Aldo DiCarlo

Voters hear mayoral candidates talk about the issues

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg’s two mayoral candidates went toe-to-toe in last weeks’ “Meet the Candidates” night at Western Secondary School.

Incumbent Aldo DiCarlo and challenger Glenn Swinton traded viewpoints in the second of two “Meet the Candidates” nights, presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC). It was moderated by Patty Handysides of AM800.

The discussion was scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m. that evening, following the deputy mayor debates, but DiCarlo was late entering the auditorium due to an apparent illness. When things finally got underway, DiCarlo said he was “very proud of what we accomplished” in the last four years, stating they worked with everyone for the good of the town.

The town’s financial position has greatly improved, he said, noting four years ago “people wanted the town turned around and turned around for the better.” He said the town got its “house in order” and completed all of the recommendations from the Deloitte report in less than 18 months.” Reserves have grown from $2.2 million to $15.8 million, he said.

The debt has also decreased from $44 million to $36 million, DiCarlo stated.

Swinton vowed to review and release all documents pertaining to the policing issue. One item he pointed out was that the town will still have to pay for costs to run the existing Amherstburg police station.

There will also be a review of the role of upper management with the town and the flow of information to council and the public.

“Currently it appears that the tail is wagging the dog and that’s not acceptable,” he said.

Staffing and salary levels will also be looked at as well as the Belle Vue property, the latter of which should have no tax dollars going to it. Swinton said he wants more public input into the Duffy’s site as well.

Swinton also believed in holding off on development charges for builders, the possible formation of a BIA and to better include areas such as Anderdon, Malden, River Canard and McGregor. Bringing on an economic development officer to go after business was also suggested.

Swinton said the town would be “open and honest like you’ve never seen before” if he were elected.

The first question pertained to the policing contract and DiCarlo stated he supported the switch and that if he were re-elected, he would want to ensure that everything that was told to the community at the public meetings came to fruition.

Swinton contended that promises are not being kept, stating he learned the deputy chief is not being retained. He said he wants to bring things out into the open.

“It’s your tax dollars. Why is it so secret?” he asked.

DiCarlo said once the contract is completed, the hope is to bring it out publicly and “instill confidence that we will get what we said we’d get out of the deal.”

Aldo DiCarlo and Glenn Swinton went back-and-forth discussing issues at the second of two “Meet the Candidates” Nights that were presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce last week.

On the issue of transparency and accountability, Swinton believed the same issues are around as when he first ran eight years ago. He said unless there is a legal requirement, council should not go in-camera.

If people take time to come to a meeting, they should be able to watch and hear what is going on, Swinton said.

DiCarlo said accountability is justifying the reasons behind a decision while transparency is acting with no hidden agendas.

“I believe I have acted in good faith this entire term of council,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo added that if the public hears something they should not legally be hearing, it could come back to cost taxpayers money.

Swinton indicated there are Ombudsman reports which show violations and that people still aren’t being told everything they need to be told regarding the policing issue, and re-iterated the news about the deputy chief.

On the matter of town purchases, DiCarlo said he supported Belle Vue and suggested it ties into plans for a hotel. There is a need for more year-round activities, he said, and that there is a plan to use Belle Vue as a conference centre. It is an 8.3-acre property next to a creek, he added.

“It is not the HMS Detroit all over again, as some would say,” said DiCarlo.

Swinton called Belle Vue “a horrible investment” and that it is limited as to what could be done there. Tax dollars being collected by the former owner were traded for “a liability,” he stated.

“No one was purchasing the property for a reason. It’s worth nothing,” said Swinton.

Duffy’s is also “a liability,” he believed, and now the town has to figure out what to do with it. The seniors hub at the former St. Bernard School is “going to cost your tax dollars to make it happen.”

Meanwhile, Swinton said levies were increased to 2.75 per cent.

“I don’t know what you want to do with the property but we’re going to have to figure it out because you own it now,” said Swinton.

Closing streets in the downtown core on a regular basis would limit access to local businesses, Swinton said in response to the next question, but DiCarlo said “a big rubber duck brought 80,000 people to the Town of Amherstburg when we closed the streets.” He added the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival drew 35,000 people and added he supported more closures.

Swinton responded that “a half-inflated rubber duck did bring substantial crowds, I’m not sure why” and that he was not in favour of shutting down access as he wants to treat all businesses equally.

DiCarlo said he supported the re-branding efforts and said that more feedback is still being gathered. He disagreed with the suggestion that high school students could do the work.

“If we are going to compete on a provincial and national level, we have to do so in a professional manner,” he said.

“Before we can brand the town, it has to have a product,” said Swinton. “If there is nothing to put the brand on, you are wasting money. We need something to put the brand on.”

Swinton added: “You can say Coca Cola, but if there isn’t anything in the can, there’s nothing.”

DiCarlo stated it is more than just a logo, but a new website and a greater focus on tourism. He said the town has “a considerable amount to offer” and that a way has to be figured out to use the brand to attract more people to town.

On the issue of a retail outlet for cannabis, Swinton was supportive stating it will be a legal product.

“It is another business, another product. I say bring it in. It’s a legal product,” he said.

DiCarlo did not answer, instead asking for another break and again stepping out due to illness.

In closing arguments, Swinton urged people to get out and vote as it is up to the voters to decide who they want on council to get the results they are looking for. DiCarlo continued with his opening remarks, adding that while more work is needed on roads, the town has invested millions this term on them. He touted the “Talk the Burg” online engagement platform and the new Community Strategic Plan.

Development, including a new high school, is rising and DiCarlo added that an announcement on a hotel could come soon.
“I expect to announce a location in the very near future. It will likely be sooner than you think,” he said. “Stay tuned.”

DiCarlo also spoke about engaging seniors and youth as well as the ongoing fibre optic internet project being done by Bell.

Culture Days comes to Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Culture Days came to Amherstburg on the weekend with rock painting, live performances, tai chi, walking tours and other celebrations of local culture.

The two-day event was centred around Navy Yard Park. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo believed it was a great event, noting that he experienced “pretty steady” crowds.

“I think when people think of Amherstburg, they think of our history and culture,” said DiCarlo.

Elizabeth MacDonald was one of the plein air painters during Saturday’s portion of Culture Days.

As many municipalities held their own Culture Days events and Amherstburg “fits right in perfectly” with them.

One of the events last Saturday was “Ice Cream with a Cop,” an event which saw members of the Windsor Police Service and Amherstburg Police Service on hand giving out ice cream vouchers. Also on hand was a police cruiser with two different designs on them – one featuring the Amherstburg police design with the soldiers on the side with “Amherstburg Detachment” and a Windsor police badge while the other was a more Windsor-centric design with “Amherstburg Detachment” on it.

The mayor said one design had a clear advantage.

“From the people I talked to, the Amherstburg cars (with the soldiers) are a no-brainer,” said DiCarlo. “I like that we are a community that always presents options so we had two options.”

Emily Feng paints a rock for the “Amherstburg Rocks” initiative (top left) while historian Robert Honor conducts a walking tour.

DiCarlo did remark that a youth didn’t like that design that it was too intimidating for him, but for the most part the Amherstburg-themed design was the most popular.

“So far, (the public) has said that’s the the side they like,” said DiCarlo. “No surprises there.”

The town announced via press release Tuesday morning that the option with the soldiers on the side, similar to the current Amherstburg police cruisers, was the one that was chosen. More details will be provided in next week’s issue.

Elizabeth MacDonald and her plein air artist group were also part of Culture Days.

Historian Robert Honor (right) conducts a walking tour of the downtown core Sunday morning.

“We come down here to Amherstburg to paint a lot,” she said, noting they also travel to other Essex County municipalities.

MacDonald noted they were invited by the town for the event but indicated they were happy to come.

“We love (Navy Yard) Park,” she said. “There’s so much to paint here. The people in town are great too.”

 

CANDIDATE Q&A – Aldo DiCarlo

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

Currently, Amherstburg is a quaint town with over two centuries of history. It is one of the safest places to live in Canada, and one of the most southern places to live in Canada, making it an ideal place to reside and visit. The town is host to many festivals and events. A new high school will begin construction very soon. We are the first town in all of Canada to have a Miracle League baseball facility. We also have a sledge hockey rink and a number of other accessible recreation facilities, making us a truly inclusive community. Our greenway trails connect to the rest of the region to expand our active transportation network. Our waterfront parks provide a stunning view of the Detroit River and Lake Erie. We boast of multiple National Historic Sites for a small town. We are building a community hub that will centralize services and activities for everyone, from youth to seniors.

Aldo DiCarlo is running for mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

The best way to address infrastructure costs is through a long term planned approach that maintains, repairs and replaces it all based on a pay-as-you-go model, and building adequate capital reserves. This is an issue across the province.

Specific to the Town of Amherstburg, we have decades of neglect to catch up on, current issues to address, and all while trying to build reserves for the future. In the short term, this can be offset through vigilant oversight of operations, cost containment and savings, where possible.

Simply cutting for the sake of short term savings, or creating zero tax increases today, will only defer the costs to future generations while reducing levels of service today. While we apply for available government grants, we shouldn’t rely on them, as was done in the past. This term, we’ve paid for roads almost entirely with cash. Although levies and tax increases are not wanted, they are needed in order to build for the future. A balanced approach of investing, saving and spending for the long term will keep the Town moving forward in a positive direction.

 

 

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

Accountability and transparency go hand in hand, in my opinion. Some only see accountability in being re-elected, but accountability is being open and accessible to the residents who have elected you for the entire term. Being accountable means answering concerns from residents, especially as it relates to decisions of council. Since no decision of council will ever be right to everyone, accountability means having to justify the reasons for the decisions. I believe I have already acted in this regard over this term of council. I plan to remain accessible to the residents in order to justify my actions as the head of council, should I get re-elected.

Transparency is acting with no hidden agendas and making decisions based on available information. Sometimes the information available to the council members cannot be legally shared with residents, but there should always be consideration to provide as much information to the public as legally possible. I believe I have acted in good faith during this entire term of council and plan to continue sharing as much information as legally possible while making decisions and leading with no hidden agendas.

 

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

Economic development is arguably one of the more important areas that bring new investments into the town, and maintain the investments made long ago.

Although I wasn’t opposed to an economic development advisory committee, I have witnessed that a part time advisory committee just cannot replace a full-time development officer. Most municipalities have full-time economic development officers and are moving past us in attracting new investments. In many cases they have no more to offer than we do as a municipality. Therefore, I believe members of council should make the tough decision of reinstating this position, and/or the committee. As a member of council, I believe the mayor’s role goes further. As mayor, outside of council, I have been involved in many meetings related to economic development and attracting new businesses. I have witnessed first-hand the need for support in this area, as the CAO has other responsibilities as well.

The atmosphere in the town is much more positive than it was four years ago, so now is a good time to capitalize on attracting new investments.

 

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

I respect those opinions and share their concerns that a switch to contracting police services not affect the level of service we’ve enjoyed for the last couple decades since amalgamation, which was the last time the service was dissolved to be rebuilt. The town already shares services on a regional level for almost every service we deliver. Past councils made decisions to share services, from waste collection to EMS and everything in between, for the betterment of all communities. They have proven to provide an equivalent service for less tax money. Whether or not there is any detriment to shared policing services remains to be seen, thus the extensive amount of time and review to create a contract that would protect the Town should the need to revert back come up.

I don’t believe that the town’s identity is based solely on the police service. I believe a town’s identity is formulated through its history and its residents, among other things, not solely the delivery of its services. Outside of that, it would have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

 

 

Town takes possession of new fire truck

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Fire Department has received one new fire truck and is awaiting another.

At the start of Monday night’s council meeting, elected officials, administration and members of the public went next door to fire station #1 for the official acceptance of the new truck, with Bob Lock from Fort Garry Fire Trucks on hand to present the keys to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo accepts the keys from Bob Lock of Fort Garry Fire Trucks.

Fire chief Bruce Montone thanked town council for its support of the department, including authorizing the purchase of the new trucks. Council agreed last December to buy the two new vehicles at a cost of $807,000, with about $380,000 of that being the new pumper/tanker that arrived Monday morning.

“It replaces the tanker at station two,” said Montone. The tanker at station two doesn’t have pumping capabilities and was the oldest in the Amherstburg Fire Department’s fleet at 22-years-old.

The new vehicle carries 1,700 gallons of water and carry as many as five firefighters in the cab.

“It’s very, very efficient,” said Montone. “Basically, you get two vehicles in one.”

Montone touted it is a Canadian-made truck, as Fort Garry Fire Trucks is based out of Winnipeg.

The usual lifespan for a truck is 20 years, the chief added. A rescue pumper is due to arrive in about three to four weeks, he stated.

own council was given a look at the newest fire truck Monday night, with the truck to be based out of Station 2 starting this week. (From left): Fire chief Bruce Montone, CAO John Miceli, Councillor Leo Meloche, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Councillor Rick Fryer, Councillor Diane Pouget and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale stand with the new pumper/tanker truck.

As the Amherstburg Fire Department is looking at replacing its fleet over time, it is expected more vehicle requests will be made as part of the 2019 budget process.

The new truck has black incorporated in its colour, something that is a trend in firefighting. Montone said the new truck should be in service this week as there is some training that has to be done and a new radio has to be installed.

Fibre to the home project ahead of schedule, says Bell rep

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council received an update on Bell’s fibre to the home project Monday night and the news was that everything is good so far.

Senior manager of network provisioning Darin Meek noted the project got started in July and some areas of the town have been completed. The target date is June 30, 2020.

Meek said it is a matter of “rebuilding all of our infrastructure” as the fibre optic cables have to be laid.

“We have to place all of our cables in every area,” said Meek.

They work with about five other contractors in various aspects of the project, including burying cables, stringing them along hydro poles and even restoring lawns. The areas they have hit thus far were done because they are the “low hanging fruit” and that they were the places where Bell could roll out the plan the quickest.

“We’ve received incredible co-operation from the Town of Amherstburg and the residents,” said Meek.

Bell is also moving ahead with similar projects in LaSalle and Windsor, Meek added, with Tecumseh next on the radar.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he has seen the workers and from what he has heard from residents now with fibre internet, things are going well. He said the workers are courteous, clean and professional and that “they’ve gone above and beyond.”

Fryer said the town is open for business and this initiative will help.

“We are going to be cutting edge with technology and speeds and that will help get businesses to come here,” he said.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it has been a pleasure to work with Bell officials, noting he has been able to reach them and they have in turn contacted him about matters.

“As mayor, I’ve been genuinely impressed with the relationship they have brought to the table,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve communicated with Bell at every level and I’ve got to say they’ve reached out to me and it’s not just me reaching out to them.”

Residents are pleased, he added, noting he has been tagged on social media by happy homeowners who have now been connected. He also noted that Bell has to lay all new infrastructure, but are doing so much faster than what the town would have done had the town gone on its own.

While the town has to have resources available in case of issues, that is the only contribution the town has to make, DiCarlo added.

“It’s not costing us,” the mayor said. “Bell is paying.”