Leo Meloche

Most town roads will require rehabilitation within ten years

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s roads are OK now, but a lot of work looms on the horizon, according to a consultant.

Kyle Edmunds from Dillon Consulting appeared before town council last Tuesday night and presented an updated roads needs report and while that report deemed the roads to be in “fair” condition, it was also determined that 83 per cent of the town’s roads need to be rehabilitated within ten years.

To combat that problem, the town agreed to a plan that would see $1.41 million committed annually over ten years to road work to help combat the deteriorating road system and get some of the more urgent projects completed.

Of the 226.48 kilometres of roads the town controls, about 30.5 per cent need work now while 23.3 per cent need work in the next 1-5 years. About 29 per cent need work within 6-10 years while the remained don’t need work for beyond a decade.

Less than four per cent of Amherstburg’s roads are considered to be in “excellent” condition, as compared to 20.16 per cent in LaSalle and 15.6 per cent in Tecumseh. As for roads in “good” condition, there are 23.38 per cent of roads in Amherstburg in that category as compared to 45.82 per cent in LaSalle and 29.7 per cent in Tecumseh.

Amherstburg has 16.75 per cent of its roads classified in “fairly good” condition with just over 22 per cent of LaSalle’s roads in that category. Tecumseh has 25.5 per cent of its roads classified as “fairly good.”

As for roads in “fair” condition, 27.72 per cent of Amherstburg’s roads fall in that category, as compared to 11.31 per cent in LaSalle and 23.9 per cent in Tecumseh. Amherstburg has nearly 29 per cent of its roads classified as “poor,” as compared to less than one per cent in LaSalle and 5.3 per cent in Tecumseh.

Tecumseh has 181.4 kilometres of road while LaSalle has 187.56 kilometres. They were used by Dillon Consulting as comparators as the firm did roads needs studies in those two municipalities as well over the last few years.

Expect to see more construction signs over the next decade as the town’s road system requires a lot of work. Meloche Road (pictured here, earlier this summer before the road re-opened) is one of the more recent projects the town has undertaken.

Councillor Leo Meloche wondered why the entire focus was on repairing roads that need it now as he said some priority should be put on some of the roads in the 1-5 year category. The poor roads are already poor but the roads in the 1-5 year category will soon join them if not tended to quicker.

“We’re always chasing our tail,” said Meloche.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she didn’t want residents to think it was a “doom and gloom” situation, and added Amherstburg has more roads than Tecumseh and LaSalle.

“That does make a difference,” she said.

Provincial downloading also made a difference, she suggested.

“I think the municipalities started getting into trouble when the province started downloading to us,” she said.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out chunks of cement are coming off of Angstrom Dr. and Victoria St. S. is also deteriorating. There are heavily travelled roads like Concession 2 North that are also in disrepair, calling that road “a thoroughfare to LaSalle. It’s one of the worst roads but people use it.”

Traffic counts should not be the only factor in choosing where road projects should be done, Fryer added, as smaller roads need attention too. He said the town should focus on roads instead of “not needed purchases.”

CAO John Miceli called an increase to $1.41 million annually “significant” and said challenges will be ensuring there are enough contractors to do the work and what prices the town gets when projects are put to tender.

“I would suggest the market will indicate where we are going to be,” he said.

Miceli added he would like to see $120,000 in the crack seal program budget to prolong the life of some of the roads.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said the current council has done a lot of road repairs in its first three years.

“I think this council spent more on roads than the last four councils combined,” he said, noting Texas Road and Meloche Road have been upgraded.

Lavigne wanted to know “what will keep politics out of this” when choosing where and when projects get done. Edmunds said all roads have been classified based on a pavement condition index (PCI) and that shows what roads are in the worst condition.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale also stated that more roads have been repaired this term whereas “in the past, we didn’t do so much.

“Everyone has seen the number of roads that have been fixed in the last little while,” said DiPasquale.

The last complete roads needs study was done by Dillon Consulting in 2003 with a condition assessment update done in 2013.

Town to draft budget with maximum of two per cent increase

 

By Ron Giofu

The town of Amherstburg is going ahead with its 2018 draft budget, with that budget to contain up to a two per cent tax increase.

Council authorized administration to move forward with that plan, with the budget to be tabled Nov. 6. Bill 148, the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” that will, in part, increase minimum wage and allow for equal pay for part-time and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time staff will also impact next year’s budget.

“Although 2016 saw surpluses, administration is requesting council to consider a tax increase. The surpluses of 2016 can be explained by circumstances we do not believe will exist in 2018 as well as the continuing infrastructure needs of the municipality. The recommendation for presentation of up to a two per cent increase to the mill rate is reasonable when considering the consumer price index in Ontario trend, which for the first eight months of 2017 is at 1.2 per cent,” stated director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau, in his report to town council. “The forecasted growth on the roll return from MPAC from 2017-2018 is forecasting out a 2.4 per cent increase to the town’s assessment base. This coupled with a two per cent increase to the mill rate will provide additional revenue to the town of 4.4 per cent or approximately $880,000. It should be noted the new asset management plan requires an additional $300,000 to be spent on capital, in order to narrow the infrastructure funding gap that currently exists. This request is part of the council approved 20-year financial strategy to replace and repair the town’s infrastructure.”

Councillor Leo Meloche said the two per cent recommendation was higher than the rate of inflation, and the town had a “nice increase” last year when factoring in property values increasing as well.

“I think it would be prudent to stay with the inflation costs,” said Meloche, who advocated for a 1.5 per cent target.

CAO John Miceli said two per cent is a “target that allows administration to weed through the management issues” and is a “general guideline for the treasurer and myself.” It “establishes the ceiling, and not the floor,” he added.

“Council can always reduce that,” said Miceli.

Rousseau said Bill 148, if passed as it currently stands, would impact the town to the tune of $1.6 million. He predicted it will be a challenging budget due to that piece of provincial legislation.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she wants to keep the budget low, but acknowledged there are bridges, culverts and water plant infrastructure that needs to be addressed.

Under the current timetable, a public information session would occur Nov. 18 and council will deliberate the 2018 budget Nov. 28-30. If all goes according to plan, the budget could be approved Dec. 11.

Town council chops two committees, combines two others

 

By Ron Giofu

 

With very little debate on the subject last Monday night, town council eliminated two committees and combined two others.

Town council originally discussed the matter July 10 with the motion failing due to a 3-3 tie vote. The full council was on hand for a special meeting last Monday night and, after an in-camera meeting regarding “committee structure review,” they followed up by going through with the recommendations originally put forth for the July 10 meeting.

The recommendations were to combine the parks committee and the recreation committee into one committee and eliminate the audit and finance committee and the economic development committee.

Town HallWEB

In a recorded vote, council voted 6-1 to move forward with those recommendations. Councillor Leo Meloche was the lone holdout, as Meloche did not want to see the economic development advisory committee abolished.

Meloche has championed the committee, stating they meet regularly to try and stimulate economic development.

In a report that appeared on the July 10 agenda, administration cited numerous concerns with committees, noting that agendas were not posted to meet notice requirements as per the town’s approved procedural bylaw, agenda templates are not consistent, agendas are not being published with supporting materials, chairs tend make motions, chairs tend to lead the meeting, there is no disclosure of pecuniary interest asked at the start of meetings, procedural rules are not being followed for delegates, no deferral motions, motions are too vague, minutes are not recorded as per Municipal Act requirements, minute templates are not consistent and recommendations/reports to council are inconsistent.

 

Town council waives fees for Rotary Club’s Ribfest

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Rotary Club’s eighth annual Ribfest is this weekend and organizers received some financial relief thanks to town council.

The town has waived $2,035 in fees for the Ribfest, with $1,352 being parks fees and the rest for equipment rentals. The Ribfest committee was represented by chair Carl Gibb and Rotary Club past president Lena Lazanja.

“We are a charitable organization and all the funds we receive continue to be funneled back into town,” Lazanja told town council.

Councillor Leo Meloche stated he supported the Ribfest and didn’t have any problem with waiving the parks fees but was concerned about waiving the equipment fees. He said equipment suffers wear and tear and wanted to ensure the town has the resources to replace equipment when need be and believed “at some point we have to draw the line.”

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

The Amherstburg Rotary Club’s 2017 Ribfest is July 7-9.

“Unfortunately, the equipment – we use it and we have to replace it.”

Waiving the fees was an easy decision for Councillor Rick Fryer, pointing out that the Rotary Club has undertaken many projects that have benefitted the residents of Amherstburg. Fryer thanked the Rotary Club for its efforts over the years.

“If it was up to me, we can approve the waiving of the fees every single time,” said Fryer.

The Ribfest runs 12 p.m.-11 p.m. July 7 and 8 and 12 p.m.-7 p.m. July 9 at Centennial Park.

Water and wastewater rates to rise slightly in Amherstburg

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Water and wastewater rates are on the rise two per cent and one per cent respectively in Amherstburg but the town is stating that sounds worse than what it is.

The water budget of nearly $9.4 million will be funded through $638,000 from working capital, a $3.7 million grant and $5 million in new debentures with the $1.369 million wastewater budget being funded through $542,000 in operating capital, $348,150 in grant funding and $479,350 from the wastewater capital reserve.

The water and wastewater rate increases will translate into the average user paying an extra $9 more this year, said director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau.

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

In his written report to council, Rousseau stated: “The projected two per cent increase in water would result in an average annual billing increase from $450 to $456. The projected one per cent increase in wastewater would result in an average annual billing increase from $772 to $775. The combined effect to the average consumer of both water and wastewater in the town will see an annual household effect of $9 a year, or two cents a day.”

Rousseau indicated the coming years will call for the replacement of the water treatment plan, a $30 million expenditure. The town has to take steps to bolster reserves to mitigate the impact of that expenditure, he stated.

Wastewater plantWEB

The reason for the proposed increases is to provide long term stability to building both water and wastewater capital programs as well as lifecycle replacement funding that will help ensure the replacement and expansion of both the water and wastewater systems. The increases agree to the long-term financial stability plan outlined in the Town’s draft asset management plan,” he added in his report to town council.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned the timing of the budgets, noting that it is late June and that “it’s after the fact” for council to have more extensive dialogue on it.

“At this point, it’s difficult to have any input. We’ve already spent the money,” he said.

Rousseau called it “a fair observation” but said it was delayed due to the town’s desire to bring the budgets forward with the asset management plan. He said after the meeting the consultant the town is using on the plan is tied up with other municipalities so the plan was unable to be presented at the same time as the budgets.