COMBERMERE – The residents of Combermere shared their opinions on the issues surrounding the waste management and water treatment plant on January 3.
The Golden Years Activity Centre was filled with those who wished to voice their concerns about the ongoing battle against Madawaska Valley (MV) council regarding the raise in the taxes for the rural areas surrounding Barry’s Bay.
According to those who spoke, MV council is discussing charging those on well systems for the use of the water and waste treatment.
Petitions were handed amongst the crowd, stating that they too are opposed to the rise in taxes.
“I am against rural residents of the Madawaska Valley paying for the Village of Barry’s Bay’s water/sewage system and advise my elected officials to vote NO on this issue,” is what many of the attendants were signing in agreement with.
Ernie Peplinskie is the spokesperson for the Citizens Action Committee that was created in order to help prevent situations such as this from occurring.
Peplinskie began the meeting, stating that he felt as though council was hijacking their democratic rights for council’s own benefit.
“We need to stand up to the bullies,” he said, and later added that one of the concerns he has is surrounding the timing of the announcement of the situation.
“It was not a coincidence,” he said, after explaining that it was not until the Christmas season that the issue was brought to light.
Peplinskie also stated that it seems as though it may be a conflict of interest, seeing as many of the councillors live within the village limits of Barry’s Bay, according to him.
“We can sit back, or we can stand up for what is right,” he said.
Several of those who attended discussed how they would be bringing their feelings to council’s attention at the January 7 meeting.
In order to show their frustration, the residents held signage outside of the township office prior to the regular council meeting.
This is in hopes that they will be able to persuade several of the other councillors to simply say no.
Shelly Maika, a former amalgamation councillor, said that it was four or five years ago that the plant was built, after they had realized what poor condition the prior one was in.
According to Maika, it was an environmental issue, and the construction had to be completed quickly.
With the project expecting to cost millions, council pulled together the construction plan in hopes to gain government funding.
Their plan included a septage receiving station at the plant; this would help them gain the funding they were looking for in order to begin the project.
Council received approximately $5 million, Maika said, and that this was “no strings attached” funding.
Another grant was applied for, and council received $3 million for the project.
Maika stated that throughout her time on council, one of the councillors continued to press the issue of asking all taxpayers in the region to help pay for the plant.
“This was their [the councillors] agenda four years ago… They didn’t even have the support,” Maika said, stating that two councillors had not received any back-up on the idea of forcing those who live outside of the village limits to pay for the water/sewage.
According to Maika, the septage intake system, which is potentially used by those who live in the rural areas of MV as well as cottagers and trailers passing through, cost approximately $100,000 of the millions the plant cost in total.
Story continues in the January 9, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.