News $65,000 in fines for Bala Falls complaints SHARE ON: Doug Crosse, staff Wednesday Dec. 19th, 2018 A picture of a worker at Bala Falls Hydro project working past the 9:00pm bylaw deadline last month. (Chris Zavitz photo) A breach of local noise bylaws has resulted in $65,000 in fines by the Township of Muskoka Lakes. The Bala Falls Hydro Project recently drew the council’s anger as Swift River began working three shifts a day into the overnight hours. A number of residents were disturbed by the noise, leading to nine bylaw complaints from the weekend, says Municipal Law Enforcement Officer Jon Popple. These netted 13 charges in provincial court with each instance set at $5,000. The provincial noise complaint allows for a heavier penalty than the $150 fine from the municipal bylaw. “Two notices of violation were issued to both Swift River Energy Ltd. and CRT Construction requiring them to comply with all the noise restrictions contained within the township’s noise bylaw,” says Popple. “It’s putting them on notice that you cannot continue to do these things.” Over this past weekend councillors Glenn Zavitz and Ruth Nishikawa went to the construction site after the 9:00pm daily work deadline and provided video and photos of the crews from CRT Construction continuing to work through the night. Zavitz asked a foreman why they weren’t stopping. That led to a phone call to a supervisor in Quebec City. Zavitz says the supervisor told him the work would not be stopping. Popple went on to explain that the 13 charges were filed with the Ontario Court of Justice provincial offences division in Bracebridge. “So five charges against Swift River Energy Ltd. for violations of the noise bylaw, five charges against CRT Construction for those same violations and (Vice President of Swift River) Frank Belerique was charged with three counts of the noise bylaw,” confirmed Popple. Popple would not speculate on the outcome of the fines as it is down to the justice of the peace who hears the case to settle on what, if any, fine will be paid. The first appearance for all 13 charges is January 9th in Bracebridge Provincial Offences Court. “(The $5000 per offence) is the maximum that is set by the provincial offences act where these charges are being laid,” Popple confirms. “(The amount paid would be based on) if it went to trial or a guilty plea was entered by the defendants and the justice of the peace were to issue those level of fines.” Ultimately whatever fine is assessed by the province would go back to the Township of Muskoka Lakes (not including a fine surcharge charged by the court). Last week, council was offered a voluntary fine amount from Swift River Energy Ltd. to work three shifts a day, acknowledging they would be breaking the bylaw intentionally. The offer was for $1000 for the first day, with the amount going up by increments to a maximum of $5,000 per day by the end of the first week. The company was hoping to wrap up lake bed excavations by December 23rd and have the site closed for the holiday.