Essex County council

County, city make progress towards 2017 EWSWA budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After a prolonged dispute between the County of Essex and City of Windsor, it appears a 2017 budget has finally been struck for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA).

The board has been operating without a budget during the past year as the county and city representatives on the board were unable to agree on a budget. County council rejected a 2017 budget at their Dec. 2016 meeting but it was at their second meeting of December of 2017 that elected officials learned progress appears to be at hand.

Responding to a question on the matter from LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya, Warden Tom Bain said that he met with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins on the matter and that they – along with the chief administrative officers (CAOs) from the two municipalities – have reached a compromise.

“We have come up with a solution to the problem,” Bain reported to Essex County council.

Bain expressed confidence it will be a solution that the EWSWA board will approve of. Should it be approved of at that level, it would have to be also approved by county and city councils.

The warden did not provide much detail as to what the proposed new budget contains, but indicated that the county wants to ensure there are reserves for the landfill “and this (agreement) will do that.”

“We feel we’ve reached a compromise,” Bain told reporters after the meeting, noting it has been a “unique” situation to go for a full calendar year without one.

“We’ve been able to carry on and pay the bills and not run into any problems,” said Bain.

The recommended solution will also assist in drafting a 2018 budget as well as lay the groundwork for the next five to ten years, he believed.

“We’re going to suggest a path to be followed so we don’t encounter these problems again,” said Bain.

The warden added that he, Dilkins and the two CAOs put their “cards on the table” and after some “give and take,” they were finally able to come up with a solution.

The proposal is expected to go before the EWSWA in early January.

Essex County council approves early release of $5.7 million worth of road projects

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council has approved the early release of $5.7 million worth of road projects, four of which will impact Amherstburg.

The remainder of the $11.2 million worth of road projects will be debated during next month’s budget deliberations.

Director of transportation services/county engineer Tom Bateman said the practice of releasing funds early has been one that has worked out well for the county.

“We’ve met with excellent success over the years,” Bateman told county council, “and we’re looking for similar success in 2018.”

In his report to county council, Bateman noted “an increase from 2017 in the expenditure level of the overall rehabilitation program in the amount of $579,200 has been included for 2018 providing a total funding of $11,221,400.” The increased funding is supported through a $320,000 annual incremental increase, a $156,280 Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) increase and a gas tax agreement of $102,920.

The four projects planned for Amherstburg, all designated for early release, include structural deterioration rehabilitation for the Canard River bridge on County Road 20, a culvert replacement on County Road 20 at Concession 7 South, pavement rehabilitation on County Road 8 between Howard Ave. and Walker Road and pavement rehabilitation on County Road 18 between Concession 6 South and Howard Ave. The latter project will also include paved shoulders, which is also part of the County-Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) plan.

County Road 18 between Concession 6 South and Howard Ave. is scheduled to be repaved, including paved shoulders, in 2018.

The estimates on those projects are $190,000, $675,000, $500,000 and $510,000 respectively.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson questioned the 25-year capital expansion plan, which he said sees only nine per cent of $322 million in roadwork proposed for Leamington, Kingsville, Essex and Amherstburg. According to Paterson, 91 per cent of it is planned for Tecumseh, LaSalle and Lakeshore.

“It certainly doesn’t seem very equitable across the county,” said Paterson. “I’m not looking for answers tonight. I just want to bring it up because I think it’s important.”

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara indicated the issue dates back to when a portion of what is now Tecumseh was given over to Windsor. McNamara said Tecumseh has been “very patient” as it awaits resolution to some of its roadway issues.

“The amount of traffic that goes through our community is very high,” said McNamara. “Obviously you’ve got to take a bus tour to the north end of the county to see how traffic really moves.”

Bateman said there are capacity issues in the northern part of the county, stating there isn’t the same level of capacity issues in the southern portions of Essex County that need addressing.

As it relates to the capacity expansion program, Bateman wrote in his report: “County Council has adopted a financial forecasting tool to address the roadway expansion requirements as identified in the Essex Windsor Regional Transportation Master Plan, updated for inflationary considerations, along with estimates, based on recent reports, for the expansion costs of selected high volume highways. The model is premised on 1.5 per cent levy increases through 2018 to accommodate the approximate $400 million of infrastructure. In 2012, the financial model was amended to identify and prioritize expansion requirements exclusive of senior government funding and grade separations. In order to accommodate 100 per cent municipal funding, the schedule has been elongated to 2040 to manage the financial burden within reasonable limits of the county levy.”

 

Economic Development Centre funding proposal for Smart and Connected Borders approved

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

During an overview of the economic development activities for Windsor and Essex County, the CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation also brought forth their $10 million project for Smart and Connected Borders.

The five-year project is in two parts. The first part is the connected and automated vehicle infrastructure integration, and the second is the smart borders information system.

In CEO Stephen MacKenzie’s proposal to county council Nov. 1, they explained the Smart Borders portion of the project is being submitted to Transport Canada’s National Trade Corridors Fund, which involves multiple collaborators in Canada and the U.S. It will “draw on available and emerging technologies, and facilitate information exchange among key players with the goal of improving the speed and efficacy of the customs, immigration and security functions.”

The idea is to improve traffic flow, while complementing the marine domain awareness proposal by Accipiter Radar Technologies Inc.

The connected and automated vehicle infrastructure Integration (CAVBII) portion of the project, will “establish a demonstration site to develop, test and spur networking and information exchange on the application of connected and automated vehicles (CAV) technologies in relation to border crossings.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to seize the moment in particular with the autonomous vehicles moving forward,” said Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara. “There are some companies that are certainly going to take advantage of the electric vehicles and all of that new technology. It’s not just about the automobiles, but it’s the automation in the industry as a whole and I’m glad to hear that we’re not going to wait until we’re an afterthought. In the future I think it’s boundless in terms of opportunities that could bring to our region because of our geographical positioning in North America. I certainly want to commend your efforts and staff in bringing this forward and there’s no doubt that this should be supported unanimously in that particular regard.”

MacKenzie’s proposal was approved with unanimous support.

During his deliberation, he also spoke about their satellite small business center, which was opened up in Essex on Maidstone Ave., co-located in the business resource center of Essex County. He went through a number of metrics gathered for the 2017 year, until the end of September. He said they have provided services to 1,808 clients, 595 of which were in the county.

The small business center also assisted entrepreneurs to start 188 businesses as of September, 42 of which are located in the county. They also track the start ups from the previous year to see if any of them have made expansions. As of September, MacKenzie reported they had 100 companies which they previously assisted in starting up expand, 41 of which were in the county.

The job creation totals, which are self reported by the businesses, came in at 429 jobs, 172 of which were in the county.

“We also had the small business expo in October at the Caboto Club,” said MacKenzie. “It was very successful, we had about 75 small businesses from the county and from the city, and we had over 500 folks from the public come in, learn about the companies, buy purchases right there.”

For more information on the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, visit their website choosewindsoressex.com

Open house coming Wednesday night on proposed elimination of vacancy tax rebate program

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex is hosting a vacancy tax rebate program open house Wednesday night and businesses from around the county are expected to attend.

According to the county’s website, the vacancy tax rebate program was established in 2001 under section 364 of the Municipal Act.

According to the county, “the program provides tax rebates to owners of vacant property in the commercial and industrial tax classes. The commercial class receives a 30 per cent rebate, while the industrial class receives a 35 per cent rebate if the property has remained vacant for a minimum of 90 consecutive days.”

The county further notes that recent changes to the legislation now affords municipalities the opportunity to review and assess the merits and success of the program.

The total value of vacancy rebates for the town of Amherstburg in 2016 was $54,536.

Reasons listed for consideration of scrapping the program include the belief that vacant properties have a negative impact on neighbourhoods; funds recovered from the program could be re-invested in incentives for growth and development and could be better aligned with Community Improvement Plans and that funds recovered would be invested in enhancing municipal services.

The county states there is “some concern that the program encourages a lack of property development and also discourages seasonal renting” and “there is no guarantee that the tax savings from the rebate program is used to increase rental viability.”

The program also requires “significant administrative resources” to administer with the number of applications for vacancy tax rebates also being on the decline in many Essex County municipalities in recent years.

Mary Birch, director of council services/clerk for the County of Essex, told county council last Wednesday night that in order to make changes to or eliminate the program, a public consultation process has to be undertaken. She said the open house will allow businesses and property owners the opportunity to come in and explain how eliminating the program would impact them.

“We’re anticipating there will be representation of each municipality at the open house,” said Birch.

Birch said recommendations will go back to each of the seven Essex County municipalities with a report to come back to county council, likely in November.

“It’s a lengthy process,” said Birch. “We hope to have it completed by the end of the year so we can have it completed by the 2018 taxation year.”

Justin Rousseau, director of corporate services/treasurer for the town of Amherstburg, also noted the request to change the program must be made to the Minister of Finance by the upper tier municipality, which is the County of Essex.

“The rebate applies to commercial property owners in the town, they will no longer be able to get a property tax reduction for empty store fronts.  By not offering the program the town will be able to keep the additional $54,536 that it was not able to in 2016,” said Rousseau. “The benefit to that is it helps reduce pressures on the municipal tax mill rate for all the residents of the town.  The drawback is now there is no relief for the owners of vacant store in the town.”

The open house is Sept. 27 from 4-7 p.m. at the Essex Civic Centre, located at 360 Fairview Ave. W. in Essex.

Construction of salt storage facility within new West End Depot approved

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A new salt storage facility will be the most recent addition to the West End Depot development, coming in nearly $13,000 under budget.

“We have been redeveloping a West End Depot, we did complete the main building, site mark and the roadway improvements to support this development this year,” director of transportation services/county engineer Tom Bateman told Essex County council. “We assumed possession of the building in mid-June and we’ve been commissioning it and operating out of there at present for some road maintenance. The next component of the project is to construct a salt storage facility.”

Completed main building photographs from the administrative report for the West End Depot Development, as seen in the September 6 County Council meeting agenda.
(Special to the RTT)

Bateman explained, the structure they are contracting out to build on the West End Depot lot, located on North Side Road just east of Howard Ave. in Amherstburg, measures 80-feet by 120-feet. It will be a fabric covered done built on a reinforced concrete wall system, which is similar to what they have at their other depots. It will allow storage for 5,000 tonnes of salt.

“We issued a design-build proposal call utilizing an electronic tendering system,” said Bateman. “We reviewed the tenders and proposals for the clients with specifications and requirements in those proposals and we’re recommending that the tendered design of the salt storage facility in the West End Depot be awarded to Barineti Construction at $362,000 plus HST.”

The most expensive estimate for the project was $461,058.03.

Bateman’s proposal to move forward with Barineti Construction’s estimate was carried.

Funding for this project is included in the 2017 Transportation Services

Department budget.