Woolwich is one step closer to reinstating the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC), this week adopting new terms of reference for the offshoot of township council.
An environmental watchdog set up following the discovery of contaminants in Elmira’s groundwater two decades ago, CPAC has been on hiatus following the election of a new council last fall. Mayor Todd Cowan campaigned on a new role and focus for the organization.
The new terms of reference essentially formalize the committee structure, making for greater council involvement in the process. The next step is to appoint new members, likely in the next two or three weeks, said Cowan.
A report presented by chief administrative officer David Brenneman set out a series of changes, including a regular reporting cycle to council, required consultation between CPAC and council on major issues, and a process for communicating to the public.
In discussing the report Mar. 22, councillors agreed with Coun. Mark Bauman’s suggestion the term of CPAC committee, which typically runs concurrently with council’s four years in office, be extended to overlap by six months. That, he said, would allow for transition time – continuity from one council to the next.
Former CPAC member Alan Marshall welcomed the changes, particularly measures to make the committee more open and accountable.
Instead of meeting during the weekday, all meetings will be held in the evenings. All will be open to the public and held at township facilities.
“I have spent literally years begging, pleading and cajoling the old CPAC for evening meetings,” Marshall told councillors.
“That is a dramatic change from what we’ve had for years. There were way too many private, closed meetings.”
While the township considered expanding CPAC’s mandate to cover environmental issues across the township, that was eventually dropped because of the scope, said Brenneman, prompting Marshall to suggest containing the area to Elmira, where Chemtura isn’t the only source of groundwater contaminants.
He also proposed that CPAC should be given power to censure those who the committee feels are not being direct or honest in answering questions about environmental issues.
More discussion is expected at next Tuesday’s council meeting.