By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
VARNA – Bluewater municipal council discussed the proposed 2013 Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) budget at its Dec. 3 meeting.
ABCA general manager Tom Prout appeared before council to discuss the proposed budget, which will see a 1.99 per cent levy increase from 2012.
As a result of the increase Bluewater, which pays the highest percentage of all member municipalities, will pay $267,590 in 2013.
“In Bluewater's case (the increase) turns out to be 2.5 per cent," Prout said. "That's because of the value modification assessment that the province has, obviously it indicates that your municipality has some growth."
"Those figures are beyond our control. We get those figures from the province," he continued. "Then we use those figures to determine the apportionment for each municipality."
Prout noted the budget will be voted on Dec. 20 at the ABCA board meeting.
"(It's) a weighted vote," he continued. "When Janisse (Zimmerman, Bluewater's board representative) votes she will vote with the modified current value of assessment for Bluewater.
"When we get 51 per cent of the assessment that vote is carried."
Prout added the ABCA tries to leverage all municipal contributions with additional grant money from foundations and government agencies.
"For every dollar of municipal money we get, on average we're getting four other dollars to spend in the community," he said.
Hay West Coun. John Gillespie noted Bluewater will pay $267,590 in 2013.
"How much of that is going to be spent in Bluewater?" he asked.
Prout noted it's very hard to specify.
"We can look at the project levy and see where some of those projects may take place," he said. "Some of those projects may take place in Bluewater.
"I would have to go through the detail of the budget to figure exactly how much of each one of these was in Bluewater. In some of them there won't be any money spent in Bluewater."
Gillespie noted in the past Bluewater has paid for water quality testing on top of its ABCA contributions.
"For $260,000 and change couldn't the conservation authority afford to pick up that eight or nine thousand dollar expense?” he asked.
Prout said no, the levy fees pay for the ABCA's overhead costs.
"The levy from the municipalities is the foundation on which we build our programs," he said.
Gillespie said he would be hard pressed to tell a Bluewater property owner what the municipality is getting for its ABCA contribution.
Zurich Coun. Janisse Zimmerman asked what council's position would be on the budget.
"I did vote for the two-per cent increase on the project and general levy," she said.
Zimmerman made a motion asking for council's support for the 2013 ABCA budget, which was not seconded.
"I guess I got the message," she said.
Other council notes:
Solar decision deferred
Council heard a presentation from Certified Solar Inc. seeking municipal support for a proposed solar rooftop installation on Henry Gerrits’ property on Highway 4, as part of the Green Energy Act.
The proposed project would be 200-megawatts, selling the power into the grid.
Stanley West Coun. George Irvin said council passed a motion that it wouldn't make any decisions on solar projects until it received a report on the safety of the projects from manager of protective services Dave Johnston.
Bluewater chief administrative officer Steve McAuley said Johnston has started to develop a protocol after meeting with two solar companies which had previously appeared at council.
Hay East Coun. John Becker noted one of the companies, Solarize Energy, is developing a safety plan for the entire county.
Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp made a motion to defer a decision on the issue until council gets a report from Johnston at its next meeting Dec. 17.
Dashwood rec committee
Council passed a motion to create a seven-member Dashwood Recreation Committee, composed of five members of the public and one council member each from Bluewater and South Huron.
McAuley said the decision came out of a meeting between the mayor, deputy mayor and CAO from each municipality to discuss common issues.
He noted the discussions included the Dashwood Community Centre and baseball complex as the properties are jointly owned by South Huron and Bluewater.
"We're proposing to advertise for members," he said, noting applications would be discussed by the mayors, deputy mayors and CAOs.
The motion was carried unanimously.
Mandatory septic maintenance
A county program that would see a mandatory septic system maintenance program received Bluewater's support.
The program requires a triple-majority to move forward, which includes majority support at county council, at the municipal level, and the municipalities which support the motion must represent a majority of county's population.
The program, which was passed by Huron County council in August, would be administered by the County of Huron Health Unit.
Based on a five-year cycle, the program would include all septic systems in the county at a cost of $155, with high-risk areas being inspected first.
The fees would be billed annually on taxes over the five years.
Septic waste haulers would be pre-approved to conduct initial inspection at the time of pump-out and a site inspection would also be conducted by the Health Unit.
Councillor-At-Large Tyler Hessel made a motion to support the motion, seconded by Irvin.
Stanley East Coun. Dave Roy said he's had a few people complain, noting they can't see paying $155 for another septic inspection.
Hessel noted a lot of consultation was done with haulers in the program's development.
Gillespie said he's in favour of a septic inspection program, just not this one.
"In my judgement it's too costly and over-bureaucratic," he said. "I believe Bluewater can do it much more (effectively) and at a much reduced cost."
But Klopp noted lower tier municipalities, such as Bluewater, have the option of delivering the program on their own once the program is initiated.
The motion passed in a recorded 7-3 vote, with Gillespie, Roy and Becker opposed.
Wind turbine legal advice
Council passed a motion authorizing McAuley to retain the services of Eric K. Gillespie Professional Corporation out of Toronto for the purposes of drafting the building permit fees bylaw for industrial wind turbines.
Mayor Bill Dowson, Klopp and Becker declared a conflict on the issue.
McAuley noted staff looked at the bylaw and think they could use some legal help.
He added the aforementioned legal firm is fairly experienced with industrial wind turbines and the Green Energy Act.
McAuley noted the rates for the work will be on par with what the municipality would receive in London, which will be included in the 2013 budget.
"I really think this is the way for us to go with this," he said. "To get some good professional advice to move forward."
Coun. Gillespie noted he is not related to Eric Gillespie.
The motion carried unanimously.