John Miceli

Town approves $50,000 to fund implementation of staff accommodation review

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has addressed a “staffing resources shortage” during the 2017 and 2018 budget deliberations and now are having difficulty finding places for them to work.

Town council authorized an amount not exceed $50,000 for implantation of a staff accommodation review. The results of that will see the lower level of the Amherstburg Municipal Building reconfigured to provide for additional work spaces. A report authored by treasurer Justin Rousseau stated that plan will “accommodate the current staff accommodation needs at the municipal offices potentially for the next few years, subject to growth in the town and administrative demands.”

However, Rousseau cautioned that it does not provide “a comprehensive long-term solution” to address long-term growth in municipal operations nor does it address compliance with accessibility legislation.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned why the study was not a budget item during 2018 deliberations with CAO John Miceli admitting it had been missed. He said “for full transparency, we came to council” regarding the matter.

Meloche further pressed as to whether the matter should have been put off to the 2019 town budget, but Miceli said the staff have been hired and now need a place to work out of.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo indicated that he has first-hand knowledge that there are tight quarters at town hall.

“I’m sharing my office with a new hire,” he said, “not that I’m complaining.”

The Town of Amherstburg had previously applied for grant funding to assist with town hall upgrades and the ability to move further services to the Libro Centre. That grant was unsuccessful. The building and planning departments have been based out of the Libro Centre for the last few years.

Town to take over River Lights Winter Festival

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The River Lights Winter Festival is now going to be run directly by the town.

While a volunteer committee oversaw the festival for its first decade in existence, the town will now take it over after the request was made by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, River Lights draws over 20,000 people annually to the downtown core and the volunteer committee has raised over $550,000 for the festival.

“Administration has met with the Chamber and its subcommittee on a number of occasions related to the above request. The basis for the request lies in the limited ‘go forward’ capacity, in terms of resources, of the Chamber to continue to deliver the festival,” Rota stated in her report.

There are 109 displays that are being transferred to the town, valued at approximately $100,000, with the River Lights committee also having about $25,000 cash in the bank and $25,000 in investments. Rota’s preliminary forecast for 2018 calls for $70,000 in revenue and expenses totalling $65,000.

The River Lights Winter Festival drew an estimated crowd of 28,000-30,000 people in 2017-18.

The town historically has committed $5,000 under the approved base budget “however, if event costs are covered by revenues from third parties and the town is directly operating the request, no further town contribution may be required,” Rota wrote.

Rota added the parks department labour costs have traditionally be donated in-kind. The 13-member volunteer committee, she added, would be interested in continuing to assist.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she supported the request.

“It’s the only way we can keep it,” she said. “We have to agree to take on the project.”

CAO John Miceli said he believes the festival will be enhanced. Miceli was questioned by Councillor Leo Meloche as to whether this will be a line item in the budget, and Miceli answered in the affirmative.

The River Lights has been named a “Top 100 Festival in Ontario” eight times by Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO).

Tender for new Belle Vue roof approved

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A new roof is coming to the historic Belle Vue house.

Town council approved a tender from Robertson Restoration to repair the roof on the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion. It is the first in many steps to restore the home, with members of the Belle Vue Conservancy believing it will spur future fundraising.

“The Belle Vue Conservancy has spent a little over a year collecting funds,” said conservancy treasurer Michael Prue.

Prue said they collected – between what they have on hand and what has been promised – about “a third of a million (dollars).” By restoring the roof and having action at the site, Prue believed that will spark fundraising efforts as the public will see something is being done.

“It has been a little more difficult than in the beginning to raise funds,” Prue admitted. “People want to see action.”

Prue said the current roof continues to leak and that has led to additional water damage in the home. Such water damage can lead to even more “enormous” repairs, he believed, as he urged council to accept the tender. The tender is valued at $258,400 plus HST.

“This is not going to open Belle Vue,” Prue added, but he said roof repairs will show people in Amherstburg and beyond that the town is serious about preserving the historic property.

“There are some naysayers,” Prue noted, but believed seeing scaffolding go up will help silence doubters.

“People will say ‘look at Amherstburg’,” he said.

A look at Belle Vue, as seen July 2017. (Photo by Paul Hertel)

The Belle Vue Conservancy has applied for federal grants to assist in its fundraising efforts and is hopeful of positive results.

“When the building is complete, it will be a tourist draw,” Prue predicted.

Prue added he hopes Belle Vue will be used as a conference centre but that decision is up to town council.

“We think we can raise a lot more when council decides what purpose it is going to have,” added Prue.

CAO John Miceli added the next step will be to replace the windows.

“This is one of the greatest sites any small town will have,” Miceli said of Belle Vue.

In his written report to town council, Miceli stated: “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.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreed that this was only the first step in restoring the building but was optimistic.

“This is a very important first step in stopping the deterioration,” said DiCarlo.

Prue also pointed out a pair of upcoming fundraisers, including the May 1 “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” event held at Christ Anglican Church, in partnership with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. There is also the May 27 “Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party” to be held in King’s Navy Yard Park.

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy, including its upcoming events, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com. To donate, people can also visit www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

Town officially purchasing former St. Bernard School

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg is moving forward with the acquisition of the former St. Bernard School after agreeing to buy the building for $550,000.

Town council emerged from an in-camera meeting Monday night and authorized administration to remove conditions for the acquisition of the former Catholic elementary school. The purchase will be funded through the town’s parkland reserve with only Councillor Diane Pouget voting in opposition to the purchase.

CAO John Miceli said the issue never made it to arbitration as lawyers for both the town and the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) were able to strike a deal. The building had been appraised by the board at $650,000.

“We came to a negotiated settlement,” said Miceli. “Both parties recognized the benefits to the community.”

The town and the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board have agreed on a sale price of $550,000.

The plan for the building, located at 320 Richmond St., remains to develop it into a “seniors’ hub.” Miceli said with an aging population, the town wants “to improve the quality of life for seniors.” He pointed out the town is undertaking a seniors master plan.

“We recognize that they’re going to be a big part of our population and we need to be able to service them and we’re going to capitalize on that building and modify it to service the needs of the residents here in Amherstburg,” the chief administrative officer said.

Acquiring the building was the first step, he said, and now they can move forward with possible tenants for the building.

One possible tenant is a nurse practitioner-led clinic while space has been blocked out for other uses. Miceli said the preliminary plans can now move forward and the town can now proceed with discussions with the other potential user groups. The building would be modified according to what uses the building is put to.

“We’ve got a list of tenants that want to participate in that building,” Miceli indicated.

The town went public with its interest in the building last November, but frustrations have eased and now the matter has been resolved. The town could take ownership of building within 60 days.

St. Bernard School was closed by the WECDSB in 2016 with students transferred to Stella Maris School. The building was originally constructed in 1958 with additions being built in 1961 and 1971. The building is approximately 30,000 square feet.

Building demolition to “help with accommodations” in Amherstburg

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council officially gave the go-ahead to demolish the building at 305 Dalhousie St. but it appears that the reason behind it is substantial.

The building, located at the corner of Gore St. and Dalhousie St., will be brought down with plans for the property, according to CAO John Miceli, aligning with the town’s strategic plan. Miceli indicated that the plans “will help with accommodations” in Amherstburg.

When speaking to the media after the meeting, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo didn’t use the word “hotel” but indicated that the town is “extremely close” to making a “major announcement” about plans for the site. He said it was the final step in a process which could come to a conclusion “fairly soon.”

“It’s a private development,” said DiCarlo. “I have to be careful in how much I say.”

DiCarlo said “it’s not a secret” what the town wants in terms of accommodations, and that work has been progressing in that regard.

Town council has authorized the demolition of 305 Dalhousie St. it is part of a project which is said to “help with accommodations” in Amherstburg.

“We were past the ‘if’ stage some time ago,” said DiCarlo. “It really comes down to how quickly we can do this.”

According to a report on Monday night’s agenda from chief building official Angelo Avolio and director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin: “Amico Properties Inc has tabled with administration and the heritage committee a conceptual heritage themed redevelopment proposal for this site that will assist the Town in meeting the desired community objectives of the Community Strategic Plan. Further details will be subject of a future report to council which is anticipated in early summer of 2018.”

The Ontario Provincial Artistic Gymnastics Championships were in Amherstburg earlier this month and that would have been an ideal opportunity to have people stay in town, over and above the existing bed and breakfasts.

“It truly hurt to have people staying anywhere but Amherstburg,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo indicated that the town has been fielding multiple proponents to bring overnight accommodations to town.

“It’s been a wonderful process,” he said, believing that having overnight accommodations will help spur further development and interest in the town.