Council approves $33,595 in grant requests as part of ’18 budget deliberations



By Ron Giofu


The 2018 town budget is ready for council’s adoption and it included $33,595 in grants to community organization.

Among the grant requests approved in principle were $5,000 for Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), $1,500 for Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, $6,500 for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and $8,500 for the Park House Museum. Grant requests for the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) and SNAP for Cats will be addressed after administration comes back with a report.

Kathy DiBartolomeo, ACS’ executive director, outlined the list of the 20-plus services the agency offers and pointed out they expanded their bus service to include driving students to and from St. Clair College. Their Meals on Wheels covers not only Amherstburg, but also LaSalle and Harrow as well.

DiBartolomeo noted they don’t receive enough government funding to cover all costs so they look for outside grants and revenue streams.

Mary-Katherine Whelan, curator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, pointed out Amherstburg’s contribution as a chief entry point on the Underground Railroad. She pointed out the museum has hosted Emancipation Galas, Ribs and Ragtime events and other programs and events promoting Black history. They recently held their first Amherstburg Freedom Summit.

Whelan said they have seen a 35 per cent increase in visitors over 2016 and have attracted visitors from as far as Ghana and Singapore.

Park House Museum curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak noted their role as a community museum, pointing out they will be hosting an archeological exhibit in 2018. She said their $8,500 request was “conservative” and noted visitor levels have steadily risen though many people come on free admission days.

The Park House has taken advantage of summer student programs with that program being beneficial for both sides, she suggested, adding that it is tough to find historical-related jobs in Amherstburg. Pouget-Papak also said there is “donor fatigue” in comparison to past years.

Tim Stocker and Karen Lloyd from SNAP for Cats and Renée St. Pierre and Carla Leardi from the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) both appealed for funding, with both groups asking for $5,000. CAO John Miceli asked whether the town’s voucher program would assist the groups.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale wondered if it was possible for the two groups to collaborate.

“It’s starting to cost the town a lot of money,” DiPasquale said during Tuesday’s budget deliberations. “Not that I’m against it, but people have to work together.”

Town council also agreed to waive $12,095 in rental fees for Rose City Gymnastics as the non-profit group is bringing the four-day Ontario Provincial Artistic Gymnastics championships at the Libro Centre next spring. Miceli said it isn’t a direct financial contribution, but the town would be forgoing other rental opportunities.

The move to waive the fees for the gymnastics championships has raised the ire of existing user groups, especially in light of the town’s decision to stick with its own option for Libro Centre surcharges. The user groups suggested all three principal users to contract ice hours at a minimum100 hours per year. The principal rate user surcharge would have been $4 per hour to all hours rented on all ice surfaces from Sept. 1-April 30 annually and $10 per hour for all pads from May 1-Aug. 31.

For Amherstburg resident users that book ice rentals for a minimum of 12 hours per month would be set at $6 per hour for all pads. Casual non-resident users would pay a surcharge of $13 per hour of ice rentals.

Under the town’s proposal, Renaud said it would translate into a $21.82 cost per AMHA player and $13.50 for every Skate Amherstburg participant. Under the proposal he presented, Renaud said the numbers drop to $14.54 per player in AMHA and $9 per Skate Amherstburg participant.

The town’s option calls for a $6 surcharge for user groups to help build a reserve fund to maintain the seven-year-old facility. User groups have expressed concern on the impact that will have on rates they will have to pass on to registrants.

The town did not concur with grant requests from a pilot project known as “The Garrison” with that request being $25,000. Council also did not agree to fund The Addolorata DeLuca Leadership Scholarship with that request being $10,000, though proponent Cessidia DeBiasio said it could be paid out over two years.

Internet speed survey shows unsatisfactory results, town looking at other measures



By Ron Giofu


The results from the town’s Internet study are in and it shows the residents of Amherstburg are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with their service.

According to a report written by acting information technology manager Nick Renaud, “administration has recently received over 140 submissions from the community through an online survey aimed to gather more data on actual internet speeds in Amherstburg. Only four per cent of respondents reported speeds that exceeded the CRTC’s 2016 minimum download speed of 50 Mbps and only 28 per cent reported speeds that exceed the CRTC’s 2011 target speed of 5 Mbps. This means that 96 per cent of respondents fell below the 2016 expectations for ‘basic telecom service’ and 72 per cent fell below the 2011 target.”

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CAO John Miceli said the town is trying to be proactive in dealing with the matter, suggesting the town could eventually try and create a fiber optic system of its own should it be successful in obtaining grant funding. While there are a pair of new services that are utilizing the water tower as a way to deliver Internet services, Miceli believes fibre optic is the way to go.

The services using the water tower impact a portion, but not all of the town, Miceli states and the town is looking for a community-wide solution. The hope is that a provider will step up and bring in better services but the town is seeking $2 million in grant funding with the possibility of going at it alone if need be.

Miceli said administration has a business case to bring to council should the grant be successful.

“We have taken all the necessary steps to be our own Internet provider,” he said.

The town undertook the survey due to a lack of response from the larger Internet companies, with the administrative report stating “the large Internet service providers were reluctant to share the information with administration” as to the options that are available in and around Amherstburg.

Town to seek grant funding to improve tennis courts



By Ron Giofu


The town of Amherstburg has applied for grant funding under the Ontario 150 community capital grant program with the hope of refurbishing local tennis courts.

However, town council altered the recommendations put to them by administration at the Sept. 12 meeting.

Town council voted to refurbish two courts at Malden Centre Park, two of the five courts at Centennial Park and both of the two courts at Anderdon Park. Administration had recommended refurbishing both courts in Anderdon and all four courts in Malden Centre.

The administrative proposal had not only called for the resurfacing of the courts in Anderdon and Malden at $12,000 per court, but also upgrading the netting, lighting, and fencing, as well as putting in accessible entrances and pathways, water bottle refill stations, signage and staging an official opening. The projected cost would have been $334,000 plus HST with half of the cost covered by the grant, if successful.

In a report to town council, manager of recreation services Rick Daly said four of the town’s 11 tennis courts remain usable with “extensive repair” required to the remaining seven. He said the six courts in Malden and Anderdon are in “dire need of repair.

“Centennial Park was not included in the project scope because of its size and the numerous sub-facilities (i.e. track, ball diamonds, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts) located within the park. It is also expected that future direction for Centennial Park will come from the Parks Master Plan,” Daly stated in his report.

Councillor Joan Courtney said she was surprised that Centennial Park was not included.

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“The tennis court itself is entirely enclosed,” she said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said there is a deal with the Greater Essex County District School Board so they can use Centennial Park, including the tennis courts. He believed those courts should see some work instead of doing all of the courts in Malden so that the high school students could benefit. Councillor Diane Pouget added that tennis is part of the high school curriculum and that Centennial Park is in the “core area” of town.

“Why are we not meeting with the school board prior to making a decision?” she asked.

Pouget said she doesn’t see the courts in Anderdon and Malden being used and didn’t want to support $167,000 in town money going to the “outside area” of town.

Councillor Leo Meloche said he sees the Anderdon courts being used extensively but suggested two courts at each site being refurbished “to at least give all areas some facilities.”

Daly pointed out that would mean half the courts in two of the parks would remain unfinished.

CAO John Miceli said the town is still undertaking a parks master plan, which would include Centennial Park. He said that is a potential location for a new General Amherst High School and believed refurbishing tennis courts there could be “premature” should a new school eventually go there.

Miceli added the previous arrangement with the public school board resulted in the upgrades done a few years ago at Wigle Park.