What seemed like a simple matter of transferring a contract from one subcontractor to another, quickly became a controversial topic for discussion at the October 18th South Dundas council meeting.
Don Lewis, Manager of Planning and Enforcement for South Dundas, proposed to council that the township consider entering “into an agreement with South Nation Conservation (SNC) to deliver Part VIII of the Ontario Building Code (OCB) pertaining to the design, construction, and maintenance of sewage systems.”
Lewis outlined the situation and reiterated his recommendation from the written proposal presented.
South Dundas, as well as neighbouring municipalities, received a letter from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) on August 3, 2011 terminating their role as subcontractors for administering Part VIII of the OBC effective January 1, 2012.
Sewage systems became the responsibility of the municipalities in 1997 whereby they were given permission to subcontract to health units or to conservation authorities.
With this new development, a meeting was arranged with the Chief Building Officials of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry on August 11 “to discuss possible options of delivery methods.”
Two options mentioned were contracting SNC or doing the job “in house” whereby the township would hire additional staff specifically for the task.
Lewis believes that “entering into a contractual agreement with SNC would be the most advantageous and create a seamless transition for Municipalities, contractors and landowners.”
“SNC has expressed an interest to administer the program at the same fee structure set out by the EOHU at $650 per new application,” he continued.
Lewis further explained: “When delivering the program the delivering agent must also deal with the complaints pertaining to grey and black water issues as well which are difficult for yearly budget purposes.”
In addition, “SNC currently have staff trained to deliver the Part VIII program.”
Lewis admitted that inspection of new septic systems would be the “easy part,” adding that there “will be the necessity of mandatory inspection of existing sewage systems within the influence areas to be defined by the Source Water Protection Committee.”
“Quite honestly, I’ve had a fairly good working relationship with SNC,” he offered.
In response, Councillor Archie Mellan voiced concern about having SNC showing up on doorsteps unannounced to inspect resident’s septic systems. He wanted to know the specifics behind the mandatory inspection of the existing septic systems in terms of rules, regulations and guidelines.
“I think we (council) should have some say. Who is setting the guidelines?” He continued, saying he doesn’t “want to get into a situation where SNC is calling the shots.”
South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds said, “I do concur with Councillar Mellan” in his concern with a “broad-based mandatory system.”
Following inquiry about the length of the contract, Byvelds asked Lewis: “Are you going to have a clause to get out” of the contract?
South Dundas Chief Administrative Officer Stephen McDonald told council that, if council agrees, staff would ensure that an “out clause” be put into the contract.
Council was informed that the township of South Stormont has decided to enter into a contract with SNC for one year.
Council decided it would be prudent to look at the original contract with EOHU “to get an idea” of how to proceed in designing a new contract with SNC.
Byvelds suggested adding an extra service to the contract with SNC for the rural taxpayers: “an annual or biannual education program on septic systems (outlining) what they should be doing.”
He said that he felt “people need to be educated” on the proper care and maintenance of septic systems including things like what can and cannot be put into a septic system.
He told council, “I’d feel a little better letting them know what’s going on.”
To clarify the situation, South Dundas Deputy Mayor Jim Locke asked, “are we at the mercy of SNC or the province?”
Byvelds replied: “Provincial guidelines interpreted by SNC,” continuing, “they do have a good reputation, but to be fair, it is their interpretation of the rules.
In the end, council agreed to move forward with the proposal. Once staff has negotiated an agreement with SNC, McDonald reported that they will “be bringing the agreement back to council for approval.”