Duffy’s

Mayor looks back on 2017, looks ahead to 2018

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new year is upon us and there were positives and negatives from the year that has just ended, says the town’s mayor.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said that 2017 was a good one but it had its ups and downs as well.

“I think, overall, it was a good balance of successes and challenges,” said DiCarlo. “I think we’ve done well with the waterfront development acquisitions, we had the fibre (internet) announcement and I think the budget confirmed our financial restraint and investment.”

DiCarlo believes the town did a good job of walking the “fine line of paying down debt and increasing amenities that should keep people in town.”

Regarding the Belle Vue and Duffy’s property projects, DiCarlo said he has heard positive and negative responses from residents but acknowledged, “it’s impossible to keep everyone happy” and that council is trying to work for residents and address the needs of the community. He said many people want the Duffy’s property available for public use as soon as possible and “hopefully we can make progress on that” in 2018.

The town did make progress in 2017, the mayor stated.

“We’ve definitely moved forward again,” he said. “That’s my belief. At the end of the day, it always comes down to what the residents think. As long as we can maintain the balance of moving forward, which I think we did (in 2017), we’re in good shape.”

DiCarlo said 2018 could be “another year of challenges,” and the first one on the radar is the policing issue. The town will be hosting four public meetings later this month to discuss the proposal from Windsor police, one that forecasts a $567,000 annual savings to the town.

“That is obviously going to be a big decision we have to deal with,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve definitely heard from a broad demographic of residents on this particular issue. There are people on both sides and plenty of people in the middle waiting to hear what is said at the public meetings.”

The location of the new public high school by the Greater Essex County District School Board is expected at some point, and DiCarlo said that is good news. While noting that not everyone will be happy with the new location, he believes that the new public high school will be positive for the town.

“Everyone is asking where it is going and when it will be built,” said DiCarlo, adding that timelines suggest that the announcement could come soon.

Other development is tied to the school announcement, he suggested, and that more news could be revealed shortly after the location is revealed. While much of that development hasn’t been publicly revealed as of yet, the seniors hub development proposed for the former St. Bernard School appears to be one of them. The town and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board are headed for arbitration over the building’s value as the town wants to acquire it.

DiCarlo said the town is committed to serving the senior population and that he is hopeful the dispute over the building can be resolved.

“We’re going to go through legal channels there to mediate some sort of solution,” he said.

Much of the plans for future development is hinged on one another, he said, and that “there are a lot of synergies to projects now.” He said fewer projects are done in isolation.

“I think that’s going to translate into success in the long run,” said DiCarlo.

The town remains focused on a hotel, he added, and that the rollout of the fibre internet should occur in 2018. The town will also continue to pay down debt and continue to invest in the community, with DiCarlo stating the goal of the latter being to do so with cash the town already has.

The mayor said there is some “misconception” as it pertains to the town’s debt, which has been brought down from $44 million to approximately $38 million over the last few years. While it has come down “millions,” DiCarlo said much of the debt is locked in and can’t be paid down faster than what it already is.

This year is an election year and DiCarlo said the town could be impacted if and when the current council achieves “lame duck” status.

“While we tackle everything we have to deal with, things have to be in the perspective of what happens with the election,” he said. “If we become a lame duck council, we’ll have to put the issues on hold and we would not be able to deal with them.”

The municipal election is Oct. 22 and the nomination period opens May 1 and ends July 27 at 2 p.m.

Town receives grant to assist with work at Duffy’s site

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn was demolished several months ago and now the town has received word it has received grant funding to help pay for that cleanup.

The Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) announced $45 million in Green Municipal Fund (GMF) grants and loans in support of 28 environmental initiatives led by local governments across Ontario. Those announcements came Friday and Amherstburg received $142,900.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was pleased with Friday’s announcement.

“We did apply for it some time ago for the clean-up of the property and it looks like we were successful,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo said the town still applies for grants but the projects are not contingent on grant funding. Money is budgeted for projects and “grants are like a bonus” in that it frees up money for other things.

“It’s that much less we have to front,” said DiCarlo. “When you are working on the project anyway, it’s always nice to get a letter that says ‘by the way, the work you are doing is going to be paid for.’ It’s fantastic.”

Timelines on the Duffy’s property depend on other factors, said DiCarlo, and those factors are still being worked on and can’t be announced just yet.

“The residents want to see (the Duffy’s site) done ASAP,” the mayor acknowledged.

DiCarlo also credited town administration and staff for their grant writing abilities.

“We’re known for being successful in getting grants,” said DiCarlo. “We have people who understand government processes. They know what they’re doing, they really do. Full credit to them for that.”

Demolition was completed at the Duffy’s site in September. The town received a grant Dec. 15 helping with clean-up of the site.

CAO John Miceli confirmed the money will apply retroactively to the town’s clean-up of the site. He said the next phase is a report of site conditions, which will be worked on in 2018. He said their consultant Golder & Associates will go in, drill at various points at the site and perform an Environmental Assessment (EA).

The early cost estimate to develop the site is $5-6.5 million with a 500-seat amphitheatre, marina, boat ramp, fishing wharf, service buildings and plazas among what is currently proposed for the site. Miceli is hopeful of starting construction in 2019. He noted that is a federal election year and that additional grants could flow in the town’s direction.

“It’s a good sign,” the CAO said of Friday’s grant announcement. “That shows they want to help it come to fruition.”

Miceli added the town maximized the available grant funding for this stage of the process.

According to a news release sent by FCM: “Municipalities across Canada are modelling some of Canada’s most innovative green solutions. This highlights their commitment to being part of the solution as Canada works to meet its Paris Agreement commitments by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while creating jobs and growing its clean economy.
Some of the richest potential to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions lies in scaling up local innovation, and peer learning is at the very core of GMF, making it easier for municipalities to take on green innovation in their community.”
Fridays’s announcement was made by London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos on behalf of Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources and Clark Somerville, FCM past president.

“Our government is proud to support initiatives through the Green Municipal Fund that can help make communities more sustainable and provide a better quality of life for Canadians. These projects demonstrate the excellent work being undertaken throughout the province to promote innovative clean solutions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Fragiskatos.
“Looking at the initiatives being funded today, it’s clear municipalities are taking the lead on some of the country’s most promising green innovations. Not only do they deliver tangible and ongoing benefits to residents, they are an important part of the solution in our national effort to fight climate change. With continued national leadership and investment, remarkable progress is possible,” added Somerville in the press release.

The Government of Canada endowed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with $550 million to establish the Green Municipal Fund. An additional $125 million top-up was announced in the 2016 federal budget. The Green Municipal Fund supports partnerships and leveraging of both public and private sector funding to reach higher standards of air, water and soil quality, and climate protection. To date it has funded over 1,400 municipal initiatives.

Demolition resumes at Duffy’s site after delays

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Delays have occurred in the demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn but the town’s chief administrative officer states the goal is still to be able to use the site during the Canuck It Up Festival.

Crews could be seen at points last week working at the site as demolition appears to have resumed.

CAO John Miceli said there were issues that caused the demolition to be delayed. One of the issues was a motorcycle crash that injured Jones Group owner Terry Jones.

A Jones Group excavator was seen working at the site of the former Duffy’s Motor Inn Monday morning. Demolition had been delayed at the site but has now resumed.

A Jones Group excavator was seen working at the site of the former Duffy’s Motor Inn Monday morning. Demolition had been delayed at the site but has now resumed.

“We are working with the Jones Group to provide us with a revised schedule as there was a couple of things that did delay the project,” said Miceli. “The first was Terry’s untimely accident and the second was an order that was issued to the Jones Group by the Ministry (of Labour) which has subsequently been lifted.”

Miceli pointed out the Ministry of Labour “has some overarching powers and on this project was seeking written protocols on the demolition process. Unfortunately this  was complicated from a timing perspective with Terry’s untimely accident and has caused some delays.”

The CAO added: “I have been advised by the Jones Group that they will be working diligently to make up time so that we can have access to the site in time for Canuck it Up. I know that the Jones Group knows how important this festival is for the Town and they want to deliver for us.”

The Canuck It Up Festival is Aug. 5-6.

Public feedback gathered on proposal for Duffy’s land

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

With Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn in the process of being torn down, the town held a public consultation session to gauge what the public thinks of redevelopment plans.

The public consultation session was held last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre where people got a chance to view the renderings of the plans the town has developed for the waterfront property.

“Nothing has been set in stone,” CAO John Miceli pointed out, stating the purpose of the meeting was simply “the start of a conversation.”

The concept plans developed by the town and its consultant – Dan Krutsch of Landmark Engineering – were on display around the community room with a 500-seat amphitheatre, marina, boat ramp, fishing wharf, service buildings and plazas among the proposals put forth. Miceli said the town wanted to bring those plans to the public to see if that is what citizens want and if there are any changes desired to what has been proposed.

Duffy's consultation2WEB

Members of the public view concept drawings for what the Duffy’s property could look like during a June 15 meeting at the Libro Centre.

While additional public meetings are planned, Miceli said he would like to see the town move forward on the project later this year.

“My goal is to have it presented as part of the 2018 capital works budget,” he said.

Costs range from $5 million to $6.5 million and by moving along with the process, it allows the town to pursue grant funding. Final costs will be determined once all the components of the project are decided upon.

Timing for how fast the project will be completed centres around cash.

“It really is going to depend on funding,” he said.

Local resident Pat Catton questioned where boat trailers would park. While there is space for boat trailers on the drawings, Miceli acknowledged previous concerns about boat trailer parking and congestion when the Duffy’s boat ramp was open. There may be opportunities for boat trailer parking, though Miceli noted some opportunities were a bit farther away than the town desires.

“We’re hoping to hear from the boaters to hear what they have to say,” said Miceli.

A relocated Boblo ferry dock being included in the drawings was also a source of questions. Krutsch explained that moving it would allow for owner Dominic Amicone to be able to better develop his lands. The wharf would also help shield the dock from ice.

Pat Catton and Gord Freeman review drawings of the proposed Duffy’s  redevelopment last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre.

Pat Catton and Gord Freeman review drawings of the proposed Duffy’s
redevelopment last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre.

Catton wondered why the town would have to partner with a private property owner but Krutsch replied that there is no need to partner with anyone and that it was added in case some kind of partnership was of interest. Miceli noted preliminary talks have taken place with Amicone.

No programming decisions have been finalized, Miceli noted, adding his belief the development could boost the downtown core. It could act as a “festival plaza” and boost the area.

“This was the vision that allowed us to go ahead with acquiring the property,” said Miceli.

The town’s Official Plan calls for the acquisition of waterfront lands when they become available. He believes there will be at least an eight to 12 month approval process before anything could be developed.

Susan Whelan asked about the number of studies that have been done on the site, noting there haven’t been any major developments there for many years. Fuel was also used on site in the past, she added. She said she supported making the site beautiful and intertwining it with the neighbourhood but wanted assurances the land was checked out.

The land and existing buildings were assessed by Golder Associates, Miceli replied, and that the purchase price of the property was reduced to deal with some of the issues found.

“Most of the issues are in the older portion,” Miceli noted, in reference to the restaurant portion, which has not yet been demolished.

Food truck owner Carolyn Parent asked about such vehicles in the development, with Miceli saying his vision is for special events. Krutsch pointed out that could simply be one use of the site, with craft shows, tents and other events also possible.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the concept plans are the current ideas the town has come up with.

“This is the culmination of what we’ve been doing up to now,” he said.

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DiCarlo said there are limitations on what Navy Yard Park can be used for due to its passive nature and while there are events at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada, there are restrictions there too. Downtown businesses also have voiced concerns that they have difficulty pulling people from Fort Malden so having festival space downtown could translate into more businesses gaining customers.

The town wants “one fluid plan” on how to develop the area, he added. The biggest thing the mayor said he has heard is about how fast the land could be developed.

Local real estate agent Ron Deneau congratulated the town on “one of the best purchases you ever made.” He believed the land being acquired for the money the town paid for it (final price being $1.115 million) “will be looked at as one of the nicest purchases you ever made.”

Local resident Paul Pietrangelo was in favour of the development.

“I love the idea,” he said. “I think it’s beautiful.”

Pietrangelo joked that “I hope I can see it before I die.”

Noting his love of Navy Yard Park, he added the Duffy’s land would be a good complement to that.

“It’ll bring a lot of people to Amherstburg even more,” he believed.

Duffy’s demolition now underway

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

As pieces of the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn fall to the ground, the town is looking ahead to the “Canuck It Up! “ festival and beyond.

Demolition started last Wednesday morning with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo getting the opportunity to take the first chunks out of the motel portion. Jones Group has been busy since then bringing down other parts of the structures.

DiCarlo noted where the town was several years ago with its financial issues but believed the Duffy’s development represents the “change and rebirth” that has been happening since.

With Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the helm, an excavator prepares to take the first chunks out of the motel  portion of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn last Wednesday.

With Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the helm, an excavator prepares to take the first chunks out of the motel portion of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn last Wednesday.

“This pretty much sums that up,” said DiCarlo.

The mayor didn’t downplay the impact Duffy’s had in Amherstburg during its existence but said sometimes things need to change.

“I don’t want to diminish what Duffy’s has meant to the town by any means,” he said. “It was a landmark, for sure.”

Duffy’s and its redevelopment plans are one of two major Dalhousie St. projects the town has on its plate – Belle Vue being the other – with DiCarlo stating “sometimes it’s OK to take things down, other things you keep forever.”

A concept plan the town has prepared for the Duffy’s site includes plazas, an amphitheatre, a marina and boat ramp, accessible washrooms, a fishing wharf, boat trailer parking and more.

With Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the helm, an excavator prepares to take the first chunks out of the motel  portion of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn last Wednesday.

With Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the helm, an excavator prepares to take the first chunks out of the motel portion of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn last Wednesday.

“We will go to the public for consultation,” said DiCarlo.

That meeting will be at the Libro Centre June 15, with the Duffy’s land being discussed from 5-7 p.m. and Belle Vue from 7-9 p.m.

There is no timeline currently established, DiCarlo added, with the redevelopment of the land depending on money. He said the town is looking at private sponsorships and funding from upper levels of government.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo sizes up the job he did while tearing down part of Duffy’s last Wednesday.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo sizes up the job he did while tearing down part of Duffy’s last Wednesday.

CAO John Miceli said while the demolition contract calls for it to last 11 weeks, he is confident the site will be cleared in time for the “Canuck It Up!” festival Aug. 5-6.

“The whole demolition schedule was set up to accommodate that event,” said Miceli.

Miceli envisioned development opportunities in that area of Amherstburg and said it will be “amazing” to look west from Gore St. and see the area opened up.

Nothing but rubble remained last Thursday afternoon after the motel portion of Duffy’s was torn down.

Nothing but rubble remained last Thursday afternoon after the motel portion of Duffy’s was torn down.

The mayor seemed to be amazed when using the heavy construction equipment, saying he appreciated the Jones Group for letting him use it. Calling himself “a machine junkie,” DiCarlo said using the excavator to knock down part of the building was something he could cross off his bucket list.

“That was a real joy for me,” he said.