Rick Fryer

Bike Tour raises approximately $20,000 for Essex Region Conservation Foundation

 

Cyclists from near and far celebrated the Essex region’s trails recently for the sixth annual Essex Region Bike Tour.

A sixth route was added this year to include the brand new Cypher Systems Group Greenway, the trail that connects Amherstburg and Essex. It was a fundraiser for the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

Approximately 275 people participated in the event, said ERCA events planner Alex Denonville, with the event raising about $20,000.

“We’re really happy with it this year,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer, who is also the chair of the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s board of directors, was one of the participants in the recent Essex Region Conservation Foundation Bike Tour. He took a break in Malden Centre before heading out for the rest of the ride.

The bike tour included a 15 km beginner ride, a 32 km intermediate ride and a 64 km route along the Chrysler Canada Greenway trail. The 15 km event began and ended at Schwab Farm Community Entrance on the Arner Towline. The 32 km intermediate ride began and ended at the Harrow Community Entrance, and the 64 km route was based from the Caesars Windsor Community Entrance on Country Route 8, just west of Walker Road. An 80 km “Extreme Greenway” ride began at the Sadler’s Pond Park Entrance in Essex.

The road routes are largely part of the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS), and include a 104 km advanced ride began and ended at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Centre in LaSalle. The 58 km road route began and ended at the Essex County Demonstration Farm, located next to Holiday Beach Conservation Area on County Road 50.

The tour welcomed riders from all over southwestern Ontario, Michigan, and the Greater Toronto Area.

All funds raised will support regional trails development and maintenance in the Place for Life.

“Our trails and conservation areas are one of our region’s greatest gems and most important assets,” said Charlotte Loaring, a foundation board member.

Bob Hedrick of LaSalle rides his recumbent bike near the Essex County Demonstration Farm on County Road 50 during the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Bike Tour. Amherstburg was on some of the routes that cyclists took.

The bike tour once again welcomed the Windsor Tandem Cycling Club with a two-for-one discount. The Club gives blind, partially-sighted, deaf-blind and fully-sighted cyclists an opportunity to share an enthusiasm for cycling. The tour offered discounted rates to the club to promote accessibility and ensure all can enjoy and celebrate the region’s trail system.

The event also implemented a brand new “Bike Tour Ambassador” program, which invited community leaders and local athletes to promote the tour and lead the ride from their starting location. This year’s ambassadors included ERCA Board Chair and Amherstburg Councillor Rick Fryer, ERCA board member and Councillor Fred Francis, Councillor Rino Bortolin, Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Lakeshore Councillor Dave Monk, ERCA’s 2016 Athlete of the Year Carrie Lee and City of Windsor 2016 Commuter of the Year Paul Dubois,.

 

 

COUNCIL BRIEFS — LED lighting coming soon?

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The installation of LED lighting could be coming later this year.

Councillor Rick Fryer questioned where the municipality was in the process of installing new LED fixtures in the town’s street lights. Manager of engineering and operations Todd Hewitt said the file is on his desk and admittedly is taking longer than he had hoped.

Hewitt said he anticipates there will be a tender out within a few weeks. He said there is a lot involved with what the town wants with regards to energy efficiency.

Canuck it Up thanks   Councillor Leo Meloche asked about recognizing the town’s tourism department, including Anne Rota and Jennifer Ibrahim, for the Canuck it Up! Festival. The town is praising the festival as a huge success, stating that an estimated crowd of 80,000 came out.

CAO John Miceli said he put out an e-mail to staff thanking them for their work, saying they pulled off “an amazing festival” for a department of two-and-a-half people.

 

Roadway   Councillor Diane Pouget questioned the police parking lot, noting it was supposed to be temporary but added concerns she has heard from residents about a possible road off of Sandwich St. S. leading to Belle Vue.

Miceli advised that there was nothing finalized with regards to the roadway to Belle Vue, pointing out it is merely a conceptual plan at this stage.

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.

 

Council moving forward with open air burning bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A decision is still weeks away as to whether open air burns will be permitted in Amherstburg, but the town is moving forward in the process.

Town council authorized administration to move forward with an open air fire bylaw and permit process for council’s consideration at a later date with public consultation meetings to be set up to allow residents to speak to it.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out he was the one who brought the issue forward, noting that some residents may want to have a bonfire with their children. He said he has heard a lot of comments and innuendo from residents but said he understands both sides of the argument including the argument against smoke and fumes.

“I’ve had blood clots in my lungs and I understand the health issues,” said Fryer. “I do understand the flipside too. It’s not something I thought of willy nilly.”

Fryer said the idea would be to call a hotline and see if conditions were right to have a fire, though added there is a difference between a fire in a rural area and a small bonfire in urban areas.

According to Fryer, about 70 per cent of people he has heard from are “excited” for the possibility of it being easier to have a bonfire while 30 per cent have health issues they are concerned with.

“I feel for them,” he said of the latter.

The bylaw will be “complicated” and will have to come back to council after a public consultation process, he added.

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In a report from fire chief Bruce Montone, he said “open air burning and campfires are currently taking place in all (urban, sub-urban and rural) areas of the Town of Amherstburg. The current situation where campfires are not permitted anywhere is resulting in illegal burns taking place in spring, summer and fall with no appropriate controls in place. Enforcement of the current bylaw is not manageable with current resources. Fire services is limited to responding to complaints with very little information often resulting in full station responses. In the past three years fire services has responded to 133 open burn calls at a cost to ratepayers of approximately $40,000.”

Montone added in his report that “the proposed by-law establishes a set of comprehensive maps that define the regulated areas for open air fires. The proposed harmonized by-law continues to permit open air fires where such burning can be carried out safely and provides for control over open air fires. The intent of existing regulations will be maintained within the proposed bylaw. To address changes in population density and fire safety conditions however, certain geographical areas will not be permitted to have open air fires.”

Montone said that a processing fee of $25 for an annual open air fire permit and $75 specific event open air fire permit respectively are proposed for the processing of the permits but told council those were suggestions based on information gathered from other Essex County municipalities. He said they are trying to “strike a balance” between customer service, recreation and public safety.

Councillor Joan Courtney said the intention was not for Amherstburg council to pass a new bylaw quickly and said she wants to hear from the public.

“I understand both sides,” said Courtney.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned no fines after responding to 133 calls. She added she is “adamantly opposed” to moving forward with the process, believing council should have just received Montone’s report and gone no further. There are many toxins that are emitted during such burns and people’s health could be negatively impacted.

“Council was very concerned about smoking and second hand smoke and eliminated all smoking near municipal buildings and parks,” she said, “yet we’re thinking of allowing open air burns?”

Pouget was particularly concerned about burns in urban areas, noting rural landowners have to have burns as part of their farming operations.

“They have a right to burn because it is part of their agricultural needs,” she said.

Montone told town council that all Essex County municipalities except Amherstburg currently have “permissive systems” with Fryer adding “we’re the only community in Essex County that doesn’t allow this.”

Council moved forward thanks to a 5-1 vote, with Pouget being the vote in opposition. Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance.

Chief Building Official Steve Brown heads into retirement

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s chief building official has reached the end of his career.

Steve Brown’s last day on the job was June 30 with a retirement party being held for him at the McGregor K of C Hall that afternoon and evening.

“Every day is going to be Saturday for me from now on,” Brown joked.

Brown started in the construction business working at L.D Warren Associates, Developer, Architect and Engineers in 1973 and worked on several projects for that firm. Brown also spent 22 years working at W.C. Crosbie Architects, Glos Associates Architects and Engineers, and John Hreno Architect.

Chief Building Official Steve Brown (centre) was presented an award at the June 26 council meeting in recognition of his retirement. Making the presentation were human resources manager Michelle Rose and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Chief Building Official Steve Brown (centre) was presented an award at the June 26 council meeting in recognition of his retirement. Making the presentation were human resources manager Michelle Rose and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Among the projects Brown was involved with include the Central Mall in Windsor, Pine Aire Apartments in Windsor, the General Motors transmission Plant, several Royal Bank branches, the Greater Essex County District School Board head office, Chrysler In-plant facilities and Parkwood Gospel Temple along with several co-op housing projects in Windsor, Chatham, Tilbury, and Amherstburg.

Brown said the architect he worked for did a lot of work in Amherstburg with his first significant involvement with the town coming in 1984. He was hired as deputy chief building official in November 1988 and served under John Hreno until becoming chief building official in 1994.

In all, Brown was employed for nearly 44 years, the last 23 with the town of Amherstburg.

“It feels great,” he said of his retirement. “Somebody told me to retire at 65 and not to retire in the winter. I took their advice.”

Brown said he will miss the people that he worked with, the contractors and those he encountered on the job.

Projects of note in Amherstburg that Brown had a hand in include Projects of note in Amherstburg the Amherstburg Police Station, the Westview Apartments, the addition to the town hall including fire station No. 1, two co-op housing projects, Victoria St. Manor, repairs and elevator addition to the library, the redesign of the visitor center, the re-purposing of the cultural center on Victoria St., renovations to the Lions Pool and the relocation and restoration of the Gordon House.

Brown noted the design of Families First Funeral Home was done by a former boss, Larry Warren, whom Brown started working for in 1973.

“The biggest highlight of the job was watching the town progress,” said Brown.

When he arrived, the Gordon House was boarded up, the Salmoni Building had just closed, and buildings that are now local eateries were used for other purposes. Now, buildings and homes are being developed in the downtown core and more walkable neighbourhoods have arrived.

Brown added he helped when local big box stores arrived in Amherstburg as well.

“For all the development that happened after I came, I was glad to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s been very exciting.”

Steve Brown (left) chats with former mayor Bill Gibb and retired administrator Tom Kilgallin at Brown’s retirement party last Friday afternoon.

Steve Brown (left) chats with former mayor Bill Gibb and retired administrator Tom Kilgallin at Brown’s retirement party last Friday afternoon.

Brown won’t become a stranger, however, as he still plans to be active in other ways. He is a trumpeter with the Essex Community Concert Band and they will play Aug. 5 as part of the Canuck It Up! Festival. He also plans on joining more concert bands.

Brown has also been a fixture at Remembrance Day ceremonies where he plays the trumpet as part of the service.

“I intend to do that as long as I can,” said Brown.

Along with wife Nancy, he also plans on doing some travelling as well.

“I have a ‘to do’ list a mile long,” he said. “I’ll be working on that.”

Brown was also honoured at town hall during the June 26 council meeting, where human resources manager Michelle Rose stated Brown “has generously donated the value of his retirement gift to the Essex Community Concert Band to sponsor an outdoor concert at Belle Vue as a fundraiser for Belle Vue sometime next summer or fall.”

“You have definitely left your mark in many ways,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Council members also wished him the best of luck.

“You were always upstanding and willing to help any way you could,” added Councillor Rick Fryer.