Leo Meloche

Town council, business owners participate in workshops on Community Improvement Plan



By Ron Giofu


The Town of Amherstburg and its partners from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants held workshops last week where people got a chance to give input towards the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and urban design guidelines.

The workshops were held at the Libro Centre March 5 with business owners invited during the afternoon session while town council received an opportunity to participate during a late-afternoon meeting.

A series of questions were put to the participants with those involved asked to brainstorm answers. Questions included what is most important to you in the downtown core and what is missing, what is the biggest opportunity to attract visitors, what are the biggest challenges for attracting businesses to Amherstburg, how can the town improve its street facades and how to incorporate heritage into designs.

Members of town council and administration discuss the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and urban design guidelines during a workshop held at the Libro Centre last Monday night.

Answers ranged from the obvious – the need for a hotel – with others including a desire for increased accessibility, downtown Wi-Fi, more parking, better traffic flow, transportation and a more accessible waterfront.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said 60 businesses were invited to the afternoon session with 15 people showing up. At the session with council a few hours later, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche, Diane Pouget and Rick Fryer joined members of administration in participating in the sessions.

There were some council members concerned the study didn’t go far enough.

Fryer said “you need to look at other areas rather than the downtown,” believing more attention should be paid to smaller hamlets. Meloche said having a busy downtown core is important but so too are the other areas of town.

“Building a vibrant downtown core will lead to trickling into other areas,” said Meloche.

Consultant Michael Clarke from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants listens to some of the conversations.

Meloche added that other areas are sometimes “forgotten” and that more attention should be paid to them, but Pouget said the downtown was the mandate of this particular study. She said the next council may proceed with a larger project.

Belanger said policies in the town’s Official Plan direct how to go forward with the CIP and that if the town were to look at secondary settlement areas, it “may be a larger process” as amendments to the Official Plan might have to occur.

CAO John Miceli said businesses and developers will need to get on board when the plan is implemented. As for the Duffy’s property, he said it is at the environmental assessment (EA) stage now and that further development is included in the 2019 capital budget.

Town council votes to contract out policing services to Windsor


By Ron Giofu


In a decision that drew boos and catcalls from the audience, Amherstburg town council is switching its’ policing services to Windsor.

Town council voted 3-2 Monday night to enter into a 20-year contract with the Windsor Police Service in a meeting that lasted only about 30 minutes. Voting in favour were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer.

Councillors Joan Courtney and Jason Lavigne were opposed.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget did not vote due to being in conflict. Pouget was there in person, declaring conflict due to her son-in-law being a member of the Windsor Police Service while DiPasquale was absent from the meeting.

DiCarlo said that “we’ve hit the second last stage of the process,” noting that the switch from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service still has to be approved by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). That could come by 2019, when the contract with Windsor is due to begin.

“Obviously, some things are going to hinge on the approval of the province,” the mayor stated.

The switch is believed to amount to over $567,000 in annual savings but DiCarlo said that could amount to $18-20 million over 20 years, including the long-term post-retirement benefits that Windsor taxpayers will now absorb.

DiCarlo said he heard from many residents that wanted to switch to Windsor and for the town to save money on policing. Cost savings and cost containment were the reasons he said he voted in favour of the switch, noting Windsor committed to cost parity and the savings “could actually go up” in the future.

A report from CAO John Miceli stated: “The Windsor Police will guarantee cost parity will exist between the annual operating budget of the Windsor Police Service and the cost of contract policing the Town of Amherstburg. This guarantee of budgetary parity would commence in year six and be honoured throughout the twenty year commitment for policing services, subject to renewal every five years.”

Many decisions the town makes are now looked at not just for the immediate future, but for 15-20 years down the road, the mayor said.

Acknowledging that he fielded threats from the public that warned they would not vote for him if he voted to switch, DiCarlo said he has never voted on an issue just to win votes regardless of what position he was in.

“I can honestly say I’ve never voted with the intent of getting re-elected,” he said.

While Windsor police will provide a wide array of services for free, DiCarlo said the OPP has changed their billing model and there was concern that the Amherstburg Police Service could start getting billed in the future if OPP services were needed.

“This was a couple of municipalities that saw the benefits for both of us,” he said of Windsor and Amherstburg. “For Amherstburg, we get the same level of policing for less money.”

DiCarlo balked when asked if this could lead to regional policing in Windsor-Essex County, but said he has heard that other municipalities in the area are “watching to see what happens.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer were in favor. Voting in opposition were Councillor Jason Lavigne and Councillor Joan Courtney.

Lavigne said the issue has “consumed quite a bit of our lives” from both a council and administration perspective to the public point of view as well.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to have been placed on our shoulders,” he said. “I’ll respect the decision of council. I won’t criticize it.”

Stating that administration “did a good job” and calling the Windsor police proposal “sound,” Lavigne said he was opposed to switching because he didn’t hear from very many people who supported it. He said people want to keep the Amherstburg Police Service and he was going to listen to them.

“I was put here because of the people in the community,” said Lavigne. “People can claim silent majorities all they want to. The majority of people are saying to me that they don’t care about the costs, they want to support their local police.”

Lavigne said the town has spent money on property acquisitions and new hires this term but want to save money in the area of policing. Acknowledging he has been accused of bias because he is on the Amherstburg Police Services Board, he added that Amherstburg police is efficient and the community is safe.

“(The public) has told me they are comfortable with what we have,” said Lavigne.

Meloche said a lot of communities are struggling with police costs and he took the approach that the town’s financial sustainability has to be considered.

“That’s the direction I took,” said Meloche.

Pointing out the town’s status as one of the safest in Canada, Meloche said that isn’t just about the police department.

“We have the safest community in Canada, and no disrespect to the police, it’s because of the people here,” said Meloche, drawing boos and moans from the crowd. “Don’t sell ourselves short. We’re law-abiding, safe people.”

Courtney said she had to be “true to myself” and said she considered the issue carefully.

“I vowed I would listen to the people,” said Courtney.

Most of the comments Courtney said she heard were “we want to keep our local police service” and that was the “overwhelming message” she received.

“Do I think it’s a good contract? Yes, I do,” she said of the Windsor police proposal. “Will it save money? Yes, it will.”

Courtney said she would respect the decision and believed Amherstburg will continue to be a “vibrant” town.

Finances were at the forefront of Fryer’s comments.

“We do have fiduciary responsibilities as a council,” Fryer stated.

Fryer said it was “a great contract for the town,” and pointed out the issue dates back to one of council’s first meetings of the term. The town has reduced its debt, he noted, and believed switching will be the right road for the future.

There were only two delegations at the meeting, the first being from Neil Stewart. Stewart had concerns over HST cost and the fact that the recommendation from administration grew from what was thought to be a five-year proposal to a 20-year proposal.

Miceli said he was tasked with getting costs over a 10, 15 and 20-year period and stated that direction came as a result of the four public meetings with some concerned over savings over just a five-year period.

“I find it hard to believe those figures could come up in the last one, two or three weeks,” said Stewart. “It’s hard to believe that happened.”

“I’m sorry if you don’t believe that but that’s what happened,” said Miceli.

Stewart added his belief those costs should have been made public much sooner.

“I don’t believe we’ve been given the full facts,” he believed.

DiCarlo said the timing of the costings was what it was and there was no attempt to “sweeten” the deal to push it through.

Stewart also questioned the cost per capita, noting Windsor police is $480 per person and Amherstburg is $270. Miceli said Amherstburg’s costs will go down with a switch and that Windsor’s costs are higher because of the additional services they provide.

Pat Simone, noting she was speaking for herself and not representing any committee or board she is on, believed the decision should be deferred until a human rights complaint the Windsor Police Service is currently involved with is resolved.

A female officer is accusing Windsor police of passing her over for promotions based on gender, and Simone said Amherstburg officers would follow Windsor police policies and procedures in the event of a switch.

“I’m not saying it’s a women’s issue, but it’s a human rights issue. It concerns men and women,” said Simone.

After the meeting, residents were upset with council’s decision.

Jen Ozyer said the decision was simply about cost, and she questioned if it would improve the town.

“It’s not about making things better. How is it making it better?” she asked.

Trudy Dempsey said she was “really, really upset” with council’s decision.

“I really don’t think they took everything into consideration, all the meetings that people came to and said ‘no,” she said. “They already decided this long before tonight. That’s exactly how I see it.”

George Kritiotis noted it was one step in the process, noting the matter still has to be approved by the OCPC. He suggested the fight wasn’t over.

“That’s who makes the final decision,” he said.

A petition is at several local businesses and “I think there is a significant amount of people who are against it,” said Kritiotis. He added the fact Windsor and Amherstburg don’t share a border could work in the favour of those opposed to a switch.

“This is not a done deal,” said Kritiotis, adding that opponents may also bring up that it wasn’t a full council that voted.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said the process has been stressful but that they will honour the decision.

“I’m still a little shocked about the decision,” said McCurdy.

McCurdy said the job of the association is to protect its members and they did that the best way they could.

“I can assure you the men and women with the Amherstburg Police Service will continue to do their jobs,” he said. “It’s a council decision.”

The association has no choice but to accept the decision, he conceded, adding that officers took an oath and they will continue to honour that oath.

Moving forward, the association will negotiate any severance payments that may be owed and continue to work on behalf of its members and the residents.

During the four public meetings on the subject, in which the majority of residents stated they favoured keeping Amherstburg police, Miceli noted that 23 per cent of the town’s budget is tied up in police costs.

The Windsor police proposal called for administering existing staff in existing organizational units, the continuation of service delivery, existing Amherstburg officers and staff “working exclusively” for Amherstburg, the town being able to keep the existing Amherstburg police station, and local officers continuing to respond to all calls for service.

While there was anger and disappointment from many in the public locally last night, town council’s decision was endorsed by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins.

“Way to go Amherstburg!” Dilkins stated on his Twitter account Monday night. “We look forward to providing enhanced policing services while saving the Town a lot of money. Your foresight is a win-win for residents in both of our municipalities.”


Council keeping policing meeting at town hall



By Ron Giofu


Despite talk that the policing decision would be made at another, larger venue, town council has ultimately decided to keep the meeting at town hall.

The town will vote on whether to keep the existing Amherstburg Police Service or contract out policing to the Windsor Police Service Monday night but the decision will be made in the council chambers. While the idea had been floated to move the meeting to a larger venue, town hall was decided by council members to be the place to hold the meeting.

Councillor Leo Meloche raised the issue at the Feb. 12 council meeting as to whether the town was considering an alternate location. CAO John Miceli said administration was not looking for another location and that it would be up to town council to make that decision.

Meloche made a motion to have the meeting moved but Councillor Rick Fryer stated that while he understood the concern, he believed town hall would still be the best location.

“This is where decisions are made,” Fryer said of the council chambers.

Fryer added that he believed the meeting would be “much easier” to control if it were held at town hall rather than moving the meeting elsewhere.

“At the Libro Centre, it would be very hard to (control the meeting),” stated Fryer.

Meloche withdrew his motion and the town decided to keep the Feb. 26 meeting at town hall. The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m.

Town receives funding to add more bike lanes



By Ron Giofu


The Town of Amherstburg is hoping to add one, or perhaps two, new bike lanes thanks to funding it has secured from the province.

Amherstburg has secured $97,259.51 from the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling (OMCC) program and town council has authorized administration to enter into a transfer payment agreement with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to obtain the funding.

Both projects identified qualified for OMCC funding, manager of engineering Todd Hewitt stated in his report to town council, with those projects being the installation of paved shoulders on Alma St. from Meloche Road to Fryer St. and the installation of a second bike lane along County Road 20 from Dalhousie St. to Front Road South (Amherst Pointe).

“There is currently no budget dollars assigned to either of the eligible projects and one or both of the projects will be included in the future budgets for council consideration,” Hewitt said in his report to council. “The project(s) must be completed by December 30, 2020 to utilize the OMCC funding.”

Hewitt said the Alma St. project carries an initial estimate of $487,500 with 40 per cent of that project eligible for CWATS funding from the County of Essex.

A paved shoulder/bike lane on the other side of County Road 20 – that stretch has a bike lane on the east side of the road – has an initial estimated cost of $500,000, said Hewitt. That project would also be eligible for 40 per cent funding through CWATS.

Unless the CWATS committee expands the number of identified projects they wish to pursue, this would be it for Amherstburg’s share of projects.

“Once these two programs are done, from a CWATS perspective, we’re done,” advised Hewitt.

Councillor Leo Meloche said more needs to be done in the McGregor area, believing there is a need for more paved shoulders and trails to allow McGregor residents better walking access to parks. Councillor Rick Fryer agreed, saying there are areas of McGregor that need to be connected to ERCA’s Cypher Systems Greenway. That greenway trail runs through McGregor.

Town council moving forward with LED lighting program



By Ron Giofu


The town’s street lights in the public right-of-ways are changing over to LED fixtures with the project to begin this year.

Town council awarded a tender valued at over $1.18 million to Anchor Hydro, an Amherstburg-based company with the amount to be budgeted over seven years. Administration hopes that the savings produced from the LED lights will also help pay for the project even quicker.

“Hallelujah. To get the LED program going for the town is fantastic,” said Councillor Rick Fryer, who had long championed the conversion of the street lights to LED fixtures.

“It’s gratifying to see the town is saving money, saving energy and looking for future generations,” he added after Monday night’s meeting.

Town council also will see what the cost will be to complete the lighting of Front Road North as an RFP will be put out to see what the cost will be to illuminate the stretch between Ranta Marina and Malden Road. Fryer called that unlighted stretch “dangerous” and that putting lights on that remaining stretch would mean the highway would have street lights from Amherstburg to Windsor.

LED lights will be installed this year all over Amherstburg, many similar to the LED lights currently on Meloche Road (pictured).

Councillor Leo Meloche didn’t oppose the LED lighting program, but had questions as it pertained to cost. He said $450,000 was earmarked in the 2018 budget for the project but said after the meeting he accepted administration’s explanation, though, added he wished the explanation would have come sooner.

Meloche stated during the meeting that he wondered how the Front Road North was “slid into” the proposal, believing it was a separate project.

“I think it should have been split up,” he said.

Meloche added after the meeting he was satistifed with the explanation there as well, as it could be discussed in future budget sessions.

CAO John Miceli said the motion was to issue an RFP and that would give council a better gauge on what the project would cost.

“What we are doing is fact-finding to see how much it would cost,” added Miceli.

Miceli stated the town projects that the savings from the LED program would help pay for the entire project.

“We confidently believe the operational savings we are going to have through the LED program will fund the LED program,” the chief administrative officer stated.

According to a report from manager of engineering Todd Hewitt, Amherstburg paid $228,573.69 in streetlight utility costs

“Converting the Town’s streetlights to LED will reduce this cost significantly,” Hewitt stated in his report.

Hewitt told town council he believes it is a “win-win” for the town to convert, noting they are saving energy and money in the long run by doing so.

“The new cobrahead lights will be manufactured by LED Roadway Lighting (LRL) and come with a 20 year limited replacement warranty. All components are covered for full replacement for the first 10 years with a pro-rated replacement on some components in years 11 to 20,” Hewitt added in his report. “The decorative fixtures will be manufactured by King Luminaire and come with a 10-year full replacement warranty. Anchor Hydro has included a five-year warranty to cover all labour involved with the replacement of faulty fixtures.”

Councillor Diane Pouget said the town will increase safety for the residents and achieve a cost savings with the LED program.

“As Todd said, it’s a win-win situation,” she stated.

As for the illumination of the stretch of Front Road North, she added “if the RFP comes back too high, we can reject it. It’s a request.”

Councillor Joan Courtney indicated she is hopeful that the Front Road North stretch will be lit up.

“I have travelled there at night when it is raining. You can’t see the lines,” she said. “It’s a liability. It’s a wonder there haven’t been more accidents.”