John Miceli

Car show differences ironed out, event set for July 28

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

All appears to be well between the town and organizers of the Amherstburg’s Gone Car Crazy show.

The 14th annual car show is scheduled for July 28 in the downtown core with the retired chair of the event and the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) indicating that issues regarding the event’s organization have been ironed out.

Eleanor Renaud, who retired as the event chair after the 2018 event, says they are “happy and thrilled” that differences have been resolved and that “all is well.”

“It boiled down to a misunderstanding between two groups that should have been meeting face-to-face to begin with,” said Renaud.

Renaud said Steve Maluske and Scott Elliott will co-chair this year’s car show and that she will be there to assist them.

“I will assist them this year to get them rolling,” said Renaud. “I’m going to mentor them.”

Organizers are also “open to new ideas and new thoughts,” she stated.

Differences between volunteer organizers and the Town of Amherstburg appear to have been ironed out and the “Amherstburg’s Gone Car Crazy” show is on track for July 28.

Renaud said she was part of a meeting with town officials last week and said that it was very productive.

“It was worthwhile,” she said.

CAO John Miceli said Maluske and Elliott will lead the event. He said there was confusion when news of Renaud’s retirement came out and that the town wanted to step up to ensure the event stayed alive.

“With the miscommunication, the town took it as a call to action to make sure we didn’t lose the event. Now, we’ve cleared all of that up,” said Miceli. “We’re stepping back and providing in-kind services.”

Those services include road closures, allowing use of the parks and picnic tables, covering police costs and other needs that the car show would have to have to present the event. The town will also contribute $2,500, the CAO stated.

“Eleanor has built such a successful event. It’s part of the fabric of the downtown,” said Miceli. “Now that the volunteers have stepped up, we’ll take a step back and play a supporting role like we’ve always done.”

Miceli said the town will also be providing insurance for the event again, as the car show is classified as a town event.

“The town covers the liability as part of the in-kind (contribution),” said Miceli.

Renaud stated new volunteers are always welcome with Miceli noting a volunteer form has to be signed and training has to be provided as a way to protect the volunteers from liability. It is a way to teach people “to be cautious and to be aware,” said Renaud.

“We’re going to work together and make it a bigger and better event,” Miceli said of the car show.

Renaud added: “We’re up and running and ready to go.”

For more information on the car show, “like” them on Facebook by searching “Amherstburg’s Gone Car Crazy Show” or visit www.amherstburgsgonecarcrazyshow.com.

Town to keep some ice at the Libro Centre in May

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Thanks to an impassioned plea from a representative of the user groups, town council has agreed to keep at least one ice pad operational at the Libro Centre in May.

Wes Ewer represented the Amherstburg Admirals Jr. C hockey team as well as the Big Creek Hockey League, Skate Amherstburg and the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) at Wednesday’s budget deliberations. Keeping ice at the Libro Centre in May is “extremely paramount” to the organizations, Ewer noted, as it impacts tryouts and other activities and events the organizations run.

Registration to the various sports organizations could also be negatively impacted if there is no ice in May, said Ewer, noting the organizations he was involved with are willing to pay the higher winter ice rates in order to keep ice at the arena during that month.

“May ice removal will not work for our user groups,” said Ewer.

There is talk of a merger between Amherstburg and LaSalle minor hockey associations, he added, and that could lead to a future increase in demand down the road, Ewer noted. He added they could also have camps at the Libro Centre to further use the ice.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Councillor Peter Courtney. “I know Wes will come through.”

CAO John Miceli apologized for not communicating better with the user groups and indicated a willingness to work with them. However, Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche voiced concern with the facility losing money though welcomed the opportunity to try and “turn it around.”

“For the last four years, we keep seeing declining revenue,” said Meloche.

Councillor Marc Renaud, also the president of AMHA, said they are losing players and that the potential partnership with LaSalle’s travel program could lead to more usage in Amherstburg.

“I think there is future growth coming,” said Renaud.

Having ice completely out of the Libro Centre in May, June and July would save approximately $85,000 but keeping some ice in at the facility would trim those savings to $63,000. Council also voiced interest in waiting until the middle of August before ice returned in order to save on utility costs.

Mixed bag of viewpoints at logo public meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A crowd of about 20 people attended the public consultation session at the Libro Centre regarding the proposed new logos with varying opinions on which one they liked best.

Cinnamon Toast New Media, led by owner/creative director Bronwyn Mondoux, made a presentation to parks and recreation committee members and heritage committee members followed by another presentation to the public last Saturday at the Libro Centre. At the public meeting, Mondoux brought forth the results of the “Talk the Burg” survey, which had 558 responses and 468 of those identifying as being from Amherstburg. Eighty tourists replied while ten identified as local business owners.

About 47 per cent of the residents liked “Option B,” which was the stylized “A” logo while 37 per cent of the tourists liked “Option A,” which was the original logo brought forth to council in mid-January.

“Option C,” the other logo that was presented after the council meeting with buildings and waves in it, was the second favourite of both residents and tourists, Mondoux reported. The least liked logo in both groups was the simplified version of the original logo.

Logos discussed include Option A (left), Option A simplified (centre),Option B (top right) and Option C (below right).

Option A will be the one that will again be recommended to town council for adoption, as Cinnamon Toast New Media believes that is the one that will connect with millennials and also will address the town’s strategic plan and values as well as what was in the original Request for Proposals (RFP).

Norm Mickle said of Option A that “I don’t understand the logo concept at all” and that Option B looked too similar to that of the Amherstburg Admirals’ logo. Mickle said that Amherstburg is a town that “pioneers new things” and that “we do things here that other towns follow.” He didn’t believe the logos he referenced would inspire tourism or businesses to move here.

“My personal feeling is that neither of these do any of that,” said Mickle.

CAO John Miceli said the town’s Official Plan that was adopted in 2009 outlines the economic importance of tourism “and how important it is to the growth of this town.”

“We got this right back in 2009,” he said. “It’s been ten years and no one did a thing.”

Miceli admitted he wasn’t a fan of Option A at first and preferred Option C. However, he said Option A captured everything the town was looking for in a logo.

“We’re trying to develop tourism as an industry,” he said. “We’ve said since 2009 that we should be doing this.”

Gord Freeman pointed out local artist Elio Del Col designed a logo several years ago that didn’t get off the ground. He believed the consultants should have been given copies of the two-volume book series on Amherstburg to get an education on what the town is about.

“I am not in favour of rebranding. We are the brand here,” said Freeman. “We are recognized in the province. We are the historic heart of southwestern Ontario. Pretty much no one else has what we have, except Sandwich possibly.”

Nancy Atkinson said she circulated the originally proposed logo to family and friends who questioned what it was. She added that when she vacations, “never do I look for a logo.” Atkinson added that she doesn’t understand why the logo is so important and that festivals “are awesome and speak better for all of us.”

Bob Rozankovic questioned why the recommendation supports the 37 per cent of 80 tourist respondents, rather than the responses from the residents.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Rozankovic. “Shouldn’t the new logo carry the approval of the residents first and foremost?”

Rozankovic added “a logo will never draw tourists here. I’ve travelled the world – a logo doesn’t do it.”

Former councillor Diane Pouget pointed out that she voted against the $76,000 branding expenditure because “I think it’s a waste of money.” She believed that a logo design could have been found within the community and not by hiring a firm from outside of Amherstburg.

“We could have done it with high school students,” said Pouget, adding “I have not heard of anyone that likes it.”

Pouget added that she was previously at the committee meeting and reported they were having difficulty achieving consensus.

Sarah Gibb believed there was too much focus on the town logo and that it’s “one piece of the puzzle.” She added she plans her family’s vacations and uses online tools such as new websites to do it.

“It’s a bigger picture item,” she believed, of the branding strategy. Gibb added that “we need to attract people here” over other local municipalities.

“I want them to come here,” she said.

Gord Freeman pointed out the town had a new logo designed several years ago by Elio DelCol.

Janet Willoughby supported Option A, believing that “it makes us unique.” She added that logo will look good on a t-shirt or mug and that the colours were nice as well.

Mondoux noted the logo helps “set the tone” but noted there are other components of the branding project to come, including the new tourism website.

“This is going to turn into so many pieces,” she said.

Anne Rota, the town’s manager of tourism and culture, also said the logo “is a small piece” and there is a “beautiful, beautiful website that is coming.”
“Let’s not get stuck on the logo,” she said, though added the recommended option “has a piece of what everyone wanted in a very edgy way.”

Both the town and Cinnamon Toast New Media revealed that the new logo will not replace the current town crest, the latter still said to be in the plans for more official documentation and will stay on town vehicles.

“Perhaps we should have done a better job communicating that,” said Rota.

The matter will appear before town council again Feb. 25.

Residents call for cuts at town budget meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A crowd of about 30 residents attended the Libro Centre Saturday afternoon and gave their feedback on the proposed 2019 town budget, with much of the feedback being negative.

Director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin and treasurer Justin Rousseau outlined the budget, which currently calls for a 2.65 per cent tax increase. Rousseau noted that, when combined with the county and education portions, this translates into a 1.93 per cent increase or $78 on a home valued at $250,000.

The recommended water rate increase is 2.5 per cent and the recommended wastewater rate increase is 1.5 per cent, with Rousseau indicating the combined impact of both rate increase recommendations would amount to an average of $18 per household.

Among the potential new hires could include a communications officer, an administrative co-ordinator, three part-time parks general labourers, additional tourism staff and an HR co-ordinator.

Rousseau, as he did when the budget was tabled Jan. 21, noted the capital budget is about $14.5 million with the only item being financed with debt being the next phase of the Edgewater forcemain project. Capital demands are about $38.6 million per year and $135 million over ten years, Rousseau stated.

Director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin, treasurer Justin Rousseau and CAO John Miceli address a question during the Feb. 2 budget meeting at the Libro Centre.

“This creates a significant funding gap that needs to be addressed,” Rousseau said.

With budget deliberations still to come, there were those that expressed dissatisfaction with what they saw so far.

Ken Thrasher said it was gift giving and gift seeking season and told the town “again, you are asking for more.” He called for “belt tightening” and questioned additional staff requests, including from the tourism department.

“Here we are again, asking for more staff for that department,” Thrasher stated, questioning the economic spin-off and attendance figures that the town gives out after festivals. He also questioned whether tourism is a core service.

While stating he is not against festivals, Thrasher added his belief that private citizens and groups should put them on “like we did in the ’60s and ’70s.”

Thrasher had issues with a proposed BIA, stating costs would be placed on the shoulders of business owners if one were instituted. He also questioned the town’s commitment to youth after the sale of 15 acres of Centennial Park.

Thrasher called for a budget with “true savings to our taxpayers.”

“What is wrong with wanting efficiencies and savings?” he asked.

Believing that if he ran his business like the town is being run, he would go bankrupt, Thrasher pressed those in attendance to voice their displeasure to council members, all of whom were at the meeting.

“Enough is enough,” said Thrasher.

Gordon Moore asked about the format of the budget, as he believed it is tough to compare year-to-year budgets. He also said there was a 40 per cent increase in operating expenses in recent years and further questioned administration on the number of employees the town has.

Rousseau said the town was in severe financial distress four years ago and that there were costs to putting the town on the right financial course. In terms of the number of employees, that is contained in the town’s financial reporting statements.

“It’s all available to you online,” said Rousseau. “The town is transparent.”

CAO John Miceli said the town is in the business of delivering services and that “we have added people to match the service level.”

Rousseau stated the debt has dropped about $10 million to about $35.6 million and that reserves have increased by about $10 million. Miceli added the town has converted to a pay-as-you-go model and that “we’re much more stable than we were in the past.”

Gregory Moore believed there should have been a plan in place to accommodate those who use the Lions Pool and Centennial Park, with Miceli responding there is a Libro Centre master plan in the 2019 budget.

“That will look at everything we should have at the Libro Centre,” said Miceli.

Moore also asked about taxation, believing “we have a problem here. I think we are spending too much in taxes.” He believed people are having difficulty affording a home in Amherstburg.

Amherstburg resident Gregory Moore voices his concerns with the proposed 2019 town budget during a public meeting Feb. 2 at the Libro Centre.

“The property taxes are getting completely out of control. Council needs to tell administration this budget is completely out of control,” he said. “When does the hiring stop? When is enough enough?”

Moore also questioned the hiring requests from the tourism department.

Miceli said the hiring requests are based out of the community strategic plan. He added that there was $7.4 million in economic spin-off to the town from tourism and events last year.

Moore responded by stating people want more efficiency from the town.

“They want more money coming in and less money going out,” he said. “Run it like you run your household budget. This town is becoming unaffordable.”

Nancy Atkinson also questioned the hiring requests from the tourism department while Larry Bezaire had concerns about water and wastewater increases.

“I’m on a fixed income and I’m trying to fix my income,” said Bezaire.

Town council is scheduled to deliberate the budget at meetings at town hall Feb. 12 from 6-10 p.m., Feb. 13 from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and, if required, Feb. 14 from 2-8 p.m.