News

Groundbreaking held for next phase of Cypher Systems Greenway

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Construction on the Cypher Systems Greenway has officially broken ground and the latest and largest stretch should be complete in two months or so.

Representatives from the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) and the Essex Region Conservation Foundation (ERCF) joined elected officials from Amherstburg and Essex at the Agris Co-op in McGregor for the ceremony. The co-op is next to the trail with the Cypher Systems Greenway also intersecting with the Chrysler Canada Greenway in McGregor.

Claire Wales, vice president of ERCF’s board of directors, stated that “trails link healthy place and healthy environments” with the foundation’s “Trail On!” campaign having started in 2012.

“Thanks to a generous and significant gift of $250,000 from Cypher Systems Group, and support from the federal government, the town of Essex and many corporate and individual donations, we are so thrilled to be here to celebrate the groundbreaking of this long awaited trail,” said Wales.

Wales pointed out Cypher Systems Group made its contribution in 2015. The “Trail On!” campaign raised over $1 million to develop the 26-kilometre trail but donations are still being accepted as other amenities as community entrances need to be developed.

Ground was officially broken Sept. 29 in McGregor for the Cypher Systems Greenway, which will run from Essex to Amherstburg and intersect with the Chrysler Canada Greenway. From left: TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, Essex Region Conservation Foundation board vice president Claire Wales, ERCA general manager Richard Wyma, ERCA chair Ed Sleiman and Cypher Systems Group COO Dave Dyer.

Ground was officially broken Sept. 29 in McGregor for the Cypher Systems Greenway, which will run from Essex to Amherstburg and intersect with the Chrysler Canada Greenway. From left: TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, Essex Region Conservation Foundation board vice president Claire Wales, ERCA general manager Richard Wyma, ERCA chair Ed Sleiman and Cypher Systems Group COO Dave Dyer.

ERCA chair Ed Sleiman thanked all the contributors and everyone who is helping make the project happen.

“Green spaces, trails and a healthy environment directly contribute to our region being recognized as a place of choice for people to live, visit and invest,” said Sleiman. “Trails improve the communities where they are built, which is why we are so pleased to be celebrating another success with our partners.”

Dave Dyer, chief operating officer with Cypher Systems Group, brought greetings and said the company was happy to get behind the new trail.

“It’s a great event,” said Dyer. “It’s a great step in the next part of the greenway and we are proud to be part of it.”

“We love this community and are happy to partner with this organization to expand the greenway and improve upon the health and quality of life in our region,” Cypher Systems Group president Brian Schwab in a press release. “The groundbreaking of this trail has been years in the making and we are thrilled that we could contribute to such a worthy endeavor and be part of this exciting event.”

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott was joined by his deputy mayor Richard Meloche and councillor Steve Bjorkman in presenting the ERCF a cheque for $100,000. McDermott said it is a project that benefits not just Essex and Amherstburg.

“It’s good for the entire community,” said McDermott.

McDermott said the two impacted municipalities are divided by boundary lines but a project like the greenway brings them together.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said the ceremony and the trail itself was a prime example of what can happen when people work together. He echoed McDermott by stating there may be boundaries between Essex and Amherstburg but the trails are bringing communities closer together.

“I admire you all,” said DiPasquale.

Other Amherstburg council members at the groundbreaking were councillors Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche. Both Fryer and Bjorkman are also ERCA board members.

Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI), said outdoor adventure is a “pillar” for the area and called the 26-kilometre trail a “tourism enhancer.”

A portion of the trail in Essex was completed several years ago and the current work will extend the greenway into Amherstburg.

Section of Alma St. to be closed for most of October

 

For those who use Alma St. regularly, be aware that a stretch near McGregor will be shut down for roadwork for most of October.

The Town of Amherstburg awarded a contract for the rehabilitation of Alma St. between Howard Ave. and Walker Road to Coco Paving Inc. in July with the cost being $921,755.31. This work will result in a road closure. The construction is also expected to include a wider shoulder to the road.

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The town states this work is anticipated to commence starting next Monday (Oct. 3) and the area between Howard Ave. and Walker Road will be considered construction zone. Work is anticipated to be complete by Oct. 29, the town states.

During construction, residents are advised to reduce speed, obey all traffic signs, and watch for flag persons in construction zones. The town thanks everyone in advance for their patience and cooperation while it complete this project. The Town adds that it “endeavors to complete the work as quickly as possible to minimize disturbance and inconvenience.”

 

Town reverses position, will buy Belle Vue

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg has a new historic building in its inventory.

Town council reconsidered its position from the Sept. 12 meeting and has voted to authorize administration to pursue the Belle Vue purchase. The cost of the purchase will be $1.1 million in cash and $200,000 in a donation receipt, with the cash purchase to be fulfilled through an interest-free five year mortgage.

Robert and Debra Honor discuss the historic Belle Vue house during a recent private tour. The town voted Sept. 26 to purchase the home after originally voting to not pursue the purchase Sept. 12.

Robert and Debra Honor discuss the historic Belle Vue house during a recent private tour. The town voted Sept. 26 to purchase the home after originally voting to not pursue the purchase Sept. 12.

Voting in favour of the purchase were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Joan Courtney. Councillors Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche were opposed. Councillors Diane Pouget and Jason Lavigne declared a conflict of interest with Pouget stating her home measures too close to the property line of Belle Vue while Lavigne had similar concerns in relation to his parents’ home.

Meloche believed that the town will eventually have to take on debt in relation to Belle Vue, even stating it could rise 20 per cent should the property be restored even with significant grant funding. He said he ran for council to help control debt as that was a major concern of residents he spoke with. Buying Belle Vue in addition to Duffy’s was more than the town can handle, he believed.

“Belle Vue has become a victim of timing,” he said. “We’re being asked to absorb too much at once. We have to walk before we run. When we say no debt, it’s not no debt at this time. It’s no debt, period.”

CAO John Miceli said there are no capital works recommended for the property at this time with the money that will be spent being for the purchase only. He said no work will be done until senior levels of government commit grant funding and fundraising is done.

Interior trim of Belle Vue. (Photo courtesy of Phil Kasurak)

Interior trim of Belle Vue. (Photo courtesy of Phil Kasurak)

Fryer said the purchase does not include the waterfront property and that Belle Vue wouldn’t have much of a view if a two, three or four-storey building were constructed across Dalhousie St.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Fryer.

Fryer said $200,000 represents a two per cent increase in taxes and also believed it would impact the debt.

“This is going to put constraints on this council for two years and the next council coming in after us,” he said.

Fryer said residents in the former Malden Township wanted a street light for $1,500 and were told the town couldn’t afford it but the town has money for Belle Vue. He added there is work that needs to be done right away at Belle Vue and the town will have to pay for that.

Fryer also questioned why other levels of government haven’t already stepped up and why it has fallen to the municipal level.

“There’s going to be moans and groans but this purchase is something I can’t support,” he said.

DiCarlo said he also ran on the principle of reining in long-term debt, particularly debt that is unnecessary. He believed Belle Vue to be a necessary project.

The property at the rear of the Belle Vue house. (Photo courtesy of Phil Kasurak)

The property at the rear of the Belle Vue house. (Photo courtesy of Phil Kasurak)

The mayor added he also ran on the promise of listening to the residents, adding the majority of people that he has heard from on the issue support the town purchasing the Belle Vue property as well as Duffy’s.

“An overwhelming number of them said they want us to purchase both,” said DiCarlo.

DiPasquale said he has concerns over issues as well, but suggested the town has to be bold and move forward.

“I am concerned like everyone else over certain issues,” said DiPasquale. “If we are all scared and can’t handle the pressure, get out of the kitchen.”

The deputy mayor noted the town has lost factories and industry over the years and indicated that new ways have to be utilized to build the town.

“We don’t have to gamble money but we can use it to get this place moving,” said DiPasquale.

Courtney said she had no question about her vote on the Duffy’s purchase, and reiterated she agonized over her decision Sept. 12. She added she wants to do what she can to promote culture and heritage in Amherstburg as well.

“We’ve been assured by administration we can afford both properties,” said Courtney. “I will leave it to us collectively if we feel the same way.”

Michael Prue, a member of the Belle Vue Cultural Foundation, had addressed town council earlier in the meeting and believed it would be less expensive for the purchase and renovation of the Belle Vue building itself than it would be for Duffy’s.

“A big dream is to have both developments,” he told council. “A big dream would put Amherstburg on the map.”

Prue told council that the Duffy’s purchase was “a good decision,” but so too would be a Belle Vue purchase.

“Belle Vue is an amazing property that I’ve not seen in all of my travels across Canada,” he said.

After the meeting, Prue told reporters that “I feel much better than I did the other day” and didn’t believe concerns over the debt were well founded.

“You don’t starve yourself to bring down debt to nothing and let once in a lifetime opportunities go by,” he said.

Prue believed the town was getting an excellent deal on the Belle Vue property and suggested the town could partner with the private sector for a hotel, spa or other amenities on the roughly eight-acre property. He said similar projects have been done in Kingston, Hamilton and Toronto.

A post and beam located inside the Belle Vue home. Council voted Sept. 26 to purchase the 200-year-old building.

A post and beam located inside the Belle Vue home. Council voted Sept. 26 to purchase the 200-year-old building.

Paul Hertel and Robert Honor, also of the Belle Vue Cultural Foundation, were similarly happy with council’s reversal on the Belle Vue issue.

“It’s sort of like Super Monday,” said Hertel, with a smile.

Hertel said Belle Vue is the “southern anchor” of Amherstburg’s waterfront and acknowledged there are some risks but believed some council members may need to be educated further.

“I have nothing but appreciation for the mayor and his comments tonight,” said Hertel. “He boiled it down to one sentence – the people want it.”

The town’s decision gives the foundation the “oomph” it needs to move forward in its work, adding their work now enters a new phase.

“It’s going to be a long process but Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Hertel. “A new phase in the history of the building has started.”

Honor said he appreciated DiPasquale’s comments, adding that when the town’s heritage resources are managed effectively, it can be an economic driver for the town.

Both Honor and Hertel indicated the group will remain active in fundraising and supporting the refurbishment of the 200-year-old building.

“Tomorrow, the real work starts,” said Honor.

Brad Robitaille, a local lawyer who also has served on the board with the Ontario Heritage Foundation, said he has learned over the years how significant the property is.

“We have a jewel there,” he said.

The Belle Vue house features a number of  fireplaces, including the one pictured. (Special to the RTT)

The Belle Vue house features a number of
fireplaces, including the one pictured. (Special to the RTT)

Robitaille mentioned he was once interested in purchasing Belle Vue as a residence for himself but couldn’t finalize a deal.

“If I had the deal you guys have now, I’d be in there,” he said. “To fail to act on this opportunity is something I can’t comprehend.”

Scott Weir, principle architect with ERA Architects Inc. out of Toronto, called Belle Vue “a prime piece of architecture” and that Amherstburg “carries a lot of weight in southwestern Ontario” with regards to its architecture. Having a building that dates back to 1816 is “incredibly rare,” he added.

“Our assessment of this building is that it’s built like a tank,” he said, though added there are roof, evestrough and basement moisture issues that have to be corrected.

Though on the agenda, realtor Phil Kasurak was not allowed to speak as council didn’t feel it was appropriate as he is the agent for the seller.

Legion Br. 157 ceremony honours memory of Alexander Clarke

 

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

Members of the Royal Canadian Legion, as well as a handful of local dignitaries, gathered to honour the memory of Alexander Clarke on Saturday morning.

The memorial service was held at the Wyandotte Indian Cemetery to honour Clarke, who was a member of the Wyandotte Tribe and served with the British Forces during the War of 1812.

“He was actually 13 years of age when he was serving in the British army as an interpreter and a scout,” said Jeff Turner, 2nd vice president of the Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157. “This was just our way of commemorating his military service back in the day.”

Caldwell First Nation Chief Louise Hillier spoke during the ceremony and explained that while 13 years old seems young to be in the military by today’s standards, it was fairly normal in that time period.

Caldwell First Nation Chief Louise Hillier speaks alongside Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 2nd Vice President Jeff Turner during a ceremony honouring Alexander Clarke at the Wyandotte Indian Cemetery Sept. 24. (RTT Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

Caldwell First Nation Chief Louise Hillier speaks alongside Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 2nd Vice President Jeff Turner during a ceremony honouring Alexander Clarke at the Wyandotte Indian Cemetery Sept. 24. (RTT Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

“Back then they matured much more quickly than they do now. But at the age of eight to 10 he would’ve already been considered a man by many standards,” Hillier said. “He would have been more than receptive to going into battle and fully understanding that his life could very well end there.”

According to Hillier, First Nations males are born into the world with the responsibility to protect their land and people. It’s an honour for men to go into battle because they’re fulfilling their God-given responsibility of protection.

“Today it’s the very same with our warriors as with all those who enter the armed services. They do that, I think so anyway, knowing they could be sent into battle and, yes, their life could end,” said Hillier. “But they’re doing it for that same sort of responsibility that our First Nations people have felt.”

While Tecumseh is “the great warrior who everyone remembers,” Hillier said Clarke’s contributions were every bit as crucial and we should take the time to commemorate him as well.

“I was very honoured to be asked to attend. I couldn’t imagine saying no, because these are some of the things we need to do as leaders. We need to remember where we came from, too.”

Mission president surprised with award during organization’s AGM

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Another year is in the books for the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission and this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) had a surprise for its president.

Vice president Shirley Hitchcock presented president Tim McAllister with a plaque in recognition of his years of service with the mission. McAllister has been with the mission since the organization’s beginnings and has served 16 of the 21 years of the mission’s existence as its president.

The Amherstburg Food & Fellowship Mission held its annual general meeting last Wednesday night. Several long-time volunteers were surprised with awards, including board president Tim McAllister. Presenting him his award is vice president Shirley Hitchcock.

The Amherstburg Food & Fellowship Mission held its annual general meeting last Wednesday night. Several long-time volunteers were surprised with awards, including board president Tim McAllister. Presenting him his award is vice president Shirley Hitchcock.

“He always has time to listen to people needing his support,” said Hitchcock. “Tim has a lot of patience even when people expect so much of him.”

McAllister has a lot of responsibilities at the mission and even sleeps at the mission Christmas Eve to ensure the turkeys are prepared properly for the Christmas Day dinner. His son Winston said his father taught the family never to take anything for granted and people should help others when it is needed.

Winston also credited the other volunteers at the mission as they contribute to the success.

“You guys are a part of this,” said Winston. “It’s (Tim’s) but it’s yours as well.”

Board member Lana Talbot added Tim McAllister “is always there helping. He makes certain he has enough food.” She added: “There’s so many people that can’t help themselves and he’s there for them.”

The Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission honoured long-time volunteers at its annual general meeting last Wednesday night. President Tim McAllister presents an award to Joanne Guitar (above)

The Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission honoured long-time volunteers at its annual general meeting last Wednesday night. President Tim McAllister presents an award to Joanne Guitar.

Fellow board members Anne Fox and John Drop also paid tribute to McAllister, with Drop stating “this is why the mission is a blessing for all of us.” Fox referred to McAllister as “a lot of fun.”

Fox was another recipient of an award, as Tim McAllister presented her with an award for over 20 years of service. Rose Kascjak also was a recipient but she was unable to attend the AGM. Joanne Guitar was the third of three recipients of an award from McAllister.

Guitar said she has always been rewarded when she has sat on boards of directors because of the people she has met. She called the mission a “family” and thanked them for their work.

“You’ve been really supportive and you’ve helped me in any way you can,” said Guitar.

Tim McAllister gave his president’s report, stating that “fresh perspectives are always helpful and welcomed” from old and new members alike.

“We have had a good year where, thanks to all of you and the people in our surrounding community, who have made a difference by leaving donations and tangible items to support our efforts,” said McAllister.

McAllister said he has a positive outlook for the coming year and that changes “are and will always be occurring” at the mission “as change is a basic condition to life in general and in consistent growth.” This past year, the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission received new ovens, a deep fryer, hot plate and a new stove from an anonymous donor. They also received new computer stations thanks to the Bieszk family, in memory of Adam Bieszk.

“Also, we had improvement to the mission in painting and decorating work,” said McAllister.

McAllister stated they will look to maintain current partnerships and build new ones within the community.

The mission partners with the Essex County court system to provide placement for young offenders. They also host high school students, who need 40 hours of volunteer work for graduation. They also work with the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association.

“Our reporting is transparent and assures that we are accountable and are utilizing public funds appropriately that are entrusted to our management,” said McAllister.

The mission will also modify programs to meet the needs of the community with the resources available.

“Our motto is ‘people helping people’,” said McAllister. “It can mean different things to different people but what that means to me is – what do people need when they are struggling? What do people need when they need to be challenged to do something out of their comfort zone? What can change the life of another person?”

The Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission honoured long-time volunteers at its annual general meeting last Wednesday night. President Tim McAllister presents one of the awards to Anne Fox.

The Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission honoured long-time volunteers at its annual general meeting last Wednesday night. President Tim McAllister presents one of the awards to Anne Fox.

Life can be challenging, he added, and people need help along the way to offer support and “get behind us” to help achieve goals.

“We encourage people through our Wednesday breakfast, hot meals, baby food program, emergency food bank, and computer programs,” said McAllister. “We can only do this through your generous monetary donations, your untiring dedication and efforts to others.”

The need continues to be strong, he added, but so too are the funding campaigns the mission undertakes. The mission reports the Sunday brunch at Fox Glen Golf Club earlier this year was a success as was the mini-barbecues at Walmart and Sobeys. Meloche’s No Frills helped with a World Hunger Awareness Fundraiser. The golf tournament, organized by Winston McAllister, also was successful as was their Tambola, the latter being a “major event for us over the past 12 years.”

“The main thing we would like to put emphasis on is our fundraising efforts as we continue to rely on volunteers, their ideas, their efforts and their passion,” said Tim McAllister. “At the same time, we continue to rely on the generosity of the community.”
The mission has received donations of school supplies and others who have contributed vegetables from their garden.

“We have many people stepping up in so many different areas and in many different ways,” he added. “It is much needed and it is really appreciated.”

“We all do what we can do and a lot of things happen here,” said Hitchcock.

Hitchcock pointed out that from Sept. 2015 to last Wednesday night’s AGM, the mission had served 16,094 meals and distributed 669 food baskets.

“We’ve just been so blessed this year because of the community we live in,” she said.