October 15, 2014

Candidates' ideas on environment and growth

As published in The Erin Advocate

Candidates for Town Council had a chance on October 6 to share their ideas on how the Town can be environmentally responsible in dealing with demands for efficiency and growth.

An All Candidates’ Meeting, hosted by Transition Erin and moderated by Jay Mowat, was held at the Legion hall with almost 200 residents attending. Candidates gave one-minute answers in a randomly selected order, drawn by lot.

Dealing with areas where growth should be allowed, candidates seemed reluctant to be specific, but when asked about a large centralized sewage treatment plant, most were opposed – preferring some form of alternative technology. Everyone was concerned about climate change, but ideas on what to do about it locally were varied.

Jeff Duncan said before proceeding further on sewers, the current limit of 1,500 new urban residents over 25 years has to raised – providing service to some areas including downtown and industrial zones, but not providing sewers to areas with good septic systems. He stressed removing roadblocks to business, abolition of the Code of Ethics, pressing for revenue from water bottling and putting clear policies in place for developers.

Craig Porterfield said a Small Bore system (septic tanks, with small pipes for effluent) is the most flexible, with lower costs and less disruption to roads. He stressed the need for rural agricultural development, a better shared use agreement at Centre 2000, an inventory of vulnerable infrastructure and that imported fill should be revenue neutral, monitored and tested to MOE standards.

Jamie Cheyne said a dual wastewater system may be practical, with some areas served with a technology like Small Bore, and others on septic systems. He said the Town needs to have control of new growth, and stressed the need for a cooperative council, a Community Liaison Committee, promotion of home-based business, rural economic development, eliminating duplication in municipal services and protecting natural areas.

Matt Sammut said alternative technologies and a performance-based process are essential to lowering the cost of sewers, and to avoid digging up Main Street, and that Erin needs a strong plan to present to senior governments. He says infill development is needed in both Hillsburgh and Erin village and he wants better fiscal planning, better school safety zones, better trails, parks, and recreational facilities and more public access to the river.

Shawn Wilson is opposed to a centralized system, preferring to service downtown and industrial areas without putting it on the back of the taxpayer, and he suggests investigating ozone water treatment. He stressed growth of the commercial sector to broaden the tax base, more productive use of the fair grounds, paving gravel roads to save money and promotion of solar power. He wants to eliminate the “stench” of conflict of interest in Town business.

George Silva said a centralized plant is the last resort, suggesting investigation of treatment using wetlands, and of using the waste to produce fuel. He would study a reduction of Town staff, making people welcome at the Town office, making Erin a destination, imposing a levy on owners of vacant stores, reducing of light pollution and adopting a climate plan that includes solar power, use of greywater, permeable paving and other elements of Low Impact Development (LID).

Josie Wintersinger is opposed to a central system, saying that alternative technologies could reduce household costs to “just a few thousand dollars maximum”. She stressed affordable housing, especially for seniors, paving of rural roads, the benefits of the Operational Review (including better efficiency in the recreation department), the use of solar water heating and greywater and an effective committee system.

Rob Smith said once key areas are serviced, many homes could continue on private septic systems – with a monitoring program to ensure they are working properly. He stressed development of tourism and a reputation as a retirement community, staging development so people can assimilate, use of solar power at Centre 2000, broad expansion of recycling programs, efficiency through the Operational Review and stronger terms of reference for Town committees.

John Brennan said a performance based bidding process will help determine the best wastewater technology, and that he is open to having some new housing growth on septic systems once the capacity of the West Credit River to accept sewage effluent is used up. He wants the savings from small energy conservation projects reinvested in larger ones. He stressed working with the county on economic development and on emergency preparedness.

Chris Naraysingh said he doesn’t believe in large-scale treatment, wants alternatives considered and wants costs shared by senior governments and developers. He stressed the need for controlled development in all areas of the Town, for seniors housing, improved tax revenue from industrial and commercial activity, elimination of staff duplication, energy conservation (including improved lighting) and creating a resilient infrastructure without a tax burden.

Evelyn McLean said we do need a centralized sewage plant, but that it still needs investigation of the methods and costs, with a preference for using green technology. She stressed the need for business growth, better services for seniors, improved family recreation, more retail services in rural areas, a deterrent against those who dump garbage in the river, attention to roads that have been “sadly neglected” and promotion of local shopping.