Frank Cleminson

Public gives feedback on the future of policing in Amherstburg

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Two public meetings down, two to go on whether or not to switch from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service.

Thus far, many of the people who have spoken at the meetings oppose a switch with the feeling being that the town should “not fix what isn’t broken.”

A number of residents spoke at each of the first two public meetings, held last Wednesday night at the Amherstburg Municipal Building and last Thursday night at the K of C Hall in McGregor. One resident who spoke at both meetings was Frank Cleminson, a former member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB).

Windsor police chief Al Frederick (right) addresses a question during a public meeting last Thursday night. At left is Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume. Two more public meetings are planned for this week.

Cleminson, who chaired the APSB at points during his 11-year tenure on the board, said Windsor police carries a per capita cost of $450 per person while Amherstburg’s is $270. He also called for greater transparency, something he hasn’t seen so far in his review of the Request for Proposal (RFP) documents.

“I’m not seeing it in the RFP,” he said of transparency. “You’ve arrived at numbers and I’m not seeing how you got them.”

Windsor police chief Al Frederick said while 90 per cent of costs are tied up in salaries and benefits, the bulk of the other budget line items could be reduced if the contract for service is given to Windsor police. Frederick added there are savings in dispatch and additional savings would be achieved through the elimination of the chief and deputy chief position and replacing them with a senior officer.

The high per capita costs, he explained, were due to Windsor having to have the same services and units offered by a regional police service but Windsor doesn’t have the ability to spread costs throughout a region.

John Miceli, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) and chair of the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC), said “we are as transparent as can be in the public process” and said people can file a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) for more information.

“You have the privilege at the Amherstburg Police Services Board of seeing everything line-by-line and people had to trust you,” Miceli told Cleminson. “I find it very difficult that you don’t trust the JPAC committee in doing the same thing.”

Denise Bondy believed “this is a change that should be resisted at the present time.”

“If it’s not broken, why fix it?” she asked.

Bondy said Amherstburg “is not a big city” and needs a small town feel with policing. She said the loss of autonomy would be important and also questioned the timing, believing it was happening too quickly as the bid came in during October and a decision is planned for Feb. 26.

“It’s an election year,” Bondy pointed out. “Couldn’t we take a little time and let the people of Amherstburg vote on this? I’m not saying don’t change. I’m saying let’s not be hasty.”

James Bruce of Amherstburg holds up a sign during last Wednesday’s police community consultation meeting at town hall.

“If it isn’t broken, why the heck are you fixing it?” Susan Monaghan asked.

Noting she is a pensioner with a desire for council to be “thrifty,” Monaghan still voiced concerns about the local police losing some accountability.

“Our police service will be part of a larger bureaucracy,” Monaghan stated.

Frank DiPasquale questioned if there are some savings that could be achieved under a contract with Windsor police on such things as fuel, could they be offered now without having to switch? DiPasquale also had issues with two members of council possibly not voting on the matter due to conflicts of interest.

“That’s a big concern to me,” said DiPasquale.

Tom Miller noted that he was pulled over recently in Amherstburg and “the cop was so friendly, it made me want to pay the ticket.” He believed the “brotherhood” among police officers would ensure that other municipalities are covered off if they need extra units such as K-9 units or bomb squads.

“One thing that worries me is Amherstburg’s identity,” said Miller. “I like that small town feeling.”

Miller also had concerns with the possibility of two members of council declaring a conflict, stating that having five people vote on the matter is not “fair in my book.”

Amherstburg resident Frank Cleminson, a former chair of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), asks a question at the Jan. 18 public meeting in McGregor. Cleminson also had questions at the Jan. 17 meeting at town hall.

Ron Sutherland, another former APSB member and also a former deputy mayor, agreed that it should be brought to the voters.

“I believe this should be on the ballot for the next election,” said Sutherland.

Debbie Bezaire told committee members that she experienced hospital amalgamations and wondered if promised savings will stay in effect going forward.

“As a taxpayer, what is going to happen in 13 years or ten years? Are the savings going to be there in the future?”

“I think there is a lot of fear of the unknown with this proposal,” believed Chad Barrette. If there were a guarantee of savings beyond the initial five-year period, some of the fear would be taken away.

Larry Amlin said he believes the Windsor Police Service is an excellent one and believes that other municipalities are keeping a close eye on this process. Should Amherstburg town council accept the offer, “I see it as one step towards regional policing.”

Kevin Sprague said the $567,000 in proposed annual savings the town would receive by switching to Windsor police isn’t worth it.

“I have serious concerns as a taxpayer in Amherstburg if we lose our cost-effective police service,” he said. “I strongly suggest that saving $567,000 is not worth fixing what isn’t broken.”

Sprague, who also believes it is an election issue, said he feels that the town would eventually be policed like “a big city” as local officers would take advantage of promotion opportunities and move into Windsor. He added that he has had to deal with the Amherstburg Police Service on various matters and has received quick responses.

“I do not want to risk losing this service,” said Sprague.

The option to switch back to Amherstburg after five years won’t happen, he believed and that the town should “put something else on the chopping block” if they want to save $567,000. Sprague added that no one he has spoken with is in favour of switching to Windsor police.

“The town of LaSalle made the right choice (to stay with their police service) and we need to make the right one as well,” said Sprague.

Len Paquette told Frederick and the Windsor officers in attendance Thursday night – including Deputy Chief Vince Power, Staff Sgt. Ron LeClair and Superintendent Brendon Dodd – that “you are not coming here to help us out. You are coming here to make money. You are doing a good job but, at the end of the day, you are going to make money off of the town.”

Paquette endorsed the existing service and the members thereof and believed the costs would be too high if the town elects to switch back in five years.

“Mr. Miceli, you are a great guy but try not to talk us into something we don’t want,” Paquette told the CAO.

Other residents also questioned the potential savings, including Chris Drew. He said Amherstburg could access extra services from the OPP, if necessary, and said he figures that Amherstburg has a more cost efficient service than Windsor.

“I consider this a slap in the face to the Amherstburg Police Service and its members,” said Drew.

Current Amherstburg police officers also had questions. Don Brown, an Amherstburg resident and a sergeant with the Amherstburg Police Service, asked a number of questions and also pointed out losing the chief means losing the “captain of the ship.

“The captain of the ship steers the direction of the service,” said Brown. “We will be losing the chief, the board and the captain of the ship. I want to make that point to the public.”

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, admitted it has been a stressful time for them but told the public they can still expect the same level of service from the officers as they always had regardless of what happens.

Chris Gibb asked what costs the Amherstburg Police Service would face should the switch not happen. Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume stated they face “infrastructure challenges” which include issues with their radio system. He is recommending replacement in 2019, should the switch to Windsor not happen, and that he hopes to spread the estimated $450,000 cost over five years.

“The Amherstburg Police Service has a healthy reserve,” Berthiaume added. “That’s why we created the reserve.”

Regarding their obligations under Bill 175, including whether they would be obligated to police waterways, Berthiaume said they are preparing for that should any requirements call for Amherstburg police to have to step up patrols on the water. He said they would patrol waterways with existing resources.

Responding to Gibb’s second question regarding access to the chief, deputy chief and police services board should a switch happen, Frederick said he hopes Berthiaume would be the “point person in the transition” as “we need this to work seamlessly and positively as possible.”

In presenting the proposal to the public, Miceli pointed out Amherstburg is a safe community but policing costs represent 23 per cent of the town’s operating budget. A Deloitte report recommendation was to seek shared opportunities that would reduce operating costs, said Miceli, with town council asking for confirmation that people were receiving “value for money” with the current service and examine other options for policing. Town council passed the original motion seeking police costings Dec. 15, 2014.

“Amherstburg has an excellent service,” said Miceli. “In no way is this exercise a reflection on the Amherstburg Police Service.”

Frederick said the Amherstburg Police Service offers a department that is “second to none” and “it’s not going to change” should a switch occur.

Miceli said that town council will make the decision Feb. 26 and told the public no verdict has been arrived at thus far.

Those in attendance to field questions at last Thursday night’s meeting in McGregor included (from left): consultant Mike Mitchell, CAO and JPAC chair John Miceli, Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume, Windsor police chief Al Frederick, Windsor deputy chief Vince Power, Windsor police Supt. Brendan Dodd, and Windsor Staff Sgt. Ron LeClair.

“There has been no decision made yet on the policing issue,” he said. “We are going through the public meeting process to see what people want.”

Believing “there has been a lot of misinformation out there,” the CAO encouraged people to attend the public meetings, find out what is going on and provide input.

Mike Mitchell, consultant with MPM Consulting, called the RFP put out by the town as “one of the most comprehensive RFP’s I’ve ever seen.” LaSalle opted not to put in a bid with the OPP sending a letter, but no bid, in response to the RFP.

The Windsor Police Service would take over administrative duties with the only change residents seeing being the replacement of the chief and deputy chief with a senior officer, said Mitchell.

“The big issue is it is only the administration of Amherstburg police that will be handled in Windsor,” said Frederick. “The police service is going to be what it is today. We’re not going to have Windsor police officers responding to Priority 1 calls in Amherstburg.”

Frederick said Amherstburg police officers could stay in town “as long as they like.”

Findings of the JPAC committee included Windsor police proposal administering existing staff in existing organizational units, the continuation of service delivery, existing Amherstburg officers and staff “working exclusively” for Amherstburg, the town being able to keep the existing Amherstburg police station, police continuing to respond to all calls for service and “through the terms of the contract and membership on the Windsor Police Services board, effective, local control of policing in the town would continue.”

The Amherstburg mayor would become a voting member of the Windsor Police Services Board, should a switch occur.

The JPAC findings also said additional services like K-9, tactical, explosive disposal, forensic identification, collision reconstruction and other services could be added with a switch, Amherstburg would retain its current officers unless there is a promotional opportunity or disciplinary situation and the town would retain its police zone structure and would also maintain separate operational data for Amherstburg. The use of non-lethal shotguns would also be allowed to continue in Amherstburg.

In addition to an estimated $567,802 annually – or over $2.8 million over five years – the town’s post-retirement benefit liability of between $2.8 million to $3.9 million would be picked up by Windsor. Also pointed out as JPAC findings were the repurposing of $380,680 from a police reserve for “other municipal purposes” and that if the town doesn’t renew the contract with Windsor, useful assets would be returned to Amherstburg.

Frederick said Windsor is not trying to make money but sharing services would be beneficial to both municipalities.

“We’re not trying to make money,” said Frederick. “We’re trying to share resources for cheaper costs.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins, who attended Wednesday night’s meeting at town hall, agreed there were some savings to be had.

“This is not about the City of Windsor making money,” said Dilkins.

Frederick also noted that if Amherstburg accepts the contract, the current collective agreement Amherstburg officers have would dissolve and officers would come under the Windsor police’s agreement and that Amherstburg officers would have to get up-to-speed on Windsor police’s policies.

Miceli said savings to Amherstburg taxpayers would amount to about $61 on an average household. He noted costs would be included in a contract, and pointed out the proposal is not an amalgamation of services but a contracting out of services.

“I have complete faith in the process,” the CAO added.

The third public meeting is this Thursday night (Jan. 25) at St. Peter’s ACHS College School, located at 6101 County Road 20, in Malden Centre. That meeting is scheduled from 6-8 p.m.

The fourth and final public meeting is this Saturday (Jan. 27) at the Libro Centre from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Community turns out in full force to support “the powerful Paige Grossutti”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The AMA Sportsmen’s Club was jammed packed Saturday evening to support a local 14-year-old who is battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

The “Pink Out Fundraiser for the Powerful Paige Grossutti” was a tremendous success as a huge crowd turned out to support Grossutti and her family. Grossutti, a Grade 9 student at General Amherst High School, was diagnosed in November with Ewing’s Sarcoma and said she was “overwhelmed with love” thanks to the fundraiser.

Members of General Amherst High School’s student council and friends of Paige Grossutti present her with an autographed banner Saturday. Grossutti, a Grade 9 student, is in the foreground by the middle of the banner.

Members of General Amherst High School’s student council and friends of Paige Grossutti present her with an autographed banner Saturday. Grossutti, a Grade 9 student, is in the foreground by the middle of the banner.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “My parents, family and friends have been amazing.”

Paige said she didn’t expect anything like the turnout that occurred. She was lucky to be able to attend as father Gary said Paige was touch-and-go due to her not feeling well Friday.

“I feel much better today,” said Paige. “I kind of get wiped out when I get chemo but the day after I feel much better.”

Gary said Paige goes through two different cycles of chemotherapy in London with those cycles rotating every two weeks. One cycle lasts for five days and the other for two days with a chemotherapy treatment also being administered in Windsor “squeezed in shortly after the two-day treatment.

“It’s a lot, especially with two other kids at home,” said Gary. “We concentrate efforts on Paige but we have to pay attention to two others at home too.”

General Amherst High School raised just under $1,500 to support the “Pink Out Fundraiser for the Powerful Paige Grossutti.” (Submitted photo)

General Amherst High School raised just under $1,500 to support the “Pink Out Fundraiser for the Powerful Paige Grossutti.” (Submitted photo)

The chemotherapy treatments don’t allow Paige the ability to go to school but homework is send home regularly and she still communicates with her friends through her cell phone. She said her friends are very supportive and send her positive messages daily.

The chemotherapy treatments are scheduled to last through October at which point Paige is scheduled to receive radiation treatments with surgery also expected around that time.

“So far, they say my body is taking effect (responding) to the treatments,” she said.

“The chemotherapy is working, which is good,” said Gary. “They don’t have to work with any other chemotherapy drugs. That’s a good thing.”

The family, which includes mother Kim and Paige’s brothers Riley and Mitchell, were grateful for the support received both Saturday night and during the entire process.

“People are generous,” said Gary.

“I’m grateful for my parents. They are doing so much,” added Paige, who noted her mom sleeps at her bedside when she is in the hospital. “I couldn’t be more thankful for them.”

Paige also emphasized she is grateful for the support of other family members and her friends as well.

The “Pink Out Fundraiser for the Powerful Paige Grossutti” was organized by a group of family and friends with Frank Cleminson, a member of that group, stating he was thrilled with how things turned out.

“We did it in a short window and we can’t say enough,” said Cleminson. “We appreciate everyone coming. I’m blown away by the amount of people.”

Cleminson, his wife Lisa, and a large team of pink-shirted volunteers were seen moving around the AMA Sportsmen’s Club performing various tasks throughout the evening.

Paige Grossutti (centre) has her picture taken with parents Gary and Kim (far left), Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Laura DiCarlo (right) and niece Phoebe Steel during the Jan. 21 fundraiser at the AMA Sportsmen's Club.

Paige Grossutti (centre) has her picture taken with parents Gary and Kim (far left), Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Laura DiCarlo (right) and niece Phoebe Steel during the Jan. 21 fundraiser at the AMA Sportsmen’s Club.

“I’m super busy and I love it,” said Cleminson.

The response to the fundraiser was “overwhelming” and Cleminson said they were thankful to the town for its support.

“The outpouring from the community is unbelievable,” he said.

Door prize donations exceeded expectations, Cleminson added.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and his wife Laura were two of the many that attended. DiCarlo told the crowd that “Paige has the support of the entire town” and was backed up with a round of applause for that statement.

People who missed Saturday’s fundraiser can still help the cause. The GoFundMe page set up for Paige is still open at https://www.gofundme.com/35wh24o with donations also being accepted at any TD Canada Trust location.

Fundraiser planned for “The Powerful Paige Grossutti”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A fundraiser is planned for later this month to assist a local girl who is battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

The “Pink Out Fundraiser for the Powerful Paige Grossutti” will take place Jan. 21 at the AMA Sportsmen Association. Paige was diagnosed at the end of November with Ewing’s Sarcoma and has been back-and-forth to London with her family since for treatments.

“It’s a hard to detect but very aggressive cancer,” said Frank Cleminson, a family friend and co-organizer of the fundraiser.

Cleminson – who is joined by his wife Lisa as well as other family friends, aunts and uncles – in planning the event, said the cancer is in Paige’s pelvis and legs with spots also having been discovered on her lungs.

Paige Grossutti (back row, third from left) is pictured with her parents Gary and Kim and brothers Riley and Mitchell. Grossutti has Ewing’s Sarcoma, and will be the subject of a Jan. 21 fundraiser.

Paige Grossutti (back row, third from left) is pictured with her parents Gary and Kim and brothers Riley and Mitchell. Grossutti has Ewing’s Sarcoma, and will be the subject of a Jan. 21 fundraiser. (Submitted photo)

Paige’s blood levels are monitored regularly and the family has to travel to Children’s Hospital in London for her chemotherapy. Cleminson said they are lucky enough to get into Ronald McDonald House on occasion but there are times when it is full. Sometimes younger brother Riley accompanies parents Gary and Kim to London while older brother Mitchell holds down the fort at home.

Paige is a Grade 9 student at General Amherst High School and Cleminson said the school has been very supportive since her diagnosis. Homework is regularly sent home and one of Paige’s aunts, a principal in Windsor, also helps Paige stay caught up on her schoolwork.

“The school has been tremendous and wants to know how Paige is doing,” said Cleminson. “That is one of the reasons we decided to do the fundraiser.”

Cleminson added the friends and other family members got together and decided to put on the fundraiser. Bill Pillon, a cancer survivor, reached out and offered to provide entertainment while businesses in the community have been similarly generous with door prizes.

“The response has been excellent,” said Cleminson.

Despite her cancer fight, Paige still keeps positive.

“She’s got a great attitude, good spirits,” said Cleminson. “She’s got a tremendous outlook.”

The fundraiser starts at 4:30 p.m. that Saturday and tickets are $25 each and $12 for children 14 years of age and under. Tickets can be purchased by calling Cleminson at 519-819-4819 or Lisa at 519-999-1997. Door prizes can also be donated by calling either of those two numbers.

Donations can also be made at any TD Canada Trust location. A GoFundMe account has been set up at www.gofundme.com/35wh24o.

“We’re saying a lot of prayers,” said Cleminson. “This type of cancer is a hard one to fight. We want to give her as much support as we can to help her put the fight to it.”

Amherstburg team takes home top spot in recent Hockey for Hospice tournament

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local pee wee house league team hit its stride in the recent Hockey for Hospice tournament.

The tournament, held at four arenas including the Libro Centre from Dec. 27-29, saw the Gyori Farms team from Amherstburg take home the gold medal in the pee wee “C” division. The team is coached by Mike Van Essen and Jeff Colledge with Keith Lauzon being the trainer.

“We’ve been struggling in house league but they are always in sync and playing well,” said Frank Cleminson, a parent and volunteer with the team.

The Amherstburg Gyori Farms hockey team celebrates after winning the pee wee “C” division championship at the Libro Centre as part of the 21st annual Hockey for Hospice tournament. The tournament raised over $301,000 for Hospice with the Libro Centre being one of four arenas that was used. (Submitted photo)

The Amherstburg Gyori Farms hockey team celebrates after winning the pee wee “C” division championship at the Libro Centre as part of the 21st annual Hockey for Hospice tournament. The tournament raised over $301,000 for Hospice with the Libro Centre being one of four arenas that was used. (Submitted photo)

In the first game of the Hockey for Hospice tournament, they were up against LaSalle Sports Zone and Cleminson said that the Amherstburg team was down 2-0 heading into the third period and came back to tie the game.

“In every other game, we never had the lead and came to win it in the third period,” said Cleminson.

In the finals, the Gyori Farms team met up with the LaSalle Sports Zone team again. Gavin Colledge gave the Amherstburg team the lead but LaSalle came back to tie it then went up 2-1 with three minutes left in the third, Cleminson said. Amherstburg then scored with six seconds left in the third period and again approximately 30 seconds into overtime with Ben Godin getting the tying and winning goals.

“In the first 30 seconds, we won the game and the championship,” Cleminson recalled.

The team’s MVP was goalie Ben Todd.

“He just had an outstanding tournament,” said Cleminson.

By winning the tournament, the Amherstburg Gyori Farms pee wee team gained a lot of confidence as they returned to their house league schedule, he added.

“It was a big team building tournament for them,” said Cleminson. “It was really good for the kids.”

Police Service Awards given to community members, officers

 

 

The Amherstburg Police Service held its annual awards banquet last Tuesday night at the K of C Hall. Officers were recognized for their years of service with members of the community  also honoured. Top row, from left: Terry Jones, Debbie Wilson, Chief Tim Berthiaume, PSB chair Pauline Gemmell, Sr. Const. Don Zimmerman, Frank Cleminson. Bottom row (from left): Sgt. Matt Capel-Cure, Sgt. Melissa Taylor, Const. Nick D’Amore, Const. Steve Owen. Sr. Const. Rory Bennett and Const. Chris Renaud are absent.

The Amherstburg Police Service held its annual awards banquet last Tuesday night at the K of C Hall. Officers were recognized for their years of service with members of the community also honoured. Top row, from left: Terry Jones, Debbie Wilson, Chief Tim Berthiaume, PSB chair Pauline Gemmell, Sr. Const. Don Zimmerman, Frank Cleminson. Bottom row (from left): Sgt. Matt Capel-Cure, Sgt. Melissa Taylor, Const. Nick D’Amore, Const. Steve Owen. Sr. Const. Rory Bennett and Const. Chris Renaud are absent.

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Police Service held its annual awards banquet last Tuesday evening with officers and community members being recognized.

Presented by the police service as well as the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), the banquet saw long-service medals be awarded to police officers for their years of service. Recognized with 15-year service awards were Sr. Const. Rory Bennett and Sgt. Matt Capel-Cure. Sr. Const. Don Zimmerman received a ten-year award while Const. Steve Owen, Const. Nick D’Amore and Const. Chris Renaud received five-year awards.

Sgt. Melissa Taylor was awarded a Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal from Chief Tim Berthiaume. Retired deputy chief Pat Palumbo was absent from the award ceremony but his service was acknowledged by the department.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo brought greetings from the town and noted the regaining of the safest community in Canada designation was one of the many accomplishments.

“As mayor, I think it’s important to highlight that the Amherstburg Police Service had a stellar year,” said DiCarlo.

Safety, education and health care are the three most important things that must be provided in a society, DiCarlo added, and the local police force is “number one” in providing safety.

“That is very important to us,” the mayor added. “People are moving here and people are comfortable here because of what (the Amherstburg Police Service) provides.”

Chief Tim Berthiaume presents a Chief’s Award of Excellence to former Amherstburg Police Services Board member Frank Cleminson.

Chief Tim Berthiaume presents a Chief’s Award of Excellence to former Amherstburg Police Services Board member Frank Cleminson.

The Community Involvement Award went to Debbie Wilson, who prevented a 90-year-old man from transferring money as part of her employment with Western Union. The man had already been scammed out of money and Owen, who acted as master of ceremonies, said “the loss of money would have continued if not for her actions.”
Wilson said the man’s request didn’t seem proper and “I knew something wasn’t right.” She said she hopes others will step up when they see someone falling for a scam, stop it and then report it to police.

The Jones Group was awarded the Corporate Partnership Award. The Jones Group, owned by Terry Jones and his family, recently raised $27,000 at a recent family cookoff with proceeds going to the Amherstburg Heroes Athletic Club. Jones has also helped the Heroes in other ways, said Owen, through uniform purchases and equipment acquisitions. He was also credited with donating money to the Catz Meow Dance Education Centre and local schools.

Frank Cleminson was given a Chief’s Award of Excellence in recognition of his 11 years on the APSB. Cleminson said it was “truly an honour” to be on the board and said he was involved with the hiring of chiefs and deputy chiefs.

“I always tried to do what was best for the community and municipal policing,” said Cleminson, noting there is a “wealth of knowledge” with local officers.

Cleminson endorsed municipal policing and said Amherstburg became the safest community with a municipal force.