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Influx of closed sessions, Carroll Pond costs among residents concerns

by Chris Daponte

ABERFOYLE - At least one resident is wondering why Puslinch council has so many closed sessions, considering most current councillors ran in the last election on a promise to improve transparency.

Sandra Solomon said at the Sept. 15 community forum that generally in-camera meetings are held for three reasons: personnel issues, property acquisition or legal advice.

“I just can’t believe suddenly we have this tremendous increase in those areas,” Solomon said in front of about 25 residents at the community centre.

New councillors accused members of the previous council of being “secretive,” Solomon said, and yet the number of closed meetings seems to have increased since last fall’s election.

Mayor Dennis Lever, one of those who campaigned on a promise to improve transparency, replied the Municipal Act is very specific about what topics councils can discuss in closed sessions.

He said there are actually about seven topics, but he acknowledged every closed session this year has fallen into one of the three categories identified by Solomon.

“I would prefer not to have so many closed meetings,” Lever said, although he added those sessions are necessitated by the changes the new council wants to make.

The mayor also noted legal issues at the new Optimist Recreation Centre have added to the number of in-camera sessions and he concluded by saying he hopes there are fewer closed meetings ahead.

The closed session issue was one of many concerns identified by residents at last week’s second community forum in Puslinch.

Carroll Pond costs

Resident Bev Wozniak wondered why Puslinch Township should be on the hook for 100% of the monitoring costs for the $3-million Carroll Pond drain installed in 2008.

“The drainage was put in for [local industrial developments], not for us,” Wozniak said.

Lever said he was unaware the township is paying the entire monitoring bill, if that is indeed the case.

Clerk Brenda Law said St. Mary’s Cement asked the township for monitoring (for issues like contamination) because the company was kind enough to accept the water from the drain at its nearby gravel pit.

Lever asked if the township could bring back a report on the monitoring costs to the next community forum in November.

Wozniak then asked who would be financially responsible if contaminant are found in the water coming from the drain.

Lever said he is not sure and he would look into the matter, although he suspected whoever was responsible for contaminating the water would also pay any associated costs. Law confirmed that is one of the reasons for installing the monitoring equipment in the first place.

Railroad crossings

Michael Calzonetti submitted a written inquiry asking if it is possible to install flashing lights or barriers or both at a railway crossing in Hume Road, southeast of Arkell.

Councillor Wayne Stokley said the township decided to trim back foliage around that crossing, as well as another nearby on Watson Road, to improve sight lines. But the township decided in 2009 not to proceed with major upgrades at either crossing due to financial constraints, Stokley added.

Former roads superintendent James Howlett estimated in 2009 that installing flashing lights would cost the township between $125,000 and $180,000 per crossing, and a grant was unlikely.

Glenna Smith suggested traffic in the area has changed since the last report and said the issue should be readdressed.

Lever said the bigger problem is at the Watson Road crossing, and he agreed to approach officials with Guelph Junction Railway, under whose jurisdiction the crossings fall, as well as to get another study completed.

Concession 1 closure

Resident James Carroll wrote to council to ask if it is possible to close access to Concession 1 along Highway 6 near Bryan’s Farm Equipment, south of Morriston.

Meeting facilitator Amanda Levy acknowledged most people agree there is an issue at that intersection.

“It’s almost impossible to turn left at that point onto Highway 6 without putting your life at risk,” Levy said.

Fielding agreed but said statistically, there have not been many serious accidents there. She added the mayor is looking into new technology that can predict the likelihood of collisions at certain intersections.

“We’re not prepared to make a decision on that until we get more information from the engineer,” Fielding said of closing the intersection.

Lever said officials with Gamsby and Mannerow, the township’s engineering consultant, have recommended three firms that could carry out the new study. The township hopes to receive a quote within a month or two and council will make a decision then, he added.

Concession 7 work

Resident Bill Sims is glad to see reduced truck traffic along Concession 7, thanks to the recent installation of signs, but he would still like to see a speed reduction and a new asphalt surface on the 2-km section between Concessions 1 and 2.

Councillors said they would consider lowering the speed limit but seemed less committal to paving the road.

Stokley said the township is “moving in that direction,” but the cost is prohibitive, and Lever agreed.

“We really just can’t do it on our own ... It’s just too big,” the mayor said, adding the cost would be about $3-million, more than the township’s entire tax levy for 2011.

Past attempts to secure funding for the project were denied.

Other issues

Residents at the meeting also wondered about the following:

- the possible widening of Brock Road to Aberfoyle;

- “grandfathering” local projects such as decks that no longer conform to new building codes;

- the Ministry of Natural Resources undertaking new mapping in Puslinch Township; and

- installing lights at local car pool lots to possibly deter thieves.

Councillors did not offer concrete answers on those inquiries but promised to look into all four matters.

 

September 23, 2011

 
 

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