“Like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives…”
Soap opera fans will recognize the above quote from the opening of Days of Our Lives. It’s a quote I’ll often reference to lighten the mood when discussing an overly dramatic topic at the office.
After sitting in on the June 21 Morris-Turnberry council meeting, that quote was uttered a lot this week.
Council once again revisited the proposed cross-border services agreement with North Huron for water and sewer services for 19 connections in Morris-Turnberry that connect to North Huron’s system.
I’ve lost track how many times this has been discussed by either Morris-Turnberry or North Huron council, but what I can tell you is that it’s been nearly four years of discussions.
You can read about the latest installment of this drama in this week’s paper.
In the interest of brevity, I will attempt to explain this saga in a few hundred words.
On July 19, 2019, North Huron sent Morris-Turnberry a letter stating the agreement signed in May 2017 and amended in November 2018 had “come to an end as neither party had given notice of its wish to continue under that agreement.”
Since then, representatives of Morris-Turnberry and North Huron have met several times to discuss a new agreement. Drafts of a new agreement have been created and shot down. Requests for connections by Morris-Turnberry to North Huron’s services have been denied, as North Huron has stated they will defer all new connections until a new deal is put in place.
At one point in 2020, North Huron asked for a boundary adjustment – an annexation of Morris-Turnberry lands south of Highway 86 from Highway 4 to the easterly property line of the Wingham airport – as part of a new cross-border services deal. Morris-Turnberry declined that offer.
More meetings happened.
According to a timeline available on Morris-Turnberry’s website, things get interesting in 2022.
On Feb. 9, Trevor Hallam (CAO of Morris-Turnberry) and Dwayne Evans (CAO of North Huron) met electronically to discuss the agreement. A month later, Hallam emailed Evans to ask if there had been a discussion regarding the agreement with council.
“Mr. Evans responded indicating direction had been received and that he would notify Mr. Hallam if anything was needed,” reads the timeline.
On March 30, Hallam asked Evans if there were any updates on the agreement. Evans responded that there were none.
On April 18 – less than three weeks later – North Huron council passed a bylaw approving the new agreement.
Morris-Turnberry got its first look at this draft on April 21, when it was hand delivered by Evans.
As you’ll read in this week’s paper, Morris-Turnberry staff, council and lawyer do not like what they saw.
What both sides do agree on is a fair deal needs to be struck. Morris-Turnberry wants a deal that they believe is fair to their ratepayers, and North Huron wants a deal they believe is fair to their ratepayers.
As an outsider looking in – I don’t live in either Morris-Turnberry or North Huron – I can honestly say that this process has gone on for far too long.
According to Morris-Turnberry, 19 of the 1,559 connections to the Wingham Water System are from Morris-Turnberry. Based on the current infrastructure, an additional 15 properties could connect to the system.
Sharen Zinn, deputy mayor of Morris-Turnberry, commented on June 21 that it would be “embarrassing for this council” if they agreed to North Huron’s latest request.
I’ll be blunt. The whole damn thing is embarrassing, for everyone involved.
The only people benefitting from this negotiation at the moment are the lawyers representing both municipalities. Every time a draft comes to the table, it is sent for legal review. Countless hours of staff time and an unknown (but certainly large) amount of legal fees have been spent on this issue.
Enough is enough.
This issue should have been resolved by now.
I hope the two sides can come back to the table, use a common-sense approach to strike a fair deal, and let the water flow so the community can grow.
Mike Wilson is the editor of the Wingham Advance Times. Comments and feedback are welcome at email@example.com.