Essex County council

Bain honoured at Warden’s Banquet, potential successors emerge

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Warden Tom Bain is saying goodbye to that position and now knows who is officially interested in taking over the Essex County’s top political job.

Bain, who will be returning to county council as the mayor of Lakeshore, is stepping down as warden at the term’s end. Bain has served as warden, which is the head of county council, since 2010. He also served as warden in 1993 when the position had a one-year term.

Seeking to replace Bain as warden are Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara. Santos was the warden from 2006-10 and while McNamara has never been warden, he has 20 years of experience on county council and is a former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

Bain is finishing up two consecutive four year terms as warden, and told the crowd at the Warden’s Banquet Friday night he enjoyed the experience.

“It’s been great the last four years,” he said. “It’s been great the last eight years.”

Bain said past wardens have been his mentors and many were on hand to show their support.

“They gave me a lot of experience and they taught me a lot of knowledge,” he said.

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle, Windsor West MP Brian Masse and Essex MP Tracey Ramsey paid tribute to Tom Bain (second from right) at the recent warden’s banquet.

Essex County staff have also been great to work with, he added, noting that former CAO Brian Gregg and current CAO Rob Maisonville were very helpful when he brought issues to their attention.

Noting he recently looked at a photo of the 1993 Essex County council, Bain joked about being the only one left in municipal politics.

“I’m like a TV star,” he quipped. “I’m the Last Man Standing.”

Bain said he has always pushed the concept of teamwork over the years, whether it be on county council, his council in Lakeshore or with staff. He added that he has had a good working relationship with Windsor, including current mayor Drew Dilkens and former mayor Eddie Francis.

Essex County is now debt-free with a AA+ credit rating, he added. Other priorities have included health care, such as the new mega-hospital, and the Hospice in Leamington. Widening Highway 3 is still an issue, he noted, and “we as county council have to keep pushing for that.”

Bain also received numerous awards and tributes during the night. A trio of local Members of Parliament – Essex MP Tracey Ramsey, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor West MP Brian Masse – were on hand as was Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, the latter also making a presentation on behalf of Essex MPP Taras Natyshak.

“He really has made a significant difference in our community,” said Ramsey.

Hardcastle, who once served on county council with Bain, praised him for his leadership and said she was inspired by him. Masse served on the ERCA board of directors with Bain when Masse was a Windsor city councillor and said Bain was someone he could look to as a role model.

Warden Tom Bain addresses the crowd at a banquet in his honour Friday night. Bain is will not seek the county warden position again but will return to county council as Lakeshore mayor. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara will attempt to succeed him as warden.

Santos, when declaring his interest to be the next county warden, said he is “very proud of the progress that has been made” and said he has an open door policy. He believes he has a calm demeanor and that he will continue to listen to people and other county council members.

“I am willing to fight for causes for Essex County,” said Santos.

McNamara also pointed out the county’s debt-free position.

“Not many municipalities can say that,” he said.

McNamara thanked his own residents in Tecumseh for returning him to Essex County council and believed he has the leadership and experience to lead county council through 2022.

The inaugural meeting of the new county council will be Dec. 12. That is the night the new warden and deputy warden will be elected by their peers.

Outgoing county council members say goodbye, returning members offer thanks

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The 2014-18 term of Essex County council is wrapping up with the final meeting of the term now having been held.

The five outgoing members said farewell while other members that are returning also offered thanks to administration, fellow county council members and Warden Tom Bain. It was also the last meeting as warden for Bain, although he is returning to Essex County council for the 2018-22 term due to him still being mayor of Lakeshore.

Saying goodbye were Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, Leamington Mayor John Paterson, LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya, Essex Mayor Ron McDermott and Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio. DiPasquale, Antaya and McDermott are retiring from politics while Paterson and Fazio were not successful in their re-election bids.

“It’s been a great pleasure for me to be here these last four years,” said DiPasquale. “I learned a lot of things I didn’t know. It’s been a great ride for me.”

DiPasquale thanked county council and administration, stating “I think we’ve done a pretty good job working together.”

Paterson recalled his early days on county council when he was told to take his Leamington hat off and wear a county hat instead. He noted he brought up questions that may have gone against the status quo but did so to for the benefit of the county, adding he never felt a “negative vibe” from anyone for doing so.

There were “battles” at points, Paterson added, but “when we were done, we were done.” He also recalled the times when the county was unified, including when meeting with ministers from upper levels of government on issues.

Antaya, the current deputy warden, thanked his own residents for electing him to begin with.

“It was a thrill serving the community I grew up in. It was the crowning moment of my career,” said Antaya.

Antaya thanked the administration at the county level, noting the transition between CAO’s was “seamless” after Brian Gregg retired and Rob Maisonville took over.  He called Bain a “terrific leader” and told him “you represented the county well.”

“I enjoyed working with every one of you,” Antaya told his fellow county council members.

McDermott got choked up at points during his farewell address, thanking his community for his 15 years of service. He also thanked his deputy mayor Richard Meloche, who McDermott said has been there the entire 15 years with him. Meloche will be returning to county council next term.

“The staff is unbelievable,” McDermott said of the county’s administration, and also expressed thanks to his colleagues and Bain.

Fazio thanked Bain for being his “mentor” in both Lakeshore and at the county level. He also expressed gratitude to administration, his family, his fellow county councillors and the residents. He also thanked members of the committees he has sat on.

“It’s been a great eight years on county council,” said Fazio.

The returning members to Essex County council include both Kingsville and Tecumseh mayors and deputy mayors with Nelson Santos and Gord Queen representing the former and Gary McNamara and Joe Bachetti representing the latter.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo will be returning as well. Hilda MacDonald and Marc Bondy will also be returning, but will be moving up from deputy mayor to mayor in Leamington and LaSalle respectively.

DiCarlo also expressed thanks to his colleagues for their hospitality when he first arrived four years ago. With the town going through severe financial challenges, DiCarlo recalled being given advice by many other members of county council.

“The support was truly overwhelming,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo also noted he was welcomed right from the start, despite not having much political experience when he was first elected. He wished outgoing members well and said he looks forward to working with the incoming county council to “continue to work together to make Essex County the best place to be.”

MacDonald noted she was the only female member of county council these last four years but said she was treated equally and with respect during the term. She thanked Bain for making her feel welcome and comfortable.

“You treated me well,” said MacDonald, who will be one of three women on the next 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.