Amherstburg

Town hosts second BIA information meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

About 25 people attended a second information session about a proposed BIA in Amherstburg, though the organizers of the meeting state they are not the ones pressing for a BIA.

The meeting was held last Wednesday night in the upstairs community room at the Libro Centre with presentations being made by representatives of the Kingsville BIA and Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI). Local lawyer Anthony Leardi and local car dealer Ken Thrasher both questioned who is seeking a BIA in Amherstburg.
“I’d really like to know who is driving this,” said Thrasher.

The tourism department organized the meeting but manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota replied that there was no driving force behind the meeting. Rota said there were inquiries regarding a BIA from some businesses and the town was asked to present information sessions.

“It would not be run by the Town of Amherstburg,” special events support co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven added of a potential BIA.

Representatives from the Kingsville BIA presented to business owners in Amherstburg last Wednesday evening at the Libro Centre.

Christina Bedal and Beth Riddifrod represented the Kingsville BIA and outlined their work, including management of BIA district beautification projects, promotional opportunities, education, maintenance support, networking and town representation.

“Our board of managers are volunteers,” said Bedal. “They are a committee of council.”

The levy is determined by the board and becomes the operating budget for the BIA, with Riddfrod noting that are a minimum and a maximum amount that a business within the district could be charged. Bedal and Riddifrod noted the levy is reviewed annually so that increases aren’t large and shocking to the members. Each BIA would work to determined how a levy would be calculated.

In Kingsville, the BIA has two members of its council on the board and those members are assigned by Kingsville council. The Kingsville BIA allows up to ten additional board members though each BIA has control over the size of their own boards.

One full-time BIA co-ordinator is employed in Kingsville and performs administrative work, research and implementation of programs, educates members, raises concerns to the board, promotes the town through programs and social media, networks with members of the town and whatever else is required of her by the board.

Lynnette Bain, vice president of tourism programs and development with TWEPI, said they work with BIAs and do so to “understand strategic priorities” and “find commonality.”

“The more we know about you, the better we can market the region,” said Bain.

Sr. Cards win one and lose one last week

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Cardinals senior team won a game and lost a game in Essex County Senior League action last week.

The Cardinals first game of the week started late, ended late but saw Amherstburg snap a four-game losing streak.

Amherstburg was in Essex with the game, originally having an 8:30 p.m. start, actually getting underway at approximately 9 p.m. and lasting almost three hours. The Cardinals would emerge with a 12-5 victory.

Amherstburg scored three in the top of the first inning thanks to a Josh Sikich two-run double and a Brady Levack RBI single. Mac Ouellette gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the fourth with an RBI singe but Essex scored two in the fourth and one in the fifth to make it a one-run game.

The Cardinals pulled away with six in the sixth inning as Ouellette hit a three-run home run, Matt Lepine had an RBI single and Nick Price had a two-run single. Essex would answer back with two in their half of the sixth but Josh Slaney and Levack each had RBI’s in the seventh to round out the scoring.

Amherstburg second baseman Nick Price leads off last Wednesday night’s game in Essex with a hit.

“We started out pretty hot in the first inning,” said Ouellette. “We had good pitching from Josh Sikich and Tristan Bouchat.”

Their bats came alive and “that was long overdue, that’s for sure,” he said.

The sixth inning was “huge,” Ouellette added. The win helped give them confidence as they head into the final games of the regular season and into the OBA tournament Labour Day weekend in Port Lambton, he said after the game.

The Cardinals second game of the week was Sunday afternoon in Woodslee against their senior team but suffered a setback. Woodslee won that game 8-0. The Sr. Cards now have ten wins and 11 losses on the 2018 season.

Amherstburg is scheduled to be back in Essex Thursday night for a 7 p.m. game. It is the last regular season game with Essex County Senior League playoffs due to start in September.

Mayor looks back on 2017, looks ahead to 2018

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new year is upon us and there were positives and negatives from the year that has just ended, says the town’s mayor.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said that 2017 was a good one but it had its ups and downs as well.

“I think, overall, it was a good balance of successes and challenges,” said DiCarlo. “I think we’ve done well with the waterfront development acquisitions, we had the fibre (internet) announcement and I think the budget confirmed our financial restraint and investment.”

DiCarlo believes the town did a good job of walking the “fine line of paying down debt and increasing amenities that should keep people in town.”

Regarding the Belle Vue and Duffy’s property projects, DiCarlo said he has heard positive and negative responses from residents but acknowledged, “it’s impossible to keep everyone happy” and that council is trying to work for residents and address the needs of the community. He said many people want the Duffy’s property available for public use as soon as possible and “hopefully we can make progress on that” in 2018.

The town did make progress in 2017, the mayor stated.

“We’ve definitely moved forward again,” he said. “That’s my belief. At the end of the day, it always comes down to what the residents think. As long as we can maintain the balance of moving forward, which I think we did (in 2017), we’re in good shape.”

DiCarlo said 2018 could be “another year of challenges,” and the first one on the radar is the policing issue. The town will be hosting four public meetings later this month to discuss the proposal from Windsor police, one that forecasts a $567,000 annual savings to the town.

“That is obviously going to be a big decision we have to deal with,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve definitely heard from a broad demographic of residents on this particular issue. There are people on both sides and plenty of people in the middle waiting to hear what is said at the public meetings.”

The location of the new public high school by the Greater Essex County District School Board is expected at some point, and DiCarlo said that is good news. While noting that not everyone will be happy with the new location, he believes that the new public high school will be positive for the town.

“Everyone is asking where it is going and when it will be built,” said DiCarlo, adding that timelines suggest that the announcement could come soon.

Other development is tied to the school announcement, he suggested, and that more news could be revealed shortly after the location is revealed. While much of that development hasn’t been publicly revealed as of yet, the seniors hub development proposed for the former St. Bernard School appears to be one of them. The town and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board are headed for arbitration over the building’s value as the town wants to acquire it.

DiCarlo said the town is committed to serving the senior population and that he is hopeful the dispute over the building can be resolved.

“We’re going to go through legal channels there to mediate some sort of solution,” he said.

Much of the plans for future development is hinged on one another, he said, and that “there are a lot of synergies to projects now.” He said fewer projects are done in isolation.

“I think that’s going to translate into success in the long run,” said DiCarlo.

The town remains focused on a hotel, he added, and that the rollout of the fibre internet should occur in 2018. The town will also continue to pay down debt and continue to invest in the community, with DiCarlo stating the goal of the latter being to do so with cash the town already has.

The mayor said there is some “misconception” as it pertains to the town’s debt, which has been brought down from $44 million to approximately $38 million over the last few years. While it has come down “millions,” DiCarlo said much of the debt is locked in and can’t be paid down faster than what it already is.

This year is an election year and DiCarlo said the town could be impacted if and when the current council achieves “lame duck” status.

“While we tackle everything we have to deal with, things have to be in the perspective of what happens with the election,” he said. “If we become a lame duck council, we’ll have to put the issues on hold and we would not be able to deal with them.”

The municipal election is Oct. 22 and the nomination period opens May 1 and ends July 27 at 2 p.m.

Public meetings on Windsor police proposal set

The town has announced the dates and times of the public meetings that will be held in relation to the possibility of switching from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service.

The proposal from the Windsor Police Service, deemed “viable” by the Joint Police Advisory Committee and town council, will be the subject of four public meetings in January.

The town announced that the first meeting will be Jan. 17 at Amherstburg town hall from 6-8 p.m. The second public meeting will be in McGregor Jan. 18 at the K of C Hall at 9560 Walker Road, also from 6-8 p.m.

The third meeting is planned for Jan. 25 at St. Peter’s ACHS College School, located at 6101 County Road 20 from 6-8 p.m.

The fourth and final public meeting is planned for the Libro Centre Jan. 27 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Barring any delays or deferrals, the decision is expected to be made at the Feb. 26 town council meeting.

Budget set for final approval

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of a story that was published online last Wednesday night.)

By Ron Giofu

 

While it won’t be formally approved until the Dec. 11 town council meeting, it is now clear what the tax rate increase will be.

Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself was whittled down from the original two per cent to 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
Treasurer Justin Rousseau said the increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, Rousseau added, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Among the big ticket capital items is the reconstruction of Creek Road. Approximately $1.4 of the estimated $1.7 million cost to rebuild that road from Meloche Road to County Road 20 is expected to be paid out in 2018.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was pleased with how deliberations went.

“Yet again, council found a very reasonable balance between what the town needs and what the residents thought was affordable,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo noted that not everyone gets what they want at budget time and while a series of positions – Councillor Rick Fryer said eight – were approved, a number of other jobs were not. The mayor noted that some costs did go up for the town and that has to be passed along.

“If bills go up at home, they go up at town hall and we have to compensate for that,” he said.

An increase in growth requires additional resources, the mayor added, and “at the beginning of that growth, there has to be investments. I think that’s where we’re at now.”

The roads needs study makes a lot of the decisions on capital projects easy, DiCarlo stated, as it shows what roads need resources. Creek Road was “not a big surprise,” he added.

The town added resources in places where he believed they are needed. Some of the new positions include a financial analyst, a engineering technician, 1.5 new people for the tourism department and a part-time policy co-ordinator.

Others were rejected including a communications officer, a part-time committee co-ordinator an a supervisor of roads and fleet. The latter had been approved Wednesday afternoon but later cut when council resumed after a dinner break as three members of the six present believed there were too many management positions to oversee the six employees.

Even with the new positions, DiCarlo was happy the tax rate itself came in under one per cent.

“That’s nothing short of amazing to me. That was no small feat. Council deserves some credit for that,” he said.

The levy increases were at roughly the same rate as the cost of living and “that’s unbelievable,” the mayor added.

“The big thing for me is the big picture,” said DiCarlo. He said year over year, the tax rate keeps coming down, reserves and capital investment increase while long-term debt is decreasing.

“Those are definitely heading in the right direction,” he said.

Among the grant requests approved in principle were $5,000 for Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), $1,500 for Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, $6,500 for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and $8,500 for the Park House Museum. Grant requests for the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) and SNAP for Cats will be addressed after administration comes back with a report.

Town council also agreed with Rose City Gymnastics request to waive over $12,000 in rental fees for next year’s Ontario Provincial Artistic Gymnastics championships at the Libro Centre, an event that is expected to draw 1,200 participants and 5,000 visitors to Amherstburg. However, that has already upset user groups who already use the Libro Centre, particularly in light of town council sticking with its own surcharge option and not going with the one user groups presented Nov. 27.

Other than Creek Road, other capital projects include resurfacing of Pickering Dr. from King St. to Fryer St., complete reconstruction of the Concession 2 North bridge over the Long Marsh Drain, a new sidewalk from Seasons Amherstburg to Lowes Side Road including storm drainage, the replacement of more interlocking brick sidewalks with concrete, the first $135,000 towards the Duffy’s property redevelopment, two vehicles for the fire department, new police patrol vehicles and $80,000 for rebranding the town.

Jen Ibrahim, tourism co-ordinator, said while the town’s website is effective for municipal purposes, “for lack of a better word, it’s not sexy.” Creating a tourism-friendly website and a new town logo would make up what some of the money would be used for.

“The town’s crest isn’t a marketing tool,” said Ibrahim.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed Amherstburg “is on the cusp” but believed the town should go further to rebrand itself as a tourism destination.

Regarding the sidewalks, Fryer also noted the accessibility committee is in favour of removing interlocking brick and replacing them with concrete.