John Miceli

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.

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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.

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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.


Uncle’s love of history, roots at Belle Vue led to $100,000 donation



By Ron Giofu


The contracts have been officially signed and the cheque has been officially turned over.

The $100,000 cheque presentation from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy took place on the front porch of Belle Vue last Friday morning. The donation was made by brothers John and Joe Gatfield, nephews of the late Father Ted Gatfield, and trustee with the BMO trust Lisa Mazurek with a main floor dining room to be named for the foundation.

It was originally announced last week.

“This is something that meant a lot to our uncle,” said John.

John added that one of the missions of the foundation is to preserve Amherstburg’s history, adding there is also a family connection to Belle Vue through Father Ted’s great-great grandfather.

The Gatfield Family Foundation made its $100,000  donation official last Friday morning. From left: CAO John Miceli, trustee with BMO Lisa Mazurek, John Gatfield, Belle Vue Conservancy director of  corporate outreach Linda Jackson and Joe Gatfield.

The Gatfield Family Foundation made its $100,000
donation official last Friday morning. From left: CAO John Miceli, trustee with BMO Lisa Mazurek, John Gatfield, Belle Vue Conservancy director of
corporate outreach Linda Jackson and Joe Gatfield.

“The Gatfield family has been in Amherstburg forever, so it seems,” he said. “We, as a family, are very pleased to help out.”
Noting that Father Ted would tell stories of playing as a child at Belle Vue, John said “we think he’d be very pleased that we are doing this.”

Members of the Belle Vue Conservancy and town administration were smiling before, during and after the presentation and John said their uncle would be pleased with that.

“He’d be happy to see the smiles on everyone’s faces here,” said John. “He’s smiling as well.”

John said they heard about Belle Vue and the goal of restoring it and the foundation discussed helping out. That led to a meeting with conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, treasurer Michael Prue and corporate outreach chair Linda Jackson. That meeting led to the Gatfield Family Foundation wanting “to do our part” to help save the 200-year-old town-owned Dalhousie St. mansion.

John Miceli, Amherstburg’s chief administrative officer (CAO), said that town council adopted a community strategic plan in the summer of 2016 which provided strategic direction for the town based on a community shared vision.

“Belle Vue was a key consideration identified by our residents in developing that shared vision,” said Miceli. “The historical and cultural significance of this tremendous property was recognized by our community and identified as a pillar of investment going forward.

The CAO stated that Belle Vue is “part of our past, our present and our future” and expressed thanks to the Gatfield family for the $100,000 donation.

John Gatfield, Joe Gatfield and trustee Lisa Mazurek sign the contracts which officially transferred $100,000 from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy raises funds on behalf of the town of Amherstburg to restore Belle Vue, the historic home at 525 Dalhousie St.

John Gatfield, Joe Gatfield and trustee Lisa Mazurek sign the contracts which officially transferred $100,000 from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy raises funds on behalf of the town of Amherstburg to restore Belle Vue, the historic home at 525 Dalhousie St.

“We are writing a new chapter in the story of Amherstburg and Belle Vue will play an important part in this novel to come,” said Miceli. “This partnership between the Gatfield Family Foundation, the Belle Vue Conservancy and the town of Amherstburg is just the beginning. This partnership emphasizes that. I am extremely excited as together, we continue to write the story of how this once endangered significantly historical property in Amherstburg was saved by a community that was unwilling to let it go and how we came together with the help of groups such as the Gatfield Family Foundation to restore this national treasure for the benefit of generations to come.”

The hope is that the $100,000 donation will lead to more donations with Michael Prue stating the town is doing well in the “This Place Matters” competition. Donations are also being accepted at Prue added they continue to seek donations from organizations and businesses.

A gala is also being planned as a major fundraiser Sept. 24.

The Belle Vue Conservancy, which is raising money on the town’s behalf for Belle Vue, is awaiting word whether the federal government will give them a grant for up to $1 million, a figure that would have to be matched.

“All of us together can do it!” Prue stated.

Demolition resumes at Duffy’s site after delays



By Ron Giofu


Delays have occurred in the demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn but the town’s chief administrative officer states the goal is still to be able to use the site during the Canuck It Up Festival.

Crews could be seen at points last week working at the site as demolition appears to have resumed.

CAO John Miceli said there were issues that caused the demolition to be delayed. One of the issues was a motorcycle crash that injured Jones Group owner Terry Jones.

A Jones Group excavator was seen working at the site of the former Duffy’s Motor Inn Monday morning. Demolition had been delayed at the site but has now resumed.

A Jones Group excavator was seen working at the site of the former Duffy’s Motor Inn Monday morning. Demolition had been delayed at the site but has now resumed.

“We are working with the Jones Group to provide us with a revised schedule as there was a couple of things that did delay the project,” said Miceli. “The first was Terry’s untimely accident and the second was an order that was issued to the Jones Group by the Ministry (of Labour) which has subsequently been lifted.”

Miceli pointed out the Ministry of Labour “has some overarching powers and on this project was seeking written protocols on the demolition process. Unfortunately this  was complicated from a timing perspective with Terry’s untimely accident and has caused some delays.”

The CAO added: “I have been advised by the Jones Group that they will be working diligently to make up time so that we can have access to the site in time for Canuck it Up. I know that the Jones Group knows how important this festival is for the Town and they want to deliver for us.”

The Canuck It Up Festival is Aug. 5-6.