Rick Fryer

Amherstburg moving ahead with major forcemain project

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A major infrastructure project is proceeding with that project that has been said to allow for hundreds of homes to be built in the Golfview and Kingsbridge areas.

Town council awarded a tender to J&J Lepera Infrastructures with the work to be done to upgrade pump stations in the area and to construct a forcemain to divert wastewater to the Amherstburg sewage treatment plant.

Total cost of this phase of the project is $8.9 million but a developer is contributing approximately $917,000 for pump station improvements. This is the second of three phases of the Edgewater Diversion Project.

Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt indicated that is the normal course of action as developers are responsible for moving sewage while the town is required to receive the sewage.

“That’s what the project is doing,” said Hewitt.

Hewitt told town council at a special meeting last Wednesday afternoon that he couldn’t estimate a work schedule until after the project was awarded but hoped work crews would be in full swing by mid-August. Installing the forcemain will involve tearing up Front Road North (County Road 20) from roughly the Edgewater area to Alma St. It is expected to reduce the highway from four lanes to two during the construction period.

“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline to get it done,” said Hewitt.

The timeline to complete the forcemain is Nov. 30, he stated, with the pump station due for completion by March 1, 2019. Kingsbridge developer Mike Dunn told town council he will be able to proceed with 700 homes once this phase of the project is completed.

“That’s good news for the town,” responded Councillor Rick Fryer.

Hewitt indicated that there could be “other opportunities for development” for the lands in the Edgewater sewage area other than Kingsbridge.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned why the project cost was coming in higher than projected. Hewitt stated the town received two tenders for the work.

“It tells you the remainder of the contractors are very busy and unable to tender the work,” said Hewitt.

Comparisons were also done of similar projects in other municipalities, he added, and that costs tended to come in 15-20 per cent higher than original estimates.

As part of his written report to town council, Hewitt stated: “The Town has invested significant dollars to upgrade and expand the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant and upgrade the Pump Station No. 2. The recommended works in this report are the final steps to allow the Edgewater Lagoons to be decommissioned and to utilize the capacity built into the treatment plant. By not moving forward on this project the Town could risk potential fines and additional costs from the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) for not addressing the issues with respect to the early discharges at the Edgewater lagoons. The Edgewater Lagoons are currently at capacity. Not approving this project will end future residential development in this area until sewage capacity is increased. This project will allow for residential development and growth to move forward in this area, specifically North Kingsbridge, which has been at a standstill for many years due to the lack of capacity in the Edgewater system.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it was big news for the town, stating at least 700 new homes are coming to the town.

“It’s definitely some nice closure on a very big project that has literally held back the town and development,” said DiCarlo. “I think the big news is really the homes.”

DiCarlo stated that while there have been some new builds in the area, developers have had restrictions on what can be constructed. He is hopeful the forcemain will be operational by the end of the year.

“We’re definitely going to get on it ASAP,” said the mayor.

The Edgewater lagoons should be decommissioned next year with the estimated cost of that phase being just over $1 million.

“We have made major investments in water infrastructure,” said DiCarlo.

The overall cost of the project, including all three phases, is approximately $14 million. Grant funding received in 2015 provided $5.8 million with $1.8 million being used on the current phase that will be done this year.

Fishing in Navy Yard Park suggested by town council member

 

By Ron Giofu

 

While attending the Bob Meloche Memorial Fishing Derby on Father’s Day, a member of town council was asked if fishing along the shoreline could become a regular occurrence.

Councillor Rick Fryer brought those concerns and questions to the June 25 meeting, wondering if there was any interest in allowing fishing for a greater distance along the shoreline of the park. He suggested possibly allowing occasions monthly or every other month where people would be given permission to fish for a greater stretch.

“In Windsor, they do it all the way along,” said Fryer, “but in Amherstburg, we only allow it 42 or 44-feet.”

The idea of more fishing opportunities in Navy Yard Park was discussed by town council recently. (Submitted photo)

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed, calling it “wonderful” to see fathers and sons fishing together. She said there are those who love the park for its foliage and flowers but suggested maybe younger people could have a greater use of the park should more allowances be made for fishing.

However, Councillor Jason Lavigne spoke against the idea, preferring that the town wait until the new development at the Duffy’s site be completed before looking into fishing from the shoreline.

Lavigne said that he has learned of stories from bylaw enforcement officials of “thousands” of people lining the shoreline during silver bass season “and it was horrendous what was going on there.”

“They were using the lawn as a washroom. The garbage build-up was horrendous,” he said. “Hundreds and hundreds of people were lining up and people couldn’t enjoy the park. It was disgusting.”

As there was no motion on the floor or direction given by town council, the matter did not proceed any further.

Council gives administration spending authority in “lame duck” period, but not without debate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has authorized administration to have the ability make unbudgeted expenditures over $50,000 and dispose of property valued at over $50,000 during the “lame duck” period.

While many stated this is a common motion passed by municipalities across the province, one member of council voiced concerns over the motion. During debate of the motion at the June 11 meeting, Councillor Diane Pouget believed it would be “foolish” of council to pass it without some sort of safety assurances built in. She said the motion as recommended gave administration “carte blanche” to sell town property or make unbudgeted purchases and wanted to ensure additional safeguards were in place.

“It’s absolutely necessary and the responsible thing to do,” said Pouget. “I’m not speaking against anyone here. I’m trying to protect council and our residents.”

Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney voted against the motion, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne and Rick Fryer voting in favour. Councillor Leo Meloche did not attend the meeting as his wife passed away only a few days earlier.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original version of this article had Councillor Joan Courtney voting in favour. She voted against the motion and the story has now been corrected to reflect that.)

CAO John Miceli said the motion did protect the residents, citing an example that if a fire truck was in an accident and couldn’t be used, administration has the authority to carry out measures to replace the vehicle.

“What you are suggesting is that administration would not go through with the will of council,” said Miceli.

Miceli added his concern was if unbudgeted expenditures were to come up during the lame duck period, which would start July 27 if six members of the current council don’t run in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Pouget countered that other emergency measures, such as borrowing a fire truck from a neighbouring municipality, could be used but DiCarlo pointed out an emergency road repair that is being done in River Canard would have had to wait until a new council if it occurred during a lame duck period and such a motion wasn’t in place.

“This isn’t something unique to Amherstburg,” said director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, of the motion.

Lavigne had similar comments to Galvin, adding an example of if something happened at the water treatment plant, an expenditure couldn’t be approved until a new council was in place unless such a motion was passed.

“I understand (Pouget’s) concern, that’s why I researched it,” said Lavigne, who noted many municipalities in Ontario pass such motions in election years. “This is 100 per cent common in Ontario. Literally hundreds of municipalities in Ontario have the same motion. Why are we different here in Amherstburg?”

Pouget believed council was giving up some of their rights and while she acknowledged council would be notified of any such expenditure in the lame duck period, “we can’t do anything.”

Fryer said “it’s a matter of trust” and didn’t foresee any major issues and no sale of property, including the 12 remaining acres of Centennial Park that the Greater Essex County District School.

“To put fear in residents that they’ll spend money like drunken sailors is bullcrap,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to happen.”

Fryer’s comments prompted code of conduct concerns, and DiCarlo urged council to be respectful of

other people’s opinions.

Duffy’s plans spur petition

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A group from the AMA Sportsmen Association have made it clear – they want a fishing wharf, marina and boat ramp at the site of the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn.

The Town of Amherstburg, owners of the property, seem open to keeping at least two of those amenities.

Brian Beattie and Kevin Sprague from the AMA Sportsmen Association appeared before town council Monday night to request input into the design process of the site and to ensure the wharf, marina and boat ramp were included.

Beattie believed more input and consideration was needed. He recalled an amphitheatre being built just south of the Duffy’s lands near the Caldwell Towers area years ago and “residents complained so much they had to tear it down.”

Sprague said he gathered 558 signatures on a petition that states “that a boat launch with an appropriate number of parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers, a wharf and lookout with sufficient space that can be used for shoreline fishing and transient marina slips being incorporated into the final design of the Duffy’s lands.”

The town’s decision to purchase the Duffy’s site was an “awesome” one, Sprague believed.

“It’s a large piece of valuable property in the downtown core with huge potential that will be a popular future public asset,” he said. “Properties like this don’t come around very often and may never come around again anywhere even close to the downtown core.”

The majority of residents he spoke with said they want a boat launch, wharf for shoreline fishing and a small marina, stated Sprague. He said more feedback is needed and that the town’s “Talk the Burg” website, an online questionnaire and a public consultation with 25 people in attendance “is not properly providing anywhere close to an accurate representation of what the community needs and wants.”

“Amherstburg is the only municipality in Essex County with the exception of Tecumseh that has no public boat launch,” he said. “We have a few privately-owned boat launches but what happens when these private boat launches no longer exist, close or are sold for development or other uses? This could easily occur and there is zero guarantee that this won’t become a future reality. Residents who require a boat launch shouldn’t be force to drive to another municipality to launch a boat when our town is surrounded by water. Amherstburg needs an insurance policy to prevent this from ever becoming a reality.”

Sprague added that Amherstburg “has by far” the smallest public place for shoreline fishing in Essex County at “an embarrassing 53-foot long space. It’s sometimes so overcrowded that tourists drive for hours to fish in Amherstburg and leave with tickets because they are fishing outside of the permitted area. When parents, grandparents and children of our town have 53-feet of overcrowded and completely insufficient area to fish from, that’s wrong and the town’s fault for not addressing this problem many years ago.”

Residents don’t want the amphitheatre on the Duffy’s site, he added, and that a parking lot should be built on the site that could be used year-round. He acknowledged that it’s not as nice as trees or grass, but parking could be used by residents and tourists alike. He said the amphitheatre doesn’t have the support the town thinks it does.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the wharf and marina are still part of the concept plan with the boat launch being the only thing in question.

“The issue is really the boat launch,” agreed CAO John Miceli. “The question is what do we do with parking for the boat launch?”

Councillor Rick Fryer said he agreed with the concept for Duffy’s but believed there should still be a boat launch at the site.

“The town should look at other places to park boat trailers and vehicles,” he said, even floating the idea of a valet service where someone could assist boaters by driving their trailers to a different site for them.

Fryer said he is hearing yes to a festival area at the site but no to an amphitheatre. He added there needs to be more room for people to fish.

“I’m a firm supporter of getting fisherman downtown,” he said.

DiCarlo said the Duffy’s project is currently in the environmental assessment stage and that funding will have to be secured for the project since there is a desire not to have it totally funded by the taxpayer. Optimistically, he hoped for shovels to be in the ground early next year.

The mayor said he did hear from people who signed the petition and believed there are some misconceptions. He said some he talked to thought a marina or boat ramp was being sacrificed for an amphitheatre and that he explained to them that all are still in the concept.

“The only thing left is the boat ramp,” he said.

Overall, DiCarlo said the Duffy’s concept has been “well received” and that people are anxious to see it get started. He said there will be future opportunities for people to comment on the project.

Water and wastewater rates to see minimal increases

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Water and wastewater rates are on the rise in the Town of Amherstburg.

Town council has approved a five per cent increase to the water rate and a 1.3 per cent increase to the wastewater increase. Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated in a report to town council that the increases are in accordance with the long-term financial stability plan outlined in the town’s asset management plan.

The water rate increase would translate into an average annual billing increase from $458 to $467, or a $9 average increase. The wastewater increase would see bills rise, on average, from $779 to $785, or $6.

“Based on the recommended user rate adjustments, the average consumer of both water and wastewater in the town would see a household effect of $15 a year, or 4 cents a day,” Rousseau said in his report to town council.

Rousseau stated in his report that one of the main cost drivers for water is the operation and maintenance of the Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant.

“When our water costs are compared to other municipalities who operate their own plants (Essex and Lakeshore), we are actually the lowest of the three municipalities,” Rousseau stated in his report. “Our water distribution network is very large, servicing homes well into Essex, causing additional costs to provide standard maintenance.”

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

The town is currently operating six separate wastewater facilities across the town, Rousseau added, with those all requiring operating and maintenance costs.

“The recent reconstruction of the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant has also added additional pressure to the rate,” he stated.

According to Rousseau’s report, when water and wastewater charges are compared to other municipalities around Windsor-Essex County, Amherstburg ranks fourth in water and second in wastewater. Rousseau used base charges and volumetric charges, the latter being based on 20 cubic metres per month.

However, Rousseau estimated the total billing amounts based on his figures, Amherstburg had the second highest billing total in the area.

The revenue and expenses for the water budget are $4,699,000 and $6,255,775 for the wastewater budget.

Councillor Diane Pouget said council is obligated to ensure the town has clean water, stating the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) and the town’s departments “do a tremendous job” keep the town’s water safe.

Pouget said the total amount of the increase is $15 per year.

The Amherstburg wastewater treatment plant.

“I think it’s a small price to pay to make sure our facilities are up-to-date,” she said.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed the town can be proud of the work that is being done, noting the feedback from people he receives is that “they love the taste of our water.”

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed, stating she can’t taste the difference between tap water and bottled water.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original story and the story in the June 6 print issue stated that Councillor Diane Pouget said it was a $15 per month increase. The online story has been changed to correctly reflect that Councillor Pouget said it was a $15 per year increase. The RTT apologizes for the error.)