John Miceli

Council members look for resolution on rumble strip issue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The fate of rumble strips, the grooves in the pavement near rural intersections, may be learned next month.

Town council is expected to receive a report in April on the matter, it was learned, after Councillor Leo Meloche brought the matter forward at the most recent town council meeting. Meloche said the noise being made by people driving over the rumble strips is still a problem for many who live near them.

“We have to address this one way or another,” said Meloche. “I’m asking when.”

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said his recommendation was to wait as administration gathers best practices from other municipalities.

Council was also told that the town has changed the engineering firm that was looking into the issue. However, Meloche wanted a solution sooner than later, suggesting that some rumble strips could be filled in when the asphalt plants re-open for the season.

“We’ve got to get urgency into this matter,” said Meloche. “I don’t think a whole summer of this would be pleasing to any of us.”

CAO John Miceli stated administration is performing its due diligence into the matter but Councillor Rick Fryer said rumble strips in other areas of the province that he has travelled don’t result in the same level of noise as the rumble strips in the rural areas of Amherstburg.

“The depth is too deep,” he said, though public works officials informed him the most recent installation was at a quarter-inch depth as recommended by the county. Galvin added that rumble strips in other areas may have been carved some time ago and have worn down, as compared to the “fresh” rumble strips that are in Amherstburg.

A report is expected to be before town council April 9.

Local businesses voice concerns over vote to switch to Windsor police

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A number of local businesses were represented at town council Monday night with concerns over the town’s choice to switch from Amherstburg police to Windsor police.

Derek Didone, co-owner of County Towing, said he was representing a group of Amherstburg businesses and named Joe Meloche Ford, Racicot Chrysler, Uptown Body, Heritage Tire and Amherstburg GM.

“Over the years we have each built strong relationships with the community and the municipality,” said Didone.  “It is no secret that the Town of Amherstburg and its police service have always supported local small business.”

Didone said “it is clear that council had to make a very difficult decision” when choosing to contract the police service out to Windsor and “while we are confident that careful consideration was exercised when making this controversial decision, we have concerns that the potential for a negative economical impact on local small business may have been overlooked.”

The Amherstburg Police Service spends “tens of thousands of dollars on our products and services every year,” Didone stated. He said local businesses are given the opportunity to supply everything from office stationery to police cruisers.

“For many years my company has been contracted by the department to provide towing, recovery and impoundment services,” said Didone. “By making this change, we feel that we are at risk financially. As entrepreneurs, we understand it is important to save money where you can. This will apply under the new structure of the police service as well. Financial saving can be had when buying in bulk, consolidating services or elimination.”

Didone questioned whether local dealerships will be given an opportunity to bid on the sale of new cruisers and also wondered if local repair shops will lose a source of revenue if Windsor police maintains their vehicles in-house.

“There are local businesses such as mine that hold service contracts with the current department. When entering into a contract you make decisions and invest in equipment, stock and employees to uphold

our end of the agreement,” said Didone. “Will contracts like mine be upheld for the remainder of the term or will it become void in the transition? After all, I’m certain Windsor police have contracts in place for the same products and services.”

The concern of many business owners, Didone added, are even though there are savings for the municipality, will those savings be at the businesses’ expense?

“We all know that the Town of Amherstburg supports its community and local small business like no other,” he added. “Rest assured that you will have our continued support through this transition and hope that we have yours.

Didone asked what provisions will be included in the 20-year Windsor police contract to assure local small business owners will not lose revenue to businesses outside of the municipality. He also asked if local businesses can be assured “that a proportionate amount of Windsor police budgetary dollars will be spent on goods and services in this community?”

CAO John Miceli fielded both questions and said that Windsor police has its own procurement policy but the town can make recommendations to them. Miceli said the city has been good with listening to a number of issues with regards to the proposal.

“We can talk to them,” said Miceli. “I can’t guarantee anything.”

As for the second question, Miceli said local preference clauses are not legal.

Town council simply received Didone’s presentation.

Didone told the media afterword the result Monday night “is what it is” “but we’ll see what happens.”

“I’m sure they will go to bat for us so we can continue to do work out here. I hope Windsor is listening,” he added.

 

Public meetings held regarding proposed nurse practitioner-led clinic

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg hosted two public meetings last week on a proposed nurse practitioner-led clinic for the community.

The first meeting was held last Wednesday evening at Amherstburg town hall while the second was held Friday morning at the Libro Centre with the bulk of the attendees being seniors. Those fielding questions included CAO John Miceli, Essex County Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic executive director Pauline Gemmell, members of Gemmell’s team and local nurse practitioner Carolyn Davies.

Miceli told residents that the aim is to have the clinic open later in 2018 or by early 2019 and the clinic would take up about 4,300 square feet of the roughly 30,000 square St. Bernard School building. The town and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board are currently in arbitration trying to settle a dispute on the value of the building, located at 320 Richmond St., as the town wants to purchase it for a seniors’ hub.

The town is undertaking a seniors’ master plan to confirm programming and community needs “for the fastest growing sector of our town’s population,” Miceli said, adding that plan should be completed this year.

AO John Miceli and members of the Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic make a presentation at a public meeting held last Friday morning at the Libro Centre.

While nurse practitioners may consult with a physician, they would provide primary care to residents themselves. People of all ages can use a nurse practitioner-led clinic and such clinics can offer a variety of services from chiropractors, physiotherapists, diabetes care, nutrition and cooking, women’s health and social work.

It was also learned at the public meetings that those enrolled in a nurse practitioner-led clinic may also be eligible for home visits from staff.

“It’s very exciting,” said Michael Lavoie, president of the Essex County Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic’s board of directors. “It’s something new, something innovative.”

Lavoie quoted statistics from a recent survey the clinic had done which showed those enrolled at the clinic were overwhelmingly satisfied with the care they received with 98 per cent of people stating they would recommend it to family and friends.

“I’m excited for the future of health care not just for our clinic, but for our region,” said Lavoie.

Whether or not such a clinic comes to Amherstburg depends on funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care but Miceli said it would have a major positive impact if approved.

“If we get the funding for this, it’s going to increase the quality of life for many of our residents,” said Miceli. “I truly believe that.”

Tina Heeren said she looks after some friends and believed “there are a lot of health issues in this town.” Heeren said there are many who need help “and they are not getting it” as many have difficulty leaving their homes.

Local nurse practitioner Carolyn Davies fields a question at a March 2 public meeting at the Libro Centre.

John McDonald called a nurse practitioner-led clinic an “intriguing” option and suggested outreach into churches to gain further access and knowledge of who needs assistance. Kathy Hay said she hopes it does come, as people of all ages could use the clinic.

Gemmell said services at a nurse practitioner-led clinic are funded by OHIP and emphasized that people would receive primary care from a nurse practitioner.

“It’s a different kind of care,” she said.

Kate Bolohan, a nurse practitioner and clinical lead at the Essex County clinic, said appointments are roughly 15-30 minutes in length and can involve other health professionals to help treat the needs of the specific patient.

Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic executive director Pauline Gemmell and board chair Michael Lavoie listen to a question during a March 2 public meeting.

“We all work together,” said Bolohan. “It’s a great collaborative effort from all angles.”

Gemmell pointed out she has received letters of support from a wide range of people in the community and provided letters of support that were left at town hall that people can sign, if interested. Those letters will be given to Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, who will bring them to the Ministry of Health.

No timelines were given for when a funding announcement could be made, but Gemmell indicated there are rumours that something could be announced before March 31.

Canadian Tire Pro Shop in Libro Centre closing at end of March

 

By Ron Giofu

While both sides describe their relationship as positive, the Canadian Tire Pro Shop will be closing at the Libro Centre at the end of March.

The Town of Amherstburg was informed of the business decision recently and local Canadian Tire dealer Stephen Pike confirmed it on Saturday.

“On March 29, 2018, at the end of this hockey season, the Pro Shop will be closed. It was a very difficult decision to decide to wind down the Pro Shop as we have enjoyed the opportunity to serve the sports community from the Libro Centre location,” Pike told the River Town Times in a statement. “We will continue serve and support the community with a wide array of sports and hockey equipment, as well as skate sharpening services at our Canadian Tire store location at 380 Sandwich Street S. in Amherstburg. We would like to thank the Amherstburg community for their patronage, it has been greatly appreciated. We would also like to thank the Town of Amherstburg for their support and opportunity to operate the Pro Shop over the years.”

The Canadian Tire Pro Shop inside of the Libro Centre will be closing at the end of March.

CAO John Miceli said it was “strictly a business decision” by Canadian Tire and that no decision has been made yet as to how to utilize the space.

“We’re going to examine what we are going to use the space for,” he said. “We have internal needs but nothing has been finalized.”

It is too soon to say whether the town could issue an Request for Proposals (RFP) to have another pro shop owner come in or whether the town can re-use the space for other needs, Miceli added.

“We’re going to look at all options and address everything with council,” said Miceli.

Miceli said he understood Canadian Tire’s decision from a business perspective.

Town council votes to contract out policing services to Windsor

 

By Ron Giofu

 

In a decision that drew boos and catcalls from the audience, Amherstburg town council is switching its’ policing services to Windsor.

Town council voted 3-2 Monday night to enter into a 20-year contract with the Windsor Police Service in a meeting that lasted only about 30 minutes. Voting in favour were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer.

Councillors Joan Courtney and Jason Lavigne were opposed.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget did not vote due to being in conflict. Pouget was there in person, declaring conflict due to her son-in-law being a member of the Windsor Police Service while DiPasquale was absent from the meeting.

DiCarlo said that “we’ve hit the second last stage of the process,” noting that the switch from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service still has to be approved by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). That could come by 2019, when the contract with Windsor is due to begin.

“Obviously, some things are going to hinge on the approval of the province,” the mayor stated.

The switch is believed to amount to over $567,000 in annual savings but DiCarlo said that could amount to $18-20 million over 20 years, including the long-term post-retirement benefits that Windsor taxpayers will now absorb.

DiCarlo said he heard from many residents that wanted to switch to Windsor and for the town to save money on policing. Cost savings and cost containment were the reasons he said he voted in favour of the switch, noting Windsor committed to cost parity and the savings “could actually go up” in the future.

A report from CAO John Miceli stated: “The Windsor Police will guarantee cost parity will exist between the annual operating budget of the Windsor Police Service and the cost of contract policing the Town of Amherstburg. This guarantee of budgetary parity would commence in year six and be honoured throughout the twenty year commitment for policing services, subject to renewal every five years.”

Many decisions the town makes are now looked at not just for the immediate future, but for 15-20 years down the road, the mayor said.

Acknowledging that he fielded threats from the public that warned they would not vote for him if he voted to switch, DiCarlo said he has never voted on an issue just to win votes regardless of what position he was in.

“I can honestly say I’ve never voted with the intent of getting re-elected,” he said.

While Windsor police will provide a wide array of services for free, DiCarlo said the OPP has changed their billing model and there was concern that the Amherstburg Police Service could start getting billed in the future if OPP services were needed.

“This was a couple of municipalities that saw the benefits for both of us,” he said of Windsor and Amherstburg. “For Amherstburg, we get the same level of policing for less money.”

DiCarlo balked when asked if this could lead to regional policing in Windsor-Essex County, but said he has heard that other municipalities in the area are “watching to see what happens.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer were in favor. Voting in opposition were Councillor Jason Lavigne and Councillor Joan Courtney.

Lavigne said the issue has “consumed quite a bit of our lives” from both a council and administration perspective to the public point of view as well.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to have been placed on our shoulders,” he said. “I’ll respect the decision of council. I won’t criticize it.”

Stating that administration “did a good job” and calling the Windsor police proposal “sound,” Lavigne said he was opposed to switching because he didn’t hear from very many people who supported it. He said people want to keep the Amherstburg Police Service and he was going to listen to them.

“I was put here because of the people in the community,” said Lavigne. “People can claim silent majorities all they want to. The majority of people are saying to me that they don’t care about the costs, they want to support their local police.”

Lavigne said the town has spent money on property acquisitions and new hires this term but want to save money in the area of policing. Acknowledging he has been accused of bias because he is on the Amherstburg Police Services Board, he added that Amherstburg police is efficient and the community is safe.

“(The public) has told me they are comfortable with what we have,” said Lavigne.

Meloche said a lot of communities are struggling with police costs and he took the approach that the town’s financial sustainability has to be considered.

“That’s the direction I took,” said Meloche.

Pointing out the town’s status as one of the safest in Canada, Meloche said that isn’t just about the police department.

“We have the safest community in Canada, and no disrespect to the police, it’s because of the people here,” said Meloche, drawing boos and moans from the crowd. “Don’t sell ourselves short. We’re law-abiding, safe people.”

Courtney said she had to be “true to myself” and said she considered the issue carefully.

“I vowed I would listen to the people,” said Courtney.

Most of the comments Courtney said she heard were “we want to keep our local police service” and that was the “overwhelming message” she received.

“Do I think it’s a good contract? Yes, I do,” she said of the Windsor police proposal. “Will it save money? Yes, it will.”

Courtney said she would respect the decision and believed Amherstburg will continue to be a “vibrant” town.

Finances were at the forefront of Fryer’s comments.

“We do have fiduciary responsibilities as a council,” Fryer stated.

Fryer said it was “a great contract for the town,” and pointed out the issue dates back to one of council’s first meetings of the term. The town has reduced its debt, he noted, and believed switching will be the right road for the future.

There were only two delegations at the meeting, the first being from Neil Stewart. Stewart had concerns over HST cost and the fact that the recommendation from administration grew from what was thought to be a five-year proposal to a 20-year proposal.

Miceli said he was tasked with getting costs over a 10, 15 and 20-year period and stated that direction came as a result of the four public meetings with some concerned over savings over just a five-year period.

“I find it hard to believe those figures could come up in the last one, two or three weeks,” said Stewart. “It’s hard to believe that happened.”

“I’m sorry if you don’t believe that but that’s what happened,” said Miceli.

Stewart added his belief those costs should have been made public much sooner.

“I don’t believe we’ve been given the full facts,” he believed.

DiCarlo said the timing of the costings was what it was and there was no attempt to “sweeten” the deal to push it through.

Stewart also questioned the cost per capita, noting Windsor police is $480 per person and Amherstburg is $270. Miceli said Amherstburg’s costs will go down with a switch and that Windsor’s costs are higher because of the additional services they provide.

Pat Simone, noting she was speaking for herself and not representing any committee or board she is on, believed the decision should be deferred until a human rights complaint the Windsor Police Service is currently involved with is resolved.

A female officer is accusing Windsor police of passing her over for promotions based on gender, and Simone said Amherstburg officers would follow Windsor police policies and procedures in the event of a switch.

“I’m not saying it’s a women’s issue, but it’s a human rights issue. It concerns men and women,” said Simone.

After the meeting, residents were upset with council’s decision.

Jen Ozyer said the decision was simply about cost, and she questioned if it would improve the town.

“It’s not about making things better. How is it making it better?” she asked.

Trudy Dempsey said she was “really, really upset” with council’s decision.

“I really don’t think they took everything into consideration, all the meetings that people came to and said ‘no,” she said. “They already decided this long before tonight. That’s exactly how I see it.”

George Kritiotis noted it was one step in the process, noting the matter still has to be approved by the OCPC. He suggested the fight wasn’t over.

“That’s who makes the final decision,” he said.

A petition is at several local businesses and “I think there is a significant amount of people who are against it,” said Kritiotis. He added the fact Windsor and Amherstburg don’t share a border could work in the favour of those opposed to a switch.

“This is not a done deal,” said Kritiotis, adding that opponents may also bring up that it wasn’t a full council that voted.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said the process has been stressful but that they will honour the decision.

“I’m still a little shocked about the decision,” said McCurdy.

McCurdy said the job of the association is to protect its members and they did that the best way they could.

“I can assure you the men and women with the Amherstburg Police Service will continue to do their jobs,” he said. “It’s a council decision.”

The association has no choice but to accept the decision, he conceded, adding that officers took an oath and they will continue to honour that oath.

Moving forward, the association will negotiate any severance payments that may be owed and continue to work on behalf of its members and the residents.

During the four public meetings on the subject, in which the majority of residents stated they favoured keeping Amherstburg police, Miceli noted that 23 per cent of the town’s budget is tied up in police costs.

The Windsor police proposal called for administering existing staff in existing organizational units, the continuation of service delivery, existing Amherstburg officers and staff “working exclusively” for Amherstburg, the town being able to keep the existing Amherstburg police station, and local officers continuing to respond to all calls for service.

While there was anger and disappointment from many in the public locally last night, town council’s decision was endorsed by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins.

“Way to go Amherstburg!” Dilkins stated on his Twitter account Monday night. “We look forward to providing enhanced policing services while saving the Town a lot of money. Your foresight is a win-win for residents in both of our municipalities.”