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Council likely to reject mandatory water hook-ups

by Chris Daponte

HILLSBURGH - It appears 108 property owners will not face mandatory hook-up to Erin’s municipal water system after all.

Although council has yet to formally vote on the controversial “section three” of its water bylaw, at least three councillors said they are not in favour of forcing property owners living close to water lines in Hillsburgh and Erin to hook into the system.

“Each individual should be the custodian of their own well ... give people the freedom to choose,” councillor Josie Wintersinger said at a public meeting on Oct. 25.

She called the proposal for mandatory hook-ups “arbitrary” and “heavy-handed” and said she would prefer the 108 properties in both villages be grandfathered rather than forced to join the system using certain building permit triggers.

That comment was met with applause from many of the 50 or so residents in the audience, many of whom have opposed section three since it was first proposed earlier this year.

Councillor Deb Callaghan agreed with Wintersinger and said the municipality likely missed the opportunity for mandatory hook-ups at the time the water system was first installed.

Callaghan said she is opposed to using triggers to force water connections - other than for septic system problems - and while she encouraged residents to join the system voluntarily, she felt it was best for council to await the results of its Settlement and Servicing Master Plan (SSMP).

Councillor Barb Tocher said she is in favour of mandatory hook-ups and, unlike Callaghan, she thinks septic problems are one thing that should be exempt from triggering forced connections because owners may try to delay or avoid fixing septic problems due to the extra cost of the water connection.

“I do believe we should have a strong trigger,” Tocher said, adding small building projects should be exempt as well.

She suggested the town get legal advice on what powers it actually has to impose water connections, but she also opined that when the SSMP is completed, all property owners in the urban areas should be forced to connect to the municipal water system.

Councillor John Brennan said he is not in favour of passing section three and any costs to hook into the system beyond residents’ property lines should be borne by the system as a whole, not individual property owners.

“I don’t want to see mandatory hook-up at this time. I think we should wait for the SSMP,” said Brennan.

Mayor Lou Maieron said he can see both sides of the argument. He told councillors their concerns about the SSMP are fair, but he warned that if the study concludes a sewage treatment plant is necessary for the municipality, property owners could potentially face much higher costs to hook into that system.

“At some point we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions,” Maieron said.

Council is expected to make a formal decision on mandatory connection at its Nov. 15 meeting.

In the meantime, it unanimously passed a resolution directing staff to prepare a report outlining what section three may look like without the mandatory hook-ups (including a possible ban on new wells in urban areas and potential incentives for voluntary connection to the system).

 

October 28, 2011

 
 

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