Local company pitches to council on print to braille services


By Ron Giofu

A couple with a print-to-braille service company has inquired about the town’s chances about engaging their services.

Emmanuel and Rebecca Blaevoet of Tactile Vision Graphics appeared before town council regarding their company, stating their mission is that everyone have equal access to information, including people with vision impairments. They have done work for municipalities and museums, the couple told council.

“How many of you, when thinking of accessibility, think of braille?” Rebecca asked council.

Rebecca added that “as the population ages, more and more people will have vision impairments.” She told council they can produce such items as office signs and agendas and other items as well that a municipality may need. She added that there are some people that may not be known to have vision impairments because they have stopped asking for services due to a limited number of places having them.


Councillor Rick Fryer, the council appointee to the town’s accessibility committee, said the Blaevoets came to the committee and it was at the suggestion of the committee that they address town council.

“The committee wanted it to come back to council,” said Blaevoet.

Fryer suggested that the town consider it on a trial basis to see if there is anyone in the community that would use the service.

“This council is always looking to do something different than anyone else,” said Fryer.

The delegation was received by town council and administration was directed to come back with a report on the feasibility of using such a service.

House Youth Centre welcomes new program co-ordinator



By Ron Giofu


The new program director at the House Youth Centre is new to the position but certainly not new to the House.

Jessica Jarvis has succeeded Michelle Laframboise as the new program director, starting her new duties July 30. However, she has 13 years of involvement with the local youth centre including being a leader and a head leader.

“I started volunteering because my husband went through as a member and a leader,” said Jarvis. “I got asked to become a leader a got hooked. It’s an amazing place.”

Jarvis believes the House allows the youth that go through it to be their “genuine, authentic selves” and the leaders learn from them just as much as the youth learn from the leaders. She said her husband Kevin still has a lot of friends from his days at the House and she has made many friends herself.

“When the (program co-ordinator) position came up, I wanted to be part of something unique and awesome,” said Jarvis.

The House sees groups from Grades 9-12 go through it on weeknights during the school year with various topics discussed that impact youth of that age. Jarvis said they do a lot of work around affirmation and building trust with the youth and also have yearly trips to Oxley Retreat House. Youth and their leaders stick together throughout their high school years, she stated.

Jessica Jarvis is the new program co-ordinator at The House Youth Centre. She began her new duties July 30.

“It’s been going on for 47 years so something is going right,” she said.

Among the newer programs is the LGBTQ Connect program with Jarvis stating the House wants to bring in mental health professionals for a suicide prevention night, including workshops and speakers.

“I’m hoping to continue to grow the work all of the people did previous to me,” she said. “(The House) is a diamond in the rough. There’s no other program like it. You build great bonds with leaders and other members. We have access to resources here people might not know about. We can build up (a young person’s) confidence. It’s a safe place to come.”

Approximately 50-60 youth participate during the school year with 10-12 leaders per group. Jarvis said more people are always welcome. The youth come from all different backgrounds and there are also a number of fun activities as well.

“We also volunteer heavily within the town,” said Jarvis, with one of the upcoming events being the “Haunted Fort” at Fort Malden National Historic Site later this fall.

Jarvis added she is excited to be in her new role, but acknowledges “I have big shoes to fill.”

“I’m grateful I got the job,” she said. “I hope to do the House proud. I’m here for anybody.”

The House Youth Centre can be reached through its website at or by calling 519-736-6811. The House is located at 247 Brock St., at the corner of Brock St. and Gore St.

Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Show keeps Co-An Park busy


By Jonathan Martin


Co-An Park spent last weekend humming, popping and whistling.

Hundreds of pieces of vintage machinery rolled onto the shared space for exhibition in the 34th annual Steam and Gas Engine Show.

According to Gary Struhar, president of the Steam and Gas Engine Museum, the weekend is all about educating the public.

The Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Show took over Co-An Park in McGregor the weekend of Aug. 10-12.

“Our goal is to let people see how agricultural equipment has evolved over the past hundred years or so,” he said.  “They can even get hands-on with some of it.”

The event began with a parade of antique equipment rolling in from St. Clement’s Church.  It was more than double the size of last year’s, according to Struhar.

The equipment hailed from a variety of histories.  John Deere was the big name on-site, with tents dedicated entirely to the company’s products in honour of its hundredth anniversary.  Other brands weren’t left out in the field, though.

“Colours mean nothing in the real world,” Struhar said.  “But out in the farming business, they mean a lot.”

John Deere’s green dominated the showgrounds, but Massey-Harris’ red, Ford’s blue and Allis Chalmers’ orange also dotted the landscape.  Army green was there, too, brought in by the Southern Ontario Military Musters.  Of course, the colour of rust outdid them all.

Antique agricultural equipment was on exhibit as part of the Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Show.

Most of the equipment on-site wasn’t just there for show.  A lot of it had seen a lifetime of use on real farms, doing real hard work.  The weekend offered up demonstrations of that work.

Steam power got wood sawed, sweetcorn cooked and wheat threshed.  The younger attendees got to dig through some of that threshed wheat to find tokens they could redeem for prizes.

Massive, powerhouse tractors pulled heavy weights across a demonstration field in a show of strength, which was sanctioned by the Ontario Vintage Tractor Pullers Association.

Struhar said the weekend was a great success, on-par with the past few iterations of the event.

Gary Struhar, president of the Steam and Gas Engine Museum, demonstrates an antique wood cutter at the 34th annual Steam and Gas Engine Show.

Next year, he said, Massey Harris’ red will be in the spotlight.

“That’s my family’s colour,” he said.  “Out here, colours mean a lot.

To see our photos from the Aug. 10-12 event, check out our Facebook album.

Prue wants to put his experience to work for Amherstburg



By Ron Giofu


Michael Prue believes he can use his municipal and provincial experience to work for Amherstburg.

Prue – a former mayor of East York, Toronto city councillor and MPP for the riding of Beaches East York – wants to focus on Amherstburg and what he feels he can do for it. Both he and wife Shirley have owned a home in Amherstburg for eight years and full-time residents for four.

“I came to love the town and everything in it,” said Prue.

After watching town council and the developments around town, Prue decided he wanted back in the political arena and threw his hat into the ring for a councillor position.

“I came to the conclusion that I can help a lot,” he said. “I have read the Official Plan cover-to-cover and I had a number of people ask me to run. I gave it serious thought and I decided to do it.”

Prue said a combined 26 years in municipal and provincial politics has “taught me a great deal” and he believes he can put those lessons to use for the residents of Amherstburg. He was mayor in East York for five years until the amalgamation with Toronto and during those five years, they had five budgets with no tax increases.

“We had $8 million in debt. We had swathes of industrial and commercial areas that were vacant,” he said.

Prue indicated they turned it around and saw commercial and industrial areas be developed. It was also the first place in the Toronto area to be fully wired for cable, allowing for projects that employed hundreds of people.

“We brought in businesses we never had before,” he said. “I played a role in cementing the deals.”

Michael Prue is seeking the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

The municipality also paid off its debt, Prue added.

Prue sees similarities in Amherstburg, believing “what the town needs is commercial and industrial rejuvenation.” He said it is an “entirely possible” proposal, particularly if a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resembles what has previously been in place. If things take a different turn, alternative solutions would have to be developed.

“This is an ideal place for new business, better than Kitchener, better than Toronto,” Prue believes.

Housing development doesn’t provide sufficient revenue for municipalities, Prue stated.

“The way municipalities become more prosperous is through industrial and commercial assessment,” he said.

That is how East York paid its debt, Prue added, believing “the same can happen here.”

Amherstburg has a rejuvenated restaurant scene, he added, but further tourism enhancers like hotels are still needed. The town also has “wonderful festivals,” he stated, but there are ways to get people to walk around and see what is here.

“I have been a little disappointed with the stance of the town as it relates to environmental issues,” he continued.

Prue said this is “a very unique part of Canada” environmentally and wants to ensure that development doesn’t impact native species. He stated there are flora and fauna that is special to the area that needs to be protected.

Prue said he is also disappointed in the number of in-camera meetings the town has.

There should be more opportunities for residents to address council. He suggested that council meetings could be held in River Canard, McGregor, Malden and Anderdon to engage residents there.

The Duffy’s property “needs to be developed” and “I’m hoping people come forward much like they have at Belle Vue” with private donations. Prue is currently the treasurer for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

Plans for Duffy’s and Belle Vue have to be finalized as well, he said.

“Council is going to have to decide sooner rather than later, after receiving public input, to make it easier to raise funds,” said Prue.


Lavigne hopes voters will return him to council for a second term



By Ron Giofu


Jason Lavigne enjoyed his first term on council and wants to bring what he learned to another term.

Lavigne is the only incumbent councillor seeking a return to the position.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this council,” said Lavigne. “I enjoyed the experience of being involved with all aspects of the town.”

Lavigne said he is proud of what has been accomplished this term, stating the town has been placed in the right direction. He hopes voters will re-elect him for another four years.

“We’ve had a really positive council,” said Lavigne. “I think we changed the direction of the town’s image.”

One of the biggest accomplishments of the current council was securing a new public high school. He said obtaining that will allow future generations to be educated in Amherstburg.

“I think that was huge,” said Lavigne. “We spent a lot of time and effort on that.”

The purchase of the Duffy’s site was another accomplishment Lavigne touted. He predicted it will be a “catalyst” for the downtown core but acknowledged there are competing interests for the site, with some wanting a boat ramp and boat trailer parking while others want it to accommodate festivals.

“I think public consultation is of the highest importance,” he said. “We’re trying to get a balance of what the groups want.”

Lavigne believes there can be a compromise on the issue.

“I hope everyone can work together and not form different factions. It’s all of our property,” he said.

Plans that were originally drafted were “a good starting point” and it will be a tough decision for the next council.

Jason Lavigne is seeking re-election as a councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

The relationship council forged with administration is something Lavigne is happy with.

“When we came in, there was a high turnover rate,” said Lavigne. “I think we have a very solid crew now.”

The town enacted the recommendations from the Deloitte report, he added.

Money is put into reserves across town departments and the town is switching to a “pay as you go” model.

Lavigne also referenced the Deloitte report when speaking of staffing. He said the report called for positions to be filled.

Other hires were with the objective to offset costs that were formally farmed out such as legal and engineering. He said there were other requested positions that he voted against publicly.

“Nothing has been done behind the scenes,” said Lavigne.

The town has also been able to invest more money into roads than previous councils, citing Texas Road, Meloche Road and the soon-to-be done Creek Road projects.

Lavigne called the next four years “crucial for Amherstburg.”

Working with the Greater Essex County District School Board on developing the new public high school will be important, he said, as will the decision on what to do with the remaining 12 acres of Centennial Park. Lavigne said he understands the concerns over wanting to keep that as a park and whether the park will be continued to remain named for H. Murray Smith.

“There’s a lot of concerns out there and rightfully so,” said Lavigne.

The town’s festivals should continue as they bring a “sense of community pride most towns don’t have,” he said. Deferment of development charges should also continue, he believes, as it aids development. Further investigation on what other municipalities do should also be done, including what is done to spur industrial and commercial development.

Lavigne said he was opposed to the policing switch, with that decision being based on what he heard from residents. He said he heard “overwhelming” response from people that wanted to pay extra to keep the Amherstburg Police Service.

“I believe the job is to represent the residents of Amherstburg. That’s what I’ve tried to with every issue over the last four years,” he said.

If all decisions were based on finances, there would be no arena, parks or festivals, he added.