October 15, 2014

Mayoral candidates seek wastewater solutions

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin’s mayoral candidates pitched lots of ideas for improving the local economy, increasing efficiency, restoring civility and dealing with wastewater at the All Candidates’ Meeting held on October 8 by Transition Erin.

There was unanimous support for a sewer system (of some sort) and for efforts to attract and retain business in the Town. The first question was about their vision for the residential sector.

David Lyver said he wants to see assisted-living housing for seniors, which would help free up other homes. He is concerned that high taxes and lack of housing are driving them out.

Rod Finnie said it is possible to build “very beautiful” compact housing for seniors and young people. He wants development to be “community-friendly”, including walking and biking trails, and supports credits to developers for “green” features in their projects.

Allan Alls said sufficient sewage capacity should be reserved for existing homeowners, but that once the remaining capacity is used up, further development could take place using private septic tank wastewater treatment.

Regarding the business sector, Finnie said more jobs and tourism are needed. “We’ve got to be more positive and find ways to make it happen,” he said.

Alls said a sewage system is essential to any significant business development, while Lyver wants to reduce development charges compared to neighbouring municipalities.

For improved council operations, Alls would like to see a Mayor’s Advisory Committee where citizens could provide input. Finnie would stress the need for respect and compromise, and would like to hold council meetings in different parts of the Town. Both like the idea of an open question period for the public at the start of each meeting.

For greater efficiency, Lyver would try to merge duplicate services. Finnie said the Operational Review would be critical, but that he does not believe there is a lot of waste. Alls said he would take a hard look at staffing after the Review, but that it is “probably OK”.

Finnie said bringing a sewer system to Erin is the reason he wants to return to the position of mayor, which he held from 2000 to 2010. “We are not going to survive as a community without it,” he said. He favours working with Infrastructure Ontario and the private sector so that taxpayers will not be hit with high construction costs

Alls said the Environmental Assessment will help determine the best technology, and that it’s not going to cost Erin residents $60 million. Without senior government help, the project can’t go forward, he said.

Lyver said we might need two small systems, plus homes on septics. He said Peel Region might be willing to provide a loan to Erin, since they have a vested interest in the quality of water in the Credit River.

All three agreed in principle with incentives for developers to build more energy-efficient homes, and Lyver suggested extending that to homeowners, with building permit credits for additions and renovations.

To attract more businesses, Alls supports reduction of taxes and development charges. Lyver said this should be based on benefits to the community, such as jobs, and that the Town could set up an area of serviced land for industry. Finnie said instead of cutting taxes and charges, the Town could set up the infrastructure that businesses need in order to succeed – such as ultra high speed internet.

Alls and Lyver agreed with a suggestion to ban bottled water at the Town. Finnie said he doesn’t believe in banning things, but that perhaps Nestlé could pay for product placement – $10,000 for every bottle on the council table.

Regarding the impact of climate change, Alls and Lyver both promoted improved access to GO buses and trains. Finnie said he would promote the county’s Active Transportation Plan (including more paved shoulders on roads), and he would seek partners to help with the cost of improving dams – the most vulnerable part of Erin’s infrastructure.

All three agreed that better communication would improve the advisory committee system, and that an energy conservation committee would be a good idea. Finnie said committees should be given more specific tasks, and Alls called for investigation of recreation levels to learn what more is needed.