Patricia Simone

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 council agrees to honour River Lights volunteers

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A couple who have been integral parts of the growth of the River Lights Winter Festival will be honoured.

Mark and Karen Usher will be honoured with a plaque at the pavilion in Toddy Jones Park as it will be dubbed the “Karen and Mark Usher Gingerbread Warming House.” Jennie Lajoie, a member of the River Lights committee, appeared before town council to make the request and called the Gingerbread Warming House “a much loved and integral part of the festival in which thousands of families have visited Amherstburg to not only enjoy the lights, but to partake of the activities and beauty of the Gingerbread Warming House.”

Volunteers, including the Ushers, put up walls and decorations on the pavilion every fall to get it ready for the River Lights Winter Festival.

Lajoie pointed out that the Ushers spend “hundreds of volunteer hours” getting the warming house ready and Lajoie pointed out that it is the venue for the gingerbread house contest and other events during the River Lights Winter Festival. The events are mostly free in part “because of the hard work and efforts of Karen and Mark Usher for over 11 years!”

The Ushers have lived in Amherstburg for 43 years, Lajoie added, and Karen was a nurse at a medical clinic while Mark taught for 32 years at General Amherst High School.

“Both have dedicated part of their retirements to giving back selflessly, graciously and warmly to their beloved community so that others can enjoy a magical, family tradition at Toddy Jones Park,” Lajoie stated.

Councillor Patricia Simone questioned whether the plaque would be displayed all year, or just during River Lights. Lajoie said they envision a permanent, all-year plaque.

Simone voiced a concern that others may start coming forth with similar requests, noting that most town events are run by volunteers. She said she didn’t want to exclude anyone if someone else should come forward.

The Gingerbread Warming House will be named for River Lights volunteers Mark and Karen Usher. (Special to the RTT)

Lajoie promoted the Ushers by stating they have been volunteering for River Lights for 11 years and “they are busy all year round.” CAO John Miceli added the town has started yearly events to recognize the town’s many volunteers.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche pointed out there are other recognition events, including a yearly tree planting ceremony at Co-An Park in McGregor.

“I see no harm in doing more of that,” said Meloche.

Councillor Michael Prue wanted to know if the town had any sort of policy regarding recognizing residents and groups.

“If we have a policy, we should follow it,” said Prue.

“There is not a policy,” noted Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We are working on a policy.”

Prue followed up by wondering what the specifics were of the plaque, including size, location and what it is made out of. Lajoie said it will be a 12×18 metal plaque.

Mark Usher attended the meeting and thanked council for agreeing to the honour.

“River Lights is super special,” he said, adding families come down to look at the lights and enjoy themselves.

“It’s all about families,” he said.

DiCarlo envisioned the town hosting an event for the Ushers after the plaque is installed.

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 talks about, but doesn’t reconsider development charges motion

 

By Ron Giofu

Town council talked about reconsidering a motion regarding development charges but in the end they stuck with the original motion.

A motion passed Dec. 15 regarding development charges deferral agreements called for the town to continue to offer deferrals and that administration be authorized to proceed with the use of letters of direction for the collection of the charges and that, based on an amendment suggested by Councillor Michael Prue, that administration be authorized to implementation an administrative fee of $275 per unit for each four month period until a unit is completed and sold. Prue stated in December that he believed that will “safeguard the taxpayers,” as Prue didn’t agree with the program overall from a residential perspective but did so from a commercial perspective.

Councillor Donald McArthur admitted he was nervous at the first meeting and asked at the Jan. 14 meeting if they could reconsider the motion so that additional questions could be asked. Prue said the public seems happy to have additional money in their pockets and believed that developers, whom he said are “very rich people,” have to pay the cost of doing business in a municipality and that includes paying fees.

“I thought it was a happy compromise,” added Councillor Peter Courtney, of the Dec. 15 motion.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said administration came up with an agreement in partnership with developers and builders after the previous council requested that a meeting be arranged between the parties “yet this council decided to amend that.”

Meloche stated “it is incumbent upon us to have reasonable growth in our community” and he believed that can be accomplished with development charge deferral bylaw. The deputy mayor added that the Libro Centre is built to accommodate a population of 40,000 residents while the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant is built to accommodate 50,000 people.

“Our job is to make the town grow,” said Meloche.

Prue countered by stating that council passed an interim tax levy bylaw earlier in the meeting that penalized people for late payment on taxes.

“Why do developers get a special rate that our residents don’t get?” Prue asked. “How is that building a town?”

Meloche responded that the town should be providing incentives for developers to build in Amherstburg and said it is a “business approach” to defer development charges.

“I’m confident in the decision we made,” added Councillor Patricia Simone. “I don’t feel that we should be bringing it up again.”

Courtney, Prue, Simone and Councillor Marc Renaud voted against the motion to reconsider while Meloche, McArthur and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo were in favour.

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.