Diane Pouget

Council gives administration spending authority in “lame duck” period, but not without debate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has authorized administration to have the ability make unbudgeted expenditures over $50,000 and dispose of property valued at over $50,000 during the “lame duck” period.

While many stated this is a common motion passed by municipalities across the province, one member of council voiced concerns over the motion. During debate of the motion at the June 11 meeting, Councillor Diane Pouget believed it would be “foolish” of council to pass it without some sort of safety assurances built in. She said the motion as recommended gave administration “carte blanche” to sell town property or make unbudgeted purchases and wanted to ensure additional safeguards were in place.

“It’s absolutely necessary and the responsible thing to do,” said Pouget. “I’m not speaking against anyone here. I’m trying to protect council and our residents.”

Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney voted against the motion, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne and Rick Fryer voting in favour. Councillor Leo Meloche did not attend the meeting as his wife passed away only a few days earlier.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original version of this article had Councillor Joan Courtney voting in favour. She voted against the motion and the story has now been corrected to reflect that.)

CAO John Miceli said the motion did protect the residents, citing an example that if a fire truck was in an accident and couldn’t be used, administration has the authority to carry out measures to replace the vehicle.

“What you are suggesting is that administration would not go through with the will of council,” said Miceli.

Miceli added his concern was if unbudgeted expenditures were to come up during the lame duck period, which would start July 27 if six members of the current council don’t run in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Pouget countered that other emergency measures, such as borrowing a fire truck from a neighbouring municipality, could be used but DiCarlo pointed out an emergency road repair that is being done in River Canard would have had to wait until a new council if it occurred during a lame duck period and such a motion wasn’t in place.

“This isn’t something unique to Amherstburg,” said director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, of the motion.

Lavigne had similar comments to Galvin, adding an example of if something happened at the water treatment plant, an expenditure couldn’t be approved until a new council was in place unless such a motion was passed.

“I understand (Pouget’s) concern, that’s why I researched it,” said Lavigne, who noted many municipalities in Ontario pass such motions in election years. “This is 100 per cent common in Ontario. Literally hundreds of municipalities in Ontario have the same motion. Why are we different here in Amherstburg?”

Pouget believed council was giving up some of their rights and while she acknowledged council would be notified of any such expenditure in the lame duck period, “we can’t do anything.”

Fryer said “it’s a matter of trust” and didn’t foresee any major issues and no sale of property, including the 12 remaining acres of Centennial Park that the Greater Essex County District School.

“To put fear in residents that they’ll spend money like drunken sailors is bullcrap,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to happen.”

Fryer’s comments prompted code of conduct concerns, and DiCarlo urged council to be respectful of

other people’s opinions.

Questions and tempers raised as fundraising expenditure discussed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A question over an accounts payable to the Crown Park Corporation that was labelled for Belle Vue fundraising sparked a contentious debate Monday night.

Town council allowed Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, to speak and Prue questioned a few Belle Vue related expenses, with most of them being connected to the ongoing roof construction. When he got to the line about the Crown Park Corporation, he expressed curiosity and told council “we don’t pay for any fundraising.”

CAO John Miceli, after conferring with treasurer Justin Rousseau, said it was not actually for the Belle Vue fundraising but rather a planning study for the Amherstburg Community Foundation for fundraising efforts for all town initiatives.

Miceli said the study looks at raising money for town endeavors without having to rely on going to the taxpayers. A $6,000 payment was listed under the accounts payable section but the CAO indicated it was a $12,000 report.

“There are two payments of $6,000 to tell us how to fundraise?” asked Councillor Jason Lavigne, who also wanted to know who is on the foundation, when they meet and whether council can see minutes of their meetings.

Rousseau indicated the Amherstburg Community Foundation is a “holding account” and that money is reimbursed by the foundation for any cheques the town cuts. He said taxpayer money wasn’t used on the study.

“Who supported the $12,000 is the question,” Lavigne pressed. “Who paid the $12,000 for the study? I think we all want to know.”

Miceli said there are efforts being made to “accelerate” fundraising and that now “we have a study that will help us.” He said that funds raised by the foundation may be used for Belle Vue but research has shown that not all donors want to donate to Belle Vue and those donors may want to give funds to other projects.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said both himself and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale sit on the foundation.

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered if Crown Park Corporation had been hired by the foundation and Miceli said the foundation hadn’t hired anyone. The study was done in order to raise more money for the foundation, with the CAO adding the Belle Vue Conservancy has done a “great job raising money” but other avenues wanted to be explored by the foundation.

Prue emphasized he spoke up because he didn’t understand the fundraising expenditure.

“We’re fundraising for nothing,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he recalled getting updates when the Libro Centre was being built on the fundraising process.

Pouget said she called earlier Monday and was told by Rousseau it was for Belle Vue, and was upset with the responses she was getting at the meeting.

“I expect the treasurer to tell us the truth,” she said. “I am asking on behalf of the constituents.”
Rousseau said he had yet to review the document, and gave Pouget the most accurate information he had when she called.

“I gave you the best information I had this morning,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “If that has fallen short, I apologize.”

Administration is expected to give council more details on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 conducts grave decoration day

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

A solemn, uniformed procession lined the pathways of Rose Hill Cemetery Sunday in honour of deceased members of the Royal Canadian Legion and returned veterans who died over the past year.

Members of the Legion, Cadet Corps., Knights of Columbus and the community at large wandered through the cemetery, looking for graves marked by service records.  When one was found, a small paper Canadian flag was planted next to the name.

Amherstburg town councillor Diane Pouget plants a flag on a veteran’s grave with Cpt. Jeff Turner, commanding officer of the 202nd Fort Malden Windsor Regiment Army Cadet Corps.

“This is our way of paying respect to this past year’s fallen Legion members and veterans,” said Cpt. Jeff Turner, commanding officer of the 202nd Fort Malden Windsor Regiment Army Cadet Corps.

Turner said the day, termed “flag decoration day,” is about paying homage to veterans who returned home from service and then died on Canadian soil.

The parade stopped twice before spreading out over the graveyard.  Both times, bagpipes sounded and large flags were taken down from the cemetery’s flagpoles.  Legion members solemnly folded the old, faded flags and then replaced them with new ones.

“That’s something we started a couple years ago,” Turner said.  “We noticed the cemetery’s flags were in disrepair, so we started replacing them every year.”

This year, though, there was a hitch in the ceremony.  He ropes and grommets from the flagpoles are twisted and worn.  Getting the flags back up was difficult.  Councillor Diane Pouget attended the event and shook her head at the state of the flagpoles.

The 202nd Fort Malden Windsor Regiment Army Cadet Corps., Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 and the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus march down the paths of Rose Hill Cemetery June 3. The groups planted flags on veterans’ graves as a show of thanks for their service.

“I’m going to go back to the town and explain to them that they need some work done here,” she said.  “The Legion is very, very important to the Town of Amherstburg. I’m sure they’ll be willing to participate in this project.”

Pouget thanked the veterans and active service members in the crowd for their service and planted a flag of her own on a few of the cemetery’s gravestones and markers.

“We are very, very grateful for everything you have done and continue to do in the service of our community,” Pouget said, addressing the crowd.  “It is important that we honour those men and women who left our town knowing full-well they might not return. Today is about that.”

 

 

Water and wastewater rates to see minimal increases

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Water and wastewater rates are on the rise in the Town of Amherstburg.

Town council has approved a five per cent increase to the water rate and a 1.3 per cent increase to the wastewater increase. Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated in a report to town council that the increases are in accordance with the long-term financial stability plan outlined in the town’s asset management plan.

The water rate increase would translate into an average annual billing increase from $458 to $467, or a $9 average increase. The wastewater increase would see bills rise, on average, from $779 to $785, or $6.

“Based on the recommended user rate adjustments, the average consumer of both water and wastewater in the town would see a household effect of $15 a year, or 4 cents a day,” Rousseau said in his report to town council.

Rousseau stated in his report that one of the main cost drivers for water is the operation and maintenance of the Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant.

“When our water costs are compared to other municipalities who operate their own plants (Essex and Lakeshore), we are actually the lowest of the three municipalities,” Rousseau stated in his report. “Our water distribution network is very large, servicing homes well into Essex, causing additional costs to provide standard maintenance.”

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

The town is currently operating six separate wastewater facilities across the town, Rousseau added, with those all requiring operating and maintenance costs.

“The recent reconstruction of the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant has also added additional pressure to the rate,” he stated.

According to Rousseau’s report, when water and wastewater charges are compared to other municipalities around Windsor-Essex County, Amherstburg ranks fourth in water and second in wastewater. Rousseau used base charges and volumetric charges, the latter being based on 20 cubic metres per month.

However, Rousseau estimated the total billing amounts based on his figures, Amherstburg had the second highest billing total in the area.

The revenue and expenses for the water budget are $4,699,000 and $6,255,775 for the wastewater budget.

Councillor Diane Pouget said council is obligated to ensure the town has clean water, stating the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) and the town’s departments “do a tremendous job” keep the town’s water safe.

Pouget said the total amount of the increase is $15 per year.

The Amherstburg wastewater treatment plant.

“I think it’s a small price to pay to make sure our facilities are up-to-date,” she said.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed the town can be proud of the work that is being done, noting the feedback from people he receives is that “they love the taste of our water.”

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed, stating she can’t taste the difference between tap water and bottled water.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original story and the story in the June 6 print issue stated that Councillor Diane Pouget said it was a $15 per month increase. The online story has been changed to correctly reflect that Councillor Pouget said it was a $15 per year increase. The RTT apologizes for the error.)

Town places moratorium on future signage due to pending urban design guidelines

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of local realtors got their signage request approved, but no more bylaw exemptions will be considered until the town’s urban design guidelines come to council.

Brad Bondy and Amy Bailey from Remax Preferred Realty appeared before town council with regards to a signage request for 103 Sandwich St. S. where their business name will also appear with Amherstburg Flowers & Gifts. However, town council requested that he work within the urban design guidelines and later passed a moratorium on any future signs from anyone else until the design guidelines are finalized.

CAO John Miceli said he wanted the moratorium so that council would have all the information from the guidelines, something a consultant is currently crafting.

“I wanted to make sure we took it into consideration with everything,” he said of the signage request. “All I’m asking for is a moratorium not to make a decision until we have urban design guidelines.”

Miceli added the goal of the urban design guidelines is to give Amherstburg a “sense of place” and that signs should have the “look and feel of the community we are trying to create.”

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned whether the business community should be consulted about types of signage but Miceli said efforts were made with only 20 of 211 businesses coming out to meetings.

“To be quite honest, we’ve had poor representation from the business community,” he said.

Councillor Diane Pouget agreed with the moratorium, saying the town spent “a lot of money” for a consultant to create the guidelines. She added past signage have created potential legal issues.

“Council has been cautioned several times by legal regarding signage and how it is distracting to drivers,” she said.

However, Councillor Rick Fryer reminded council that Bondy and Bailey’s request came before council at the May 14 meeting and was deferred due to council wanting more information.

“If Mr. Bondy was here, it would have been dealt with two weeks ago,” said Fryer.

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed with Fryer in that the matter would have been dealt with May 14 if Bondy had been asked to attend the meeting. She believed it would be unfair to Bondy and Bailey to put a moratorium in place before dealing with their sign request “but it should end here.”

Courtney said future requests should be subject to the moratorium.

Bondy indicated they are willing to work with the town.

“We’re willing to do what you guys want us to do,” he told town council.

Bondy added the proposed sign is attractive.

“It’s nothing grotesque,” he said. “It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s simple.”

Pouget said the town is trying to eliminate sign pollution and that if exemptions keep getting granted, it “defeats the purpose” of trying to come up with urban design guidelines.

Miceli said a report on urban design guidelines could come before town council in July.

“It’s about creating a sense of place in Amherstburg,” he emphasized. “It’s not about preventing signs.”

The area covered by the moratorium stretches from Texas Road to Lowes Side Road and from Meloche Road to the water’s edge.