John Miceli

Changes necessary to Belle Vue roof project, CAO says project still underbudget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has been advised of changes to the roof restoration project at Belle Vue that will cost an additional $111,400 plus HST.

However, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) says that despite the extra costs, the project still remains underbudget.

According to a report from treasurer Justin Rousseau, town council approved $325,000 in the 2018 capital budget for the project, $250,000 of which is to be funded from donations. The roof was identified as the top priority in restoring the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion.

“During the construction phase of the project, additional structural issues have been identified and change orders have been requested,” Rousseau’s report stated.

Work began in the summer of 2018 and administration was presented “with a series of issues” that consultant ERA Architects Inc. identified during construction.

“The issues they identified would have not been known at the time of tender as the initial scope of the work was determined based on a non-invasive review of the structure,” Rousseau stated in his report.

The additional issues include sill beam repair and replacement, soffit replacement, eave components, fascia mounted copper gutters, face nailing detail, in-laid gutter supports, brick pier rebuilding and eve painting.

Rousseau noted that the town received confirmation from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places that the town was approved for support up to $100,000 for improvements to Belle Vue and that the grant was applied for by the town “to help offset the cost of construction and further the cause of the restoration efforts.”

Change orders to the Belle Vue roof replacement project sparked a recent debate at town council. (Photo courtesy of the Belle Vue Conservancy Facebook page)

“The 2018 capital budget includes $325,000 for the Belle Vue restoration project. Project funding is based on receipt of $250,000 from donations and the balance from the general tax levy,” Rousseau stated in his report. “However, the budget did not account for the additional grant revenue of $100,000. These grant funds will be used to help offset the additional unexpected cost from the change orders being recommended by ERA Architects Ltd.”

Councillor Leo Meloche said he “thought this might happen” and wondered how much tax money would be spent on the project.

CAO John Miceli pointed out that the original budget was for $325,000 but now they have received a $100,000 grant. The total cost of the project is now estimated at $396,760 but Miceli said they now have $425,000 set aside thanks to the grant.

“We are still underbudget with the grant funding,” said the CAO.

Miceli noted there were items that need repairing that were hidden below the soffit and that efforts are being made to restore the soffit to its original condition.  Meloche said he disagreed with the approach taken, believing that a more invasive investigation should have been done on Belle Vue to get the full picture on what was needed to repair the roof.

Meloche also questioned why the repairs to the town-owned building still weren’t subject to review by the town’s heritage committee. Meloche is the council representative on that committee and questioned whether the town was “skirting our own rules but not getting the heritage committee involved” in the matter.

“Any homeowner has to come before us and get an approval,” said Meloche.

Councillor Rick Fryer opposed the town spending more money on Belle Vue, saying road projects such as Angstrom Cr. need it more.

“People drive on roads every day,” said Fryer.

Miceli noted that town council had already approved the budget for Belle Vue.

“If you are asking me to reallocate money from Belle Vue to Angstrom Cr., that’s a different situation,” said Miceli.

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 gets update on pot legalization

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has directed administration to hold a public consultation session with regards to the community impact on the legalization of cannabis and administration will also bring back a report with information on the province’s one-time opt-out option to host private retail cannabis outlets.

Council members received an update Monday night from manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli, who stated that while a public meeting will be held this term of council, it will be the next term of council that will be making decisions on the matter.

However, there are still questions municipalities have of the Ontario government and there are also concerns with what constitutes a nuisance and how such nuisance complaints would be handled by the municipalities.

“There’s an anticipated impact as it relates to nuisances and odours. There will be some additional enforcement required, but a lot of it is public education,” said Rubli, adding the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will be of assistance as it relates to educating the public.

In a written report to council, Rubli noted that in April 2017, the federal government introduced Bill C-45, also known as The Cannabis Act, and Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

“These pieces of legislation plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to recreational cannabis in Canada. The federal Bill C-45 is the overarching legislative framework that provides rules specifically to regulate the production, distribution, selling and possession of recreational cannabis. This Bill received royal assent in June 2018 and will come into force Oct. 17, 2018,” her report stated.

Rubli added that in December 2017, the Province of Ontario responded with corresponding legislation, the Cannabis Act, 2017 and the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 (OCRCA, 2017).

“This provincial legislation will provide the regulatory framework for the purchase and use of recreational cannabis in Ontario,” she stated.

The legislation will prohibit the sale of recreational cannabis to anyone under the age of 19, prohibit the use of recreational cannabis in all public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, prohibit youth (under 19) from possessing, cultivating, consuming and sharing any amount of recreational cannabis, address illegal selling, including storefront dispensaries, allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis and allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household.

“Concurrently, this legislation strengthens the penalties for supplying cannabis to under-aged youth and for impaired driving. However in August 2018, the provincial government confirmed their plans to introduce legislation to allow the private sector to retail recreational cannabis in Ontario by April 1, 2019. This will change the intent of the OCRCA, 2017 that was to establish a new Crown corporation, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) to sell cannabis and related products through a network of dedicated storefronts and an online channel,” Rubli’s report stated. “In the interim and as of Oct. 17, consumers 19 or older will be able to purchase recreational cannabis through an online retail platform operated by the Ontario Cannabis Store. The Minister of Finance also confirmed that municipalities will have  the ability for a one-time opting out of having a retail store in their communities.”

“This is going to be brand new for all us,” said Councillor Joan Courtney. “I hope the new council has fun with it.”

Courtney said she attended an Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference and the issue was raised that a definition of nuisance has not been clearly established. She was concerned that municipalities could face issues with enforcement and that it would present added workloads to bylaw enforcement officers.

“This is a political minefield that we’re getting into with this,” said Courtney.

CAO John Miceli shared much of Courtney’s concerns, saying “I don’t think we’re going to be on the winning end” of the issue. He agreed that additional resources may be required on the enforcement end.

“It’s going to be a big education (process) for residents and future councils,” he said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said no one has figured out the nuisance issue as of yet, including U.S. states that have legalized marijuana.

“It doesn’t seem any state has figured it out yet,” he said. “It’s going to be a process.”

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out there could be WSIB issues with police and bylaw officers facing additional exposure to cannabis. However, he compared the issue with that of the gas tax in that money could flow back to municipalities.

“Get on the bandwagon,” said Fryer. “There is going to be a revenue stream heading back to municipalities.”

Councillor Leo Meloche noted there is the issue of proximity to other municipalities that has to be considered.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said municipalities are “in limbo” with regards to the matter and that more communication needs to come from the province.  More information is expected in October and that leaves municipalities a short time to decide to opt-in or not. Both he and Rubli noted municipalities can opt-out one time and then opt back in.

“To me, it should be called the opt-in clause,” he said. “If you do opt in, there’s no getting out.”

DiCarlo said he has heard from people interested in opening private shops and knows those people, as well as those opposed to such businesses, are anxious to see the next steps and noted there will be opportunities for public feedback.

Rubli, who is part of a town “task force” on the issue, also said she has heard from people interested in running retail stores or lounges.

“We want to ensure that we’re touching as many residents as we can to see what the town residents want and feel about cannabis storefronts,” she said.

 

OCPC gives further details on policing switch approval

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) granted its approval for Amherstburg to be policed by the Windsor Police Service last month.

Now, they are going into further detail as to why the approval was granted.

In an 11-page report issued last week, the OCPC went into greater detail as to why the Windsor Police Service will oversee the administration of policing in Amherstburg. The decision was made by a three-person panel consisting of associate chair D. Stephen Jovanovic and members Maureen Helt and Matthew Letourneau.

The commission’s decision outlined the background of the process, including the reported savings that came out through the Windsor Police proposal and JPAC recommendation which called for an estimated annual savings of $567,802 “including one-time start-up costs or $2,839,010 over five years.”

The report also stated that Windsor assumes post-retirement benefit costs on a prorated basis depending on years of service.

Amherstburg will enter into a contract with Windsor for four terms of five years each with the ability of either party to withdraw from the contract upon 18 months notice.

“Amherstburg held four public consultation meetings in January 2018 to discuss the Proposal. It appears from a review of the transcripts of the meetings that there was very little support expressed for the Proposal and instead a considerable amount of opposition was voiced,” the commission’s report states. “Similarly, during the Commission’s public meeting the vast majority of citizens spoke against adopting the Proposal, despite the presentations made by Mayor DiCarlo, CAO John Miceli, Mayor Dilkens, Chief Frederick, Deputy Chief Mizuno and others in favour of the Proposal.”

The OCPC stated in its report that adequate and effective policing “requires the provision of necessary staff, administration, equipment infrastructure and facilities to perform, at a minimum, the following police services: crime prevention, law enforcement, assistance to victims of crime, public order maintenance and emergency response.”

The OCPC also stated that the situation between St. Mary’s and Stratford, municipalities which also do not have a contiguous border, to be “vastly different than what has been proposed by Amherstburg and Windsor” thus is “not a particularly useful precedent.”

The decision from the OCPC also outlined that, according to Amherstburg representatives, the RFP was “designed to ensure to the extent possible that there would be little to no disruption to how police services were being provided to the residents of Amherstburg by the APS” and that “in our view, the proposal is consistent with the intention of that design.”

“The WPS Proposal is a testament to the sophistication and complexity of modern day policing. The residents of Amherstburg will continue to enjoy the provision of adequate and effective policing, only at an enhanced level. There will be essentially no reduction in staffing, although there will no longer be the Chief and Deputy Chief positions,” the OCPC’s report states. “Having so found, it is nevertheless incumbent on us to consider the concerns voiced by members of the public both at the four meetings held before the applications were made to the Commission and at the meeting held on June 26, 2018.”

The OCPC’s report also broke down some of the concerns raised by the public, with their viewpoints on them. The OCPC noted it has no authority to order that a referendum be held on the matter, and that “it is up to the council members to gauge public sentiment and respond accordingly.” It also notes that the commission has no authority to challenge resolutions or motions of a municipal council.

The OCPC also noted that the OPP and LaSalle had their own reasons for not submitting proposals, “reasons upon which we cannot comment.”

It was acknowledged by the provincial body that “there was overwhelming opposition to the proposal and near universal support to maintaining the APS (Amherstburg Police Service), its local command structure and in particular the officers working in Amherstburg.” The OCPC report pointed out the concerns over local officers being replaced by officers from Windsor and that the two municipalities have different needs and wants that cannot be reconciled.

“While it is the responsibility of locally elected members of Council to decide how police services are to be provided, it is worth noting that the RFP and the Proposal have addressed many of these concerns. Each current officer has the option of staying in Amherstburg for the balance of his or her career. Attrition will no doubt take place in the future but there is every reason to expect that future officers working in Amherstburg will enjoy the same respect as the current officers,” the OCPC’s report stated.

The loss of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) was described as a “legitimate concern” but added that the addition of the Amherstburg mayor or “a duly qualified person appointed by council” to serve on the Windsor Police Services Board will give Amherstburg residents “a voice in decisions that will be made about policing in the community.” However, the OCPC noted that it was “perhaps not ideal in terms of local control.”

Regarding the ongoing investigation being performed by the OCPC into the Windsor Police Service and Windsor Police Services Board, the commission noted that “the fact of an investigation does not automatically foreclose our approval of the Proposal. Realistically, the WPS continues to provide policing services to the residents of Windsor on a 24/7 basis. Individual complaints will be dealt with during the course of the investigation which may result in a consent resolution or charges under the PSA which will need to be adjudicated. There is no information before us that suggests the WPS is not currently capable of providing adequate and effective police services to the residents of Amherstburg.”

The OCPC stated that calculating the exact amount of financial savings to Amherstburg “remains somewhat elusive, as is often the situation when dealing with budgets and projections.” The annual savings to Amherstburg, according to what the OCPC states it has been presented, ranges from $567,800 to $881,000. Windsor would absorb post-retirement benefit costs with that ranging from $2.8 million to $3.9 million.

“Surprisingly, very few of the residents who made submissions at the various five public meetings were impressed with the savings estimates. The majority would rather forego any savings and maintain the APS,” the OCPC’s report states, adding it is not the commission’s role to second-guess the financial cost projections of either municipality.

“Some residents expressed concerns about the possibility of police vehicles speeding from Windsor through LaSalle as they responded to emergencies in Amherstburg. This concern is belied by the realities of the Proposal. The virtually identical police services will be provided by the same number of officers from the same police headquarters in Amherstburg. There might be a rare event in Amherstburg that requires additional police resources from Windsor, but that rare event would require the same resources and possibly others such as the OPP if it occurred when the APS existed on its own. Local municipal police forces are often required to assist each other in times of emergencies. There is no reason to believe that if such assistance is required in Amherstburg officers from the WPS will not respond responsibly,” the OCPC stated in its report.

The OCPC noted that once “we are satisfied that adequate and effective police services will be maintained by Amherstburg contracting with Windsor for the provision of its police services and that the abolition of the APS does not contravene the PSA (Police Services Act), there is no reason to withhold consent to that abolition, subject to the severance pay issue.”

The OCPC adds that “Amherstburg must deliver to the Commission a signed copy of the contract with the City of Windsor which substantially implements the Proposal” and “receipt by the Commission of written confirmation from the APSB that an agreement as to severance pay has been made with any member of the APS whose employment is terminated as a result of the abolition. Failing such an agreement, the APSB must provide written confirmation to the Commission that an agreement has been made with such members that any severance pay dispute will be referred to arbitration. If no such agreements are made within 90 days of today’s date the Commission will order that all remaining severance pay disputes will be referred to arbitration.”

CAO files defamation lawsuit against mayoral candidate

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) has filed a defamation lawsuit against one of the two men running for mayor.

According to a statement of claim filed with the Superior Court of Justice in Windsor Aug. 23, CAO John Miceli is seeking $90,000 in the lawsuit from Glenn Swinton. Miceli is seeking damages for defamation in the amount of $70,000, aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages in the amount of $20,000 and “an interlocutory and final injunction prohibiting the Defendant, directly or indirectly, from publishing and/or broadcasting, or encouraging others to publish or broadcast any statements, in any matter which in their plain or ordinary meaning or by innuendo suggested the Plaintiff is mendacious, corrupt, incompetent, or responsible for criminal acts.”

The lawsuit centres around posts made on Facebook. It is alleged that the words and images posted “in their plain and ordinary meaning and by way of innuendo” were meant to understand that Miceli is a corrupt public servant, lacks integrity, is a dishonest person, has disregard for the law and is in contempt of legal proceedings.

“The Plaintiff states that because of his defamatory statements and images, his personal reputation has been damaged,” the statement of claim alleges. “The Plantiff has suffered and will continue to suffer damages to his reputation for which the Defendant is liable.”

“Mr. Swinton has made a number of defamatory comments, in my opinion, relating to me,” Miceli told the River Town Times last week. “It’s a personal matter to me. It’s about my reputation as a public servant.”

Some of the comments are based on the policing matter, with further claims being that Miceli’s employment has allegedly been threatened by Swinton due to Miceli’s request for an apology.

“The Plaintiff states that the Defendant admits to using his malicious crusade against Mr. Miceli as part of his political platform in his candidacy for the Mayor of the Town of Amherstburg,” the statement of claim alleges. “Mr. Miceli has suffered the indignity and embarrassment of being the subject of defamatory statements which in turn spawned defamatory comments by others. All such statements were encouraged by the Defendant and were broadcasted and published by him on his Facebook page for which Mr. Miceli seeks damages.”

Miceli said Swinton was given the opportunity to apologize.

“Mr. Swinton elected not to. That’s his prerogative,” said Miceli.

Miceli said Swinton is passionate about the policing issue but added “I’m passionate about my integrity, my reputation and what the truth is.”

The CAO said his role is that of being in an advisory capacity and that he has no votes on issues.

“If you check the voting record, I don’t think you are going to see that John Miceli voted,” he said.

Miceli reiterated that he has built a 27-year career in the public sector adding that he has never actually met Swinton.

“I have never spoken to Mr. Swinton. I don’t know the man, yet he made all these assertions about me that need to be accounted for,” Miceli stated.

Miceli added that he would “for sure” file a lawsuit against Swinton if it weren’t an election year.

“Mr. Swinton has his position and I have mine,” Miceli added. “At the end of the day, a judge is going to decide. A community is going to decide Oct. 22.”

Swinton told the River Town Times that he has received a “Notice under the Libel and Defamation Act” from Mousseau DeLuca McPherson Prince LLP Barristers and Solicitors, on behalf of Miceli, claiming that he has made libel claims against him and was encouraging defamation throughout Facebook.

“This noticed threatened that if I did not remove these posts – some of which were not even mine – and publicly post the prescript apology that was included, an action would be registered with the courts,” said Swinton in an e-mail.

Swinton stated that “because anything I had posted was already public knowledge and I have no control over other people’s posts, I naturally responded notifying them that because the claims were so far fetched, it appeared to me that Mr. Miceli was attempting to form a basis to argue wrongful dismissal and that no apology would be coming from me.”

Swinton added that about 10 days later, “Miceli had filed his claims with the courts accusing me of defaming him with false accusations, and attacking his ‘exemplary reputation within the community’ as a public servant. Mr. Miceli, with his self assessed reputation, has some how deemed his damages to be in the neighbourhood of $90,000.”

Swinton added that part of his platform in running for mayor is that hires made by the CAO would be reviewed if he is elected as mayor.

“I have made it no secret that Mr. Miceli, his department and any new hires that occurred over the last 3.5 years will be examined thoroughly if I am elected on Oct. 22, 2018,” Swinton stated.

As of last Friday afternoon, an official statement of defense was not available. None of the allegations in this case have been proven in court as of yet.