Belle Vue

Town council formally decides what to do with Belle Vue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg purchased Belle Vue in 2016 and now they’ve decided what to do with it.

Town council decided to use it as a conference centre and wedding venue as part of last Tuesday night’s meeting. Councillor Diane Pouget declared conflict of interest due to the proximity of her home to the site while Councillor Jason Lavigne cited the proximity of his parents’ home as his reason for declaring conflict.

Councillor Rick Fryer had questions over maintenance for the property but CAO John Miceli noted the only real issues at this point is grass cutting. Maintenance for future issues like the botanical gardens are budgetary matters for down the road, but the Dalhousie St. property has to be developed first.

Use of taxpayer money was of concern to Councillor Leo Meloche, who wanted to ensure that no taxpayer money be committed for any work, repairs or restoration work without specific council approval identifiable to the project or undertaking. Meloche said council has to be aware of all repairs being done and not find out afterward that additional work is required.

Town council has formally decided the Belle Vue will be used as a conference centre and wedding venue.

Miceli said the town received grant money that was specifically earmarked for the roof project and debated with Meloche about whether that was taxpayer money.

Meloche added that the town has to “protect the asset” but at the same time, ensure there is financial accountability in place.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated that none of the work that has been done at the Belle Vue property happened before council was informed. Miceli added that “anyone suggesting we have not been transparent is more than welcome to look at the books.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the motion at hand was not to approve any funding for Belle Vue, but to assist with fundraising.

“We have had interest in fundraising with big numbers,” said DiCarlo, adding that potential donors want to know what will be happening with the site before committing any dollars to it.

“There shouldn’t be any concerns about money,” he said. “It will come before council.”

Changes necessary to Belle Vue roof project, CAO says project still underbudget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has been advised of changes to the roof restoration project at Belle Vue that will cost an additional $111,400 plus HST.

However, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) says that despite the extra costs, the project still remains underbudget.

According to a report from treasurer Justin Rousseau, town council approved $325,000 in the 2018 capital budget for the project, $250,000 of which is to be funded from donations. The roof was identified as the top priority in restoring the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion.

“During the construction phase of the project, additional structural issues have been identified and change orders have been requested,” Rousseau’s report stated.

Work began in the summer of 2018 and administration was presented “with a series of issues” that consultant ERA Architects Inc. identified during construction.

“The issues they identified would have not been known at the time of tender as the initial scope of the work was determined based on a non-invasive review of the structure,” Rousseau stated in his report.

The additional issues include sill beam repair and replacement, soffit replacement, eave components, fascia mounted copper gutters, face nailing detail, in-laid gutter supports, brick pier rebuilding and eve painting.

Rousseau noted that the town received confirmation from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places that the town was approved for support up to $100,000 for improvements to Belle Vue and that the grant was applied for by the town “to help offset the cost of construction and further the cause of the restoration efforts.”

Change orders to the Belle Vue roof replacement project sparked a recent debate at town council. (Photo courtesy of the Belle Vue Conservancy Facebook page)

“The 2018 capital budget includes $325,000 for the Belle Vue restoration project. Project funding is based on receipt of $250,000 from donations and the balance from the general tax levy,” Rousseau stated in his report. “However, the budget did not account for the additional grant revenue of $100,000. These grant funds will be used to help offset the additional unexpected cost from the change orders being recommended by ERA Architects Ltd.”

Councillor Leo Meloche said he “thought this might happen” and wondered how much tax money would be spent on the project.

CAO John Miceli pointed out that the original budget was for $325,000 but now they have received a $100,000 grant. The total cost of the project is now estimated at $396,760 but Miceli said they now have $425,000 set aside thanks to the grant.

“We are still underbudget with the grant funding,” said the CAO.

Miceli noted there were items that need repairing that were hidden below the soffit and that efforts are being made to restore the soffit to its original condition.  Meloche said he disagreed with the approach taken, believing that a more invasive investigation should have been done on Belle Vue to get the full picture on what was needed to repair the roof.

Meloche also questioned why the repairs to the town-owned building still weren’t subject to review by the town’s heritage committee. Meloche is the council representative on that committee and questioned whether the town was “skirting our own rules but not getting the heritage committee involved” in the matter.

“Any homeowner has to come before us and get an approval,” said Meloche.

Councillor Rick Fryer opposed the town spending more money on Belle Vue, saying road projects such as Angstrom Cr. need it more.

“People drive on roads every day,” said Fryer.

Miceli noted that town council had already approved the budget for Belle Vue.

“If you are asking me to reallocate money from Belle Vue to Angstrom Cr., that’s a different situation,” said Miceli.

“Birdies and Bogies for Belle Vue” raises money for restoration

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Golfers hit the links Friday evening for the second annual “Birdies and Bogies for Belle Vue” fundraiser.

Approximately 41 golfers turned out for the event at Sutton Creek Golf Course, which was scaled back this year from the full tournament the Belle Vue Conservancy held in 2017. This year’s event was a “nine and dine” format” with the meal and prizes awarded after the golfers came back off the course.

“It went really well,” said Meg Reiner, the conservancy member who organized the event. “I think people really liked the nine and dine format, which we tried for the first time this year.”

The switch allowed the conservancy to see which format the golfers prefer.

“Birdies and Bogies for Belle Vue” golf tournament
organizer Meg Reiner (centre) stands with winners Wes Stewart (left) and Walter Stewart (right).

“It sounds like this is what people like,” she said, after Friday night’s event.

A fundraising total wasn’t available immediately after the event but should be finalized in the coming weeks.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has fundraised for the roof replacement and are hopeful to have windows replaced later this year. The exterior face of the building is the next goal, with the hope of havingwork started on that next spring.

Early reviews were positive, with Maria Goggin saying “I loved it” though joking she was part of the “worst team” in the 11-team tournament.

“We were the first ones back, so we were number one,” she joked.

Mallory Reiner, Meg’s sister, was on the same team as Goggin and praised her sister’s efforts.

“This was so much fun,” said Mallory. “The weather was really good. I think doing it in the evening was a really good idea.”

Ebenezer Reynolds, of Stowe, Colchester

 

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the sixteenth in a series of articles about the Belle Vue property, most of which have been written by Debra Honor. Honor is a local historian/genealogist and a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

 

By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS

 

Thomas Reynolds family had three sons and two daughters. We read a lot about Robert, Catherine and Margaret, but not much is said of brothers Thomas Augustus and Ebenezer. Thomas Augustus joined the Royal Navy and moved away to England. Ebenezer has a story of his own in Essex County.

Born in 1778 at Detroit, Ebenezer grew up throughout the American Revolution. When Detroit was handed over to the Americans in 1796, he moved with his family to the new fort at Amherstburg. By 1803, at the age of 25, he was in partnership with his younger brother Robert, age 21, as merchants on First Street (now Dalhousie St.). That same year, Ebenezer married Rose Bouchette, daughter of Commander Jean Baptiste Bouchette of the Provincial Marines on 17 October 1803 at St. John’s Church in Sandwich.

By 1811, Ebenezer was farming on Lot 88 Concession 1 Colchester; the farm his father, Thomas, received as a Loyalist in the New Settlement. The farm was still owned by his father.

(Special to the RTT)

When war broke out in 1812, Ebenezer was a Major in the First Essex Militia under the command of Colonel Matthew Elliott. Ebenezer was present at the capture of Detroit with General Brock and Tecumseh. He fought at the Battle of Frenchtown (River Raisin), Fort Meigs and Fort Miami in 1813. On the 21 September 1813, Ebenezer achieved the rank of Lt.-Colonel of the 1st and 2nd Essex Militia.

After the war, in 1815, he purchased Lot 87, the farm beside his farm and the next year he purchased Lot 88 from his mother, Jean Reynolds. Ebenezer built himself a beautiful home that he named, Stowe, of which his sister, Catherine drew a picture and sent to their brother, Thomas in England.

In 1833, Ebenezer moved to Sandwich to become the Sheriff of the Western District. He remained the Sheriff for 3 years, finally resigning over the poor payment of the position. In 1851, Rose Reynolds his wife, died in Sandwich and was buried at Assumption Church since she was Catholic. Ebenezer moved to Amherstburg to live with his brother, Robert at Belle Vue, where he passed away on 11 December 1854 and was buried at Christ Church Anglican.

Please support our fundraising campaign. One hundred per cent of your contribution will be used for restoration of the Belle Vue House. You will receive a full tax receipt and a Belle Vue gift. Visit amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit www.bellevueconservancy.com for more information!

 

Swinton vying to become Amherstburg’s new mayor

 

By Ron Giofu

 

There will be a mayor’s race in Amherstburg as Glenn Swinton is seeking the town’s top political job.

Swinton filed his nomination papers last Thursday and will be challenging incumbent Aldo DiCarlo for the job. He said he was going to challenge DiCarlo if it looked like DiCarlo was going to be acclaimed and he followed through on that.

“There was no way I was going to let him be acclaimed,” he said. “We have to have a second option.”

The decision to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service and contract the service to Windsor was the key issue which drove Swinton to run.

“It’s the whole policing issue that drove it right over the top,” he said.

Swinton said his first objective if elected mayor would be to review the town’s contract with the Windsor Police Service “and look for an out.” He said he doesn’t believe that the residents of Amherstburg were heard during the process.

“I don’t feel they were listened to,” said Swinton.

Swinton opposed the police switch and said he hasn’t received many of the answers he was seeking.

“There’s so many things in the policing contract where I’d ask a question and it would go unanswered,” he said.

Glenn Swinton filed last week and is running for mayor.

Stating he doesn’t have “a big, long list of things I don’t like,” Swinton said there are other issues as well that he would like to keep his eye on if elected. He said that he wants to make sure the town sticks to the agreement regarding the Belle Vue property and ensure that no taxpayer money is used on its restoration.

The plans for the Duffy’s property are also something Swinton would like to be a part of. He said he looked at the proposal for the site but he said that plan doesn’t fit on the size of the property. He also noted the development of a nearby condominium unit and wondered if building an amphitheatre is the best use of the land.

While believing the current proposal is not realistic, Swinton would like to see the property developed.

“We have it now, so let’s do something with it,” said Swinton.

As for the town’s finances, Swinton said the town is “just looking better” as much of the debt is still locked in. That said, he added he wants the town to keep looking better. The deferral of development charges is a program that is working and he believes that it is a good idea.

“We’re building all over,” he said. “The town is booming. I want to keep that momentum.”

Swinton said he has heard from people who believe the town is overstaffed and there are unnecessary positions that have been filled.

“They need to be looked at,” he said.

The mayor should have the answers and not have to look to administration as much, he believed, and that the mayor should be able to clarify items for council members.

If there are still unanswered questions at the time of a vote, the vote should be deferred.

“I want to move the role of mayor back to the head of council,” said Swinton.

The mayor should be more active and immersed in what is going on, he added.

Swinton said he believes he can handle the role of being on Essex County council.

“It’s going to be a learning curve, absolutely,” he said of being on county council.

Swinton added he is not looking to have a “smear campaign,” adding that is not the objective. He added there are a lot of great festivals in Amherstburg and the town does have a lot going for it.

“We’ve got good momentum going,” he said. “I want to keep it going.”

Swinton added: “We’re working on building a plan. Hopefully we can get some support and make it happen. My number one goal is to do what is best for the town and the people in it.”