Michael 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.

Uncle’s love of history, roots at Belle Vue led to $100,000 donation



By Ron Giofu


The contracts have been officially signed and the cheque has been officially turned over.

The $100,000 cheque presentation from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy took place on the front porch of Belle Vue last Friday morning. The donation was made by brothers John and Joe Gatfield, nephews of the late Father Ted Gatfield, and trustee with the BMO trust Lisa Mazurek with a main floor dining room to be named for the foundation.

It was originally announced last week.

“This is something that meant a lot to our uncle,” said John.

John added that one of the missions of the foundation is to preserve Amherstburg’s history, adding there is also a family connection to Belle Vue through Father Ted’s great-great grandfather.

The Gatfield Family Foundation made its $100,000  donation official last Friday morning. From left: CAO John Miceli, trustee with BMO Lisa Mazurek, John Gatfield, Belle Vue Conservancy director of  corporate outreach Linda Jackson and Joe Gatfield.

The Gatfield Family Foundation made its $100,000
donation official last Friday morning. From left: CAO John Miceli, trustee with BMO Lisa Mazurek, John Gatfield, Belle Vue Conservancy director of
corporate outreach Linda Jackson and Joe Gatfield.

“The Gatfield family has been in Amherstburg forever, so it seems,” he said. “We, as a family, are very pleased to help out.”
Noting that Father Ted would tell stories of playing as a child at Belle Vue, John said “we think he’d be very pleased that we are doing this.”

Members of the Belle Vue Conservancy and town administration were smiling before, during and after the presentation and John said their uncle would be pleased with that.

“He’d be happy to see the smiles on everyone’s faces here,” said John. “He’s smiling as well.”

John said they heard about Belle Vue and the goal of restoring it and the foundation discussed helping out. That led to a meeting with conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue, treasurer Michael Prue and corporate outreach chair Linda Jackson. That meeting led to the Gatfield Family Foundation wanting “to do our part” to help save the 200-year-old town-owned Dalhousie St. mansion.

John Miceli, Amherstburg’s chief administrative officer (CAO), said that town council adopted a community strategic plan in the summer of 2016 which provided strategic direction for the town based on a community shared vision.

“Belle Vue was a key consideration identified by our residents in developing that shared vision,” said Miceli. “The historical and cultural significance of this tremendous property was recognized by our community and identified as a pillar of investment going forward.

The CAO stated that Belle Vue is “part of our past, our present and our future” and expressed thanks to the Gatfield family for the $100,000 donation.

John Gatfield, Joe Gatfield and trustee Lisa Mazurek sign the contracts which officially transferred $100,000 from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy raises funds on behalf of the town of Amherstburg to restore Belle Vue, the historic home at 525 Dalhousie St.

John Gatfield, Joe Gatfield and trustee Lisa Mazurek sign the contracts which officially transferred $100,000 from the Gatfield Family Foundation to the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy raises funds on behalf of the town of Amherstburg to restore Belle Vue, the historic home at 525 Dalhousie St.

“We are writing a new chapter in the story of Amherstburg and Belle Vue will play an important part in this novel to come,” said Miceli. “This partnership between the Gatfield Family Foundation, the Belle Vue Conservancy and the town of Amherstburg is just the beginning. This partnership emphasizes that. I am extremely excited as together, we continue to write the story of how this once endangered significantly historical property in Amherstburg was saved by a community that was unwilling to let it go and how we came together with the help of groups such as the Gatfield Family Foundation to restore this national treasure for the benefit of generations to come.”

The hope is that the $100,000 donation will lead to more donations with Michael Prue stating the town is doing well in the “This Place Matters” competition. Donations are also being accepted at www.amherstburg.ca/donate. Prue added they continue to seek donations from organizations and businesses.

A gala is also being planned as a major fundraiser Sept. 24.

The Belle Vue Conservancy, which is raising money on the town’s behalf for Belle Vue, is awaiting word whether the federal government will give them a grant for up to $1 million, a figure that would have to be matched.

“All of us together can do it!” Prue stated.