Marc Renaud

Town expands audit committee, includes two more with financial background

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council rounded out more of their committees last week, including the audit advisory committee.

Council, at the request of Councillor Michael Prue, expanded the audit advisory committee from three to five members, with three of those members now being laypersons. Prue noted that it was structured to have two members of town council and one member of the community and that was “not appropriate.”

“The audit committee should belong to the people,” said Prue. “The town needs to feel confident that council is doing everything it can to safeguard and spend their money properly. What better way than to have some other people on that committee who are not councillors who can have input and who can assuage the fears of the people who think money is not being spent right?”

Prue will be one of the council members on that committee with Councillor Patricia Simone being the other. Other committee members will be John Purdie, Gillian Heisz and Gordon Moore.

“They all have CPA after their names. They are all auditors,” said Prue.

Councillor Michael Prue asks a question of administration during budget deliberations Feb. 14.

Noting that residents have questioned the town’s finances in the past, Prue believes there will be an extra layer of accountability with a committee.

“I know that the money is not always spent the way everyone wants it to be, but when there is an audit committee that can say ‘you should have used this process, you should have spent the money this way as opposed to that way,’ then people will start to believe what they are reading rather than what they are reading on a blog,” said Prue.

While the committee was not in place in time for the 2019 budget, Prue noted that it will be in place long before November when the 2020 deliberations are likely to begin.

Other committees that were rounded out during the most recent regular meeting of town council included the seniors advisory committee, which will feature Pauline Gemmell, Heather Vandenham, Kathy DiBartolomeo, Karen Gyorgy, Jan Ouellette, Jack Edwards, Kent Williams, Nancy Atkinson and Frank DiPasquale as members. Councillor Marc Renaud had already been appointed as the council representative to that committee.

The Co-An Park committee will have Amherstburg representation from Richard Lawrence, Jennie Lajoie and Murray Sellars with Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche already having been appointed as the council representative.

Members of the fence viewers committee include Chris Drew, Murray Sellars and Tony Pietrangelo. Livestock valuers will be Sellars and Roxanne Qussem.

Laypeople to the property standards committee will be Stephanie Thomson, Drew, Anthony Campigotto, Dino Gobbo and Jim Gorski.

The town is still looking for members for the accessibility advisory committee and the mayor’s youth committee. Application forms for those committees are available at town hall or through the town’s website at www.amherstburg.ca.

Town to keep some ice at the Libro Centre in May

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Thanks to an impassioned plea from a representative of the user groups, town council has agreed to keep at least one ice pad operational at the Libro Centre in May.

Wes Ewer represented the Amherstburg Admirals Jr. C hockey team as well as the Big Creek Hockey League, Skate Amherstburg and the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) at Wednesday’s budget deliberations. Keeping ice at the Libro Centre in May is “extremely paramount” to the organizations, Ewer noted, as it impacts tryouts and other activities and events the organizations run.

Registration to the various sports organizations could also be negatively impacted if there is no ice in May, said Ewer, noting the organizations he was involved with are willing to pay the higher winter ice rates in order to keep ice at the arena during that month.

“May ice removal will not work for our user groups,” said Ewer.

There is talk of a merger between Amherstburg and LaSalle minor hockey associations, he added, and that could lead to a future increase in demand down the road, Ewer noted. He added they could also have camps at the Libro Centre to further use the ice.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Councillor Peter Courtney. “I know Wes will come through.”

CAO John Miceli apologized for not communicating better with the user groups and indicated a willingness to work with them. However, Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche voiced concern with the facility losing money though welcomed the opportunity to try and “turn it around.”

“For the last four years, we keep seeing declining revenue,” said Meloche.

Councillor Marc Renaud, also the president of AMHA, said they are losing players and that the potential partnership with LaSalle’s travel program could lead to more usage in Amherstburg.

“I think there is future growth coming,” said Renaud.

Having ice completely out of the Libro Centre in May, June and July would save approximately $85,000 but keeping some ice in at the facility would trim those savings to $63,000. Council also voiced interest in waiting until the middle of August before ice returned in order to save on utility costs.

Appointments made to town committees

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg’s committees are being filled out, though one still remains outstanding.

While the town deferred making appointments to the audit advisory committee, other committees saw members appointed at town council’s most recent meeting.

The committee of adjustment will be comprised of Josh Mailloux, David Cozens, Don Shaw, Sherry Ducedre and Terris Buchanan. Appointees to the drainage board include Ron Sutherland, Bob Pillon, Brad Laramie, Bob Bezaire and Alan Major.

Sutherland’s name was nominated to return to the Essex Region Conservation (ERCA) board of directors, but town council opted to have Marilyn Morrison be their lay appointee. Councillor Peter Courtney is the council appointee to the ERCA board.

The heritage committee will include Jennie Lajoie, Shirley Curson-Prue, Robert Honor, Stephanie Pouget-Papak and Simon Chamley, with Councillor Patricia Simone being the council liaison. The parks and recreation advisory committee includes Curson-Prue, Patrick Catton, Brinton Sharmon, Kennedy Laing and Wes Ewer with Councillor Donald McArthur and Courtney being the council representatives.

Councillor Michael Prue declared conflict during the appointments of the parks and recreation advisory and heritage committee members due to Curson-Prue being his wife.

The economic development advisory committee was expanded during the course of the meeting from being a five-person committee to a seven-person committee due to Simone expressing an interest in being on the committee. McArthur and Prue will also be council representatives on the committee, with laypersons including Carolyn Davies, Jack Edwards, Tom Crosson and Larry Amlin.

Councillor Marc Renaud was appointed to both the seniors advisory committee and the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche was appointed to the Co-An Park committee.

Town council votes to opt in to allow for retail cannabis outlets

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has voted to opt in and be open to allowing cannabis retail outlets in Amherstburg.

The vote at Monday night’s meeting saw only Councillor Peter Courtney vote in opposition. Courtney said while he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the idea of retail cannabis shops in town, now is not the time to do it.

There are stigma concerns, Courtney stated, but he also had issues with a lack of control the municipality would have over location and how many stores the town could receive. Courtney said he would have been open to possibly opting in during the second phase of the roll-out, assuming there was additional controls given to municipalities.

“I’m opting out to opt in later if more control is given to municipalities,” he said.

Even though Amherstburg has opted in, the town is not eligible for a store authorization due to the town’s populating being under 50,000. There will be 25 licenses issued across the province to those municipalities eligible in the first phase. Amherstburg would not be eligible until at least the second phase, meaning it would be no earlier than December 2019.

“The province has committed to provide $40 million in funding over two years to municipalities to help with the implementation costs of recreational cannabis legalization. Through the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund, the first round of payments was received by the Town Jan. 9 in the amount of $11,733,” manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli stated in her report to town council.

Additional revenues could be obtained if the provincial excise duty revenues were to exceed $100 million, she stated, as “municipalities that permit retail cannabis stores will receive a share of 50 per cent of the surplus. The province will also set aside a contingency fund in the amount of $10 million to assist municipalities that permit retail stores.”

Councillor Donald McArthur expressed confidence that the $100 million mark in excise revenues would be exceeded. He was in favour because it would “clamp down” on the black market for cannabis.

McArthur added be believed a cannabis retail shop could aid commerce in the town by creating spinoff revenue for other businesses within Amherstburg.

“I don’t think you can underestimate the spinoff benefits,” he said, adding that if people can buy recreational cannabis in Amherstburg, it could boost tourism as well.

Councillor Michael Prue agreed that it could negatively impact drug dealers and that regulated cannabis would be safer for users than cannabis from a dealer that could be laced with other drugs. Councillor Marc Renaud noted he was voting to opt in based on the experiences of a co-worker and the impact the drug had on the person’s family through being bought on the street.

The vote to opt in went against the recommendation of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), as the WECHU encouraged council to opt out. Health promotion specialist Melissa Valentik and director of health promotion Nicole Dupuis outline the health risks surrounding recreational cannabis use and regulations surrounding the issue, including that shops can’t be within 150 metres of a school. The rationale for the recommendation to opt out was that it would give more time for formal public and stakeholder engagement, integrate lessons learned from other Ontario municipalities, learn more about provincial regulations and to mobilize stakeholders to respond within the 15-day consultation window.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said the county is “borderless” in many ways and that people regularly travel through other municipalities on a daily basis. Meloche remarked that he lives on Walker Road and could potentially cross the road into Essex and go to a cannabis shop should one ever be situated there.

Meloche noted there are billions in revenue generated in tobacco, gaming and alcohol sales and believed the same could hold true for cannabis. He said “the people want it” and it could translate into “pretty significant revenue” that he hoped would be shared with municipalities.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreed that “the residents want it” and “we’re here to represent them.” He said he was in favour of opting in but noted he was surprised the vote was as one-sided as it was.

“The vote surprised me,” he admitted. “I thought it would have been a little bit closer.”

Town council sees one logo recommendation, wants to see others

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town is moving towards getting a new logo but remains unclear as to what that new logo will look like.

Cinnamon Toast New Media – the firm developing the new logo, tourism website and communication plan – presented the new logo to town council Monday night with owner/creative director Bronwyn Mondoux noting they received the most feedback the company ever had through its survey. A total of 383 surveys were completed with another 25 or so attending public meetings.

Top values identified by the public included the town’s history, scenic aspects, friendliness and uniqueness. However, when that was pulled together into a logo, council members joined members of the general public in being hesitant about the design to the point where they asked to see the two other designs the company did. The public will be able to see those as well at a yet-to-be scheduled public meeting with the matter coming back to council Feb. 25.

A horizontal look of the recommended logo from Cinnamon Toast New Media.

Councillor Donald McArthur noted that he didn’t envy Cinnamon Toast New Media as it was impossible to satisfy everyone, however, wasn’t captivated himself by the logo and tagline “Born to Make History” when he first saw it.

“I wanted to love it, I wanted to be blown away by it but I wasn’t,” said McArthur, adding after the meeting that “I think we can do better.

“I was looking forward to loving it and I didn’t.”

McArthur noted he received similar feedback on his website and social media pages. While the town could eventually decide that the first logo will be the one they go with, he said they want to take a look at the others and consider all of them.

Councillor Michael Prue said the logo was too “busy” and that “in colour, it’s not so bad.” When the logo is in one colour, it requires further explanation as to what it contains.

“I think you are trying to capture too much,” Prue told Mondoux, adding the “heart and soul” of the town is its history.

“For me, it fell a little bit flat,” added Councillor Patricia Simone.

Simone asked if there was anything left in the budget if council were to send this first one back, which it did, and Mondoux indicated there were two other designs that the company prepared. Mondoux added that she believed many of the other Essex County municipalities had similar looking logos and encouraged town council to “choose the one that makes you feel uncomfortable. The ones that are safe are the ones that get left behind.”

Councillor Marc Renaud also wanted to see the two other options that had been prepared. He didn’t think the logo that Cinnamon Toast New Media brought to council Monday night had the “wow factor.” Councillor Peter Courtney also commented that the logo was “too busy” but agreed with McArthur that it was tough to please everyone.

A vertical look at the proposed new town logo.

“There was no emotional connection,” Courtney said of the logo. “I’m not convinced and I’m feeling that from residents.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said the logo grew on him the more he looked at it. He tried to envision whether his children would like it and has started to believe the logo was “modern and edgy.”

“It does send a message,” said Meloche. “I have grown to like it.”

In addition to having a public meeting, Prue wanted to ensure that the parks and recreation committee and possibly the heritage committee have a look at it as well.

The cost to engage Cinnamon Toast New Media for the complete branding strategy is in the neighbourhood of $76,000.