January 29, 2014

Station Street referendum gets no council support

As published in The Erin Advocate

A proposal from Mayor Lou Maieron for a referendum question on how to repair the Station Street bridge and dam in Hillsburgh got a resounding “No” from Town Council last week.

Actually, fellow councillors said nothing when he read his motion, meaning that there was no seconder and no debate.

“I have tried, ladies and gentlemen,” said the mayor, crumpling up his motion paper.

He was asking that staff investigate the requirements to add a question to the October 2014 ballot about the controversial bridge and dam, “to provide limited repair options to be considered, so that the voters in the Town of Erin can have a direct voice in a very significant issue with potentially serious financial ramifications for the foreseeable future”.

The cost of rehabilitation, including full rebuilding of the road and bridge, is over $2 million, whether the mill pond is maintained or not. Maieron has suggested the cost could be much lower if the pond is allowed to revert to a river, and a large culvert is used instead of a bridge.

Credit Valley Conservation generally supports removal of dams when possible, but a special committee including local residents has recommended that the pond be maintained. The Town owns the bridge, the road and the earthen berm of the dam, but the pond and the water control structure are privately owned.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has allowed temporary repairs to the earthen berm due to safety concerns, but has demanded that the Town come up with a permanent solution by June this year, including any required environmental assessments.

The Town has failed to get funding from senior governments for the work, and the mayor says it is difficult to ask taxpayers throughout the Town to bear the cost of borrowing $2 million, especially since the pond is surrounded mainly by private property.

This project, which has been on the Town’s priority list for 40 years, will be discussed at budget meetings in March.