Jason Lavigne

CANDIDATE Q&A – Jason Lavigne

 

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

Amherstburg has so much to offer, it is difficult to pick just a few things to promote. Our town’s history is something we can all be proud of and definitely helps us stand out. We are lucky enough to be home to not only a historic national park but also a provincial park that offers some of the best birding and wildlife in the area. We have proven time and time again that we know how to host amazing festivals and events that are always the envy of our region. We are home to some of the best volunteers in the country that have helped highlight our community with accolades such as being home to Canada’s first Miracle league Baseball diamond. Our Libro recreation facility is second to none and gives our residents and visitors access to top notch sporting opportunities.  Amherstburg consistently ranks among the safest communities in Canada and is a wonderful place to raise a family or retire to.

Jason Lavigne is seeking re-election as a councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

Our current council took significant steps towards a pay as you go system. We also implemented the capital replacement levy and the capital reserve levy which will reduce the town’s dependence on issuing long term debt for future infrastructure projects. 

I was in favor of the road needs study that now gives council and administration a comprehensive look at the condition of our roads and the order in which they should be upgraded.  

I also voted in favor of increasing a dedicated amount to be spent on roads annually.

Most of our current debt load occurred when the town had to upgrade its sewer treatment facility. That infrastructure upgrade alone cost our town over $20 million. The water treatment facility will be the next large upgrade our town needs to address. Hopefully there will be federal and provincial grants available to help our community with these types of projects.

We all need to lobby provincial and federal governments to help cover the costs for roads and infrastructure that have been downloaded to municipalities over the years.

 

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

Being transparent and accountable should be a given for anyone running for an elected position. I’ve never heard any candidate claim they won’t be transparent or accountable.

Putting measures in place to ensure these behaviors isn’t always as easy.

I attended council meetings for years before being elected and, in my opinion, our current council has made it very easy for residents to be involved in decisions.

I have supported allowing residents to speak at council meetings and ask questions without being on the agenda and will continue to if re-elected.

I believe it is important to listen to the public on major issues and have always respected the opinions council received through online surveys, websites and open house meetings.

I would also support live streaming future council meetings so that more residents could get involved.

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

Over the years most of Amherstburg’s industrial base has disappeared.  With an ever changing economy it has been difficult to lure new industrial development. There has been a shift to tourism and culture and I believe council should continue to support initiatives such as culture days and festivals. These help showcase our community to future home buyers and business owners.  The Canuck it Up weekend alone brought in almost $800,000 from non-local spending which drives our economy.

I believe we should also support expanding our town’s wine and brewery industry.

I voted in favor of continuing to defer development charges for home builders. This has helped spur new home development which increases our tax base and supports local construction jobs.

I believe the future development of Boblo Island is very important and the town should work closely with the developer to insure it moves forward.

 

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

All major decisions should be on a case by case basis.

The policing issue was the most difficult decision I felt this council had to deal with in its four years.

We conducted surveys, web polls, and public meetings. We received phone calls, emails and read the comments on social media. The over whelming majority in all cases said they were against a switch and were willing to pay to keep their police force under local control. 

The OCPC in their decision stated “after reviewing the transcripts it appears there was very little support expressed for the proposal and instead a considerable amount of opposition was voiced. Similarly during the commission’s public meeting the vast majority of citizens spoke against adopting the proposal.” 

I voted against the switch. I stand behind my decision based on the feedback from the community. I believe being an elected representative means you represent those who voted you in. I believe it is imperative to listen to the ratepayers.

 

 

 

 

 

Integrity commissioner to investigate alleged in-camera leaks

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Who leaked information from an in-camera meeting and the circumstances surrounding it will be subject to an investigation to be conducted by integrity commissioner Bruce Elman as well as a private investigator.

The integrity commissioner will investigate council members that were in the Sept. 10 in-camera meeting while the other investigator will look at administration. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo called the special council meeting Monday night and said from an e-mail chain he was a part of that there was a “clear violation” and that the leak occurred somewhere between Sept. 10-13. Information was sent to Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic and Rozankovic sent an e-mail to council and CAO John Miceli with concerns about it.

No names were released as to whom the person or people are believed to be.

DiCarlo called for the integrity commissioner to investigate the alleged “breach of confidentiality” and council would agree, though not before other amendments were debated, defeated and adopted.

Councillor Rick Fryer’s amendment that council appointed Police Services Board members be removed during the investigation and the positions refilled was defeated. Councillor Jason Lavigne believed that “adding that clause to the motion smacks of guilt before a trial,” adding “that seems to be going a lot around this town lately.”

Lavigne questioned why this particular leak was of such interest and why it warranted a meeting. Lavigne said the current council hadn’t had a meeting of that nature before and further stated he will be asking his own questions at an upcoming Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) meeting, of which he is a part of. He added he e-mailed DiCarlo several months ago about an apparent breach at a parks committee meeting.

“Know what was done? Absolutely nothing,” said Lavigne.

DiCarlo took exception, responding that “you can’t say what I did or didn’t do” and added after the meeting that all possible violations are taken seriously and treated individually. He also said after the meeting that any member of council can file a complaint with the integrity commissioner if a breach occurs and that the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on the mayor.

Councillor Diane Pouget opposed Fryer’s amendment and that she believed “we are already pre-judging someone” and that “we don’t know who it is.” Fryer said he was not trying to accuse anyone and that his amendment would have removed the people from the APSB while the investigation was ongoing.

“I’m a little befuddled on why you are trying to lay blame on myself or the police board,” asked APSB chair Bob Rozankovic, when Fryer’s amendment was being discussed.

Rozankovic said he advised council and CAO John Miceli regarding the information he received, something he did “out of respect, not to make your lives difficult.” He noted the board is in the middle of severance package negotiations and other matters relating to the switch to Windsor.

The alleged breach did not occur from a APSB member, Rozankovic maintained.

“That came from someone else,” he said. “It was not the police board that created the breach.”

Fryer stated that when Rozankovic sent an e-mail to all of council  – including Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Pouget – it was not the correct course of action as the two council members were in conflict and not in the Sept. 10 in-camera session.

“When you declare a conflict, you are not privy to what happened in that meeting at all,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche said answers are being sought and that all parties are being looked at. He said it was an attempt to “put it out into the open” and find out why it happened.

“At the end of the day, I just want an answer,” Meloche said.

Councillor Joan Courtney wanted to make sure administration was investigated as well.

“With all due respect to administration, they were in the room too,” said Courtney. “Members of the police service board haven’t done anything wrong. They were acting on the information they were given.”
Town council voted 4-2 to reject the motion with Fryer’s amendment with DiCarlo noting his objection was due to the rest of council wanting administration to be involved in the investigation as well.

The second motion, which included DiCarlo’s request for an integrity commissioner to investigate council members and Pouget’s request that administration be investigated by an independent investigator was passed unanimously.

Following the meeting, Rozankovic said he was informed of information that he didn’t like was in town council’s with his belief that information was in the purview of the APSB. The e-mail voiced his concern that the information was out there and that it involved the employment status of people in the board’s employ.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” said Rozankovic. “This is all about the police issue. Things may not be going exactly as they would have liked (with the police transfer to Windsor). They have promised zero cost to the transition at all five of their town hall meetings, and I guarantee you this will not be the case.”

Rozankovic said the costs won’t be as promised and that he believes council has to blame someone. He said he would tell the integrity commissioner where the information originated, but didn’t tell council.

“They’re scared of the outcome of certain things and they’ll try to block certain things from happening and certain information from getting out,” said Rozankovic. “It’s the silly season.”

Fryer questioned why Rozankovic didn’t reveal more information about where the alleged leak came from. He asked that “if it’s silly season politics,” why didn’t Rozankovic inform council and “what do you have to hide?”

Fryer added that he has no reason to believe the transfer of policing duties to Windsor isn’t going smoothly.

“In general, I haven’t heard of anything that could cause a derailment,” he said.

In response to what was in the e-mail chain, Fryer indicated he could not comment on it because it contained in-camera information.

Fryer, Rozankovic, Meloche and Pouget are all running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 election. There were at least 13 candidates counted in the gallery or in the lobby at the meeting, not counting the candidates who are also members of the current council.

DiCarlo told the media after the meeting that, as the head of council, he had to call the meeting once he discovered there was a possible breach. He disputed claims it was politically motivated.

“It’s not the case,” he said.

The mayor added he did “what I was supposed to do” and that was to call a meeting and let town council discuss the issue. He wanted the two separate investigations, he said, because “no one should be targeted” and that it should include everyone.

Council members debate road repairs, roads needs study

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Questions have been raised by council members over road repairs and the roads needs study thanks to a report about Angstrom Cr.

A report from the town’s public works department regarding Angstrom Cr. indicates that a re-inspection of the road now falls within the “1-5 Year” category for scheduled improvements rather than the previous “6-10 Year” category that it was originally listed as after an Oct. 2016 visual inspection. The most recent visual inspection was in July 2018.

Councillor Jason Lavigne questioned the roads needs study, done in 2016, and wondered how reliable it was if a road were to switch categories so quickly. Lavigne asked if there were other roads that would have shifted categories in that short of a timeframe and whether the town could be in a different situation as it relates to paying for road repairs.

CAO John Miceli reminded council they agreed to a 10-year program where $1.4 million is budgeted for reconstruction of rural and semi-urban roads as well as major resurfacing of the urban roads in the “now” category.

In response to Lavigne’s concerns, Miceli said Angstrom Cr. “could have been on the cusp” when the 2016 study was compiled and that the information contained in the new report is not alarming. Angstrom Cr. is a concrete panel road, Miceli stated, and that “it’s shifting and there are challenges with the freeze and thaw cycle.”

Councillor Rick Fryer said it took three to four weeks of complaints from residents of that Pointe West subdivision street to get the street looked at again. He believed the town “may as well make it a dirt road. It’s better than what they have now.”

Residents erected signage earlier this year along Angstrom Cr. to urge the town to replace the street. The issue came up again at the Sept. 10 town council meeting.

Fryer stated “the plan doesn’t work,” in reference to the roads needs study, and believed more investment needs to be made in roads, possibly with increased taxes or levies for roads, “but they need to be done.”

“We need to start paying attention to the residents,” said Fryer. “We need to change the mindset of what we’re doing because the $1.4 million isn’t working.”

Miceli responded that prior to the current council, there was no money that was pre-committed to roadwork.

“We’ve made great strides with this council in doing road repairs,” said Miceli.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau agreed, noting that $15 million has been invested in four years into roads. Rousseau did acknowledge that while the town is moving as quickly as possible, “it’s never going to be as fast as some may like.”

Fryer added that “pet projects should never come before a road.”

Councillor Leo Meloche believed there are roads in “horrible” condition, relaying issues from farmers who are concerned about equipment and heavy machinery tipping on rural roads due to the uneven surfaces.

“I don’t know if we’re catching up at this rate,” said Meloche.

Councillor Diane Pouget stated that she doesn’t want residents to think roads are being neglected but they are also not trying to raise taxes significantly. She noted that money had to be spent on other things as well, including flooding matters.

Councillor Joan Courtney worried that bumping up Angstrom Cr. on the list of priority roads could be “precedent setting” and that if the town were to repair it ahead of other roads listed in the study, how many people would come to council looking for repairs on their roads.

“We have so many roads that need to be done,” said Courtney. “The public works department has a big job.”

Town looking for more info on dogs, boarding kennels

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The issue of dogs and boarding kennels came up recently regarding a property owner on Concession 6 North and a councillor wants to help bring that and any future issues to a close.

Councillor Jason Lavigne has asked administration to compile a report on dogs and kennels so that the town can “have something so everyone can move forward.” He asked administration to find out what surrounding municipalities are doing with regards to kennels and dog-related issues so that Amherstburg can create something and put it on the books.

Lavigne noted the only bylaw he is aware of is one regarding setbacks.

“We have nothing on record,” he said. “It’s very difficult to make decisions when you don’t have a bylaw.”

By bringing forth bylaws and regulations from other nearby municipalities, Lavigne indicated it will help “find a spot for Amherstburg to sit.” He added that it is difficult for administration to foresee such issues, but now that it has arisen, the town can now get something in place should something similar arise in the future.

The recent issue on Concession 6 North “got a little heated” and that Amherstburg has no “in-depth policy or bylaw” regarding animals in the rural areas “whether it’s kennels or the amount of dogs you own or anything in that aspect.”

Councillor Rick Fryer said there is a difference between a kennel and a boarding kennel and that is something that has to be cleared up as part of a report.

“There’s a big clarification that needs to be brought to council,” he said.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the report will feature “anything and everything” with regards to dogs and kennels. He stated that it is time to find out what other municipalities are doing with regards to the issue “and how we compare.”

Lavigne hopes voters will return him to council for a second term

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Jason Lavigne enjoyed his first term on council and wants to bring what he learned to another term.

Lavigne is the only incumbent councillor seeking a return to the position.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this council,” said Lavigne. “I enjoyed the experience of being involved with all aspects of the town.”

Lavigne said he is proud of what has been accomplished this term, stating the town has been placed in the right direction. He hopes voters will re-elect him for another four years.

“We’ve had a really positive council,” said Lavigne. “I think we changed the direction of the town’s image.”

One of the biggest accomplishments of the current council was securing a new public high school. He said obtaining that will allow future generations to be educated in Amherstburg.

“I think that was huge,” said Lavigne. “We spent a lot of time and effort on that.”

The purchase of the Duffy’s site was another accomplishment Lavigne touted. He predicted it will be a “catalyst” for the downtown core but acknowledged there are competing interests for the site, with some wanting a boat ramp and boat trailer parking while others want it to accommodate festivals.

“I think public consultation is of the highest importance,” he said. “We’re trying to get a balance of what the groups want.”

Lavigne believes there can be a compromise on the issue.

“I hope everyone can work together and not form different factions. It’s all of our property,” he said.

Plans that were originally drafted were “a good starting point” and it will be a tough decision for the next council.

Jason Lavigne is seeking re-election as a councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

The relationship council forged with administration is something Lavigne is happy with.

“When we came in, there was a high turnover rate,” said Lavigne. “I think we have a very solid crew now.”

The town enacted the recommendations from the Deloitte report, he added.

Money is put into reserves across town departments and the town is switching to a “pay as you go” model.

Lavigne also referenced the Deloitte report when speaking of staffing. He said the report called for positions to be filled.

Other hires were with the objective to offset costs that were formally farmed out such as legal and engineering. He said there were other requested positions that he voted against publicly.

“Nothing has been done behind the scenes,” said Lavigne.

The town has also been able to invest more money into roads than previous councils, citing Texas Road, Meloche Road and the soon-to-be done Creek Road projects.

Lavigne called the next four years “crucial for Amherstburg.”

Working with the Greater Essex County District School Board on developing the new public high school will be important, he said, as will the decision on what to do with the remaining 12 acres of Centennial Park. Lavigne said he understands the concerns over wanting to keep that as a park and whether the park will be continued to remain named for H. Murray Smith.

“There’s a lot of concerns out there and rightfully so,” said Lavigne.

The town’s festivals should continue as they bring a “sense of community pride most towns don’t have,” he said. Deferment of development charges should also continue, he believes, as it aids development. Further investigation on what other municipalities do should also be done, including what is done to spur industrial and commercial development.

Lavigne said he was opposed to the policing switch, with that decision being based on what he heard from residents. He said he heard “overwhelming” response from people that wanted to pay extra to keep the Amherstburg Police Service.

“I believe the job is to represent the residents of Amherstburg. That’s what I’ve tried to with every issue over the last four years,” he said.

If all decisions were based on finances, there would be no arena, parks or festivals, he added.