Michael Prue

Prue wants to put his experience to work for Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Michael Prue believes he can use his municipal and provincial experience to work for Amherstburg.

Prue – a former mayor of East York, Toronto city councillor and MPP for the riding of Beaches East York – wants to focus on Amherstburg and what he feels he can do for it. Both he and wife Shirley have owned a home in Amherstburg for eight years and full-time residents for four.

“I came to love the town and everything in it,” said Prue.

After watching town council and the developments around town, Prue decided he wanted back in the political arena and threw his hat into the ring for a councillor position.

“I came to the conclusion that I can help a lot,” he said. “I have read the Official Plan cover-to-cover and I had a number of people ask me to run. I gave it serious thought and I decided to do it.”

Prue said a combined 26 years in municipal and provincial politics has “taught me a great deal” and he believes he can put those lessons to use for the residents of Amherstburg. He was mayor in East York for five years until the amalgamation with Toronto and during those five years, they had five budgets with no tax increases.

“We had $8 million in debt. We had swathes of industrial and commercial areas that were vacant,” he said.

Prue indicated they turned it around and saw commercial and industrial areas be developed. It was also the first place in the Toronto area to be fully wired for cable, allowing for projects that employed hundreds of people.

“We brought in businesses we never had before,” he said. “I played a role in cementing the deals.”

Michael Prue is seeking the position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

The municipality also paid off its debt, Prue added.

Prue sees similarities in Amherstburg, believing “what the town needs is commercial and industrial rejuvenation.” He said it is an “entirely possible” proposal, particularly if a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resembles what has previously been in place. If things take a different turn, alternative solutions would have to be developed.

“This is an ideal place for new business, better than Kitchener, better than Toronto,” Prue believes.

Housing development doesn’t provide sufficient revenue for municipalities, Prue stated.

“The way municipalities become more prosperous is through industrial and commercial assessment,” he said.

That is how East York paid its debt, Prue added, believing “the same can happen here.”

Amherstburg has a rejuvenated restaurant scene, he added, but further tourism enhancers like hotels are still needed. The town also has “wonderful festivals,” he stated, but there are ways to get people to walk around and see what is here.

“I have been a little disappointed with the stance of the town as it relates to environmental issues,” he continued.

Prue said this is “a very unique part of Canada” environmentally and wants to ensure that development doesn’t impact native species. He stated there are flora and fauna that is special to the area that needs to be protected.

Prue said he is also disappointed in the number of in-camera meetings the town has.

There should be more opportunities for residents to address council. He suggested that council meetings could be held in River Canard, McGregor, Malden and Anderdon to engage residents there.

The Duffy’s property “needs to be developed” and “I’m hoping people come forward much like they have at Belle Vue” with private donations. Prue is currently the treasurer for the Belle Vue Conservancy.

Plans for Duffy’s and Belle Vue have to be finalized as well, he said.

“Council is going to have to decide sooner rather than later, after receiving public input, to make it easier to raise funds,” said Prue.

 

Questions and tempers raised as fundraising expenditure discussed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A question over an accounts payable to the Crown Park Corporation that was labelled for Belle Vue fundraising sparked a contentious debate Monday night.

Town council allowed Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, to speak and Prue questioned a few Belle Vue related expenses, with most of them being connected to the ongoing roof construction. When he got to the line about the Crown Park Corporation, he expressed curiosity and told council “we don’t pay for any fundraising.”

CAO John Miceli, after conferring with treasurer Justin Rousseau, said it was not actually for the Belle Vue fundraising but rather a planning study for the Amherstburg Community Foundation for fundraising efforts for all town initiatives.

Miceli said the study looks at raising money for town endeavors without having to rely on going to the taxpayers. A $6,000 payment was listed under the accounts payable section but the CAO indicated it was a $12,000 report.

“There are two payments of $6,000 to tell us how to fundraise?” asked Councillor Jason Lavigne, who also wanted to know who is on the foundation, when they meet and whether council can see minutes of their meetings.

Rousseau indicated the Amherstburg Community Foundation is a “holding account” and that money is reimbursed by the foundation for any cheques the town cuts. He said taxpayer money wasn’t used on the study.

“Who supported the $12,000 is the question,” Lavigne pressed. “Who paid the $12,000 for the study? I think we all want to know.”

Miceli said there are efforts being made to “accelerate” fundraising and that now “we have a study that will help us.” He said that funds raised by the foundation may be used for Belle Vue but research has shown that not all donors want to donate to Belle Vue and those donors may want to give funds to other projects.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said both himself and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale sit on the foundation.

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered if Crown Park Corporation had been hired by the foundation and Miceli said the foundation hadn’t hired anyone. The study was done in order to raise more money for the foundation, with the CAO adding the Belle Vue Conservancy has done a “great job raising money” but other avenues wanted to be explored by the foundation.

Prue emphasized he spoke up because he didn’t understand the fundraising expenditure.

“We’re fundraising for nothing,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he recalled getting updates when the Libro Centre was being built on the fundraising process.

Pouget said she called earlier Monday and was told by Rousseau it was for Belle Vue, and was upset with the responses she was getting at the meeting.

“I expect the treasurer to tell us the truth,” she said. “I am asking on behalf of the constituents.”
Rousseau said he had yet to review the document, and gave Pouget the most accurate information he had when she called.

“I gave you the best information I had this morning,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “If that has fallen short, I apologize.”

Administration is expected to give council more details on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

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.

Belle Vue Conservancy “rocks” thanks to musical performance

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Belle Vue Conservancy and musician Rick Rock teamed up for a fundraiser Friday night with the aim of restoring the 200-year-old Belle Vue home on Dalhousie St.

“Rockin’ for Belle Vue” was held at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 with Rock performing music from different eras following dinner. Michael Prue, treasurer with the conservancy, said the expectation is that the roof will be replaced later in the spring.

Following completion of the roof, the next phase of the restoration project will be the windows.

“One day, it is going to be open for all of us,” said Prue.

When it was built in 1816-19 by Robert Reynolds, the deputy assistant commissary general at Fort Malden, it was seen as a symbol of hope. The home, also occupied by Reynolds’ sisters when it first opened, is now seen as symbol of the town’s resurgence in the modern day as well, Prue indicated.

“It will be the pride and joy of the community,” he said.

The conservancy was pleased to team with Rock, with Prue stating that “Rick is a well-known fixture in the town.”

Rick Rock performs during “Rockin’ for Belle Vue” April 13 at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

The next scheduled fundraising event for Belle Vue is “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance.” The May 1 event features the return of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO) and is being held at Christ Anglican Church, located at 317 Ramsay St., starting at 7 p.m.

Tickets for “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” are $25 and available at the Gibson Gallery, Sobeys Amherstburg and the Gordon House. They are also available online by visiting www.bellevueconservancy.com and clicking on the “Events” tab.

The direct link for “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” tickets is https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/music-for-belle-vues-renaissance-tickets-44196601224.

A reproduction of Peter Rindlisbacher’s painting of Belle Vue is displayed at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 during the “Rockin’ for Belle Vue” event. Rock performs in the background.

Following the WSO concert, the next fundraiser is planned for May 27. That will be the Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party in King’s Navy Yard Park.

The Downton Abbey-themed event, run in partnership with the town’s tourism department, will feature 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. sittings in the park among the blooming rhododendron gardens.

The tea party portion will be a ticketed event and will feature a unique garden dress display. A Downton Abbey- inspired costume contest for women, men and children to denote the fascinating eras of Belle Vue, is one of the highlights of the program, the town stated in a recent press release.

For more information on the Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party, visit www.amherstburg.ca/teaparty or www.facebook.com/amherstburgconnection. People can also phone 519-730-1309. Tickets are $30 and available at The Dalhousie Bistro, the Gordon House, Sobeys and Amherstburg town hall.

Whelan family donates $20,000 to the Belle Vue Conservancy

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Whelan name will continue to live on thanks a donation to the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The daughters of Eugene and Elizabeth Whelan presented the Belle Vue Conservancy with a cheque for $20,000 last Thursday morning. Susan and Terry were in attendance but their sister Cathy was unable to attend.

Both Eugene and Susan served as the area’s Member of Parliament with Eugene serving from 1962-84 and Susan from 1993-2004.

Eugene also served as a Canadian senator from 1996-99.

The Belle Vue Conservancy and town officials accept the $20,000 donation from the Whelan family Dec. 7.

“Our parents enjoyed, loved and respected history in Amherstburg and across the country,” said Susan.

Susan said it “takes vision and a lot of hard work and dedication” to help preserve historic buildings like Belle Vue. She said the family is grateful the town stepped up and purchased the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion with the Whelan family’s donation to be recognized with a plaque near a window in the home’s pioneer kitchen.

“This is tremendous, not just for Amherstburg, but for people in Ontario and across Canada,” Susan said of Belle Vue. “It’s going to be a wonderful place to visit.”

Susan recalled going with the family to Belle Vue and other historic sites while her father was MP. Historic buildings are “part of Amherstburg’s beauty,” she added.

The family met with Linda Jackson, the Belle Vue Conservancy’s director of corporate outreach, several months ago and decided to proceed with the donation for the window dedication in their parents’ name. Susan said they hope it inspires other people and businesses to donate to the cause.

“Every dollar is helpful,” she said.

Michael Prue, treasurer for the Belle Vue Conservancy, expressed gratitude to the Whelan family for the donation. He said Eugene and Elizabeth helped put “Amherstburg and Essex County on the map,” adding “your family is amazing and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

“It’s quite a Christmas present,” he added.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo joins Susan Whelan and Terry Whelan in signing the official documentation in front of Belle Vue last Thursday morning to make the $20,000 donation official. The donation will result in Eugene and Elizabeth Whelan’s name being put on a plaque near a restored window in the pioneer kitchen.

Funds raised by the Belle Vue Conservancy are subsequently turned over to the Amherstburg Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the Town of Amherstburg.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo joined Terry and Susan Whelan in signing the official documentation to make the donation official.

DiCarlo said all donations made towards the restoration of Belle Vue are appreciated, but noted there is special meaning to this donation due to the Whelan family’s importance in Amherstburg.

“To have their name on this project, we are excited and proud,” said DiCarlo.

Jackson noted Eugene Whelan has a history of involvement with Belle Vue. That included facilitating a $156,000 loan in 1983 to help repair the home’s roof.

“Now their daughters are coming forward and continuing their legacy,” said Jackson.

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy, to volunteer or to donate, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com, e-mail info@bellevueconservancy.com or call 519-736-6947.