Friday, July 24, 2009

You can polute the Water, but don't let anyone voice their Concerns

Imagine a Dump on Top of an Aquifer. Come to Simcoe County and see for yourself. The Warden will tell you there is no other solution!!! The diagram below outlines a typical aquifer.

I have not said much about Site 41 except to say that from the beginning, it did not make any sense where it was located. My initial objections were related to taking good farmland out of production. However as the science was researched and its proximity to the Alliston aquifer was recognized, someone should have had the common sense to realize that dumping garbage on top of one of the finest aquifers in the world, is not a good idea. If you care to gamble, go to Casino Rama to get your fix.

I have recently visited the spot on a few occasions and my disagreement grows stronger. The county has argued that there is continuous positive pressure from the ground water (upward gradient) that will push out any possible contaminates avoiding pollution of the aquifer itself. With a liner as a safeguard, the county suggests there is no possibility of any negative environmental impact. I think the same guy also sells swampland in Florida part time. However not being a scientist, I have observed one interesting noteworthy item. The county sought and was granted a license to pump or drain virtually millions of litres of water to allow the liner to stay in position once installed based on the premise that there is always positive ground pressure (upward gradient hydraulic pressure) and it would make the liner float. I think either the County research is wrong or was misunderstood and now they have discovered that in fact there is not always positive ground pressure year round. It has been a rainy Spring and Summer and yet no water is pooling and staying in the hole they have dug. I think that it may have upward pressure from October to March, but now believe it has downward pressure (downward gradient) during the summer months, making it a time bomb. To me that suggests that contaminates will be absorbed and drawn downstream in the aquifer as it makes its way to Georgian Bay and all points south as far as the Oakridges Moraine. Is that why the County will not share the engineering report? Have they found that after spending millions of dollars that it was just a bad decision and should be abandoned.

I can only conclude from his unwavering position (which came after he was elected as Mayor of Springwater) we have the same problem at the County as we do in the Township of Springwater, a lack of Leadership. Is that because the same person is both a Mayor and the Warden?

Get involved and stop this atrocity called Site 41. Come out this Saturday July 25 at 1:30 and support the protesters and donate to their legal fund, as now the County is attempting to intimidate the organizers by launching lawsuits. Go to this link for more details:
Let us all help them take on Big Brother and show the politicians that we are the citizens of the township and county, not its subjects.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And the King has decreed....

At the regular Council meeting on July 13th, the business of the township was conducted in its usual manner until it got to one item on the agenda. The agenda item was the motion to select a newspaper to host “The Springwater Link” and other municipal information for the next year. A detailed report was attached confirming the responses to the RFP were complete. The township information, as most residents of Springwater know, for many years was published in the Springwater News. As an experiment it was transferred to the Barrie Advance since May of 2008. The motion tabled by Cowan chose Springwater News as the information link for the next year. It was a straight forward motion and should have been dealt with in a typical manner. However, the Springwater News is never dealt with in a fair and upright manner, mainly because of its open format that allows people like me to provide opinions and at times illustrate some of the shortcomings of our elected officials.
The mayor first suggested that it would be better to delay this vote as two people were absent, Deputy Mayor Hope and Councillor Caldwell. However there was no request from either asking for the vote to be delayed. Besides, the rules of order allow for members to be absent, which happens in the natural course of things. You simply need a quorum and one was present to conduct an official meeting. Ironically if you go back to March, when Councillor Cowan first tabled a notice of motion to move back to the Springwater News, Hope had an outburst, called Mr. Jacobs names and said if moving to the Springwater News was to be discussed, he would declare a conflict of interest which would be appropriate because of his public bias against both the Springwater News and Mr. Jacobs personally. Mr. Hope should once again declare this conflict at the next council meeting if the motion is tabled once again. To me the request to delay by the mayor was simply another ploy to unnecessarily delay a decision and show Mr. Jacobs who is in charge of the township business. The mayor had no problem spending thousands of dollars of tax payer money on other agenda items at the meeting with those same members absent.
Since Mr. Cowan then suggested which was confirmed by the clerk, that the motion on the floor needed to be dealt with, the mayor wanted to say and almost said that he was not prepared to deal with the matter at the meeting. Unfortunately for him council is a democracy and he has no veto power. After constantly badgering everyone for a way out, he was informed by the CAO that the motion could be deferred to the next meeting, if more information was required. Now remember, the report accompanying the motion suggested everything was complete. Councillor Clement inadvertently opened a door that gave the mayor a glimmer of hope to defer the motion. Clement at previous meetings had asked about the use of other mediums to get the township message out such as website, email etc. This in the larger scale of things is a reasonable question. However, this is unrelated to the motion at hand. Based on a request for unrelated information, the motion, even though procedurally incorrect, was deferred in an unusual manner. Typically motions are deferred to the next meeting. However the motion tabled and passed, stated that the motion must be heard with all members present. That is not a proper motion and illustrates another typical bullying tactic of our mayor. It could delay the decision for quite some time, as councillors are absent from time to time. I confronted the mayor at the meeting and suggested he was abusing his position and power as chair and directing the motion to a conclusion rather than simply directing the discussion like a good chair would do. As usual he dismissed me as a lone negative voice against his community building attempts.
I was still amazed about how adamant he had been at the meeting in delaying the vote. Even to me, it appeared extreme. The next day all the ducks fell in order. As a member of the Springwater Chamber of Commerce, I receive email communications. On Tuesday July 14, the following day, I receive a request from the Mayor to advertise in a special edition of the Barrie Advance for the grand opening of the new Administration Centre on Nursery Road. It now all makes sense. On checking with one councillor he was unaware of the special edition. I have no criticism of the Advance in its attempts to develop supplementary business in these tough economic times.
Now the mayor’s tactics make sense. It would be very embarrassing if the council passed a motion to move its print media requirements to the Springwater News and then have the Barrie Advance publish a special edition for the township’s grand opening of the administration centre. On checking the properties of the PDF I received promoting the Advance supplement, it was created June 17 and modified on July 2, well in the works some time ago. Since the promotional piece contains a direct written request signed by the mayor, he must have been aware of it. Any suggestion that since a decision on print media had not been reached, it was appropriate to go with the existing vendor, will not pass the smell test. I guess the mayor still thinks we are all jokers and that his cleverness goes unnoticed. He is always mentioning community building, but has no problem taking business away from a local business that pays taxes and give it to a firm outside the township.
I again ask the members of the public to become more informed of our local government. They are elected to respond to the best interests and common good of the residents of Springwater. Most elected officials have no personal agendas, but some do. Attending a few planning or council meetings will make it obvious who has their own personal agenda. You will then be better able to elect those who will hold your interests above their own in the next election in November 2010.
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Splash Canyon's lack of planning causes Springwater Council to make a bad decision...

At the public meeting on July 13,local area residents expressed concern about the growing nuisance noise being created by weekend concerts at Splash Canyon on Nursery Road just north of Hwy 26 across from Springwater Park. The facility is zoned as a campground and water park. Through a stretch of the permitted uses, the owners argue the small concerts over the last two years are not really concerts but entertainment to the campground guests. Their own website says differently. The large proposed concert being sponsored by ROCK 95 on August 15 will be one of the largest concerts staged in the Barrie area since Molson Park closed its venue. It does require rezoning as the concert is a separate paid entry event from the park itself. Having a concert in the middle of a rural area is not a wise choice. Traffic congestion, parking and impact on local residents are significant. On paper the organizers have everything covered. Council members were surprised about the negative impact of noise from the small concerts over the last two years which caused them to rethink the temporary rezoning request for the large concert on August 15. Like myself, we who live in a rural area usually lack faith in the politicians and say little and grumble amongst ourselves until we boil over. At the public meeting it appeared there was a growing move to deny the rezoning request.
At the planning meeting on July 20 a number of unusual things were evident. First of all Splash Canyon were allowed to make another case with information not provided to area residents prior to the meeting. Secondly, delegations are allowed 10 minutes for their presentations. At this meeting Splash Canyon were allowed 45 minutes to make a new case. There was no motion to extend the time and were simply allowed to ramble on, a definite breach of the township's procedural bylaw. Unfortunately the area residents, not fully understanding the process were not present to discuss the new found information. Councillor Collins and Cowan stuck to their guns and continued to argue against such a large event in a rural setting. The main reason and one that was never answered was the lack of planning horizon that had created the pressure of time for a decision. A good business friend of mine has a great expression that should hold true in this situation, "Lack of Planning on your part, does not create an emergency on my part." Councillors Caldwell had very challenging questions to the organizers which were not well answered. Councillors Clement, and Anderson also had questions that were not answered. Even the Mayor had concerns and felt that the location was not appropriate and pointed out that if someone was trying to build a Concert Venue, it certainly would not be at that location. The only one that was not negative was Deputy Mayor Hope who thought they should be given the chance to prove themselves.
In the end much to my surprise all except Collins and Cowan voted in favour of the modified temporary use bylaw for a one time only event on August 15, basically putting the financial interests of Splash Canyon over that of the local residents. To me that is simply unfair. I hope the agreement between the Township and Splash Canyon includes a clause covering the verbal agreement of the owners that if permitted to have this one large concert, they will cancel all other weekend concerts this summer, at least providing some relief to the area residents. This would make the situation more palatable.
What I find most disappointing is that the last words heard by the councillors were those of Splash Canyon agents, none who live in the area. Normally the final decision would be put off to the next regular council meeting, but because of the August 15 date, they conducted a special council meeting at the end of the regular planning meeting and approved the temporary use bylaw. This to me is a travesty and a slap in the face to those residents who came to the July 13 meeting and thought they had left the matter in good hands. Remember haste makes waste which is what happened at this meeting.
The reality is that Splash Canyon, by the admission of the owners is struggling financially and has since its inception. It is good for council to work with local business, but at the same time cannot ignore the impact on the area, if an entrepreneur has simply made a bad business plan and the business location is flawed. You can't make a silk purse out a sow's ear. If it must be a concert venue to survive then it must cease to exist as the area is not zoned for this type of business. It is as simple as that and as the mayor said, the zoning bylaw has worked well until now and has proven to be effective for the common good of the township. Council is elected to uphold that position.
In closing if any residents read this, I suggest launching an OMB appeal as the temporary use conflicts with a number of Official Plan policies and existing bylaws.
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And the Tony Award Goes to.....

I read with interest the Stevens letter on the Hillsdale Tavern in the June 11th edition of Springwater News. I was also at the Council meeting as I have been trying to better understand the workings of council and our elected officials.
Tony Hope our deputy mayor I believe is basically a good guy and I have had many good conversations with him. He is passionate and reactive, and at times puts his mouth in gear before his brain, like we all do from time to time. But the difference is that Mr. Hope is called to a higher standard as he is an elected public official. There is no excuse for his bad behaviour and his derogatory comments about Gary French at the council meeting. I can chastise Tony Hope, but there is a mechanism in place to control such outbursts. It is called the Chair and in Council that is Mayor Tony Guergis. Council passed a by-law last year that includes a section on decorum and it is the Mayor’s responsibility as chair to control it. The by-law clearly states in section 18.1.5 under Acceptable Behaviour, “Behave in an acceptable manner. A member shall not use profanity, make derogatory statements or other such offence at risk of being expelled from the Chambers or meeting room at the discretion of the Chair”. It is obvious that Hope breached this clause in his comments about Gary French. The Mayor should have immediately removed Hope’s privilege from the floor, asked him to apologize or leave the room. Again I must suggest that the Mayor has a greater accountability in this matter than the offender. It suggests a lack of leadership.
It was interesting to observe the long discussion on protruding screws on the new administrative centre as noted by the Stevens letter. It is obviously a design oversight by the architects and they should be held responsible. I am sure they have errors and omission insurance to rectify the matter and the problem should be clearly placed back with them. Councillor Caldwell made what I felt was an appropriate suggestion and something I have done in years passed on large projects. He proposed delaying the next construction draw payment until the matter is rectified to everyone’s satisfaction. But our Mayor wants to keep talking and discussing the situation but never seems to be interested in a final resolution on matters such as this.
On a more serious note and a further illustration of lack of leadership, our mayor, speaking as warden, may have caused harm to the future growth of Springwater with his caustic name calling in a special report in the Barrie Advance. In the article, he outlines a conspiracy theory at a fund raising dinner for Liberals over a year ago where he suggests back room deals were made on RVH, Georgian College and the recent Barrie Land annexation. He also stated that Barrie lacked leadership in its present Mayor. Those are serious accusations and a 180 degree turn compared to his usual desire to discuss matters in a more conciliatory manner when it comes to township business. I am sure our higher government officials will not be pleased by the comments. On one hand he talks about having reasonable discussions on matters and then switches his tune and attacks the levels of government that in fact ultimately control our destiny. I know he was speaking as warden but the comments may very well backfire on Springwater.
One other thing that I have not heard discussed at any meetings since February is how the township is reducing its overall costs in these tough economic times and tightening its belt like everyone else I know. I see them approve added cosmetic expenditures for the new building eating away the contingency fund, adding staff and sending people to golf tournaments. Is that really good fiscal policy or responsible leadership? After attending most meetings since February, I am now less critical of the councillors themselves as they are looking for direction and leadership. Unfortunately it appears lacking in the “Two Tony Show”.
I again encourage you to come and see how our elected officials conduct the affairs of our township and attend Council and Planning committee meetings. Our township is a big business and spends millions of dollars annually. As a stakeholder, all residents should periodically attend these meetings, so they are better informed and able to choose leadership that will add value and make Springwater a better place to live.
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