Aldo DiCarlo

Town to seek library funding from Essex County

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg wants its share of the savings from the Essex County library strike.

The town is requesting that Essex County council return its share of the costs, and passed a motion at a recent special meeting asking the county to release those funds. Essex County council had previously agreed to hang on to the $790,000 and use them for library purposes, with municipalities able to tap into those funds similar to that of a grant program.

Councillor Diane Pouget said the town has spent “quit a bit of money” on the current Amherstburg library and she believes the residents deserve to get money back from the county to help defray those costs.

Pouget noted such work as parking lot improvements and upgrades to the front steps have taken place, adding there are more expenses probable due to the age of the building.

Amherstburg council will be seeking money back from Essex County from the $790,000 saved during the library strike.

Amherstburg council will be seeking money back from Essex County from the $790,000 saved during the library strike.

“We’ve done a number of improvements and we’re going to have more,” said Pouget. “It’s an old building.”

Pouget made the motion to seek the town’s proportional share of the savings, believing it was respectful to Essex County council yet also showing that the town wants its share to help with its own library branch. She also pointed out Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale still have to work with their fellow county council members.

“I don’t want this council to get into an argument with county council,” she said. “Both of you have to go back and work with county council.”

County council decided last month not to return money directly to residents, citing there was no real mechanism to do so. Warden Tom Bain pointed out at the time that it amounted to only $4 per resident anyway.

 

Proposed open burn bylaw to be discussed at public meetings

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council got a sneak peek at the proposed new open burn bylaw with the public to get their own look at it at three future public meetings.

At a special council meeting held Monday night, fire chief Bruce Montone made a presentation that he plans on also giving at the three future public meetings. Town council, after discussing procedural issues regarding tabling of the bylaw, did just that and will have its own debate following the three meetings.

Montone pointed out the current open air burning bylaw – Bylaw 1998-91 – restricts open burns to where farming is conducted or in established camping facilities with wood, sticks and brush the only things allowed to be burned. Land debris burning is confined to logs, stumps and limbs with setbacks being 250 feet from a public road or 500 feet from an occupied structure.

A best practices review for a revised open air bylaw saw the Amherstburg Fire Department model it after a Municipal Code of Practice for open air burning in Ontario, the Forest Fire Prevention Act and other municipalities in Essex County, Chatham-Kent, Ottawa, Hamilton and Brandon, Manitoba.

“All municipalities (in Essex County) except Amherstburg have permissible bylaws of varying degrees,” said Montone, adding Windsor uses the Ontario Fire Code as its guide.

Montone acknowledged that smoke is unhealthy and pollutes the air as well as having nuisance and environmental impacts. By updating and enforcing a new bylaw, he said it creates opportunities to educate the public.

Since February 2016, the Amherstburg Fire Department has had 54 open air complaint responses at a cost of $12,480 for the department’s response. Those complaints produced 19 invoices, Montone added, for a total of $6,975 in recoverable expenses.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed new open air burning bylaw at a special meeting of council July 31.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed new open air burning bylaw at a special meeting of council July 31.

Under a proposed new bylaw, an annual permit could be obtained by the resident with those people asked to call a number the day of a fire to ensure conditions are proper in which to have one. The restricted area would remain similar in some ways, with Montone proposing a 60-foot by 100-foot lot or smaller be restricted from having open burns due to difficulty in having ample space away from houses, sheds or other structures.

“This starting point for restricted areas is extremely similar to where the restrictions exist,” said Montone, as he showed town maps where built-up areas have restrictions.

The fire chief also explained what is defined as a cooking fire, noting it has to be on a device specifically designed for cooking with the fire to be extinguished once the food is cooked.

“Cooking fires are not ones where you put a marshmallow or a wiener on a stick,” said Montone.

Site visits would occur when warranted and Montone said complaints need to be called in if a person wants the fire department to act on them.

“We receive complaints from citizens or other agencies but we need to receive the complaints in order for us to act,” he said, with other agencies including police and town officials.

Fees for those found in non-compliance with the bylaw can range from $225 for a visit from a responding officer. Should the call require fewer than six firefighters, the fee would be $450 and if it is six or more, the fee increases to $900.

The restricted zones are depicted as they are currently and what they would be under the proposed new open air burning bylaw.

The restricted zones are depicted as they are currently and what they would be under the proposed new open air burning bylaw.

“Those fees are significant,” said Montone.

The public meetings will be Aug. 17 at the Libro Centre, Sept. 12 at fire station #2 and Sept. 26 at fire station #3. All meetings will be at 7 p.m.

There will also be a survey on the town’s website from Aug. 3-Sept. 27. (UPDATE – The link to the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XVHHBTD).

“It’s going to be (the public’s) opportunity to tell us what they really think,” said Montone.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the town continues to review its bylaws and the issue arose due to that.

“It’s open for discussion,” he said.

DiCarlo believes the town has been open and transparent in the last few years and that is continuing by having the three meetings. He said he hopes the public utilizes the opportunities, adding he has already heard from people on both sides of the issue.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The locations of the Sept. 12 and Sept. 26 public meetings were listed incorrectly in the Aug. 2 print issue and were posted incorrectly on this website. They have now been corrected in the story above. The Sept. 12 public  meeting is at station #2 and the Sept. 26 meeting is at station #3. Apologies for this error.)

Essex County to hold onto library strike savings, pledge to use it for library purposes

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The $790,000 that was saved during the 230-day Essex County library strike will not be coming back to municipalities.

Instead, Essex County council will set that money aside in a reserve that municipalities and the county itself can tap into for issues specifically related to libraries.

County CAO Brian Gregg noted the $790,000 in savings was due to the money not being spent due to the strike and said it was not administration’s intent to “bury it and have it go away.” The money was temporarily placed in a reserve, he said, with the intent to bring it back to county council for discussion on what to do with it.

“The county doesn’t have a way to rebate this to the ratepayers,” said Gregg.

Gregg suggested there were “a number of ways” the money could be used, suggesting it could be used to support the library system.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo questioned how much the library system didn’t receive in government funding due to the strike. DiCarlo, who had asked for that figure at prior meetings, was told that it was “coming soon.” Gregg said a review of the figures shows that total is roughly $140,000.

Library workers picket outside of Amherstburg town hall last year. Approximately one year after this photo was taken, Essex County council decided to put $790,000 saved during the library strike into a reserve with the plan of using the money for library-related purposes.

Library workers picket outside of Amherstburg town hall last year. Approximately one year after this photo was taken, Essex County council decided to put $790,000 saved during the library strike into a reserve with the plan of using the money for library-related purposes.

DiCarlo was one of five county council members who opposed the motion.

Amherstburg council was one of the municipalities that asked for the money to be refunded.

Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti liked the idea of using the funds for library services with Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos making the motion to set the money aside and allowing municipalities to tap into it should their library buildings need capital improvements.

Santos compared it to when Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission (WEEDC) funding was returned, with the condition that money be used for economic development.

Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald stated the $790,000 was generated because the ratepayers did not get the library services and believed “it absolutely needs to go back to the people” who paid the money to begin with. Leamington Mayor John Paterson believed others on county council were saying local municipalities could not be trusted and believed the county did not need more reserve funds, as it already has $120 million in reserves.

Santos said it wasn’t a matter of trust and said the money will be set aside for when municipalities are ready to put a shovel in the ground for projects.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he has been hearing from a lot of people wondering what is going on with the money and hopes they can regain trust from those who lost it during the strike.

DiPasquale said after the meeting that the use of the money has been “pretty transparent” thus far. He agreed with the motion.

“It is fairness,” he said. “I hope the public understands that. I thought it was fair.”

Warden Tom Bain said the money was collected through the county levy and believed the big factor is that it will be earmarked specifically for library needs. He indicated the funds could also be used to lower increases brought to county council by the library board at budget time.

Returning the money to ratepayers wouldn’t be worth it, Bain believed, as it would amount to about $4 per resident.

Communities in Bloom judges tour Amherstburg

 

By Jolene Perron

 

For the second straight year, Amherstburg made the list of qualifying towns for Communities in Bloom with national judges touring the community for three days.

From Sunday through Tuesday, Lorna McIlroy from Alberta and Normand Fleury from Quebec stayed at The Bondy House and saw a number of key areas in Amherstburg.

Communities in Bloom judges Normand Fleury and Lorna McIlroy were in town Monday and Tuesday with one of the stops being Holiday Beach Conservation Area. Top row (from left): Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society president Dr. Allan Halowski, Councillor Leo Meloche, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, CAO John Miceli, Paulette Drouillard and Maxine Iler of the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society, tourism co-ordinator Jen Ibrahim. Bottom row (from left): manager of parks Annette Zahaluk, ERCA director of conservation services Kevin Money, Fleury, McIlroy, Councillor Diane Pouget, director of public works and engineering Antonietta Giofu and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota.

Communities in Bloom judges Normand Fleury and Lorna McIlroy were in town Monday and Tuesday with one of the stops being Holiday Beach Conservation Area. Top row (from left): Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society president Dr. Allan Halowski, Councillor Leo Meloche, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, CAO John Miceli, Paulette Drouillard and Maxine Iler of the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society, tourism co-ordinator Jen Ibrahim. Bottom row (from left): manager of parks Annette Zahaluk, ERCA director of conservation services Kevin Money, Fleury, McIlroy, Councillor Diane Pouget, director of public works and engineering Antonietta Giofu and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota.

“We’re excited to be here,” said McIlroy. “This is a beautiful, beautiful community and we have met so many people who are proud of their community and they’re volunteering and making it a better place. We look at tidiness, we look at environmental awareness, we look at heritage conservation and we look at the urban forestry, the trees, we look at the floral displays and the landscape, and through it all the community involvement.”

“It’s not only dealing with flowers but much more,” added Fleury. “It’s about how the cities are involved. It’s much more than just horticulture.”

Communities in Bloom judge Normand Fleury (left) chats with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo on the judges tour of Amherstburg July 17.

Communities in Bloom judge Normand Fleury (left) chats with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo on the judges tour of Amherstburg July 17.

McIlroy, who has been a judge with Communities in Bloom for 13 years, said this year is particularly special because the six cities she is visiting are all ones she has never seen before. Fleury on the other hand is experiencing his first year as a judge.

“It’s very exciting again,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “I think most people know, we did quite well last year, but did not take first place, but that’s OK. We lost to Niagara On The Lake, so we’re here doing it again and I hope we take the first prize this year. It is another nice opportunity, that is one of my jobs, selling the town and for this particular event it’s not selling it to have them move here, but just to show all of the amenities and attributes that make us the Town of Amherstburg and a great place to be.”

Communities in Bloom judge Lorna McIlroy takes a photo from atop the hawk tower at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

Communities in Bloom judge Lorna McIlroy takes a photo at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

Some of the stops on their tour included the historic Belle Vue site, the old Duffy’s site where the judges learned about the town’s plans to reconstruct the area, Fort Malden National Historic Site, Walker Aggregates, Holiday Beach and much more.

Amherstburg’s manager of tourism and culture, Anne Rota, said she along with the other residents of the town are incredibly thrilled to have the judges in attendance, and it shows.

“They seem to be very impressed,” said Rota. “It’s a team effort, and last night we walked along the Dalhousie street and we noticed that even the residents have really put their best foot forward and come out on top, the town looks amazing and I think we have a lot to offer. I think Amherstburg might just be very fortunate in their efforts to take home the gold this year.”

Town council considering eliminating two committees, combining two others

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A motion to combine the parks committee with the recreation and culture committee as well to eliminate the economic development committee and audit and finance committee has failed.

However, it doesn’t appear the issue is dead.

The motion lost thanks to a tie vote at the most recent meeting of town council with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo voting in favour along with councillors Rick Fryer and Diane Pouget. Opposing the motion were Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Leo Meloche and Joan Courtney.

Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance at the July 10 meeting.

The issue may be brought back for a reconsideration at a future meeting.

In a report to town council, clerk Paula Parker said her department was directed by CAO John Miceli to attend most committee and board meetings in 2016 to “for the purpose of providing procedural advice and to assess and address committee inconsistencies.”

Among the concerns they noted were that agendas were not posted to meet notice requirements as per the town’s approved procedural by-law, agenda templates are not consistent, agendas are not being published with supporting materials, chairs tend make motions, chairs tend to lead the meeting, there is no disclosure of pecuniary interest asked at the start of meetings, procedural rules are not being followed for delegates, no deferral motions, motions are too vague, minutes are not recorded as per Municipal Act requirements, minute templates are not consistent and recommendations/reports to council are inconsistent.

“The recent amendments to the Municipal Act add additional requirements and limitations to committees of council, if these concerns are not addressed, the town will be non-compliant with the Municipal Act and possibly the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” Parker stated in her report.

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Training was conducted for committee chairs in March 2017 but concerns were raised that they volunteer their time and should not have the same knowledge of the Municipal Act as the clerk’s department.

Staff liaisons were also provided additional training.

The staff liaison is now required to understand and follow parliamentary procedure and its supporting legislation. It is important to note that the clerk’s department has specialized knowledge in this area and is current with all legislative changes, the clerk is also charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all procedural rules and legislation are followed at all times. With this said, it is difficult to expect all staff members of the administrative team to know all the nuances of this specific task and as a result increases the potential risk of non-compliance,” Parker added in her report.

Parker said information was requested from the staff liaisons with respect to the function of each committee in preparation of her report that went before town council July 10. Some concerns that were brought forward include cancellation of meetings due to difficulties achieving quorum, absence of council representation, cancellation of meetings due to failure to meet notice requirements, committees moving motions that do not comply with their mandate, committees moving motions to eliminate portions of their council adopted mandate, committees challenging council decisions and committees supporting initiatives that require additional staff time that is not available within the time allotted recently by council.

Pouget said people on the committees work hard and try to give the best advice they can to council. She was concerned about whether committee members had been notified.

Meloche questioned whether town council has worked with its committees enough.

“I don’t think council has really engaged the committees,” he said, adding he believes there has been some “disconnect” between council and the committees.

Meloche didn’t object to dissolving the audit and finance committee, noting it is difficult to get a quorum for those meetings, nor did he oppose combining the the recreation and culture committee with the parks committee. He did not want to see the economic committee meeting be disbanded, noting they meet regularly and try to further economic development in the town.

DiCarlo called it “an issue of resources for the town” and that the recommendation to dissolve the committees was not personal against the committee members.

“Administration is also having a pretty tough time keeping up,” said the mayor.

DiCarlo added after the meeting he didn’t recall the Deloitte report saying the town had to have the audit and finance and economic development committees, believing the report gave guidance on what to do and what the town should be doing. He said the town is now moving in the right direction and that momentum could be continued without the committees.

“As much as we brought the committees in to move the town forward with accountability and transparency, I think we’ve achieved that in a lot of areas,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo reiterated concerns over resources and quorum, noting there are no “extra bodies” in the clerk’s department.

Economic development advisory committee chair Bob Rozankovic said that committee has only had one instance in three years where they failed to have quorum and that it is run well in terms of policy and procedures.

“The sword of Damocles still hangs over our heads,” Rozankovic said after the meeting.

Rozankovic believes there are certain council members who don’t like the committee and the issue of dissolving the committee “is somewhat of a petulant reaction” by those members.

“We’ve challenged them and, personally, I don’t think they like that.”