Amherstburg

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.

Town council debates re-opening yard waste depot temporarily

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

The leaves are falling from the trees and that has meant the return of the debate on whether or not to re-open the yard waste depot on Thomas Road.

The yard waste depot was closed in 2014 as a “budgetary matter,” said director of public works and engineering Antonietta Giofu, but Councillor Rick Fryer wondered if it could be re-opened at least temporarily to allow residents to drop off leaves and other yard waste. Fryer said there are some people with a lot of leaves on their yards and there aren’t enough collection dates to accommodate those people.

People with large yards and a lot of trees have to store their leaves until the next collection day, Fryer added.

“I’m always getting calls about this,” he said.

Giofu said that the public works department gets called regularly about the matter, but point people to the three other public drop-off points in the region. Those include the Windsor Garbage and Recylcing Depot at 3560 North Service Road, the Kingsville Garbage and Recycling Depot at 2021 Albuna Townline (County Road 31) and the Regional Recycling Depot, located at the Regional Landfill at 7700 County Road 18 in Essex.

When the depot was closed, it carried an annual operating cost of $131,000 and she added that it was “very rare to have two options for the residents.” It was re-opened after big storms to accommodate storm damage.

Councillor Diane Pouget suggested having the matter looked at budget time. Councillor Leo Meloche leaned towards a possible re-opening of the landfill for seasonal purposes, stating there are limitations on burning and that people want to keep their yards clean and not have leaves blow onto their neighbours’ yards.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said he was in favour of calling Windsor Disposal Services (WDS) if another collection date was needed rather than having to pay an employee to staff the yard waste depot.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, believed if the Thomas Road depot were to be re-opened, the town should proceed with caution.

“We have opened the depot a few times on an emergency basis,” said DiPasquale. “We were getting a lot of misuse.”

Administration told council they always have the option of whether or not to re-open the depot and decide how long it will be open.

Most town roads will require rehabilitation within ten years

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s roads are OK now, but a lot of work looms on the horizon, according to a consultant.

Kyle Edmunds from Dillon Consulting appeared before town council last Tuesday night and presented an updated roads needs report and while that report deemed the roads to be in “fair” condition, it was also determined that 83 per cent of the town’s roads need to be rehabilitated within ten years.

To combat that problem, the town agreed to a plan that would see $1.41 million committed annually over ten years to road work to help combat the deteriorating road system and get some of the more urgent projects completed.

Of the 226.48 kilometres of roads the town controls, about 30.5 per cent need work now while 23.3 per cent need work in the next 1-5 years. About 29 per cent need work within 6-10 years while the remained don’t need work for beyond a decade.

Less than four per cent of Amherstburg’s roads are considered to be in “excellent” condition, as compared to 20.16 per cent in LaSalle and 15.6 per cent in Tecumseh. As for roads in “good” condition, there are 23.38 per cent of roads in Amherstburg in that category as compared to 45.82 per cent in LaSalle and 29.7 per cent in Tecumseh.

Amherstburg has 16.75 per cent of its roads classified in “fairly good” condition with just over 22 per cent of LaSalle’s roads in that category. Tecumseh has 25.5 per cent of its roads classified as “fairly good.”

As for roads in “fair” condition, 27.72 per cent of Amherstburg’s roads fall in that category, as compared to 11.31 per cent in LaSalle and 23.9 per cent in Tecumseh. Amherstburg has nearly 29 per cent of its roads classified as “poor,” as compared to less than one per cent in LaSalle and 5.3 per cent in Tecumseh.

Tecumseh has 181.4 kilometres of road while LaSalle has 187.56 kilometres. They were used by Dillon Consulting as comparators as the firm did roads needs studies in those two municipalities as well over the last few years.

Expect to see more construction signs over the next decade as the town’s road system requires a lot of work. Meloche Road (pictured here, earlier this summer before the road re-opened) is one of the more recent projects the town has undertaken.

Councillor Leo Meloche wondered why the entire focus was on repairing roads that need it now as he said some priority should be put on some of the roads in the 1-5 year category. The poor roads are already poor but the roads in the 1-5 year category will soon join them if not tended to quicker.

“We’re always chasing our tail,” said Meloche.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she didn’t want residents to think it was a “doom and gloom” situation, and added Amherstburg has more roads than Tecumseh and LaSalle.

“That does make a difference,” she said.

Provincial downloading also made a difference, she suggested.

“I think the municipalities started getting into trouble when the province started downloading to us,” she said.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out chunks of cement are coming off of Angstrom Dr. and Victoria St. S. is also deteriorating. There are heavily travelled roads like Concession 2 North that are also in disrepair, calling that road “a thoroughfare to LaSalle. It’s one of the worst roads but people use it.”

Traffic counts should not be the only factor in choosing where road projects should be done, Fryer added, as smaller roads need attention too. He said the town should focus on roads instead of “not needed purchases.”

CAO John Miceli called an increase to $1.41 million annually “significant” and said challenges will be ensuring there are enough contractors to do the work and what prices the town gets when projects are put to tender.

“I would suggest the market will indicate where we are going to be,” he said.

Miceli added he would like to see $120,000 in the crack seal program budget to prolong the life of some of the roads.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said the current council has done a lot of road repairs in its first three years.

“I think this council spent more on roads than the last four councils combined,” he said, noting Texas Road and Meloche Road have been upgraded.

Lavigne wanted to know “what will keep politics out of this” when choosing where and when projects get done. Edmunds said all roads have been classified based on a pavement condition index (PCI) and that shows what roads are in the worst condition.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale also stated that more roads have been repaired this term whereas “in the past, we didn’t do so much.

“Everyone has seen the number of roads that have been fixed in the last little while,” said DiPasquale.

The last complete roads needs study was done by Dillon Consulting in 2003 with a condition assessment update done in 2013.

Explore the Shore brings thousands down County Road 50

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A strategic alliance of neighbors along County Road 50 started something big eight years ago, and it’s since grown to be an incredible tourism driven event.

In 2010, County Road 50 businesses came together and put on the Explore the Shore event in just nine weeks. Ann Wilson, who is in charge of the communications for Explore the Shore, and also owns Oxley Estate Winery, said she was astounded when they were nominated for the best Ontario Tourism Marketing Campaign in their first year, coming out as the runner up to the Stratford Festival.

“Our real goal for this, besides having fun, is to create a very vibrant business community along County Road 50,” explained Wilson. “We think that we’re special, I guess every community does in some way, but we have a lot of small businesses. Even the wineries are considered a small business. We have a lot of entrepreneurial people, we have a lot of people with ideas and one of the things that’s developed over the last eight years, is that we have a network now. We know each other, we know what the other business does, we refer people up and down the road, we work together on events.”

Wilson said the road has come to be much busier over the last eight years, and she believes they are on the right path.

Each year the Explore the Shore festival has a theme – this year’s theme was Canada’s 150th. As it turns out, it was also the Village of Colchester’s 225th birthday as well, so the town of Essex also celebrated their birthday during Explore the Shore, which brought new evening events to the festival such as entertainment and fireworks on the beach.

Old fashioned games were part of the day at John R. Park Homestead as part of the “Explore the Shore” weekend.

Old fashioned games were part of the day at John R. Park Homestead as part of the “Explore the Shore” weekend.

Wilson said a synergy has developed in the town, and so many businesses want to be involved. This year alone they expanded by 13 businesses, giving them a total of 38 stops on their route.

“We encourage everybody to make sure people have fun, if they have fun here, they will come back,” said Wilson. “They see how close we are to each other and how we work together and they find their way down the road. The first year it was so difficult. They would pull in and they would ask ‘where is the lake from here?’. They would ask if this was the old 18-A, which it was, the road has changed names a couple of times which was confusing, but they came, and we regularly draw an excess of 5,000 visitors over the two days.”

Stop number one on the map was Ure’s Country Kitchen, where patrons were welcomed to breakfast or lunch. The 29-year-old business, owned by Laurie Ure and her family, is all about fun, family and local.

“It’s really wonderful the way all the businesses get together to showcase everybody’s business and we’re always happy to be involved in this,” said Ure. “We’re on the map, marked number one, and a lot of people will start here for breakfast, and then head down along County Road 50.”

From lawn dice, to bocce ball, to ice cream, to bouncy castles and even beach volleyball, there was something for everyone at this year’s Explore the Shore event. Wilson said the support they receive from the community is incredible, and they look forward to continuing to bring people down County Road 50, and not just for the festival.

 

Town looking for 150 nominees for “CANdo 150 Award of Distinction”

 

By Ron Giofu

 

As part of Canada 150 celebrations, the town is looking to recognize those who have given back.

The “CANdo 150 Award of Distinction” has been developed with nominations now open in the categories of community service, leadership and legacy. The awards will be presented on Canada Day at 2 p.m. as part of the annual festivities at Fort Malden National Historic Site.

“What the town of Amherstburg wanted to do is recognize 150 citizens of the town for their outstanding contributions,” explained manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota.

The town wanted to not only celebrate the 150th birthday of the country, but “the people who have contributed their time and talents to make Canada what it is today.”

The community service category recognizes those whose volunteer service benefits his or her community.

Canada150

“We know Amherstburg has a very active volunteer base,” said Rota. “I believe that’s what sets Amherstburg apart. I hear it time and time again from my colleagues.”

The leadership category encompasses a person who guides or directs a group to achieve outstanding goals and inspires others to be the best they can be. Rota said that can include those who are “visionary thinkers” who make Amherstburg a better place to live or work.

“This could be a business person or a professional who has shown deep caring for their employees and the residents,” she said.

The legacy category is for those past or present who have “gifted a talent or special project” for the betterment of Amherstburg. Those who have been philanthropic or those who have given in other ways over the years may fall into this category.

People are not allowed to nominate themselves and can only choose one category when nominating someone. A committee of five people will be assembled and they will judge the nominees with nominators eligible to write a justification of up to 250 words on why they nominated the person they did.

Nomination forms can be picked up either at Amherstburg town hall or can be downloaded from the town’s website by going to www.amherstburg.ca/canuckitup. Forms must be returned in full by June 9 at 4 p.m. and they can be done online, dropped off at town hall or mailed to town hall with the town hall address being 271 Sandwich St. S. and postal code N9V 2E5.

Winners will be contacted by June 16.

“People have a little over a month to think about it and get their nomination forms in,” said Rota.

The town’s eligibility requirements call for nominees to be at least 15-years-old as of January 1, 2017 and living. Current residents or those who have previously resided in Amherstburg can be considered.