By Chad Ingram
Published June 28 2018
Algonquin Highlands council is looking at ways to provide financial help to residents who may not be able to afford septic system repairs or replacements that may be required as a result of the township’s mandatory septic re-inspection program.
Each of Haliburton County’s lower-tier townships is initiating inspection programs with the one in Algonquin Highlands getting underway this year. So far approximately 300 inspections have been performed. The program is scheduled to last five years.
Councillors discussed ways the township might provide financial assistance to residents who need it during a June 21 meeting.
A staff report from chief building official David Rogers indicated that the program through the City of Kawartha Lakes which is the social services provider for Haliburton County offers residents who meet the program’s criteria up to $10000 for home improvements.
The program is not specifically tied to septic system improvements.
Mayor Carol Moffatt asked if the program could be applied to retroactively. Rogers said to his understanding no and explained the program has a fairly narrow application window; between April 1 and 30 of any given calendar year.
There was also consideration of Algonquin Highlands providing a self-funded model whereby the township would lend money to residents who require it in order to complete any necessary septic work.
Such a model would essentially function as a local improvement agreement such as the sort the township offered to residents of the seasonal Bear Lake Road when residents requested the road be upgraded to meet municipal standards and be maintained year-round.
“We know certainly in our conversations around Bear Lake Road how onerous a local improvement program can be and often quite objectionable” Moffatt said. “And so we seem to be at a dead end. The only thing I can offer in terms of exploring anything different is in speaking to Mayor Brent Devolin in Minden they are also looking at . . . they are going through the same process and they are looking at how they can self-fund something that provides some assistance.”
Minden Hills is in the process of instituting a septic re-inspection program making it the last of Haliburton County’s municipalities to do so. It looks like the township will likely sign a contract with WSP Canada for the work the same company that Algonquin Highlands has contracted to oversee its program.
“I tend to disagree” Deputy-Mayor Liz Danielsen said in response to Moffatt. “I know that it’s onerous it’s a difficult process to go through but so is borrowing money from the bank. I want us to continue to look into this.”
Councillor Brian Lynch was concerned how cumbersome such a process might be for residents.
“The people that would be targeted are typically lower-income seniors people who would have trouble with forms and so to make the process onerous and make a program that’s difficult for the public to participate in doesn’t make sense to me” Lynch said. “We need to have a process that is simple and straightforward.”
Chief administrative officer Angie Bird said what makes the process complicated is a requirement for residents to demonstrate financial need.
“It is onerous but part of it is that they have to prove need and there’s where a lot of confidential information comes into play” Bird said.
Algonquin Highlands will keep its eye on what Minden Hills may do in terms of a self-funded model Moffatt said and a staff report with options will come back to council.