Priority Water treatment, Transparency and Engagement

A Peek Through Murky Waters

Council should provide more public information on many items it discusses behind closed doors:  this is the finding of an investigation into Council’s use of closed meetings.

In most cases Council should tell the public the general topic being discussed. This finding relates specifically to a litigation at the water treatment plant that has been ongoing for six years:  a piece of information that is now public thanks to the investigator’s report. This is a second litigation about the Sydenham water treatment plant: some may remember the case involving Tottenham Sims. Up until this point the majority of Council had chosen to inform the public only that it was in litigation.

Second, the investigation found that more information needs to be reported out to the public after a closed meeting discussion.

Third, Council, in the current case, should provide information on why there is litigation on the water plant and some of the basic facts about the situation.  There is a motion coming to the next council meeting asking staff to prepare a report on why the Township was in litigation on the water treatment plant.

The only public reason given for restricting the public’s knowledge was that the information might have caused concern.  It is arguable that situations that might cause the public concern are the most important ones to make public so that rumours can be minimized, confidence in municipal government boosted and community-based solutions found.

The investigator’s general comments were that, when in doubt, the Council should err on the side of openness and make information public.

In the last two years Council went into closed session 37 times without giving information on the general content of the discussion.  I hope that this lack of transparency and openness will now change.

Water Treatment Plant Priority

The Public Services Committee is making the Water Treatment Plant one of its priorities for action this year: a valuable decision given that is still a significant issue and one that divides the community.

Issues identified by the staff for action include: a new water bylaw, well decommissioning, system capacity, a water filing station and hooking up to the system on the sale of a house.

I have moved a motion that a program of community engagement be one of the priorities.

A community engagement plan could include more openness, public information meetings, and establishing a permanent water advisory committee that includes residents who pay into the system.  Any approach will require effort, but it is necessary for the community to move forward on water treatment.

It seems likely within the next couple of decades, if we want more vibrant communities in Harrowsmith and Inverary, both areas with bad water, there will also be a need some sort of communal water supply in these hamlets: and numerous communities might also require sewage systems.  Now is a good time to find a better way to handle these kinds of projects.

Increased Budget for Community Groups

I would like to thank all the groups who took advantage of Council’s public session on the budget to present your priorities.  It helps shape how our public money is spent.

There was unanimous agreement in the preliminary budget discussions for raising the amount of money available to support community groups and events by $20,000.  While the increase is small it is a significant recognition that supporting community organizing leverages hundreds of hours of volunteer time and thousands of dollars in community donations.

Thanks for Supporting Lakes and Wetlands

Thank you to everyone who wrote letters supporting strong regulations protecting lakes and wetlands.  This issue will be coming to the Development Services Committee on February 25 for further discussion.

The 2019 Lakes and Trails Festival

Planning has started for the 2019 Lakes and Trails Festival.  If you are interested in helping out, by volunteering or making a donation, visit the Festival’s web site, https://lakesandtrailsfestival.org/, or come to the next organizing meeting on March 18th.

I hope everyone is a enjoying the snow (before it rains again), and skating on Sydenham Lake at the boat ramp. A big thank you to everyone who is making this happen.

 

About Ross Sutherland

nurse, researcher, public health care activist, councillor South Frontenac Township
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