SCUGOG: A large crowd of residents packed Council Chambers on Monday, Dec. 15, while Scugog’s newly-elected councillors took their first crack at the issues surrounding the Greenbank Airways fill site on Hwy. 47.
After hearing from three separate deputations on the soon-lapsing fill agreement with the DLS Group, councillors voted to continue an interim agreement until March 31, 2015 - or until four weeks after the Ministry of Transportation returns with a verdict - hoping that a more cohesive agreement can be drafted in that time frame.
The additional provisions of load screening, fill source site segregation, and mandatory quality checks from source site personnel, were added in during an amendment to the original motion. These terms and conditions had been removed from the agreement during the last Council term, and will be put back into place during the interim agreement.
On-lookers did not seem pleased, jeering councillors and yelling “Shame!” while councilors voted to support the second motion. While many residents at the meeting expressed a desire for the agreement to be denied, and for the site to be shut down immediately, Mayor Tom Rowett explained to The Standard that such an outcome would not be in the public’s best interest.
“If the agreement were allowed to lapse entirely, the Township of Scugog could face legal action from DLS Group and Greenbank Airways,” said Mayor Rowett. “During the ensuing court battle, the Township would likely lose all control over the site, and the proponents could possibly just up and leave, leaving us with a mound of dirt and a hefty bill. It’s important to retain the control we have, and work on a stronger agreement.”
The various groups who made deputations – namely, the environmental advocacy group Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water, and local residents David LeRoy and PJ Moore – took issue with current public awareness and input, the current testing schedule of fill loads, and the Township’s power of oversight on the project - citing the decisions of previous councillors.
Scugog CAO Ian Roger responded to comments regarding the current testing protocol, stating that “The on-site screening is done on each truck that comes in. Depending on how many trucks are on-site at any given time, soil samples for heavy metals and organics are done anywhere from every one to every five trucks. This is sufficient, but could be changed if Council wishes.”
The LCCW also presented Council with a comprehensive site agreement template, based on the agreements of other area municipalities and recommendations from the Ministry of the Environment.
Councillors sent the extensive documents and recommendations to their legal team and third-party consultants, for review of their possible implementation.
The second deputation of the evening, made by local resident and professional consultant David LeRoy asked councillors for the municipality to immediately take control of the Greenbank Airways site.
“Congratulations - the electorate has expressed a desire for change in this municipality. Council now faces an opportunity with the expiration of the current agreement,” said Mr. LeRoy, while speaking to Council. “Last term’s Council originally met the site owners with good will and open arms - but that has since been exploited. We need to resume control.” Mr. LeRoy called upon councillors for stronger citizen involvement in the issue, and a committee of local residents to be formed – allowing for public meetings and input.
“I pay taxes to Scugog, but I feel like I live in North Korea. Testing records are not available, meetings are held behind closed doors, and citizen input is not allowed,” said Mr. LeRoy, who also expressed qualms with the Greenbank Airways web portal. “It is not the responsibility of the citizen to take on property owners for their violations, that’s the whole point of paying taxes for Township staff. In short, do your job.”
Mr. LeRoy continued on to call the current complaint protocol a “flimflam machine,” as residents have been asked to contact the Greenbank Airways property owner with complaints - who is charged to pass them onto the appropriate authority. Mr. LeRoy said that the complaints have not been handled correctly, and questioned the integrity of the process.
“Why would we call a private operator to complain about a public issue?” asked Mr. LeRoy. “We don’t even know how much fill is going in to the site, or where it comes from, or how clean or dirty it is.”
Mr. Roger responded to Mr. LeRoy’s comments, stating that “The amount of fill volume is updated on a quarterly basis and posted directly to the web site,” said Mr. Roger. “Based on the initial drawings, the Township agreed to accept 2.5 Million cubic metres of fill. That number is not in the actual contract, but it could be added in.”
After the residents in attendance grew loud and began taunting Council, Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew asked the crowd to remain respectful and conduct themselves according to Township policy.
Regional Councillor Drew later addressed the large crowd present at the meeting regarding the municipality’s handling of site to date, stating “we have done a great disservice to this community in not communicating the facts clearly and frequently - we will attempt to rectify this as much as possible.”
Ward 1 Councillor Betty Somerville reached out to The Standard and expressed her intention to facilitate community input in the new year, and that she would look into forming a citizen advisory group, if possible.
During the third deputation, local resident PJ Moore drew connections between the Greenbank Airways site and the Port Perry Dump, which operates in a similar waste receiving capacity and falls under strict regulations regarding gates, fences, receipts, and weigh-scales.
Ms. Moore called the Greenbank site “absurd” and raised the point that the Greenbank Airways fill site has almost none of those provisions in currently place.
“How can you [Council] discuss hours of operation and maximum numbers of trucks per day, without there even being a gate across the driveway?” asked Ms. Moore. “Our main economic drivers are agriculture and tourism - not fill. Our neighbour, Uxbridge, is known as the Trail Capital of Canada - can Scugog afford to be known as the ‘Fill Capital of Canada’?”
Carmela Marshall of the LCCW offered final comments to The Standard, after the meeting had concluded. Ms. Marshal expressed thanks to the councillors for their consideration of the deputations, and gratitude that the LCCW’s documents were referred to Scugog’s legal team and Township staff.
“While in a perfect world we would have loved to see stronger and more comprehensive requirements put in the agreement today, we recognize that the Township needs to do their due diligence and conduct a review,” said Ms. Marshal. “If the Township needs until the end of March to ensure a proper review, and time to put a stronger agreement in place - then we support that and thank them for their sincere leadership.”