July 30, 2014

Looking Back - On the brink of war

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
An ultimatum from Austria, which demanded that Servia admit responsibility for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, has been rejected, and diplomatic relations have been severed. Austria said Servia “tolerated unrestrained language in the newspapers”, and allowed its officials to share in “subversive agitation” that incited the population and led to acts of terrorism. “It is felt that an Austrian attack on Servia would entail the gravest risk of a clash between Austria and Russia, with consequences to the peace of the Continent which it is impossible to foresee.”

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Erin’s new water tower has been put into service and is working well, said Town Foreman George Sweeney. Painted a light green, with “Erin” in dark green, the tower is brightly flood-lit at night, providing a “welcome beacon”.

A funeral service was held in Guelph for William Burchill, former manager of the Union Bank in Erin (now the Royal Bank), from 1921 until 1942 when he retired. He had his 50-year jewel with the Masonic Order, being a life member of the Wellington Lodge in Erin. He served on the library board, was chairman of the school board and president of the curling club.

A barn at the farm of Andy Pott just west of Orangeville was destroyed by fire. Some 15 head of cattle were evacuated from the bard, but milking equipment and 15,000 bales of new hay were lost. At the height of the blaze, two Holstein cows gave birth to calves.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
The Community Telephone company has received permission to raise its rates, but not in Erin and Hillsburgh. Local phone rates have been frozen by the Ontario Telephone Service Commission “given the voluminous negative response to the service being provided by the company”. Jeanette Cox, chair of the Committee for Better Service, said, “The squeaky wheel gets oiled. And we’ve been really squeaking.”

The Board of Education is privately interviewing candidates for the vacant Erin trustee position, but Township Councillor Jo Schneider says the names of the candidates should be revealed so the public can have input. Outgoing Trustee Mrs. Kennedy came in by acclamation, so the normal practice of appointing the runner-up for a mid-term vacancy cannot be done said Chairman Doug Howarth.

James Burnett, President of the Fergus-Elora News Express, has appointed Bryan Hayter as Editor of the Erin Advocate, a sister paper of the News-Express. Hayter, a native of Guelph and former professional librarian, has been a reporter in Fergus since 1976.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
A group of 40 cross-bred steers made a bid for freedom, breaking down a corral fence at Manuel Tavares’ Dominion Meat Packers property on Ninth Line, north of Erin village. One has been hit by a car and 16 are still at large, with one “headed for Caledon”.

Local School Board Trustee Anne Marie Wallace supports the concept of year-round schooling, but wants to get input from the public. She said the province is looking at longer breaks during the school year, instead of the two-month summer holiday originally intended to allow kids to work on farms.

Opponents of a proposal by David Butcher to build a new furniture store south of Hillsburgh carried on at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing, even though their planning consultant could not attend. Township consultant John Cox made a presentation at the hearing, expected to last a week. Residents fear the store would open the area to strip development.

Strategic Plan to be discussed on Aug. 25

As published in The Erin Advocate

Completion of the Town’s Strategic Plan this summer will enable it to proceed with an Operational Review to improve service and efficiency for residents.

On July 22, Council agreed to issue a Request for Proposal, to hire a consultant for the Operational Review. The Strategic Plan is to be presented and discussed at the special council meeting August 25.

The Strategic Plan process started in 2013, with strategy sessions conducted by Max Carbone of Team Works. Joanne Russell-Haas of The Human Factor is leading the second phase this year, including extensive consultation with community groups, staff and other municipalities.

“At the end of the process the Corporation will have a vision, mission statement, values and guiding principles which future decisions will be based upon,” said Chief Administrative Officer Kathryn Ironmonger, who has already been coordinating staff efforts to improve efficiency.

“It is wise to complete the Strategic Planning process prior to launching an Operational Review. The review will assess how well we are delivering a service and how that delivery can be improved or streamlined. The Operational Review should focus solely on internal improvements – on processes and procedures that staff execute on a daily basis.”

The review will include opportunities for Town Councillors to provide suggestions, two public meetings for residents’ input and possibly a citizen’s committee.

Daytime council meetings discussed

As published in The Erin Advocate

Concern over putting restrictions on new council members has resulted in deferral of a proposal to have one council meeting each month scheduled during the day.

The change recommended by Clerk Dina Lundy would allow staff to be called into a meeting during their regular work hours, only for the time needed to deal with their department’s issues. Currently they are paid extra to be at night meetings, with much of the time spent waiting.

“Incorporating daytime meetings will save considerable resources,” said Lundy, noting that the Townships of Puslinch, Mapleton and Minto hold one day meeting per month.

Councillor Barb Tocher said having one night and one day meeting per month would limit the number of people whose work commitments would make it possible for them to run for council. She said it could exclude some residents from attending some meetings, but conceded it could be better for people who work at night.

Staff costs for a regular council meeting can be about $1,300. Tocher said there may be other ways to reduce costs.

“Staff could get time off in lieu instead of extra pay,” she said.

Council decided to get a further staff report on the pros and cons of the plan. The new council to be elected in October will have authority to choose its own meeting schedule.

Council compensation info meeting Aug. 25

As published in The Erin Advocate

A new system of compensation for Town councillors will be discussed at a special council meeting on August 25 at 7 pm.

Instead of a base salary plus extra amounts for meetings or official functions, there is a proposal for an inclusive annual salary. As of 2015 (after the October election) the base pay would be $26,000 for the mayor and $15,600 for councillors. The mayor would get a $500 increase every year, and the councillors $300.

The pay would be about the same as they get now said Chief Administrative Officer Kathryn Ironmonger, who consulted with a committee of three residents and compared Erin with other municipalities during preparation of the proposal.

Based on a summary provided earlier this year, councillors currently earn a base salary of $12,758 per year, but with amounts allowed for additional work averaging $2,600, conference fees of about $3,000, and benefits valued at $6,500, the cost to the Town is just under $25,000 per year.

The mayor earns a base salary of $22,963, and with additional amounts, benefits and conferences, the position costs the Town about $37,700 per year. This does not include income from the mayor’s service on county council.

Members would continue to get one-third of their pay tax-free, as an allowance for expenses incidental to the discharge of their elected roles. Also continuing would be coverage of expenses for a limited number of specified conferences or conventions, mileage and reimbursement of approved expenses for business outside the Town, a package of insurance benefits, three weeks of paid vacation and two weeks of sick leave.

Because their meeting work would be covered by salary, it will add to their benefits under OMERS, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

Members would have to apply to council in advance for “per diem” compensation of $150 for a full day or $75 for a half day, under exceptional circumstances to attend a function not covered by the policy. They may also be compensated up to $50 per month for internet service necessary to the job.

A member’s pay would be reduced by $150 per meeting after they have missed three duly called meetings in a calendar year.

More information can be found in the July 22 agenda at www.erin.ca. A final decision is expected in September.

Angelstone gets permit

As published in The Erin Advocate

Angelstone Tournaments on County Road 50 has been granted a Major Events Permit for the remaining events in its show jumping season, after satisfying Town Council that problems on the site have been largely resolved.

Angelstone says it has provided the Town with a site plan, significantly lowered their speaker volumes, adopted softer music for entertainment, conducted a sound study, complied with a traffic study, created an emergency evacuation plan, built an eight-foot privacy fence in sensitive areas and made efforts to improve relations with neighbours.

“”We went to neighbouring properties and in some cases stood in their living rooms to run sound tests to determine a mutually agree upon level that would not be intrusive to them even with their windows open,” said Lianne Selke.

“We kept within these levels during the shows. We were pleased to hear positive comments from many of them. We have ensured all neighbours have been invited to attend each Saturday evening event in our VIP pavilion at no cost.”

Angelstone has promised to deal with a water drainage issue as soon as possible.

Should mayor vote on report about his conduct?

As published in The Erin Advocate

Was it proper for Mayor Lou Maieron to debate and vote on a report that recommended his pay be suspended for violating council’s Code of Ethics? He himself is not sure, and it appears no one but a judge can provide a definite answer.

Maieron had already defended himself during the Integrity Commissioner’s private investigation. He was determined to participate at the July 22 meeting, since it was his primary opportunity to give his side publicly.

Chief Administrative Officer Kathryn Ironmonger said councillors must determine for themselves if they have a conflict of interest and whether it is appropriate to speak. Staff cannot provide that opinion, and neither can other councillors or even the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Only a judge can make a ruling, in the event of an official complaint.

The mayor’s conduct was the subject of a previous Code of Ethics presentation by an Integrity Commissioner in December. Referring to that meeting, he said, “I was permitted to speak to it, and question him on his report.”

Ironmonger responded, “There is a slight clarification. You chose to speak to your previous Integrity Commissioner’s report. Whether that was correct or not correct is not up to the council to determine.”

In the earlier case, he voted against a one-month pay suspension for himself, and was never legally challenged over it. At that time, Maieron said he had consulted his lawyer and was confident that he had the right under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to speak in a debate that concerned his pay. Ironmonger said she believes that provision applies to remuneration issues for the whole council.

Asked later if he was sure it was proper to speak on the current report, he said, “There’s nothing in the Municipal Act that tells you. I really don’t know.”

When the mayor was ready to proceed at the meeting, Ironmonger offered an additional caution: “To make sure you govern yourself accordingly, if an individual, under the Act, determines that they have a pecuniary interest on something, they are not supposed to try to influence the decision of council. You need to satisfy yourself that you are not influencing council by participating.”

Maieron responded, “Unless our Integrity Commissioner wants to provide some insight, I certainly don’t want to do anything further that could be considered a conflict of interest.” He requested the report be deferred to a later date so he could get legal advice. In a recorded vote of 4-1, council refused.

Commenting on his situation at the meeting, Maieron said, “I don’t have a pecuniary interest until such time as council decides afterwards, and the integrity commissioner is nodding his head, until you decide whether to impose his recommendation or not,” said Maieron. “After it is imposed, my recourse would be not to council, but to a judge under judicial review.”

The mayor disputed all of the commissioner’s rulings, then voted against receiving the report and imposing a pay suspension on himself. In a recorded vote of 3-2, the motion was defeated. Councillor Josie Wintersinger, who had proposed the motion, changed her mind and voted against it, along with Maieron and Councillor John Brennan.

Technically, the mayor did not cast the deciding vote. If a member is at the table but abstains from voting, they are counted as a Nay vote, which is how the mayor voted anyhow. If he had left the table and the vote was tied 2-2, the motion also would have been automatically lost.

Councillor Deb Callaghan, whose complaints led to the investigation, did not speak to the report. She said later it is inappropriate for any councillor to question the rulings of the appointed investigator, and she would have accepted the report no matter what it said.

She said it was proper for her to vote on the penalty, since that decision is assigned to council, and she had no pecuniary interest in the outcome of the vote.

Council rejects Code of Ethics report

By a vote of 3-2, Erin Town Council has rejected their Integrity Commissioner’s report into alleged breaches of the council Code of Ethics by Mayor Lou Maieron, and will impose no sanctions against him.

Commissioner Robert Williams presented his report on July 22 and recommended that Council suspend the mayor’s pay for one month. It was alleged that Maieron improperly handled conflicts of interest linked to his lawsuit against the Town and revealed confidential information in support of a court action against Councillor Deb Callaghan.

Maieron launched a passionate defence of his actions, saying he had done everything possible to avoid potential conflicts of interest and that the information he released was not private. Council would not give him permission to step aside as chairperson and still make comments as a council member, so he chaired the meeting.

A motion to receive the report and impose the pay suspension was supported by Councillors Barb Tocher, and Callaghan, the person who laid the complaints. Councillors Josie Wintersinger and John Brennan voted with the mayor to defeat the motion.

Before the vote, Maieron said he was considering if he should seek a judicial review of the matter and that there could be more Code of Ethics complaints.

“I think you’ll be quite busy,” he said to Williams. “Sorry, to taxpayers. Being a good Christian, I’ve turned both cheeks, there’s no more cheeks to turn. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose, and we’re going to see how much fun the Code of Conduct is when other people want to pursue this matter. I don’t think it helps council. I don’t think it helps the taxpayer.”

Before the vote, other councillors made no comments. Outside the meeting, Brennan said it is unfortunate that the Code is being used as a “stick”, and that the current meeting was “punishment enough”. He is “rethinking” the Code, but is not prepared to call for its abolition. He voted against penalizing Maieron in the only previous Code case, eight months ago, and couldn’t see the point of a penalty so late in the council term.

Later, Brennan said council might have to vote again on this matter. He thinks there should have been two motions, one to receive the report and a second on whether to impose a penalty, giving members the option of voting differently on each question.

Wintersinger launched last year’s case and succeeded on three out of five complaints, resulting in a 30-day pay suspension for the mayor. This time, she put forward the motion to penalize the mayor, but then changed her mind and decided it was not justified.

“I am not a vengeful person,” she said. “I listened to the whole story and I had some compassion for the situation he had been put into.”

Wintersinger and Brennan are currently seeking re-election to Town Council, but Tocher and Callaghan are not. Maieron has not announced his intentions, while Tocher is running for County Council.

The allegations by Callaghan, who herself is a defendant in a separate conflict of interest court case, were outlined in last week’s Advocate. She said Maieron should not have revealed, in an affidavit for her case, the topic of a closed council session that included education on conflict of interest issues. Maieron argued that she had already revealed the topic in her own affidavit.

Williams backed Callaghan’s claim that the mayor should not have revealed a complaint letter against her from 2013. That complaint never became a Code of Conduct case because the alleged improper voting on matters involving her husband, the fire chief, happened before the Code was enacted, and were outside council’s authority.

The letter from a resident was originally sent to former CAO Frank Miele, who notified Callaghan but never presented the letter to council. Williams said the letter was covered by the Privacy Act, but Maieron said he got the letter from the resident and that it has no special protection.

Callaghan also said the mayor should have declared a conflict of interest on initial discussions about whether the Town might assume ownership of a stormwater pond at the Madison Lake subdivision in Ospringe,

The mayor tried to stop a last-minute delegation about the Ospringe pond from appearing last February, and was in the chair at a later meeting when a staff report was requested. He said he declared a conflict as soon as he suspected that the issue could have policy implications for his property. Williams said he should have declared sooner, and that after declaring, he should not have participated in budget talks or made enquiries about the Town’s related legal costs.

“I don’t see how I could have abided more to the Code of Conduct than to exclude myself from any discussion,” he said. “Yes, I asked for a report, but when the report came in I didn’t make any decisions. I think I was doing my duty just to ask for the report.”

The mayor has launched a lawsuit against developers of a different subdivision, next to his own land, which names the Town because of issues with an easement on a buffer block of land intended to deal with stormwater runoff. He said nearby ponds are on the developer’s land, that they are not the subject of the lawsuit and that he seeks no money from the Town.

“There is no lawsuit against the Town or the developer on stormwater ponds, or on outstanding taxes versus the Town,” he said. “We brought the Town into the suit to provide notice.”

He is seeking $75,000 in damages from the developer and related parties, and reimbursement of about $39,000 in taxes he paid to avoid a forced sale of the property. He seeks full ownership of that land as provided by the Ontario Municipal Board, without the easement reserved by the developer.

At the council meeting, Maieron released an October 2013 email from his lawyer Kevin Sherkin to the Town’s lawyer, to clarify that “we are seeking no funds from your client [the Town] other than potentially putting them on notice”. 

Sherkin said that since the mayor wants changes to the easement, it could affect the Town’s rights, and so the Town should have a voice in the matter. “If your client [the Town] wants to carve out a piece out where the easement exists and acquire it from my client at fair market value, I think it would resolve matters,” said Sherkin.

BIA to get tourism boost

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Business Improvement Area (BIA) has been given permission to reorganize its budget, in order to take advantage of provincial funding for tourism advertising.

Town council will allow the Erin village association to allocate $10,000 to a program in which Central Counties Tourism may provide matching funding for advertising to draw visitors from other areas to Erin. Overall spending by the BIA will not increase.

The provincial agency is responsible for tourism promotion in a broad area north of Toronto, including the Headwaters Tourism communities of Erin, Dufferin, Orangeville, Caledon and King.

July 23, 2014

Pioneers had links to Battle of Lundy’s Lane

As published in The Erin Advocate

Three of Erin’s earliest pioneers were veterans of the Canadian militia that supported British troops at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, the 200th anniversary of which is this Friday, July 25.

Known as the fiercest battle of the War of 1812, it marked a turning point as British and Canadian forces repelled an American attempt to take control of the Niagara Peninsula.

After a confusing night of brutal artillery duels, infantry assaults, counter-attacks, ambushes, bayonet fighting and musket exchanges, including an accidental skirmish between two British units, both sides claimed victory.

The Americans had captured the battlefield, located near the Niagara Falls, but had to retreat since they had only 700 men standing and were short on supplies. The British side was still 1,400 strong, but had retreated a short distance. In the morning they reoccupied the battlefield without a fight.

The Americans suffered 174 killed, 572 injured, 79 captured and 28 missing, while British casualties totaled 84 killed, 559 wounded, 169 captured and 55 missing.

After the war, by 1820, the Mississauga First Nation had surrendered most of their lands along the Credit River, later moving to the Hagersville area as the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. A survey of Erin Township was completed in 1820, and in November that year, Nathaniel Roszell was the first settler here.

For his service with the 4th Lincoln Militia in the War of 1812, including the Battles of Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane, he had been granted land at Lot 1, Concession 7. Eager to increase the population of what is now Ballinafad, he was the father of 17 children, including Benjamin, the first white child in Wellington County according to the 1906 Atlas. He donated land for the Ballinafad cemetery and was buried there in 1872.

Also serving with the 4th Lincoln Militia was Aaron Michael Teeter, a native of New Jersey who had moved to Grimsby with his parents. In 1822, Teeter came to Erin Township with his family and settled on 200 acres he had been granted for war service, on what is now Winston Churchill Blvd. north of 5 Sideroad.

The 1906 Atlas says he was a hard worker with the first frame barn in the area, a Methodist, a Reformer and a school trustee. Two of his sons married daughters of Patrick McEnery.

The name of Teeter’s wife is recorded in various sources as Waity, Walty and Katy. The tombstone she shares with Aaron at Erin Union Cemetery says her name was Waty, and that she was the mother of 15 children. She died in 1856 at the age of 71 and he in 1866 at age 84.

One historical reference says Aaron was wounded at Lundy’s Lane, but other sources show it is more likely he was injured in an accident or skirmish a few days before the battle, according to Alan Kirkwood of Erin, who has researched the military records. Alan is a descendent of pioneer William Kirkwood, who arrived in 1820 and owned land just across the road from Aaron Teeter.

Teeter was one of eight brothers serving with Canadian militia regiments. Brothers Abraham and Michael were killed at Lundy’s Lane, as was his half-brother Jacob Keefer. His half-sister Mary ended up marrying Eliezer Lundy, son of the farmer who owned the farm where the battle was fought.

Even if Teeter did not fight at Lundy’s Lane, he may still have been at the militia camp. Helping to run that camp was Henry George Trout. Retired from previous British military service, he had been operating a hotel, stage coach and ferry service in Fort Erie when the war broke out. He returned as a Lieutenant and Adjutant with the Lincoln Militia during the war.

As told by his grandson in the Trout Family History, Henry and some other officers were away from the camp, and were trapped behind enemy lines after the Americans swept north from Queenston. They could not get back to their regiment until the Battle of Lundy’s Lane was almost over.

Henry’s family evacuated the house where they were staying as the Americans drove heavy guns through nearby fields. From 10 pm to midnight, “it was one unceasing roar of musketry and artillery”.

His 13-year-old son William went to the battlefield the next morning, once his mother had been assured the Americans had retreated, in hopes of finding a sword or gun. When guards turned him away, he went to a hilltop and saw the soldiers building and lighting pyres – alternate layers of corpses and wood. The weather was hot and the ground was too rocky for digging graves.

Trout was granted 800 acres in Erin Township for his service and losses. His family settled in the fall of 1821 near the Ninth Line and 22 Sideroad, where he is believed to have been buried in 1852, though there is no known tombstone. He and his sons built the first dam and sawmill on Charles Street.

In 1822 Donald McMillan, recently arrived from Scotland and renting a farm near Stoney Creek, paid $20 to an old soldier for the rights to 100 acres in Erin Township that he had been granted to him for war service. They moved to a plot just south of the Trouts and bought more land. His son Daniel took up mill building and became known as the founder of Erin village.

Cutting wait times for mental health services

As published in The Erin Advocate

The flood of calls to a new mental health helpline has prompted an increase in funding from the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), part of a $1.23 million investment in crisis response, referrals, addiction treatment and suicide prevention.

The Waterloo Wellington LHIN board has approved an additional $950,000 for the “Here 24/7” service, operated by the regional branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). It provides a live-answer phone line, as part of a new system providing a single point of access for anyone who needs information, referral, assessment and treatment.

“Calls to Here 24/7 have exceeded expectations by more than 75%,” said a LHIN announcement after the June 26 board meeting. “While more than 7,800 residents have been helped since April, there are still others who hung-up before receiving help. The additional funding will reduce the wait time for callers, reduce the number of callers who hang-up before being helped, and reduce wait times for residents needing a formal assessment for addiction and mental health needs.”

The helpline number is 1-844-437-3247. Residents can go to www.here247.ca or show up in person at 147 Delhi St. in Guelph or 234 St. Patrick St. E. in Fergus.

The LHIN board, which oversees the allocation of Ministry of Health funding for local needs, has also approved an additional $200,000 for the CMHA’s Youth and Young Adult Skills for Safer Living Program.

“This peer-led group program is a skills-based intervention that addresses the needs of individuals that engage in suicidal behavior,” said the announcement, noting that 47% of youth ages 12-24 have suicide-related concerns at some point, and that among youth, suicide remains the 2nd leading cause of death.

“Transitional age youth (ages 16-24) are a vulnerable population as their developmental needs may not be adequately met by existing programs that are designed for either children or adults.”

In addition, CMHA will receive $75,000 to produce 60,000 suicide prevention information packages for local distribution, and to host more group “postvention” sessions.

Postvention is the effort to improve the quality of life and avoid further suicides among those grieving a suicide loss.

Mayor again ruled in violation of Code of Ethics

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin’s Integrity Commissioner has ruled that Mayor Lou Maieron violated several sections of council’s Code of Ethics, including improper handling of conflicts of interest linked to his lawsuit against the Town and improperly revealing confidential information in support of a court action against Councillor Deb Callaghan.

In a report to Town Council to be discussed Tuesday, Robert Williams upholds seven Code allegations made against the mayor by Councillor Callaghan, and recommends Council impose a one-month suspension of pay. He suggests that Maieron may also have violated both the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Since he is suing the Town on an issue that involves stormwater issues, Williams said Maieron should not have participated in discussion of the Town’s handling of another stormwater dispute, concerning the pond at Madison Lake subdivision in Ospringe. The commissioner said he “failed to clearly distinguish his personal interests and the public interest.”

After investigating another allegation, Williams said the mayor should not have been involved in the budget discussion of increased legal costs, since it included the Town defending itself against his lawsuit.

The mayor’s disregard for rules about confidential information is “unacceptable”, said Williams, finding him in violation on three related allegations. The full report is available in the first section of the council agenda for July 22, at www.erin.ca.

Council gave the mayor a 30-day pay suspension last December after previous Integrity Commissioner John Craig found him in violation of the Code for his treatment of staff, revealing confidential information and leaving a meeting in progress. Code of Conduct investigations are entirely separate from the court system, with no public proceedings or examination of witnesses.

Councillor Callaghan is currently defending herself in a Conflict of Interest Act court case initiated by Erin resident Mark Adamiak, who alleges she failed to declare a conflict, and improperly voted on staff pay and other issues that affected her husband, the fire chief. That case will be heard in September, with Callaghan saying any errors on her part were inadvertent.

At Adamiak’s request, the mayor filed an affidavit with the court. He referred to a 2013 Code of Conduct complaint against Callaghan that had never been made public. Code complaints remain confidential until they are investigated and council gets a report. That complaint did not proceed, partly because the alleged voting on conflict of interest matters happened before the Code was enacted.

Maieron provided the court with a copy of the complaint letter, written by Pauline Follett to then CAO Frank Miele. His affidavit says the letter “prompted” a closed council meeting – an education session with a lawyer, who he said, “enlightened Councillor Callaghan on the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.”

The specific complaint was not addressed by the lawyer, but it was improper for the mayor to reveal the topic of that closed session and release the letter, said Williams. In his affidavit, Maieron said he believed he was “required by law” to provide the information. He took guidance from the Municipal Act in the interests of “accountability and transparency”, saying the Act made it “incumbent on me to provide the missing facts which would not be in Mr. Adamiak’s knowledge.”

Williams said the Municipal Act “does not give the Head of Council the power to unilaterally override the Town’s procedural by-law or its Code of Ethics.” Even though the letter had been shared with some residents of Erin, Williams believes it is “personal information”, the release of which is prohibited under the Privacy Act.

“The letter is not a public document and should not have been used by Mr. Maieron as if it were,” he said. While admitting it is not his job to address possible violations of provincial law, “the legality of Mr. Maieron’s use of Mrs. Follett’s letter is questionable.”

Williams also noted that responsibility for the process of potentially releasing private information is assigned to Town staff, not elected officials. Therefore, he upheld Callaghan’s allegation that the mayor violated the Code of Ethics by interfering in an area of staff responsibility.

Compared to the allegations related to the mayor’s lawsuit, the ones involving confidential information are “much more serious, since he chose in his sworn affidavit to divulge information about in-camera Council business and to include correspondence with a senior Town official that had never been shared with Council, let alone the public,” said Williams.

The mayor’s suit against the Town seeks $75,000 in damages and repayment of about $39,000 in taxes he paid to avoid a forced sale of a buffer block of property between his fish farm and a subdivision. He seeks full ownership of that land as provided by the Ontario Municipal Board, without the easement reserved by the developer on behalf of the Town to deal with potential subdivision stormwater problems.

Although the mayor has no direct financial interest in the Madison Lake pond dispute, he eventually declared a conflict of interest in May after participating in council discussions of the matter. Williams said it should not have taken him almost three months to identify this potential conflict.

“Because Mr. Maieron’s business is based in part on the role the Town plays in water management systems, he has an ‘interest’ in whatever decision Council might make,” said Williams, ruling there had been a Code violation.

Another allegation says it was not proper for the mayor to request explanations of Town payments to a law firm advising the Town on the Madison Lake issue. He made seven such requests before declaring a conflict of interest on the matter, and three requests after he declared. Williams ruled that another Code violation.

In April this year, a report was coming to council about legal expenses over the last two terms of council. The mayor properly declared a conflict of interest at the start of the meeting. However when it was time to receive the report he remained as presiding officer, which Williams said “is an unambiguous breach of Section 5(1) of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.”

The mayor said any error was due to “inadvertence”, that it was a report for information only with no discussion, and that there was confusion over procedure. He thought he needed to remain at the table to maintain a quorum of three members, while the rules state that two is a quorum when members have to step away due to conflict of interest. Williams rejected his explanations and again found him in violation of the Code.

Looking Back

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
Trans-Atlantic wireless telephone conversations are expected to be available commercially within one month, says inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who shared the 1909 Nobel Prize for Physics after developing the wireless telegraph. When told that another inventor was working on a device by which parties to a telephone conversation could see each other, Marconi said, “I see no reason to doubt it. We could certainly see by wireless if anyone can see by wire.”

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
A burglar alarm brought neighbours to the home of Donald Sanderson on the 7th Line of Erin Township, where they found five men ransacking the house. They took off through the swamp, leaving their car behind. The OPP are investigating.

The Wellington Board of Education has approved the construction of new multi-purpose classrooms for schools in Hillsburgh and Brisbane.

Claude Pattemore placed first in the Ontario Blind Golfers Championship hosted by Hilltop Lodge, with a gross score of 108.

The Erin Flyers pulled off a shakey win against Glen Williams, with Howie Detta hitting a two-run homer to tie the game up at 12-12. Then, in the final inning with two out and two on base, Wally Brennan hit a triple to win the game.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Hillsburgh firefighters had a training session with a new type of foam called AFFF, designed to extinguish liquid petroleum fires. “Since oil trucks are constantly going through Hillsburgh on Highway 25, we want to be prepared in case of an accident,” said Capt. Dave Sherrat.

The Experience ’79 program brought in a crew of students to build a playground for young children, on Mill Street across from the ball park. “The neighbourhood kids either give us Kool-Aid or throw dirt bombs,” said foreman Dave McDougall. The program is sponsored by Credit Valley Conservation.

The new 3,000-acre Guelph Conservation Area has just opened on the shore of the Guelph reservoir, featuring 100 serviced campsites and a swimming beach.

Harold and Blythe Meek of Erin Township had the top boar in a group of 120 at a New Hamburg Swine Test Station, featuring low backfat thickness, rapid weight gain and good feed conversion.

Erin Village Council has passed a new bylaw, allowing watering of lawns and gardens on alternate days, with only one hose allowed to be used at a time. Violators could have their water supply turned off and face a $50 fine.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Wellington County has made changes at the intersection of County Road 22 and the Second Line of Erin Township, after Jack and Helen Wilson died in an accident there on April 16. Actions include installation of larger stop signs, rumble strips and “Hidden Intersection” signs on Second Line. The Mimosa Women’s Institute had presented a petition outlining the dangerous history of the intersection.

There was a small fire on Main Street after a Hydro power line behind Jug City fell on a car. Erin Hydro Manager Gord Tarzwell said the lines may have been weakened by a recent lightning strike, and that power was out for four hours in the immediate area.

The OPP are still looking for culprits after a series of complaints. About $140 worth of cassette tapes and cigars was stolen from a vehicle at Leitch’s Garage, where there was an attempted break-in at the building. Three youths were scared off while trying to steal a vehicle on Spruce Street in Hillsburgh, while on Hill Street, someone went into the back yard and threw all the clothes from the laundry line into the creek.

July 16, 2014

Sewer cost could be cut to $9,300 per home

As published in The Erin Advocate

Limits on the Town’s borrowing capacity mean that a traditional sewer system will require at least 60% of the capital costs to be covered by senior government grants, according to an economist’s report to councillors as part of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP).

Gary Scanlon of Watson & Associates Economists Ltd. said two-thirds (66.6%) grant coverage on a $58.5 million system would leave the Town some flexibility for other borrowing, and reduce the capital cost per household to about $9,300 for sewers in Hillsburgh and Erin village.

At a council workshop on July 9, Scanlon said there would be other costs as well, including water improvements, several thousand dollars for each sewer hook-up depending on the property and the decommissioning of septic systems. There would also be a regular sewer bill based on usage, which he estimated at $400 per year based on a fully built-out system (costing $900,000 per year to operate).

“The Town needs to pursue grants to reduce the overall impact on property owners – also to be able to remain within the Town’s debt capacity limits,” said Scanlon.

An earlier rough estimate by consultant B.M. Ross had put the cost of a traditional sewer system (including a treatment plant) at $65 million. More detailed analysis now puts it at $58.5 million. That cost would be divided among 2,288 residential units (or equivalents for larger buildings like schools). It includes 1,263 units in Erin village, 525 in Hillsburgh and an expected 500 new homes.

The final cost shares vary slightly based on where the new homes are built (Erin only, Hillsburgh only, or split between the two), but it is about $28,000 for each existing home. A two-thirds grant brings that down to $9,333.

Residents would have the option of receiving a low-interest municipal loan that could spread payments over 15-20 years. A 20-year loan for the wastewater capital cost, after a two-thirds grant, would cost a homeowner $649 per year. Residents with newer septic systems could be given a grace period – they would have to start paying the capital costs immediately, but might delay hook-up for a few years.

Provincial regulations state that municipalities can only borrow to the limit that debt payments equal 25% of revenues. The most new debt that Erin could handle is $25 million, based on a 20-year term.

With the share for existing residents at about $50 million for sewers, plus $2.8 million for water, a 60% grant would bring that down to $21.1 million, leaving $3.9 million in debt capacity for other needs. A 66% grant would bring it down to $18 million, leaving $7 million in debt capacity. Grants can reduce costs for both growth and existing households.

“If lesser levels of grants can be obtained, the servicing may be able to go ahead, but on a staged basis, if the treatment plant could be done in stages,” said Scanlon.

The cost estimates are based on requiring all urban homeowners to connect to municipal water and sewers – currently 110 in Erin village and 230 in Hillsburgh are on their own wells.

The estimates are also based on developers agreeing, through negotiation, to pay their development charges (about $9 million for sewers and $3 million for water) at the start of the process, instead of when they actually build the homes. Developers are also sometimes willing to take on an additional portion of the cost, said Scanlon.

The current SSMP process is about general concepts and direction, with no final decision on constructing a sewer system to be made for a couple of years. The final SSMP report is expected to be available on August 12, with a full public meeting on September 2. Council wants to finish the SSMP before the municipal election nomination day, September 12.

That means voting on whether to proceed with the next phase of environmental assessment, to study details of various wastewater systems. Some options, such as small-bore sewers, would be less costly to build, and less disruptive to the road system, compared to traditional sewers.

“We have to assess less expensive technologies, and this should come out of a performance-based environmental assessment,” said resident Roy Val. Performance-based involves a bidding process, leading to a partnership with a private firm that would share the risks of a sewer system.

The Town would retain approval authority, but not have to arrange financing or pay costs up-front. Competitors would research options, with the successful firm authorized to arrange financing (government and private), design and build the system, then run it at a profit. Residents would be billed through the Town.

The Municipal Act empowers the Town to impose sewer charges on specific areas, and this is not appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board. Rural residents would not be serviced, and not be charged. There has been discussion about requiring that local septic tank pump-outs (septage) be delivered to the Erin sewage plant. This would provide more revenue to the system and could be at a lower cost to rural residents than having the waste transported longer distances.

The sewer system share for each newly-built home would be lower than for existing homes, in the $16,000 to $18,000 range, because it does not include the local sewer mains that would be installed in a subdivision by a developer at their own additional cost.

The greatest share of water system improvements (especially new wells) would be paid through new homes – $7,798 each with growth split between Hillsburgh and Erin village. But there would be a charge of $984 for existing connected homes, and $4,550 for existing unconnected homes.


Here is the estimated capital cost breakdown provided to Town Council at the SSMP Workshop for a traditional, gravity-based sewer system. It does not include hook-up costs, water system improvements or construction of local sewer mains in new subdivisions.

Hillsburgh Collection System                        
$6.8 million

Hillsburgh to Erin Trunk Line along Elora Cataract Trailway 
(with no contribution from Erin Village)
$2.5 million

Erin Village Collection System                                        
(for existing homes)  
$15.4 million

Erin Village Collection System
(shared cost with new growth)
$2.6 million

Erin Trunk Sewer and Main
Pumping Station (shared by all)
$6.2 million

Sewage Plant (shared by all)
$24.5 million

Land purchases (shared by all)
$.5 million
$58.5 million

Development charges could soar with sewers

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin has left its total development charges (DCs) virtually unchanged as part of a mandatory five-year review, but the fees for building new homes or businesses would jump significantly if a sewer system is constructed in Hillsburgh or Erin village.

Dan Wilson of Watson & Associates Economists could not estimate the size of such an increase, but Mayor Lou Maieron said it could make Erin the most expensive place in Wellington County for building projects.

The town-wide DC for new single detached home (not including water service) will rise from $8,234 to $10,126. The separate charge for water-serviced areas is going down from $5,092 to $3,116, leaving the total at $13,242 for most urban areas – just $84 more than the current charge. An extra $2,763 will go to the county.

Finance Director Sharon Marshall said the lower water DC is based on the expectation that a developer will agree to cover the entire cost of certain improvements – a new municipal well, for example – outside of the DC system. A heavier weighting has been given to transportation and fire protection costs, with a lower weighting to parks and recreation.

The charges for commercial and industrial buildings follow a similar pattern, with the rate rising from $5.19 to $5.31, plus $1.76 for the county.

A presentation of the Development Charges Background Study was made at a public meeting on July 8, as part of a process that is costing the Town $25,000 and could see a new bylaw passed on July 22. There were few public comments and no criticisms of the proposed charges.

“You are fairly competitive compared to other municipalities in the area,” said Wilson.

Erin’s commercial/industrial DCs are higher than in Minto, Puslinch and Mapleton. They are lower than in Guelph-Eramosa, Wellington North and Centre Wellington, but those areas have substantial wastewater charges.

Erin’s charges are substantially less than those in Halton Hills, Orangeville, Guelph and Caledon (which has the highest rates – a total of $58,436 per house and $16.04 per square foot for businesses). Councillor John Brennan estimates that even with a wastewater charge (which would require a new bylaw), Erin will still be competitive with these neighbours.

Development charges are levied on new buildings to offset the capital costs related to growth, which are in addition to basic elements of a subdivision such as roads, sidewalks and streetlights. Only certain costs, or percentages of costs, can be included in the calculation. These include extra road/highway costs, fire protection, recreation services, water services and growth-related studies. There are deductions for the extent to which expenditures benefit existing residents, for expected grants and subsidies, and for benefit beyond the forecast period.

Erin’s Anticipated Capital Needs are $18.15 million, with $7.31 million recoverable through DCs.

A growth forecast based on the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan, the Official Plan, the census, the previous DC study and discussions with staff, estimates that the population of the Town will grow from 11,722 in 2014 to 12,921 in 2024 and to 14,078 by the “full buildout” in 2029 (based on current estimates of capacity).

Before sewers, the majority of growth will be on rural properties, with the forecast based on a sewage plant in operation by 2021. The number of new homes would be 440 by 2024 and 875 by 2029 (500 in urban areas, 375 in rural).

Town of Erin maintaining healthy balance sheet

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin got the stamp of approval from its independent auditor last week, with councillors receiving financial statements for 2013 that show a small deficit for operations, an increase in financial assets, a declining debt and capital assets totalling just over $50 million.

Financial assets totalled $7.2 million (M), with increases in taxes receivable ($2.9 M) and accounts receivable ($1 M). Investments were down by almost $1.5M, but most of that has been transferred to cash, which is at $2M.

Mayor Lou Maieron said it was “not a good sign” that penalties and interest on unpaid taxes were up by 7.5% to $354,000, suggesting people are having difficulty affording the taxes. Finance Director Sharon Marshall, however, said outstanding taxes remain in normal proportion to total tax revenue.

Various changes have affected Town finances, including reduced tax assessments for aggregate pits, which have placed a higher burden on residential taxpayers. Revenue from Ontario Grants continues to decline despite higher costs, and fewer building permits has cut into Other Income.

Fees and user charges accounted for $2.1M of revenue, while taxes brought in $5.6M. Major items on the expense side included $1.5 M for Administration, $1.1M for Protection (Fire), $3.9M for Transportation (Roads), $1.2 for Environmental Services and $1.6M for Recreation.

The operating deficit of $186,000 represents 1.9% of the total expenditures, which were $9.8 million. Long term debt, much of which is related to the new fire hall, stood at $2.9M – down from $3.2 at the end of 2012.

A separate statement for the Erin village Business Improvement Area (BIA) showed revenues of $42,000, including a Town grant of $6,500, special area taxation of $17,200 and withdrawal from reserves of $9,700. The BIA spent $23,000 on advertising and $30,000 on streetscape improvements.

The full set of statements from Chartered Accountants Robinson Lott & Brohman LLP of Fergus is available on the Town website, www.erin.ca, or on paper by request.

Looking Back

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
The British Empire celebrated “with just and proper pride” the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, “which settled the fate of Europe and flung Napoleon from his throne.” About 50,000 men died that day, when French forces unsuccessfully attacked a coalition made up of British, Prussian, Belgian, Dutch and expatriate German troops.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
The large barn and drive shed owned by Paul Freer on the 8th Line was destroyed by fire. A number of market hogs were lost, along with 1,500 bales of recently harvested hay and eight tons of feed purchased on Saturday. The cause is not known.

A fine of $1,500 was levied against the Sangama Company of Guelph after the death of George Robinson of Erin. He was fatally injured when crushed between a truck and a forklift. While no direct blame was laid, investigation showed that the forklift was in poor condition, with no maintenance program.

Rev. E.J. Sewell, Rector at All Saints Anglican for the past five years, has been transferred to Saint Mark’s in Hamilton, with no replacement named as yet. The church will also be losing the services of organist Faye Longstreet, who will terminate her duties at the end of August before marrying John Shaver in September.

Ed Stewart of Ospringe won the Ninth Race on Sunday at the Acton-Ospringe Speedway, a quarter-mile paved oval on Highway 25 on the farm of Ron White.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)The water has been tested and found safe for swimming at Hull’s Dam – named after the Hull family that operated the Erin Advocate for three generations and owned land near the upper pond on the West Credit River. The danger level for bacteria is 1,000 total coliforms, with 100 fecal, per milliliter of water. The west side of the upper pond had readings of 4 total and 2 fecal, while the lower pond behind Steen’s Dairy had readings of 200 total and 96 fecal.

Jeanette Cox, Chair of the Committee for Better Service, is not happy with the feasibility study done by the Community Telephone Company of Ontario, which provides the phone service in Erin and Hillsburgh. For an extended toll-free calling area including Guelph, Erin customers would have to pay five times as much as a similar plan offered to Acton residents by Bell Canada.

Virginia Kennedy has expanded her business, which started out four years ago as a craft shop, but is now planning to sell it and move to a new venture in St. Catharines. She branched out into books, stationery and framing, then later a floral service that became the largest part of the business, which was renamed Erin Village Craft and Greenery.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)A 13-year-old student has graduated from Erin District High School with a 90.6 per cent average, but cannot legally get her diploma. Brenda Allen of Ballinafad, daughter of Jan and Phil Allen, has only 18 of the 30 required credits. EDHS Vice Principal David Euale has appealed the Ministry of Education rule, without success. Despite the lack of a diploma, Brenda has been accepted into the Honours Mathematics program at the University of Guelph.

Abbie McKinnon, leader of the Hillsburgh Meals for Friends group, is appealing for help from local cooks. The group has about 10 people preparing hot, full-course meals that are delivered to seniors, but could use some more help to ensure that the service can be offered weekly.

The Erin Township Tennis Club held a singles tournament last Saturday. Jeff Davison was tops in the men’s division, while Gail McGregor leads the women’s division.

July 09, 2014

Church hosts Belfountain Music Festival

As published in The Erin Advocate

Fine performances on piano and violin launched the Belfountain Music Festival on Sunday afternoon – a week-long celebration of classical music at the historic Melville White Church on Mississauga Road.

Presented by the Belfountain Heritage Society, the series of concerts will culminate with a free performance this Sunday afternoon.

The opening concert featured pianist Maria Dolnycky, who is helping to revive the music of several Ukrainian composers whose work was suppressed in the Soviet era, and violinist Zachary Ebin, who has brought together a wide array of performers for this festival.

Zachary Ebin
The small church built by Erin founder Daniel McMillan in 1837 may not deliver the acoustic purity of a concert hall, but the opportunity to be so close to the performers provides a captivating experience.

The first work was Dreams, by Viktor Kosenko, which is also the title of a CD created by Dolnycky and Ebin with this program of Ukrainian music. It is a flowing, hopeful piece, with a graceful interplay of instruments and some intriguing chromatic passages.

Maria Dolnycky
Sergei Bortkiewicz’s Sonata for Violin and Piano provides opportunities for deep, rich notes, tentative at first, but then with a massive outburst of pounding fury that resolves to mellowness. The andante movement is pensive and mournful at times, but always pushing and gathering up energy. It is released again in the third movement, where light touches and trills give way to heavy crescendos.

Morning Mood was a sampling of a miniature tonal work by Nikolai Roslavets, whose innovative compositions made him a particular target for Stalin’s music police. They declared him a “non-person” and purged him from music encyclopedias. His work was officially banned in 1930, but today performers and scholars are rediscovering it.

Vasyl Barvinsky was sentenced to ten years in a Soviet concentration camp after authorities branded his impressionistic music as “formalist”. Sunday’s concert featured three of his playful pieces based on Ukrainian folk melodies.

Dolnycky and Ebin finished with a suite of short pieces by Bortkiewicz, featuring strong, melodies, recurring themes with variations and a light-hearted touch.

All of the festival concerts take place at the Melville White Church, 
15962 Mississauga Road. Tickets and more details are available at www.belfountainmusic.com.

In other concerts scheduled earlier this week, violinist Amanda Lee and pianist Melisande Sinsoulier were featured on Monday, while Ebin was joined by violinist Caxton Jones on Tuesday.

This Thursday, July 10, there is a students’ concert at 4 pm. At the 8 pm evening show, violist Alex McLeod and pianist Jeannine Maloney will perform works by Bach, Brahms and Shostakovich.

On Friday at 8 pm, Dolnycky will be joined by flautist Julia Ranti and violist Mark Norris, with a program that includes Bach, Gluck, Debussy and Prokofiev. On Saturday at 8 pm, violinists Jennifer Martyn and Julia McFarlane will play a program that includes Bartok, Telemann, Mozart and Prokofiev.

Tickets are $20 for most concerts ($5 for children), but admission is free for the finale on Sunday, July 13 at 3 pm.

Ebin will be joined again by Dolnycky and will direct student members of the Arco Violini Ensemble. Works will include duos by Mozart and Bartok, Beethoven’s Minuet in G, Handel’s BourrĂ©e, Bach’s Minuet, McLean’s Little Fandango, Pachelbel’s Canon in D-major, Anderson’s Plink Plank Plunk and Clebanoff’s Millionaire’s Hoedown.

Survey shows discontent among businesses

As published in The Erin Advocate

In the Economic Development field, it is well known that preserving the existing base of businesses in a community is the top priority.

That’s why the word retention comes first in the Town’s Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) Report, which was endorsed by Council recently, along with a plan to start taking action on improving the local business climate.

“Supporting the businesses that have already invested in Wellington provides the greatest return for future growth,” said Warden Chris White, introducing the Erin BR+E report, part of the County-wide Economic Development Strategy.

The action plan includes reviving the Economic Development Committee and hiring a professional staff person to drive an Erin strategy.

Published with the report are results of a survey of 41 Town of Erin business owners in four sectors of the economy as set by the county (Agriculture, Manufacturing, Health Care and the Creative Economy), carried out by Coordinator Mary Venneman. While the retail sector was not interviewed, it will be a key part of future plans.

The survey shows that 95% of owners are happy with the quality of life here, but only 51% say the business climate in Erin is good or excellent (compared to 77% countywide). Sales growth over the next year is predicted by 56% of Erin businesses, with 60% having a positive outlook for their industry.

Comments from owners show a high level of frustration in dealing with Town staff, a perceived lack of support from council and concern about high rents and high taxes.

The main disadvantages of doing business in Erin were identified as lack of access to suppliers, a small population that is suspicious of new businesses, difficulty hiring qualified, skilled workers, lack of diversified housing, lack of serviced land and lack of reliable rural internet service.

Lack of sewage treatment was also a concern for a 40% of respondents, mainly those in the urban area that would benefit from such a system. Most see sewers as essential if the Town is to grow and attract new business.

Lack of a provincial highway in the area was not a major concern for most businesses, though 40% of manufacturers say it is a factor. Many businesses say not having a highway helps maintain Erin’s rural character, and some favour a bypass to take transport trucks away from the Main Street of Erin village.

Reliance on visitor traffic was relatively low (especially since retail was not surveyed), with 88% saying it accounted for 25% or less of their business. Still, visitors are an important sector of customers for agriculture, creative economy and health care businesses.

When asked about satisfaction with the Town’s efforts to attract visitors, 60% on average chose not to answer. Of the remaining 40% that did answer, more were dissatisfied (23%) than satisfied (13%).

Overall, 71% of businesses say less than 25% of their own purchases are made locally, though many said they wouldn’t expect specialized products to be available in Erin.

“There still remains the opportunity to explore what can be done to encourage more local purchasing, within the County if not within Erin itself,” says the report. “The Wellington database of services and products would go a long way as a starting point.”

There was general satisfaction with the local workforce, with the highest rating in health care and the lowest in manufacturing. About 25% of the workforce is local, commuting less than 15 km, but that includes owner-operators.

Many businesses cannot afford to pay the high level of salary or wages required to buy a home in Erin. Many younger workers who might be willing to work for a lower wage cannot afford to live on their own here, especially if they do not own a vehicle.

Councillors personally liable for drinking water

As published in The Erin Advocate

Anyone planning to run for Town Council should be aware of the new level of personal responsibility imposed by the provincial government for people who supervise water systems.

The “statutory standard of care” in the Safe Drinking Water Act was extended last year to municipal councillors, meaning that negligence can have legal consequences, including possible fines and imprisonment.

“If millions of Ontar­ians take clean, safe drinking water for granted, it is because so many dedicated public officials do not,” says John Stager, Chief Drinking Water Inspector of Ontario.

A Guide published by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) says it is a councillor’s legal duty to ask questions, get answers and be vigilant.

“You don’t have to be an expert in drinking water operations, but you do need to be informed about them. Seek advice from those with expertise and act prudently on that advice,” it says.

“Never take drinking water safety for granted or assume all is well with the drinking water systems under your care and direction.”

Veteran Erin Councillor John Brennan, who is seeking re-election, says potential candidates should not be scared off by water liability, “as long as you are doing your due diligence, doing the best you can to ensure the system is running properly.”

Staff make it very clear what is required of councillors, which includes attending meetings, getting reports about the water system and ensuring it is staffed and supervised by qualified persons.

“You don’t just sign off on these reports, you read and understand what’s going on,” said Brennan.

“Municipal ownership and the ensuing responsibilities should provide a high degree of public accountability in relation to the local water system,” said Justice Dennis O’Connor in the 2002 Report of the Walkerton Inquiry, the source of Ontario’s tougher standards. “Those who discharge the oversight responsibilities of the municipality should be held to a statutory level of care.”

When an incident occurs that may constitute a breach of the standard of care, the MOE will respond, gather evidence and decide if charges should be laid. It would then be up to the courts to determine if an offence has been committed, and whether penalties should be imposed. The maximum fine on first offence is $4 million and the maximum prison sentence is five years.

Staff and council comply with a broad range of provincial regulations, covering source protection in the area of municipal wells, health-based standards for treatment to neutralize hazards, maintenance of the delivery system to prevent re-contamination, regular testing and reporting, immediate action in the event of problems, and a system of mandatory licensing, operator certification and training.

The Hillsburgh and Erin water systems have scored 100% for regulatory requirements in recent annual MOE inspections, and the Water Department has earned a provincial quality accreditation for its procedures and documentation. Various reports, and details about the Quality Management System, are available at www.erin.ca.

Town of Erin water rates have been going up by 20% per year since 2011 to pay for upgrades to the system, but the planned increase for 2015 is 5%. Users are now paying $4.08 per cubic metre of water, which is high compared to many other municipalities, partly due to the low number of customers – about 2,500 in Erin village (with 26 km of watermain), and 810 in Hillsburgh (with 7.1 km of water main).

Here is the provincial guide outlining the duties of municipal councillors for drinking water quality:

Taking Care of Your Drinking Water

Looking Back

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip appeared before a magistrate in Sarajevo, expressing no guilt for assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June 28. The Yugoslav nationalist had read much anarchistic literature and said he had intended for some time to kill a prominent Austrian. Martial law has been declared to quell rioting in two towns where Serbian-owned buildings are being damaged in reaction to the shootings.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Three students at Erin District High School have earned Ontario Scholarships with averages over 80%. Bob McFee, son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter McFee of Hillsburgh, who scored in the top 1% on the Ontario-wide Physics examination, will study engineering at McMaster. Nancy Smith, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Smith of Waldemar, will take French and English at McMaster. John Finnie, son of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Finnie of Erin, will take Geography and Planning at Waterloo.

The Vacation Bible School has started, under the direction of Rev. William Cook of the Church of Christ (Disciples). More than 100 pupils and 30 leaders registered at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Hillsburgh.

Ken Smith received the McEnery Agencies trophy as the top golfer for the second year in a row, with an average of 77 per round in the Hilltop Golf Championship.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Marauding dogs have been a problem in Erin Township, with council paying $980 to farmers for livestock damage last month. Clerk Clive Beardwood said the sale of dog licences helps cover the costs, but Hillsburgh licence collector Jane Bajona said only about 300 dog owner have sent in their fees – $5 for the first male, $8 for the first female and $15 for additional dogs.

Clerk Clive Beardwood is “hopping mad” about vandalism and harassment of seniors in Hillsburgh, and will explore the possibility of a local police force. He said in one morning there were eight incidents, including egg-throwing, pellet gun shots, kicking in doors and ruining gardens. They have not been reported to police for fear of reprisals.

K. Soo, owner of Erin’s Villa Restaurant, has joined with seven area families as part of the Save the Boat People effort. She can offer housing and a job for a husband and wife team. Norm Dawson said applications have been sent in to sponsor two Vietnamese refugee families.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Terry Johnson of Erin was praised for his quick action after he jumped into the Credit River to rescue a 13-year-old boy who was floating face-down, near a dam in Georgetown. He successfully applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after pulling the boy to a small island.

The Community Oriented Policing (COP) committee has been formed to enhance the OPP’s community policing strategy. Constable Jeannette Jedraszek said police calls to the Erin area are up by more than 300 this year, mainly related to speeders, dirt bikes and vandalism. “We have to open up the communication lines to the community,” she said.

Lions Club Treasurer Terry Austin told Erin Township Council that the club is planning a $250,000 renovation to the Erin Community Centre. They have started with a $10,000 donation and will be fundraising, as well as seeking municipal support for a multi-use area on the second floor of the facility.

Congratulations were extended to Diane Kendall of 8th Line Erin, who shot a hole-in-one on the third hole, a 95-yard par 3, at the Orangeville Golf Course.

Barry Rathbun, Muscular Dystrophy chairman for the Hillsburgh firefighters, reported that they raised about $3,000 for the MD Association, which has presented them with a plaque to show appreciation.