Jason Lavigne

Cost of police clearances becomes a concern of council members

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg town council lent its voice to the issue of volunteers having to pay for multiple police clearances.

The matter arose due to a letter that was included on the agenda as part of Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) minutes on the matter. Amherstburg St. Vincent de Paul Society member Dan Laing wrote the board with concerns about the organizations volunteers having to repeatedly pay for police clearances.

Long-time volunteers have had to obtain clearances and, with those volunteers also having to be fingerprinted, it brought the cost to $85 for one clearance, the letter stated.

“It is a common theme that most of our male members should now be fingerprinted like common criminals to prove their identity,” Laing’s letter stated. “I think this is ridiculous and no way to treat volunteers who are doing their best to keep Amherstburg the safest community in Canada.”

Laing wrote that volunteers from other organizations have been experiencing similar issues.

“Our SSVP conference is composed of single ladies and 15 couples ranging in age from 60 to 92. Most of the couples who go out on calls together, never alone, have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary,” the letter added. “As well most of us have lived in this community our whole lives and if we were law breakers it would be well known to the local police. I would appreciate it if we could be excused from the fingerprinting requirement at this time or at least the cost of this pointless exercise.”

Laing added: “A new policy concerning the treatment of volunteers who are requesting police clearance would also be most helpful.”

Councillor Joan Courtney raised the issue, noting such volunteers don’t get paid for what they do and are “trying to make life better for residents of Amherstburg.”

Chief Tim Berthiaume said that it is employers and insurance companies who are the ones that seek police clearances and the rules are governed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

“We are working on a policy to help these groups out,” said Berthiaume.

Councillor Rick Fryer called for the fingerprint policy to be changes, stating “once you have the fingerprints once, you have the fingerprints on file.”

Not so, stated Berthiaume.

The police chief stated the fingerprints are not kept in town and are sent electronically to the RCMP. The RCMP doesn’t retain the fingerprint copies, he added.

“It’s not our rule, it’s an RCMP rule,” said Berthiaume. “That’s what leads to the frustration.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne said the RCMP isn’t allowed by law to keep the fingerprints and said the APSB may be able to absorb some of the costs. Fryer voiced concern with that possibility, stating “it’s going to come out of our budget.”

 

Legal fees questioned by councillor who also had legal fees

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Councillor Diane Pouget was one of two members of council whose legal fees were part of the accounts payable that appeared on Monday night’s agenda, but she had questions about others.

Pouget declared a conflict of interest on the portion of the accounts payable that saw her having paid $500 to the Leardi Law Firm for legal advice regarding her being able to discuss the upcoming issue of whether or not to stick with the Amherstburg Police Service or switch to the Windsor Police Service.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale also received advice from the firm headed by Anthony Leardi, the latter being a former municipal politician himself.

“My name is in there and rightly so and the deputy mayor’s name is in there and rightly so,” said Pouget

The questions raised by Pouget were not about those fees, but rather with $27,000 in legal fees attributed to the Amherstburg Police Association. Pouget wondered why there was no firm listed for the association.

“Residents have a right to know what public money is being used for,” said Pouget.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau said it was a reimbursement to the Amherstburg Police Association for fees that occurred and that a private and confidential memo was circulated to town council members.

“This settled a grievance,” Chief Tim Berthiaume told town council. “We can’t reveal who the firm was representing.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne, a member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), said elected officials are required to report such fees to residents but the town never reveals who employees are or outside parties.

Berthiaume suggested getting a legal opinion to see what further information could be reported to council with Lavigne adding the motion was simply to receive the report.

Pouget said she could not vote in favour with the accounts payable listed as it was.

“I have the utmost respect for the Amherstburg Police Services Board and the Amherstburg Police Association,” she said, though noted “I just can’t vote for it.”

Voting in favour to receive the accounts payable were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Lavigne, Leo Meloche, Joan Courtney and Rick Fryer. Pouget was opposed. DiPasquale was absent.

Town to consider its own surcharge recommendation for Libro Centre

 

By Ron Giofu

Town council has opted to consider its own recommendation for a new surcharge to be assessed to Libro Centre users.

In the process, they spurned a different proposal submitted by the building’s three main user groups – the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association (AMHA), Skate Amherstburg and the Integrity Amherstburg Admirals.

According to a report from manager of recreation services Rick Daly, “administration proposed a capital surcharge outlined in the user fee bylaw” and “this capital surcharge is set at $6 per rental unit of time for sport facilities and park bookings and $3 per rental unit of time for room rentals.”

That option would see an estimated $25,350 collected in a year, as opposed to the other option, presented Monday night by AMHA president Marc Renaud. That option is estimated at collecting $26,648.

“We believe non-residents should pay more and adult users should pay more,” Renaud told town council. “Kids in sport stay out of court.”

Renaud said the option created by the three major users would require 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.

According to the administrative report: “Administration recommends that Option #1 (the town’s recommendation) be approved as it is the most equitable and easiest to implement. The users would pay into the reserve equally based on rental levels.” The report added that “the fundamental difference in the structure of the reserve in Option 2 (presented by the primary users) is problematic, in that it doesn’t allow the town to deal with global building issues and only ice specific issues. Secondly, it creates inequality, as it doesn’t allow the users who are paying a disproportionate share much representation at the time the replacement is needed. In this case, you would have non-primary users subsidizing the future replacement of infrastructure to the benefit of the primary users.”

Councillor Rick Fryer said he supported the town’s recommendation, believing the $6 surcharge across the board is “fair” and that the people who use the Libro Centre most would pay a greater share of the surcharge.

“I don’t see this being a big issue with the user groups,” said Fryer.

Renaud reiterated his position that adult users should be paying more in order to keep youth in sports.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said he has three children who have played travel hockey and regardless of whether it is children or adults playing, the adults still pay the costs.

“You are kind of wishy-washy here,” Lavigne told Renaud.

Lavigne said the Libro Centre is the envy of the area but there are costs to keep it that way.

“We have to realize it costs money and we’re having issues here,” said Lavigne.

Councillor Leo Meloche believed the user groups’ options were “a burden to the non-primary users” and that the general taxpayers were paying “a pretty good share already” to maintain the Libro Centre. He said he didn’t find the user groups’ option to be unreasonable. Councillor Diane Pouget said “we try to be fair to everybody” and noted Daly’s report where it said the primary users had 54 per cent of the ice time in 2016 but would only pay 38 per cent of the total surcharge under their proposal.

Councillor Joan Courtney noted she has children and grandchildren who play hockey and believed that if a person can play hockey, they can afford to pay a little more. She noted there is money for hats and jackets and that “somehow they find the money” and didn’t believe the surcharge was unreasonable.

“To keep the Libro Centre a great facility, I don’t think it’s too much,” said Courtney.

Town council debates re-opening yard waste depot temporarily

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

The leaves are falling from the trees and that has meant the return of the debate on whether or not to re-open the yard waste depot on Thomas Road.

The yard waste depot was closed in 2014 as a “budgetary matter,” said director of public works and engineering Antonietta Giofu, but Councillor Rick Fryer wondered if it could be re-opened at least temporarily to allow residents to drop off leaves and other yard waste. Fryer said there are some people with a lot of leaves on their yards and there aren’t enough collection dates to accommodate those people.

People with large yards and a lot of trees have to store their leaves until the next collection day, Fryer added.

“I’m always getting calls about this,” he said.

Giofu said that the public works department gets called regularly about the matter, but point people to the three other public drop-off points in the region. Those include the Windsor Garbage and Recylcing Depot at 3560 North Service Road, the Kingsville Garbage and Recycling Depot at 2021 Albuna Townline (County Road 31) and the Regional Recycling Depot, located at the Regional Landfill at 7700 County Road 18 in Essex.

When the depot was closed, it carried an annual operating cost of $131,000 and she added that it was “very rare to have two options for the residents.” It was re-opened after big storms to accommodate storm damage.

Councillor Diane Pouget suggested having the matter looked at budget time. Councillor Leo Meloche leaned towards a possible re-opening of the landfill for seasonal purposes, stating there are limitations on burning and that people want to keep their yards clean and not have leaves blow onto their neighbours’ yards.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said he was in favour of calling Windsor Disposal Services (WDS) if another collection date was needed rather than having to pay an employee to staff the yard waste depot.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, believed if the Thomas Road depot were to be re-opened, the town should proceed with caution.

“We have opened the depot a few times on an emergency basis,” said DiPasquale. “We were getting a lot of misuse.”

Administration told council they always have the option of whether or not to re-open the depot and decide how long it will be open.

Dentists seek closer look at parking limits in downtown lot

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Local dentists Chad Denomme and Stefano Storey are hoping the town can take a closer look at time limits for parking near their recently-purchased building.

The owners of Storey and Denomme Family Dentistry recently bought the building at 79 Richmond St. and are currently renovating it so it becomes their new home. They had originally requested that a few spots in the adjacent public parking lot at the corner of Richmond St. and Ramsay St. be dedicated for their business, but modified their request and instead wanted council to take a closer look at time limits in that lot.

“As soon as we discussed (having dedicated spots) as a team, we thought that may open up a can of worms for other businesses,” said Denomme.

However, they have noted that many vehicles park there all day and suggested that putting time limits on spaces could produce a better flow of vehicles in the lot and increase availability of the spots.

“It’s the same cars there for eight or nine hours a day,” said Denomme.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin suggested that spots in that lot could be designated for two-hour limits but “the question is the mix.” He said they could look at best practices and come up with something with regards to what percentage of spots could be on a time limit.

Councillor Jason Lavigne opposed any idea of another parking study but did say the municipal lot across the road in back of the Heritage Plaza building is “empty all day.” Amherstburg is a tourist destination, Lavigne continued, and that “if we switch lots to two-hour parking, it’s going to create issues across the board.”

Dentists Stefano Storey and Chad Denomme are asking the town to take a closer look at some time limits for some of the spots in the lot at Richmond St. and Ramsay St.

Lavigne said there has been debate with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce on the matter over the years but believed there are enough spots downtown.

“There is a ton of parking down there,” said Lavigne. “Some is a stone’s throw from businesses.”

One of the issues with the parking lot at Richmond St. and Ramsay St. is nearby residents, such as those in the Navy Yard condominium building, parking there.

Councillor Rick Fryer also pointed out the parking behind the Heritage Place and that people can “park here and walk a little bit.” He said something has to be done to alleviate parking concerns, and wondered if a “pay for parking” scenario would work though admitted people would be “up in arms” at first. He believed such a plan could force residents who use public lots while at home to move their vehicles out of the lot.

“There’s got to be something done,” said Fryer.

Councillor Leo Meloche stated that short-term parking has to be closer to businesses and that those who park downtown for eight hours or so should be “pushed out to the outlying areas.” That said, he maintained his belief that “Amherstburg doesn’t have a parking problem.”

Lavigne cautioned that if parking limits are placed in the Richmond St./Ramsay St. lot, there could be more funding requested by the bylaw enforcement department. He also pointed out the traffic committee could have looked at the matter but it was dissolved several months ago.

Councillor Rick Fryer’s motion to deny dedicated spots, allow administration to enter into an encroaching agreement for a sign over the sidewalk and to have administration come back with suggestions for the Richmond St./Ramsay St. parking lot was approved.

“We’re going to have to do something to help the businesses,” said Fryer. “We can’t have spots tied up by those in the apartments next door.”