Bart DiPasquale

Legal fees questioned by councillor who also had legal fees

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Councillor Diane Pouget was one of two members of council whose legal fees were part of the accounts payable that appeared on Monday night’s agenda, but she had questions about others.

Pouget declared a conflict of interest on the portion of the accounts payable that saw her having paid $500 to the Leardi Law Firm for legal advice regarding her being able to discuss the upcoming issue of whether or not to stick with the Amherstburg Police Service or switch to the Windsor Police Service.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale also received advice from the firm headed by Anthony Leardi, the latter being a former municipal politician himself.

“My name is in there and rightly so and the deputy mayor’s name is in there and rightly so,” said Pouget

The questions raised by Pouget were not about those fees, but rather with $27,000 in legal fees attributed to the Amherstburg Police Association. Pouget wondered why there was no firm listed for the association.

“Residents have a right to know what public money is being used for,” said Pouget.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau said it was a reimbursement to the Amherstburg Police Association for fees that occurred and that a private and confidential memo was circulated to town council members.

“This settled a grievance,” Chief Tim Berthiaume told town council. “We can’t reveal who the firm was representing.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne, a member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), said elected officials are required to report such fees to residents but the town never reveals who employees are or outside parties.

Berthiaume suggested getting a legal opinion to see what further information could be reported to council with Lavigne adding the motion was simply to receive the report.

Pouget said she could not vote in favour with the accounts payable listed as it was.

“I have the utmost respect for the Amherstburg Police Services Board and the Amherstburg Police Association,” she said, though noted “I just can’t vote for it.”

Voting in favour to receive the accounts payable were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Lavigne, Leo Meloche, Joan Courtney and Rick Fryer. Pouget was opposed. DiPasquale was absent.

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.

First Baptist Church receives national designation

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local church has received federal designation as a place of “National Historic Significance” on the weekend.

First Baptist Church, located at 232 George St., received the designation as part of a commemoration ceremony Saturday morning at the 148-year-old church. Representatives from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada were on hand for the designation and plaque unveiling, held in front of a crowd of about 100 people.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, Rev. Ron Watson, Rev. Albert Lambkin and Dr. Barbara Hugh Smith stand with the plaque designating First Baptist Church as a place of “national historic significance.”

Eric Nielsen, Parks Canada’s manager of external relations for southwestern Ontario, said while it is Canada 150, it is also the 100th anniversary of Canada’s first national historic site. The recommendations, such as the successful one for First Baptist Church, are left for the federal government to decide, he added.

“It’s not just special to you,” Nielsen said of the ceremony. “It’s special to all Canadians.”

First Baptist Church is described by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as being “a principal Underground Railroad-related Black church in Upper Canada. Strategically located near the United States border, it offered sanctuary to African Americans fleeing slavery.”

The church was constructed in 1848-49 and “was a spiritual home for thousands of Black Baptists and it helped foster the development of a distinctive Black Baptist church tradition in Ontario. As the Mother Church of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, it played a crucial role in the development of Black communities and identity in Ontario.”

The church was built under the leadership of Pastor Anthony Binga Sr., who travelled around the area raising funds for its construction. Baptists had formerly met in local homes before deciding to build their own place of worship.

Julie Dompierre represented the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and said they were proud to welcome First Baptist Church as a place of “National Historic Significance.” She noted the town’s place as a spot where slaves seeking freedom came to and built a new life.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi accepts another plaque from the Town of Amherstburg, which was represented by Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

“Amherstburg First Baptist Church is one of the most historically significant churches in Canada,” said Dompierre, who repeated the line for the crowd.

Dompierre said the “simple, compact auditory church” was one where Pastor Binga preached inclusiveness and the desire to build a better life and country.

“The legacy of this church is one of hope,” she added.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he is very familiar with the church and also presented a plaque to the church from the town.

“I strongly believe in this church,” said DiPasquale. “It’s pretty old. There are significant parts that had to be re-done. It may need help down the road.”

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi said the church “has been through many ups and downs” including a flood in 2011 that caused the town to shut it down.

“Because of the flood, we lost members of our church but we have some left,” said Afolabi.

While there have been challenges, the church’s members have seen it through and the church re-opened. However, Afolabi said there is still work to be done including further interior renovations which, in part, include a new water heater and washrooms which need “a total makeover.”

“We are undaunted,” said Afolabi. “We see our church as victorious in the midst of strife.”

Rev. Ron Watson represented the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec and praised Pastor Afolabi and his wife Abiola for their work. He read an address from executive minister Rev. Tim McCoy which stated “Canada’s DNA was born in little churches like this and in little town’s like this.” Rev. Albert Lambkin, moderator of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, said “this Mother Church has been through some pain and agony” but is on the way back.

Lambkin added many pastors have been through the building and also praised the Afolabis for their efforts in helping to start restoration work.

Dr. Barbara Hugh Smith, the great grand-niece of Pastor Anthony Binga Sr., said she was thankful that the plaque dedication ceremony finally came to fruition. She recalled first being notified of the possibility in 2005. She said she was thankful Binga didn’t rest and said she was similarly thankful the Afolabis didn’t rest either.

“I’m proud of him for what he did for the community,” Hugh Smith said of Binga.

The ceremony also saw numerous other ministers and priests from local churches attend. A reception followed at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

Town to seek library funding from Essex County

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg wants its share of the savings from the Essex County library strike.

The town is requesting that Essex County council return its share of the costs, and passed a motion at a recent special meeting asking the county to release those funds. Essex County council had previously agreed to hang on to the $790,000 and use them for library purposes, with municipalities able to tap into those funds similar to that of a grant program.

Councillor Diane Pouget said the town has spent “quit a bit of money” on the current Amherstburg library and she believes the residents deserve to get money back from the county to help defray those costs.

Pouget noted such work as parking lot improvements and upgrades to the front steps have taken place, adding there are more expenses probable due to the age of the building.

Amherstburg council will be seeking money back from Essex County from the $790,000 saved during the library strike.

Amherstburg council will be seeking money back from Essex County from the $790,000 saved during the library strike.

“We’ve done a number of improvements and we’re going to have more,” said Pouget. “It’s an old building.”

Pouget made the motion to seek the town’s proportional share of the savings, believing it was respectful to Essex County council yet also showing that the town wants its share to help with its own library branch. She also pointed out Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale still have to work with their fellow county council members.

“I don’t want this council to get into an argument with county council,” she said. “Both of you have to go back and work with county council.”

County council decided last month not to return money directly to residents, citing there was no real mechanism to do so. Warden Tom Bain pointed out at the time that it amounted to only $4 per resident anyway.

 

Essex County to hold onto library strike savings, pledge to use it for library purposes

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The $790,000 that was saved during the 230-day Essex County library strike will not be coming back to municipalities.

Instead, Essex County council will set that money aside in a reserve that municipalities and the county itself can tap into for issues specifically related to libraries.

County CAO Brian Gregg noted the $790,000 in savings was due to the money not being spent due to the strike and said it was not administration’s intent to “bury it and have it go away.” The money was temporarily placed in a reserve, he said, with the intent to bring it back to county council for discussion on what to do with it.

“The county doesn’t have a way to rebate this to the ratepayers,” said Gregg.

Gregg suggested there were “a number of ways” the money could be used, suggesting it could be used to support the library system.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo questioned how much the library system didn’t receive in government funding due to the strike. DiCarlo, who had asked for that figure at prior meetings, was told that it was “coming soon.” Gregg said a review of the figures shows that total is roughly $140,000.

Library workers picket outside of Amherstburg town hall last year. Approximately one year after this photo was taken, Essex County council decided to put $790,000 saved during the library strike into a reserve with the plan of using the money for library-related purposes.

Library workers picket outside of Amherstburg town hall last year. Approximately one year after this photo was taken, Essex County council decided to put $790,000 saved during the library strike into a reserve with the plan of using the money for library-related purposes.

DiCarlo was one of five county council members who opposed the motion.

Amherstburg council was one of the municipalities that asked for the money to be refunded.

Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti liked the idea of using the funds for library services with Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos making the motion to set the money aside and allowing municipalities to tap into it should their library buildings need capital improvements.

Santos compared it to when Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission (WEEDC) funding was returned, with the condition that money be used for economic development.

Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald stated the $790,000 was generated because the ratepayers did not get the library services and believed “it absolutely needs to go back to the people” who paid the money to begin with. Leamington Mayor John Paterson believed others on county council were saying local municipalities could not be trusted and believed the county did not need more reserve funds, as it already has $120 million in reserves.

Santos said it wasn’t a matter of trust and said the money will be set aside for when municipalities are ready to put a shovel in the ground for projects.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he has been hearing from a lot of people wondering what is going on with the money and hopes they can regain trust from those who lost it during the strike.

DiPasquale said after the meeting that the use of the money has been “pretty transparent” thus far. He agreed with the motion.

“It is fairness,” he said. “I hope the public understands that. I thought it was fair.”

Warden Tom Bain said the money was collected through the county levy and believed the big factor is that it will be earmarked specifically for library needs. He indicated the funds could also be used to lower increases brought to county council by the library board at budget time.

Returning the money to ratepayers wouldn’t be worth it, Bain believed, as it would amount to about $4 per resident.