John Miceli

Town receives grant to assist with work at Duffy’s site

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn was demolished several months ago and now the town has received word it has received grant funding to help pay for that cleanup.

The Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) announced $45 million in Green Municipal Fund (GMF) grants and loans in support of 28 environmental initiatives led by local governments across Ontario. Those announcements came Friday and Amherstburg received $142,900.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was pleased with Friday’s announcement.

“We did apply for it some time ago for the clean-up of the property and it looks like we were successful,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo said the town still applies for grants but the projects are not contingent on grant funding. Money is budgeted for projects and “grants are like a bonus” in that it frees up money for other things.

“It’s that much less we have to front,” said DiCarlo. “When you are working on the project anyway, it’s always nice to get a letter that says ‘by the way, the work you are doing is going to be paid for.’ It’s fantastic.”

Timelines on the Duffy’s property depend on other factors, said DiCarlo, and those factors are still being worked on and can’t be announced just yet.

“The residents want to see (the Duffy’s site) done ASAP,” the mayor acknowledged.

DiCarlo also credited town administration and staff for their grant writing abilities.

“We’re known for being successful in getting grants,” said DiCarlo. “We have people who understand government processes. They know what they’re doing, they really do. Full credit to them for that.”

Demolition was completed at the Duffy’s site in September. The town received a grant Dec. 15 helping with clean-up of the site.

CAO John Miceli confirmed the money will apply retroactively to the town’s clean-up of the site. He said the next phase is a report of site conditions, which will be worked on in 2018. He said their consultant Golder & Associates will go in, drill at various points at the site and perform an Environmental Assessment (EA).

The early cost estimate to develop the site is $5-6.5 million with a 500-seat amphitheatre, marina, boat ramp, fishing wharf, service buildings and plazas among what is currently proposed for the site. Miceli is hopeful of starting construction in 2019. He noted that is a federal election year and that additional grants could flow in the town’s direction.

“It’s a good sign,” the CAO said of Friday’s grant announcement. “That shows they want to help it come to fruition.”

Miceli added the town maximized the available grant funding for this stage of the process.

According to a news release sent by FCM: “Municipalities across Canada are modelling some of Canada’s most innovative green solutions. This highlights their commitment to being part of the solution as Canada works to meet its Paris Agreement commitments by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while creating jobs and growing its clean economy.
Some of the richest potential to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions lies in scaling up local innovation, and peer learning is at the very core of GMF, making it easier for municipalities to take on green innovation in their community.”
Fridays’s announcement was made by London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos on behalf of Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources and Clark Somerville, FCM past president.

“Our government is proud to support initiatives through the Green Municipal Fund that can help make communities more sustainable and provide a better quality of life for Canadians. These projects demonstrate the excellent work being undertaken throughout the province to promote innovative clean solutions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Fragiskatos.
“Looking at the initiatives being funded today, it’s clear municipalities are taking the lead on some of the country’s most promising green innovations. Not only do they deliver tangible and ongoing benefits to residents, they are an important part of the solution in our national effort to fight climate change. With continued national leadership and investment, remarkable progress is possible,” added Somerville in the press release.

The Government of Canada endowed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with $550 million to establish the Green Municipal Fund. An additional $125 million top-up was announced in the 2016 federal budget. The Green Municipal Fund supports partnerships and leveraging of both public and private sector funding to reach higher standards of air, water and soil quality, and climate protection. To date it has funded over 1,400 municipal initiatives.

Residents state rumble strips causing negative impact to their lives

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council will look at what to do about rumble strips on rural roads, some that have recently been maintained.

Melissa Gidillini said that her and her parents have been negatively impacted by rumble strips that were re-cut in front of their Concession 3 North home. Gidillini said her parents purchased the home four years ago and the noise from vehicles passing over the rumble strips have decreased their property value and impacted their lives.

The noise affected her mother’s health and well-being and her father’s ability to get a good night’s sleep, she said, and wondered if there are other ways to alert motorists to the nearby intersection rather than rumble strips. She hoped something could be done “to preserve the sanity of the citizens.”

Councillor Diane Pouget said council members have received many e-mails about the issue and asked whether administration could do something to reduce the noise but allow drivers to stay safe as well. She was told that rumble strips give notice to drivers that an intersection is coming in case they are driving while distracted or if visibility is poor.

Councillor Leo Meloche said he has also received e-mails and has heard from people crying on the phone, adding that council agreed to rumble strips near Howard Ave. and Alma St. as a way to “mitigate loss of life.” Public works re-cut some of the other rumble strips as a maintenance measure, CAO John Miceli believed, with Meloche and Councillor Rick Fryer wondering if the cuts to the roadway were too deep thus increasing the level of noise.

Meloche added that, based on his research, some municipalities have scrapped rumble strips altogether due to noise complaints.

“I wouldn’t want them in front of my bedroom. My kids and my wife would be going nuts too,” he said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin noted that the rumble strips were put in due to council motions. He said that accidents at intersections can be traced to a variety of factors and that administration would have to look at particular instances. Removal of the rumble strips at this stage could expose the town to liability concerns due to other councils passing motions to install them.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he was in favour of taking a look at the issue, but stated people have gotten used to the noise over time.

Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume said there have been three fatalities in recent years and believed they could have been possibly been prevented with rumble strips. He said the accidents involved people who know the area.

“We have to ask ourselves as a police department, why are they blowing stops if they are from here?” said Berthiaume.

Meloche added that if people walk into a door, would the door be removed?

“We have to stop this B.S. and say a mistake was made,” said Meloche. “Should people in the community pay for their mistakes?”

Local resident Greg Nemeth believed that lowering and enforcing speed limits could make a difference.

“Slow them down and we’re going to save a lot of lives,” said Nemeth.

The report will come back to council and is expected to detail options on what council can do to properly address the issue.

Windsor police proposal deemed “viable,” public meetings to come

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The police costing process is moving ahead as town council has agreed with the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) that the Windsor Police Service (WPS) is “viable.”

As the Windsor Police Service ended up being the only service that actually submitted a bid under the town’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for policing services, it was the lone option discussed at Monday night’s town council meeting. CAO John Miceli, a member of the JPAC, believed there are “significant savings” for the town should they opt to switch from the Amherstburg Police Service (APS) to WPS.

Miceli said the proposal satisfies the provisions the town set out for its police service. The CAO reported to council that the town could save $567,802 per year should a switch occur, which would translate into over $2.8 million over five years.

There would also be the elimination of post-retirement liabilities, which currently sit at $3.9 million. Miceli added the town would be able to re-purpose $380,580 from the police reserve for other municipal purposes and that there would be cost containment going forward.

“The Windsor Police Services’ proposal is viable and meets the requirements of the RFP and Joint Police Advisory Committee,” he said.

The positions of chief and deputy chief would be eliminated and there would be a staff sergeant looking after the current Amherstburg officers. Miceli indicated that Tim Berthiaume and Ian Chappell could be reassigned within Windsor police. There would be opportunities for promotion for some officers as well, he indicated.

“For our residents, faces aren’t going to change. There would just be a different reporting structure,” said Miceli.

Vehicles would be assumed by the Windsor Police Service “wherever possible” and most equipment would be as well except body cameras and non-lethal shotguns. Reintroduction of body cameras down the road is possible if WPS’ tests are positive.

Administrative calls would still be handled by existing civilian members at the Amherstburg police station.

Should a switch be made, the current Amherstburg Police Service and Amherstburg Police Services Board would be disbanded with the mayor or a designate being appointed to the Windsor Police Services Board.

Four public meetings are scheduled for different locations within Amherstburg Jan. 17, 18, 25 and 27, with most being evening meetings. The Jan. 27 meeting is proposed to be held in late morning or early afternoon on a Saturday. The CAO indicated that Berthiaume, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Windsor police chief Al Frederick, consultant Mike Mitchell as well as himself would be at the meetings to answer questions.

Miceli believed the town could benefit from additional services and units offered by WPS, and noted that current Amherstburg officers as well as Windsor officers would help out at public events.

DiCarlo said that residents can expect a detailed analysis of the Windsor police proposal, adding they can compare directly with what is currently available with the Amherstburg Police Services.

The mayor indicated there is a lot of information to discuss and the public meetings will help the town and residents talk more in-depth about the proposal.

Noting he was qualifying his statement that he was not advocating one service over the other, DiCarlo said the WPS proposal was significant in different areas. Windsor police addressed “every last detail” in the RFP and while cost savings are not as much as some people are looking for, he noted the town will keep the existing Amherstburg police station.

“If we ever wanted to go back (should a switch be made), we still have a building,” said the mayor.

The offer to take over long-term liabilities and benefits was pointed out by DiCarlo, noting the $3.9 million will likely grow in future years due to people living longer, insurance and inflation.

“In simple terms, the one nice thing about this is whether you agree or not, we’re comparing apples to apples,” said DiCarlo.

Miceli indicated a final decision could be made by council as early as Feb. 26.

Town officially passes 2018 budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The 2018 budget is now officially passed.

Town council, who had discussed the budget in detail during Nov. 28-29 budget deliberations, formally approved the document with no changes to the previously discussed rates. That means Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself is 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
The increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Changes to assessments were factored in via a 2.37 per cent within the budget for a growth rate, but individual MPAC assessments could vary depending on homeowner.

Discussion of the budget was limited, with Councillor Leo Meloche questioning some costs pertaining to the Belle Vue property. While $75,000 was inserted as “seed money,” CAO John Miceli said he was confident that the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised enough money to have roof repairs done early in 2018. Meloche said while he would like to see Belle Vue restored, council was told no taxpayer money would be used.

“I want to see this happen but we’ve got to get significant money up front,” said Meloche.

Meloche added he is involved in another capital project and appreciates that raising donations is difficult, but hoped that Belle Vue fundraising efforts aren’t “petering out.”

CAO John Miceli said those efforts are not “petering out” and that the conservancy paid for roof and window evaluations. The windows are the next scheduled project, he said.

Miceli noted that both he and treasurer Justin Rousseau get regular updates from the conservancy and praised the conservancy for taking on “yeoman’s work on behalf of the town.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the budget passed without much further discussion as the issue had been discussed in detail during deliberations.

“This budget really stood out to me,” he said. “It is an amazing evolution from where we started.”

The budget was very detailed, DiCarlo added, and credited administration for their work.

“Everything is accounted for, everything is explained,” he said. “I can’t see any major changes in how this is presented.”

Residents can refer to the budget should they have questions on anything, he added.

“We do listen, we do act when we can and these are the results that come from it,” said DiCarlo. “We’re better now than we were three years ago.”

Councillor Rick Fryer also praised administration publicly, stating “things went smoothly this year” and that residents appreciate the effort that went into the budget.

Town agrees to new positions, decides against others

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

There will be new positions in Amherstburg, with some positions garnering more debate than others during budget deliberations.

Amherstburg town council agreed to fund an additional 1.5 bodies in the tourism department at a cost of $88,552 with CAO John Miceli noting there was a “significant amount” of increase programming on the horizon. Tourism co-ordinator/visitor information centre Jen Ibrahim noted the town’s new strategic plan states the department is “poised for growth” and that “tourism numbers increased year-over-year” for the last decade. She told town council that there has been a 38 per cent increase since 2016.

Ibrahim further told town council that numbers need to increase to justify a hotel coming to Amherstburg.

The department is currently staffed by Ibrahim and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota – the latter missing the budget deliberations due to a family emergency – and Ibrahim said it has led to seven-day-a-week workloads. “Exciting new initiatives” such as the Duffy’s development and Belle Vue property will require time and resources to help write grants, she said.

Tourism staff are also looking at another major festival for the Civic Holiday weekend in 2018, she indicated.

“We want to keep Amherstburg top of mind,” said Ibrahim, telling council a risk of not hiring additional bodies hinders succession planning.

“We’re just looking for sustainable work years ahead,” she added.

Councillor Rick Fryer noted his daughters made a video documenting the “Canuck it Up!” Festival and touted its success. Fryer made the motion to bring in 1.5 new positions and told Ibrahim “we really appreciate the work you do.” Councillor Leo Meloche said he was fine with one new position, but didn’t favour 1.5.

The public works department will be getting one new position, and came close to a second. An engineering technician, a position that carries a cost of $90,726 including salary and benefits, was approved but a supervisor of roads and fleet position – valued at $113,408 – was eliminated roughly 90 minutes after it had been approved.

Council emerged from its dinner break Wednesday evening with Fryer making the motion to reconsider the previous motion that approved the position.

Fryer believed there would be three management positions for six employees, a concerned shared by councillors Diane Pouget and Jason Lavigne.

“It would be hard to justify this position to the public,” said Pouget. “We need more people working, not overseeing.”

Public works administration argued that it wasn’t actually three management positions in roads and fleet as there is only one manager there. The others are contained within other aspects of the department, PWD officials added.

The motion to approve the public works budget without that position failed on a tie vote with Pouget, Lavigne and Fryer in favour and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Councillor Leo Meloche and Councillor Joan Courtney opposed. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale was absent for Wednesday’s deliberations.

DiCarlo noted that even though the motion lost, the position still won’t be created as it was no longer approved and didn’t exist in Amherstburg to begin with.

The position of financial analyst, the cost of which is $95,644 including salary and benefits, was approved by town council with Miceli and treasurer Justin Rousseau strongly advocating for the position. Rousseau said it was the fourth time requesting the position, one that was recommended in the Deloitte report.

While Rousseau stated the finance department has made “leaps and bounds in the last few years,” the department is not at the “mature” status as recommended in the report. He said they can’t do business reviews and other functions in as timely of a fashion. A financial analyst would assist the department in finding additional savings.

“In my professional opinion, this is a required item to get to the level of reporting that a corporation of this size should have to its council,” said Rousseau. “We are doing more than ever but doing it with the same people. To not make this investment would not serve the community well.”

DiCarlo said he questions during hiring debates whether the job would pay for itself and whether the work is not getting done and Miceli was emphatic that the position was a necessary one in his opinion.

“This position will pay for itself,” said Miceli.

The CAO recalled that in his former position as executive director of parks and recreation in Windsor, financial analysts helped turn things around from a deficit to a surplus. The hiring of a financial analyst would be a “minimal investment for council to make,” he said, adding “I believe it will provide excellent benefits to the town. It will pay for itself.”

In a recorded vote during Tuesday’s budget deliberations, six of the seven council members voted in favour with Fryer being the lone vote in opposition.

While not the full-time position administration had put in for, town council did approve the policy co-ordinator job on a part-time basis. The original request of $76,238 was cut in half.

Council made progress on updating its policies earlier in the term but Miceli noted no progress has been made since as the person that had been working on them is no longer with the town. A total of 122 policies still need to be reviewed, he said, adding the request was for a one-year contract position.

The town got itself “in trouble” because of a lack of policies to address the decisions of council, the CAO stated, but Pouget disagreed. She said there were policies in place but she accused councils of the day for not following them.

“The policy is only good if council is following that policy,” she said.

DiPasquale believed it to be an important position, stating the policies are “one of the most important things that need to get done.” Rousseau added there are legislative changes coming and that there is still more “heavy lifting” that need to be done.

Meloche didn’t believe in hiring a person from the outside to update policies as they don’t know the town well enough.

“I think we have to look at a better approach in the long-term,” he said.

Lavigne also disagreed with a full-time position, stating that Rousseau had helped create or update 23 policies in two years. He did note that upper tiers of government, such as the province, should help municipalities as legislation is creating more work.

Pouget said university students are looking for placements and suggested the town engage a student to do some of the work, but DiCarlo didn’t think that would be feasible. The mayor, who is also a physics lab co-ordinator at the University of Windsor, said the goal of the co-op department is to give students experience but supervision is still required.

“You will still tie up a full-time position,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo said he was OK with not approving the position as long as council understood that policies would not get done or be updated “very slowly.”

Town council also approved a part-time bylaw officer at a cost of $33,452. Meloche said they have been hearing bylaw-related issues over the past few years and advocated for the position further by stating that new bylaws will need monitoring as well.

“It’s time we match the resources with the requirements,” said Meloche.

After Pouget raised concerns about issues she believed had to be dealt with, council went in-camera Wednesday afternoon for a 45-minute session after which Miceli reported out that it had to do with a motion made in January 2016 about council wanting $100,000 in savings. Those savings were achieved, according to Miceli, through the amalgamation of the bylaw and building departments.

While some positions were approved, others were denied. A part-time policy co-ordinator position will not be hired in 2018, though some council members suggested it could be reconsidered for 2019. Streamlining committees were cited as a reason that it isn’t necessary in 2018 with Lavigne noting some committees were also eliminated as the committees were “not following procedures.”

A part-time committee co-ordinator carried a cost of $29,517.

There also won’t be a communications officer hired in 2018 as council didn’t approve the $95,644 cost that came with it. Miceli said he had a concern over messaging that “we want to bring forth in the community” and that messaging through social media is important and has to be accurate.

“I feel very strongly this is a position that brings merit,” he said, noting similar positions exist in Lakeshore, LaSalle, Leamington and Essex.

Council did not agree.

Lavigne said council uses the mayor as its “voice box,” adding “he does a tremendous job.” He didn’t believe there were enough people using the Talk the Burg website to warrant a new position.

“It says to me people are content and happy living in Amherstburg,” said Lavigne.

Meloche agreed that the mayor and CAO are doing a good job representing Amherstburg. DiCarlo joked that his Facebook account “blows up” on occasion but said he will try and stay on top of issues. The communications officer position can wait, he believed, as “we’ve got other bills to pay.”