Bart DiPasquale

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.

 

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.

Doll museum makes $20,000 donation towards Belle Vue restoration

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls has stepped forward to help the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The doll museum, which is currently operating out of the Malden Community & Cultural Centre located at 7860 County Road 20, officially presented a cheque for $20,000 to the conservancy last Thursday morning on Belle Vue’s front porch.

The donation is the first under the conservancy’s sponsorship program and the $20,000 will result in a window being named for the Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls.

Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, said the donation from the doll museum has been the largest to date and hopes it inspires other individuals and companies to step forward.

“This property can be restored to the way it was,” said Prue. “It won’t take very long with donations like this.”

The Palladian-style architecture is rare in Canada, with Prue citing a Nova Scotia government building as the only other example.

The Shaantii International Museum of Costumes and Dolls made a $20,000 donation to the Belle Vue Conservancy last Thursday and will get naming rights to a window. From left: Conservancy treasurer Michael Prue, Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, museum secretary/treasurer Raj Varma, museum board member Nancy Morand, museum vice president Ivan Robich and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

The Shaantii International Museum of Costumes and Dolls made a $20,000 donation to the Belle Vue Conservancy last Thursday and will get naming rights to a window. From left: Conservancy treasurer Michael Prue, Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, museum secretary/treasurer Raj Varma, museum board member Nancy Morand, museum vice president Ivan Robich and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

“I am looking forward to the day (Belle Vue) is open to the public and we can say with extreme pride that we are from Amherstburg and we’ve been able to do this,” he said.

“We’re making strides. We’re just not making huge strides yet,” said Shirley Curson-Prue, the president of the conservancy.

Other fundraisers are in the works, Curson-Prue noted, and said artist Peter Rindlisbacher is working on the painting that will hang in the Belle Vue and be reproduced for public sale. Rindlisbacher’s involvement was announced last year.

More donations are in the works, she added, but can’t be announced just yet.

The doll museum raised its money largely through bingos and Raj Varma, secretary/treasurer with the museum, indicated they would like to see Belle Vue as a “destination point in Amherstburg.”

Their own museum contains rare dolls and costumes with Varma stating “the museum is very unique in North America.” The collection features dolls from all over the globe with board vice president Ivan Robich adding the collection is valued at $500,000.

“A lot of the dolls have come from private collections,” said Robich.

The Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls came to Amherstburg with the assistance of the town’s tourism department after several stops in Windsor. Robich believes it was a “Godsend” they were able to located at the Malden Community & Cultural Centre, which is also known as “the Little White Church.”

Nancy Morand, a director with the museum’s board, added her belief that the relationship has been “mutually beneficial” to the town and the museum. It is open Saturdays from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. during the Amherstburg Farmers Market season, which starts this Saturday. The museum is also open for private tours by calling 519-839-4237.

The doll museum could have some sort of presence at Belle Vue, through an exhibit or a display, but the future use of the property still appears to be focused on a conference centre type facility. Public consultation is yet to come with future uses to be discussed during those talks.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale thanked the doll museum for its donation.

“It’s donations like these that bring us closer to opening Belle Vue,” said DiPasquale. “We hope this encourages others to make donations so we can open these doors as soon as possible.”

Cypher Systems Greenway officially open

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Although people have been trying it out for a few months now, the Cypher Systems Greenway is now officially open.

The 22-kilometre trail that links Amherstburg with Essex celebrated its grand opening last Thursday morning in McGregor. The trail, an abandoned rail line that was donated to the Essex Region Conservation Foundation (ERCF) in 2003, intersects in McGregor with the existing Chrysler Canada Greenway.

Claire Wales, ERCF vice president, credited the partnerships with donors, volunteers and contributors for making the trail a reality.

The town of Amherstburg officially made its $100,000 contribution to the Cyper Systems Greenway last Thursday morning in McGregor. The donation went to the Essex Region Conservation Foundation (ERCF) and came from the town’s 2016 surplus. From left: ERCF vice president Claire Wales, Councillor Leo Meloche, CAO John Miceli, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Councillor and Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) chair Rick Fryer.

The town of Amherstburg officially made its $100,000 contribution to the Cyper Systems Greenway last Thursday morning in McGregor. The donation went to the Essex Region Conservation Foundation (ERCF) and came from the town’s 2016 surplus. From left: ERCF vice president Claire Wales, Councillor Leo Meloche, CAO John Miceli, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Councillor and Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) chair Rick Fryer.

“We are so grateful to the Government of Canada, Cypher Systems Group, and the hundreds of corporate and individual donors who raised $1 million through our TrailON! campaign to develop this trail,” said Wales.

According to the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), whom the ERCF raises funds on behalf of, Caesars Windsor made an initial contribution of $25,000 to kick off the campaign.  ERCA stated that contributions of $250,000 from Cypher Systems Group, $100,000 from the Town of Essex and many other corporate and individual donations enabled the Essex Region Conservation Foundation to be approved for up to $500,000 in funding through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program (CIP 150) for the trail renovation.

The Town of Amherstburg added $100,000 more by officially presenting a cheque at the grand opening. That money was part of a surplus from the town’s 2016 operations.

Brian Schwab, president of Cypher Systems Group, said the company made the investment not just as a way to give back.

The new sign for the Cypher Systems Group Greenway was also unveiled April 27.

The new sign for the Cypher Systems Group Greenway was also unveiled April 27.

“It’s an attempt to make our community better,” said Schwab. “We can go for walks, jogs, runs and really start to explore this area and appreciate all it has to offer.  We can accomplish much and build upon the value of this area by helping to provide these types of recreational places.  It really is an investment, for everyone to use and enjoy today and for future generations to come.”

Elected officials from both Amherstburg and Essex attended the grand opening with Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale bringing greetings from Amherstburg. DiPasquale hoped people have positive experiences and stated it’s been a long time in the making.

ERCA chair Rick Fryer, also an Amherstburg councillor, said credit for trails dates back to the late Herb Gray, whose vision saw CN and CP donated old rail lines. He said trails are helping to make the Essex region a place to come to.

“We’ve become the region to come and live in,” said Fryer, adding he also met several people on the trail while on a recent bicycle ride with one of his daughters.

Fryer added that “green spaces, trails and a healthy environment directly contribute to our region being recognized as the place for life, where people choose to live, work, visit, and invest.”

The official ribbon cutting for the Cypher Systems Greenway occurred last Thursday morning in McGregor. From left: ERCA chair and Amherstburg councillor Rick Fryer, ERCF vice president Claire Wales, Cypher Systems Group president Brian Schwab, Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, Stephen Savage of Cypher Systems Group, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and ERCA general manager Richard Wyma.

The official ribbon cutting for the Cypher Systems Greenway occurred last Thursday morning in McGregor. From left: ERCA chair and Amherstburg councillor Rick Fryer, ERCF vice president Claire Wales, Cypher Systems Group president Brian Schwab, Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, Stephen Savage of Cypher Systems Group, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and ERCA general manager Richard Wyma.

Fryer noted that “we can hop on our bikes and visit our good friends in the town of Essex,” with Essex Mayor Ron McDermott making similar remarks.

“It’s nice to know we are hooked up to Amherstburg and the rest of the region,” said McDermott.

In a press release, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario Navdeep Bains stated: “Recreational activities and facilities form an essential part of every community. The Government of Canada recognizes that investments in projects like the Cypher Systems Group Greenway allow us to celebrate our heritage, improve the health of Canadians, and allow families to enjoy moments of sport, leisure and contemplation for years to come.”

 

ACS thanks its “stars” at volunteer appreciation dinner

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) rolled out the red carpet to thank its volunteers.

ACS held its annual volunteer appreciation dinner last Wednesday night at the K of C Hall with this year’s event being dubbed “A Night of a Hundred Stars.” It’s 124, actually, as that’s how many volunteers ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said the agency has.

Those volunteers put in over 7,000 hours of service during 2016, she added.

The Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) volunteer appreciation dinner had a Hollywood theme this year with people able to pose next to cutouts of famous entertainers. Getting in on the fun last Wednesday night were ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and ACS board of directors president Terri Barrette.

The Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) volunteer appreciation dinner had a Hollywood theme this year with people able to pose next to cutouts of famous entertainers. Getting in on the fun last Wednesday night were ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and ACS board of directors president Terri Barrette.

“Just as Hollywood recognizes its stars, we wanted to recognize (the volunteers) the same way,” said DiBartolomeo.

The 124 volunteers was a figure that impressed DiBartolomeo.

“That is amazing,” she said. “That is our highest amount ever. We continue to grow every day.”

DiBartolomeo outlined the lengthy history of volunteerism and told the ACS volunteers that “you carry on a centuries old tradition and we see you as stars in our community.”

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale brought greetings from the town. DiPasquale, a former ACS board member, said the people with ACS were those he was close to.

“I enjoy working in Amherstburg. I enjoy the people,” DiPasquale said. “I feel the people are part of my family.”

ACS also serves LaSalle and Harrow with LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya also being a Meals on Wheels driver when his schedule permits.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) receives a gift from ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo for attending the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) receives a gift from ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo for attending the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner.

“The service you provide to the community is immeasurable,” Antaya told the volunteers. “You can’t put a price on it.”

Antaya said it was more than just delivering a meal, but it is also spending time with seniors and those who may need just someone to visit them.

“Never underestimate your importance,” he said. “Continue giving. There’s nothing better than giving to your community.”

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey praised the commitment of the volunteers, adding the government can only do so much. Ramsey said those who serve their community make major impacts and that is what makes Essex County so unique.

“Thank you for your continuing service,” Ramsey told the crowd.

Bryan Dzombak (left) receives one of the door prizes offered at the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner last Wednesday night. Making the  presentation is ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Bryan Dzombak (left) receives one of the door prizes offered at the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner last Wednesday night. Making the
presentation is ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Terri Barrette, president of ACS’ board of directors, recalled learning about giving back from her grandmother and told the volunteers they were special and stars.

“What all of you provide to the community is invaluable,” said Barrette.

In many cases, Barrette said volunteers are allowing people to have choices and freedoms through such factors as the ability to stay in their own homes.

“You are not only their saving grace, you are inspiring the next generation to be leaders,” said Barrette. “In more ways than one, the community is stronger and richer because of you.”