town of Amherstburg

Town welcomes new director of corporate services

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has a new director of corporate service and she brings over a quarter-century of municipal experience with her.

Cheryl Horrobin is the town’s new director, having started her new duties in February. The chartered accountant was officially introduced at the March 19 town council meeting.

“This is the fourth local municipality I’ve worked in,” said Horrobin. “I’ve been to all corners of the county.”

Horrobin started her municipal career in Windsor, where she spent over 15 years in various positions. She was an internal auditor, manager of finance, property and housing, the acting director of finance and department administrator at Huron Lodge, director of finances and social services and manager of corporate projects.

After leaving Windsor, Horrobin spent seven years in Leamington where she was the director of finance/treasurer. From there, she took the same position in Lakeshore where she spent the last three-plus years before coming to Amherstburg.

Horrobin said she has been monitoring what has been going on in Amherstburg and believes the town is heading in the right direction.

Cheryl Horrobin is the town’s new director of corporate services. She began her new duties in February and Amherstburg is the fourth municipality in the region that she has worked for.

“The main thing was to be part of the progress that is being made here and be part of future successes,” she said, noting that the treasurer, human resources and IT report to her. “It’s really trying to continue to develop our people and develop our procedures in a growing community.”

Horrobin said she wants to make sure the goals of administration align with the goals of council and “set us up for success.” She said her family has roots in Amherstburg, with her in-laws being from town.

While stating there is still a lot to learn, she said her arrival in town has been positive thus far.

“It’s a great team they have here,” said Horrobin. “Everyone has been very welcoming and gracious, and I appreciate that.”

Horrobin has noticed there is a lot of people who attend Amherstburg council meetings and she is glad to see the engagement of residents in the community.

“It’s very interesting to see that at work,” she said.

Pointing out she has 26 years of municipal experience overall, Horrobin believes there has been progress over the last few years and wants to continue with that.

“I’m happy to be here and plan on doing great things for the community,” she said.

County, town making new arrangements regarding integrity commissioners

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex is looking at obtaining a new integrity commissioner in light of requirements from the province’s Bill 68.

The bill mandates that municipalities shall have an integrity commissioner by March 1, 2019. Prior to that, according to a report from the county’s director of council services/clerk Mary Birch, integrity commissioners are optional.

“The County of Essex currently contracts the services of an integrity commissioner, however that contract expires in 2018. A joint RFP with some of the local municipalities has recently closed and submissions are being reviewed by a joint evaluation committee,” Birch stated in her report. “Administration will be providing a subsequent report recommending the appointment of an integrity commissioner and propose some amendments to the Council Code of Conduct.”

County council also resolved to continue to prohibit electronic meeting participation, pending further clarification of the definition of “participation” and improvements to technology available; to develop parental leave policy for members of county council and to approve proposed rules for temporary replacement members of county council.

This comes shortly after the Town of Amherstburg voted to continue its relationship with integrity commission Bruce Elman.

Elman, who first began doing work on Amherstburg’s behalf midway through last year, could become the town’s integrity commissioner should a cost sharing agreement be finalized with Windsor.

“All we really did was reappoint him and put in for cost sharing with the City of Windsor to make it more affordable,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We agreed to renew him and see about cost sharing with the city.”

Clerk Paula Parker noted that the previous integrity commissioner was Robert Swayze but that contract was terminated early at the direction of council May 8, 2017.

“On June 12, 2017, administration was directed to seek the expertise of the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate two outstanding integrity complaints and any further complaints that may arise until a new integrity commissioner could be appointed,” said Parker.

“At the time, I believe the city was using Bruce Elman,” added DiCarlo. “We came across him, he’s got a good reputation, so we switched.”

Parker stated that “the new amendments to the Municipal Act and Municipal Conflict of Interest Act brought on by Bill 68, make the appointment of an integrity commissioner mandatory, whereby the municipality has to appoint its own or share the services of another. His/her scope of responsibilities will also increase upon being proclaimed into force on March 1, 2019. In light of these changes and the town’s recent dealings with Professor Bruce Elman, administration recommended that his services be shared between the town and the city.”

New public high school location revealed

By Ron Giofu

 

The location of the new public high school has finally been revealed.

The town will sell 15 acres of the southern portion of Centennial Park to the Greater Essex County District School Board for $2,457,000 with the town putting the proceeds into a parkland reserve. The town will retain 12 acres on the northern end of the park.

The new 819-student high school will house both General Amherst High School students and Western Secondary School students with the estimated opening date being Sept. 2020.

“Amherstburg is getting a single location, dual high school that will be state of the art,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We’re ecstatic.”

Greater Essex County District School Board and town officials were pleased with the announcement that Centennial Park will house the new school to replace the current General Amherst and Western. From left: board chair Kim McKinley, CAO John Miceli, GECDSB director of education Erin Kelly, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair.

DiCarlo said the location is close to the downtown area and keeps students close to downtown businesses. It also enables many students to continue to walk to school, he noted.

The mayor called it “incredible” news and gave his thanks to the school board officials.

(UPDATE – As for the fate of the pool, tennis courts and baseball diamonds, DiCarlo told the RTT Wednesday afternoon: “All of these amenities are being considered in the context of the parks master plan and where they will be located.”)

Erin Kelly, director of education with the Greater Essex County District School Board, said the board has selected an architect and will be moving forward with the design process. She believed they would be able to combine the two schools and meet the needs of all the students.

Kelly said they will try and get a shovel in the ground as soon as possible.

“There’s a lot of decisions to be made,” she noted.

CAO John Miceli said the town is “really excited” because of the fact the new school will provide additional opportunities for the municipality. Additional community use could arise with the new school and programming could be developed for after-school hours.

The Ontario government has already put $24.3-million towards the new public high school. As for the current building, Miceli indicated the town has its eyes on it and the board has its ears open for those plans.

“It’s in a strategic location in the Town of Amherstburg,” said Miceli. “The board is willing to listen.”

The CAO added: “There’s more to come.”

Miceli also thanked the public board’s administration for working with the town to arrive at the agreement.

Ron LeClair, trustee for Amherstburg and LaSalle, indicated there are opportunities for co-operative education that will be within walking distance for students.

“This is wonderful news for the board and the Town of Amherstburg,” he said. “This is a win-win for the board and the town.”

While admitting “I can’t wait to get a shovel in the ground,” LeClair also said they have to complete the design phase first.

Councillor Leo Meloche noted the importance of the school to the community, and said parents and students alike appreciate the effort. Councillor Diane Pouget also offered praise to the public board for working with the town.

“It’s a special spot for many of us,” she said.

Pouget added there is work being done that would eventually allow for over 1,700 building lots to be created in town, but Kelly noted they have to build based on the students they currently have. If an addition were needed in the future, the board could seek further funding from the province, she suggested.

Councillor Rick Fryer said the new school’s inclusion of skilled trades for students is important and called it “an excellent idea.”

The announcement to sell 15 of the 27 acres in Centennial Park to the public board was met with applause by those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

CAO defends family members on town’s payroll, says he wasn’t part of hiring process

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

With knowledge being gained by members of the public that CAO John Miceli has family members working for the town, he is defending the hiring process.

Miceli acknowledged that his brother is now an electrician for the town and that he has a nephew working as a part-time general labourer but he cited town policies and his involvement in the hiring process, or lack thereof, as reasons why he views both hires as being proper. The CAO pointed out there is a town anti-nepotism policy, enacted Dec. 13, 2004, that prohibits against the hiring of qualified persons “whether or not they have immediate relatives employed in the town or whether or not they have immediate relatives as a member of town council, provided that no applicant shall be hired for employment except with the approval of town council to occupy a position in the same immediate working area, under the same immediate supervisor or where one or more of his/her family supervises another.”

The policy, Miceli pointed out, is written to where it says it should “neither be a hindrance nor advantage to employment in the Town of Amherstburg” and that the town “will not discriminate in its hiring practices on the basis that the person is related to a current employee or member of town council.” The policy states that the employer may grant or withhold employment or advancement in employment to a person who is a spouse, child or parent of the employer or an employee.

“Our overall intent remains that vacated positions may be staffed by qualified candidates selected on the basis of education, experience, knowledge, ability and suitability within the framework of legislation, collective agreements, equal opportunity, budgetary limitations and corporate needs,” the policy reads.

CAO John Miceli.

Miceli stated allegations against him that something improper was done “doesn’t meet the test of nepotism under town policies.” He said the town is “committed to hiring the most qualified individuals” and said he was not part of any hiring panels to fill the positions his brother and nephew both got.

His brother “is a qualified electrician and he holds a master’s license,” said Miceli. The hiring panel consisted of the manager of facilities, manager of roads and fleet and the human resources manager. His nephew was interviewed by the manager of facilities and the human resources manager and was one of four applicants.

“I was not involved in the hiring process,” he said. “I’ve been in (municipal government) for 27 years and I respect policies and procedures. You will not see me hire a unionized position and these are unionized positions. I do not supervise these people.”

Miceli believed a lot of people who complain are “anti-change” and said there are a lot of people who are related to each other working for the town.

“We are not going to discriminate against family if they are the most qualified,” said Miceli. “Why would we?”

The town hiring of an electrician and a plumber and bringing the work inside instead of contracting it out is something Miceli said is his track record.

“We were spending far more on contractors to do the work rather than do it internally,” he said. “Seeing the types of bills happening in town showed for me why we need to do the work in house. The town was not getting value for money.”

Both are also facility attendants, he added, meaning that if there was not enough electrical or plumbing work in town, they have other duties to tend to.

The CAO added that hiring the best candidates often means hiring from out-of-town.

“All we’re looking for is the most qualified individuals,” Miceli contended. “Wherever they reside is no concern of mine.”

Acknowledging the public concern that many former Windsor staff members are employed in Amherstburg, Miceli said 178 city employees reside in Amherstburg.

“I just find it so interesting that people in town think you have to hire in town,” he said.

Miceli said he is willing to match his record against any other previous CAO.

“Please put my record against any of them,” he said. “Show me where I have done wrong.”

Miceli added he has an open door policy and is willing to discuss issues with residents, but noted council makes decisions based on recommendations of administration and administration executes.

“If there is a resident who has issues with the way I am running the organization, they can file a complaint,” said Miceli. “They can file a complaint against me and the hiring practices of the town.”

Town of Amherstburg asks for review of Joint Powers Agreement

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A motion has been carried for the request from The Town of Amherstburg to review the 1994 Joint Powers Agreement, and administration will be contacting the county solicitor on how to proceed with the review.

In the 1990s, the approval of the creation and implementation of a centralized communication system, known as the 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone Reporting was created. The Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commissioner approved Bell Canada as the subscriber biller. Municipalities were responsible for providing the service, which would answer and transfer those 9-1-1 calls from the Bell lines through to the correct Remote Agency, which would then dispatch the emergency personnel.

“The Joint Powers Agreement gave the county the authority to enter into an agreement on behalf of all the joint parties for this central emergency reporting bureau,” explained Mary Birch, director of council services/clerk. “The county was billed, and then each municipality was billed based on their population. That agreement was most recently reviewed with the OPP December 13, 2015, which will last to December 12, 2020, at an annual cost, of $99,824.34 based on the residential population of 177,940.”

Birch explained, in June, a report went to Town of Amherstburg Police Chief Tim Berthiaume in regards to transferring the 9-1-1 call taking from the OPP to the Windsor Police Service. At that time, the resolutions included that transfer, and the Police Chief was directed to enter discussions with the county to terminate the agreement for the provision of 9-1-1 central emergency reporting bureau between the Ontario Provincial Police and the County of Essex.

Birch stated in her report “In July, 2017, a legal opinion was sought from County Solicitor Christine Riley, regarding implications on the Joint Powers Agreement and Agreement for CERB services with the OPP, if the Town of Amherstburg opted to terminate their participation. Ms. Riley indicated that: “Article 7 provides that no party can terminate or amend the Agreement except as provided in that section. Article 7(b)(i) states that ‘the parties may, by mutual agreement, amend or terminate this Agreement.’”

The county will be looking in to how to proceed.