmacist Marg Pearen and her husband Rick, with pharmacist Bill MacCormack on staff.

Annual Report and Question Period needed

As published in The Erin Advocate

Since the Town of Erin is embarking on a review of its operations, I have two suggestions for improvement in the area of public relations.

The function known as “public relations” doesn’t have the best of reputations, since it can involve high-priced “communications professionals” pretending to tell you important things – when their main job is to leave a positive impression, while telling you nothing of importance. We can’t afford anything like that.

What I’m talking about is a basic exercise in democracy – treating taxpayers as shareholders, with the opportunity to ask questions and get information they can understand. These rights are already in place, of course, but they are not always convenient or effective.

The Town of Erin has a serious public relations problem. There is deep mistrust of politicians and staff among many taxpayers, and widespread apathy and misunderstanding about Town functions. Aggressive remedial efforts are in order.

The first idea is a 15-minute Question Period at the beginning of each council meeting. This should happen at the very beginning, before haggling over the agenda or the minutes of the last meeting, and before the official delegations. As a matter of principle, listen to the people first.

The first ten residents to come forward would simply state their name and ask one question about Town business. No pre-registration, no pre-screening, no speeches, no debating, no decisions and no guarantee of getting an answer.

Most often the answers might be: “Yes, we’re working on that”, “No, we hadn’t heard about that, but we’ll look into it and get back to you”, “We already tried that and this is why it didn’t work”, “Sorry, that’s out of our control”, “No, that’s against our policy”, “Sorry, that’s too expensive, but maybe next year”, or even “You’ve got to be kidding.”

It’s not so much about the content as the process. It’s an addition to the existing right to ask questions of staff or council by email, phone or in person. It’s about knowing you can show up at any regular meeting and raise an issue in public.

The second idea is an Annual Report, which ties in with the shareholder concept. There is no shortage of information about Town business – most of it is in the hundreds of pages delivered to council and made public at every meeting. The system is designed for reports to council, more so than reporting to the public.

Councillors have trouble digesting it all, and despite the valiant efforts of the press to keep the public informed, many people still don’t have a good handle on the big picture. An Annual Report would give the Town the opportunity to provide an overview in its own words.

I’m not talking about a glossy magazine-style report and a big printing budget. Just one page from each department, with a chart or two, summarizing their achievements and major projects over the past year, mentioning notable emergencies or opportunities, a brief summary of spending, and their priorities for the coming year.

To give each department some attention, their individual reports could be released on different dates leading up to the main report. It could be mailed to all taxpayers, or provided as a download with suitable publicity.

In addition to the staff-based sections of the Report, there could be a section where each of the five council members would give their impressions of the previous year, report on how they voted on major issues, and what they hope to achieve in the next year.

Expecting about 500 words of commentary per year from our politicians is not really a lot to ask. Then, when election time rolls around, residents would at least have an idea of where their representatives stood on this, that and the other thing.

The Annual Report could be timed for release at the beginning of the budget process. With everyone up to speed on each Town department, perhaps there will be more people able to make intelligent suggestions on how their tax dollars should be spent.

Are any of the election candidates willing to make these two ideas part of their platform?

Frank Smedley known for his friendly style

As published in The Erin Advocate

Frank Smedley, Erin’s Water Superintendent, passed away at the age of 49 last week after a brief battle with cancer.

A come and go celebration of his life will be held this Saturday, September 6, at the Erin Legion, 3-5 pm.

“Frank was truly one of the nicest people you will ever meet,” said Councillor John Brennan. “There will be an empty space in our hearts for a long time to come.”

Frank was the father of Mitchell, the son of Irene and John Smedley, and the brother of Richard, Andrew, Rachel and David. He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus this year and died peacefully at Hospice Wellington.

He was hired by the Village of Erin in 1992. He was a motorcycle racer and motocross enthusiast for much of his life, and active in the annual community clean up, making Santa Claus parade floats and development of local hiking trails.

“Frank was a highly valuable member of the Erin Trails Committee, always eager to provide ideas,” said Chair Bill Dinwoody.

“He is riding with the angels now,” said Town Executive Assistant Connie Cox, notifying the community of his passing last Thursday. The Town office was closed for the rest of the day.

Donations to Hospice Wellington, 795 Scottsdale Drive, Guelph, ON N1G 3R8 would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.

New pay system for next Town Council

As published in The Erin Advocate

A new salary-based pay policy has been established for Town Councillors, to take effect after next month’s municipal election.

The system replaces the traditional method of salary plus additional payments for each meeting attended, but provides approximately the same income that councillors now earn.

It also includes a pre-set raise of 2% for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018. Councillor Barb Tocher was not comfortable with this provision, since there may be years in which council provides a raise of less than 2% to Town staff.

A majority of councillors felt it was acceptable, however. The intention is to avoid having future councillors deciding on their own pay increases, though they will be free to cancel or reduce their increases at any time.

The new plan would see the mayor earn $26,000 in 2015, rising to $27,500 by 2018. Councillors would earn $15,600, rising to $16,500. Members will continue to have one third of their salary tax-free, as a way to compensate for expenses related to their duties.

Expenses for two conferences per year will be covered, but not expenses for a spouse or companion. Councillors can claim event meal expenses up to $100 per day, and other eligible expenses, including mileage for municipal business outside the municipality. Up to $50 per month can be paid towards the cost of high-speed internet, needed for council agendas.

In exceptional cases, council can authorize in advance a Per Diem payment to a member of $150 for a full day, or $75 for a half day, for an event that is not covered by the policy.

Councillors made only minor amendments to the plan, which was presented by CAO Kathryn Ironmonger after consultation with three members of the public – Pauline Follett, Roy Val and Wayne Lewis.

Smith backs business-friendly approach

As published in The Erin Advocate

Rob Smith will support a business-friendly approach on economic development in the Town if he wins a council seat in the October 27 election – and a business-like attitude to running the municipality.

“It’s about taking care of people’s money and managing the corporation to get the best value for the dollar,” said Smith, who moved to the town in 2000 and bought Erin Auto Recyclers in 2006. “The people of Erin are the shareholders.”

He believes the Town can accomplish more if it devotes energy to a small number of priorities instead of trying to do too many things at once.

“I love walking down Main Street and saying Hello to people. I chose to raise my family here.”

He wants to see affordable housing that would enable current residents, and those wanting to move out of cities like Brampton, to retire here. A retirement home would also be a benefit.

“Why should people be forced out of town? Do we need some growth? Yes we do. Do we need full-blown growth? No.”

He supports continued study on a sewer system, and believes that the Town can negotiate advantages with developers without getting into costly legal battles.

Smith is a founding member of the East Wellington Chamber of Commerce and served on the Town’s Environmental Advisory Committee.

Erin Auto Recyclers has been recognized by Credit Valley Conservation for its environmental initiatives. They were the first in Canada to recover mercury switches from vehicles for recycling.

They support the Sunshine Foundation with their annual tire drive and East Wellington Community Services with the Car Angel Program – the scrap value of a car goes to the agency, and the donor gets a tax receipt. They also supply vehicles for firefighter rescue training.

After the Hillsburgh Waste Transfer Station closed down, Smith expanded his services so people could drop off oil, antifreeze and electronics at his yard without having to drive to the Belwood Station.