Leo Meloche

Town officially accepts FEO Awards

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town learned last week it had won Municipality of the Year as well as Best New Festival or Event and had another festival in the province’s top 100.

This week, the town officially celebrated and received the awards during Monday night’s town council meeting. The awards were presented by Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO).

Amherstburg was Municipality of the Year among municipalities with a population under 50,000 while the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival won for top new festival with a budget under $100,000. The River Lights Winter Festival made the top 100 list.

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota noted “there are hundreds of municipalities” looking for investment and government grants and this helps in that regard. She said “we must keep Amherstburg top of mind” as a place people want to visit and invest.

Town council recently accepted the awards from Festival & Events Ontario (FEO). From left: tourism co-ordinator Jen Ibrahim, manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, manager of parks and facilities
Annette Zahaluk and special events
co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven.

The town is very walkable, she added, and the town also has a supportive business community and a lot of history.

“It’s all here in Amherstburg,” said Rota. “Just keep coming to Amherstburg. We love our visitors.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche thanked staff, visitors and volunteers for the accomplishments.

“In order to win these types of awards, it’s a collaborative effort,” he said. “Putting Amherstburg in the limelight will bring more people to our community.”

“What you’ve really proven is Amherstburg is a fun place to be,” added Councillor Michael Prue. “This is a happening place. This is a place you come to have fun. I’m sure Amherstburg will continue to prosper and grow and I thank you very, very much.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo thanked the tourism and parks departments, both represented Monday night.

“I know you are all out there making all these festivals a success,” he stated.

COUNCIL BRIEFS — Sidewalks a concern to councillor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Despite the fact that Amherstburg has sidewalk clearing machines, one town councillor is hoping residents tend to them during snow and ice events.

Councillor Peter Courtney said he has received concerns from residents over the state of some sidewalks after it snows and the possibility of slip and fall accidents. He noted that he took care of his sidewalk when he lived on Alma St. and encourages those with sidewalks to still tend to them for the benefit of their neighbours.

Courtney suggested placing an ad in the River Town Times urging residents to exercise due diligence and clear their sidewalks but administration responded by suggesting that the town place one in time for next winter.

Layperson appointment extended   The town has extended the appointment of its layperson on the Essex Power board of directors.

Bill Wark had his term on the board extended until Dec. 31, 2020 as requested by the board of directors. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also serves on the board.

 

Flooding program   Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche noted that with rainy weather likely for the spring, it also meant the possibility of basement flooding. Meloche questioned whether the town had budgeted for the basement flooding subsidy program. After being told it was in the 2019 budget, Meloche wanted to know if the public could be reminded to take part in the program.

Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt noted there is increased involvement in the program after the town puts reminders in homeowners’ tax bills.

Homeowners can contact the public works department at 519-736-3664 for more information on the program.

 

Girl Guide fee waiver   The Girl Guides of Canada had their fees waived for the open burn permit. Guiders Cathy Robertson and Kathi Poupard say their group helps young women develop into self-reliant individuals and that even $25 can make a difference.

“Although $25 doesn’t seem like much to some, to us it means extra fundraising,” said Robertson.

Fire chief Bruce Montone suggested that an amendment to the bylaw could prevent the Girl Guides from having to come to council every year but Councillor Michael Prue believed a simpler way would be for the Girl Guides to apply for a $25 community grant at budget time.

 

Legal services   The town has agreed to enter into a three-year agreement with three law firms – Mousseau DeLuca McPherson Prince LLP,  McTague Law Firm LLP and Shibley Righton LLP – with the possibility of extending into a fourth year. Director of planning, development and legislative services said the town originally entered into retainer agreements in 2015 and those expire this year.

“Retainers with multiple firms allow for continuity, cost containment and for flexibility with respect to procuring specialized legal expertise required to provide advice to council,” Galvin wrote in a report to town council. “Utilization of external legal counsel may fluctuate depending upon the needs throughout the year. Through variance reporting, administration will provide council with updates as to the external legal cost.”

 

Town to change a street name to avoid confusion

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

One of Marsh Drive or Marsh Court will be getting a name change soon.

Both streets are located in the southern portion of the Kingsbridge subdivision with it being Marsh Ct. on one side Knobb Hill Dr. while it is called Marsh Dr. on the other side of Knobb Hill Dr.

A pair of residents appeared before town council Monday night noting there is confusion as everyone from delivery people to emergency services go one way off of Knobb Hill Dr. when they should have turned in the opposite direction.

Marsh Court resident Richard Harvey recalled there being issues when he once had to call for an ambulance, only to have them turn the wrong way off of Knobb Hill Dr. and go to the wrong house.

“We had a guest in our home collapse on the kitchen floor and I specifically said 15 Marsh Court, not Marsh Drive,” he said. “Guess what? They went to 15 Marsh Drive.”

Harvey said that over 50 per cent of the residents between the two small streets have the same address numbers. He stated that confusion has been occurring for several years with deliveries and mail also going to incorrect houses.

While noting that changing one of the street names was the best solution, he indicated willingness to have larger street signs put in. That was also a recommendation from town administration.

Romana Ferrarelli, another area resident, spoke in favour of larger and better signage. She said she has tried to get a resolution in the past but had been unable to.

“It’s extremely annoying and a huge inconvenience,” she stated, noting that some mail has been given to her after it was opened.

Other pieces of mail have been lost, she added.

“I know something has to be done to alleviate the problem,” said Ferrarelli. “It truly is an inconvenience that needs to be addressed.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche noted the town faced the same issues at amalgamation, using the example of labelling concession roads north and south.

Director of legislative services, planning and development Mark Galvin noted that renaming one of the streets would also come with compensation to the impacted residents. Councillor Michael Prue didn’t believe the cost would be enormous, noting that he dealt with the same problems in Toronto when the GTA amalgamated.

Councillor Donald McArthur was in favour of changing one of the names, stating the issue should be done right and done once.

“It was (the town’s) fault to allow that happen,” he said.

Meloche added that the town should “get it right the first time” and that residents should be spared the hassle of having return to council if better signage didn’t work.

Councillor Patricia Simone said both delegates were fine with trying the signage route and voted against changing the name.

“For right now, I think we should try the signage and have the residents report back if it doesn’t work,” she said.

The vote was tied with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo breaking the tie. He voted in favour of changing the name, citing safety concerns as his reason.

Some new positions approved, others shot down during budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The tourism department had its staffing request approved during the 2019 budget deliberations but you won’t get that news from a communications co-ordinator.

Town council opted to convert 1.5 contract positions in the tourism department to two full-time positions as part of their budget deliberations last Wednesday, a move that the town estimates will cost an additional $58,000. Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota said her department brings in revenue and helps economic development. She also told town council that the tourism department came in 23 per cent under budget.

Councillor Peter Courtney said that while the tourism department does good work, many residents don’t see a direct benefit to their work and he wanted to see a status quo on staffing levels as compared to 2018.

“We’re all supposed to be bending and twisting. Our infrastructure is terrible,” said Courtney. “I’m not convinced we need four full-time all-year personnel.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he knows first-hand the work that goes into planning events and that he also attends festivals for the duration that they are on and that work has to occur for many months on them. Rota added that both tourism co-ordinator Jen Ibrahim and herself work 50-60 hours per week in the spring and summer and “we can’t do it anymore. For the first time, we’re coming here and saying we need your help.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche believed that tourism “is a large component of the business strategy of the town” and that it is in the town’s best interest. Councillor Patricia Simone questioned whether grants could help offset increased staffing costs.

Simone added that while she supported the tourism department’s work, she didn’t support the staffing request this year.

Rota added that sponsorships went up in 2018 and that her department also meets with hotel operators.

“Why do you think they came here?” she said of the hotels. “It was because of tourism. This department is more high level than people think.”

Councillor Donald McArthur said he believes in the economic spinoff of tourism and that he wanted the town “to send a strong message on supporting tourism.” He believed that local businesses benefit from the tourism department’s work and that it leads to local jobs.

“I think it benefits local commerce,” said McArthur.

Councillor Michael Prue supported making the additional tourism positions full-time and believed there are benefits to the town in doing so.

“I’ve never met such hard working women in my life,” said Prue. “I think they deserve full-time jobs.”

Councillor Marc Renaud said residents he spoke to while campaigning said festivals and events stood out to them. Helping support local businesses through festival leads to commercial taxes and jobs, he added.

The communications officer, estimated at $105,000 for salaries and benefits, fell by the wayside Tuesday night. Courtney was the initial council member to voice opposition with Meloche joining him. Meloche noted that with the initial tax increase projected at 2.65 per cent (since reduced to 1.87 per cent), that was an area that they could cut.

McArthur, himself the communications co-ordinator with the County of Essex, said he saw value in the position and that it would be a “missed opportunity” to eliminate it. McArthur said he recognized the need to trim the budget but “I don’t think this is the place to do it” as a communications co-ordinator could connect with residents and keep residents informed, adding the budget presentation on the Town of Essex’s website “puts ours to shame.

“A professional communicator can ensure people understand what is going on,” said McArthur.

Prue said the town needs to invest in parks and roads as well as an economic development officer and believed the cost of a communications officer was too steep right now.

Town council approved the clerk’s services budget and with it a full-time clerk’s co-ordinator position. The town had a part-time position in 2018. Total cost for 2019 is $83,321. The town also approved $15,000 to hire a new assistant in the fire department to accommodate a person with an intellectual disability. Chief Bruce Montone said that would allow someone with a disability to get a sustainable job and to help that person contribute to the community. The figure was reduced from its original $25,759.

“I want to think the rights they have are no different than the rights we all have,” said Prue, of those with intellectual disabilities.

Relating to a temporary HR position, that was kept in and that $94,765 position is expected to alleviate a “heavy” workload in that department this year, particularly as regular staff learn new software. Courtney wanted the position eliminated but CAO John Miceli outlined health and safety matters the town has faced in recent years and said the town want to be proactive in those situations. While supporting it this go-around, Prue said he expects the department to get caught up this year and doesn’t want to see the position in November when council deliberates the 2020 budget.

Town council reduced the $128,961 in salaries and benefits requested by the parks department as they wanted three part-time staff members but council would only agree to two. Manager of parks and facilities Annette Zahaluk said her department has fielded complaints about the appearance of some Amherstburg parks.

“It’s embarrassing, some of the parks, of the way we’ve had to let them go,” she said.

Students are only available May-August, she added, while staff has to help in the winter with River Lights set-up and take-down and with salting and snow removal.

“I’m hearing River Lights a lot,” said Courtney. “If not for River Lights, would we need three part-time people?”

Miceli noted that the town has always had some sort of involvement with River Lights even before the town officially took over the festival.

Prue added he hopes that department gets assistance from volunteers when it comes to cleanups and beautification.