Joan Courtney

Council moving forward with open air burning bylaw



By Ron Giofu


A decision is still weeks away as to whether open air burns will be permitted in Amherstburg, but the town is moving forward in the process.

Town council authorized administration to move forward with an open air fire bylaw and permit process for council’s consideration at a later date with public consultation meetings to be set up to allow residents to speak to it.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out he was the one who brought the issue forward, noting that some residents may want to have a bonfire with their children. He said he has heard a lot of comments and innuendo from residents but said he understands both sides of the argument including the argument against smoke and fumes.

“I’ve had blood clots in my lungs and I understand the health issues,” said Fryer. “I do understand the flipside too. It’s not something I thought of willy nilly.”

Fryer said the idea would be to call a hotline and see if conditions were right to have a fire, though added there is a difference between a fire in a rural area and a small bonfire in urban areas.

According to Fryer, about 70 per cent of people he has heard from are “excited” for the possibility of it being easier to have a bonfire while 30 per cent have health issues they are concerned with.

“I feel for them,” he said of the latter.

The bylaw will be “complicated” and will have to come back to council after a public consultation process, he added.

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In a report from fire chief Bruce Montone, he said “open air burning and campfires are currently taking place in all (urban, sub-urban and rural) areas of the Town of Amherstburg. The current situation where campfires are not permitted anywhere is resulting in illegal burns taking place in spring, summer and fall with no appropriate controls in place. Enforcement of the current bylaw is not manageable with current resources. Fire services is limited to responding to complaints with very little information often resulting in full station responses. In the past three years fire services has responded to 133 open burn calls at a cost to ratepayers of approximately $40,000.”

Montone added in his report that “the proposed by-law establishes a set of comprehensive maps that define the regulated areas for open air fires. The proposed harmonized by-law continues to permit open air fires where such burning can be carried out safely and provides for control over open air fires. The intent of existing regulations will be maintained within the proposed bylaw. To address changes in population density and fire safety conditions however, certain geographical areas will not be permitted to have open air fires.”

Montone said that a processing fee of $25 for an annual open air fire permit and $75 specific event open air fire permit respectively are proposed for the processing of the permits but told council those were suggestions based on information gathered from other Essex County municipalities. He said they are trying to “strike a balance” between customer service, recreation and public safety.

Councillor Joan Courtney said the intention was not for Amherstburg council to pass a new bylaw quickly and said she wants to hear from the public.

“I understand both sides,” said Courtney.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned no fines after responding to 133 calls. She added she is “adamantly opposed” to moving forward with the process, believing council should have just received Montone’s report and gone no further. There are many toxins that are emitted during such burns and people’s health could be negatively impacted.

“Council was very concerned about smoking and second hand smoke and eliminated all smoking near municipal buildings and parks,” she said, “yet we’re thinking of allowing open air burns?”

Pouget was particularly concerned about burns in urban areas, noting rural landowners have to have burns as part of their farming operations.

“They have a right to burn because it is part of their agricultural needs,” she said.

Montone told town council that all Essex County municipalities except Amherstburg currently have “permissive systems” with Fryer adding “we’re the only community in Essex County that doesn’t allow this.”

Council moved forward thanks to a 5-1 vote, with Pouget being the vote in opposition. Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance.

Fryer hopes for fire pit bylaw to streamline process of backyard fires



By Ron Giofu


A member of town council has asked that the fire department comes back with a fire pit bylaw to streamline the process for people wishing to have backyard fires.

Councillor Rick Fryer made the motion to have fire chief Bruce Montone bring such a bylaw to town council, with the hope it could be done by the July 10 meeting.

“It was brought to my attention that other municipalities have a one-time fee and all you have to do is call a number and an automated message will tell you ‘yes, you can’ or ‘no, you can’t have a fire that night due to weather conditions’,” said Fryer.

Fryer said that would come with a “nominal fee” and would allow residents to have a bonfire in their backyards and “enjoy their summer” if they wish to have a fire with their friends and family.

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“Other municipalities do it,” said Fryer. “I don’t know that this was our intention when we said no open burns.”

Deputy fire chief Lee Tome said the current bylaw is “many years old and due for an update” but doubted the report could come back by July 10. Fryer said he spoke with Montone and said July 10 is possible.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she has a problem with open burns but Councillor Joan Courtney voiced her support of Fryer’s motion.

“This past Father’s Day, my little grandchildren asked ‘grandma, can we build a bonfire and roast marshmallows?” said Courtney.

Courtney was apprehensive as a councillor about doing that, quipping that she didn’t want to see a headline in the River Town Times saying “Councillor violates own bylaw.”

“I would be very happy if we do this,” Courtney said about implementing a new fire pit bylaw.

Councillor Leo Meloche said the bylaw has to have urban and rural components.

“The bylaw has to be cognizant of where I live. There are 500 acres of open area behind me,” the McGregor resident said.

Duffy’s demolition to start shortly



By Ron Giofu


Demolition of the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn should start within the next week or two.

Town council approved the tender during its meeting Monday night with the winning bid going to the Jones Group Ltd. The total amount quoted by the Jones Group was just over $280,000 to complete the work, with that dollar figure being over $172,000 less than the next lowest bidder.

Demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is scheduled to begin either next week or the week after, based on information learned during Monday night’s council meeting.

Demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is scheduled to begin either next week or the week after, based on information learned during Monday night’s council meeting.

In his report to town council, CAO John Miceli stated that the firm that performed the environmental assessment on the Dalhousie St. property provided a designated substance survey (DSS) of the property.

“The DSS confirmed asbestos, lead, mercury and silica present in different areas of the former tavern building. The abatement requirements were included in the tender specifications for all proponents,” said Miceli in his report.

The town used the firm Golder Associates for the assessment, Miceli stated, adding the town was able to renegotiate the purchase price down to $1.115 million.

If all goes smoothly and according to plan, Miceli said the demolition could start either next week or the week after.

Councillor Jason Lavigne wondered if the Amherstburg Fire Department was finished with the building, as it was being used for training purposes.

“We have pretty much used it for as much as we could,” replied deputy fire chief Lee Tome.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she appreciated the thoroughness of Miceli’s report, noting she was a critic when the report came several months ago regarding the demolition of the former AMA Arena.

Pouget noted the price difference between Jones Group Ltd. and the rest of the bidders.

“It’s such a big, big difference,” she said. “With all of the savings, we’ll be able to fix up the property much quicker than we originally anticipated.”

Demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is scheduled to begin either next week or the week after, based on information learned during Monday night’s council meeting.

Demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is scheduled to begin either next week or the week after, based on information learned during Monday night’s council meeting.

Councillor Joan Courtney asked if the town had applied for any grant money for the project, including the redevelopment of the lands. Miceli said there has been one application submitted thus far, and that pertained to the removal of gas tanks from the property.

Courtney also questioned whether there had been any meetings with stakeholders. The CAO said the next steps are to meet with the community and stakeholder groups to discuss the proposals for the property. The town has floated such ideas as an amphitheatre, marina, and food truck parking among other amenities.

Demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is scheduled to begin either next week or the week after, based on information learned during Monday night’s council meeting.

Demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn is scheduled to begin either next week or the week after, based on information learned during Monday night’s council meeting.

Miceli added he knows of one party that is interested in sponsoring riverfront development in that area.

Council had been made aware of Miceli’s concerns that the site could further decay and become a target for vandalism. He also stated in his report that demolition could have become more complex if delayed due to the ongoing construction of the neighbouring Queen Charlotte Residences.

Town wants enhancements to Essex-Windsor EMS



By Ron Giofu


Town council is asking Essex County council to help enhance EMS service in the town.
Councillor Joan Courtney’s motion calls for the county to review Essex-Windsor EMS and to provide funding necessary to improve the areas that are “in need.” That same letter will be sent to all municipalities and members of Parliament.

Essex-Windsor EMS chief Bruce Krauter attended town council’s April 10 meeting outlining what the service does. The 24-hour-per-day, 365-day-per-year service responded to over 103,000 requests for service in 2016 with roughly 58,000 patient contacts and approximately 39,000 patient transports. It has 12 stations, including the Simcoe St. base in Amherstburg, 38 ambulances, 12 emergency response vehicles and other support vehicles and trailers.

Amherstburg amounted for roughly five per cent of the call distribution in 2016 with Krauter adding that the town has seen an 8.6 per cent rise in call volumes. That is consistent with the region, with Krauter citing an aging population, increased residential development and retiree recruitment as factors in the rise.

Recruiting retirees to the area is great, he stated, but pointed out it is a “double-edged sword” due to the need for EMS services.

Off-load delays at area hospitals continue to put pressure on Essex-Windsor EMS, Krauter noted. As paramedics have to stay with the patients at the hospitals until they can be admitted, it ties up ambulances and resources that could otherwise be deployed elsewhere.

The recently introduced vulnerable patient navigator (VPN) program is producing “exceptional results,” said Krauter. The concept behind the VPN program is that it will alleviate calls for service and allow patients to receive the care they need without having to go to the hospital.

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Courtney said she appreciated Krauter coming to town council but questioned him over how ambulances are deployed. He noted that ambulances often go to the nearest call regardless of municipal boundaries and that municipal fire services often assist EMS at calls.

Councillor Rick Fryer wondered why all municipalities don’t use firefighters at calls, citing Leamington as an example. Fryer said if there is a city-county fee for service, all municipalities should be equal.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she was “very, very concerned” about the issue and said she “didn’t think it is fair” that Leamington isn’t paying for the same service Amherstburg is paying for.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said Leamington is paying for EMS with fire chief Al Reaume stating that Amherstburg has a tiered response agreement with the Essex-Windsor EMS which allows firefighters to attend calls while an ambulance is unavailable or a fair distance away.

Reaume said all municipalities except Leamington have a tiered response and that agreements are arrived at between Essex-Windsor EMS and each respective council. Amherstburg paid $61,000 through that program last year and Reaume suggested that if council is looking to recover costs, they should seek money from the Ontario government.

Councillor Leo Meloche said his belief is that it is up to each municipality on how much service they wish to provide, adding that the area is on the “front wave of the baby boom.”

Pouget believed the town should show it is not satisfied with the level of service and needs to show upper levels of government that fact.

“We want them to know we expect better for the citizens of Amherstburg,” she said.

Verdi Club looking to work with the town to assist with club events



By Ron Giofu


The Verdi Club may have sold its building, but the club is still in operation.

And those operations may be based out of the Libro Centre.

Verdi Club board member Tino Riccio and treasurer Joe Capaldi appeared before town council Monday night seeking a partnership with the town that would see bocce courts installed on town property and the use of a room at the Libro Centre for the Verdi Club’s card games and social activities.

Riccio said the building on Texas Road, now known as the Fort Fun Centre, was sold after “60 glorious years” and now the Verdi Club is looking to go elsewhere for its activities. He suggested placing the bocce courts on land next to the Amherstburg Community Services building or at the Libro Centre, adding the club’s membership has the expertise to take care of the courts.

“We’d like to introduce the game to the population at large,” said Riccio.

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The club formerly had card games and activities six nights per week, he said, but would be willing to reduce that to three nights per week.

Councillor Joan Courtney said the Verdi Club “has been good for the town” over the past six decades and directed administration to come back with a report on the club’s requests.

“I hope we can do something to help,” said Courtney.

CAO John Miceli said he has had preliminary discussions with Riccio and waited to see what direction he received from town council before progressing any further.

“I think we will be able to bring a report back to council in short order,” Miceli said, believing it will either be before council April 24 or the first meeting in May.

Councillor Diane Pouget agreed that the Verdi Club has been an asset to the community and thanked them for the club’s involvement. She added the Fort Malden Golden Age Club has also been an asset to the town, and wanted to ensure there were not any conflicts between the two organizations at the Libro Centre.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he was glad to see the passion from the club and was pleased with the members sharing the sport of bocce with the community.

Riccio added they are currently renting a room in the Amherstburg Community Services office on Victoria St. S. for a month as they wait to see what they do in the future.