Reign of error

The Town of Hudson’s reign of error continued at the June council meeting with the revelation this administration won’t hold a byelection to replace the ailing Mayor Ed Prevost. Councillors appeared to be divided on whether to hold a byelection to replace dissident councillor Rob Spencer.

Neither Spencer nor Prevost have attended the last three council sessions. Article 317 of Quebec’s cities and towns act says a municipality MAY hold a byelection to replace council members if they miss four meetings and if more than a year remains to the end of the current mandate. That would be in November 2017.

But Article 317 is rife with weasel words and wormholes. The town is under no legal obligation to replace the missing council members if the remaining councillors agree it would be in Hudson’s interest to continue as is. Town clerk Vincent Maranda told residents he checked with the municipal affairs ministry (MAMOT) to nail it all down and they said it was kosher. I checked with Quebec’s director-general of elections and got referred to MAMOT. I asked the legalists at MAMOT whether citizens had any say. They told me I could file a complaint. Translated, there’s screw all anyone can do. In Quebec, municipal democracy is an oxymoron.

I get that the mayor may need the medical insurance that comes with the job. So be it. But what’s it say to you if this administration opts to keep Prevost on the payroll out of mercy and guns Spencer because he took Prevost before the Quebec Municipal Commission?

Likewise, I’m struggling with the word to describe this administration’s statement that Hudson’s business sector supports the installation of water meters in the commercial sector. This prevarication was delivered during question period by councillor Ron Goldenberg and town manager Jean-Pierre Roy, who as far as I can determine, attended none of the meetings where this was discussed. It was in response to my accusation the town has done nothing to prepare for this summer’s incipient water shortage and the inevitable ban on all lawn watering other than to restate its determination to stick it to Hudson’s hapless commercial sector yet again.

One of the local rags subsequently reported the exchange verbatim without fact-checking. In fact, businesses had reluctantly agreed to  water meters back in 2014 as a concession to arrive at a solution to the water tax crisis (engineered by the current council). Not that most residents care, but businesses were (and still are) being grossly overcharged for water in comparison to residents. (How many businesses have bathtubs? Swimming pools? Automatic lawn sprinklers? 2.5 bathrooms? Dishwashers? Laundry rooms?)

In 2014, Goldenberg gathered a water tax committee which consisted of both business owners and residents to review and make recommendations with regards to installing water meters. From the outset, business owners and commercial landlords were led to believe the entire town would eventually be metered and that they were to be the first step in the process. So the consensus was that businesses would be the guinea pigs. In exchange, the town would agree to meter some 50 residential properties to establish a comparative sample to properly measure consumption. Furthermore, public buildings would also have to be metered, including schools, churches, town buildings, etc. (Basically anything that is not residential).

The only part of those 2014 discussions to have survived was “businesses agreed to be metered.” The rest? Conveniently forgotten.

Also conveniently forgotten was council’s vow to post details of the litigation embroiling the town (50 grand this month, I’m told.) There was a Gazette story reporting the vow in early March. There was a repeat at last week’s council meeting. Unless they’ve artfully hidden the list somewhere on the town’s expensive new website, it’s still not there.

 

All this to say there’s a good reason why transparency and accountability are nowhere to be found on the town’s $5,000 mission statement. Old-fashioned virtues have no place in Hudson’s new branding. Take solace in the growing assurance that meters are no more likely to this inept administration of dreamers and schemers than the Mohawk performing arts centre or the wholesale giveaway of public greenspace. Fair trade, my ass.

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “Reign of error

    1. Or the bigger question: instead of drinking water, why not use recycled grey water to flush toilets? Because Canada’s building codes expressly prohibit it. How regressive is that?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not convinced the Canadian Building Code prohibits grey-water re-use in toilets. What makes you so sure? I believe the traditional potable water system for drinking water, kitchen use must most of all be designed/built to be completely separate from the grey-water sanitary system. The larger problem has traditionally been people’s acceptability, their ability to adapt and accept the look of grey water in their toilets.

        Like

      2. Thanks Jim for directing me to the link. I’d like to hope this 2010 report will be revisited now as Sustainability is moving to the forefront of the federal political discourse. I will forward to Peter Schiefke’s local office and ask for a follow-up on this particular topic.

        Water being an important issue in our region as our local level of government has reminded us at the last council meeting in the passing of a multi-point resolution, probably appropriately defined as a ” Water Omnibus bylaw” where, to my count, 11 items were looped into one, leading to how water metering was becoming a necessity in Hudson as to share the water responsibility with the individual user while sensitizing individuals to the importance of Water Conservancy. Not terribly different to the approach of Carbon taxing or Polluter pays, where in this case, if you use potable water, you will be asked to pay according to your consumption: if less than average, you are rewarded by paying less, if you use more potable water than the average, you will be penalized by paying more.

        The question remains: are individuals really the problem of the local (regional?) water shortage? Or are leaks in the system added to multiple golf courses AND housing developments tapping all into the same water table more the issue? Could we not focus on the gist of the issue instead of adding further punitive measures which don’t address the root of the situation?

        This reminds me that my notes on this item, number 10.2 of the agenda, are a little vague as to the reading of the multiple measures, reasons and targets was overwhelming in scope and too unfamiliar for me to truly wrap my mind around all the points which may or may not affect my day to day reality. I will need to send in for a request for access to public information to receive the full list and description of this council meeting agenda item.

        Moving forward, it would be thoughtful if the Town might make all resolutions and details readily available on the Town website as regular practice instead of having to repeatedly go through such administrative formalities and burdening our town clerk with this process.

        In addition and in support of other members of the community, I believe strongly that the consultation of the general public on structuring issues such as Water metering are important, to generate valuable discussion and constructive feedback. It is important to make the information leading to this decision accessible through informative sessions and discussion forums mediated by/with the local decision makers and administrative directors responsible for the devising and implementing these measures.

        I look forward to reading more thoughts and opinions on this particular topic on this forum or any other. Thank you Jim!

        Like

    2. Why should taxpayers subsidize those who don’t upgrade to best practices when federal, provincial and municipal governments can’t be bothered to upgrade their standards? We don’t allow old vehicles on our highways without inspections and safety upgrades. Why should we allow builders and homeowners to keep installing 20th century sanitary systems?

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Whether or not Prevost and his cohort can find a loophole to allow him to stay on as Mayor is hardly the point. He should admit the job he was doing up to the point of his illness wasn’t w/o mishaps and I’m not sure he has the overwhelming approval ratings to assume we all are willing to await for the return of his steadying hand. The decent thing to do is to resign. There going to drag this vacuum to Nov./16 when the point will become mute and then limp to an unproductive finish in Nov./17. Rob Spencer needs to attend council meetings or explain to his unrepresented constituency his absence. This is unacceptable.

    Like

  2. …sins of commission and omission. As the DGE explained, the clock runs out on Spencer and Prevost’s tenure with the opening of the July council meeting. Council has already made it clear they will not declare Prevost’s seat forfeited but may try to unseat Spencer if it can agree. I called the entire process I democratic but that doesn’t faze this bunch.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Welcome back Jim.

    First we really need to remove the idea that we have a successful enough business environment that can survive higher taxes and services while attracting new businesses to Hudson. We’ve known for years that we need more water, the current administration plans to add new dwellings to support future plans and present problems and they need to do more than expensive temporary flushes of over-stressed existing wells.

    I did notice this morning that we’ve revitalized the downtown core and repainted the crosswalk markings, right over all potholes and defects. I guess that means that those won’t be on this summer’s paving list.

    There’s been so much to do, so many things that obviously need repair and could attract consensus, but in the end not much visible will have been accomplished.

    Behind the scenes we’re improving our backlog of non-conformity, but are we doing many of those in a timely or quality way? Conservation plans and PMAD spring to the front of my thinking.

    On the chance that an intelligent concerned citizen Councillor has filed a valid ethics complaint with consequences, we turf him out of office at our own peril. There’s to be a hearing June 22, but I’m betting it will be postponed due to any number of reasons.

    It is unseemly to eject a mayor for health reasons, but there needs to be a significant expectation of a return to enough health to function withing the remaining term or perhaps we should expect the respect of a resignation rather than an ongoing leave.

    It’s time to start planning for Hudson leadership and direction beyond this Council’s term.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Talked to a parks and rec staffer a month ago. said he was in a hurry , going down to paint the parking lines in the parking lot at the Jack Layton Park. I said it’s gravel , why would you do that, said he had been told to by the new Parks and Rec director. They were erased by spinning tires within days and everyone was back to parking like before. While they were at it they decided to whipper-snip to the ground the hydro-seeded wildflower rock garden. God , I want Julia Shroeder back.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Now Brian, you must understand by now that Hudson is different.

    We must keep our staff occupied at all times and to do that we must add more and more management who must work within unimaginative constraints.

    We also cannot actually fix anything anywhere in town because that could spark infrastructure envy among citizens.

    And if we were to repave roads, people will just go faster and then we’ll have to install speed humps everywhere. I think they’re actually doing an exhaustive consultation on the fiscal efficiency of installing new potholes where streets are too smooth.

    Anyone notice that Pine Lake is re-growing wild weeds (naturally hydroseeded at zero cost) well and that the Dam has sunk probably another 6 inches on one side and now the gate mechanisms are off kilter further and finally pulling away from the sinking concrete block? All according to plan, wait long enough and any problem will eventually sink into the ooze. Six feet to go, sinking about 6 inches per year, it will be all gone in another 12 years so we need another 6 suggestions for a solution each year, that makes 72 more ignorable good ideas we need.

    Brian, it will be so much easier if you just start drinking the Koolaid.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s what I appreciate most about Hudson. Problems, if ignored long enough, cease to be problems. What’s the point of repaying when a third of addresses on the sewer system aren’t connected because they can’t afford it? Rigaud dealt with that problem by passing borrowing bylaws to replace non-conforming septic systems and repaying the long-term loans with a surtax on those properties. How many properties in the skewered core are now polluting the groundwater because nobody’s pumping out or inspecting their septic tanks?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow , Rigaud actually went on private property to replace defunct systems? I mean it’s a good idea if they can legally do it and obviously did. Helps having Hans who would know more about the technicalities than anyone. In Hudson , whatever the problem, from potholes to personnel we just put an orange pylon near it and call it fixed or fired , and you know what? they replace those pylons when they start looking shabby. Noblesse Oblige as I have said in Hudson translates as ” That’s Good Enough”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They floated at least two loan bylaws to ensure all systems were conforming rather than fighting with holdouts who don’t buy the concept of a common good. Anyway, Peter’s right on leaving Hudson’s streets as they are to hold down speeding.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The original sewer plan in Hudson should have (there’s another should have) included a time limit to connect after which an annual additional charge for non-connection would be levied.

    Also, local banks might have been brought into the mix to help finance connection costs with lines of credit.

    We just finally connected last Fall. As it was structured, there was no real incentive: we had a relatively young and perfectly functioning septic system and we had to damage a 1929 hedge to connect. So, we chose a time when the diggers were hungry for business, the septic tank needed pumping again and we connected.

    More of concern is that we still have many very old septic systems in other parts of the village and greater town, some even old cesspools. Seems the only time they get forced to replace is when the house is sold and the bank won’t finance it without a septic inspection, or when the seasonal stink becomes unbearable, or when you have to wait a day or two between washing cycles. Walking dogs you learn a lot, if you don’t break an ankle on our roads. If you smell laundry soap or sewage in a ditch there’s probably a bad septic system very close by.

    I believe Rigaud forces an inspection and pumping annually or every two years built into the tax cost. That’ smarter than Hudson.

    Like

    1. My husband and I received a notice this spring from the Hudson’s Planning department reminding us that we were several months overdue in emptying our septic tank. I believe a 2-year cycle is mandatory locally. We were informed that we had until June or July (I don’t remember) to comply, so a decent amount of leeway. The infraction was corrected but I have not had a chance to send in the proof, assuming that in the end they will be informed through the local sewage collection company just as they had when we were remiss. So it is my understanding that the process of verification is operational and functioning adequately. I have no knowledge however if this process covers all septic systems or only those emptied or even installed by a specific company.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. One more point on Jim’s comments. Why repave the downtown core when we’ve known for years that we must dig them up to replace and repair parts of the water system? And why, oh why, didn’t we fix that when we were installing Sanitary sewers?

    Like

  10. Great to see Hudson is following up on septic pumping, but there’s more to septic health than pumping.

    In reality a well installed, properly running septic system in good soil digests almost everything and rarely needs to be pumped. My grandfather the farmer claimed a couple of dead barn cats was all you really needed to get a new system started well.

    The process of pumping every two years can actually stop the digestion, so the better pumping now replaces the water which also saves them hauling and disposing of mostly water.

    The requirement to pump and inspect is really not adequate to differentiate a good system from a bad one. If the weeping field is contaminated or too old or on inadequate soil, waste water won’t absorb or evaporate adequately and will pool or flow. downhill, like much of the Birch Hill area. I think there are dye tests available to check which system is the problem.

    Walk around the village area and there are some tragically ripe ditches on hot days and many areas with excessive and early algae blooms also a potential sign of a nearby inadequate septic situation. And I’ll bet there are still a bunch of old cesspools without weeping fields still in service. Not all are bad, but some are terrible and people stretch them because replacement is very expensive.

    Easy to find if the town records are well kept those that have not installed a new or replacement septic system in the last 25-30 years would be a good start.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have a system called a classic sand filter. You need to be on a higher elevation w/a stream of a certain volume somewhere lower than the system. Uses 2 levels of standard weeper field , the first at the standard level of about 24″ down then about 6 ft. of very coarse sand (special) and then a replica weeper field about 8 ft. down which then has an outlet into the stream. Basically a mini-sewage treatment system. no electrical,no mechanical. I live alone and will always argue a one system fits all 2 yr. compulsory septic emptying is inefficient. It was lobbied by the ass. of septic system installers and passed into law by our quebec lawmakers. complete pork barrel politicking a la belle province. I know I’m starting to sound like one of those Montana free men that are always surrounded by FBI agents. Brian the Unapooper.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. One of the first things the former D.G., Catherine Haulard, did was to abolish the water tax rates for commercial and residential properties that had been in place for over 30 years! She summarily declared to council that the varied commercial water tax bills were biased – stating she had uncovered the fact that businesses of a similar nature were paying less water tax than a competitor across the street. Council bought her opinion hook, line and sinker without bothering to check her assumptions or to confer with the town engineer who was intimately familiar on how the rates were established for every commercial enterprise in town.

    When I asked for a meeting with members of council as the former mayor and also as a commercial property owner – the first thing I was told by two of the councillors that the rates were rigged to favor particular businesses and therefore the entire policy had to be overhauled. Prior to the meeting, I took great pains to explain how the commercial rates were established and why a restaurant on one side of Main Road paid less than another – it had all to do with whether they were serving 1,2 or 3 meals a day and how many days a week they were open for business and not that Louise or Trail favored one enterprise over the other.

    If memory serves me correctly, before this council was elected the residential water tax was $240 per year – lower than some other municipalities, similar to others …….

    I also explained that the town engineer, our sewage consulting engineers (LBCD), the project manager for the water and sewer projects (Camiller Belanger), and Paul Boudreau had spent the better part of a year re-evaluating all businesses and their water usage to come up with what they considered would be a fair rate for sewer and water usage rates for each commercial building (obviously what goes in has to come out!) – all rates were to be based on the residential rate – either a multiple of $240 or a fraction of. For example, a commercial address with one person would use considerably less water than a household …….. Similarly, a multi-tenant building with six small offices should not be charged as 6 residences.

    Mme Haulard began with a number of false assumptions, then calculated an incorrect total for all commerical buildings, subtracted this from the total costs to arrive at the odd residential rate of $69 and some odd cents per household – the lowest in the MRC by the way! The first clue that something was amiss if they had bothered to look was that Hudson was the only town that charged a rate that included cents.

    All council’s efforts since then, in claiming to appease various commercial property owners who rightly accused the town of being unfairly treated with respect to the new water and sewer tax rates, have been to try to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    Now take a look at the rate being charged to the residents of Hudson Valley and Alstonvale – hundreds of percentage points versus the rest of residents in town. The former DG claimed the cost to run this system was considerably higher than the rest of town – more garbage! The residents of Hudson paid nothing to have the wells in both areas installed – it was part of the developer’s responsibility in exchange for the zoning change that permitted this development. Council and former DG were unaware of this ……………….. and did not take this fact into consideration when evaluating the overrall costs.

    When asked at a council meeting how a commercial office building with 4 people being serviced by the same water line as a residential building in the same area could be charged 700% as much – the Mayor had no answer then nor has the “committee” since.

    As a commercial property owner, I do not recall ever having been consulted by council nor agreeing to having water meters installed nor being told on what basis we would be charged – will it be the same rate as residential? How will public buildings be assessed; schools, churches, community pool, etc.; leakage/waste be taken into account?

    The former DG is now gone – why haven’t her flawed policies also been dumped?

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s