John Miceli

Town seeking solutions to McGregor flooding, municipal subsidy program to come soon

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

A McGregor resident appeared before town council regarding the late August flood and the town is stating they are coming up with answers for him and every other resident.

Tom Welsh, who lives on Middle Side Road, said his home was damaged by flooding in the Aug. 28 storm as seven inches of rain hit that area, including five inches between the hours of 7-11 p.m. He told council it’s not the first time that it happened.

“Two times in two years we’ve flooded,” said Welsh. “It’s enough. There’s more people in town that just the core.”

Welsh said he had 18 inches of water in his basement, including human feces. He noted he has even spent $3,000 on a generator trying to fix the problem.

“I don’t know what else to do. It’s got to stop. Things have to be done,” said Welsh. “I put a whole lot into (my home). It’s a nice area. Our community is awesome.”

Welsh wanted to see more investment in that area.

“Everything you see in town is for the core,” he said. “We should get something.”

The town said there is, in fact, investment happening there and work is being done to address the issues in McGregor. An $80,000 investigation was conducted and “no smoking gun” was found in the public system. Director of public works and engineering Antonietta Giofu stating “our focus shifts to the private side.” She added a report regarding a subsidy program is currently scheduled to come before council Sept. 25.

“It will definitely include McGregor and be a town-wide program as well,” she said.

Councillor Diane Pouget told Welsh “we have spent quite a bit of money” in trying to solve the problem, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreeing.

“We are spending money and we will continue to spend money until we find a solution,” said DiCarlo. “This council is very committed to it. We’re going to keep working in this area to alleviate the problem.”

DiCarlo said this council is sympathetic to residents who continuously flood but said $400,000 has been budgeted this year to try and fix the problem as quickly as possible. He noted the forthcoming report will address issues as downspout disconnections and backflow valves, among other things, and that they will work with private homeowners to address issues.

The Ontario government has released this map detailing where in Amherstburg disaster relief is available stemming from the Aug. 28 rain event.

“We have not forgotten about anybody,” he said. “I think council has shown we know where the town’s boundaries are.”

One in 100 year storms are not one in 100 year storms anymore and DiCarlo added large rain events can be expected so action is needed.

“Every time it rains, if there is a mayor that doesn’t sweat, I don’t know who they are,” he said. “The hardest part is to tell people we’re working on it as I can only imagine how that has been received.”

CAO John Miceli said administration is doing its part to try and find a resolution to the problem, believing the subsidy program is a step in the right direction.

“We understand your concerns,” said Miceli. “We’re providing a program that I think will go over and above what other municipalities are offering.”

Miceli also said until a solution is found to the flooding issues, “we’re going to keep trying.”

Welsh also expressed concern with the number of power outages the area experiences, with DiCarlo stating that Essex Power has tried to work with Ontario Hydro to take over all of Amherstburg but “they have flat out denied us over and over.”

The town would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Welsh and Ontario Hydro, said DiCarlo, as he believed that would do more than the municipality trying to get involved. He added that Ontario Hydro “is all but ignoring infrastructure in rural areas.

“We’re fighting the province on this,” said DiCarlo. “If they are going to provide hydro, they have to do so reliably.”

In all, roughly 34 homes in the McGregor area have reported flooding to the town of Amherstburg.

The Ontario government notified the City of Windsor and the Towns of Amherstburg, Essex, Lakeshore, LaSalle and Tecumseh last Thursday that it has activated the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program in flood-affected areas.

The province advised that affected individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have experienced property damage or loss as a result of this disaster may be eligible to receive help with emergency and recovery expenses.

The program applies to a primary residence and its basic contents, or to a main small business, farm or not-for-profit organization. Damage from sewer backup is not eligible under the program except under special provisions for low-income households.

The government states it “is closely monitoring other areas experiencing flooding across the province. It may activate the program in these areas as flood impacts continue to be assessed in the coming days and weeks.”

More information and detailed program guidelines are available at http://ontario.ca/DisasterAssistance or call toll-free 1-844-780-8925.

 

County’s response to town’s library fund request doesn’t impress local officials

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg continues to press the County of Essex for its share of funds that accrued during the 251-day Essex County Library strike and the town isn’t happy with the latest development.

The town has asked for its share of the money back but a letter received from county CAO Brian Gregg dated Aug. 25 was one that “totally offended” the town’s CAO. John Miceli told town council that he was frustrated that the Essex County Library Board is managing the file on behalf of Essex County council.

“At its meeting of August 9, 2017, County Council passed a resolution directing that grant funding requests to support capital improvements and renovations at library branches be forwarded to the Essex County Library Board for review and support. Once approved, the Library Board will advise county administration that it is in order to release the appropriate grant amount. Council also endorsed the principle that, to qualify for grant funding, the improvements are to be carried out prospectively, effective August 9, 2017,” Gregg’s letter stated. “Council directed administration to develop, for its consideration, a process to be codified to administer the grant requests put forward by local municipalities. It is anticipated a draft process, along with the total amount of eligible grant funds allocated to each local municipality, will be presented to County Council at either its September 6, 2017 meeting or its September 20, 2017 meeting.”

Amherstburg council is still asking for its share of library funds that accrued during the 251-day strike. (RTT File Photo)

Councillor Diane Pouget said Amherstburg council asked “in good faith” about getting the town’s share back.

“They’re tying our hands, no matter what we do,” she said.

Miceli said measures have been taken by the town to improve the library building. He noted there is “only one taxpayer in the Town of Amherstburg” and that no services were provided to those taxpayers from June 25, 2016 to Feb. 10, 2017.

The town can make its own decisions what it uses its share for, Miceli stated, and that roughly $75,000 to $85,000 in work has been done to improve parking at the library and to make other repairs, some of which were safety related.

The Aug. 9 date was also questioned by the CAO, who added he is willing to attend the Sept. 20 county council meeting to further address the town’s concerns. Miceli also plans to raise the issue with his administrative colleagues this week.

“What does Aug. 9 have to do with it?” he asked. “It should be retroactive to June 25, 2016.”

 

Town gets closer look at $6.9 million tree inventory

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town received an update on its tree inventory with the value of the trees in the right-of-ways being in the seven-figure range.

Arborist Bill Roesel and manager of public works Eric Chamberlain presented the tree inventory project to town council at the Aug. 21 meeting with Roesel telling council that 4,181 trees were examined over a six-week period. The value of the street trees was compiled based on size, species, health rating and location with Roesel adding that the value of the trees is estimated at just under $6.9 million.

“A lot of people don’t realize trees have a monetary value,” said Roesel.

One challenge that Roesel said the town faces is the number of Norway Maples planted in the municipality. He said many were planted 30-40 years ago and were the “tree of choice” but now there are issues.

“They were overplanted,” he said.

At least half of the trees in town in the public right-of-ways are Norway Maples and those trees face challenges such as verticillium wilt and girdling roots, the latter being defined as roots that grow around other roots or the main trunk of a tree.

Town council was also told there are 46 trees in town identified as “priority one,” meaning those trees require removal as soon as possible as they present a hazard to the public.

There are 71 trees that are “priority two” trees, meaning the trees require removal within the next four to six months before they become hazardous. There are 91 additional trees that are classified as “priority three” trees which means they are recommended for removal within the next 12 months before they become hazardous.

Town HallWEB

Councillor Diane Pouget said she wanted it made public where the priority one, two and three trees are so people know what trees are slated to come down. She recalled a group of residents hiring their own arborist to save trees on Richmond St. several years ago and also recalled the Navy Yard Park tree debate of 2008, one that garnered major media attention.

“I don’t want a repeat of what happened (in 2008),” she said. “It’s better to be open and honest about it.”

CAO John Miceli said the town will replace trees that are cut down, if possible, and said the tree inventory project “is a very significant undertaking for the town.” Of the 4,181 trees studied, he said the ones needing immediate attention amounts to less than five per cent, something he believed was good news for the municipality.

Chamberlain said ten large trees have already been cut down due to them posing a danger to the public, with Miceli noting that $50,000 is included in the 2017 budget for tree maintenance. Councillor Jason Lavigne pointed out there are no new costs to cut down potentially hazardous trees.

“It’s business as usual,” he said.

Community improvement plan process starts, could hotel follow?

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town is getting started on a new community improvement plan and the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) believes it could lead to the resolution of a long-standing wish for many in Amherstburg.

Town council agreed to move the process forward at Monday night’s meeting and that is no small thing according to John Miceli.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Miceli. “We are going to identify what conditions need to be for development opportunities to create a new hotel here.”

The town has heard “loud and clear” that Amherstburg needs a hotel and a completed community improvement plan will lead the community in that direction. He said the town has “a Class A facility” in the Libro Centre but no place to house people and suggested an interim measure to expand the bed and breakfast program in town to allow for additional opportunities to keep people local.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said $50,000 was approved for the initiative with Monteith Brown Planning Consultants awarded the contracts. She also noted in the town’s strategic plan process last year, the need for overnight accommodations was a common theme. The strategic plan also identified the importance of built and cultural assets with the plan also to incorporate urban design guidelines.

Belanger said those guidelines will provide architectural and urban design requirements for developments, promote cultural heritage, identify building features such as facades and proportions in streetscapes, identify and update required changes to signage and other streetscape features, support streetscape beautification to trigger private sector investment and identify strategies including phasing, design tools, costing and potential funding sources.

Public consultation would also be part of the process, she added. The targeted completion date for the community improvement plan and urban design guidelines is February 2018.

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Miceli added that people who doubt if the town is serious in trying to land a hotel or protect cultural heritage will be able to look at that report and “see we are doing what we need to do to bring these things to the community.”

Town council also gave the green light to administration to begin the parks master plan process. That plan will include a comprehensive review and analysis of parks and recreational needs based on trends and demographics, contain “an extensive public engagement program,” provide a “clear action plan” and strategy to guide the development of future park facilities and recreational amenities over a ten-year period.

Belanger noted that $80,000 was budgeted for the parks master plan initiative with Monteith Brown Planning Consultants also landing that contract.

“A significant consultation plan will occur throughout the process,” she emphasized, noting there will be such things as two public input sessions, online surveys and stakeholder interviews.

The goals that Belanger outlined for the parks master plan include assessing parkland supplies including “a hierarchy of parks and future levels of service,” identifying physical improvements to existing parks and new park amenities and soliciting further public input on the concept plan for the Duffy’s lands.

Belanger said the hope is to have the parks master plan completed in December.

Twenty-seven per cent of town’s infrastructure either “poor” or “very poor”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town approved its new asset management plan as it hopes to find a way to start replenishing some of its aging and worn out assets.

According to a report from manager of engineering and operations Todd Hewitt, roughly $88.8 million – or 15 per cent – of town infrastructure is in “very poor” condition and $70.2 million – or 12 per cent – is in “poor” condition. Hewitt added there is a $47 million backlog of infrastructure replacement based on useful life with $34 million reaching the end of their useful life in the next five years.

Broken down, $42 million (33 per cent) of road infrastructure is in poor or very poor condition with Hewitt saying that is for complete replacement, not repair. Over $10 million of bridge and culvert infrastructure is in poor or very poor shape, amounting to 23 per cent. Twenty-seven per cent of water infrastructure is in poor or very poor condition, which equates to $33.9 million of the town’s water infrastructure.

About $27.8 million – or 22 per cent – of wastewater infrastructure is classified as being in poor or very poor condition with $7.4 million (17.9 per cent) of storm water infrastructure also being in rough shape.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned the sewage numbers and Hewitt acknowledged a lot of money has been poured into that department related to sewers and the wastewater plant, “there’s still a lot of work to do.” He cited brick sewers still being in some areas of town and equipment now past its lifecycle at the plant in the McLeod Ave. area.

Thirty-one per cent ($12.7 million) of building infrastructure is in poor or very poor condition while 59 per cent of the town’s machinery and equipment – or $1.9 million worth – is in that condition as well.

Currently, $2.6 million (33.6 per cent) of the town’s land improvements such as parks assets is in poor or very poor condition while 72 per cent of the vehicle fleet can be classified as such with the latter seeing $6.2 million worth of the fleet in poor or very poor shape. There is also $1 million worth of the information technology (IT) infrastructure in poor or very poor shape, amounting to 75 per cent of that department’s infrastructure.

Town Logo Small-web

The town has an average asset health grade of “C” and and average financial capacity grade of “F,” making their overall grade for the municipality “D.”

Hewitt did note that despite items, including equipment, machinery, vehicles and computers, classified as poor or very poor, they are still usable but are just prone to increased repair costs.

“I was appalled when I read this report,” said Councillor Joan Courtney. “I was sick to my stomach.”

Courtney said she was concerned that this could make any progress the town has made moot as there is over $150 million in infrastructure that is classified as being in poor or very poor shape.

“Are we going to have to raise taxes to bring down that $150 million?” she asked.

Part of Hewitt’s report noted that a 1.5 per cent increase to the general tax budget, a two per cent increase for wastewater and one per cent increase to water will be presented to council during budget deliberations.

While tax increases are at council’s discretion, CAO John Miceli said that is part of the reason the levies were introduced. He added that it was learned at the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa, there is a $10 million per day infrastructure backlog across the province’s 444 municipalities.

“We’re not the only ones with the problem,” said Miceli, adding that nine per cent of the revenue raised through the tax system comes back to municipalities while municipalities have the most assets to look after.

The asset management plan will assist in the grant application process, he added, believing water and wastewater would be top priorities of upper levels of government.

Councillor Rick Fryer said while the report “looks like doom and gloom,” he agreed that having the plan is actually good news, and that it helps Amherstburg seek federal and provincial funding as the town can present it to upper levels of government.

“I don’t think a negative spin should come out in the media,” said Fryer.

Fryer added that “I don’t think we’re very far off” from other municipalities and that there are roads that can get done thanks to such plans.

“There’s a positive spin to that,” he said.

Hewitt added that projects like the Edgewater sewer extension, Texas Road and Meloche Road all received funding from senior levels of government thanks to previous asset management plans.