This weekend, Quebec’s chief electoral officer Pierre Reid and his team launched a province-wide campaign to encourage more people to vote in the Nov. 5 municipal elections.
The Quebec turnout averaged 47% in 2013 (Hudson’s turnout was dead on the average). Reid thinks the best way to improve participation is to appeal to the 67% of young voters who can’t be bothered.
The way I see it, voter apathy isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the public’s disgust with elected officials who don’t or can’t deliver what they promise.
How many times have we seen political candidates make promises that have no reasonable chance of being kept?
Then, rather than admitting their responsibility for their failure to deliver, they climb into their bubble and accuse their critics of fomenting negativism.
This bogus us-versus-them myth becomes the justification for ramming through legislation or bylaws without consultation or information.
The failure to manage voter expectations is the biggest single issue plaguing western democracies. It’s behind Trump’s election, Brexit, Catalonia’s referendum and Scotland’s secession bid. The Liberals’ failure to manage expectations is behind Justin Trudeau’s fall from grace.
Going door to door in Hudson’s municipal election campaign is turning out to be a real eye-opener on the outgoing administration’s failure to manage expectations. It also puts the lie to voter apathy. District 5 has 835 registered voters and the vast majority of those I’ve met are eager to talk about what they like and don’t like about their town.
Our conversations usually begin with well-worn issues such as substandard snow clearing and crumbling infrastructure. They quickly morph into specifics. Young families wonder why there isn’t more for them, such as a water park or a public tennis court. The biggest concern among the elderly is is losing autonomy in a car-oriented community where practical, sustainable quality housing is in short supply.
Active seniors who chose Hudson for the outdoors lifestyle are the angriest. We’re overtaxed and ignored when we complain, they tell me. Cycling on Hudson roads is downright dangerous. Walking trails aren’t contiguous or well maintained. Many say Hudson is under-serviced when compared to its neighbours and to West Island municipalities.
Development doesn’t seem to be a hot-button issue. Voters of all ages tell me they don’t oppose well-planned development but given the choice, they like Hudson the way it is. Bigger isn’t better. Don’t over-extend. Build on what exists and look for ways to improve what we have without raising taxes.
Many blame the outgoing council for the lack of civility in public meetings and the lack of clarity on budget and development issues. The single most disturbing comment I’ve heard: “We would have had second thoughts about moving to Hudson if we’d known the administration was in such disarray.”
I ask people whether they’re planning to vote, either in the Oct. 29 advance poll or on election day Sunday Nov. 5. Their stock answer: yes.
Then I’ll ask them why they think more than half of Hudson’s eligible voters don’t vote.
The answer I hear most: it’s because people feel nobody’s listening to them anyway so it doesn’t matter how or whether they vote.
I listen, make notes and refrain from making promises. I figure it’s a start.
Back in 2013, I first wrote about Ravin Boisé, a major residential project being proposed for a forested area in Vaudreuil-Dorion bounded by Upper Alstonvale to the west, Highway 40 to the south and existing developments along Harwood to the north and the east.
I could mourn the loss of another beautiful south-facing woodlot filled with deer, wild turkeys and mature hardwoods, but that’s life in a society that subsidizes fossil fuels and encourages urban sprawl. No, my beef with Ravin Boisé and its 200+ doors is how the developer is proposing to deal with the massive quantities of sewage and runoff directly uphill from the wetland that feeds Viviry Creek and the aquifer that supplies Hudson its drinking water.
At the time, V-D mayor Guy Pilon said Ravin Boisé wouldn’t be allowed to proceed without its own sewage treatment and runoff retention systems.
Earlier this year, work got underway on the project, beginning with an access road from Upper Alstonvale. Last week I biked up to Ravin Boisé to check on progress and ran into someone who said I was welcome to ride down the new road.
Work is well underway on what the developer’s website characterizes as Phase 4. The road into the project is approximately two kilometres long and terminates in a clearing at the bottom of the hill next to Highway 40. The road contractor is installing storm sewers and water lines but there’s no sign of a sewer system and no mention of any sewage treatment facility on the Ravin Boisé website.
I’m waiting for callbacks from Vaudreuil-Dorion’s urban planning department and/or developer Habitations Robert.
The potential for a runoff retention problem is far greater, now that the hillside is being stripped of the trees and undergrowth that used to slow the flow long enough for runoff to percolate into the soil.
The road heads straight downhill, a man-made river directing runoff and meltwater from all those roofs and all those paved driveways directly into the Viviry’s headwaters. Standing there at the bottom of the hill, I could visualize the effects of a torrential downpour, beginning with the Upper Viviry widening into a lake before the volume of water continues down through Hudson.
We’ve already seen what happens to Pine Flats after heavy rains. It turns back into a lake and the Viviry threatens to wash away what’s left of the dam next to Cameron, with potentially catastrophic effects on one of Hudson’s main roads in and out of town.
There are ways to retain and redirect runoff. Our neighbours have a steep driveway up to our street. In winter, there’s a real risk of a vehicle sliding down their hill and crashing into the garage door. So they asked Gord Simpson of S&S Landscaping to come up with a solution.
You’re looking at it here. S&S reshaped and excavated the driveway to include berms that will act as dams to direct runoff to the downhill side. Then they refilled the driveway with layers of gravel, beginning with maybe a foot of coarse stone. Then came more layers of finer gravel that will provide the bed for a type of paver that allows water to penetrate.
If all goes according to plan, the entire driveway becomes a permeable structure that will drain runoff as quickly as it turns to water. Theoretically, ice can’t build up and all S&S has to do is clear the snow without risking a fast trip downhill.
Back to Ravin Boisé: unless the development includes a common sewage treatment system as well as runoff retention measures, the risk of groundwater contamination with fecal coliform rises exponentially.
Understand this: upstream development poses a significant and growing contamination risk to Hudson’s water supply. As we learned at last month’s special presentation, the only sustainable solution lies in drawing water from the Lake of Two Mountains.
The only way Hudson’s taxpayers can afford the $12-$15M cost is to reach agreement with Hudson’s equally thirsty neighbours — Rigaud, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion, home to this and other water-consuming, runoff and sewage-producing developments. If I was Hudson’s mayor, I’d be pushing this file nonstop at the intermunicipal, regional and provincial levels.
Because as you can see, everything is interrelated — sewage treatment, runoff retention, Pine Lake, a new well, development in Hudson and neighbouring municipalities. There’s an argument to be made against spending $1.4M on a new well if there’s the slightest possibility we can come up with a cheaper long-term solution that will bring water to everyone.
Water is and should be at the heart of this election. Without a sustainable water supply, nothing else matters.
Update: I spoke to Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor Guy Pilon Friday afternoon, Oct. 16. He told me the environment ministry demanded that the developer install a tertiary sewage treatment system with sufficient capacity to handle the volume produced by the development when it’s completed.
Pilon said runoff mitigation and retention measures aren’t necessary because the developer is being required to ensure wide setbacks along existing watercourses.
Enough of the forest canopy is being protected to slow runoff and allow it to percolate into the soil, he added.
Will the outflow from the sewage treatment plant and runoff from the development increase the Viviry’s volume and flow rate downstream through Hudson?
I’ll continue writing this blog for the duration of the election campaign. I won’t burden my readers with lurid campaign details to date except to say I knocked over my ladder while putting up Jim Duff District 5 posters and had to koala-hug my way down a splintery staple-studded hydro pole.
We have to keep our eyes on the goings-on at Hudson town hall for the duration of the election, out of public view from this evening until the next mayor and council are sworn in more than a month from now.
Council will be dissolved after this evening’s special meeting (7 p.m., Community Centre) but town business will continue under the supervision of the acting mayor (pro-mayor Natalie Best) and town manager Jean-Pierre Roy. That includes loan bylaws for paving and a new well, a parking bylaw and approval of the new Coast Guard base.
I’m sure resolutions adopted at last week’s council meeting will reverberate during question period, especially the announcement of a deal with Sandy Beach developer Nicanco whereby the town takes over responsibility for Beach Road/ Royalview. In exchange, the developer adds a lot to the east to the existing servitude and agrees to install all infrastructure and pave the road. The developer will also cover the cost of two sewage pumping stations and extending a line west to the sewage treatment plant.
There is a long and growing list of work being done to comply with the Dec. 31 deadline for completion of projects receiving funding this year, including a new roof and mural for the curling club. Two local artists, Daniel Gautier and Kent Thomson, will be paid $10,000 each (they have both been cut $5,000 cheques to cover their setup costs) for designing and creating a We are Canada mural (citizens are promised some form of input at a later date). Roy, as DG, has been given authority by this council to sign cheques and approve contracts while residents pick a council that will have to live with the results and approve the final tab.
Posted this on FB yesterday:
Going through the auditor’s report on Hudson’s fiscal 2016. (It was presented at this council’s last regular Monday-night rubber-stamp event.) A $976,343 operating surplus, $4M in the bank, $400,000 more than budgeted to pay down the $26.7M long-term debt, lower than budgeted expenditures. Flip side: Hudson’s auditor can’t attest to the veracity of the data in their report because the town remains under a MAMOT dark cloud.
It’s hard to nail down, this dark cloud but there’s no doubt it’s there, a conflation of Louise Villandré’s online gambling frauds and the litigious mess involving the town’s former DG, a human resources consultant and the outgoing mayor. Here’s the introduction to an adverse opinion of the town’s financial situation (my translation and synopsis:
Our responsibility consists of offering an opinion on the consolidated financial statements on the basis of our audit. We carried out our audit according to generally recognized Canadian audit norms. These norms require that we adhere to [our profession’s] code of ethics and that we plan and conduct the audit so as to reasonably assure ourselves that the consolidated financial statements not contain significant anomalies.
An audit presupposes the carrying out of procedures designed to gather correct data concerning the sums and information contained in the consolidated financial statements. The choice of procedures is up to the auditor, and notably that his evaluation of risks the consolidated financial statements may contain significant anomalies and that these may result in frauds or errors. In the risk evaluation, the auditor takes into consideration [the Town of Hudson’s] internal controls on the preparation and accurate presentation of the consolidated financial statements so as to come up with audit procedures appropriate under the circumstances, and not with the goal of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the [town’s] internal controls. An audit also carries with it an appreciation of the appropriateness of the accounting methods used and how the consolidated financial statements are presented.
The audit evidence, Gaudreau, Poirier concluded in its report, is “sufficient and appropriate on which to base our adverse opinion (opinion d’audit défavorable)”
Wikipedia: In an audit report, an adverse opinion is one expressed by the professional accountant in which the auditor formulates a restriction on the basis that the financial statements do not fairly present the entity’s financial position and results in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or a other applicable financial reporting framework.
Gaudreau Poirier continues: The town’s internal control deficiencies between 2004 and 2013 may have allowed some expenditures on town projects covered by [government] grants not in conformity with the loan bylaws that approved them. The auditors were unable to determine specific incidents.
In their view, the town’s consolidated financial statements do not give an accurate picture of the financial situation of the town and organizations under its control as of Dec. 31/16.
This post has been corrected to reduce the payout to the two We are Canada artists to $10,000 from $15,000.
A FB message from Culture and Tourism director Laura McCaffrey on plans for public involvement: “Mr Duff – a quick correction regarding the mural info you posted on your latest blog. Each artist will be paid $10,000 for their work, which will have extended over 3 months. Input from residents has been solicited over the last 2 months via emails to our community and cultural organizations and their members, through social media, and through printed media with an article in YLJ and Arts Hudson. In addition to the submissions that we have received from the public, which have all been taken into account in the design of the mural, Hudson residents will have an opportunity to contribute to the actual painting of the mural once the painting process has begun. At the outset when determining timelines for the completion of this project, we concluded that November 11th would be a realistic and appropriate date to unveil the completed project. We continue to be on track to meet this deadline.”
The alleged conversion of the beach servitude to outright public ownership was based on an unrecorded conversation and remains to be confirmed.
One of Hudson’s mayoral candidates waylaid me this week, wondering how to get people fired up about the upcoming election campaign. (Nominations open and the campaign officially begins Sept. 22. Nominations close Oct. 6 and the campaign finishes with the election Sunday, Nov. 5; so far, there’s next to no interest.)
Uppermost in both our minds: 53% of Hudson’s eligible voters didn’t vote in the last election.
I have the answer: trees, dogs and cats.
Before I get around to explaining, it’s too bad Hudson’s pontificaters and bloviators can’t be bothered to inform themselves on what’s been happening at the Quebec National Assembly this year — and how those happenings relate to Hudson.
If they did, Hudson residents could look forward to a more sophisticated, better-informed election campaign where those seeking election will have to do better than the usual yawners about transparency and commitment.
Trouble is, there’s no easy way to make administrative issues interesting despite the profound effect they’ll have on our community. I’ll begin with Bill 122, ‘an Act mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers.’
Bill 122 was adopted June 15, but only after the Couillard Liberals agreed to an amendment doing away with obligatory referendums on zoning changes. The amendment gives municipalities the choice of whether to adopt a public consultation policy to replace the ‘subject to approval by referendum’ process. Hudson’s Prévost administration chose the public consultation route without explaining the change to residents.
Back in January, I posted Waiting for Bill 122(WordPress, Jan. 16/17) following a lengthy interview with Hudson’s director-general Jean-Pierre Roy. He explained in general terms how Bill 122 would allow Hudson to take control of development. But because 122 was not yet law, Roy didn’t explain the political mechanism whereby the town would be able to move past zoning bylaws subject to approval by referendum.
Nor did the current council, presumably because they thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie. It wasn’t until a May 23 public consultation that Hudson residents realized that by adopting three concordance bylaws (688,689,690) the town was giving itself the powers vested in it by Bill 122 to pre-approve a number of development projects, including Sandy Beach, Willowbrook and a townhouse scheme on Como Gardens.
Those three concordance bylaws also enabled transport-oriented development in sewered sectors of town. Two other zoning bylaws (690,691) cleared the way for Wyman Memorial United Church to sell a parcel of land for residential development. (A sixth modification to the town’s master plan, Bylaw 685.2 which I don’t believe was adopted, would have established Greenwood Centre for Living History’s right to non-conforming use.)
When we were done adding the potential numbers, Hudson found itself looking at close to 1,000 new doors in a town without enough water in its reservoirs to fight two fires simultaneously, let alone meet a 30% shortfall during peak demand periods.
The current administration made little effort to explain any of this to residents. Under Bill 122, municipalities are no longer required to post public notices in local newspapers. Instead, they face tougher transparency requirements, including an obligation to post every public document on their municipal website. Not only has this council failed to explain due process; it persists in obfuscation.
Hudson’s development future? Ellerbeck’s 98-door Willowbrook project is on track to become the town’s first development to be approved without recourse to a register or referendum.
And, as they say in the telemarketing ads, that’s not all. If Hudson Valleys developer Daniel Rodrigue had waited for the town to adopt bylaws 688, 689 and 690 before seeking a zoning change for his Mayfair semi-detached project, contractors would be pouring foundations this fall. Instead, the project was rejected in a register because Rodrigue failed to convince residents the project was to their benefit.
It could well prove to be NIMBYism’s last stand in a community notorious for its hostility to new development.
Because Rodrigue’s 24-door townhouse development isn’t toast. Bill 122 allows a municipality to identify requalification zones in its planning policy, where redevelopment such as densification or urban renewal won’t require a rezoning bylaw subject to referendum.
Then there’s draft Bill 132, an Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water. It’s called a draft bill because it’s currently before the NatAss Committee on Transportation and the Environment undergoing clause-by-clause consideration. It’s a political hot potato because it delegates decision-making on wetlands and eco-corridors to Quebec’s regional municipalities, or MRCs.
Hudson’s draft conservation plan is being rushed to completion despite persistent questions about wetland swaps approved by the environment ministry. What’s the rush? Sandy Beach? Como Gardens? The enabling legislation hasn’t been adopted — and won’t be until sometime next year.
Other issues loom, like fallout from the 17.5% salary increase to the Sûreté du Québec’s 5,400 members. The formula under which the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC is taxed for SQ policing is part of a Quebec-wide equalization scam. On average, Quebec municipalities pay 53% of the cost, Quebec the rest. But wealthy MRCs (we’re one) are assessed approximately 110%, with individual municipalities refunded half the excess. Quebec’s two municipal federations are fearful those rebates to their members will be slashed, possibly in excess of the 17.5% increase to cover the added cost to have-not MRCs.
Hudson, like most small municipalities where policing represents a sizeable chunk of their overhead, has come to depend on that rebate. But who’s going to get fired up over something they can’t change?
Now to the trees, cats and dogs.
Draft Bill 128, tabled in June, will dictate a province-wide law regarding dogs that bite people. Municipalities will have the power to adopt stricter regulations, but if they don’t the provincial law will prevail regardless of how Hudson’s dog lovers feel about it. Now, this is a hot-button issue in a town where many feel it’s unfair to leash their four-footed furry buddies, let alone muzzle them if they get rowdy with a neighbour’s toddler.
We’ve all seen horrific injuries inflicted by unmuzzled dogs, but like guns and climate change, we’re dealing with denial. Should Hudson ban specific breeds? Prosecute the owners of canine offenders? Aggressively enforce leash and poop laws?
While we’re at it, should people be allowed to trap cats trespassing on their property, eating songbirds and crapping in their garden?
…which brings me to trees. The new owners of a home on Ridge Road cut most of the trees surrounding the house to increase drainage on the perennially wet lot and to let some sun into their new abode. The neighbour, a house-proud couple for whom the illusion of country isolation was important, were outraged. Should the town consult with our neighbours before issuing tree-cutting permits? Now, there’s a fight worth having.
How about closing the town core to traffic on summer weekends? Or metered parking?
If it’s voter turnout we’re after, get people going. Forget the boring stuff, like governance and vision. Find those hot buttons and poke at them until Hudson’s sleeping dogs wake up.
Hudson Village Theatre has the town’s go-ahead to add an addition to the west end of their playhouse in Hudson’s former CP train station. Council’s conditions: it must be hooked up to municipal sewers and have two basement exits with old and new basements connected.
HVT executive director Kalina Skulska told me the addition will provide the theatre the space it needs for social events and theatre activities. She made a point of emphasizing the theatre isn’t looking for handouts from the town, adding HVT has gone it alone since its inception with the help of its sponsors and fans.
A coincidence? Council Monday night also approved a town policy for the recognition and support of non-profit organizations, allegedly in response to an embarrassing incident in which a cheque to a local organization was deposited into somebody’s private bank account.
In the preamble, the town links its financial support to an organization’s ‘recognition status’ and degree of accountability. Organizations requesting handouts from the taxpayers must be headquartered in Hudson, have 70% of their directors from Hudson, respond to a collective need, conduct all their activities in Hudson and not look to the town as a primary source of funding.
Institutional, political, religious, professional, philanthropic or any group “supporting or accompanying sick, addicted or incarcerated individuals” shouldn’t bother to apply.
The policy item that raised the biggest squawk was the requirement that any applicant with an annual budget of $20,000 or more, or having received a grant of $5,000 or more from the town is required to provide audited financial statements.
Hudson Music Festival co-organizer Lynda Clouette Mackay pointed out that an audited financial statement can cost as much as the grant is worth.
“There is flexibility, obviously,” said councillor Ron Goldenberg.
But you’ve passed it tonight, several in the audience pointed out.
Pro-mayor Natalie Best said at first there could be modifications to the resolution before it comes into effect, then persisted and signed. “It’s already passed but we’ll take it under advisement.”
Community Centre reno rush
The rush is on to spend as much of that $555,000 loan bylaw before Dec. 31. Council voted to approve a $22,460 contract with architect James Lalonde to prepare tender documents for the renovation of the Community Centre. Also announced was a notice of motion of delegation of powers to DG Jean-Pierre Roy so decisions regarding this and other town projects continue to be made in the period between the end of the current council’s mandate and the swearing in of their successors.
Following the council session Parks, Recreation, Culture and Tourism Director Nicolas Pedneault gave me a tour of the Community Centre with the emphasis on what renovations are needed. Roof leaks, crafty, leaky original low-grade windows and doors and worn flooring are obvious. Less obvious is the lack of a proper commercial stove ventilation hood and other shortcomings in the heavily used kitchen. The structure averages 100 visitors a day and has been designated as the town’s emergency shelter.
When the bylaw was adopted the town vowed not to spend any money unless it was matched dollar for dollar by the federal government’s Canada 150 and other community infrastructure programs. In other words, the taxpayer’s share of the total would be a maximum of $227,500.
Compost pickup coming
Organic waste pickup is coming as early as next year. Council voted for Hudson to join other Vaudreuil-Soulanges municipalities also part of the Montreal Metropolitan Commission in a project to collect compostables in 45-litre bins.
More new hires
Hudson’s next town planning services director was introduced. She’s Marie-Claude Besner and she’s been involved in urban planning since the early ‘80s. She replaces Natalie Lavoie, off to Two Mountains after 15 years in Hudson. Also hired is a new town clerk, two articling law students, a part-time employee for the finance department, facilities attendant and a mat leave replacement for Parks and Recreation.
$15G for snowclearing mayhem
Transport André Leroux Inc. finally got the cheque for the last instalment of last year’s snow-clearing bill — $45,931.51, minus $15,000 representing the damage the town and Leroux agreed was caused to property by incompetent operators. Residents found the damage settlement to be ridiculously low and demanded whether Leroux will be tearing up Hudson streets again this coming winter. They were told it’s a three-year contract and the town will be working more closely with the contractor to ensure better service.
Sooner or later, Hudson and its neighbours will be forced to draw their drinking water from the Lake of Two Mountains, residents were told at last night’s presentation of a status report on the town’s chronic water shortage.
Until a regional cost-sharing agreement is reached on the construction and operation of a $12-$15M filtration plant, Hudson has no other choice but to spend $1.3M to sink another well as quickly as possible to meet a 30% peak-demand shortfall.
The bleak assessment as well as immediate and long-term solutions were the work of the Citizens Action Group on Infrastructure, one of several advisory committees created by mayor Ed Prévost.
“We’re not looking for a divine solution,” chairman and District 2 councillor Ron Goldenberg said in his introduction to the briefing prior to the monthly council meeting. “We’re looking for a practical solution.”
Emphasizing the non-partisan urgency of Hudson’s looming water crisis was the presence on the committee of Jacques Bourgeois, the unsuccessful 2013 mayoral candidate. Bourgeois’s consulting group helped design and install Hudson’s aqueduct and sewage treatment systems and he has worked with municipalities in Quebec and Ontario in addressing potable-water issues.
In describing the situation he didn’t hold back. “The alarm bells are going off everywhere.”
Highlights of Bourgeois’s technical briefing:
– Only 10% of the precipitation falling on the region feeds the aquifers from which close to 100,000 Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents get their water. 70% is lost to evaporation. 20% is lost to runoff. Runoff is increasing due to development. Less retention means less water percolating, or making its way into the water table.
— Precipitation is less dependable. Precipitation maximums and minimums are less consistent. Example: the 100% swing in precipitation from 2015 to 2016.
— Hudson’s four main wells (Wellesley A, Bradbury, Hudson Valleys and Alstonvale) have a combined production capacity of 3,547 US gallons a minute. Demand peaks at 4,750, representing a 30% shortfall. The Bradbury, less than 10 years old, is producing at below rated capacity and requires remediation.
— Human water consumption averages a cubic metre a day, or 254 US gallons. The treatment and storage capacity of the Woodland waterworks will be exceeded once Hudson’s population hits 6,530 (current pop. 5,135.) New development already approved in the town’s draft conservation plan would raise the town’s population close to capacity.
The committee’s recommended short-term solution: a new well in the Viviry watershed. The aquifer will support a new well. The infrastructure and expertise are already in place, several potential sites have been identified, the expenditure is already planned in the town’s PTI and provincial approval would be expedient given the urgency.
The added capacity would allow replenishment of the reservoir at night, when demand is lower, thus retaining water levels adequate to meet peak daytime demand and firefighting requirements.
The long-term solution would be a new treatment plant allowing the town to draw water from the Ottawa River as do many other Quebec and Ontario municipalities, Bourgeois continued. The river provides stable quality, a reliable, easy-to-manage source. The main drawback is cost. A facility capable of providing 10-15,000 cubic metres/day would cost $12-$15M to build and $400,000 a year to operate. This explains why the capital and operating costs of waterfront treatment facilities are usually shared by three to seven municipalities.
Rigaud, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion all have potable-water supply issues, Bourgeois noted. Rigaud has already expressed interest, he added. His proposed critical path for this and future councils:
– Proceed as soon as possible with the new well;
– Mandate a steering committee to oversee short and long-term solutions;
– Commission a detailed feasibility study on a lakeside treatment plant.
Questions ranged from whether it would be cheaper to cap Hudson’s population, to how much water is lost due to leaks (5%, said technical services director Paul Boudreau, while Austin Rikley-Krindle cited a paper suggesting it’s closer to 18%). Concern was expressed over drawing water from a river into which hundreds of municipalities dump treated and untreated sewage amid growing evidence that micro-contaminants such as excreted prescription drugs pose a potentially serious health risk.
The briefing marked a a turning point, both for this administration and for how the town is addressing a serious issue without delving into the rancorous partisanship hallmarking the last four years. Bourgeois prefaced his technical briefing by noting the group had consulted with former technical services director Trail Grubert, whose post-retirement severance and pension fight with the Prévost administration ended up in court.
The committee’s makeup (Goldenberg, Bourgeois, Bill Nash, Marcus Owen, Betsy Stewart, David Warne, with Boudreau and grant writer/waterworks technician Simon Corriveau) implies this isn’t going to be an issue that fades after the Nov. 5 elections. Nash is a mayoral candidate. Owen is attending MRC meetings.
Prior to the briefing I asked Goldenberg how he got along with Bourgeois. “I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling, but Jacques knows the water file like no one else and knows how to work,” he told me. Others told me there was council resistance to Bourgeois and Grubert, echoes of Prévost’s blanket rejection of anyone who had worked for the town prior to his election.
Twenty years ago, I wrote what would become the first of an endless series of articles and columns in the Hudson Gazette explaining why Hudson would be pulling water from the Ottawa some day. I was called a fool and worse by people who had no clue what they were talking about. How do I feel now? Vindicated — and awed by the enormity of the task of making it happen. Thanks to all who enabled this discussion to take a great leap forward last evening.
Last Saturday we headed down to Jack Layton Park to launch our kayaks for a front-row seat on HYC’s Labour Day Regatta. There was a lineup of boats at the launching ramp and the parking lot was filled with cars, trucks and trailers. We saw nobody from Hudson. I suspect the vast majority were out-of-towners taking advantage of free services subsidized by Hudson taxpayers. Why, we wondered, is the town not charging for parking like just about any other popular nature destination I can think of?
Same story at Sandy Beach. Out-of-towners and their dogs, breaking Hudson’s leash laws with impunity. Locals tell me they don’t go near the beach on weekends because of out-of-control dogs. How many times in the past four years have council meetings heard these and other complaints?
I’ve been told the SQ won’t get out of their cruisers because the beach is privately owned. If the town’s development deal with Hans Muhlegg doesn’t insist on converting the existing servitude agreement to an outright transfer of ownership, how will this change?
At least Jack Layton Park is being well maintained. The Sandy Beach Nature Trail isn’t. The bridge and boardwalk connecting the two remains closed. The observation deck on the lake is gone. Those ugly and expensive land art installations are disintegrating and carving chunks out of one of the majestic white pines. It’s depressing, seeing the neglect surrounding Hudson’s window on the water.
Benign neglect would be one thing. This is malevolent neglect. Hudson’s Parks, Recreation, Culture and Tourism directorate, under whose purview these facilities fall, has had budget increases every year since the Prévost administration took power. So why is one of Hudson’s most important greenspaces being allowed to fall apart like this?
It’s simple. Charge for parking, as they do at Cap St. Jacques and most popular parks. Decide whether Hudson residents should get special treatment. Mandate public security to ticket those who don’t pay. Use the revenue to maintain the space and fix what’s broken. It may be lost on some, but the culture file includes our natural environment.
Update: Following tonight’s council meeting, department director Nicolas Pedneault told me work has begun on the bridge and boardwalk. The steel structure was bent by the force of the floodwaters and needs replacement. Parts of the deck and handrails also require replacement. The lakeside observation deck will be replaced once the bridge reopens.