March 29, 2018

Erin council remuneration totals $120,062

Remuneration for Erin town council members totaled $120,062 in 2017, according to an annual report by Director of Finance Ursula D’Angelo.
Mayor Allan Alls received a salary of $27,000, while each of the other members received $16,200. Other benefits including employer contributions for pension and insurance premiums are valued at up to $7,018.
The Municipal Act requires the treasurer to provide an itemized statement of amounts paid to members of council and other boards.
Councillors are allowed to claim the cost of attending conferences and other expenses. The town paid expenses of totalling $1,173 for the mayor, $2,706 for John Brennan and $1,725 for Jeff Duncan. Councillors Matt Sammut and Rob Smith claimed no expenses.
Anyone considering running for council in the October 22 election should be aware of a Candidate Information Session to be held Thursday, April 12, 6:30 p.m., in Aboyne Hall at the Wellington County Museum and Archives near Fergus.
It is a free education session conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs. It covers qualifications, financial obligations, candidate responsibilities and the roles of council and municipal staff.
Nominations can be filed as of May 1 and the deadline is July 27.

Town gets $1.5 million for Hillsburgh bridge project

The Town of Erin has received a $1.5 million provincial grant that will cover more than half the cost of rebuilding the Station Street bridge in Hillsburgh.
The total cost of the project, which includes rehabilitation of the millpond dam, is estimated at $2.5 million. Design work will be completed this year, with tendering expected in the fall and the start of construction in the spring of 2019.
“The significant repairs being done to the structure will be of added value to the town as we continue to grow,” said Mayor Allan Alls.
Wellington County owns the water control structure in the 
Hillsburgh millpond dam, while the Town of Erin owns
 the earthen berm that supports Station Street.

Gooderham and Worts built the dam that created the 
Hillsburgh millpond in the early 1850s, with a new mill that 
shipped grain to what is now Toronto’s Distillery District. 
The Station Street bridge was built in 1917.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs approved the grant through the top-up component of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF). The town applied for $1,576,988 in July last year, but the grant was not approved until the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change gave the project the green light.
“The OCIF grant is great win for the Town,” said CAO Nathan Hyde. Erin has been turned down for OCIF grants in recent years. The program provides long-term funding for small, rural and northern communities to develop and renew their infrastructure. 
The project was the subject of an environmental assessment that recommended preserving the millpond. Town council and Wellington County backed the EA result, but it was challenged by Credit Valley Conservation and others who preferred either decommissioning the pond, or creating a smaller, off-line pond. 
Town council was prepared to go ahead with the project without a grant, and had arranged $2.5 million in debt financing. Mayor Alls said he expects that debt will still be used to cover the balance of the cost.
He said the town might be able to reduce the cost of the project if sections of the dam’s foundation can be re-used. Construction will have to be timed to avoid disruption of trout hatching.
The bridge was built in 1917 and was first identified in 1971 as being in need of replacement. Although the dam had repairs and reinforcement after an outlet pipe failed in 2011, forcing temporary closure of the road, the province is insisting that the risk of failure be brought up to modern standards.

LOOKING BACK – Brother home safely

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1918)
Brother home safely
Pte. W. Sutton, who has been overseas for the past two years, has returned home. It will be remembered that his brother Pte. Geo. Sutton made the supreme sacrifice some months ago. In Hillsburg, Mr. E. Royce, son of Mr. and Mrs. F.W. Royce is home from the Front, where he has been for over three years.
Remembering George Short
George Short was born in Erin on April 4, 1918 and lived much of his life in the village. He passed away in his 100thyear, on March 16, 2018. I interviewed the World War Two veteran and his wife Florence a few years ago to hear stories of earlier times in Erin, and found them to be most hospitable. George helped develop minor hockey in Erin and once managed the arena on the Agricultural Society grounds. He was well loved and respected in the community and will be sadly missed.
From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1983)
New firehall needed
The volunteer firemen of the Erin Fire Department have decided to “take the bull by the horns” and raise the needed money to build a new fire hall. “We can’t count on any government money or grants,” said firefighter Terry Osborne. “We have decided to get the ball rolling and do it ourselves.” 
Deputy Chief Bob Bates said they need more space for their equipment. The vehicles have to be washed and maintained outside, and there is no room for lockers or showers for the men after they come back from a call. The department has a 1943 vehicle that has to be parked elsewhere due to lack of space. Hoses are dried on the floor, which can produce mold and rot. 
The department’s ladies’ auxiliary will have a fundraising garage sale, and there will be a door-to-door blitz of residents in the village, and the eastern corner of the township serviced by the village department. Their workload has increased from 59 calls in 1979 to 92 calls in 1982.
From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1993)
Tight purse strings at Township
Organizations requesting funding from Erin Township should be warned that early signs point to tight control of 1993 expenditures. Barb Tocher presented the Library Board’s request for an extra $3,000 in operating funds and $20,000 in capital funding, and Karen Smith of the Ballinafad Community Centre presented a pared down operating budget and a request for $5,000 in capital funding. 
Council made no promises on the funding, with Reeve Duncan Armstrong saying, “We have no problem with needs, but wants are another matter.” Clayton Leigh told council the 16,000 books now housed by the library is low for a community of this size. In 1982 the library received $13,800 when they had an annual circulation of 25,000, but in 1992 funding had only gone up to $14,700 for a circulation of 41,000.
From the Advocate – 20 years ago (1998)
Ice storm wrecks havoc
A severe ice storm caused major damage to trees and knocked out power to many in the Erin area last week. Erin Rent-All owner Carol Mercer said her husband Vic had been out all night Wednesday delivering generators. Police were busy directing traffic at major intersections, and people were checking in on seniors to make sure they had assistance if needed. On Dundas Street, half a tree crashed down on the roof of a home. Ontario Hydro said about 60,000 people in Southern Ontario were without power for more than two days. 

Grant helps expand high school micro-farm

Everdale Farm has received a $25,000 grant to expand the micro-farm project at Erin District High School (EDHS) and create a how-to manual for other schools to follow.
It’s one of 15 projects promoting local food production and growth of the agri-food sector, to be supported by $315,000 in grants through the Greenbelt Fund.
The EDHS project started last spring, with previous financial support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. 
Student work bees were organized during Friday lunch periods on a section of land owned by the school board, across from the library area of Centre 2000. Three-foot high metal enclosures were erected and filled with soil to create raised beds, which improve drainage and make crops easier to manage.
Erin District High School students planted the first raised beds last year.
 “We wanted to make it like a farm park,” said Everdale co-founder and youth director Karen Campbell. 
The idea was to create links to the community, potentially selling some produce to local businesses or restaurants, or donating some to the food bank. The micro-farm is also intended to as a teaching space, supporting areas of the curriculum such as literacy, numeracy and the development of work and leadership skills.
Everdale staff are also creating a comprehensive “Start a Micro Farm at Your School” teaching module to help other schools replicate the project, including advice on soil composition and sample crop plans.
Everdale is a non-profit organic farm near Hillsburgh celebrating its 20th year. Their endeavours include the Harvest Share program that provides weekly produce for members, sales at farmers’ markets, events such as Carrotfest, farmer training programs and internships, and farm school programs designed for various interests and grade levels.
More raised beds have now been constructed at EDHS and there are plans for an area of ground-level planting. 
Since students are away from school in the summer, the strategy is to plant quick-growing crops like lettuce and spinach that can be harvested in late spring, then planting seeds for longer term crops like carrots, kale and potatoes that can be harvested in the fall.
It is a continuation of a longer-term effort at the high school to bring more healthy alternatives to the cafeteria, where students from the hospitality program cook and serve food.
Students with interests in farming, food and environmental issues have been involved. The art department is decorating the new picnic tables and tech students are working on a sign.
The school has received EcoSchool certification for its efforts to reduce energy consumption in the building, the installation of water bottle filling stations and the use of composting bins for the cafeteria. 
The Environmental Club, under the supervision of teacher Ross Watson, planted an herb garden in 2013 on the far side of the parking lot to supply some fresh greens to the cafeteria.
Brainstorming on possible future developments ranges from an outdoor classroom to establishment of nut trees or perennials such as raspberry plants.
Erin is part of the Wellington County Local Food Initiative known as Taste Real. As part of the county’s economic development strategy, it is building a network that includes farms, restaurants, food retailers and the growing farm tourism sector.
“By increasing access to local food and drink, and supporting innovation in processing, we are strengthening rural and urban economies, creating good jobs, and building a more sustainable future,” said Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

March 22, 2018

LOOKING BACK – Strike at Graham Fibre Glass

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1983)
Graham Fibre Glass workers on strike
Graham Fibre Glass, Erin’s largest employer, has been quiet since March 17 when 71 production workers walked off the job. The members of Local 271 of the International Aluminum, Brick and Glassworkers had been working without a contract since Jan. 11. Their average wage is $8.33 an hour. Local president Bob Anderson said the main issues are wages and benefits. General manager Ian Graham said the company was completely surprised by the strike and breakdown of negotiations. “Money didn’t seem to be the issue,” he said.
Caledon residents want farmland preserved
A survey by Caledon Ward One Councillor shows strong support for the preservation of agricultural lands, low growth, control of gravel pits and a plebiscite on regional government. John Alexander got responses from over 300 residents in the western part of the town, including Belfountain, Alton and Caledon Village. More than two thirds supported policies of low residential and commercial/industrial growth. Most also favoured maintaining the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and most said urban services such as street lighting, curbs and road paving are not needed.
From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1993)
Village to keep up with the times
Residents learned about Erin’s plan to keep abreast of changing economic and social trends, at a public meeting to discuss a background report on the Village Official Plan. Deputy Reeve Carolann Osborne was pleased with the high turnout. Updating the plan will cost about $10,840 according to Wellington County Senior Planner Aldo Salis.
The report said the village population has had slow growth, from 2,315 in 1981 to 2,489 in 1993. The average household size is 2.9. The schools have portables, and new schools may be needed to handle future growth, but growth is currently restrained by lack of municipal sewage treatment. The municipal landfill site will reach capacity in 1995.
No extra policing for Erin
Reeve Terry Mundell is continuing to press for a greater police presence in the village, but Wellington OPP Inspector Walter Trachsel told village council that current coverage is adequate. “Someone who lives in a small town can’t expect the same level of policing they would get in an urban area, because they are not paying the high taxes,” he said. While the OPP has had gradual improvements in staffing and efficiency, the village has lobbied the provincial government for more police funding. 
Mundell has been investigating the cost of Erin hiring its own police officers. Trachsel said residents and store owners must be more proactive in preventing crime. There are plans to revive the Community Oriented Policing group, and the Business Improvement Area has started a reward program to help solve petty crimes in the area. 
From the Advocate – 20 years ago (1998)
$40,000 pledged for youth centre
The 60-member audience at a public meeting on the new Erin Multi-use facility applauded as Everett Roberts, Director of Youth Activities for the Erin Optimist Club, pledged $40,000 towards a youth centre in the facility. The meeting included a presentation on options from the project management firm C.A. Ventin, and was a chance for councillors to assess public support for town involvement. 
Councillors Rod Finnie, Ken Chapman and Culver Riley want the town to be involved, but Mayor Barb Tocher and Councillor George Root have expressed serious reservations. Tocher said she was concerned about taking on debt, while Dave Dautovich, head of the high school council, responded by saying “elected members have to show leadership”. 
Other possible partners expressing interest in the centre include the Rotary Club, the Tennis Club, Erin Hoops, Erin Little Theatre, Sue’s Moves, Dr. Walcott and Dr. Mathieson. Irene Smedley said EWAG would like to establish a seniors’ centre.

March 15, 2018

Tennis Club to be independent of Town

The Town of Erin is doing away with four Community Centre Recreation Boards, but is promising to do so with minimal disruption.

A financial audit advised council last fall that having independent groups such as the tennis club within the town’s structure creates an issue with oversight. A report from Clerk Dina Lundy said this could expose the town to legal liabilities and “reputational risk should there be issues with how these enterprises are managed”.

Council voted on March 6 to repeal a 1985 Erin Township bylaw that established recreation boards to operate the Erin Tennis Club (ETC) and the Ballinafad Community Centre (BCC), which are still active, and for Victoria Park and the Hillsburgh Community Centre, which are not.

The BCC is considered integral to the Parks and Recreation Department, so that board will be converted to an advisory committee. The Town of Halton Hills has agreed to increase its annual contribution to the Ballinafad centre from $500 to $5,000, and they will receive regular financial statements from Erin.

The tennis club gets no funds from the town, and membership fees are used for maintenance and a variety of programs. Unlike other sports organizations, the club operates on town property without a rental agreement, and the town holds their reserve funds.

The five courts were built and paid for by the town, which borrowed $171,000 for the project in 2002. There was a major court resurfacing in 2015, with the club paying more than half the cost.

The town will now sever its financial relationship with the club and negotiate a new agreement for use of the courts, which will also ensure public access.

ETC President Chuck Hall said there is concern about the club losing coverage under the town’s insurance, and reminded council that club members have made significant contributions of money and volunteer labour towards the facilities.

CAO Nathan Hyde said the club could be allowed to continue temporarily on town insurance, and that staff will work with them “to make the transition as seamless as possible”.

Mayor Al Alls said, “We won’t leave you stranded.”

Erin has new rules for election signs

Election candidates will have to post a $125 refundable deposit with the Town of Erin to cover possible enforcement costs if there are violations of the new election sign bylaw.

Clerk Dina Lundy drafted a bylaw that will apply to federal, provincial and municipal elections. Council approved it with minor modifications on March 6.

It includes a sign height restriction of one metre, an area restriction of three square metres and a list of where signs may not be placed (including within two metres of a roadway).

The town will notify candidates of infractions, and may remove illegally placed signs, destroy those not picked up by candidates and recover its costs.

The provincial election is on June 7 and the municipal election is on Oct. 22 this year.

Signs were to be allowed for 45 days leading up to a municipal election, but this was changed after Councillor John Brennan noted that such a short period would disadvantage new candidates who need to build up name recognition.

Council has decided that nominated municipal candidates can put up signs as of Sept. 1, which is 52 days before the election.

Nominations can be filed starting May 1, and the deadline (‘nomination day”) is now much earlier than in previous elections, moving from the second Friday in September to the fourth Friday in July.

There will be no referendum questions on the Erin ballot this year, since the deadline for placing such questions was March 1. Also, council has rejected the option of ranked ballots.

The town will continue to use the vote-by-mail system that has been in effect since 2006. Everyone on the Voters List will receive a voter kit, and have the option of mailing their ballot by Oct. 12, or dropping it off at Town Hall on election day.

Lundy had suggested charging candidates a $25 non-refundable fee to cover the cost of administering the new sign bylaw, but councillors said that would be unreasonable.

Initially, signs were to be prohibited within 30 feet of a street corner, to promote traffic safety with a “daylight triangle” of visibility. This has been changed to 10 feet.

All election signs must be removed with 96 hours of the election.

Changes urged for Erin pit proposal

With town council expected to decide soon on whether to support expansion of the Halton Crushed Stone (HCS) gravel pit just south of Erin village, community members are renewing objections and proposing changes to the project.

A second public meeting was held March 6, with James Parkin of MHBC Planning providing an update on behalf of HCS.

“There has been a good consultation process,” said Parkin, noting that there are no outstanding objections from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Credit Valley Conservation, or the consultants who have peer reviewed HCS studies of hydrogeology, noise, traffic and visual impact.

“The proposal has withstood scrutiny, and we have made changes that are responsive to the community,” he said.

The existing pit west of Tenth Line is 300 metres from the road, but the expansion could bring it to within 30 metres. HCS says it plans a setback of 60 metres in Phase 1, in a radius from the corner closest to the McCullogh subdivision.

Other changes include increased berm heights, tree and shrub plantings along County Road 52, a noise audit, stockpile height limitations, a dust management plan and an annual water level data report to the town.

Residents Sharon Cranstone and Roy Val are urging a setback of 300 metres in the northwest corner. This is not a legal requirement, since the land is already zoned from extraction, but the County Official Plan does specify a 300-metre “yellow ribbon” setback for new zoning around urban areas.

They want the setback increased to 60 metres for the whole length of the pit along County Road 52, an increase of berm height and more extensive tree planting and landscaping. They want HCS to pave the first 300 metres of Tenth Line to reduce dust, and a setback of extraction near the Tenth Line.

They either want extraction in the northwest corner delayed until the final phase of the pit lifespan, to allow the trees to grow into a screen, or to have extraction in that area done first and completed in 18 months.

Cranstone and Val are also concerned about the environmental impact of asphalt being recycled and stored on the site. They want leachate testing and a limit on the volume equal to 10 per cent of exported gravel. HCS says asphalt is not a significant risk.

They also want to know why various provisions in the 1976 Ontario Municipal Board ruling that approved the original pit, and the development agreement that followed, were never enforced.

These include requirements that the pit owner pave a section of Tenth Line; create turning lanes where the Winston Churchill Blvd. haul route meets both County Road 52 and County Road 124, and reconstruct/maintain Winston Churchill to county standards.

David and Caitlin Piva, who live close to the existing pit, said there is a problem with gravel trucks parking on the Tenth Line and using their back-up beepers prior to 6 a.m. They are also concerned about rocks that fall onto the road from loaded trucks, and say that with high stockpiles of gravel in the pit, existing berms are not adequate.

Even though Credit Valley Conservation is predicting the expansion will not affect groundwater, they are still concerned about their well water.

Resident Karen Maxwell said dust from the pit on local properties remains an ongoing problem. She also reminded council that the 1976 OMB ruling approved the original pit with an assumption that extraction would take place prior to construction of a nearby subdivision.

Councillor Matt Sammut did not attend the meeting, and has declared a conflict of interest since his residence is in that subdivision.

LOOKING BACK – Ladies keep on fundraising

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1918)

Ladies keep on fundraising

The Ever Ready Club of Erin, composed of young ladies of the Village, have sent out invitations for an assembly, in the Town Hall, on Friday evening March 15th. Proceeds in aid of Erin Patriotic Society.

The Coningsby Women’s Institute held their monthly meeting at the home of Mrs. W. Sutton, on Thursday evening, March 7th. There were 104 present. The President in the chair. An excellent program was given by the following: Music by the Awrey Orchestra; Song by Mr. and Mrs. E. Awrey; Paper by Miss E.R. Burt; Reading by Miss E. Barbour; Recitations by Miss E. Thompson and Mr. E. Hindley. A collection was taken in aid of the Blind at Halifax, amounting to $7.75. A dainty lunch was served and a social hour spent by all present.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1983)

Hillsburgh seniors’ apartments approved

Zoning for the new senior citizens’ apartment complex in Hillsburgh has been approved by Erin Township Council. The building is to be situated on an extension of Spruce Street, on what was part of the Nodwell property, and will have 29 self-contained apartments. Non-profit housing chairman Lloyd Lang said not one negative comment was heard at a public meeting on the project.

Wives start fire department auxiliary

The Ladies Auxiliary of the Erin Fire Department held its first meeting to discuss plans and elect an executive, said public relations person Laura Pickett. The 23-member group will lend support to the firemen and let the public know what they do. The executive includes Jenny Franklin, president; Barb Hebbes, vice-president; Pat Evans, secretary; and Helen Lucas, treasurer. They will do fundraising and hold social events to bring the families of the department closer together. They will “bring refreshments when the men are fighting a grass fire on a hot day.”

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1993)

Brewers’ Retail may be lost

After years of discussion and anticipation, construction of the new commercial plaza in south Erin is expected to begin in mid-April. Members of the Erin Business Improvement Area (BIA), in conjunction with Village Council, will have input into the appearance of the plaza. Councillors last week studied site plans and brick samples provided by developers Basilio Sinopoli and Vittoria Mauti. It has been an expensive three-year wait since the developers first brought plans to council, including Brewers’ Retail as a major tenant. Council approved a plan, but a group of citizens appealed it to the Ontario Municipal Board. The appeal was settled before the hearing, but Brewer’s Retail is now thinking of pulling out of the project. Reeve Terry Mundell said council is committed to having a building façade that will “fit in with Erin’s old-time charm and heritage.”

From the Advocate – 20 years ago (1998)

Feeling proud from a distance

A letter to the editor from Sarah Denison: I just finished reading Harry Smith’s editorial “Feeling Proud About Erin”. The news must cross the Pacific to reach me, since I’m teaching English in Japan, so it’s old but still cherished. I cherish memories of neighbours who greeted me on afternoon walks and friends who would “honk and wave” as they drove by. I remember hanging out at the arena to watch friends play hockey. Mention of the Erin Fall Fair stirs memories of warm woolen sweaters and cold beers as mini reunions took place all over the grounds. It is really true that you do not realize how important something is to you until it’s no longer at your immediate grasp or in your sight. I hope Erin can hold onto its charm and small town feeling that I love so much.

Dina Lundy no longer Erin clerk

Clerk Dina Lundy is the latest senior staff member to leave the employment of the Town of Erin.
The town’s policy on personnel matters does not allow the release of further information, but Mayor Allan Alls said Lundy was a loyal employee who will be missed.
“The change is not related to any further restructuring by/within the Town,” said Chief Administrative Officer Nathan Hyde. “We wish Dina the best of luck with her future endeavours.”
Virtually all of the Erin department heads, and several other employees, have left for various reasons in the last two years.
Lundy worked in the town’s finance department from 2010 to 2013, and then was appointed clerk after previous clerk Kathryn Ironmonger became CAO.
In an unrelated move, Hyde recently had town council appoint him as the town’s second deputy clerk. 
He said it was a precautionary housekeeping measure commonly used by municipalities to provide redundancy, since clerks have specific legal duties related to elections. The existing deputy clerk is Lisa Campion.

March 08, 2018

ERIN INSIGHT – 500 weeks of not being a bot

When I sit down to write for the Advocate every week, I gather all of my information into a numbered folder, a system that started with my first column in July 2008.
This week I have the satisfaction of hitting a milestone, with a folder labeled “Week 500”. The series includes one (or sometimes two) columns per week, hundreds of news stories, and a whack of features, photos and editorials.
The first column was called Moonlighting for Gas Money. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of picking my own topics and putting a personal twist on local news. I’ve been like one of those pesky horseflies that just keeps buzzing around.
It has been like writing three or four essays a week, for an English course that never ends. That can be challenging, but it’s way more fun than being the editor – good riddance to that job.
In case you missed an article, or are having a hard time falling asleep, the columns and major news stories are available on my blog, There are no comments from readers.
The blog is useful for checking an older story or reading up on an issue, maybe prior to the October municipal election.
Not only can you search for key words or phrases, but there is a topic index – for example, 57 stories on education, 61 on farming, 105 on history, 11 on suicide, 18 on theatre, and (the grand-daddy) 112 on sewers.
Warning: Do not attempt to read all the sewer articles in one day. The fumes could be hazardous.
I’m not sure if readers are actually any better off as a result of all my scribbling, but I know for sure that anyone who cares about Erin’s public affairs certainly has had the opportunity to be well-informed.
The key bits in the previous sentence are “anyone who cares” and “public affairs”. People are often so overloaded with information from the internet and other media that they are forced to retreat into not caring about pubic business. Jobs and family needs come first, and can consume all of your energy.
For those with some attention to spare, contact with the outside world often includes Facebook, Twitter and a variety of platforms that engage people on topics of their choice. That can be good, but there are dangers.
First of all, you get inundated with crap you don’t want. Second, spammers and programmers are always trying to invade your devices, scooping up private information and ensuring that you receive ads and “news” that match your interests.
If you only engage with people who are almost the same as you, and only receive news that simply entertains you or reinforces your existing attitudes, how will you ever develop an understanding your society or other cultures?
Then there are the bots, computer programs that control a robotic virtual character, imitating human behaviour on the web. I am persistent, but I am not one of those.
Bots can analyze information and carry out tasks much faster than a human brain. They can answer questions, chat with you, teach you, search for information such as on-line bargains and even make comments on news stories.
Bots can be used for cheating at video games, conducting attacks on major networks, or the rapid spreading of news that may be “fake” or slanted to promote a political cause. They could even help steal an election.
Traditional news sources, on the other hand, are good for democracy. Truthful news and diversity of opinion (whether on-paper, on-air or on-line) help bind communities together.
Old-fashioned journalists may not be totally unbiased, but at least they apply a filter to the flow of information that guards against manipulators and upholds the public interest.

Residents hope to avoid school closures

When Erin and Hillsburgh parents were asked what they want their schools to be in the future, their main response was “Open!”
About 100 people turned out to a workshop style meeting at Erin Public School on Feb. 28, hoping to discuss low enrolment issues.
The meeting was hosted by the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB), as part of the consultation process in developing a Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP) throughout Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph.
There will be another round of consultation before the final plan goes to trustees in June. There will be no recommendations on school closures – just further steps in a lengthy process that could lead to future changes.
There was some frustration because the meeting format did not allow attendees to make comments or ask direct questions of school board officials in the public session. Instead, people sat in rotating groups of six and were asked to describe their schools now, and what they want them to be.
 “The discussion questions last night were odd,” said Cooper in a Facebook post. “They didn't address the issues the school communities were facing at all.”
Town Councillor Jeff Duncan called the questions “lame”, since they did not deal with enrolment.
“This was an intentional attempt by Board officials, not even supported by their own trustee, to keep a lid on the community being able to voice its concern over the real issue here of the future closure of schools,” said Duncan. Residents were asked to fill out an on-line survey that closed just two days later.
There is particular concern over enrolment at Ross R. Mackay School in Hillsburgh. Its population of 90 students is expected to drop to 64 in five years, using only 32 per cent of the school’s capacity.
That rate could stay low if there is no housing growth, making it a candidate for closure. With new subdivisions supported by sewers, enrolment could rebound to 165 (83 per cent usage) in ten years.
The discussion groups were able to bring forward suggestions to help boost attendance at MacKay, including a boundary review that could increase its catchment area, and the transfer of some special education classes to the school.
There is also the possibility of making Brisbane Public School entirely French Immersion, which could result in more English-only students at MacKay.
Cooper supported investigation of such alternatives, but said the suggestion of adding Grades 7 and 8 at MacKay would not be practical. Technology courses for those grades are only feasible with higher student populations.
With sewage capacity to support new housing, Brisbane is projected to reach 107 per cent of capacity (477 students) in 10 years and Erin Public School to reach 79 per cent (423 students). Without substantial new housing, Brisbane would grow more slowly, reaching 101 per cent in 10 years, while Erin Public would decline to 47 per cent.
St. John Brebeuf Catholic School in Erin village currently has 238 students, but could accommodate more than 300. Principal Lowell Butts​ said they are holding steady, with the same number of students as in the previous school year.
Mayor Al Alls and Trustee Cooper have urged residents to support development of a wastewater system, but there is concern about the cost to existing urban homeowners. An Environmental Assessment is expected to wrap up this spring with a definite wastewater plan, but an actual system could still take well over five years to develop.
“The town has spent a large amount of money, time and energy in going through the regulatory hoops to allow for growth in our community,” said Duncan.
“I would hope the UGDSB would over the short to mid term allow this required process to play out and work with us.”

Funding sought for electric vehicle charging station

The Town of Erin is applying for funding to get a high speed charging station for electric vehicles at Centre 2000.
Wellington County already has plans to install a charging station at the new Hillsburgh Library, which is expected to open this spring.
Erin town council is hoping for 50 per cent funding from the federal government, and that the Upper Grand District School Board will cover half of the remaining cost, since the station would be a benefit to Erin District High School.
The fast charging (Level 3) stations cost about $85,000 each. If the federal and school board funding comes through, the town would pay the balance up to $25,000 out of the 2017 Nestlé voluntary levy. The water bottling company makes payments to the town based on the volume of water pumped at its Hillsburgh well.
Natural Resources Canada has a funding program designed to create a Canadian network of Level 3 stations. These can charge two electric vehicles (EVs) to 80 per cent of battery capacity in about 30 minutes, with a travel range of about 250 km per hour of charging.
These are expected to be common in public places and along major highways. Users would pay about 28 cents per Kw or $12 per hour pro-rated by the minute, with a $2.50 flat fee per session.
The non-profit group Plug’n Drive says less expensive Level 2 stations are expected to be installed by many employers and commercial building owners, taking four to six hours for an 80 per cent charge, with a range of about 30 km per hour of charging.
EVs can also be charged at Level 1 through a regular wall socket, providing only about 8 km of travel range per hour of charging.