Victor Hesse is a frustrated municipal politician. He served, as the sole council rep, on the septic re-assessment committee for Central Frontenac Council for three years. After submitting a draft plan, then holding public meetings, the committee brought their plan to council for approval in October.
And the plan was rejected.
Two weeks later, Councillor Tom Dewey brought in an alternate proposal that set out a phased-in approach to the assessments, delaying implementation for off-water residents for an extra 5 years, and cut the septic pumpers out of the loop as far as conducing assessments is concerned. The Dewey proposal, which was adopted by Council, enlists Chief Building Official (CBO) Shawn Merriman to design a program and bring it back for consideration.
During the debate on the Dewey proposal, Victor Hesse said it was a plan that was “designed to fail” and in an interview with the News this week, some of the feelings of the moment had cooled, but he still thinks there are major flaws with the direction Council has taken.
“The situation now is that staff is being asked to design a program for waterfront properties first, but that is a mistake. They are not the ones who really should be looked at first. The biggest question mark about environmental impacts is within the hamlets. And the hamlets will not be completed within ten years.”
According to Hesse, the focus on waterfront properties is based on politics. The pressure to come up with a septic plan came mostly from lake associations and waterfront residents, whose main concern is the water quality of the lakes, and the main push back against the program was coming from off-water residents who were concerned about the potential cost of compliance with the program.
“But what is more important than politics is coming up with something that serves the long term interests of all residents, and provides more information and assurance to the township about what is really out there. There is a lot that we don’t know about septic systems in our township,” Hesse said.
The third major concern Hesse has is with cost of assessments. The committee had proposed that septic haulers, of which there are 6 working in the township, would be able to complete the assessments at the same time as they are doing pump outs.
“We contacted the pumpers and 3 were in favour of doing it this way, two were opposed and one was on the fence about it. We asked about what they would charge and they placed it at $25 or $50, except for one who said he would have to charge $100.”
Under the newly adopted proposal, pump-out companies will not be doing assessments. A separate inspector will need to be paid, and the residents are going to be paying directly unless the township steps in.
“Now that the pumpers have been cut out, the only option is to use the Mississippi-Rideau Septic office, and their fee is $130. I don’t think residents will like that,” said Hesse.
John Duchene, who lives on Kennebec Lake and was a citizen member of the committee with Hesse, said that he was also disappointed when the committee’s report was rejected, and he shares Hesse’s concerns with the direction that Council has taken, but he remains hopeful that a plan will emerge that does some good.
“I do think that they have placed all the burden on the Chief Building Official to come up with a plan, after we spent years consulting and gathering information from many sources to come up with the one that has been rejected. I hope they follow through in the end,” he said.
For his part, CBO Merriman said he plans to bring something forward in January, following Council’s direction.
“I’d like to get this started in the spring if Council is willing,” he said.
The Dewey proposal also included the following directive: “Staff be directed to develop a program for low income home owners whereby a list of referred agencies that are available to help with funding for failed systems is regularly maintained, and updated along with a municipal program, whereby staff will investigate and bring forward rules and procedures for a municipal assistance program.