Nelson Santos

McNamara new Essex County warden, Santos acclaimed as deputy warden

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council held its inaugural meeting for the 2018-22 term last week and selected a new warden to lead them.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara was chosen as the warden, which is the head of county council, for this term. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos also sought the position, but he didn’t leave without a new title either, as Santos would be acclaimed as deputy warden.

“I’m honoured,” said McNamara. “It’s always a privilege to be recognized by your peers around the table.”

McNamara said he first joined Essex County council about 20 years ago and served as deputy warden from 2000-03 and 2010-14. It was his third time seeking the warden’s position.

“I would say the third time is a charm,” he remarked.

Newly-elected Essex County Warden Gary McNamara (right) accepts the gavel from former warden Tom Bain. Bain served as warden from 2010-18 with McNamara being elected by his colleagues to be the new head of county council at the inaugural meeting Dec. 12.

McNamara said he hopes to continue the work done by his predecessors, two of which remain on county council. Santos was warden from 2006-10 and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain was warden from 2010-18.

“The county is in a tremendous place. It’s because of the leadership we’ve had in the past,” he said.

With questions hanging overhead about how the Progressive Conservative government will deal with the province’s debt, McNamara said the county and lower-tier municipalities have to work collectively and deal with any potential impacts.

“We are going to have to be vigilant that they don’t balance the books on the backs of municipalities,” he said.

Working with all seven Essex County municipalities is important, McNamara indicated, but so too is working with the City of Windsor. He added that they have to continue to promote the fact that Essex County “is a great place to do business and raise a family.”

Investing into infrastructure was cited as a priority, including dealing with busy roads in Tecumseh, LaSalle and Lakeshore as well as roads in the southern half of the county as well. Continuing to work on the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) is important, he added, as is completion of a roads needs study.

Members of Essex County council for the 2018-22 term were sworn in last Wednesday night. Top row (from left): Essex Mayor Larry Snively, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti, LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy, Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain. Bottom row (from left): LaSalle Deputy Mayor Crystal Meloche, Deputy Warden and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos, Warden and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Tracey Bailey, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was absent.

The mega-hospital that the County of Essex is committing about $100 million towards has to be completed, with the site for that being the corner of Concession 9 and County Road 42, near Windsor Airport.

“It has to come to fruition,” added McNamara.

McNamara, recently retired from Hiram Walker, is also a former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). He hopes those contacts will help him in his new role as warden.

“It’s given me an opportunity to connect with the upper levels of government,” he said.

Santos said “it’s great to start a new term of Essex County council” and that “I’m really excited to be a part of the team.”

The Kingsville mayor stated continuing to reduce EMS wait times at hospitals is another priority, noting that while they have gotten better, there is still room for improvement. Santos also noted there is a strategic plan for Essex County being developed and that will “lay out a game plan” for the future. He added that will map out what the county can strengthen.

Santos said that “it will be a good one-two punch” with McNamara as the warden and himself as deputy warden, noting they both have a lot of experience and can help the new members.

“I think it’s a positive for the region,” he said.

County council decided also decided its striking committee that will help determine which members sit on what committees. Bain, Santos, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy were elected to that committee.

Essex County council is comprised of the seven mayors and seven deputy mayors from around the county.

Town to use share of library surplus funds on repairs to building

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex has released some of the surplus funding accumulated during the library strike.

For Amherstburg, it means getting the full share as allotted by the county.

There was roughly $790,000 saved by the county during the Essex County Library strike of 2016-17 with Amherstburg’s share being calculated at $92,396. The calculation was based on Amherstburg having 11.7 per cent of the county levy.

Library CEO/chief librarian Robin Greenall said that the surplus funding was originally kept in the county’s rate stabilization reserve.

Essex County council decided last summer to place the surplus funding in a reserve with the funding to be distributed in the form of grants to the lower tier municipalities “who apply to use their proportionate share of the $790,000 towards capital improvements or enhancements to libraries located within their municipality.”

Five municipalities, including Amherstburg, applied to the Essex County Library Board for funding with the board making their recommendations to county council.

Greenall said Amherstburg will use its $92,396 to help fund a capital project to help repair damage to the lower level of the branch. The lower level of the Amherstburg library has experienced damage due to water seepage but Greenall’s report to county council states that the estimated cost, pending an RFP/RFQ process, is expected to exceed $93,000.

Julie Feher, a resource assistant at the Amherstburg library, stands at a recent “pop up” library at the Libro Centre. As construction will close the library for five weeks starting Feb. 20, the Essex County Library will provide a ‘pop-up’ library at the Libro Centre (3295 Meloche Rd.), where library staff will be available for limited hours, with a selection of books and resources to check out, beginning Feb. 17. A detailed schedule of the ‘pop-up’ hours and service details will be available by visiting www.essexcountylibrary.ca.

The Municipality of Leamington will receive its full allocation of $98,951 and will use its funding towards a full renovation project at its John St. branch. Greenall’s report indicates the cost of that renovation is projected to be between $750,000 and $1 million.

Essex will be receiving its full share of the funding – $75,013 – to help support capital projects at its Gosfield Townline branch. The funds will be put towards a new roof that is estimated at $100,000, a new canopy roof at the library entrance estimated at $7,000 and the installation of three new HVAC units, estimated at $23,000.

The Town of Kingsville will receive $40,000 of its allocated $94,150 for work at two of the branches. The branch on Main St. West will have three accessible door operators installed at a cost of $6,000. The remaining $34,000 will be put towards replacement of all windows and doors at the Ruthven branch.

Lakeshore will receive $32,000 of its $186,266 share for work at two branches. A concrete walkway at its Toldo Branch, located within the Atlas Tube Centre, estimated at $27,000 will be installed to reduce a tripping hazard and vandalism while the remainder will be used on another concrete walkway at its Stoney Point branch.

The remaining shares of the $790,000 in funding sees LaSalle in line to receive $123,385 and Tecumseh allocated $119,839. Those two municipalities have yet to request their shares of the surplus.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said it was “positive to see the response from member municipalities” in terms of wanting to enhance their branches. He suggested that the member municipalities follow up with a letter upon the completion of the works to show that the money was used and what it was used for.

(UPDATE: After the publication of the Feb. 14 print edition, the Essex County Library issued the following press release:

“The Essex County Library (ECL)’s Amherstburg Branch (232 Sandwich St. South) will be closed to the public as of Tuesday, February 20, 2018. The closure is anticipated to last approximately five weeks, in order to repair the water-damaged lower level of the library.

During the construction period, the Essex County Library will provide a ‘pop-up’ library at the Libro Credit Union Centre (3295 Meloche Rd.), where library staff will be available for limited hours, with a selection of books and resources to check out, beginning on Saturday, February 17. A detailed schedule of the ‘pop-up’ hours and service details will be available by visiting www.essexcountylibrary.ca. Updates will also be provided via ECL’s social channels at www.facebook.com/EssexCountyLibrary and @EssexCountyLib on Twitter.

In addition, home mail delivery service will be available for Amherstburg residents who would like to continue to receive their requested/reserved items. Residents are also welcome to visit any other ECL branch location. Residents requesting more information are encouraged to ECL Administration at (519) 776 5241.”)

Essex County to hold onto library strike savings, pledge to use it for library purposes

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The $790,000 that was saved during the 230-day Essex County library strike will not be coming back to municipalities.

Instead, Essex County council will set that money aside in a reserve that municipalities and the county itself can tap into for issues specifically related to libraries.

County CAO Brian Gregg noted the $790,000 in savings was due to the money not being spent due to the strike and said it was not administration’s intent to “bury it and have it go away.” The money was temporarily placed in a reserve, he said, with the intent to bring it back to county council for discussion on what to do with it.

“The county doesn’t have a way to rebate this to the ratepayers,” said Gregg.

Gregg suggested there were “a number of ways” the money could be used, suggesting it could be used to support the library system.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo questioned how much the library system didn’t receive in government funding due to the strike. DiCarlo, who had asked for that figure at prior meetings, was told that it was “coming soon.” Gregg said a review of the figures shows that total is roughly $140,000.

Library workers picket outside of Amherstburg town hall last year. Approximately one year after this photo was taken, Essex County council decided to put $790,000 saved during the library strike into a reserve with the plan of using the money for library-related purposes.

Library workers picket outside of Amherstburg town hall last year. Approximately one year after this photo was taken, Essex County council decided to put $790,000 saved during the library strike into a reserve with the plan of using the money for library-related purposes.

DiCarlo was one of five county council members who opposed the motion.

Amherstburg council was one of the municipalities that asked for the money to be refunded.

Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti liked the idea of using the funds for library services with Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos making the motion to set the money aside and allowing municipalities to tap into it should their library buildings need capital improvements.

Santos compared it to when Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission (WEEDC) funding was returned, with the condition that money be used for economic development.

Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald stated the $790,000 was generated because the ratepayers did not get the library services and believed “it absolutely needs to go back to the people” who paid the money to begin with. Leamington Mayor John Paterson believed others on county council were saying local municipalities could not be trusted and believed the county did not need more reserve funds, as it already has $120 million in reserves.

Santos said it wasn’t a matter of trust and said the money will be set aside for when municipalities are ready to put a shovel in the ground for projects.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he has been hearing from a lot of people wondering what is going on with the money and hopes they can regain trust from those who lost it during the strike.

DiPasquale said after the meeting that the use of the money has been “pretty transparent” thus far. He agreed with the motion.

“It is fairness,” he said. “I hope the public understands that. I thought it was fair.”

Warden Tom Bain said the money was collected through the county levy and believed the big factor is that it will be earmarked specifically for library needs. He indicated the funds could also be used to lower increases brought to county council by the library board at budget time.

Returning the money to ratepayers wouldn’t be worth it, Bain believed, as it would amount to about $4 per resident.

Essex County council defers EMS report regarding Amherstburg concerns

 

By Ron Giofu

Town council wanted Essex County council to review Essex-Windsor EMS and to provide funding necessary to improve the areas that are “in need.”

However, Essex County now wants more information from the town and find out what was presented to Amherstburg council.

Essex County council deferred a recommendation at its June 7 meeting that would have county administration provide an information report to county council regarding funding and cost distribution of EMS services as well as tiered response and service levels.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya sought clarification on the request from Amherstburg.

“They’re suggesting increasing regional funding and identifying areas in need?” he asked.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said “the concerns that were raised by some members of Amherstburg council were there may not be enough coverage for the amount of calls we have.”

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DiCarlo also pointed out the concerns over tiered response and the fact firefighters go out on medical calls when ambulances were tied up. Town council discussed the matter in April when Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter appeared before them with Councillor Rick Fryer wondering why all municipalities don’t use firefighters at calls, citing Leamington as an example. Fryer said during the April meeting that if there is a fee for service, all municipalities should be equal. Councillor Diane Pouget added she was “very, very concerned” about the issue and said she “didn’t think it is fair” that some municipalities are not paying for the same service Amherstburg is paying for.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos made the motion for the deferral, noting the county didn’t know exactly what Amherstburg council heard.

“It may not be an Amherstburg issue,” said Santos. “It may be a county-wide issue.”

Essex County council begins process of redefining road network

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

What is likely to be a long, arduous process of redefining what the Essex County road network is has gotten underway.

A special meeting of Essex County council took place last Wednesday night with the meeting being somewhat out of the ordinary as it was facilitated by Roger Bryan, a retired partner with KPMG whom the county has engaged as a consultant.

The roughly 90-minute “visioning session” saw county council members asked to answer what they consider the purpose of the county road network and what factors and influences should be contemplated when developing the criteria to determine whether or not a road is a county road.

“I’m very pleased with how the meeting went,” said Warden Tom Bain. “I think there were a lot of various opinions.”

Bain said no solid conclusions were reached, nor were any expected to be reached as this was the first of what is likely to be many meetings to hash out what is a county road and what isn’t.

“I feel strongly that we got the ball rolling,” said Bain. “There was a lot of meat put on the table.”

One of the issues was financial inequity, as some members of county council believe their towns pay too much in assessments for what they receive back in road funding. Bain believes that will be an area that will be looked at further as the process progresses.

“It’s going to be a long, slow, tedious job but I feel we’ll come up with a solution,” said Bain, noting he has a goal of having it completed if not by the end of 2017, by the 2018 municipal election.

County CAO Brian Gregg told county council members at the start of the meeting that no criteria was expected to be developed by the end of the first meeting but “we want you to tell us what you want that criteria to look like.”

Consultant Roger Bryan speaks to Essex County councillors last Wednesday night during a meeting on the county’s road network. The county has started a process to review its road system.

Consultant Roger Bryan speaks to Essex County councillors last Wednesday night during a meeting on the county’s road network. The county has started a process to review its road system.

Many elected officials said county roads are roadways that connect municipalities and high traffic areas with one another. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he understood that to be the definition and that if that is the case, the county has to be careful on how it designates its roadways. County roads can’t be determined so that a higher amount of dollars will flow to individual municipalities for projects.

“You can’t just designate a street just because you want to give a municipalities more percentage,” said DiCarlo.

Bain suggested that county roads also have to be roads that see a lot of goods transported with Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche suggesting connecting areas of tourism also should be considered for county road status. Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti believed the county should look at the road network as a way to connect rural settlement areas.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara believed there should be “a clear outline for this process” and that open discussion should be had with the lower tier municipalities. Decisions should be made on based on such issues as traffic counts and future growth projections.

“There’s got to be more input,” agreed Essex Mayor Ron McDermott.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya wanted a “fair process” and didn’t think his town was getting its share of the county’s road dollars.

“As partners, we should all be concerned about each other. (LaSalle) doesn’t feel like partners,” said Antaya. “I feel we’re just a source of money because we’re not getting a lot.”

Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio believed a lot of how county roads are funded has to do with the geographic size of the municipalities.

“It’s not our fault the government shoved (amalgamation) down our throats,” said Fazio.

Fazio said ideally each municipality should be funded equally “but the reality is it’s never going to be equal.”

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) gives feedback during a meeting on the county road system Jan. 25. Consultant Roger Bryan (right) listens to DiCarlo's comments.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) gives feedback during a meeting on the county road system Jan. 25. Consultant Roger Bryan (right) listens to DiCarlo’s comments.

DiCarlo indicated that the most effective routes to move people or goods should be looked at for designation and questioned whether the meeting was to look at what the definition of county roads are or whether it was a meeting to discuss assessment costs.

“To me, it’s almost two different issues,” said DiCarlo.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale suggested some roads may need changing but viewed county roads as the most important transit routes in Essex County. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said standards were developed when there were 21 county municipalities instead of the current seven and that maybe there are roads that need to have their designations changed.

Meloche believed “there’s always going to be disparity” and that looking at specific issues could pit municipalities against each other.

“The next thing you know, we’re not county council,” said Meloche.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson believed municipalities like Tecumseh, LaSalle and his own are overpaying when looking at assessments versus their percentage of the road network, adding that Amherstburg is slightly underpaying. He said Amherstburg has 12.7 per cent of the road network but pays 11.6 per cent of the assessment.

Paterson suggested that the assessment dollars be kept by each municipality and that they look after their own roads.

“So far, no one has convinced me we need county roads,” he said during the meeting.

Fazio disagreed.

“We all need each other. Pulling out is not the way to go.”