Taxes and water on the table in Saint-Lazare
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
Mandated by Oceans and Fisheries Canada to restore the fish population after disruptions caused by work in Chaline Valley, Saint-Lazare is choosing to meet their commitment as close to home as possible by contributing to the restoration of Pine Lake in Hudson.
Funds earmarked to help Hudson with Pine Lake
A large number of citizens’ questions, transmitted ahead of this month’s Saint-Lazare town council meeting via Zoom, showed that engagement in local politics has not been diminished under the strictures of operating in the era of COVID-19. There were questions and actions of council concerning tax relief and other measures related directly to the pandemic, as well as a number of questions surrounding the town’s water supply, largely stemming from a recent town request for citizens to reduce water use in light of a drop in the reservoir.
Tax relief continues
Resident Richard Meades submitted questions regarding tax relief for citizens as well as businesses, specifically citing the example of the sports complex that hasn’t had any income for three months. Mayor Robert Grimaudo responded that there has indeed been action taken, including a new by-law that will, “…allow businesses and residents of Saint-Lazare to pay their taxes monthly for the rest of the year.” The measure is meant to soften the blow for those who are struggling financially – this is following the initial measure of deferring this year’s tax payments, interest free, until the month of July.
Grimaudo expressed sympathy for the sports complex, which is a private business, but said there is money available to help them both from the Quebec government and from Développement Vaudreuil-Soulanges (DEV).
Later in the meeting, council also approved a motion postponing the appropriation of properties to sell for the purpose of recovering unpaid taxes. Already delayed to this week because of the pandemic, council voted to move the auction of properties that had been in arrears for more than two years to September 17, 2020.
A bulletin that went out in May asked citizens of Saint-Lazare to reduce water consumption or risk necessitating a water ban, as the level of the reservoir had dropped to the point where there was concern for maintaining minimum water levels for fire safety.
Resident Henry Oppliger wrote to ask why so much development was happening in town if the water supply is at risk of running out. Grimaudo responded, “Water consumption in May was historical. The timing of the heat wave,” which coincided with watering of new lawns and filling backyard pools, “…couldn’t have been worse.” He went on to praise the citizens for having responded so well to the request and allowing levels to replenish quickly.
Councillor Geneviève Lachance added that while usage was unusually high with more people at home, the town has three new wells on the way. She also underscored, supported by Councillor Brian Trainor, that while development approval was high under the previous council, current council had slowed down considerably. Said Trainor, “One of the reasons is that we are very aware of the need to protect our water supply.”
Pine Lake restoration
Still on the theme of water, resident Alan Nicol wondered why the town would dedicate $400,000 to restoring Pine Lake in Hudson, rather than using the money to clean up rivers and streams in Saint-Lazare.
In response, the mayor clarified that the money, 75 per cent of which will come from the provincial government, has “…nothing to do with the town of Saint-Lazare as much as it has to do with Oceans and Fisheries Canada.” While the town is required to restore fish populations following work done to stabilize Chaline Valley that disrupted the Quinchien River, the restoration could have been anywhere. “We were given different options, and council decided to go with Pine Lake because it is more local … at least we weren’t told to spend the money in Timbuktu, Quebec.”
The funds for this project should be comfortably found as they were built into the original Chaline Valley stabilization budget, and the 2019 financial report reviewed in the meeting showed the town to have come out of last year in a position of just over $3.5 million in surplus.