Aldo DiCarlo

Windsor police proposal deemed “viable,” public meetings to come

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The police costing process is moving ahead as town council has agreed with the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) that the Windsor Police Service (WPS) is “viable.”

As the Windsor Police Service ended up being the only service that actually submitted a bid under the town’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for policing services, it was the lone option discussed at Monday night’s town council meeting. CAO John Miceli, a member of the JPAC, believed there are “significant savings” for the town should they opt to switch from the Amherstburg Police Service (APS) to WPS.

Miceli said the proposal satisfies the provisions the town set out for its police service. The CAO reported to council that the town could save $567,802 per year should a switch occur, which would translate into over $2.8 million over five years.

There would also be the elimination of post-retirement liabilities, which currently sit at $3.9 million. Miceli added the town would be able to re-purpose $380,580 from the police reserve for other municipal purposes and that there would be cost containment going forward.

“The Windsor Police Services’ proposal is viable and meets the requirements of the RFP and Joint Police Advisory Committee,” he said.

The positions of chief and deputy chief would be eliminated and there would be a staff sergeant looking after the current Amherstburg officers. Miceli indicated that Tim Berthiaume and Ian Chappell could be reassigned within Windsor police. There would be opportunities for promotion for some officers as well, he indicated.

“For our residents, faces aren’t going to change. There would just be a different reporting structure,” said Miceli.

Vehicles would be assumed by the Windsor Police Service “wherever possible” and most equipment would be as well except body cameras and non-lethal shotguns. Reintroduction of body cameras down the road is possible if WPS’ tests are positive.

Administrative calls would still be handled by existing civilian members at the Amherstburg police station.

Should a switch be made, the current Amherstburg Police Service and Amherstburg Police Services Board would be disbanded with the mayor or a designate being appointed to the Windsor Police Services Board.

Four public meetings are scheduled for different locations within Amherstburg Jan. 17, 18, 25 and 27, with most being evening meetings. The Jan. 27 meeting is proposed to be held in late morning or early afternoon on a Saturday. The CAO indicated that Berthiaume, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Windsor police chief Al Frederick, consultant Mike Mitchell as well as himself would be at the meetings to answer questions.

Miceli believed the town could benefit from additional services and units offered by WPS, and noted that current Amherstburg officers as well as Windsor officers would help out at public events.

DiCarlo said that residents can expect a detailed analysis of the Windsor police proposal, adding they can compare directly with what is currently available with the Amherstburg Police Services.

The mayor indicated there is a lot of information to discuss and the public meetings will help the town and residents talk more in-depth about the proposal.

Noting he was qualifying his statement that he was not advocating one service over the other, DiCarlo said the WPS proposal was significant in different areas. Windsor police addressed “every last detail” in the RFP and while cost savings are not as much as some people are looking for, he noted the town will keep the existing Amherstburg police station.

“If we ever wanted to go back (should a switch be made), we still have a building,” said the mayor.

The offer to take over long-term liabilities and benefits was pointed out by DiCarlo, noting the $3.9 million will likely grow in future years due to people living longer, insurance and inflation.

“In simple terms, the one nice thing about this is whether you agree or not, we’re comparing apples to apples,” said DiCarlo.

Miceli indicated a final decision could be made by council as early as Feb. 26.

Whelan family donates $20,000 to the Belle Vue Conservancy

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Whelan name will continue to live on thanks a donation to the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The daughters of Eugene and Elizabeth Whelan presented the Belle Vue Conservancy with a cheque for $20,000 last Thursday morning. Susan and Terry were in attendance but their sister Cathy was unable to attend.

Both Eugene and Susan served as the area’s Member of Parliament with Eugene serving from 1962-84 and Susan from 1993-2004.

Eugene also served as a Canadian senator from 1996-99.

The Belle Vue Conservancy and town officials accept the $20,000 donation from the Whelan family Dec. 7.

“Our parents enjoyed, loved and respected history in Amherstburg and across the country,” said Susan.

Susan said it “takes vision and a lot of hard work and dedication” to help preserve historic buildings like Belle Vue. She said the family is grateful the town stepped up and purchased the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion with the Whelan family’s donation to be recognized with a plaque near a window in the home’s pioneer kitchen.

“This is tremendous, not just for Amherstburg, but for people in Ontario and across Canada,” Susan said of Belle Vue. “It’s going to be a wonderful place to visit.”

Susan recalled going with the family to Belle Vue and other historic sites while her father was MP. Historic buildings are “part of Amherstburg’s beauty,” she added.

The family met with Linda Jackson, the Belle Vue Conservancy’s director of corporate outreach, several months ago and decided to proceed with the donation for the window dedication in their parents’ name. Susan said they hope it inspires other people and businesses to donate to the cause.

“Every dollar is helpful,” she said.

Michael Prue, treasurer for the Belle Vue Conservancy, expressed gratitude to the Whelan family for the donation. He said Eugene and Elizabeth helped put “Amherstburg and Essex County on the map,” adding “your family is amazing and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

“It’s quite a Christmas present,” he added.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo joins Susan Whelan and Terry Whelan in signing the official documentation in front of Belle Vue last Thursday morning to make the $20,000 donation official. The donation will result in Eugene and Elizabeth Whelan’s name being put on a plaque near a restored window in the pioneer kitchen.

Funds raised by the Belle Vue Conservancy are subsequently turned over to the Amherstburg Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the Town of Amherstburg.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo joined Terry and Susan Whelan in signing the official documentation to make the donation official.

DiCarlo said all donations made towards the restoration of Belle Vue are appreciated, but noted there is special meaning to this donation due to the Whelan family’s importance in Amherstburg.

“To have their name on this project, we are excited and proud,” said DiCarlo.

Jackson noted Eugene Whelan has a history of involvement with Belle Vue. That included facilitating a $156,000 loan in 1983 to help repair the home’s roof.

“Now their daughters are coming forward and continuing their legacy,” said Jackson.

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy, to volunteer or to donate, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com, e-mail info@bellevueconservancy.com or call 519-736-6947.

Town officially passes 2018 budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The 2018 budget is now officially passed.

Town council, who had discussed the budget in detail during Nov. 28-29 budget deliberations, formally approved the document with no changes to the previously discussed rates. That means Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself is 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
The increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Changes to assessments were factored in via a 2.37 per cent within the budget for a growth rate, but individual MPAC assessments could vary depending on homeowner.

Discussion of the budget was limited, with Councillor Leo Meloche questioning some costs pertaining to the Belle Vue property. While $75,000 was inserted as “seed money,” CAO John Miceli said he was confident that the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised enough money to have roof repairs done early in 2018. Meloche said while he would like to see Belle Vue restored, council was told no taxpayer money would be used.

“I want to see this happen but we’ve got to get significant money up front,” said Meloche.

Meloche added he is involved in another capital project and appreciates that raising donations is difficult, but hoped that Belle Vue fundraising efforts aren’t “petering out.”

CAO John Miceli said those efforts are not “petering out” and that the conservancy paid for roof and window evaluations. The windows are the next scheduled project, he said.

Miceli noted that both he and treasurer Justin Rousseau get regular updates from the conservancy and praised the conservancy for taking on “yeoman’s work on behalf of the town.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the budget passed without much further discussion as the issue had been discussed in detail during deliberations.

“This budget really stood out to me,” he said. “It is an amazing evolution from where we started.”

The budget was very detailed, DiCarlo added, and credited administration for their work.

“Everything is accounted for, everything is explained,” he said. “I can’t see any major changes in how this is presented.”

Residents can refer to the budget should they have questions on anything, he added.

“We do listen, we do act when we can and these are the results that come from it,” said DiCarlo. “We’re better now than we were three years ago.”

Councillor Rick Fryer also praised administration publicly, stating “things went smoothly this year” and that residents appreciate the effort that went into the budget.

Essex County budget calls for 1.54% tax increase

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

The 2018 budget has been approved by Essex County council unanimously and it comes with a 1.54 per cent tax increase.

“I think it’s great news for the county,” said County of Essex Warden Tom Bain. “I think it just shows the work that’s been done in the last 10, 15 years that we’ve gotten ourselves at a point now where we have an excellent base as far as reserves are concerned and we are able to meet any needs that come along, as far as infrastructure goes. I’m really pleased with that small increase.”

The 1.54 per cent translates into a $14.46 increase on a home valued at $200,000.

The total county operating budget requirements have increased to $95,645,480. There is a $600,000 increase in the county’s commitment to the new Windsor-Essex Hospital System levy, which will be a repeating trend until 2025. The municipal contribution is $200 million over 10 years, with the county contribution being $90-$95 million.

Other highlights of the budget include a 1.5 per cent levy increase for capital project funding valued at $1,345,500, an incremental increase to rehabilitation program valued at $420,000, an incremental increase to the CWATS program valued at $100,000 and the Civic Centre acquisition and equipment and machinery amortization valued at $350,000. For county construction, the 2018 budget also highlights a total expenditure level of $35,793,090. As for county maintenance, some of the highlights include the program to replace the HPS lighting with LED, five bridge repairs and small culvert replacements, and the continued focus on upgrading line painting, CWATS maintenance and roadside operations. The county has also made the commitment to a $2.8 million equipment acquisition, which includes two tandem dump trucks, a 1.5 tom dump truck, three pick ups, a tractor with a lawn mower, a tandem truck hoist and a mini excavator.

“When it comes to increases, my favorite question is ‘why do you want to raise taxes?’” explained Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We don’t want to raise taxes. We have to raise taxes to compensate for our costs, the same as everyone else. It is an increase but I think it’s a very reasonable increase, right in line with the cost of living.”

The Essex County Library board also brought forth some changes in their budget. They were approved for an increase from $4,829,090 in 2017, to $5,222,210 projected for 2018, an 8.1 per cent increase. Some of the reasoning for their increase included legal fees and administrative office budget overages in the 2017 year due to the work disruption, and looking to programming and outreach changes and wage and benefit increases in 2018.

All matters discussed during the county council meeting Dec. 6 were approved, including approving the corporate reserve strategy plan to transfer $2 million from the rate stabilization reserve to the capital reserve, which was a matter deferred from council Sept. 6.

The 2018 budget for the Essex-Windsor EMS, which included a matter that was also deferred Nov. 1 involving the development of a master plan and enhancing their response times, was also approved.

“When you get to this level, I think everything is a little more clear, the numbers are tight, and I would say administration does a pretty good job of laying out exactly what is required which leaves not a whole lot of questions,” said DiCarlo. “I can’t imagine what you would disagree with because it’s so focused on roads and services and so when you break it all down, it’s very accountable.”

Budget set for final approval

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of a story that was published online last Wednesday night.)

By Ron Giofu

 

While it won’t be formally approved until the Dec. 11 town council meeting, it is now clear what the tax rate increase will be.

Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself was whittled down from the original two per cent to 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
Treasurer Justin Rousseau said the increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, Rousseau added, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Among the big ticket capital items is the reconstruction of Creek Road. Approximately $1.4 of the estimated $1.7 million cost to rebuild that road from Meloche Road to County Road 20 is expected to be paid out in 2018.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was pleased with how deliberations went.

“Yet again, council found a very reasonable balance between what the town needs and what the residents thought was affordable,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo noted that not everyone gets what they want at budget time and while a series of positions – Councillor Rick Fryer said eight – were approved, a number of other jobs were not. The mayor noted that some costs did go up for the town and that has to be passed along.

“If bills go up at home, they go up at town hall and we have to compensate for that,” he said.

An increase in growth requires additional resources, the mayor added, and “at the beginning of that growth, there has to be investments. I think that’s where we’re at now.”

The roads needs study makes a lot of the decisions on capital projects easy, DiCarlo stated, as it shows what roads need resources. Creek Road was “not a big surprise,” he added.

The town added resources in places where he believed they are needed. Some of the new positions include a financial analyst, a engineering technician, 1.5 new people for the tourism department and a part-time policy co-ordinator.

Others were rejected including a communications officer, a part-time committee co-ordinator an a supervisor of roads and fleet. The latter had been approved Wednesday afternoon but later cut when council resumed after a dinner break as three members of the six present believed there were too many management positions to oversee the six employees.

Even with the new positions, DiCarlo was happy the tax rate itself came in under one per cent.

“That’s nothing short of amazing to me. That was no small feat. Council deserves some credit for that,” he said.

The levy increases were at roughly the same rate as the cost of living and “that’s unbelievable,” the mayor added.

“The big thing for me is the big picture,” said DiCarlo. He said year over year, the tax rate keeps coming down, reserves and capital investment increase while long-term debt is decreasing.

“Those are definitely heading in the right direction,” he said.

Among the grant requests approved in principle were $5,000 for Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), $1,500 for Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, $6,500 for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and $8,500 for the Park House Museum. Grant requests for the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) and SNAP for Cats will be addressed after administration comes back with a report.

Town council also agreed with Rose City Gymnastics request to waive over $12,000 in rental fees for next year’s Ontario Provincial Artistic Gymnastics championships at the Libro Centre, an event that is expected to draw 1,200 participants and 5,000 visitors to Amherstburg. However, that has already upset user groups who already use the Libro Centre, particularly in light of town council sticking with its own surcharge option and not going with the one user groups presented Nov. 27.

Other than Creek Road, other capital projects include resurfacing of Pickering Dr. from King St. to Fryer St., complete reconstruction of the Concession 2 North bridge over the Long Marsh Drain, a new sidewalk from Seasons Amherstburg to Lowes Side Road including storm drainage, the replacement of more interlocking brick sidewalks with concrete, the first $135,000 towards the Duffy’s property redevelopment, two vehicles for the fire department, new police patrol vehicles and $80,000 for rebranding the town.

Jen Ibrahim, tourism co-ordinator, said while the town’s website is effective for municipal purposes, “for lack of a better word, it’s not sexy.” Creating a tourism-friendly website and a new town logo would make up what some of the money would be used for.

“The town’s crest isn’t a marketing tool,” said Ibrahim.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed Amherstburg “is on the cusp” but believed the town should go further to rebrand itself as a tourism destination.

Regarding the sidewalks, Fryer also noted the accessibility committee is in favour of removing interlocking brick and replacing them with concrete.