September 25, 2013

Councillors skeptical about roadway beside trail

As published in The Erin Advocate

Mayor Lou Maieron’s proposal to bypass the Station Road dam with a new roadway along the Elora-Cataract Trail is facing some major challenges, and scepticism from councillors.

Council received a report on the idea last week, including a letter from John Kinkead, Deputy CAO at Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). He said a new roadway from Trafalgar Road, across a new bridge over the river to join the existing Station Road, would require significant exemptions from current rules about that land, and an Environmental Assessment.

“It’s not our land,” said Councillor John Brennan. “I would rather have some agreement in principle from MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources] saying yes, this is feasible.

“If you’re going to do anything other than a wild-ass guess, you’re going to have to spend some engineering money, only to find out it’s a non-starter because it is totally out of our hands. What I want to see before we spend any money on costing this out, is a clear path forward, and I don’t see that here.”

“There are some obstacles, I understand,” said Maieron, but he noted that there is one other area where the trail runs a short distance with a road. He has been trying to break the linkage between managing both the dam and the road at the existing crossing, and wants to consult further with CVC and the MNR about the possibilities.

“If they find that these hurdles are impassible, then I’ll report back,” said Maeiron.

“I’d like to see it in writing,” said Councillor Barb Tocher.

Kinkead said an alternative route across the West Credit “is not likely to negate the need to also undertake potentially extensive and costly modifications” to the existing Station Road dam.

He noted that the funding agencies and partners who made the trail possible intended it only as recreational greenway link between communities, natural heritage areas and other regional trails. A road would require the CVC Board to amend its trail management plan.

MNR would have to approve a usage that is inconsistent with the “conservation purposes” intended for the land, he said.

“Significant engineering modifications and potential corridor adjustments would be required to permit construction and operation of 2-way vehicular access while also maintaining safe and compatible trail use adjacent to the road,” he said. “These considerations would be compounded at the point of the bridge crossing.”

He pointed out the “general lack of compatibility between vehicular traffic and the established use and enjoyment of adjacent conservation lands, some of which were acquired with the Town's assistance, and with private properties.”

New money approved for extra SSMP work

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council has agreed to pay $54,000 to consulting firm BM Ross for additional work to complete the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), with the mayor urging council to make a decision on the report during its current term of office.

The issue was discussed at council’s previous meeting when Project Manager Dale Murray promised to try to get the project done by next spring.

BM Ross has agreed to do more work at no charge, to meet its original terms of reference, but wants additional funds to cover re-writing parts of the report, re-calculating the assimilative capacity of the river based on new scientific data from Credit Valley Conservation, and participation in a long series of meetings.

There will be other additional costs for the Town, depending on the extent of work by hydrogeologist Ray Blackport regarding storm and ground water, Watson Associates for economic analysis and Triton Engineering. It is not known how long that work will take, but Murray estimated that everything could be wrapped up by next June.

Mayor Maieron said, “If we’re at a point where we’re going to add significant cost to this project, I think council has to make a decision that by doing so, we are going to commit to complete the SSMP in this term of council.”

The SSMP represents only the first two stages of a lengthy Environmental Assessment (EA). The final SSMP report (possibly next spring) will recommend development of a sewer system, but council will have to choose among various options at that time, including the possibility of saying No to sewers.

The mayor was speaking mainly about the SSMP, but also referred to the next phase of the  environmental assessment that would come after the SSMP, studying specific wastewater technologies.

He appeared to suggest that a decision to spend more money now should imply agreement with proceeding to further stages later on. Councillors agreed unanimously to spend the $54,000 (Councillor Wintersinger was absent), but other members said there was no commitment to move beyond the SSMP.

“If at the end of this process we are not going to proceed forward with the environmental assessment or anything else, wouldn’t it be better to stop spending the taxpayers’ money now,” said Maeiron.
 “It’s sort of a line in the sand. If we’re going to commit to that, I’d like to know how much it is and the timelines to completion, and that council is prepared to see it through.”

Councillor John Brennan said, “If you are asking for a commitment to finish this portion of the SSMP off, I’m absolutely with you. A large part of the things that need to happen are not in council’s hands or control.

“If on the other hand, do we commit ourselves to an EA now, before we have the information complete from this portion of the study? I don’t see how we can.

“The whole purpose of getting to the end of this portion was to have the data that you need in order to make a reasoned decision on Yes or No going forward with the Environmental Assessment.”

Councillor Barb Tocher said, “I would not commit beyond the end of Phase Two of the SSMP, but am determined to see Phase Two of the SSMP complete.”

Town halts fill project, will review bylaw

As published in The Erin Advocate

Neither side in the ongoing fill dispute on Third Line was happy after last week’s council meeting, with the Town putting a hold on importing fill for three new riding arenas and promising to review its fill bylaw.

Anthea Larke, who owns the property north of County Road 50, said work on the project was stopped after she received a Cease and Desist order from the Town of Erin. The Town has not released any details about the order, and it was not mentioned in the public meeting.

Residents opposed to the project are concerned about noise, dust and road safety due to constant truck traffic, and about possible groundwater contamination due to fill imported from sites in the GTA. They are forming a group called Citizens Against Fill Dumping, planning to promote their cause through a website and brochures.

Before entering a closed session, Mayor Lou Maieron noted that the residents have been voicing concerns to the Town for over a year about fill at the site. Councillors then left members of the public waiting for more than two hours while they discussed various issues with their lawyer.

When they returned they were faced with a banner on the wall of the council chamber which said, “CONSULT NEIGHBOURS”.

“Council has looked seriously at the fill bylaw, and will be doing some reconsideration of some of the items in there to address some of the concerns brought forward by the residents,” said Maieron when the public meeting resumed. “It’s probably going to take a month or two.”

Residents were not allowed to appear as a delegation, since they had done so at the previous meeting, but Dave Dautovich was permitted to ask one question, on whether new rules might apply retroactively to ongoing projects. The only answer was that existing laws would prevail until changes are made.

“It’s still unclear,” said Larke after the meeting. Asked if she planned to challenge the Cease and Desist order, she said she is seeking legal council on the matter.

“We’re trying to build an equine business, to provide employment and help other businesses,” she said. “We’re investing a lot of money in this.”

The issue goes beyond the Town’s fill bylaw, which limits projects to 200 truckloads without special permission, because Town staff said the bylaw did not apply to most of the current project. Instead, the fill needed for the arenas was covered under a building permit, treated as normal farming practice.

Resident Anna Spiteri has advocated a stronger bylaw and led a group that met with MPP Ted Arnott to push for provincial regulation of fill. She was upset that the Town did not address her concerns, especially the need for analysis of imported fill for contaminants. She said residents are considering legal action and questioned the idea of having Town staff review the bylaw, suggesting it should be done by an independent committee.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “There should be no more permits. The GTA is growing, and this property is symptomatic of the problem. This issue is not going to go away.”

Town opts against development grant

As published in The Erin Advocate

To apply for a $25,000 economic development grant, or not to apply, that was one of the questions debated by Erin Town Council last week.

The nays prevailed, despite urgings from Mayor Lou Maieron to press forward. Councillors backed the recommendation of CAO Kathryn Ironmonger to hold off until the Town is able to make better use of the money.

Back in January, council backed a plan by former CAO Frank Miele for an Economic Development (ED) Strategy, leading to a Business Readiness Plan. That would include an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, a detailed community profile, and action steps to boost the commercial and industrial tax base.

Council had set aside $25,000 in the budget, with plans to seek a provincial grant under the provincial Rural Economic Development (RED) to pay for it.

The plan has not moved forward, however, and a new ED committee has not been formed.

Ironmonger said that with additional activity and costs of at least $54,000 in the Settlement and Servicing Master Plan (SSMP), and an additional $15,000 for more work on the Town’s Strategic Plan, the Town is not ready to draw up a Business Readiness Plan.

She said that should wait until the other projects are done. The Town is almost finished its Business Retention and Expansion BR&E survey of the equine industry, and is participating in a county-led BR&E for other sectors.

“This development strategy comes after that,” said Councillor John Brennan. He had support from other councilors to apply for money to help cover the equine study, though Ironmonger said it was unlikely that such a grant would be given for a project that was already being done.

Mayor Maieron favoured applying for the main grant.

“The primary objective of an economic development strategy plan is to improve livability and quality of life,” he said. “Month after month we have our taxpayers urge us to try to shift the tax base to more commercial-industrial growth, and take some heat off the residential tax base.

“The need for an Economic Strategy and Business Readiness Plan in my opinion go hand in hand with the Business Retention and Expansion project that we are working with the county on.

“We seem to be well behind many other municipalities. The county has spent considerable money developing an economic development department with a strategy. It only makes sense for us to develop a strategy that goes hand in step with what the county’s trying to do.

“Otherwise, I suggest to council that we will be left behind. Other municipalities like Minto not only have economic development committees, they have economic development officers actively trying to make some jobs for their communities.”

John Brennan said, “The points you’ve raised are great points – we absolutely need a development strategy. This needs to capitalize on what we get out of the BR&E – not the simplistic thing we’re looking at now, but something much more. A strategy that flows out of solid information, and that’s what we’ll need the grant for.

“I don’t want to waste the time now to get a cheap grant, that will not meet our needs when we’re finished with the study, and we have something solid to sink our teeth into. I want the money to do the job, but I want enough money to do the job properly when we have the tools to do the job with. What comes out of the BR&E will push us – that’s what you’re going to base your strategy on.”

Maieron disagreed, saying the BR&E deals with existing businesses, while the Strategy is more about attracting new business. “It’s sad to say, other municipalities are ahead of us. I feel we’re not moving forward.”

“You get your biggest bang for your buck out of your existing businesses,” said Brennan. “There’s going to be a big opportunity down the road – I don’t want out miss out on that. I don’t want to do something now that will jeopardize our chances of getting a good grant.

“Next year, I want to see an economic development person for this Town, part-time or full-time.”

Courier pay is great, but is it too much?

As published in The Erin Advocate

Is there anyone out there who would be willing to work as a Library Courier for, say, $24,000 a year? How about $34,000?  Any takers at $44,000?

I recently saw a Help Wanted ad from Wellington County for a Temporary Full Time Courier, at a salary range of $46,429 to $54,327. That is $23.80 to $27.86 per hour, for a 37.5 hour week.

Obviously, not everyone would qualify for such a job. One would need a high school diploma, be familiar with libraries, have a satisfactory driving record and have 1-2 years of courier experience.

The successful candidate will have to work unsupervised, lifting loads of at least 55 pounds, multiple times per day, including “pushing and maneuvering a cart full of library bins, and carrying bins up flights of stairs” and driving a van in all weather conditions.

It’s too late to apply for that job, but I mention it because I could not help but notice the contrast with another recent ad from our library system, seeking Casual Part Time Assistant Branch Supervisors, at a rate of $21.72 to $25.39 per hour.

For 10 per cent less pay than the courier, the assistant supervisor candidates are required to have a Diploma in Library Techniques, a year of work experience in a public library, strong computer, organizational and communication skills and experience planning and delivering programs to all ages.

They must be willing to work at different branches throughout the county, and can only expect about 20 hours of work every two weeks, including day, evening and weekend shifts. Both positions are on Wellington’s Non-Union Compensation Grid.

I asked Chief Administrative Officer Scott Wilson about the pay discrepancy. He said jobs are rated according to 13 criteria, which include the conditions of work.

“Assistant Branch Supervisors work in better conditions, while the courier is out driving in all sorts of weather,” he said. The pay for a job such as the courier’s can be bumped higher if the job is repetitive in nature.

The relative ratings are part of the Pay Equity system the county has used for many years, based on provincial guidelines.

“That’s the system that we have, though the results may seem a little out of whack,” said Wilson.

Many people these days have given up on staying informed about what the public sector is trying to accomplish, simply viewing it with scorn and resentment. They see it as separate world where the norms of common sense do not apply.

Personally, I do not paying a bit extra for public services, as long as they are of good quality. But we all live in a highly competitive marketplace, which should at least influence the public sector. Every employer, whether private or public, needs to be on the lookout for opportunities to save money.

It is not, however, just about the money. If our governments cannot at least maintain the appearance of careful spending, it undermines confidence in the entire system, and that is a dangerous slope for all of us.

September 18, 2013

Squire Trout – a pioneer of many talents

As published in The Erin Advocate

By the time Henry Trout brought his family to Erin Township in 1821 at the age of 51, he had already had his share of adventures as a soldier and entrepreneur. Still, he was ready to start from scratch, helping carve a new community next to the West Credit River.

As one of the earliest Erin settlers, he initially lived in a log shanty with his wife and nine children, planting potatoes, wheat and oats and hunting deer. It was a long way from his privileged upbringing in London, England where his father was the Doorkeeper for the House of Commons, a ceremonial position in the upper crust of society.

After a stint at sea, Henry joined the army and came to Upper Canada in 1792, serving under Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. During a period of peace, Simcoe’s Rangers built Fort York and the beginnings of Ontario’s road network – Yonge Street, Dundas Street and Kingston Road.

Henry married Connecticut native Rachel Emerson in 1795 and later moved to Fort Erie, where he ran a farm, a hotel, a stage coach line and a ferry service. In the War of 1812, he served as a Lieutenant and Adjutant in the Lincoln Militia.

His businesses were destroyed, and their home was occupied by both sides at various times. After the war, while waiting for the land grant of 800 acres that brought him to Erin, Henry apprenticed as a millwright and carpenter.

Details of the saga, and the struggles of pioneer society, are contained in the Trout Family History, published 97 years ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Henry’s grandson William Henry Trout. It is available as a free PDF download at, scanned for internet access by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“The boys, George, William, and Henry, built the first sawmill [in 1826] at what is now Erin Village, which enabled them to build the substantial parental home, which remains to this day,” the author wrote in 1916. “The boys also built the first dry goods store ; I think for some other party. They also built and for a time conducted the first potash and pearl ash factory, which was a great boon to the settlers, converting the ashes made by clearing up their land into cash.”

It is not known why that arrangement failed to thrive, but the sawmill was gutted by fire in the early years. William Chisholm, who had supplied the store with goods, took possession of the property and in 1829 sold it to Daniel McMillan for $700. Trout family members remained active mill workers, with Henry’s son John later managing another Erin sawmill. Henry’s son William (father of the history book author) became an accomplished mill builder in the Norval and Meaford areas.

When the family moved to the Erin wilderness, Henry took up shoemaking, using unworn sections of old boots. They made their own machines for spinning and weaving flax.

Using their own milled lumber, they eventually built a large house into a hillside on the Ninth Line north of Erin Village, with a walk-in stone basement that served as kitchen and dining room. It had a stone fireplace that could take four-foot logs, and built in beside it was a stone oven.

The home built by Henry Trout about 1827, on the Ninth Line north of Erin Village, in a photo taken in 1894. Lumber for the house was produced at Erin’s first dam and saw mill, built by Trout and his sons at what is now Charles Street. The more modern addition on the left had replaced the original workshop. The identities of the women are not known.

There were several bedrooms on the upper levels, and the large room above the kitchen had its own fireplace on the chimney, serving as the living room, library, office and parents’ bedroom.

“About three rods [15 metres] in front of the kitchen was a beautiful perennial spring, walled up with stone, so as to be two feet deep, with a nice little creek going away from it, cool in summer and never freezing in winter,” the History says.

“They generally kept a pet trout in it, who had his cavern at the bottom of the stones, generally out of sight, but would come at call for feeding. With hard work we could empty the spring low enough to catch him with our hands and for a short time admire his wiggling beauty.”

At various times, Henry was township clerk, tax assessor, magistrate and militia captain. Although he was an establishment Tory, he would not tolerate unjust behaviour by government supporters at the beginning of the McKenzie rebellion in 1837. The History says:

“A large party of orangemen, with their too ready loyalty in behalf of the British crown, went around the settlements and collected, by force, if necessary, all the guns and other arms, that belonged to others that were not orangemen, so as to cripple possible rebels, and keep the arms in their own possession till the trouble would be over.

“Complaints were made to grandfather, and all these would-be guardians of the government, were summoned to appear before him. Then after administering a scathing rebuke for their presumptuous act, they were ordered to inform the owners that their guns were at Squire Trout's, and they could go there on a certain day and get them.”

A watercolour of the Battle of Navarino, sketched and painted by Henry Trout at his Erin home in 1849, at the age of 78. A well-educated Englishman, he based the painting on a black and white engraving from a book in his library. It depicts the battle between Russian and Turkish ships in 1827, during the Greek War of Independence. It was the last major naval battle in history to be fought entirely with sailing ships, with the Ottoman armada destroyed by an alliance of English, French and Russian forces.

September 11, 2013

Referendum won’t solve Erin’s sewage problems

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town will investigate the possibility of a referendum question on the 2014 election ballot, asking if voters support further environmental studies on a potential sewer system for Erin village and Hillsburgh.

Councillor John Brennan had the support of fellow councillors last week in asking for a staff report, saying a question on the ballot would give voters “a direct voice in probably the most important issue that will confront our community in the foreseeable future”.

In theory, it should be a simple matter. Consulting the voters in a democracy is a good idea. Councillors’ first loyalty should be to their residents. In practice, even if the province allows us to have a sewer referendum, it raises a series of problems.

First of all, council cannot control whether the referendum is binding. The law says the outcome of a referendum question on the ballot only becomes binding on the municipality if at least 50 per cent of the electors actually vote.

Voter turnout in the 2010 election was 40.9%. That is high compared to some elections where it was less than 30%, but a referendum could easily push the turnout over 50%.

Municipal elections are every four years, with the next one on October 27, 2014. (If you are thinking of running for Town or County Council, the nomination deadline is just one year from now – September 12, 2014.)

The second problem is that the issues are complex, and cannot be decided by a simple Yes / No question. Among those with an interest (already a minority) there are three main positions: 1. Stick with septic tanks; 2. Build a traditional gravity sewer system and 3. Build a partial, or hybrid system using alternative technologies. All three actually require further environmental study.

There was general support for a referendum at a public meeting this year. But there was also support for Transition Erin, which said that instead of a referendum, we could assemble a committee to discuss what options may be feasible, to give advice to Council.

The existing Liaison Committee for the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) is to get some extra members and do that job. The existing Terms of Reference still need to be revised, so the committee can report directly to council.

The third problem is that a referendum would delay completion of the SSMP by at least another year. The crucial final step in the SSMP is to choose an option, and a direction for further studies. A No vote would attempt to force the Do Nothing option.

The delay alone would trigger action by Solmar Developments, which has 300 acres in the north end of Erin village. Waiting for a referendum result to complete the SSMP “would be irresponsible,” said Maurizio Rogato of Solmar. “We would proceed on our own – that’s a valid option.”

Solmar has the right to do its own studies and build its own sewage plant to serve an eventual 1,240 new homes, but the Town says the SSMP must first be complete. The issue could end up at the Ontario Municipal Board.

The fourth referendum problem was outlined by Councillor Brennan. “Who should be allowed to vote on such a question, all of the electorate, or only those people who would likely have to hook up to a sewage treatment facility?” he said.

Even if it were legal, it would not seem right to have a different ballots. Urban residents would bear most of the cost of a sewer system and receive most of the benefits, but the issue does affect the economy of the whole Town. As well, the treatment plant would deal with the septage pumped from rural septic tanks.

If the Town simply wants to know if urban taxpayers support a sewage system, it would be better to hire a research firm to do a detailed survey. The numbers would be interesting, but it is a question for which the answer is already known. Based on letters to the editor, petitions and comments at public meetings, there is very little support for sewers.

If Council wanted a public vote on sewers, they should have tried to do it a couple of elections ago. That would not have made sense, though, since the Town was being forced by the Ministry of the Environment and Credit Valley Conservation to follow the SSMP process.

A referendum must be approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. It must be a question where the Town has full authority to implement the result. The law says the question cannot be about “a matter which has been prescribed by the Minister as a matter of provincial interest.”

In theory, we have a choice about sewers. We could try to say No, abandon all the effort that has gone into the process and be no closer to a solution. In practice, I don’t think the province will stand back and allow that to happen.

Town wants SSMP done, but faces more new costs

As published in The Erin Advocate

Councillors are getting impatient for completion of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) but they will face more costs, and it could take until next June to get it done, according to Project Manager Dale Murray of Triton Engineering.

Murray appeared as a delegation to council last week to explain the further work proposed by consultant BM Ross, which has been criticized for not completely fulfilling their original assignment.

“They recognize the concerns,” said Murray. “They are definitely committed to completing this SSMP process – within the Terms of Reference.”

Mayor Lou Maieron expressed concern about the length of the process. BM Ross got the contract in 2008, and expected to be finished in 2010, but delays have come from various sources.

“What I hear from a lot of residents is they are voting with their For Sale signs, and this is causing a great economic challenge in the community, as many people are unaware of how things are moving forward and are opting to sell,” he said. “I’ve never seen more real estate signs. The sooner the SSMP process is concluded one way or another, the better it will be for our community.”

The mayor is hoping to avoid the possibility that a developer “pulls the trigger” and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, claiming that the delays have been excessive.

“Everybody loses in that equation,” he said, and asked Murray for a guarantee that council will be in a position to make a decision during its current term.

“As your project manager, I will do the best I possibly can to direct your consultant to get this thing finished for you,” said Murray.

Councillor John Brennan agreed with the urgency of the project, saying, “Let’s get this done.” Councillor Jose Wintersinger said that with some new members joining the Liaison Committee, representation from Hillsburgh would be desirable. Murray said the advice from the expanded group will be important.

“They’ve got something to say, and I think we need to listen to it. Now is the time to do it,” he said.

BM Ross estimates that council could approve the SSMP report by next May, while Murray thinks it will take until June.

Maieron is concerned that if further delays push the project into September, council will be in a “lame duck” status, not legally allowed to make decisions until after the October municipal election. It could take a while for any new councillors to become familiar enough with the SSMP to  make a decision.

Progress on the project was delayed this year, since Credit Valley Conservation did not have enough data on the river flow to enable BM Ross to calculate a specific population limit for the Town’s combined urban areas. They could only give a range, from 6,500 to 13,500.

A preliminary report with data from five new river surveys will be ready in October. Murray said it is important to know the exact capacity of the Credit River to handle sewage effluent.

“The schedule reflects a need to involve and seek more direction from this council and your planner on what growth can occur, and where it will occur,” he said. “I don’t think the SSMP can provide any kind of meaning without that kind of direction from council.”

Maieron asked how council could approach this, since the developable land within the urban boundaries could handle far more population than the capacity of the river will allow.
“Who gets to build, and who doesn’t?” he said.

Murray conceded it is a difficult issue, but insisted it needs to be brought forward once the river capacity and population limits are approved by the CVC and Ministry of the Environment.

“That’s the cornerstone of how we’re going to build on this thing,” he said, suggesting a spring workshop with council and BM Ross. “Look at the numbers and have them explain them to you, so you can make educated decisions on where you want the growth.”

Murray was the engineering consultant for Erin village when it studied a sewage plan in 1995. In the years leading up to the start of the current environmental assessment, he was the Project Manager for the SSMP process. In November 2008, on his recommendation, council accepted the $350,000 bid from BM Ross to do the project.

BM Ross ranked second on technical merit in the selection process, behind Stantec. But when the cost was factored in, BM Ross ranked first. Stantec’s bid was $847,000.

In 2008, Murray specifically warned council that the final cost would likely be 15 to 20% higher than the $350,000 quote, because it did not include work to be done by hydrogeologist Ray Blackport on storm and ground water, and economic analysis by Watson Associates.

Murray included that work when he wrote the SSMP Terms of Reference. Although he was a member of the Steering Committee, which includes council members, Town staff and provincial representatives, he was not involved in supervising the project once BM Ross started their work.

“I could have used your help during the last three years,” said Maieron.

It turns out that the consultation with Blackport and Watson Associates was never arranged, but no one from council or staff ever pointed this out publicly. Then, when former CAO Frank Miele was saying last spring that the SSMP was 95% done, Water Superintendent Frank Smedley wrote a critique of the project, for a meeting with Triton, saying significant work remained to be done.

BM Ross will be doing more work at no extra charge within its $350,000 contract, but is requesting an additional $54,000 to deal with new river data from CVC, to host and attend a series of meetings to discuss the growth allowed by the Assimilative Capacity Study, and to re-write the final draft of the SSMP report.

Then there will still be other charges, with the amounts still unknown, from Blackport, Watson Associates and Triton Engineering.

The total cost to the Town of the SSMP since 2006 has been $419,067, including payments to other engineering and hydrogeological consultants, including Triton Engineering. In addition, Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) has spent about $380,000, bringing the overall public expenditure total as of last May to $799,000.

September 04, 2013

Steve Revell devoted to community of Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

I met Steve Revell at an all-candidates meeting five years ago and we formed a friendship, based on our interests in history, politics, hiking, music and environmental issues.

Steve cared about a lot of things, but mainly he cared about other people. He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last week, and in the flood of emotion that follows such a loss, I regretted that I had not met him sooner.

“Life is a gift,” said Steve, and while he was sad knowing that it would soon end, he did not display any bitterness. He put his visitors at ease and was good company until the end.

Steve Revell could not attend
the awards dinner held by CVC last
March to honour people and groups
like Erin Trails who have worked hard
on behalf of the environment, but he
agreed to have his photo taken with the award.
He was very grateful for the support of Donna, his best friend and wife of 41 years, especially during the rough times of his chemotherapy treatments. “She is my hero,” he said.

He wrote his own death notice, in the classified section of last week’s Advocate, saying he was blessed to have many caring people in his life, including his “wonderful” children Brian and Peggy.

Steve was born in 1947, grew up in Etobicoke and lived in Mississauga and Brampton. Erin was chosen in 1986 as an ideal place to escape from city life. For Donna it was like coming home, since she was raised just west in Everton.

Steve retired from the Peel Board of Education in 2002, after teaching 17 years at Alloa Pubic School and 14 at Caledon Central Public.

He helped East Wellington Community Services, hauling loads of excess clothing and books to the Wastewise depot, and was active with the Wellington County Historical Society.

In 2007, Porcupine’s Quill published his booklet, A Brief History of Erin Village. With typical humour, he dedicated it “to the fond memory of ‘Hunk’, who accompanied the author some thirteen years in the study of Erin’s natural and architectural treasures, each of which was sniffed with equal enthusiasm.”

As part of a group that worked with conservation authorities, he helped establish the Elora-Cataract Trailway. He also chaired the Erin trails committee, developing the Woollen Mills Trail with its educational signs, just east of downtown Erin. More recently he helped create the Rotary Trail near the water tower and was working on the Riverside Park project next to Hulls Dam.

"I always felt that I was fortunate, and that I should be giving back," he said.

To say that Steve had an interest in trains would be something of an understatement. Over the years he converted his double garage into an elaborate model train display of the historic Credit Valley Railway, which ran through the Forks of the Credit, with a branch line through Erin on what is now the Trailway.

In his train display, Steve included a figure of himself
playing with a cat beside the tracks, along with his
father Gerry and daughter Peggy.
He included models of people, classic cars and the Niagara Escarpment terrain and it became a meditative place, where the hum of remote-control engines helped him reflect on his explorations of the real world.

"It's a very soothing sound. I've been here. I've hiked here. I've explored these buildings. I've seen trains climbing these grades. It's re-creating good times," he said. "I'd take kids out for hikes to Cataract, through the Forks park, down to Forks of the Credit, and then up the escarpment."

Steve was a Friend of Credit, recognizing his work with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) to protect the river and enhance the environment. He was part of the Stream of Dreams project, resulting in the colourful Dreamfish mounted on chain link fences near elementary schools.

“This is a big loss for everyone,” said David Beaton, Manager of Community Outreach at CVC. “So many of the photos I have of Steve are of him holding a shovel, so we'd love to have a planting be a part of a memorial.”

I was glad that Steve made it out to the community tree planting at the Deer Pit in May, despite his illness. Councillor John Brennan said he was “honoured and deeply humbled” that Steve came to see him at the Town works yard that same day during the Green Legacy tree distribution.

“We have lost one of those great people you meet only rarely and we will need to find a way to commemorate the wonderful things he has done,” he said.

Former Mayor Rod Finnie said Steve was a motivator, “inching” people into doing things they had not considered before. “I certainly miss him and his owlish good humour, and it would be great if we could do something that incorporated trails and history,” he said.

Heather Yates, former Supervisor of Rural Outreach at CVC, worked for several years with Steve on trails, river clean-ups and tree plantings.

“Mr. Revell had been my teacher at Caledon Central Public School – funnily enough, he remembered my science fair experiment from middle school when I had plumb forgot,” she said.

“He was proud of his students. Steve quietly inspired many around him with his kind, good natured way. He took care to connect with people, although was extremely crafty at evading the camera when it came out at volunteer events. He was my favourite Friend of the Credit.”

A model train crosses the river on the Credit Valley Railway, approaching Forks of Credit Station just east of Belfountain, headed for Orangeville. Just to the north at Cataract, a branch line was opened in 1879, providing rail service to Erin, Hillsburgh, Orton, Fergus and Elora. Those rails were lifted in 1988 and it is now the Elora-Cataract Trailway.

Consultant lays out plan to finish off SSMP study

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin’s sewer consultant has requested an additional $54,000 for extra work on the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), with hopes of completing it by next May.

Matt Pearson of BM Ross is also now suggesting that Erin explore the possibility of piping sewage to Peel Region instead of processing it locally.

The SSMP environmental assessment of wastewater needs in Erin village and Hillsburgh is into its fifth year, but the process has been on hold since May, when Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) said it needed more data on the summer water flow in the West Credit River near the Tenth Line. That will take until October.

In addition, Project Manager Dale Murray of Triton Engineering, on behalf of the Town, notified BM Ross on May 28 that more work was needed to fulfill the requirements of the study, especially the impact of sewers on surface and ground water, and development of financial plans for recommended solutions.

BM Ross responded on August 15, agreeing to do more work under the terms of their original $350,000 contract. They’ve already received $303,000, but Council voted to delay paying the most recent invoice of $31,000 until they are satisfied with the work.

Pearson has now requested payment of that invoice, and estimated it will cost an additional $54,000 to complete tasks that are beyond their original assignment.

Council was to discuss the matter Tuesday night, after this week’s issue of The Advocate had gone to press. The BM Ross proposal can be viewed in the council agenda, available at The Town has also now released a report from last May by Water Superintendent Frank Smedley, which was highly critical of the Final Report Draft.

The Draft discussed various possibilities about how much population the urban areas might be able to have, based on the capacity of the river to handle sewage effluent, ranging from 6,500 to 13,500. CVC expects it to be at the low end, but Smedley pointed out that the Draft raised for the first time the possibility that “alternative treatment options” could push the total well higher than 13,500.

“An in-depth report on our funding options and debt carrying capacity should be completed before Council decides to move to the next phase,” he said. “How can we make decisions on what options to pick if we do not know the cost of each option? Also I believe that not all options have been included.”

He asked how the Town could afford to do all the road work that will accompany a sewer project, if its entire borrowing capacity is dedicated to the sewers themselves.

He listed various strategies, options and financial plans from the original BM Ross proposal, which he felt were not covered. He also noted that about 200 households in Hillsburgh without Town water would face high costs if they had to hook up to water and sewers at the same time.

BM Ross now proposes to meet with municipal hydrogeologist Ray Blackport and the Town’s financial consultant Watson and Associates, and will add more technical detail to the plan, including available wastewater technologies.

The consultant requested an additional $15,000 to recalculate the assimilative capacity of the river, when CVC provides new data.

“The study needs to focus on a population that is accepted by the CVC and MOE and there needs to be clear direction given by Council and town planner on where growth will occur based on the accepted number,” said Pearson.

He also suggests, “Initiating discussions with Peel Region with respect to the possibility of obtaining sanitary sewage capacity at any of their facilities. This will allow an opportunity for a ‘Big Pipe’ alternative which would be explored further in the late EA stages.”

BM Ross requested an additional $39,000 to host or attend various meetings, including three with the Liaison Committee, three with the Core Management Committee, a workshop with Councillors leading to a new final draft report, meetings with Town staff and the Project Manager, and attendance at a council meeting.

Pearson suggested that a public meeting not be held until May, “after Council has approved the SSMP”.