Diane Pouget

Town to draft budget with maximum of two per cent increase

 

By Ron Giofu

The town of Amherstburg is going ahead with its 2018 draft budget, with that budget to contain up to a two per cent tax increase.

Council authorized administration to move forward with that plan, with the budget to be tabled Nov. 6. Bill 148, the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” that will, in part, increase minimum wage and allow for equal pay for part-time and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time staff will also impact next year’s budget.

“Although 2016 saw surpluses, administration is requesting council to consider a tax increase. The surpluses of 2016 can be explained by circumstances we do not believe will exist in 2018 as well as the continuing infrastructure needs of the municipality. The recommendation for presentation of up to a two per cent increase to the mill rate is reasonable when considering the consumer price index in Ontario trend, which for the first eight months of 2017 is at 1.2 per cent,” stated director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau, in his report to town council. “The forecasted growth on the roll return from MPAC from 2017-2018 is forecasting out a 2.4 per cent increase to the town’s assessment base. This coupled with a two per cent increase to the mill rate will provide additional revenue to the town of 4.4 per cent or approximately $880,000. It should be noted the new asset management plan requires an additional $300,000 to be spent on capital, in order to narrow the infrastructure funding gap that currently exists. This request is part of the council approved 20-year financial strategy to replace and repair the town’s infrastructure.”

Councillor Leo Meloche said the two per cent recommendation was higher than the rate of inflation, and the town had a “nice increase” last year when factoring in property values increasing as well.

“I think it would be prudent to stay with the inflation costs,” said Meloche, who advocated for a 1.5 per cent target.

CAO John Miceli said two per cent is a “target that allows administration to weed through the management issues” and is a “general guideline for the treasurer and myself.” It “establishes the ceiling, and not the floor,” he added.

“Council can always reduce that,” said Miceli.

Rousseau said Bill 148, if passed as it currently stands, would impact the town to the tune of $1.6 million. He predicted it will be a challenging budget due to that piece of provincial legislation.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she wants to keep the budget low, but acknowledged there are bridges, culverts and water plant infrastructure that needs to be addressed.

Under the current timetable, a public information session would occur Nov. 18 and council will deliberate the 2018 budget Nov. 28-30. If all goes according to plan, the budget could be approved Dec. 11.

Town to investigate transit system

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Inspired by the recently launched transit system in LaSalle, Amherstburg will investigate the idea of bringing one here.

However, one local service agency is reminding people about their own services in that regard.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she has been approached by residents about the possibility of bringing a transit service to Amherstburg.

“Years ago, council tried to work with other municipalities to get public transit. At that time, it was not feasible,” explained Pouget. “Now that LaSalle has it, our residents want us to look at it again and that is why we directed administration to begin discussions as to whether or not it is feasible.”

Pouget said it would be a help to seniors and students get where they need to go. With LaSalle on board, Pouget believes it could make things more feasible for Amherstburg but Pouget added council still needs to know the financial implications before a final decision is rendered.

“I think it’s a good fit for us to join,” she believes. “At least we’re going to look into it.”

It could be one more step to a regional transit service, she added.

“If Amherstburg gets on board, then another municipality might,” said Pouget.

However, Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) is pointing out their own services and the fact they already assisting local residents with transit. ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo was respectful of council’s decision, and noted that ACS is always interested in solutions to transit issues.

“It’s exciting to see council take this issue seriously. There are plenty of people in Amherstburg who don’t drive for a variety of reasons and we’re glad to see council take notice of their unique challenges,” said DiBartolomeo. “We hope that council explores every possibility and considers the tools that are already available to them.”

DiBartolomeo pointed out that ACS has provided accessible transportation for seniors in Amherstburg since 1984.

“If council decides that we should be part of the conversation, we would be happy to help wherever we can,” said DiBartolomeo.

ACS is also part of a team that offers local residents a student shuttle service.

“We do provide transportation to students at St. Clair College and we are looking at ways we can improve this service to better match the needs of Amherstburg’s youth,” she added.

Town seeking solutions to McGregor flooding, municipal subsidy program to come soon

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

A McGregor resident appeared before town council regarding the late August flood and the town is stating they are coming up with answers for him and every other resident.

Tom Welsh, who lives on Middle Side Road, said his home was damaged by flooding in the Aug. 28 storm as seven inches of rain hit that area, including five inches between the hours of 7-11 p.m. He told council it’s not the first time that it happened.

“Two times in two years we’ve flooded,” said Welsh. “It’s enough. There’s more people in town that just the core.”

Welsh said he had 18 inches of water in his basement, including human feces. He noted he has even spent $3,000 on a generator trying to fix the problem.

“I don’t know what else to do. It’s got to stop. Things have to be done,” said Welsh. “I put a whole lot into (my home). It’s a nice area. Our community is awesome.”

Welsh wanted to see more investment in that area.

“Everything you see in town is for the core,” he said. “We should get something.”

The town said there is, in fact, investment happening there and work is being done to address the issues in McGregor. An $80,000 investigation was conducted and “no smoking gun” was found in the public system. Director of public works and engineering Antonietta Giofu stating “our focus shifts to the private side.” She added a report regarding a subsidy program is currently scheduled to come before council Sept. 25.

“It will definitely include McGregor and be a town-wide program as well,” she said.

Councillor Diane Pouget told Welsh “we have spent quite a bit of money” in trying to solve the problem, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreeing.

“We are spending money and we will continue to spend money until we find a solution,” said DiCarlo. “This council is very committed to it. We’re going to keep working in this area to alleviate the problem.”

DiCarlo said this council is sympathetic to residents who continuously flood but said $400,000 has been budgeted this year to try and fix the problem as quickly as possible. He noted the forthcoming report will address issues as downspout disconnections and backflow valves, among other things, and that they will work with private homeowners to address issues.

The Ontario government has released this map detailing where in Amherstburg disaster relief is available stemming from the Aug. 28 rain event.

“We have not forgotten about anybody,” he said. “I think council has shown we know where the town’s boundaries are.”

One in 100 year storms are not one in 100 year storms anymore and DiCarlo added large rain events can be expected so action is needed.

“Every time it rains, if there is a mayor that doesn’t sweat, I don’t know who they are,” he said. “The hardest part is to tell people we’re working on it as I can only imagine how that has been received.”

CAO John Miceli said administration is doing its part to try and find a resolution to the problem, believing the subsidy program is a step in the right direction.

“We understand your concerns,” said Miceli. “We’re providing a program that I think will go over and above what other municipalities are offering.”

Miceli also said until a solution is found to the flooding issues, “we’re going to keep trying.”

Welsh also expressed concern with the number of power outages the area experiences, with DiCarlo stating that Essex Power has tried to work with Ontario Hydro to take over all of Amherstburg but “they have flat out denied us over and over.”

The town would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Welsh and Ontario Hydro, said DiCarlo, as he believed that would do more than the municipality trying to get involved. He added that Ontario Hydro “is all but ignoring infrastructure in rural areas.

“We’re fighting the province on this,” said DiCarlo. “If they are going to provide hydro, they have to do so reliably.”

In all, roughly 34 homes in the McGregor area have reported flooding to the town of Amherstburg.

The Ontario government notified the City of Windsor and the Towns of Amherstburg, Essex, Lakeshore, LaSalle and Tecumseh last Thursday that it has activated the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program in flood-affected areas.

The province advised that affected individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have experienced property damage or loss as a result of this disaster may be eligible to receive help with emergency and recovery expenses.

The program applies to a primary residence and its basic contents, or to a main small business, farm or not-for-profit organization. Damage from sewer backup is not eligible under the program except under special provisions for low-income households.

The government states it “is closely monitoring other areas experiencing flooding across the province. It may activate the program in these areas as flood impacts continue to be assessed in the coming days and weeks.”

More information and detailed program guidelines are available at http://ontario.ca/DisasterAssistance or call toll-free 1-844-780-8925.

 

County’s response to town’s library fund request doesn’t impress local officials

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg continues to press the County of Essex for its share of funds that accrued during the 251-day Essex County Library strike and the town isn’t happy with the latest development.

The town has asked for its share of the money back but a letter received from county CAO Brian Gregg dated Aug. 25 was one that “totally offended” the town’s CAO. John Miceli told town council that he was frustrated that the Essex County Library Board is managing the file on behalf of Essex County council.

“At its meeting of August 9, 2017, County Council passed a resolution directing that grant funding requests to support capital improvements and renovations at library branches be forwarded to the Essex County Library Board for review and support. Once approved, the Library Board will advise county administration that it is in order to release the appropriate grant amount. Council also endorsed the principle that, to qualify for grant funding, the improvements are to be carried out prospectively, effective August 9, 2017,” Gregg’s letter stated. “Council directed administration to develop, for its consideration, a process to be codified to administer the grant requests put forward by local municipalities. It is anticipated a draft process, along with the total amount of eligible grant funds allocated to each local municipality, will be presented to County Council at either its September 6, 2017 meeting or its September 20, 2017 meeting.”

Amherstburg council is still asking for its share of library funds that accrued during the 251-day strike. (RTT File Photo)

Councillor Diane Pouget said Amherstburg council asked “in good faith” about getting the town’s share back.

“They’re tying our hands, no matter what we do,” she said.

Miceli said measures have been taken by the town to improve the library building. He noted there is “only one taxpayer in the Town of Amherstburg” and that no services were provided to those taxpayers from June 25, 2016 to Feb. 10, 2017.

The town can make its own decisions what it uses its share for, Miceli stated, and that roughly $75,000 to $85,000 in work has been done to improve parking at the library and to make other repairs, some of which were safety related.

The Aug. 9 date was also questioned by the CAO, who added he is willing to attend the Sept. 20 county council meeting to further address the town’s concerns. Miceli also plans to raise the issue with his administrative colleagues this week.

“What does Aug. 9 have to do with it?” he asked. “It should be retroactive to June 25, 2016.”

 

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.