John Miceli

Internet speed survey shows unsatisfactory results, town looking at other measures

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The results from the town’s Internet study are in and it shows the residents of Amherstburg are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with their service.

According to a report written by acting information technology manager Nick Renaud, “administration has recently received over 140 submissions from the community through an online survey aimed to gather more data on actual internet speeds in Amherstburg. Only four per cent of respondents reported speeds that exceeded the CRTC’s 2016 minimum download speed of 50 Mbps and only 28 per cent reported speeds that exceed the CRTC’s 2011 target speed of 5 Mbps. This means that 96 per cent of respondents fell below the 2016 expectations for ‘basic telecom service’ and 72 per cent fell below the 2011 target.”

Town hall

CAO John Miceli said the town is trying to be proactive in dealing with the matter, suggesting the town could eventually try and create a fiber optic system of its own should it be successful in obtaining grant funding. While there are a pair of new services that are utilizing the water tower as a way to deliver Internet services, Miceli believes fibre optic is the way to go.

The services using the water tower impact a portion, but not all of the town, Miceli states and the town is looking for a community-wide solution. The hope is that a provider will step up and bring in better services but the town is seeking $2 million in grant funding with the possibility of going at it alone if need be.

Miceli said administration has a business case to bring to council should the grant be successful.

“We have taken all the necessary steps to be our own Internet provider,” he said.

The town undertook the survey due to a lack of response from the larger Internet companies, with the administrative report stating “the large Internet service providers were reluctant to share the information with administration” as to the options that are available in and around Amherstburg.

Public feedback gathered on proposal for Duffy’s land

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

With Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn in the process of being torn down, the town held a public consultation session to gauge what the public thinks of redevelopment plans.

The public consultation session was held last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre where people got a chance to view the renderings of the plans the town has developed for the waterfront property.

“Nothing has been set in stone,” CAO John Miceli pointed out, stating the purpose of the meeting was simply “the start of a conversation.”

The concept plans developed by the town and its consultant – Dan Krutsch of Landmark Engineering – were on display around the community room with a 500-seat amphitheatre, marina, boat ramp, fishing wharf, service buildings and plazas among the proposals put forth. Miceli said the town wanted to bring those plans to the public to see if that is what citizens want and if there are any changes desired to what has been proposed.

Duffy's consultation2WEB

Members of the public view concept drawings for what the Duffy’s property could look like during a June 15 meeting at the Libro Centre.

While additional public meetings are planned, Miceli said he would like to see the town move forward on the project later this year.

“My goal is to have it presented as part of the 2018 capital works budget,” he said.

Costs range from $5 million to $6.5 million and by moving along with the process, it allows the town to pursue grant funding. Final costs will be determined once all the components of the project are decided upon.

Timing for how fast the project will be completed centres around cash.

“It really is going to depend on funding,” he said.

Local resident Pat Catton questioned where boat trailers would park. While there is space for boat trailers on the drawings, Miceli acknowledged previous concerns about boat trailer parking and congestion when the Duffy’s boat ramp was open. There may be opportunities for boat trailer parking, though Miceli noted some opportunities were a bit farther away than the town desires.

“We’re hoping to hear from the boaters to hear what they have to say,” said Miceli.

A relocated Boblo ferry dock being included in the drawings was also a source of questions. Krutsch explained that moving it would allow for owner Dominic Amicone to be able to better develop his lands. The wharf would also help shield the dock from ice.

Pat Catton and Gord Freeman review drawings of the proposed Duffy’s  redevelopment last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre.

Pat Catton and Gord Freeman review drawings of the proposed Duffy’s
redevelopment last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre.

Catton wondered why the town would have to partner with a private property owner but Krutsch replied that there is no need to partner with anyone and that it was added in case some kind of partnership was of interest. Miceli noted preliminary talks have taken place with Amicone.

No programming decisions have been finalized, Miceli noted, adding his belief the development could boost the downtown core. It could act as a “festival plaza” and boost the area.

“This was the vision that allowed us to go ahead with acquiring the property,” said Miceli.

The town’s Official Plan calls for the acquisition of waterfront lands when they become available. He believes there will be at least an eight to 12 month approval process before anything could be developed.

Susan Whelan asked about the number of studies that have been done on the site, noting there haven’t been any major developments there for many years. Fuel was also used on site in the past, she added. She said she supported making the site beautiful and intertwining it with the neighbourhood but wanted assurances the land was checked out.

The land and existing buildings were assessed by Golder Associates, Miceli replied, and that the purchase price of the property was reduced to deal with some of the issues found.

“Most of the issues are in the older portion,” Miceli noted, in reference to the restaurant portion, which has not yet been demolished.

Food truck owner Carolyn Parent asked about such vehicles in the development, with Miceli saying his vision is for special events. Krutsch pointed out that could simply be one use of the site, with craft shows, tents and other events also possible.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the concept plans are the current ideas the town has come up with.

“This is the culmination of what we’ve been doing up to now,” he said.

PowerPoint Presentation

DiCarlo said there are limitations on what Navy Yard Park can be used for due to its passive nature and while there are events at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada, there are restrictions there too. Downtown businesses also have voiced concerns that they have difficulty pulling people from Fort Malden so having festival space downtown could translate into more businesses gaining customers.

The town wants “one fluid plan” on how to develop the area, he added. The biggest thing the mayor said he has heard is about how fast the land could be developed.

Local real estate agent Ron Deneau congratulated the town on “one of the best purchases you ever made.” He believed the land being acquired for the money the town paid for it (final price being $1.115 million) “will be looked at as one of the nicest purchases you ever made.”

Local resident Paul Pietrangelo was in favour of the development.

“I love the idea,” he said. “I think it’s beautiful.”

Pietrangelo joked that “I hope I can see it before I die.”

Noting his love of Navy Yard Park, he added the Duffy’s land would be a good complement to that.

“It’ll bring a lot of people to Amherstburg even more,” he believed.

Belle Vue plans discussed at public consultation meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A public consultation meeting held to discuss plans for the 200-year-old Belle Vue property saw the bulk of the discussion be on what surrounds the mansion rather than the mansion itself.

The meeting was held last Thursday night at the Libro Centre, following a separate public meeting on the Duffy’s property. The number of general public in attendance rivaled that of actual Belle Vue Conservancy members in the audience but that didn’t stop visions and ideas from floating around during the meeting.

CAO John Miceli said the town has made up concept drawings for the home and its seven-acre Dalhousie St. site but told the audience the town still wanted feedback. The concept plans call for a restored home that could be used for such things as a conference centre, outdoor gardens and lighted walking trails, a greenhouse, parking areas and a band shell.

David May takes a look at one of the renderings of what a restored Belle Vue property could look like.

David May takes a look at one of the renderings of what a restored Belle Vue property could look like.

“It’s a vision of what we thought we were going to do and what we could do but it is not etched in stone,” said Miceli.

There is a heritage designation on the facade of the building but not on the interior, but Miceli indicated that doesn’t preclude the town from trying to save portions of the interior. Architect Carmen Brunone from Architecttura Inc. pointed out that due to the numerous renovations Belle Vue has gone through in its 200-year history, a period of time had to be chosen for when the Belle Vue will be restored to. The building will look like it did in the 1920’s, he added.

“Our goal is to reproduce what is there,” added Miceli.

The town has applied for a Parks Canada grant that applies to heritage sites and due to the site having been in the top ten for endangered historical sites in Canada, Miceli believes that will lend support to the town’s grant application. The town hopes for $1 million with the Belle Vue Conservancy planning to raise another $1 million so that work on the building can be done in a substantial fashion. The overall plan, including grounds, could top $9 million.

An architecutrual rendering of the rear of the Belle Vue property, complete with revamped gardens, is shown here. The gardens were one of the items of discussion at a public meeting last Thursday night.

An architecutrual rendering of the rear of the Belle Vue property, complete with revamped gardens, is shown here. The gardens were one of the items of discussion at a public meeting last Thursday night.

“I’m encouraged to know we are probably going to know by September (about the grant),” the CAO stated. “I’m very hopeful. It is a logical choice but I don’t know what the federal government is going to do.”

Miceli added he “feels very strongly it’s going to happen.”

A suggestion to use St. Clair College students to help maintain the site was made, with Miceli adding the town has a good relationship with the college. A deal to have St. Clair College purchase the site fell through over a year ago and Miceli said the college has now gone in a different direction.

“We’re definitely going to be knocking on every door and looking at every opportunity we can get,” said Miceli.

As for the gardens, Miceli said his vision is for period gardens with Brunone adding his view that themed gardens could be placed there.

Miceli added he would like to see an entry point to Belle Vue created off of Sandwich St. S. as opposed to Dalhousie St., due to Sandwich St. being the main thoroughfare.

“We do not want to run traffic down the residential area of Dalhousie St.,” he said.

Conservancy vice president Carolyn Davies suggested a tie in with the Fort Covington property just south of the police station.

An architectural rendering of what the front of a restored Belle Vue could look like. (Special to the RTT)

An architectural rendering of what the front of a restored Belle Vue could look like. (Special to the RTT)

“I think this rivals Willistead (Manor in Windsor),” said local resident Gord Freeman.

Freeman envisioned the first floor as a conference centre with a restaurant on the second floor to support that.

“I think it’s an ideal set up for that,” said Freeman.

Family gatherings and weddings could also be held at a restored Belle Vue, Freeman continued.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s a jewel. This would be at one end of town and Fort Malden at the other.”

More public meetings are planned for later this year, Miceli stated, as he said “we want to make sure we get it right.”

The town is in the midst of trying to win $60,000 through the National Trust for Canada’s contest found at www.thisplacematters.ca with the Belle Vue Conservancy also raising funds through events and the site www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

CAO meets with ice users on summer ice issues

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The ice at the Libro Centre will soon be gone but it will be going back in a bit sooner than anticipated.

CAO John Miceli has worked with user groups – including the Integrity Amherstburg Admirals, the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association and Skate Amherstburg – and dates have been adjusted to have the ice put back into the building in time for their summer programming. It was anticipated after the April 24 town council meeting that ice would come out of both arenas for all of June and July but a compromise has been reached.

While ice was removed several weeks ago from the pad A, ice will remain in the Movati ice pad (pad B) until May 30 when it will be removed starting at 8 p.m. Miceli said the ice will return to the Movati pad July 21 and to the pad A Aug. 22.

“We’re getting the savings we are hoping to get from the ice removal,” said Miceli.

The ice will be coming out of the Movati pad (Pad B) at the Libro Centre May 30. Ice is already out of the main pad. It returns to the Movati pad July 21 and to Pad A Aug. 22

The ice will be coming out of the Movati pad (Pad B) at the Libro Centre May 30. Ice is already out of the main pad. It returns to the Movati pad July 21 and to Pad A Aug. 22

That savings is roughly $30,000 per month.

There could be further reshuffling next year as other Libro Centre users will be involved in the discussions in order to get non-ice events onto the pads when the ice has been removed.

The meeting with the ice users this year went well, the CAO added.

“We’re working together,” said Miceli. “They understand our concerns and what we’re trying to do and we understand what they’re trying to do.”

The savings will be put into the newly-established Libro Centre reserve and be used for capital projects needed at the recreation centre.

“By everyone giving a bit, we are able to provide seed money to protect the facility,” said Miceli.

A surcharge for users was discussed at the April 24 meeting, but that is not expected to occur until 2018. That money would also go towards the Libro Centre reserve with the aim of maintaining it as “a Class A facility.” An exact figure as to what the surcharge will be has yet to be determined.

Town council also agreed that night to hire a qualified refrigeration mechanic at a cost of $83,000.

Town gets update on condition of Boblo dock

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town has received an update from the federal government as it pertains to the former Boblo dock on Front Road South.

CAO John Miceli brought a report to council which stated that he was advised by William Ariss of the Real Property Division of the Central & Arctic Region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada advising the Boblo dock would not be declared surplus at this time. Miceli reported that Ariss advised the town that the department is undertaking “a review of the various wharfs in the Sarnia to Amherstburg corridor” and that upon the completion of that review, “the department will determine whether the wharf is to be repaired, removed, divested or some combination thereof.”

According to Miceli’s report: “Should the Coast Guard determine that the department no longer has an interest in the wharf, then divestiture of the site will be considered. Mr. Ariss has advised that the divestiture process of the wharf requires DFO to offer a site first to other Federal Departments and then to the Province. Mr. Ariss has also advised that it would be difficult at this point (to say) whether the wharf would be transferred to the municipality with monies associated for repairs or if the Department would look to demolish it.”

Cost to repair the pier is estimated at $579,546 with the cost to demolish the pier, including the piles, estimated at $524,807. To demolish the dock, excluding the piles, would carry an estimated cost of $337,488.

The current state of the former Boblo ferry dock is of concern to town council.

The current state of the former Boblo ferry dock is of concern to town council.

“It is important for council to note that the estimates were developed on a Class D level which should not to be considered final and must continue to be refined through the design process. Class D estimates are indicative of a project being considered for budget development and place holder purposes,” Miceli stated in his report.

The CAO added it “would not be unreasonable for one to conclude” that the cost to demolish and replace the dock could be in in excess of $1 million.

Miceli said a decision is not expected before late summer or fall. He added the town is continuing to negotiate with the federal government, saying $337,000 “is the floor. I just can’t tell you what the ceiling is.”

Councillor Rick Fryer believed the dock is a great location for an outlook and for birding opportunities, adding his hope would be for the town can start putting money aside for a project involving the dock so the community can use it.

“I think this is a great opportunity for tourism for the town and for eco-tourism and sports tourism,” he said.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo questioned whether the town had public access to the dock but Fryer believed access could be looked at as part of the town’s negotiations into the site. Fryer, also chair of the Essex Region Conservation Authority, said ERCA is looking at a possible lookout trail in that area.