Jason Lavigne

No relief for Rotary Club under town’s sign bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Members of the Amherstburg Rotary Club are disappointed after town council did not grant them any relief from the sign bylaw.

Three members, all of whom are also on the Rotary Ribfest committee, appeared before council asking that they be allowed to have mobile signs and signs on residential and commercial properties for a 28-day period prior to their eighth annual Ribfest, which is scheduled for July 7-9 this year. Ribfest committee chair Carl Gibb, Rotary president Laura George-Jurilj and Tony Ross appeared at Monday night’s meeting.

Currently, they can only put out signs 14 days in advance of their events and based on the lack of seconder for a motion by Councillor Leo Meloche asking for the 28-day period, those restrictions will stay in place. They are not allowed portable signs, with event signs only allowed on commercial properties.

“The Ribfest Committee is totally opposed to these regulations. They are too restrictive and they pose a problem in getting people to come to our event,” said Gibb.

Gibb said the Ribfest has not presented any problems and has brought thousands of people to Amherstburg.

“These signs that we put up are professionally made by a local business,” said Gibb. “Fourteen days is not long enough to properly advertise an event. It is a known fact that you have to pass a road sign three times to know what it actually says.”

The Rotary Club has spent “considerable money” in acquiring the signs “and now we cannot use them.” He said until last year, they have put up signs four weeks prior to the event and removed them the day after.

“Two years ago, we had 15,000 people. Last year, we had just over 10,000. Is this a result of your restrictions on our advertising? Quite likely, some of it,” said Gibb. “It is ironic that we can put up any of our signs in Harrow, Kingsville, Leamington, Cottam, Essex, Lakeshore, LaSalle and even Windsor. How many phone calls, how many complaints we’ve had? Zero.”

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

Gibb said some businesses told him they make more money in sales during the Ribfest weekend than any other summer weekend. Banners over Sandwich St. S. may not be as effective, Gibb added, as some may not drive past it.

“Why do you want to restrict residents from showing their support for our event,” he asked, “with no signs on residential property?”

Signs are also placed strategically in high traffic areas.

“You allow roofing, siding and renovation companies from out of town to advertise for weeks but we can’t do it once a year,” said Gibb. “I don’t understand your concerns.”

The committee works year-round on the event and Gibb also pointed out the investment the Rotary Club has made in Amherstburg including the Miracle League field. He said they are also planning on supplying carbon monoxide detectors to homes at little to no cost this spring to low income families

“We are presently contemplating another new project that the town desperately needs. An announcement could come shortly,” he added.

Meloche questioned only allowing two weeks for the Rotary Club to put out signs and believed they are restricting their cause. He believed it is not up to government to put such restrictions in place and the signs are “a cost effective way of advertising.”

Meloche even quoted Supreme Court of Canada cases in similar matters.

“As far as I’m concerned, we are, in effect, being restrictive,” said Meloche.

“I am totally opposed to this request,” said Councillor Diane Pouget, adding she did support the Rotary Club in general.

Pouget said they went through a sign bylaw updating process for two years, and said they would be going backwards if they started allowing amendments to it.

“I believe in keeping it the way it is,” said Pouget.

The Communities in Bloom judges that came to Amherstburg last year also commented on the “sign pollution” matter when they were here, she said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said it is “a very difficult area of the law” and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an ever evolving area of the law.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said there were two years of discussion and public consultation on the sign bylaw and then suddenly after it passed, “all these concerns are coming up.” Manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli said the bylaw passed last year dealt with off-site portable signs and the bylaw that was being enforced in the Rotary Club’s case has been on the books since 2006.

“We do help,” Councillor Rick Fryer told the Rotary members, noting money is spent to help festivals advertise. “We are trying to help festivals as much as we can.”

George-Jurilj said they “are very disappointed by council’s decision in not working with us. The fact that this law has been in place since 2006 and never enforced until 2016 goes to show it has not been a real cause for concern for many of the residents in Amherstburg.”

She added the committee spends thousands of dollars on advertising for Ribfest in Amherstburg each year.

“We pay for billboards from Windsor to Chatham, radio, TV and newspaper ads, and lawn signs that we place in all our neighbouring communities. To spend this amount of time, energy and money bringing people and venue into the town of Amherstburg is something we are happy to do. We love this town and its people,” she continued. “But when I am told I can’t put a sign on my own front lawn supporting an event and organization that has done so very much for this town, I must say its extremely frustrating to say the least.”

George-Jurilj added: “This situation coupled with a few other factors has really made us re-evaluate our event. This may be ‘a sign of the times’ for us and our future here in Amherstburg.”

 

Town releases treasurer’s report detailing council and committee remuneration

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town has released its treasurer’s report detailing council’s remuneration for 2016.

The report shows that Mayor Aldo DiCarlo earned total remuneration from the town of $29,564.14. That figure is a combination of his $26,872.68 salary as mayor, his communication allowance of $1,374.54, his per diem of $103.98, $500 for public receptions and $712.94 for travel and mileage.

DiCarlo also $7,665 for being a member of the Essex Power board of directors including a $4,000, $3,500 for meeting fees and $165 for travel and mileage. He also received a $1,200 honorarium for being on the Amherstburg Police Services Board.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale earned $19,971.62 from the town including his salary of $18,413.40. DiPasquale’s communication allowance as $1,339 while his public receptions remuneration was $45. A total of $174.22 was listed as DiPasquale’s travel and mileage expenses.

Councillor Leo Meloche had a total remuneration figure of $20,194.29. In addition to the $15,936.12 salary he earned as a councillor, other expenses and remuneration included $1,223.33 for his communication allowance, $830.81 for his per diem, $342.86 for public receptions, $1000.18 for training and conferences and $860.99 for travel and mileage.

Town Logo Small-web

Councillor Joan Courtney’s total remuneration for 2016 was $19,015.16. Courtney’s communication allowance was $1,350.16 for 2016 while her per diem was $727.22. Training and conferences amounted to $890.40 for Courtney while her travel and mileage was $111.26. That remuneration was on top of her $15,936.12 salary.

Councillor Rick Fryer’s overall remuneration total was just slightly less than Courtney’s, coming in at $19,012.66. In addition to Fryer’s $15,936.12 salary, his communication allowance was $1,232.47 and his per diem was $830.81. Fryer’s training and conferences expenses were $843.64 while his travel and mileage remuneration amounted to $169.62. Fryer also received $650 on top of his remuneration from the town for being on the ERCA board of directors.

The total remuneration from the town for 2016 for Councillor Jason Lavigne was $18,957.07. The breakdown of that number included the $15,936.12 salary, his $1,393.83 communication allowance, $727.22 for his per diem and a travel and mileage expense of $111.26.

Lavigne also earned a $1,200 honorarium for being on the Amherstburg Police Services Board.

Councillor Diane Pouget’s remuneration for last year was $17,404. Her $15,936.12 salary was combined with a communication allowance of $1,268.06, a per diem of $103.59 and a training and conference total of $96.67.

Other Amherstburg Police Service Board members receiving a $1,200 honorarium were Pauline Gemmell, Bob Rozankovic and Patricia Simone.

A total of $4,350 in honorariums was paid to committee of adjustment members. Donald Shaw received an honorarium of $975 while Sherry Ducedre received $900. David Cozens, Michael Prue and Duncan Smith each received an honorarium of $825.

Accessibility committee honorariums included $100 for Kenneth Houston and $300 for William Whittal.

Ron Sutherland received $1,078 for being on the ERCA board and was also one of five drainage board members paid either for an honorarium or for a drainage course. The drainage board’s total amount for remuneration was $4,557.66 with other members including Gary Ayers, Robert Bezaire, Allan Major and Bob Pillon.

A total of $2,148 was paid to heritage committee members for their attendance at the Ontario Heritage Conference. Robert Honor received $1,073.52 while Paul Hertel received $1,074.64. Remuneration for economic advisory committee member John McDonald was $1,094.99 as he had attended the Think Smarter economic development forum.

Fifteen-minute parking spots on Richmond St. causes stir at council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has agreed to have two 15-minute parking spots on the north side of Richmond St. east of Sandwich St. S. after debate with numerous building and business owners.

Responding to a traffic committee recommendation for four 15-minute spots along the side of the Liberty Theatre building, business operators voiced objections to town council. Tony and Danielle Smith, owners of The Garage Gym, said they draw upwards of 120 people per day to their gym with some coming from across Windsor-Essex County.

“Every day, we rely on the parking,” he said.

Tony added that they were “appalled” by how the recommendation came about and that no one knew how it happened.

Ena Monteleone, owner/operator of Love it Yoga, said she has access to ten spots in an adjoining parking lot but when her studio holds larger events and programs, on-street parking is necessary.

“It is unnecessary to reduce the parking time to 15 minutes,” said Monteleone.

Monteleone further suggested that only one 15-minute spot was needed. She also said she wasn’t notified of a potential change beforehand.

Anthony Leardi, whose numbered company owns the building with The Garage Gym, Dan’s Roofing and an additional studio for the Catz Meow Dance Education Centre, reminded council of what he said they already knew.

“The town of Amherstburg doesn’t want vacant commercial property. The town of Amherstburg wants full commercial properties,” said Leardi.

Leardi said he took pictures from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 4, noting he chose a Saturday as it is the busiest shopping day of the week and the peak times of the week. Photos he showed council had very few, if any, vehicles in the spots.

“In short, no-one wants 15-minute parking,” he said.

One spot for 15-minute parking would be suitable between 10 a.m.-6 p.m., he suggested.

Town council reduced a recommendation from the traffic committee from four 15-spots on Richmond St. to two in the area just east of Sandwich St. S.

Town council reduced a recommendation from the traffic committee from four 15-spots on Richmond St. to two in the area just east of Sandwich St. S.

Gerry Theriault, owner of the Liberty Theatre property, said he has five commercial tenants and seven residential tenants. When he operated a business there and Wigle Home Hardware was across the street, there were no parking issues.

“People come, people go. That’s what retail is about,” he said.

Theriault said usage has changed and the town should better plan for that.

“What we are talking about is a little common sense,” said Theriault.

Theriault said people want to park close and noted people carrying water jugs or dry cleaning don’t want to walk a great distance, particularly in foul weather.

Councillor Jason Lavigne, chair of the traffic committee, said they deal with “hundreds of parking issues” and that if they notified everyone each time a parking issue arose, “we’d literally need a whole department” to do mailings and meet with residents.

“We weren’t trying to skirt you coming to meetings,” he said.

Lavigne, who made the motion to reduce the number of 15-minute spots from four to two, said they have police, fire, legal and public works officials on the committee. He said there are nearly 100 spots in that general area of town and “when we are discussing four, that concerns me a little bit.”

Councillor Leo Meloche recalled living in Montreal and Quebec City when he was happy to get a parking spot five blocks from his destination.

“Amherstburg doesn’t have a parking problem,” said Meloche. “People want to park in front of the door. This town provides a lot of parking and it’s free parking.”

Town council agrees to hire consultant to guide police costing process

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has agreed to hire MPM Consulting to help guide the joint police advisory committee through the police costing and/or police amalgamation process.

Council voted 5-2 – with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne, Joan Courtney and Leo Meloche in favour – to proceed with the hire.

Councillors Diane Pouget and Rick Fryer were opposed. Pouget said the cost of the hiring was being “kept secret” from the public and also voiced concern that Amherstburg Police Services Board and Amherstburg Police Association members on the committee were issuing “dire warnings” about the process and future public involvement in policing.

Lavigne, also the chair of the Amherstburg Police Services Board, explained that they are investigating amalgamations with such services as LaSalle and Windsor because a costing and takeover by another service like those two or the OPP would result in a loss of control by Amherstburg in the direction of its policing.

Town hall signWEB

Suggesting that people are trying to keep their seats on the board was a notion he didn’t agree with, noting he receives about $1,000 per year for his service on the APSB.

The town has to get an idea of what different policing models look like and MPM Consulting has the expertise to gather that information, Lavigne continued, adding he would rather go to the public later with a better understanding of what the future of policing would look like.

“We can’t put the cart before the horse,” he said. “We don’t know what it looks like.”

CAO John Miceli, who chairs the joint police advisory committee, said an amalgamation allows Amherstburg to talk about what policing they would like to see while accepting a costing and being taken over would see Amherstburg being told what kind of policing they would get.

“There’s a significant difference here,” said Miceli.

Miceli originally told council the consultant’s rates were in a private and confidential memo, but later stated that an average OPP costing is $35,000 to $50,000. He added the price for this consultation would likely be different due to the addition of the consultant considering the LaSalle and Windsor options.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale believed that the town will “only get one kick at the can” at this process and said while going through it without a consultant may save money, mistakes would be made.

“I think going in without a consultant who has expertise is silly,” he said.

Councillor Joan Courtney said she didn’t feel confident in making a decision on a costing or amalgamation without help and that the consultant would provide that help.

“There’s too much information we don’t have,” said Courtney.

It was also learned that the town can expect an OPP costing within the next five months.

Budget officially passed by town council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council officially passed the 2017 budget Monday night with it calling for a 1.87 per cent tax increase.

The town had a 1.89 per cent figure following the Jan. 9-10 budget deliberations but after a report came back on benefit costs, a reduction of $3,038 was found thus lowering the figure 0.02 per cent.

Councillor Leo Meloche didn’t believe the 1.87 per cent number was meaningful, noting MPAC assessments are rising roughly two per cent in Amherstburg. A home valued at $191,000 is actually $194,820 and taxes are actually rising from $1,727 to $1,795 on that value of a home.

Town Logo Small-web

Meloche voted in favour of the budget, saying the town did its due diligence and that “everyone did a good job,” but said the town has an aging population and that increasing property assessments have to be factored in.

Councillor Rick Fryer, the lone member of council to oppose the budget, also pointed out the MPAC factor. He added that farmland is seeing large assessment increases.

“Once you retire, you don’t get an increase in your pension,” he said.

Fryer added that people in the rural areas are feeling “left out” because they see investment being made in downtown infrastructure.

“I can’t tell people we’re doing the best due diligence we can,” said Fryer.

“Are we doing anything sneaky or different than other municipalities with our budget?” questioned Councillor Diane Pouget. “I’m really concerned if we don’t address this, the public will think there were attempts to mislead them.”

Director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau said he believes the town has an open and transparent budgeting process and that the town is doing everything it can to show its doing its due diligence. Councillor Jason Lavigne agreed, saying he was satisfied with a 1.87 per cent increase and that the process was transparent.

Councillor Joan Courtney thanked Rousseau and his department, calling it an “exemplary budget.”