Ken Antaya

Essex County council defers EMS report regarding Amherstburg concerns

 

By Ron Giofu

Town council wanted Essex County council to review Essex-Windsor EMS and to provide funding necessary to improve the areas that are “in need.”

However, Essex County now wants more information from the town and find out what was presented to Amherstburg council.

Essex County council deferred a recommendation at its June 7 meeting that would have county administration provide an information report to county council regarding funding and cost distribution of EMS services as well as tiered response and service levels.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya sought clarification on the request from Amherstburg.

“They’re suggesting increasing regional funding and identifying areas in need?” he asked.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said “the concerns that were raised by some members of Amherstburg council were there may not be enough coverage for the amount of calls we have.”

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DiCarlo also pointed out the concerns over tiered response and the fact firefighters go out on medical calls when ambulances were tied up. Town council discussed the matter in April when Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter appeared before them with Councillor Rick Fryer wondering why all municipalities don’t use firefighters at calls, citing Leamington as an example. Fryer said during the April meeting that if there is a fee for service, all municipalities should be equal. Councillor Diane Pouget added she was “very, very concerned” about the issue and said she “didn’t think it is fair” that some municipalities are not paying for the same service Amherstburg is paying for.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos made the motion for the deferral, noting the county didn’t know exactly what Amherstburg council heard.

“It may not be an Amherstburg issue,” said Santos. “It may be a county-wide issue.”

ACS thanks its “stars” at volunteer appreciation dinner

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) rolled out the red carpet to thank its volunteers.

ACS held its annual volunteer appreciation dinner last Wednesday night at the K of C Hall with this year’s event being dubbed “A Night of a Hundred Stars.” It’s 124, actually, as that’s how many volunteers ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said the agency has.

Those volunteers put in over 7,000 hours of service during 2016, she added.

The Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) volunteer appreciation dinner had a Hollywood theme this year with people able to pose next to cutouts of famous entertainers. Getting in on the fun last Wednesday night were ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and ACS board of directors president Terri Barrette.

The Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) volunteer appreciation dinner had a Hollywood theme this year with people able to pose next to cutouts of famous entertainers. Getting in on the fun last Wednesday night were ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and ACS board of directors president Terri Barrette.

“Just as Hollywood recognizes its stars, we wanted to recognize (the volunteers) the same way,” said DiBartolomeo.

The 124 volunteers was a figure that impressed DiBartolomeo.

“That is amazing,” she said. “That is our highest amount ever. We continue to grow every day.”

DiBartolomeo outlined the lengthy history of volunteerism and told the ACS volunteers that “you carry on a centuries old tradition and we see you as stars in our community.”

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale brought greetings from the town. DiPasquale, a former ACS board member, said the people with ACS were those he was close to.

“I enjoy working in Amherstburg. I enjoy the people,” DiPasquale said. “I feel the people are part of my family.”

ACS also serves LaSalle and Harrow with LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya also being a Meals on Wheels driver when his schedule permits.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) receives a gift from ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo for attending the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) receives a gift from ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo for attending the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner.

“The service you provide to the community is immeasurable,” Antaya told the volunteers. “You can’t put a price on it.”

Antaya said it was more than just delivering a meal, but it is also spending time with seniors and those who may need just someone to visit them.

“Never underestimate your importance,” he said. “Continue giving. There’s nothing better than giving to your community.”

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey praised the commitment of the volunteers, adding the government can only do so much. Ramsey said those who serve their community make major impacts and that is what makes Essex County so unique.

“Thank you for your continuing service,” Ramsey told the crowd.

Bryan Dzombak (left) receives one of the door prizes offered at the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner last Wednesday night. Making the  presentation is ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Bryan Dzombak (left) receives one of the door prizes offered at the ACS volunteer appreciation dinner last Wednesday night. Making the
presentation is ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Terri Barrette, president of ACS’ board of directors, recalled learning about giving back from her grandmother and told the volunteers they were special and stars.

“What all of you provide to the community is invaluable,” said Barrette.

In many cases, Barrette said volunteers are allowing people to have choices and freedoms through such factors as the ability to stay in their own homes.

“You are not only their saving grace, you are inspiring the next generation to be leaders,” said Barrette. “In more ways than one, the community is stronger and richer because of you.”

Essex County council begins process of redefining road network

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

What is likely to be a long, arduous process of redefining what the Essex County road network is has gotten underway.

A special meeting of Essex County council took place last Wednesday night with the meeting being somewhat out of the ordinary as it was facilitated by Roger Bryan, a retired partner with KPMG whom the county has engaged as a consultant.

The roughly 90-minute “visioning session” saw county council members asked to answer what they consider the purpose of the county road network and what factors and influences should be contemplated when developing the criteria to determine whether or not a road is a county road.

“I’m very pleased with how the meeting went,” said Warden Tom Bain. “I think there were a lot of various opinions.”

Bain said no solid conclusions were reached, nor were any expected to be reached as this was the first of what is likely to be many meetings to hash out what is a county road and what isn’t.

“I feel strongly that we got the ball rolling,” said Bain. “There was a lot of meat put on the table.”

One of the issues was financial inequity, as some members of county council believe their towns pay too much in assessments for what they receive back in road funding. Bain believes that will be an area that will be looked at further as the process progresses.

“It’s going to be a long, slow, tedious job but I feel we’ll come up with a solution,” said Bain, noting he has a goal of having it completed if not by the end of 2017, by the 2018 municipal election.

County CAO Brian Gregg told county council members at the start of the meeting that no criteria was expected to be developed by the end of the first meeting but “we want you to tell us what you want that criteria to look like.”

Consultant Roger Bryan speaks to Essex County councillors last Wednesday night during a meeting on the county’s road network. The county has started a process to review its road system.

Consultant Roger Bryan speaks to Essex County councillors last Wednesday night during a meeting on the county’s road network. The county has started a process to review its road system.

Many elected officials said county roads are roadways that connect municipalities and high traffic areas with one another. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he understood that to be the definition and that if that is the case, the county has to be careful on how it designates its roadways. County roads can’t be determined so that a higher amount of dollars will flow to individual municipalities for projects.

“You can’t just designate a street just because you want to give a municipalities more percentage,” said DiCarlo.

Bain suggested that county roads also have to be roads that see a lot of goods transported with Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche suggesting connecting areas of tourism also should be considered for county road status. Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti believed the county should look at the road network as a way to connect rural settlement areas.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara believed there should be “a clear outline for this process” and that open discussion should be had with the lower tier municipalities. Decisions should be made on based on such issues as traffic counts and future growth projections.

“There’s got to be more input,” agreed Essex Mayor Ron McDermott.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya wanted a “fair process” and didn’t think his town was getting its share of the county’s road dollars.

“As partners, we should all be concerned about each other. (LaSalle) doesn’t feel like partners,” said Antaya. “I feel we’re just a source of money because we’re not getting a lot.”

Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio believed a lot of how county roads are funded has to do with the geographic size of the municipalities.

“It’s not our fault the government shoved (amalgamation) down our throats,” said Fazio.

Fazio said ideally each municipality should be funded equally “but the reality is it’s never going to be equal.”

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) gives feedback during a meeting on the county road system Jan. 25. Consultant Roger Bryan (right) listens to DiCarlo's comments.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) gives feedback during a meeting on the county road system Jan. 25. Consultant Roger Bryan (right) listens to DiCarlo’s comments.

DiCarlo indicated that the most effective routes to move people or goods should be looked at for designation and questioned whether the meeting was to look at what the definition of county roads are or whether it was a meeting to discuss assessment costs.

“To me, it’s almost two different issues,” said DiCarlo.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale suggested some roads may need changing but viewed county roads as the most important transit routes in Essex County. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said standards were developed when there were 21 county municipalities instead of the current seven and that maybe there are roads that need to have their designations changed.

Meloche believed “there’s always going to be disparity” and that looking at specific issues could pit municipalities against each other.

“The next thing you know, we’re not county council,” said Meloche.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson believed municipalities like Tecumseh, LaSalle and his own are overpaying when looking at assessments versus their percentage of the road network, adding that Amherstburg is slightly underpaying. He said Amherstburg has 12.7 per cent of the road network but pays 11.6 per cent of the assessment.

Paterson suggested that the assessment dollars be kept by each municipality and that they look after their own roads.

“So far, no one has convinced me we need county roads,” he said during the meeting.

Fazio disagreed.

“We all need each other. Pulling out is not the way to go.”

Essex County council pre-approves roadwork, some of it coming to Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex has a proposed infrastructure rehabilitation project budget of over $10.6 million and a good chunk of that has been approved prior to budget.

County council recently agreed to the early release of just shy of $6.1 million for some of its 2017 road rehabilitation projects, though there were some members around the table who wanted a better system to decide what roads the county should look after.

County Road 8 is one of the county road projects that had funds granted early by Essex County council.

County Road 8 is one of the county road projects that had funds granted early by Essex County council.

One municipality that did not have its representatives voice concern was Amherstburg, as there were projects approved for early release while others have to wait until later in the year.

Projects on County Road 8, bordering both Amherstburg and LaSalle, are estimated to be about $700,000 in total with the bulk being a 3.5-kilometre pavement rehabilitation job from the Canard River to Howard Ave.

The other project approved for early release was an estimated $700,000 project on County Road 18 (Simcoe St.). That pavement rehabilitation project is roughly 3.9-kilometres and runs from Meloche Road to Concession 6 South.

Those in opposition to the list of road projects included LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya. Antaya pointed out that, aside from the County Road 8 work, his municipality receives little attention. He believed the county road network needed a further look and was in favour of setting up meetings to hash out a new plan for county roads.

“There’s no fairness to the system,” said Antaya.

Antaya believed more importance should be placed on a new plan for the county road system.

“We need to get this going,” said Antaya. “I don’t want this brushed aside. I want to schedule a meeting. We haven’t done a thing.”

County Road 8 is one of the county road projects that had funds granted early by Essex County council.

County Road 8 is one of the county road projects that had funds granted early by Essex County council.

County CAO Brian Gregg told Antaya that trying to find meeting dates when all county council members can meet is often a challenge but Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara suggested he was even willing to meet on weekends.

Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti proposed meeting Jan. 18 and said he couldn’t support the current project list either. He added that a county transportation plan needs to be worked on as soon as possible.

Among the infrastructure projects scheduled later in the year for Amherstburg are a culvert on County Road 20 at the South 7th Concession Drain and a pavement rehabilitation project on County Road 41 from County Road 20 to County Road 50. The estimated cost of those two projects are $50,000 and $290,000 respectively.

Essex County council votes down proposed EWSWA budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The proposed Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) budget has been rejected by Essex County council.

County council unanimously rejected the budget last Wednesday night. The EWSWA budget calls for a zero percent increase in 2017 as well as 2018. The budget was arrived at by the authority Nov. 29 but county representatives slammed the budget that was approved due to Windsor having a majority of members on the board.

A 4.11 per cent increase had been recommended but by passing it with a zero per cent increase, it meant a dip into the EWSWA’s rate stabilization reserve thus bringing it down from $13.2 million to $12.2 million.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said the zero per cent budget is “ludicrous” and that operating the landfill with a rate freeze is not realistic.

“At some point in time, you’ve got to pay,” said McNamara. “It makes no sense to me.”

Such factors as rising fuel costs at the landfill have to be dealt with, he continued, and that it was “foolish” to try and accommodate everything “by the skin of your teeth.

“You’ve got to find money somewhere and pay the fiddler up front,” said McNamara. “To me, this is a disservice to our taxpayers in the future. We are mortgaging our future to look good today.”

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya, one of the county representatives on the EWSWA board, said he was “surprised beyond belief” that the budget was approved at the authority level with a zero per cent increase. He also questioned whether procedures were violated by passing a motion regarding the 2018 budget.

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To reconsider that motion requires a two-thirds majority, and Antaya was resigned to the fact the county didn’t have enough votes to do so. He also shared similar concerns to McNamara.

“By not paying the bill today, we’re just delaying it for the next generation,” said Antaya.

County council members were also concerned that if a zero per cent increase proceeds for the next two years, EWSWA administration projects that the rate increase could be as high as 9.87 per cent in 2019.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos believed the freezing of rates for two years was more due to “political expediency” than anything else. He believed they would be “going down the wrong path” by approving the budget as presented.

“It doesn’t make business sense,” said Santos.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, another member of the EWSWA board, said the county representatives were “100 per cent against” the zero per cent increase. He questioned why city representatives didn’t listen to EWSWA administration as “they do the work” in preparing the budget.

“(Windsor) could care less about families, they could care less about their neighbours,” stated McDermott. “We’re going backwards at zero per cent. I can’t see us doing anything but turn this down. This is terrible that anyone could even think of this.”

There isn’t a lot of “fat” in the EWSWA budget, added Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald, adding county representatives were told they have a “traditional” approach to budgeting.

“To me, this is shortsighted,” said MacDonald. “This doesn’t give a fig about 20 years from now.”

MacDonald added there is no money devoted towards the landfill for its eventual replacement and all the attention is on the debt.

“I think we are realistic,” she said of the county’s approach. “I think it’s common sense. We’re thinking down the road.”

Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen also blasted the city’s stance and that a near-10 per cent increase would “not be acceptable, period.” Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio said recommendations dropped from 5.6 per cent to 4.11 per cent before it was approved by the city at zero per cent.

“The bottom line is it’s a sham,” said Fazio.

Fazio agreed that “you pay now or you pay later,” noting that “there’s not one person that wants to pay taxes.” He also asked whether the issue of 2018 was even on the agenda.

By turning it town, an ad hoc committee featuring administration from both Essex County and Windsor will help set a new budget for both councils to consider.