By Ron Giofu
Essex Powerlines has continued its “Youth in Community Fund” donations with Amherstburg getting its $10,000 share Monday night.
Essex Power Corporation is making a $40,000 donation through its Youth in Community Fund with it being shared among Amherstburg, Leamington, LaSalle and Tecumseh to “advance local, youth related investment.” To date, Essex Power says it has funded a total of $160,000 youth driven initiatives in the communities it serves.
Some of the proceeds will be going to the Essex Empowerment Group, a group of about 15 girls from across the area that meet Wednesday nights at the Libro Centre. The girls are mainly from Amherstburg at this point and range in age from 10-14.
The Essex Empowerment group is newly formed, said manager of recreation services Rick Daly and “focuses on mentorship and positive role modelling. This program is unique because it was created, developed and ran by youth, for youth.”
Daly added that “Essex Power has given us the opportunity to run a program that empowers young girls to be the strongest and most true version of themselves that they can be.’
“As a father of four girls, I am glad to see that a girls empowerment group thanks to my place of employment,” said Joe Barile, general manager of Essex Powerlines.
Essex Empowerment Group facilitators Elizabeth Di Paolo and Mackenzie Robson said the money their group will receive will help the group grow its programming and expand its membership. Such topics they discuss include self-esteem, bullying, relationships and being a positive role model.
“They all come from diverse backgrounds,” Di Paolo said of the membership.
Robson said the group “has really opened my eyes” and that was something Di Paolo agreed with.
Barile would also tell council about other works of Essex Power. He noted in 2005, the provincial control over hydro bills was at about 75 per cent while the provincial portion of a typical hydro bill is now 81 per cent.
Essex Power tries to keep the share of the rates near the rate of inflation and works with customers on how to save energy, said Barile. He said Essex Power is on pace to meet its conservation targets for the period of 2015-20.
As for outages, Barile said many are due to tree contacting power lines. Due to maintenance, that number has dropped from about 30 in 2005 to less than five in 2016, according to Barile. They have also developed in-house technology to better manage the grid, he added.
The town’s cumulative dividend over the last five years is over $1.1 million, he added, and that the company also continues to invest in infrastructure. They are the 16th most efficient distribution company in Ontario as opposed to Hydro One, which is 66th.
Essex Power has expressed interest in acquiring more Hydro One shares in Amherstburg, with Barile acknowledging that some streets see customers served by Essex Power on one side and Hydro One on the other.
Councillor Diane Pouget said the previous council made its share of mistakes but one mistake they didn’t make was selling their Essex Power shares.
Councillor Rick Fryer said many still have difficulty paying their bills, primarily due to the 81 per cent share of the bills controlled by the province.
“That 81 per cent is hurting a lot of residents,” said Fryer.
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo pointed out the money that comes back to the town from Essex Power every year.
“I can honestly say Essex Power is a partner,” said DiCarlo.