Stuck in the muck

My shorts are in an ever tightening knot about Pine Lake. Sure, Pine Lake is not an essential part of Hudson, despite once being the now removed iconic picture on our Town’s website. But what does Pine Lake say about us, and are we listening?

I’ll write a few brief paragraphs each on one point of why I’m bothered. I could go on for pages and pages, but this is my quick top of the head morning coffee list. I’ll write them in no particular order of importance so that those who wish to comment can refer to a point they wish to discuss. Feel free to add your points of bother to the discussion, or just rank them from your personal highest to lowest importance.

#1) Pine Lake is a depressing eyesore that a significant part of Hudson drives by each day. Many of us start and end our day passing this reminder that Hudson is somehow so broken that we can’t fix Pine Lake.

#2) Pine Lake had value to far more than the few property owners around it. In the past, I have made early morning panic stops to move dinner plate sized turtles across the road so they wouldn’t get hit, I smiled when the beautiful herons were there on my way home from work and we took our grandchildren there on village walks to see and feed the ducks. Many people fished Pine Lake, many stopped and sat and Pine Lake was a great first impression of Hudson year round. Now it’s an eyesore.

#3) Hudson acquired Pine Lake from private owners and committed in writing to maintain it for the town use. We have failed to honour that legal document in a timely fashion and have no current plan to end this situation. What is exactly is the word of Hudson worth when residents and friends are driven to legal action against their own town trying to force us to honour our own past commitments?

#4) I believe that we have somehow made the restoration of Pine Lake a much bigger, more complex and more expensive deal than it really is. I know the government can get complex, but repairing a damn dam that’s been there for 50+ years should not be such a big deal.  We need a will to find a simple good solution. If we manage to complicate every problem like we seem to have complicated Pine Lake then it’s no wonder we don’t get anything fixed.

#5) Pine Lake and the discussions surround the required repairs divide Hudson into smaller groups exactly where we should be coming together. I’ve seen comments that support the repair if we can do it for $25K, which is totally unrealistic, others that practically demand that we repave every road in town before we get to repairing Pine Lake. Has it become a case that I won’t support your top project until my top project is funded? We have a town, but sadly we just don’t seem to have the community we once had.

#6) Pine Lake is just the visible tip of the horrible infrastructure deficit iceberg we’ve allowed and Hudson is the Titanic bearing down with a broken rudder and out of fuel. We know that there’s much to be done, yet year after year we see not enough getting done. So the lingering image of a mud flat mess instead of a pretty lake is confirmation that we are really too broke to fix things that matter, especially things that we said we’d maintain.

So, if you want to know what’s really wrong with Hudson, stop and stare for a while at the muck that was Pine Lake. Hudson is really just stuck in the muck.

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21 thoughts on “Stuck in the muck

  1. Threaded through the visual downside of Pine Lake’s muck and mire is an socio-political upside for council, administration, the principals and the community at large to rebuild while honouring the town’s commitment to an agreement. Being a forever optimist for a better tomorrow, fingers are crossed that the reconstruction of Pine Lake will be use as an unusual opportunity to negotiate good will between all parties.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Affordable Pine Lake Dam

      I have written quite a bit about Pine Lake in the Hudson Gazette and subsequent names of the same newspaper. I have asked questions during council meetings just to have the mayor and then Director general Catherine Haulard dismiss me with a sense of derision. I first contacted Éric Barré, an expert from the Centre d’expertise hydrique du Québec (the centre is a branch of the Environment Department of Quebec in charge of the safety of over 2,000 dams in the province)) who had examined the Pine Lake dam in June 2014. The figures coming from large engineering firms of $750,000 to repair of rebuild the Pine Lake dam were ridiculous according to some of the experts of the Centre d’expertise hydrique du Québec. (Ridiculous is the word they used…) The Centre offers a directory of dams in Quebec, with a good description of the water plan that they hold and the dams themselves. I found a couple of dams that did fit the Lake Pine profile. One is for Lac des Chutes (St-Hyppolyte, in the Laurentians) and another for Lac-Drolet in the Eastern townships. Both dams were done by Miroslav Chum, an engineer specialized in small dams who has a long track record of building small dams at a reasonable price, often using simple but efficient methods or techniques.

      Just to make sure that I was on the right track, I contacted the Director general of both municipalities. Both dams supervised by Miroslav Chum for lakes similar to Pine Lake, even a little bigger, cost under $100,000. Big Engineering firms had submitted tenders ranging from $750,000 to a million dollars for the small dams. And both municipalities were very pleased with their new dams and the work of Miroslav Chum.

      Mr. Chum submitted an offer to the city of Hudson but it was rejected summarily. I think the mayor and city council did not even take time to examine the offer.

      I transmitted the names, phone numbers and email addresses of both DGs that I had contacted with the information they had offered me to the City Clerk of Hudson, who was coordinating a committee of “experts” or “concerned citizens” examining the situation of the Pine Lake dam. Then I submitted the same thing to our new Director General. I fear that there were no developments with the information given to them.

      I write this in English, hoping some people in Hudson, especially those involved in the administration of the town, will take time to examine the Pine Lake Dam seriously. I have nothing against the big engineering firms. But “big” does not mean “better”. Hudson and Pine Lake deserve better than anything we have heard from the town administration up to now. Be it in French or in English.

      Luc Hétu

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you Luc, the Save Pine Lake page on Facebook has followed Mr. Chum’s proposal thanks to Trevor Smith. The original dam was built by local volunteers, it appears to not be a complex problem to replace it at a reasonable cost. But it has perhaps been over-complicated too early.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I will address #1 , the eyesore. It always amazes me how quickly nature begins the filling of the vacuum after a significant catastrophic event as we saw in the emptying of Pine Lake. It was especially interesting to note the stream route that evolved in the aftermath. Probably the original watercourse . Then you start to see the first generation of grasses and broad leaved species starting. Soon will come shrub willows , maybe alders, red maples and so on. My point is it’s just different , not an eyesore and fun for the biologists and school educational outings (maybe?) Ducks Unlimited insist part of their pond restorations is the ability to empty them for a full season every so many years for some revitalization on which I am not an expert. There is just as much wildlife there as ever. More of some ,less of others. So perhaps the emptying of the Lake may have some beneficial results beyond the obvious of dredging it out. What needs to be guarded against is the possible interim invasion of some alien species such as Phragamites which has already invaded the Viviry valley west of Cote St. Charles. Evil stuff. Crowds out everything else. Thank you too Mr. Hetu for revisiting the very valid work of Mr. Chum. We do have a very similar dam to one of Mr. Chum’s right over at the bottom of Appleglen. Same sized pond , cost about $40000 , 20 yrs. ago.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Brian, I understand what you’re getting at and that nature comes back. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think I’m in the majority that thinks it looks awful right now as is. Maybe another 20 years of general neglect will make it a bit nicer each year.

      But, if that is indeed a plan, then surely we’d need to provide some fill and reshape to raise some of what was the lake into land that will support better growth. And remove the damaged dam and make sure there’s a proper spillway under Cameron.

      This option does not respect the binding legal agreement those residents have attached to their properties. If it’s back to nature, then we need to negotiate in good faith and get consensus.

      Or we raise a middle finger to the agreement and spend more legal dollars than a properly priced dam is worth to possibly lose. I’ve read the agreement is so simple that it must be binding, it was drafted in a friendly environment clearly in presumed ongoing good faith and without interpretation confusion escape routes common to modern legalese.

      The Appleglen dam is a great example, thanks.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. You’re right about the Appleglen dam. The properties who benefited got assessed a local improvement tax. In the Pine Lake situation, logic would dictate that the same rule would apply would apply, however, the town did take it over so they should fix it. Actually we, is “they”)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Diane, thank you. This is a maintenance issue of longstanding town property, not an improvement issue. I believe that by virtue of the agreement to purchase Pine Lake and maintain it for the whole town that it would remain, as it has been since purchase, a whole town shared responsibility.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I have no idea where the Lakers litigation lies at this time but the mists of time may swirl back to cloud up their legal demands . It is documented that the Hudson Land Co. who originally subdivided the land and sold the lots now affected kept ownership of what is now the lake bottom. Probably it was marshy and unbuildable and they kept it to perhaps one day fill it and market it. Land values never got to the rate where this was economically viable and it was this company that passed ownership to the Town. The Lakers never owned it but they made a deal with the Town as a 3rd party, I assume the Pine Lake Club. Whether the latter had any registered legal standing or whether now the Lakesiders can be considered legally to have a dog in the fight based on the original vendor and purchaser arrangement is for the legal process to decide and take a very long time to do . Best another route be chosen.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree, litigation should be a last resort on every file between citizens and a town.

        Every old deal can be disputed at great expense by today’s lawyers who will take any side that will pay their fees.

        The deal may be questioned, but having read it, the intent was simple, trusting, clear and friendly.

        Litigation is a symptom in the case of Pine Lake, the people launching any action are paying legal fees on both sides as their municipal taxes would help pay to defend against their own suit.

        Inaction is the problem, no clear plan, no timeline and multiple committees without a clear conclusion.

        No way to treat your citizens, in my humble opinion.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello,
    My opinion is that the land facing Pine lake had an added value. The residents paid much more for their properties including higher municipal taxes. People were paying taxes for their land under water. That was a deal. If the town lets it go, the Council will have to go through a devaluation of these properties for tax purposes : damages by town employees on certain parts of the dam, fences and trees damaged, erosion etc. That will not put money back in the owners pocket at time of selling but if some well intentioned folks have their shorts in a knot, it’s about time the town council and its administration put their pants on, be clear, honest, efficient and repair everything this year. As for nature taking place, I do not like the vegetation taking over, I consider it as predators species of the least value and … it’s not healthy, nor a heritage type of vegetation. There are many protected wetlands, marshes and bogs on this vast territory for ducks and other fauna to nidify. Let’s go with a mirror pond of Hudson’s identity. Let’s stop looking like a town who spends eyes closed, a town menacing its residents with law suits when freedom of speech is a Canadian right, all of this mock lasted too long.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In case some have missed this, the Town Council Meeting minutes from December’s special meeting as available on the Town’s website contains the following resolution: (ref: Special meeting held on December 15, 2015, Page 6924 and 6925)
    http://www.hudson.quebec/wp-content/uploads/_conseil-maire/2015-12-15%20Minutes%20Special%20Eng.pdf

    ”PINE LAKE LAWSUIT AND COMMITTEE
    MVH-2015-229
    No: R3999-2015
    CONSIDERING a taxpayer is suing the Town for $196,224 plus interest in connection with the
    incident of the dam that gave way in April 2014;
    CONSIDERING the Town is also implementing an internal working group to work as a quality circle using all the information at its disposal including:

    • Analyze all studies and analysis, collected by the Town;
    • Enters into contact with government authorities, the MRC and others in connection with
    this case;
    • Will take note of the report of the environment committee of experts appointed by the
    Town;
    • Phase all stages of this project providing the main alternatives and solutions;
    • Formulate recommendations worked upon since March 2016 by Town council;
    • Analyse the lawsuit filed with the purpose of solving the problem;
    • Propose an implementation plan and a cost per value;
    • Integrate the file aspects, safety, profitability, public works, recreation and culture, urban planning, water management, municipal work, legal and others;

    CONSIDERING the working group consists of the following members:
    Jean-Pierre Roy
    Nathalie Lavoie
    Serge Raymond
    Vincent Maranda
    Stéphane Raymond
    Nicolas Pedneault
    Michel Helgen

    And this group can meet when five of its members are present.

    It is moved by Councillor Ron Goldenberg
    Seconded by Councillor Nicole Durand

    And unanimously resolved:
    TO NOTIFY the insurer of the Town, to seek coverage and designate the firm Dunton Rainville or another law firm as it could be required by the insurers of the Town and to file all necessary procedural legal documents promptly as to protect the interests of the Town to approve the creation of a working group which is also implemented with an obligation to report to Town Council in March of 2016.”

    In my personal opinion, the composition of this ”internal working group to work as a quality circle using all the information at its disposal” is missing some ingredients for full quality assurance in order to achieve best outcome and result : a resident representative, a civil engineer and a biologist. All of these are readily available ”in house/in Hudson”.

    I look forward to hearing the results of this obligatory report to be submitted to Council in March 2016 as stated in this resolution.

    I hope that Council will consider giving citizens the opportunity to review and offer input in the event that some concerns and solutions have been missed. If not Town wide, then at least through TPAC, assuring the members are given the necessary background information, full access to all reports on the situation and the time to adequately review. Their recommendations would ideally be shared with the Public.

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      1. That is one of those great fundamental questions… Perhaps a little too rhetorical for the liking of some, but certainly one I believe deserves more public discussion time.

        While I vaguely remember having heard the resolution being read out loud while at the December 15th meeting, I must have missed the ”quality” designation or I might have stood to ask for more details.

        What is Quality assessment? I had brought this up when the Conservation Plan mandate was up for tender. Lets remember that in the standard reading of the Cities and Towns act, Councillors have the duty to select review committee members. This task can be transferred by means of a by-law to the DG. Is this something we want and that is appropriate for Hudson?

        The problem is, standing to ask a question from a Council seeming so aloof to the project, it requires a certain courage and presumption to stand on topics others probably have a much better grasp on. One thing I am discovering is that the problem appears to be same across the board on all projects and most topics dear to a majority of the people who attend the meetings….

        So how do we generate better process and better communication?

        How do we re-engage the elected into this democratic process? I think this is the question Peter has been circling.

        BTW: Cities and Towns Act is easily found through a Google search…
        http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=2&file=/C_19/C19_A.html
        Then, one can do a simple word search instead of reading the entire document by pressing CTL (control) ”F” on your keyboard and entering the word or process one is interested in learning more on.

        For example, article 70… ”Every committee shall render account of its labours and decisions by reports signed by its chairman or by a majority of the members who compose it.” and ”No report of a committee appointed under this section shall have any effect until it has been ratified or adopted by the council.”

        Is a resolution a report?

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  5. I can see 5 of the 7 in the working group are town employees. I don’t know Stephane Raymond or Michel Helgen. Perhaps they have a background in civil or environmental engineering. 2 of the above are lawyers so we got the litigation side covered. An accountant , culture and tourism director, and a bylaw enforcement officer. Good , no Parks and recreation people, they just tend to get in the way when parks and amenities are under discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was curious, so I looked them up on the Town’s web site and the internet.

    Serge Raymond is the Town Treasurer and Town’s Finance Director, Stephane Raymond is the Directeur du Service des Eaux and Michel Helgen seems to run the Town website.

    It is too bad that some of the expertise of previous committees built around this issue were not kept on for this new excercise. Anyways… the results will just have to speak for themselves. Fingers crossed!… focusing on rolling Peter’s metaphorical boulder up the hill, side by side, in alignment…

    What was it I heard last night? ….I think i can, i think i can, i think I can… up the hill we push the Eco-trolley… ? … Could become a rather catchy tune…

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  7. Clarification/correction on my earlier post from 1:47 pm Feb. 29th:

    a ”Review committee” is not a ”Selection committee”:

    I should have written that Council has the task to select the members of a ”Selection” committee, while this task may be transferred (delegated) to the DG.

    In the article 573.1.0.1.1. of the Cities and Towns act (CTA) on ”Selection committees”:

    ”Where a contract for professional services is to be awarded, (…) (3) the council shall establish a selection committee consisting of at least three members, other than council members”

    (… see full online version for more)

    …”The council may adopt a by-law delegating the power to establish a selection committee to an officer or employee of the municipality and setting the conditions and procedures for the exercise of the delegated power”

    While more information and requirements are given in the CTA for other types of committees, these are rather general as to allow for greater manageability at the local levels.

    It is up to each Municipality to hone and improve on the standard spec, the master specifications which the CTA provides, adapting and improving the regulations as to best fits the needs of their territory. We should understand the CTA to be the base line, the minimum requirement. Nothing stops us for looking to elevate this standard locally.

    This explains how in older and more experienced towns with a greater attention to quality such as in Westmount or Hampstead have by-laws which are more evolved. These towns’ by-laws may be a good place to go looking for standards and benchmarks while we are looking for re-definition in Hudson.

    These are again great topics for public discussion. Without public discussion, presentation and review, without evaluating together pros and cons, chances are that an expensive short-cut approach will be performed, where an almost blatant copy of a solution prepared for another town might be slapped down here as law/resolution, where descriptions and objectives actually have little to do with Place and character.

    How does this fit with the heading ”Stuck in the mud”?
    Perhaps, we should be careful for what we ask for? I would hope that while long unclear processes have shown us no results, I would be weary of any fast grab-and-run solutions.

    I am still waiting anxiously for the Conservation Plan. What was the amount of that mandate? around $37’000$ …. That is only 2000$ more than what might be spent in the end on the Mission Statement…

    In the end, this comes back to Quality: our expectations for it and our acceptance of it

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    1. Details exhaust me and I’m short of time today, but I remember the resolution forming this committee.

      In the context, as I remember reading the resolution I thought it was to prepare documentation and details for the lawsuit from a Pine Lake resident (which in light of inaction to date I support the resident). I suspect the quality assurance is to be certain that the lawyers have all the facts and that those are the correct facts to make recommendations and prepare a response.

      Am I reading the resolution with my dark tinted glasses that I don’t see this committee as mandated to actually find and recommend a solution to repair Pine Lake?

      I know you’ll reread it for me with your eagle eye for details. Thanks.

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      1. Thanks for the re-read.

        So while some where excited we had a committee, others were upset it had no Pine Lakers on it, we still need a committee looking at how to actually fix Pine Lake.

        Liked by 1 person

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