The recently elected North Dundas Council is getting warmed up with plenty of routine business. Local Council meetings are pre-scheduled for the entire year, with either one or two meetings taking place per month. In February, only one meeting was scheduled and as you are reading this, it already took place on February 7. Unfortunately, a printing delay is part of the newspaper business, so as of the time of writing, I have only an agenda to work with for February’s meeting.
Earlier this year, a much-anticipated topic took centre stage for Council – water allocations. During the October election, every candidate for a Councillor position mentioned water in their Q&A submission to the Times. The need for more municipal water capacity, particularly in Winchester, is a sign of the town’s growth. The water issue has existed for years, or even decades depending on who you ask. Since neither Winchester nor Chesterville are adjacent to any significant surface water sources, both towns’ municipal water systems are fed by groundwater wells. With groundwater being a limited resource, water allocations are necessary to ensure that our source water is not “overtapped”, so to speak.
At the January 18 Council meeting, Council made a firm decision regarding water allocations – developers with expired allocations will not be allowed to apply for an extension. Expired applications will indeed stay expired. The reasoning for this, which was discussed at the Council meeting, is that there are developers who need water allocations now, so allowing developers to extend an expired allocation for use several years down the road is neither fair nor logical. Late last year, Council seemed to be leaning in the opposite direction in its decision.
One major reason for the change of heart is the expectation that new source water will be sought in the coming years, meaning that more water allocations will be available for developers in the years ahead, for those who had been holding on to an allocation for future use. Decision making in a small municipal Council is often heavily informed by Township staff. Council members act as final decision makers with the input of their constituents in mind, but expert consideration and research are done by Township employees who have the necessary education and experience. Township staff report findings to Council before Council makes a decision.
On the agenda for the February 7 Council meeting – which you can now watch on the Township’s YouTube channel – is a discussion of “Option to Purchase Property for a New Well”. Later in the meeting, the agenda lists “New Requests for Water and Sewer Allocations” as a topic for discussion. The addition of a new source well to the Township water system is certainly the easiest option, and the one that will provide more water allocations in the short term, given that the system is already fed by wells. The other longer term option for source water would be to run a pipeline either directly from the St. Lawrence River to the South, or from an existing municipal water system that uses the St. Lawrence River as its source.
A few short years ago, the town of Maxville in North Glengarry installed a brand new municipal water system to replace the private wells that its residents had been drawing from. The only two options for source water considered at that time were both existing municipal water systems. The City of Cornwall is said to have rejected a request from North Glengarry to pay to tap into their system over concerns that it would draw businesses and residents away from Cornwall. North Glengarry Council therefore ran a pipeline to a system they already own – the Alexandria water system, which draws from the Garry River. In North Dundas, the surface water option would be more sustainable in the long run, but would not get new water allocations quickly enough to those who need them now. Such a project would take years to complete. Given the attention being given to this issue, all Council members have thus far made good on their promise to take the water issue seriously.
Other agenda items for discussion on February 7 which I lament not being able to speak more about owing once again to that pesky printing deadline include: remuneration for Council, the Fire Department, and full time Township employees; a January activity summary from various Township departments; and finally, an introduction of a list of Township boards and committees. Such a jam packed meeting! Want to know more about what is going on in your community and your local government? Don’t be afraid to go straight to the source. The Township of North Dundas YouTube channel – on which all Council meeting recordings are posted – can be accessed online by visiting https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEHN4uflBAU-2WZCe2LcyOQ.