Gary McNamara

County reaffirms support of mega-hospital location

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Though there are concerns and appeals from a group out of Windsor regarding the location of the new mega-hospital, Essex County council remains firm in its support of the site.

The group known as Citizens for an Accountable Mega-Hospital Planning Process (CAMPP) is appealing the decision by Windsor to rezone about 1,000 acres of land at the corner of County Road 42 and Concession 9 to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) and has hired planner Jennifer Keesmaat and lawyer Eric Gillespie out of Toronto to further its cause.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche addressed the matter at Essex County council last Wednesday night, noting that he received calls from residents concerned about the matter. Meloche said there are those concerned about the process being upended and wondered if the county would counteract the measures taken by CAMPP.

“There are residents wondering about it getting delayed or derailed because of these efforts,” said Meloche.

Meloche said there are many residents in favour of the new hospital and said Toronto has received the “Lion’s share with respect to new hospital funding. It’s our turn.”

The Windsor-Essex County region deserves a new hospital, Meloche added, and that there are also concerns that appeals send the wrong message to other parts of the province.

“We don’t need the negativity because it does send a message to the powers-that-be in Toronto that we don’t have our ducks in a row or that we’re not all in agreement. That is not the case. This area is committed to a new hospital,” he said.

Meloche added the message needs to be conveyed that not only is Essex County is not only in support, but is supporting the mega-hospital project financially. Essex County putting money aside annually to fund its $100 million commitment.

Warden Gary McNamara called for people to rally around the new hospital and its location.

“At the end of the day, there was a process,” McNamara said of the site selection.

The warden pointed out there were 12 sites evaluated around the region, and also pointed out the county has agreed to fund $100 million of the cost.

“This is a building to serve our region when it comes to acute care,” said McNamara.

There will still be hospital services in the downtown core of Windsor, he added. McNamara called for residents to get behind the new hospital and its chosen location.

“The decision has been made. It was fair and square,” he said. “Don’t give the government an excuse not to invest in this area. It’s time we put this behind us, rally behind it and get this built. We need a world class facility to take care of our residents.”

McNamara added the planned expansion of County Road 42 has been on the county’s books since 2003, long before the hospital process started.

“We need to do it because it’s a reality. The traffic capacity has to be improved,” he said.

Essex County council approves “progressive and financially responsible” 2019 budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County Council passed what it describes as “a progressive and financially responsible budget” Wednesday night that the county states supports the proposed new mega-hospital, promotes continued improvements to roads and an expanding trail network, and provides a much-needed boost to the region’s affordable housing stock.

The budget will result in a 1.43 per cent tax increase to the county portion of tax bills, which translates into a $13.63 increase on a home assessed at $200,000.

Warden Gary McNamara thanked administration for its work on the budget during the county’s budget meeting last Wednesday night.

“This is not an exercise that takes four hours to do,” said McNamara. “This is a very prudent budget and a very defensible budget.”

McNamara, also the mayor of Tecumseh, called it “a status quo budget” and he believes both the county and lower tier municipalities are in good financial positions. The warden pointed out the contribution to the county’s $100 million share towards the mega-hospital and the ongoing contributions for capacity expansion.

“We need to ratchet that up to the point where we can add expansion at the times when we need to,” he said of the capacity budget.

Specifically, Essex County council agreed to a 1.5 per cent – or $1.4 million – boost to the capacity expansion budget. More than $30 million in road construction and rehabilitation projects are planned for 2019 while the County-Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) will see a $100,000 increase in base funding. CWATS will also undertake eight paved shoulder projects around Essex County that will total 12.1-kilometers and cost $2.2 million.

The contribution this year to the mega-hospital in 2019 will be $3.89 million, a boost of $1.2 million. The warden said the hospital funds means the county is “investing in the future” and that the new mega-hospital will “dramatically improve health care for Essex County residents for generations to come.”

Also on the health care front, Essex-Windsor EMS will receive funding to introduce electronic tracking technology to auto-locate equipment in emergency vehicles.

“This budget lays the foundation for future growth and development, positioning the county as an attractive place for businesses to invest and for families to live,” said McNamara. “It is a financially sustainable plan that builds on the county’s excellent credit rating and promotes quality of life issues that matter to residents, like roads, active living and health care.”

The budget also places an emphasis on improved communications, both internal and external, and enhanced training to promote health and safety in the workplace along with the recruitment and retention of professional staff.

McNamara also was happy to see that the county was taking steps to shore up its stock of affordable housing, which is aging and in need of repairs. More than $1 million is being directed toward affordable housing improvements in 2019 as part of a five-year plan to address this pressing regional need.

“We have an obligation as a caring, compassionate community to provide support to those who need it,” said McNamara. “The affordable housing crunch is a province-wide problem, but it is one the county is committed to addressing.”

Essex County is also free of debt, McNamara pointed out, and that he believes they may be the only county in Ontario with a AA+ credit rating. He said they have learned from past councils and ensure residents are well served by the county.

“The county has a great story to tell and we need to continue engaging with residents while fostering a dynamic workplace culture focused on continuous improvement and the delivery of top notch services,” added Essex County CAO Robert Maisonville.

 

Essex County councillors get committee appointments for 2018-22 term

 

By Ron Giofu

Members of Essex County council have had their committee appointments approved for the 2018-22 term.

At county council’s final meeting of 2018, they approved recommendations from the striking committee which established as to which county council members will sit on each of the County of Essex’s committees.

The Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) will be well represented by the county’s two elected officials from Amherstburg. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo will become a member for the full four-year term after spending last year as an alternate member, serving one-year terms every other year. The latter position now falls to Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, who will serve one-year terms in 2019 and 2021.

Other Essex County members of the EWSWA board of directors will include Warden Gary McNamara, LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy and Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald.

Leo Meloche and Bondy will also sit on the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation with Meloche and MacDonald also representing the county on the Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee (WECEC).

Essex County council has decided on their committee appointments for the 2018-22 term.

The Essex County Library Board will have representation from each of the seven county municipalities – four county council members and three lay appointments from each of the other three towns. Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos return to the board and will be joined by Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke and Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Tracey Bailey. The lay appointments include Ron Sutherland from Amherstburg, Andrew Dowie from Tecumseh and Terry Burns from LaSalle.

Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen returns to the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee (ECAAC). He will be joined by lay appointees Debbie Alexander, Christine Easterbrook, Brad Frenette, Diana Kirkbride, Therese Lecuyer and Fern Walsh.

McNamara, also the mayor of Tecumseh, will be one of the county officials on the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) board with Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti, Essex Mayor Larry Snively and Bailey. McNamara will also represent the county on the Windsor-Essex County Housing Advisory Committee and the Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) board, the latter also including LaSalle Deputy Mayor Crystal Meloche and Santos.

Bailey will also serve on the 911 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) while Verbeke will sit on the Food Policy Committee. Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain will serve on the Windsor-Essex Opioid Strategy Leadership Committee.

McNamara new Essex County warden, Santos acclaimed as deputy warden

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council held its inaugural meeting for the 2018-22 term last week and selected a new warden to lead them.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara was chosen as the warden, which is the head of county council, for this term. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos also sought the position, but he didn’t leave without a new title either, as Santos would be acclaimed as deputy warden.

“I’m honoured,” said McNamara. “It’s always a privilege to be recognized by your peers around the table.”

McNamara said he first joined Essex County council about 20 years ago and served as deputy warden from 2000-03 and 2010-14. It was his third time seeking the warden’s position.

“I would say the third time is a charm,” he remarked.

Newly-elected Essex County Warden Gary McNamara (right) accepts the gavel from former warden Tom Bain. Bain served as warden from 2010-18 with McNamara being elected by his colleagues to be the new head of county council at the inaugural meeting Dec. 12.

McNamara said he hopes to continue the work done by his predecessors, two of which remain on county council. Santos was warden from 2006-10 and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain was warden from 2010-18.

“The county is in a tremendous place. It’s because of the leadership we’ve had in the past,” he said.

With questions hanging overhead about how the Progressive Conservative government will deal with the province’s debt, McNamara said the county and lower-tier municipalities have to work collectively and deal with any potential impacts.

“We are going to have to be vigilant that they don’t balance the books on the backs of municipalities,” he said.

Working with all seven Essex County municipalities is important, McNamara indicated, but so too is working with the City of Windsor. He added that they have to continue to promote the fact that Essex County “is a great place to do business and raise a family.”

Investing into infrastructure was cited as a priority, including dealing with busy roads in Tecumseh, LaSalle and Lakeshore as well as roads in the southern half of the county as well. Continuing to work on the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) is important, he added, as is completion of a roads needs study.

Members of Essex County council for the 2018-22 term were sworn in last Wednesday night. Top row (from left): Essex Mayor Larry Snively, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti, LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy, Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain. Bottom row (from left): LaSalle Deputy Mayor Crystal Meloche, Deputy Warden and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos, Warden and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Tracey Bailey, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was absent.

The mega-hospital that the County of Essex is committing about $100 million towards has to be completed, with the site for that being the corner of Concession 9 and County Road 42, near Windsor Airport.

“It has to come to fruition,” added McNamara.

McNamara, recently retired from Hiram Walker, is also a former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). He hopes those contacts will help him in his new role as warden.

“It’s given me an opportunity to connect with the upper levels of government,” he said.

Santos said “it’s great to start a new term of Essex County council” and that “I’m really excited to be a part of the team.”

The Kingsville mayor stated continuing to reduce EMS wait times at hospitals is another priority, noting that while they have gotten better, there is still room for improvement. Santos also noted there is a strategic plan for Essex County being developed and that will “lay out a game plan” for the future. He added that will map out what the county can strengthen.

Santos said that “it will be a good one-two punch” with McNamara as the warden and himself as deputy warden, noting they both have a lot of experience and can help the new members.

“I think it’s a positive for the region,” he said.

County council decided also decided its striking committee that will help determine which members sit on what committees. Bain, Santos, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy were elected to that committee.

Essex County council is comprised of the seven mayors and seven deputy mayors from around the county.

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.