Leo Meloche

Amherstburg moving ahead with major forcemain project

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A major infrastructure project is proceeding with that project that has been said to allow for hundreds of homes to be built in the Golfview and Kingsbridge areas.

Town council awarded a tender to J&J Lepera Infrastructures with the work to be done to upgrade pump stations in the area and to construct a forcemain to divert wastewater to the Amherstburg sewage treatment plant.

Total cost of this phase of the project is $8.9 million but a developer is contributing approximately $917,000 for pump station improvements. This is the second of three phases of the Edgewater Diversion Project.

Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt indicated that is the normal course of action as developers are responsible for moving sewage while the town is required to receive the sewage.

“That’s what the project is doing,” said Hewitt.

Hewitt told town council at a special meeting last Wednesday afternoon that he couldn’t estimate a work schedule until after the project was awarded but hoped work crews would be in full swing by mid-August. Installing the forcemain will involve tearing up Front Road North (County Road 20) from roughly the Edgewater area to Alma St. It is expected to reduce the highway from four lanes to two during the construction period.

“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline to get it done,” said Hewitt.

The timeline to complete the forcemain is Nov. 30, he stated, with the pump station due for completion by March 1, 2019. Kingsbridge developer Mike Dunn told town council he will be able to proceed with 700 homes once this phase of the project is completed.

“That’s good news for the town,” responded Councillor Rick Fryer.

Hewitt indicated that there could be “other opportunities for development” for the lands in the Edgewater sewage area other than Kingsbridge.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned why the project cost was coming in higher than projected. Hewitt stated the town received two tenders for the work.

“It tells you the remainder of the contractors are very busy and unable to tender the work,” said Hewitt.

Comparisons were also done of similar projects in other municipalities, he added, and that costs tended to come in 15-20 per cent higher than original estimates.

As part of his written report to town council, Hewitt stated: “The Town has invested significant dollars to upgrade and expand the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant and upgrade the Pump Station No. 2. The recommended works in this report are the final steps to allow the Edgewater Lagoons to be decommissioned and to utilize the capacity built into the treatment plant. By not moving forward on this project the Town could risk potential fines and additional costs from the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) for not addressing the issues with respect to the early discharges at the Edgewater lagoons. The Edgewater Lagoons are currently at capacity. Not approving this project will end future residential development in this area until sewage capacity is increased. This project will allow for residential development and growth to move forward in this area, specifically North Kingsbridge, which has been at a standstill for many years due to the lack of capacity in the Edgewater system.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it was big news for the town, stating at least 700 new homes are coming to the town.

“It’s definitely some nice closure on a very big project that has literally held back the town and development,” said DiCarlo. “I think the big news is really the homes.”

DiCarlo stated that while there have been some new builds in the area, developers have had restrictions on what can be constructed. He is hopeful the forcemain will be operational by the end of the year.

“We’re definitely going to get on it ASAP,” said the mayor.

The Edgewater lagoons should be decommissioned next year with the estimated cost of that phase being just over $1 million.

“We have made major investments in water infrastructure,” said DiCarlo.

The overall cost of the project, including all three phases, is approximately $14 million. Grant funding received in 2015 provided $5.8 million with $1.8 million being used on the current phase that will be done this year.

“Lights Out at the Libro” presented by Fighting Island Boxing Club

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

Beer, sweat and blood all flowed freely at the Libro Centre last Saturday.

Fighting Island Boxing Club hosted its “Lights Out at the Libro” event, where 20 amateur boxers fought it out in front of professional judges and a screaming crowd.

The card included athletes from a variety of age brackets and one women’s bout.  There was also a 50/50 draw and a raffle for a boxing-themed still-life painting with a handmade frame sculpted by Amherstburg Town Councillor Leo Meloche, who said he had never attended a boxing match before.

According to Fighting Island Boxing Club owner/coach Joe LeBlanc, the event went “pretty well.”

LeBlanc said that he had originally scheduled 18 boxers to compete, but lost almost half of them in the days leading up to the event.

“It tends to happen in amateur sports,” he said.  “Either people back out or have other obligations.  It is what it is.”

Nate DiPasquale strikes Quentin Broad in the last bout of the night. DiPasquale walked away victorious.

Those who did compete, though, did “fantastic,” according to LeBlanc.

“It’s not about winning or losing in a club show,” he said.  “It’s all about entertaining the public and getting these young athletes the experience in the ring.”

LeBlanc said that as long as the boxers learned something in this local event they could use in one of the larger travel tournaments, their bout was a win.

Leo Meloche (right) created a frame shaped like a boxing ring with a print he bought a few years ago and donated it back to the Fighting Island Boxing Club. The club raffled it off at the July 14 show.

Nate DiPasquale is an Amherstburg native who finished off the night with a bloodied face, a win and a smile.  He said the night benefited everyone.

“It was really great seeing all these people come out,” he said.  “Getting the community together like this, it’s good for the club and it’s good for the town.”

DiPasquale said fighting in front of his home community was both unique and empowering.  He said seeing the faces and hearing the cheers gave him a boost, but he had to reconcile that emotion with the cold precision of an intense, six-minute bout.

“You have to sort of block it all out and just focus on the other guy, where his hands are and where your head is,” he said.  “(Family and friends) will be there to celebrate with you afterwards.”

The audience’s tickets cost $20 apiece, with all the proceeds going back into Fighting Island’s non-profit programming.

 

 

“McGregor News” presentation packs community centre

 

 

By Ron Giofu & Jonathan Martin

 

A pair of events have been held recently in McGregor by the Town of Essex, but Amherstburg had some involvement in both.

The Essex Municipal Heritage Committee presented “McGregor News,” a presentation that explored the first 25 years of the Village of McGregor. The village is currently split between Essex and Amherstburg down Walker Road.

The evening had some Amherstburg involvement too, as it was held in collaboration with the Marsh Historical Collection.

After tours of St. Clement Church, people made their way into the McGregor Community Centre where retired librarian Nancy Brown made a presentation on the origins of McGregor along with events and people that shaped the community.

“The bulk of the information came from volume one of the McGregor News,” explained Brown. “McGregor had its own column in The Amherstburg Echo from 1875-1900.”

Timber was a big draw in McGregor’s early years.

“That was the big resource at that time,” said Brown.

Despite being a predominantly French village, it was named for William McGregor, whose background included being an Essex County warden and Member of Parliament.

After men such as Thomas Adair and Thomas Ouellette started buying up land in and around the “Walker Path,” now known as Walker Road, the timber industry started booming with Hiram Walker wanting lumber to build railway cars. Rail lines stretched from Walkerville to Kingsville. Sawmills also went up in and around McGregor, which was known for its tall trees.

During its first 25 years, McGregor had six butchers, two meat markets, three harness shops, five shoemakers, nine barbers, eight blacksmiths and much more.

“It’s hard to imagine there was so much activity back in those days,” said Brown.

While fires in 1881, 1890 and 1891 caused damage including the warping of train tracks, there was still much activity including the construction of schools and churches. An original wood framed church was built in 1880 while the current St. Clement Church was built in 1903.

St. Clement Church

“Just like today, there were fundraisers for things,” said Brown.

People would travel by train around the county going to picnics and dances and listening to debates and bands. Sometimes, attendance went into the thousands, Brown indicated.

Such clubs included bachelor’s clubs, the McGregor Council of Chosen Friends and many other groups.

One tale was about a seven-year-old girl fainting, and later dying, after seeing a large snake. Other people reportedly saw the same snake later on and Brown referred to it as “our own Loch Ness Monster.”

Brown used to work in the McGregor Library and came across materials from the village’s history. She became very interested in the area’s roots and got a lot of information from the Marsh Historical Collection.

Rita Jabbour, assistant planner with the Town of Essex, said the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee is the resource base for information and knowledge for Essex council, administration and the community on all matters of heritage.

McGregor residents from both the Amherstburg and Essex sides of the road took part in a recent community cleanup. (Special to the RTT)

“The Town of Essex is made up of four communities with distinct and unique histories. McGregor is unique in particular because it transcends the Essex and Amherstburg municipal boundary line. Guest speaker series, like the presentation with the Marsh Collection Society, is one of the ways in which the committee endeavours to communicate the rich history of those four communities. Speaker series also serve to shed light on important organizations and institutions, like St. Clement Parish and the Marsh Collection Society, which by their existence, preserve and communicate our local history.

Jabbour said they do not have a formal speaker series established; guest speakers are just one of the methods that the committee employs to communicate Essex history.

“We were very, very pleased with the turnout. The committee recorded nearly 150 people in attendance. I think this really speaks to the thirst in the community for information about our past and merits consideration of a speaker series,” said Jabbour. “The committee would like to work with the Marsh Historical Collection to organize a Part 2 to Nancy’s presentation in the future – hopefully with more chairs and food! In the meantime, the committee plans on unveiling two historical plaques this summer on the Colchester Reef and the founding of Harrow, in advance of Explore the Shore in July and the Harrow Agricultural Fair in August.

Those who attended the McGregor event are encouraged to contact the Town of Essex at 519-776-7336 ext. 1128 or rjabbour@essex.ca to suggest future topics for guest speakers.

A few weeks earlier, McGregor got a lot cleaner thanks to a community cleanup.

Richard Meloche, deputy mayor of the Town of Essex and Leo Meloche, Amherstburg town councillor and deputy mayoral candidate invited local residents to pick up litter from the Town of Essex’s four urban centres.

Around 50 people turned out for the cleanup, which more than doubles the 20 or so who showed up for previous years, according to Richard Meloche.

“I think a big part of it was Mrs. Ducharme and Mrs. Wood from Colchester North Public School, who decided to help out,” he said.  “They brought around 25 people just themselves.”

Altogether, the group picked up around 60 bags of garbage in a two-hour span.

“I was surprised and disheartened at the number of liquor bottles I found on the side of the road,” Leo Meloche said.  “I don’t like the idea of booze being that close to roads.”

Each volunteer was supplied with gloves and bags, which were purchased by the Town of Essex.  After the work was done, a free lunch was hosted for the volunteers by the McGregor Columbian Club, which Richard Meloche said was rented by the town at a discounted rate.  Leo Meloche said he would look into contributing financially to future iterations of the annual project.

“Amherstburg benefits from this too,” he said.  “It’s only fair.”

The Meloches agree that the benefits are definite and pronounced.  They explained that they like to see their communities get taken care of, but they love to see their neighbours coming together to make it happen.

 

More ideas come in on what to do with the Belle Vue property

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

More ideas have been floated as the town held a second public meeting on what to do with the Belle Vue property.

About 25 people attended last Tuesday night’s meeting at the Libro Centre with more people from the general public attending this meeting than the first one held seven days earlier.

Similar to the May 29 meeting, attendees were told that as of May 31, the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised $210,000 in cash, had nearly $18,000 in in-kind contributions and another $65,000 in future cash pledges.

“We are starting phase one, which is the repairing of the roof,” said CAO John Miceli. “We’re trying to make it water-tight.”

Miceli praised the conservancy, stating they have done a good job raising money. Renderings depicts such things as gardens, brick pathways, a greenhouse, conference meeting centre, lighting, a bandshell and other amenities but the door has been left open for other ideas. Miceli said nothing has been adopted by council.

“It is an incredible property to be placed here in Amherstburg,” said Miceli. “We took a blank canvas and created something our community could enjoy as well as our region.”

Historian Robert Honor, who is also a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy, gave a history of the 200-year-old home from the time it was built by Robert Reynolds in 1816-19 through its various private owners, to its time as a veterans’ home and then as St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church. The church sold the property in 2000. The town bought it in 2016.

“Belle Vue seems to tell a story of people starting new adventures,” said Honor. “Belle Vue might be considered a symbol of new beginnings and new prosperity.”
Honor added that “as we speak, we are also part of the process of new beginnings as we discuss the future of Belle Vue.”

One of the renderings shown at the two recent public meetings shows the elevations of the historic building once Belle Vue is restored.

John McDonald said the fundraising process could be assisted if people could use the grounds. He suggested teaming with the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society to spruce up the nine-acre site, with the first priority being to put in trees.

Use of the property could “build public momentum,” McDonald said, adding that such things as church picnics could be held on the grounds under a permit system.

The chief administrative officer replied that there are currently liability issues with Belle Vue as the site needs to be graded to make it safer. He did note that it is in the parks master plan. There is also no irrigation on the grounds to help water any plant materials at the current time.

The greenhouse that is proposed would allow the town to grown and maintain its own plant materials, he envisioned.

Councillor Leo Meloche spoke on the conference centre idea with Miceli indicating that the historic building could house smaller conferences while larger conferences could be held in a new building that could be built behind the home.

Meloche added the parks and gardens will take Belle Vue “to another level” but was hoping for minimal operating costs to run it, also hoping that would be self-sustaining.

Bob Rozankovic questioned whether the site could be self-sustaining with Miceli responding that the town would seek partnerships in running the site. He was confident it would be cost-neutral, envisioning that Belle Vue would be a destination that people from the region would want to book and attend.

A proposed look at what the Belle Vue property would look like.

Miceli added that a business model would have to be built but emphasized his belief Belle Vue could become a popular place in Amherstburg for residents and visitors alike.

“It’s a unique venue,” said Miceli. “There’s nothing like it.”

The CAO added it is “a totally different look and feel” than Willistead Manor in Windsor and believed there would be more amenities should Belle Vue be restored.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau agreed that there could be “a lot of uptake for bookings” at a restored Belle Vue and “that type of revenue stream” and that type of revenue could prove fruitful for the town.

Using the home as a bed and breakfast was floated but Miceli said they would have to work with a private operator to run it, should the town want to go in that direction. He said there could be an announcement soon as it relates to a hotel coming to Amherstburg.

Marc Renaud said relationships have to be built with the community to help get the site restored. He said the ongoing roof replacement shows there is activity at the site.

“It’s about donor. Money that will make the place run,” he said.

As for a timeline, Miceli said that is tough to give since the restoration depends on fundraising dollars. Should donors step up and grants come in, the actual construction process could take 18 months to three years on the home itself while the grounds could take approximately eight months to complete, according to the CAO.

Miceli said news about a federal grant could be coming soon.

“We are applying to every opportunity that comes along,” he said.

Paul Hertel, another member of the conservancy, recalled being on town council when King’s Navy Yard Park was created. He believed it is now a reflection of the community’s desire for growth, and that Belle Vue could turn into the same thing.

“I feel Amherstburg has great potential and energy to grow,” he said. “It takes a whole community to raise its collective conscience of who we are and the space we are blessed to occupy. I have great faith the process will be successful. It’s not a one-term project. It’s a life journey.”

An image of what a restored Belle Vue would look like, according to renderings by Architectura.

Miceli said the Belle Vue project and the project proposed for the Duffy’s property are among the most exciting he has dealt with in his 28-year municipal career.

“They are game-changers for the town,” he said.

The Belle Vue Conservancy’s next fundraiser is “All That Jazz for Belle Vue,” which is an event that includes a dinner and a show. It’s planned for June 25 at the Artisan Grill. Tickets are $80 per person and are available at the Artisan Grill, Amherstburg Freedom Museum or by calling Shirley Curson-Prue at 519-736-6947. The entertainment includes Renee King-Jackson and her Fabulous Foursome. It runs from 6-10 p.m.

For more information on future events or on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com. To donate, people can visit www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

Belle Vue is located at 525 Dalhousie St. in Amherstburg.

Town places moratorium on future signage due to pending urban design guidelines

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of local realtors got their signage request approved, but no more bylaw exemptions will be considered until the town’s urban design guidelines come to council.

Brad Bondy and Amy Bailey from Remax Preferred Realty appeared before town council with regards to a signage request for 103 Sandwich St. S. where their business name will also appear with Amherstburg Flowers & Gifts. However, town council requested that he work within the urban design guidelines and later passed a moratorium on any future signs from anyone else until the design guidelines are finalized.

CAO John Miceli said he wanted the moratorium so that council would have all the information from the guidelines, something a consultant is currently crafting.

“I wanted to make sure we took it into consideration with everything,” he said of the signage request. “All I’m asking for is a moratorium not to make a decision until we have urban design guidelines.”

Miceli added the goal of the urban design guidelines is to give Amherstburg a “sense of place” and that signs should have the “look and feel of the community we are trying to create.”

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned whether the business community should be consulted about types of signage but Miceli said efforts were made with only 20 of 211 businesses coming out to meetings.

“To be quite honest, we’ve had poor representation from the business community,” he said.

Councillor Diane Pouget agreed with the moratorium, saying the town spent “a lot of money” for a consultant to create the guidelines. She added past signage have created potential legal issues.

“Council has been cautioned several times by legal regarding signage and how it is distracting to drivers,” she said.

However, Councillor Rick Fryer reminded council that Bondy and Bailey’s request came before council at the May 14 meeting and was deferred due to council wanting more information.

“If Mr. Bondy was here, it would have been dealt with two weeks ago,” said Fryer.

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed with Fryer in that the matter would have been dealt with May 14 if Bondy had been asked to attend the meeting. She believed it would be unfair to Bondy and Bailey to put a moratorium in place before dealing with their sign request “but it should end here.”

Courtney said future requests should be subject to the moratorium.

Bondy indicated they are willing to work with the town.

“We’re willing to do what you guys want us to do,” he told town council.

Bondy added the proposed sign is attractive.

“It’s nothing grotesque,” he said. “It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s simple.”

Pouget said the town is trying to eliminate sign pollution and that if exemptions keep getting granted, it “defeats the purpose” of trying to come up with urban design guidelines.

Miceli said a report on urban design guidelines could come before town council in July.

“It’s about creating a sense of place in Amherstburg,” he emphasized. “It’s not about preventing signs.”

The area covered by the moratorium stretches from Texas Road to Lowes Side Road and from Meloche Road to the water’s edge.