News

Public board seeks funding for new public high school for Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) is continuing to pursue a new high school for Amherstburg but it will be a while before a shovel hits the ground.

The public board is looking at obtaining funding from the provincial government for a new high school in Amherstburg to replace the current General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School. The GECDSB passed a motion last October to create a business case to combine the two high schools into a dual campus facility on land that is suitable to the public board and the town of Amherstburg.

The motion, made by Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair, calls for both General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School to “function as individual and distinct schools” in a new building.

“The board has submitted an application for funding,” said LeClair. “New announcements have not yet made.”

General Amherst High School

General Amherst High School

While a new $25-million school is currently under construction in Leamington and $44 million in provincial funding for a new JK-12 school in Kingsville was announced in April, Amherstburg could have to wait for any progress on a new school here.

“Both Kingsville and Leamington took several rounds of funding before being approved so we are still awaiting a decision,” said LeClair.

Scott Scantlebury, public relations offer with the Greater Essex County District School Board, confirmed a new public high school in Amherstburg is on the board’s capital priorities list. Scantlebury said the board submits two to five capital projects per year to the Ministry of Education for funding with a new school for Amherstburg being one of the four projects asked for when trustees approved capital projects at a board meeting June 21.

The four projects – and the business cases for them – were submitted to the province with Amherstburg being listed as the number one priority, Scantlebury indicated.

Western Secondary School

Western Secondary School

Last October’s motion came during a lengthy meeting at the St. Clair College Sportsplex where Western Secondary School was spared closure but Harrow District High School wasn’t. The board began working on LeClair’s motion to combine General Amherst and Western at one new building thereafter.

Scantlebury said the process sees the board go after the funding first, before any location for the new school is finalized.

“Once the funding for the project is announced, then we begin the process for site selection,” said Scantlebury. “Once a site is selected, the design phase begins.”

After a design is approved, the project would then go to tender.

“It’s a lengthy process,” said Scantlebury.

Library workers offer “story time” despite ongoing strike

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Striking library workers may not be back on the job officially but they still reconnected with some of their patrons.

CUPE 2974 members have been putting on “story time” for parents and children with Amherstburg being one of the stops last Thursday. Previous “story time” locations were in Leamington, Harrow and Tecumseh.

Parents and grandparents gathered at the gazebo in King’s Navy Yard Park with some of the parents unhappy that they can’t currently go to the library. Unionized workers have been on strike since June 25.

“It’s sad,” commented Cydney Walker. “My daughter goes with my mom probably once a week, at least.”

CUPE 2974 offered "story time" in King's Navy Yard Park Aug. 25. It was the fourth such event offered by the striking library workers, with additional events being in Leamington, Harrow and Tecumseh.

CUPE 2974 offered “story time” in King’s Navy Yard Park Aug. 25. It was the fourth such event offered by the striking library workers, with additional events being in Leamington, Harrow and Tecumseh.

“It’s the kids that are missing out,” added Amanda Guthrie, who regularly attended the library with her young son. “We go a few times per month to pick out books and movies or whatever he wants to get. It’s nice of them to do (the story time session).”

Guthrie added her son goes to the library on field trips with his day care and recognizes it when they go past the building.

“He notices it a lot,” said Guthrie. “He asks to go every time we drive by.”

Both Walker and Guthrie showed support for the library workers.

“They should just settle and re-open the library for the kids,” said Guthrie.

“I don’t know a lot of the details but I do support the people who work for the library,” said Walker, noting her mother worked there. “I know she is upset as to what is going on.”

Lori Wightman, unit chair of CUPE 2974, said there was really nothing new to report in terms of bargaining. She said the “story time” sessions have been going over well.

“We’ve had 30-40 people at each one,” said Wightman.

Wightman added they hope to go to the remaining municipalities as well.

Lara Klymko reads to children during "story time" held in Navy Yard Park last Thursday morning. Library workers have been on strike since June 25.

Lara Klymko reads to children during “story time” held in Navy Yard Park last Thursday morning. Library workers have been on strike since June 25.

“We miss our patrons,” she said. “This is just as much for us as it is for them.”

The “story time” events are also a way for the union to thank their supporters. A petition to re-open the 14 libraries across Essex County has surpassed 2,000 signatures.

“We miss our jobs and we want to return to them,” said Wightman.

Essex County Library Board chair Richard Meloche said he didn’t have much to add when he was contacted. He said that the board is awaiting a resolution to the bad faith bargaining complaint that was filed by the union, with a hearing scheduled for mid-September.

“I think it’s nice they are doing it and giving back to their communities like that,” he said of the “story time” events.

Town wins award from Ontario Parks Association for planters, hanging baskets

 

The Town of Amherstburg has won the “Best Container Planting and Hanging Baskets” category award in the 2016 Ontario Parks Association (OPA) Municipal Floral Display Competition.

The displays were planted by Amherstburg’s parks department, under the direction of Annette Zahaluk. The town announced its victory earlier this week.

Hanging baskets along Dalhousie St. near the Gordon House.

Hanging baskets along Dalhousie St. near the Gordon House.

“Given the scale of competitors and entries, it was a very proud moment representing the Town of Amherstburg Parks Department,” comments Zahaluk, the town’s manager of parks, green spaces and naturalized areas.

The town’s parks department looks after all parks and playing fields as well as town-owned buildings. There are 205 hanging baskets and 110 planters in Amherstburg.

“It’s not a surprise given the attention and TLC that our gardens receive from our parks department team under Annette’s passionate eye. Our baskets are an attraction, coupled with the beauty of our parks and public spaces, garden tourism is flourishing,” adds Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Planters in full bloom at the corner of Murray St. and Ramsay St.

Planters in full bloom at the corner of Murray St. and Ramsay St.

The hanging basket program has received support over the years from not only the town but other groups within Amherstburg including the Fort Malden Horticultural Society and the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce.

The OPA works with municipalities as a non-profit charitable organization, committed to educate parks professionals to exceed industry standards and actively advocate for the protection and enhancement of parks and open spaces. This year’s award ceremony took place Aug. 18 at Landscape Ontario, University Of

Guelph in Milton.

 

ACS offering two programs to help people with their utility bills

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Those having difficulty paying their utility bills may be able to turn to Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) for assistance.

ACS offers two programs to assist local people who are having problems with their bills. The local non-profit agency helps people apply for the Ontario Energy Board’s “Ontario Electricity Support Program.”

Branka Stewin, program co-ordinator at ACS, said the OEB program could help reduce electricity bills for low-income families or seniors with a fixed income. Reductions can amount to $30-$60 “which is quite substantial.”

“There are some guidelines and they can call here to find out what they are,” noted ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Stewin added that a person has to have lived at their address for at least six months to qualify. There are other pre-screening questions that must be answered with eligibility also depending on how many people live in the household and what the household after-tax income is.

“If they are over 65, this is good for five years,” Stewin said of a successful application. “If they are under 65, they have to re-apply every two years.”

ACS programs1

While the recent hot weather likely doesn’t have many people thinking of heating bills, ACS is reminding the public of its “Keep the Heat” program. Stewin advises people to contact ACS for more information on how to qualify, adding that ACS helps people to apply though the actual program is offered through the Unemployed Help Centre and Housing Information in Windsor.

“There are a few things they need to bring in to substantiate their income,” Stewin stated.

DiBartolomeo added the program is good one time per heating season.

“(Members of the public) can access this once to get help paying a bill that is putting them in disconnect or in the threat of disconnect,” said DiBartolomeo.

Stewin pointed out that Hydro One customers would need to be pre-screened by calling United Way Simcoe at 1-855-487-5327.

Both programs are available to residents of each municipality ACS serves.

“It’s open to residents of Harrow, LaSalle, McGregor and Amherstburg,” said Stewin.

DiBartolomeo said they are noticing a rise in the number of people who need such assistance while Stewin pointed out there are those who have to make a choice between eating or paying their bills.

“The numbers are increasing year-to-year,” said DiBartolomeo. “We are just very fortunate to have these two programs that can provide assistance.”

For information on the two programs, call ACS at 519-736-5471.

About 250 get soaked in Wet & Wild Hawk Run

 

By Jonathan Martin

Around 250 runners flew over to Holiday Beach Sunday to take part in the third annual Wet & Wild Hawk Run.

The 5K run is a fund raising effort for the park, but is also meant to draw those who wouldn’t normally visit, according to Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) director of communications Danielle Breault-Steubing.

A man breaks into laughter as he is sprayed with water by water gun-wielding children at the 2016 Wet & Wild Hawk Run, held at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg last Sunday.  Runners were ambushed  by volunteers who were charged with getting the runners as wet as possible.​ (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

A man breaks into laughter as he is sprayed with water by water gun-wielding children at the 2016 Wet & Wild Hawk Run, held at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg last Sunday. Runners were ambushed
by volunteers who were charged with getting the runners as wet as possible.​ (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

“A lot of the 5K races that happen are road races in neighbourhoods,” she said. “Runners appreciate the opportunity to run through the beautiful, natural Carolinian forest.”

It seems the demand is growing, as Essex Region Conservation Authority event planner Alex Denonville said this year’s race drew around 100 more runners than 2015’s.

Of the roughly 250 runners, around 50 were children who ran along a shorter route in the Kids’ Dash. The 5K race was held afterwards and wove its way along Holiday Beach’s trails. Both races were made “wet & wild” by volunteers sporting water guns to shoot at the runners and buckets of water to dump from the park’s hawk tower.

“It’s a beautiful area to race to start with,” said Denonville. “The water just adds an extra layer of fun.”

Besides being shot and dumped with water, participants could also run through wooden structures which sprinkled them with mist, get sprayed with foam and see how experts spray water by running past Amherstburg firefighters.

It wasn’t all about the water, though. The Wet & Wild Hawk Run also celebrates the approaching hawk migration period, which begins in September and continues on through October. In mid-September, Holiday beach will hold its Festival of Hawks.

A man and a woman get soaked at the 2016 Wet & Wild Hawk Run, held at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg last Sunday. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

A man and a woman get soaked at the 2016 Wet & Wild Hawk Run, held at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg last Sunday. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

“Holiday Beach is one of the best areas in North America to see migrating hawks,” Denonville said. “You can come in September to see thousands of them circling overhead.”

“We’ve been holding (a version of) the hawk run for more than a decade,” said Braught-Stubieng. “Holiday Beach is recognized internationally as a fantastic bird space.”

She said in the past three years, the race has grown and evolved to include its signature “wet & wild” features.

Holiday Beach’s Festival of Hawks will be held Sept. 10-11 and again Sept. 17-18.