Essex County council

TWEPI boasts increased numbers in social media, web and hotel activity

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Representatives from Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) were at Essex County council at their most recent meeting with improvements being touted in several areas.

TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr, vice president Lynnette Bain and director of marketing Kris Racine were at county council’s most recent meeting updating the elected officials about what the tourism agency has been doing. Highlights included a new logo, the “Where Can We Take You” and “Visit Your Neighbour” campaigns and the fact four conferences either have been or will be in the Windsor-area this year.  The Barrels, Bottles and Breweries tours along with coffee trails and “We Heart Local” campaigns were also highlighted for county council.

Some of the big gains have been made online, with statistics showing that unique visitors to the www.visitwindsoressex.com website have risen 12.9 per cent over the last year. Social media activity has been on the rise with Facebook activity going up 49.9 per cent, Instagram 19.3 per cent and Twitter 75.6 per cent.

“We’re seeing double-digit growth in all social media platforms. It’s a great way to push out content,” said Orr. “Social media teases the receiver and then they click on and they go back to our website where they get more information. They’re given a number of reasons of where we can take you when they come to visit Windsor-Essex and Pelee Island.”

Kris Racine, Gordon Orr and Lynnette Bain appeared before Essex County council at their most recent meeting providing an update on the area’s tourism and social media activity.

Orr said TWEPI is also offering a pilot project where grants are awarded to those with new tourism ideas and the funds are used to develop them. That program has resulted in innovative ideas and job creation, he stated.

Hotel occupancy in Windsor-Essex County has risen 1.2 per cent in terms of overnight stays while overall occupancy has increased 4.95 per cent in the last year.

“Those are positive figures because for a lot of years they were kind of flat-lined. More people are staying overnight and when they’re staying overnight they’re spending more money in the region,” Orr said. “Everyone right from Windsor to Haldimand County, Windsor-Essex has seen the most positive hotel growth in that entire region. So it’s not everybody, it’s Windsor-Essex that’s doing very well. London is doing well but we usually beat them or we come close to doing it on a quarterly basis.”

Orr acknowledged that Amherstburg is working to land a hotel, with Lakeshore and Tecumseh also wanting one as well.

Warden Tom Bain thanked the TWEPI officials for their hard work and for keeping county council informed.

“We appreciate you coming in and keeping us up to speed on the work you are doing,” he said.

 

County council approves more tenders for road work

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council has approved further tenders for roadwork later this year.

After already approving a tender a few weeks valued at $1,549,708 plus HST for five road projects involving “cold in-place recycling with expanded asphalt mix,” county council followed that up with another tender for the actual asphalt resurfacing – or “hot mix resurfacing” – for the next phase of those projects.

Those projects under the most recent tender, valued at $4,687,770 plus HST, include the previous five projects among which were the stretch of County Road 18 between Concession 6 South and Howard Ave. and County Road 8 between Howard Ave. and Walker Road.

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

The latest tender for the hot mix resurfacing went to the Mill-Am Corporation. The tender price came in under the engineer’s estimate of $4,718,000.

The County of Essex is also in the midst of rehabilitating the County Road 12 bridge over the McLean Drain, just east of Walker Road. Director of infrastructure services/county engineer Tom Bateman noted the work does require a complete bridge closure.

“The scope of work on this project includes the replacement and repair of the concrete wing walls, repairs to the underside of the concrete bridge deck and abutments as well as pavement preservation. The proposed works will not require a road closure as temporary traffic control signals will be utilized to maintain a single lane of traffic over the bridge for the project’s five-week duration,” Bateman stated in his report to Essex County council.

The County Road 12 bridge project was awarded to Front Construction for a total tender amount of $193,200 plus HST. That is up slightly over the engineer’s estimate of $190,000.

 

Essex County council ratifies EWSWA budgets

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The 2017 and 2018 budgets for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) are one step closer to being finally completed.

Essex County council has given its approval to the two years worth of budgets, with the 2017 budget calling for a zero per cent increase and the 2018 budget calling for a two per cent increase. EWSWA general manager Eli Maodus pointed out that the process calls for approvals from both county council and Windsor city council.

In his report, Maodus noted that a $447,480 contribution from the authority’s rate stabilization reserve was required to balance the 2018 budget. He stated that “this reserve is used to smooth out any large increases to the total waste management fee.”

The rate stabilization reserve is projected to be $16.6 million at the end of 2018.

County CAO Rob Maisonville said a ten-year plan is being created knowing that reserve is in play. The new plan, he noted, would use reserves but “find a balance” in order to maintain them as much as possible.

“Those reserves aren’t going to last,” cautioned Warden Tom Bain, who had multiple meetings with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins, Maisonville and city CAO Onorio Colucci.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said the $16 million reserve may look like a lot, but there is debt and a reduction in tonnage that has to be considered as well. He said there has to be a grasp on what costs will be in the future.

“That $16 million will disappear in a hurry,” he said.

The landfill debt is reportedly $65 million.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott questioned procedure, stating that the budget problems were started when two years worth of budgets tried to be passed at once. McDermott was concerned that county council was doing the same thing last Wednesday, but each budget was eventually passed.

Road and bridge work coming to Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council has approved tenders that will lead to road and bridge work being done in Amherstburg when the warmer weather hits.

County council awarded a tender to Coco Paving Inc. valued at $1,549,708 plus HST for five road projects, two of which impact Amherstburg. The roadwork, described in a report from director of engineering services/county engineer Tom Bateman as “cold in-place recycling with expanded asphalt mix,” will see the pavement redone on County Road 8 between Howard Ave. and Walker Road.

The county performed work on County Road 8 last year between River Canard and Howard Ave.
The second project that impacts Amherstburg will see County Road 18 redone between Concession 6 South and Howard Ave.

Much like County Road 8, County Road 18 also had work done on it last year with that seeing a new road surface and paved cycling lanes put in between Meloche Road and Concession 6 South.

The other three projects that the County of Essex will be doing under this tender include County Road 20 between Dimenna Drive and Kratz Road in Kingsville, County Road 34 between Road 3 and Highway 3 in Kingsville and County Road 46 between Richardson Sideroad and County Road 37 in Lakeshore.

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

There will also be lane restrictions on the Canard River bridge on County Road 20 later this year. Bateman noted that the scope of work on the bridge includes the replacement of the easterly barrier wall.

“The proposed works do not require a road closure,” Bateman stated in his report to county council. “A similar project was undertaken in late 2017 on the west barrier wall system.”

The tender for the bridge work was awarded to Facca Incorporated at a total tender amount of $163,200 plus HST.

“We anticipate starting this work early in the spring,” said Bateman.

Essex County council also voted to dispose of property it owns at 970 County Road 41. Formerly known as the Harrow Yard, it was used since 1999 for equipment storage and part of the traffic signal maintenance operations.

County CAO Rob Maisonville said the Harrow Yard was appraised at $418,000. It is no longer needed since the West End Depot on North Side Road in Amherstburg was commissioned as the new yard combines both the Harrow Yard and the Gesto Yard.

The county will retain the Gesto Yard as it serves as a temporary response post for Essex-Windsor EMS during periods of providing balanced emergency coverage for Amherstburg and Essex.

County council opposes AMO motion to increase provincial sales tax by 1%

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A senior advisor from the Associations of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) came forward to county council Jan. 17 to discuss their proposal to raise HST by one percent to help fund critical services in communities across the province.

In what Matt Wilson, AMO senior advisor called “the most ambitious engagements” AMO has undertaken in the last 10 years, he explained project started in spring 2015 with three phases. He stated the first phase is to identify the problem, the challenges and the economic realities. The second phase slowed them to explore options, of which there were 44. The third, and current, phase sees AMO presenting the action plan which Wilson pointed out their board of directors has unanimously endorsed.

It was a very different story at county council.

Wilson went on to explain the solutions AMO narrowed down to needed to be sustainable, long-term plans to one problem.

“The problem is that to deliver existing services and close the infrastructure gap, every year for the next 10 years, municipalities will need an additionally $4.9 billion,” said Wilson. “That’s a substantial sum of money and as I’m sure you can appreciate, it includes a number of assumptions as well. Two of the most critical assumptions, that this $4.9 billion annual need is on top of inflationary increases to property taxes and user fees and it also assumes all existing federal and provincial commitments are fulfilled.”

Wilson said the one per cent municipal sales tax, which would be added to the current 13 per cent HST tax, would help fund critical local services such as roads, bridges and transit while reducing the upward pressure of property tax bills. He gave an example of what increases property taxes would look like as an alternative.

“If we use a property tax to close that gap, it would requite an eight per cent revenue increase per year for ten years,” said Wilson. “Of course, as you well know Ontarians already pay the highest property taxes in the country. We have to ask some pretty realistic questions about whether those increases are achievable, or whether they are desirable. To give you an example, a person who was paying $3,000 a year in property taxes in 2015, would be paying about $6,700 a year by 2025, for a fairly substantial increase as I’m sure you would agree.”

While county council did agree with his point, many councillors voiced their concerns about the overall affect on the taxpayers. Leamington Mayor John Paterson brought up points about Ontario’s high hydro costs and the recent raise of minimum wage which is affecting local small businesses with the costs associated with the pay increase.

“All these increases in costs of living in this province – the last thing I want to do is go back to an Ontarian and say, we’re going to add one per cent to your sales tax to help us manage our infrastructure,” said Paterson. “I’m not going to deny you numbers here. I don’t disagree with them at all, but at this point in time, I think if you went back, you said the survey you did was last June, I think if you went back and asked those same Ontarians what they’re thinking, they may not be as supportive of this idea.”

Wilson rebutted Paterson’s point by explaining even if they don’t like this solution as it has been proposed, he asked them to think about how it may be a way for the municipalities to go back to the province with a solution and if they don’t like the solution as it’s been proposed, perhaps it would allow them to come forward with another option.

With that in mind, Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio said his concern is that if they come forward with a one per cent increase, somewhere down the line it would turn to two per cent, then three per cent, and so on.

“The problem is always going to be there,” said Fazio. “The issue regarding roads and bridges etcetera is always going to be an issue in the municipalities. I think the province should give us some of their money, that’s how I feel. Honestly, I’m not going to vote in favour of the motion. There is a problem, and this might be the solution in the future, but to me, it’s not the right time.”