WETRA gets over $596,000 to expand programming


By Ron Giofu


The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) will get a chance to expand its programming thanks to funding from the federal government.

Essex MP Jeff Watson announced last Friday that the McGregor-based riding organization has received funding of over $596,000 “to help you meet the growing need of people with disabilities in this community.” Watson made the announcement on behalf of Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley.

“You should be proud of your work,” Watson told assembled staff and volunteers.

The project WETRA received funding for is designed to encourage people with disabilities to participate in therapeutic horseback riding, which in turn, will help them build self-confidence and allow them to socialize with a wider range of people.

“This new funding will allow more people to benefit from this and that is good news,” said Watson.

Watson stated people with disabilities “have so much to offer” and was pleased the project offered by WETRA was being offered in Essex County.


Essex MP Jeff Watson (crouching) chats with WETRA executive director Sue Klotzer (left) after Watson announced over $596,000 in federal funding for the McGregor-based organization last Friday morning. Also pictured is Dana Ursu with Bella.

Essex MP Jeff Watson (crouching) chats with WETRA executive director Sue Klotzer (left) after Watson announced over $596,000 in federal funding for the McGregor-based organization last Friday morning. Also pictured is Dana Ursu with Bella.

“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting innovative solutions that help remove barriers to the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities,” said Watson.

“Through our partnership with WETRA, we are improving the participation of people with disabilities in our society. We’re going to be able to take a one-of-a-kind program to the rest of Canada.”

Barb Holland, WETRA board president, said she was “smiling all morning” due to the announcement.

“We are truly blessed,” she said. “I think this is one of the highest moments WETRA has ever had.”

Holland said they were proud to be a pilot project for the government and was pleased Ottawa had the faith in WETRA to give them the funding.

“We’re delighted to partner with them,” she said.

Holland pledged that the money would be used wisely.

“We see great results every day with the clients that come out of here,” said Holland. “It’s real and it’s life changing.”

WETRA has a long waiting list and a small staff, Holland added, with the money finally allowing them to expand services.

“You need the resources but we didn’t have them (before),” said Holland.

WETRA began 40 years ago on a smaller piece of property on Huron Church Road in LaSalle before moving to its expanded location near McGregor a few years ago. Executive director Sue Klotzer said they have achieved tremendous results over the years including seeing people with illnesses be transformed into people that can go on to have successful careers.

“This is just a fabulous amount of money to put to a great use,” said Klotzer. “I’m just a very happy person today.”

Amherstburg Farmers’ Market opens for 2013 season


By Ron Giofu


The Amherstburg Farmers’ Market has re-opened and the 2013 season is underway.

The market opened last Saturday with 13 vendors and the hope is that more will be added as the 2013 season progresses.

“We’re always looking for more,” stated market manager Gwen McCloskey. “My goal is to get 20 vendors this year. I’m trying to grow it as best as I can.”

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota added that many popular vendors from previous years have returned with McCloskey adding that new vendors have joined them.

Connor Boufford pets an alpaca held by Greg Precop of Celestal Casa Alpacas during the  opening day of the Amherstburg Farmers’ Market. Heidi Boufford is also pictured.

Connor Boufford pets an alpaca held by Greg Precop of Celestal Casa Alpacas during the
opening day of the Amherstburg Farmers’ Market. Heidi Boufford is also pictured.

Most vendors are from the Amherstburg and Harrow areas.

McCloskey stated there will be entertainment and things to do throughout the season as well. Singer/songwriter Tara Watts will be on hand one of the Saturdays as will singers from the University of Windsor, yoga, Canada Day events and other happenings. Pony rides were held as part of opening weekend.

McCloskey said she was pleased with the opening Saturday’s turnout.

“There’s been tons of people,” said McCloskey.

The Amherstburg Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Malden Community and Cultural Centre (MCCC).

The Shaanti International Museum of Costumes and Dolls is also open and people who visit the market can also tour the museum inside the MCCC.

The market runs through the end of August.

For more information, visit www.amherstburgfarmersmarket.com or call 519-730-1309.


New vacation policy adopted by county council


By Ron Giofu


Accrued vacation time by its non-unionized employees has become problematic enough for the County of Essex to the point where a new policy has been adopted.

Essex County council adopted the new policy as put forth by its director of human resources Greg Schlosser.  The policy covers the approximately 56 non-unionized employees the county has.

One of the highlights of the policy is a “use it or lose it” provision which allows employees to only carry forth ten days of vacation time into the next year with the remainder forfeited.

Schlosser stated in his report to county council that, at the end of 2012, there were 12 employees with more than 200 hours of unused vacation accumulated over previous years.

That figure did not include their 2013 vacation allotments.

At the end of January 2013, five employees have over 500 hours of accrued vacation time.

The policy comes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. Vacation time will be forfeited for the first time in Feb. 2015.

“We want to put plans in place for people to use the vacation time,” said Schlosser.

There is a “use it or lose it” provision in the current policy, he added, but it wasn’t forced enough.

Essex County council also approved revisions to its non-union overtime policy. In his report, Schlosser explained “the intent of the proposed policy is to more closely document what the current practices are. There have been a few modifications to current practices intended to introduce more balance, where possible.”

Schlosser noted that administration surveyed other municipal employers.

“The survey results showed a similar non-uniform administration of overtime for non union employees. The revised policy attempts to reflect what the most common approach to non-union overtime was. More specifically, that is, an extra week of time off in lieu of overtime worked, and payment only for significant extra hours.”

The extra week in time off would also fall under the “use it or lose it” provision, he added.

Texas Road restoration plans embraced by residents


By Ron Giofu


Joanne DiPierdomenico has been waiting three decades for improvements to her road.

Now, at long last, she is finally seeing results.

Joanne, along with husband Nick, were two of the homeowners that attended an open house last Tuesday at the UCCU Complex and was happy with what she saw on the tables and display boards.

“I’m pleased to see it’s finally going to happen,” she said. “It’s been a long time waiting – 30 years. Let’s hope it’s going to be worth it.”

When Joanne appeared before the current town council earlier in the term, she sensed there would finally be progress in getting long-awaited work done on Texas Road.

“I felt (council’s) response was positive,” she said. “I really did feel we stood a chance of finally achieving this.”

Sidewalks on both sides of the street along with the streetlights were seen as big enhancements as does the plan to install a bike lane. The new road itself will also be a major upgrade, she suggested.

“No more potholes will be lovely,” she stated.

Nick was also “pretty happy” with what he saw at the open house. He pointed out that the sidewalks on both sides of the street would address safety concerns residents have.

“It’s definitely a lot safer,” he said.

Texas Road resident Sharon Uttaro (right) discusses the road restoration project with engineer Henry Kakko of RC Spencer Associates. Construction is due to begin the first week of July.

Texas Road resident Sharon Uttaro (right) discusses the road restoration project with engineer Henry Kakko of RC Spencer Associates. Construction is due to begin the first week of July.

The newly reconstructed road will eliminate extra parking residents currently use but Nick said that is not a big deal.

“That’s a minor thing,” he said. “It’s nothing major. We just have to be creative.”

The newly reconstructed road will be a “great asset” for seniors and families, stated Sharon Uttaro.

The concrete sidewalks on both sides of the road as well as the bike lane will enhance healthy lifestyles as well as safety, she added.

“These are great additions.”

Uttaro added she looks forward to the Texas Road project being completed.

“I think it’s very promising,” she said.

Marie Duby also said the sidewalks will be a big upgrade for the road.

“There are always people walking down Texas Road,” said Duby.

Duby also noted the parking issue but added, “we’ll have to figure it all out.”

Overall, Duby was happy with what she saw as well.

“I’m just glad it’s getting done,” she said. “It’ll make a big difference.”

The comments from residents were mainly upbeat, according to director of engineering and infrastructure Lou Zarlenga.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments and a lot of happy people,” said Zarlenga. “They can’t wait until it starts. They are quite content and anxious to see the completion. For the most part, people are saying it’s about time.”

Zarlenga stated little to no changes were suggested by residents.

“When they see the amenities that are going to be built, they are quite happy,” he said.

Many of the concerns raised included what happens to driveways that get damaged during construction.  The town is stating driveway reconstruction will occur within the public right-of-way only and that portion will be replaced with the preconstruction materials for concrete, asphalt and brick pavers. Existing stone driveways will be replaced with asphalt.

People were also wondering about detours, he said, with there being no detours during the construction process.

Grass areas that are damaged will also be restored, said Zarlenga.

This year’s first phase of the project will run from Front Road North to just west of Knobb Hill Dr. The second phase will occur next year and will extend to roughly 100-metres west of Thomas Road.

Each phase is estimated at $3-million apiece.

Zarlenga said the entire project will be tendered at once with one contractor doing both phases. When the project resumes next spring, Zarlenga said the existing contractor will be able to simply pick up where they left off.

“We anticipate by doing that, we’re going to get a better price,” said Zarlenga.

The project calls for a 2.7-metre concrete path on the north side with that side also having the new decorative street lighting. A 1.5-metre bike lane will be on the south side with a 1.5-metre concrete sidewalk. The roadway is also planned to include curb and gutter.

“(Residents) are quite happy the drainage is going to be looked at from one end to the other,” said Zarlenga.

With the new storm sewers also going in, it means the open ditches are going to be a thing of the past, he added.

The town also plans to recycle as much of the current roadway as possible, Zarlenga stated.

“We’re all looking forward to getting this project underway and completely successful,” he said.

Shovels should be in the ground on the first phase during the first week in July.

Town to further study parking limitations in downtown core


By Ron Giofu


Town council has asked administration to return with a report so the issue of parking and time limits to do so are studied further.

The motion was passed during Monday night’s meeting after members of the business community appeared to air their concerns over the recent increase of enforcement of the town’s two-hour parking limit bylaw. Gay-Anne Ledingham and Steve Done voiced their concerns as well as the concerns of other businesses in the downtown core, noting parking is a “growing concern to the business community.”

“With the growing tourism – which is up 171% since 2009 – along with a population increase of 0.3% from 2001 to 2006, the two-hour limit is in need of a better solution to what already in place,” said Done. “In a recent push to have this limit enforced, it became apparent that this limit along with the fact there is limited number of spaces available does not suit the current needs of the businesses in the downtown core.”

Extending the parking time limit from two to four hours has been floated, said Done, but that was found not to be the best solution either.

“One major concern for most people is the use of the downtown parking spots for employee parking. There is a vast majority of businesses that do not have any parking with their locations and therefore their employees are forced to find parking in the immediate area,” said Done. “There are other businesses, like the banks, that employee a large number of employees and have parking available and yet employees are not allowed to park in the parking that is available with the businesses location.”

Done told council “there is a definite need for businesses to know where employees can park, what parking is not limited to two hours” but other needs are necessary to meet that demand, such as a parking lot where employees can park and pay so that it removes and free up parking for the client and futures economic business increase.

“By having a lot available and requiring payment, whether through pay as you go or monthly passes, this would bring in the dollars to help cover the cost of this lot. There are several spots available that could be bought or leased to meet this demand,” he said.

The purchasing of monthly passes for people to display in their vehicle windows while parked downtown will allow additional revenue for the town, he continued.

“One of the ways to help in this situation is to provide an option for businesses to purchase a monthly pass that they may use for their clients to display in the window of their vehicle so that when the bylaw officer comes by, they will see this vehicle is at a local business and that they will be over the two-hour limit,” he stated. “This will do two things, it will bring in monies for the town and not in a negative way such as a ticket. It will keep the current two-hour limit imposed and provide an option for businesses to meet the demands for their clients on the services they offer.”

Done stated the business community is willing to work withe town to find the “best solutions to make Amherstburg attractive and easily accessible for all. He acknowledged these suggestions may not satisfy all businesses but “it is a start and something to build on and grow with.”

A meeting was held amongst business owners May 7 and the business community would be open to further meetings with the town.

“We are not here to fight nor are we working for council to do all the work and find that solution. What we are looking for is, for the people and business of this town to be heard and for council to listen to these concerns and to set up a meeting with us and council to discuss this situation further. We would like everyone to work together to foster the growth and pride in making Amherstburg the place to live and visit,” said Done. “There are many other communities big and small that are faced with the challenge of keeping their downtown core alive and doing well. There are many communities faced with the challenge of providing parking for the growing community. We want Amherstburg to rise up and be a model for other communities to look to for answers they may face.”

“This council wants to work with the folks downtown,” said Councillor Bob Pillon.

“We have to work together to find positive solutions,” added Councillor John Sutton.

Sutton said previous councils have created parking lots in the past to create spaces but that didn’t go over well with some people, noting there is an “illusion” that the town has an excess of parking.

Making the town more “pedestrian friendly” and also looking into installing more bicycle racks was also suggested by Sutton, a point which Councillor Carolyn Davies agreed with.

Davies added that not having enough parking is “a good, healthy sign” for the town. She hoped for further meetings with the delegation as well as the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce.

Councillor Diane Pouget said the town had to take action on the two-hour limit, as she said people were abusing it.

“We couldn’t let that go,” said Pouget, adding “a large number of people” as well as some business owners were grateful when enforcement was stepped up.

Pouget did support Pillon’s motion but asked that the Richmond Terrace expansion be factored in as well as how many tourists come downtown by bus or park elsewhere.

Police chief Tim Berthiaume said parking has been enforced in the past but it has gotten more attention this year. He said officers have no idea which cars belong to whom.

“We note where the valve stems are and two hours later we write tickets,” said Berthiaume.

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland said he has talked to a number of businesses and many do not know of the municipal lot in the Heritage Square plaza. Ledingham indicated that doesn’t give much relief.

“There are only 29 spots,” she said. “We need 144.”