There was much tension in the council chamber here on April 24 when the subject of the Carroll Pond came up – until Warden John Green took the blame on himself.
Considering that county council has never formally debated the issue, Carroll Pond has been mentioned many times over the past year. The pond is south of MacLean Road on County Road 46 in Puslinch.
An engineer’s drainage report levied $1-million for the county to pay because it will benefit from drainage work. The pond could threaten the county road.
Erin councillors Rod Finnie and Lou Maieron, in particular, have repeatedly requested a reports on the status of the project, because the county has budgeted to pay for the work. They wanted an opportunity to comment on the pond, which is under Puslinch Township jurisdiction.
The report was just barely ready last month, but council did not receive it. Then, on April 21, the county roads committee decided to appeal the assessment to a drainage tribunal, which under the Drainage Act, is Puslinch Township council.
That upset both county councillors from Puslinch. The court of revision was held April 23, the day before county council.
Whitcombe said he had asked at the court who had the authority to appeal the decision, particularly since the county has money in the budget for the work. The court, of course, rejected the county appeal, which left the county the option of seeking further cost cuts at a drainage tribunal. No one even suggested doing that at the county council meeting. If someone’s assessment is lowered for a drainage assessment, those costs are re-apportioned to others paying for the work.
Whitcombe, though, was clearly upset about the roads committee’s appeal.
“County council should have had that decision instead of the committee,” he said, adding that 60 per cent of the taxes from industrial areas in Puslinch “flow to the county” and “the road needs protection and industry needs access.”
Whitcombe charged, “This was purely political. Puslinch is very upset in the way this was handled.”
He said the issue is now over unless the county decides to go to a tribunal, but, he hoped, “the county says no. I take this as a personal insult to my community.”
Councillor Lou Maieron said he has “a big problem with this.” He said the process was wrong, in that the county placed money in the budget for the drain before it saw a report. He added, $1-million “is a lot of money.”
Maieron also charged “Puslinch benefits and being the court of revision, decided this.”
He added he likes to know what he is buying, but, “This is like buying a pig in a poke without seeing the farm.”
He added the pond is “a local issue.”
Puslinch county councillor Barb McKay, was also upset about the appeal.
She said the county’s actions to decrease its share of the cost was a personal embarrassment to her, and she noted the township is “paying the lion’s share.”
She said the road is in danger because of the pond, and “We need this fixed for the safety and the integrity of the road. It’s been a problem for 40 years.”
She noted there are 45 businesses affected, and the county was the only landowner that was unwilling to pay its share. She pointed out that two businesses that will benefit are paying $500,000, and she urged the county to “do the right thing.”
Finnie told council he does not want to “make things worse” but he noted he has been asking for a report on the pond for months, and “I spoke with some concerns from the start. Are we doing this in the most responsible manner?”
He also noted he had asked about an environmental appraisal of the project. “The proper way to get this done is to appeal to a tribunal.”
Finnie said, “That may increase the cost. I’m interested in doing what is right for the people of the county.”
Finnie said when he finally saw the pond report, he noted problems, but, by then the county had difficulty with meeting the deadline to appeal at the court of revision, which was prior to the April county council meeting.
Whitcombe noted the warden could have called a special county council meeting.
Councillor Lynda White said, “How many times are we going to tear apart reports from our experts. How do we get things done? There is a problem [with Carroll Pond]. It needs to be fixed This council and staff, made a commitment to fix it.”
As for an environmental assessment, White said the Ministry of Environment has approved the work. She said more environmental studies could increase the county’s costs to $1.4- or $1.5-million.
“We have to move ahead on this project,” White said, adding that she is aware how many Puslinch tax dollars benefit other parts of the county.
Councillor Bob Wilson said he was a committee member who voted to appeal, but he has nothing against Puslinch Township. “They did everything right.”
But, he said, the Drainage Act and how it is used has always bothered him.
He said in his experience the engineers who apportion the costs always “topload” municipalities because that is the easiest course because they have money, although, he noted, “As a farmer, I thought it was great.”
Wilson said, “It wasn’t fair then; it isn’t fair now.”
He added of the committee’s actions, “We didn’t want to insult anybody at the time – and frankly, I am a little indignant that you’re indignant.”
Maieron said the purpose was not to insult Puslinch, but he did not like the process. He said putting the money in the budget before the report was available made the process “backwards.” He said he fears the water might be polluted, and the county will be responsible for it when it is moved off site.
But councillor Carl Hall cited approvals from the MOE and the GRCA, and noted there has been pumping at the pond since 2000, and those bodies would not allow that if there was pollution.
County engineer Gord Ough pointed out the drainage agreement provides the county with immunity, and the responsibility would belong to Puslinch.
Whitcombe said all 45 businesses in the area have private storm water management processes, and the township will monitor the pond for problems.
Green told council after the road committee minutes were approved that there is “a lot of tension in the room.”
He said the county got its final report, and did not have time to do anything other than appeal. He said the committee was “a victim of the calendar. I’ll take total responsibility. If the township wants to be upset with me, so be it. I want to bury the hatchet. It is done.”