Ditches, dogs and chickens

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Clogged Hudson culvert. Preventive maintenance would work wonders but what would it cost to get ahead of the problem?

Less than two weeks to go to voting day and candidates are getting antsy as the mayoral and council races close up. This is the way of things in elections. Someone who scored last week’s mayoral candidates’ debate put Nash and Nicholls within a few points of one another.

Questions I get most often going door to door in this campaign: who are you running with, what’s your platform and who should be Hudson’s next mayor. I’m guessing we’ll be asked that last question at Thursday’s council candidates round table, 7:30 at St. Mary’s Parish Hall in Como. Get there early.

Officially, every one of the 15 candidates in this election is running as an independent. There are no parties or slates, but alliances and clandestine hookups are emerging. This is how politics is played in Hudson, in private as Hudson’s special-interest lobbies scramble to ensure they have horses in this race to town hall, where they’ll be competing for influence and financial support.

None of that is of concern to District 5 voters I’ve met in my door-to-door walkabouts.

Last week a Ridge Road resident invited me for a drive around the block. He wanted to show me a drainage problem in his neighbourhood which causes his back yard to flood most springs. The network of ditches and culverts that should be draining water from Oakland into the big interceptor running along the back of Ridge are clogged with leaves and yard waste. He maintains the town has neglected to clean them out regularly. This has been going on under the last two administrations; he even won a lawsuit against the town in small claims court.

What can you do, he asked me, “and if you say ‘nothing’ I won’t vote for you.”

I can’t blame him. He’s had it with the town’s intransigence. He was particularly upset over the fact the town installed new drainage culverts when repaving that bombed-out stretch of Ridge Road this summer. Those culverts solve nothing because the ditches and culverts downstream are blocked.

Politicians don’t like ditches and culverts because they’re boring. But ditches are crucial to Hudson’s health. Bad drainage speeds the freeze-thaw deterioration cycles destroying our roads. Blocked culverts shorten the lives of our septic tank weeper fields. Clogged ditches stink and breed mosquitoes. If Hudson installed culverts and drains in the roadside ditches lining our major arteries we could backfill and pave them over to create pedestrian and bike paths.

Drainage is a problem even in parts of District 5 connected to the sewer system. At one house I visited, the owners were excavating a ditch along their property line to channel the water from their sump pump to a culvert running under Maple. It looked to have collapsed, prompting me to wonder at the wisdom of repaving without tackling drainage problems.

I don’t think it’s a personnel problem. Hudson’s technical services personnel were responsive and efficient in dealing with concerns in District 5 where we live, and in District 3, where we have a business. But whatever system the town has in place to track drainage problems doesn’t seem to be working on Ridge.

It seems to me that the cleaning of ditches and culverts should be ongoing. Maybe they don’t have to be scooped out every year but someone should give them a look and check to see they’re flowing. If they’re clogged, someone has to decide whether it’s a one-day job with a backhoe and a couple of guys with shovels or a major project requiring excavators, cofferdams and a big crew.

Other MRC municipalities seem to have groundwater problems under control. They fix broken things without having to hire consultants and they seem to be able to do it for less.

A Hazelwood resident told me Côteau du Lac mayor Michel Jasmin doesn’t buy new town vehicles. He buys two-year-old vehicles off lease, with warranties. He hires local kids to cut the grass in town parks, hands them the keys to the park chalets and makes them responsible for maintenance. There’s no graffiti, no garbage and very little vandalism because the kids take ownership.

This summer, Côteau du Lac spent $6 million repaving its streets. Instead of floating a loan bylaw, the town paid cash. Like that Hazelwood voter said, there’s nothing wrong with being small-town cheap if it allows us to avoid borrowing needlessly.

That Ridge Road resident who threatened not to vote for me without a promise? I told him I’d make his drainage problem my drainage problem.

•••••••••••

At our weekly Sunday gathering a neighbour asked what could be done about a dog that barks incessantly. “Six hours one day,” she said. She looks after a dog herself when its people are out of town and finds it just plain cruel. There’s a town bylaw but it’s vague and and difficult to enforce if there’s nobody home to let the poor beast in, which is usually the case. So she called the SQ.

I’m trying to figure out how it should work. The SQ is too overworked and understaffed to deal with nuisance complaints. The Community Patrol has been stripped of its bylaw enforcement power. The town pays for the services of an animal control agency but they’re not allowed to break and enter to deal with canine scofflaws. In other municipalities, pet ordinance violators receive tickets in the mail and are hauled into regional municipal court if they don’t cough up.

•••••••••••

I’m coming across a fair number of neighbour/neighbour squabbles. Most involve trees, dogs, fences and water rights, but this past week I heard a new one: chicken-keeping households are attracting foxes and the foxes are eating all the rabbits because the henhouses are too well built.

What’s the answer? Regulations decreeing rickety henhouses?

Never a dull moment for whoever’s elected here in waterlogged, dog-loving, chicken-keeping District 5.

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2 thoughts on “Ditches, dogs and chickens

  1. Hi Jim,
    Similar to my other comment. “Ditches and Bitches?’ Tired, tired…of the ‘male-isms.’ The eye-catching, biting, angry rhetoric used to gain attention. Especially in view of all of the #metoo. Think about it.

    Like

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