Rick Fryer

Councillor presses for information regarding police bill for festivals

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An issue relating to policing costs for non-town sponsored festivals came up again at the Oct. 23 town council meeting.

As she did two weeks previous, Councillor Diane Pouget pressed for information regarding money that the town may have to write-off for policing costs for two festivals. In an e-mail she later sent out to people in the community, she believes $17,000 is still owed for costs relating to the Mardi Gras and the Harvest Festival.

Pouget wanted more information and asked why DiCarlo was “stopping me from making my motion.”

DiCarlo responded that the information being requested could not be discussed in public session.

“It’s public money,” Pouget responded. “Why can’t I get a report? This has been going on for two years.”

CAO John Miceli said efforts to recover the money are still ongoing.

“We are following the collection policy the town has approved,” said Miceli.

Miceli maintained a position he took at the Oct. 9 town council meeting that efforts to collect the money will continue and that, if it is not successful, then consideration for writing it off will be brought tot town council.

Pouget indicated that the taxpayers should not be on the hook for such an expense, and that those responsible for the bill should be held accountable.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed it was an issue moreso for the Amherstburg Police Service Board and that “in a roundabout way,” the issue is due to an APSB decision that town council is not privy to.

Pouget made a motion to direct administration “to provide council with a report regarding the status of a significant amount of money owed to the Amherstburg Police Department for services rendered at a festival or festivals, that were not sponsored by the Town of Amherstburg. This report must be made available at our next council meeting.”

That motion was defeated in a 3-2 vote with Fryer, DiCarlo and Councillor Leo Meloche opposed. Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney were in favour. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Jason Lavigne were not at the Oct. 23 meeting.

Town encouraging residents to participate in flooding subsidy programs

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Oct. 6 rain event caused flooding in town, much of which was in the Kingsbridge subdivision, and the town is hoping more people take part in the flooding subsidy program.

According to a report from the town’s public works department that appeared as a supplementary agenda item at last Tuesday night’s council meeting, 41 homes had reported flooding with 30 of them coming from the Kingsbridge area. Six incidents of flooding were reported from the Pointe West subdivision while five reports came from other areas.

As of mid-day Thursday, that number had grown to 54 homes across Amherstburg.

The town has stated that the storm water and wastewater systems were both fully functional “at all times, before, during and after the storm.”

“It is difficult to determine the exact cause of every home’s flooding as not all homes within the flooding areas were subject to basement flooding or the same underlying cause,” the report stated. “Protecting each home from basement flooding is the best defence.”

The report, signed by director of engineering and public works Antonietta Giofu, outlines work done to the Amherstburg sewer system since the 1970’s. Part of it notes the 2017 voluntary basement flooding protection subsidy program that council established, which sees the town subsidize such items as downspout disconnection, foundation drain disconnection, backwater valve installation and sump pump overflow programs. A portion of the 2018 Edgewater forcemain project also sees one of the Edgewater lagoon cells being converted into a temporary wet weather storage cell.

Approximately 40 residents have taken advantage of the voluntary basement flooding protection subsidy program, the town states. That was initiated after the 2017 rain event that hit McGregor.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he had an inch of water in his Texas Road basement and wanted to know how much water hit the area. In a 30-minute period between 7:20 p.m. and 7:50 p.m., the area experienced 36.4mm of rainfall at an average intensity of 116.9 mm/hr. A rainfall intensity of over 98.9mm/hr in a 30-minute period qualifies as a 1:100 year storm.

Fryer believed additional measures need to be looked at, noting 1:100 year storms are happening more frequently.

“It’s more like one in 10 year storms,” he said.

Fryer, who also chairs the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) board of directors, said “it is climate change. There’s no doubt about it.”

Citing the report, Councillor Diane Pouget pointed out that the town has been taking action to prevent flooding since the 1970’s. She asked if another garbage collection day could be added but was told by administration that Windsor Disposal Services (WDS) was contacted and they are going to try to stick to the same schedule, but add another date if one proves necessary.

CAO John Miceli said town council has taken a “leadership role” in trying to address the flooding matters and urged residents to take part in the basement flooding protection subsidy program. He said the town is trying to mitigate the issues but indicated more residents need to take part in the program.

“If you haven’t already notified the town, please do so,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “The key to fixing the problems is knowing where they are. We have been and continue to investigate. There are quite a few homes and we want to do it properly.”

DiCarlo said the system worked the way it is supposed to and that every municipality builds sewer systems to a 1:100 year storm standard. Storm totals “far exceeded” the 1:100 year standard, he said, and that there is no municipal system that could have handled that amount of rain that quickly.

DiCarlo also encouraged people to take part in the subsidy program, noting that some of the issues could have been avoided. New builds do not connect downspouts to the storm sewers and also have backflow valves, with DiCarlo adding that other residents are able to access the program.

For those residents who haven’t already reported flooding problems from the Oct. 6 storm to the town, they are asked to call the public works department at 519-736-3664.

Deputy mayor candidates square off

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The candidates for deputy mayor went head-to-head last Thursday evening in the second of two “Meet the Candidates” nights organized by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC).

Held at Western Secondary School, the event featured Rick Fryer, Diane Pouget, Leo Meloche and Bob Rozankovic making opening and closing statements with questions also being posed by moderator Patty Handysides of AM800. Many of the questions were the same as the previous night’s councillor debates and had been sent in by members of the public.

“Infrastructure is a need, not a want,” said Fryer.

Fryer added that jobs are also needed and that the mayor and chief administrative officer (CAO) are already doing “a great job” in bringing new investments to Amherstburg.

“We definitely need jobs,” he said. “Amherstburg is ready for new innovation and jobs.”

Fibre internet coming to town will assist in bringing jobs to town, Fryer believed, and that the town needs to go after employment for such lands as the former General Chemical property and other areas.

“I’m always looking after the ratepayers,” said Fryer.

Fryer said infrastructure is the top item on his to-do list and that council was saddled with a lot of infrastructure needs when they took office in Dec. 2014. He said the town has to expand its tax base.

Meloche said his late wife grew to love Amherstburg and that he found time to take care of her plus look after his other obligations when she was ill.

“I did what needed to be done,” said Meloche. “I fulfilled my commitments.”

Meloche said he brings sound financial accountability and business analysis to the table and that the current council was able to make “substantial improvements” in town.

While noting there are issues like Belle Vue, Duffy’s and the roads still left to be resolved, Meloche said the town has to “keep the momentum” and continue to make progress.

“Progress doesn’t just happen,” he said. “We need to keep working at it.”

Meloche said the problems relating to roads have been “20 years in the making” but the town now has an asset management plan and levies to help pay for projects.

“Unfortunately, what taxpayers didn’t pay 20 years ago is going to be put on their shoulders in the next four years,” he said. “There’s no way around it. We will have to continue to pay for the errors of the past.”

Pouget outlined her past experiences, dating back to the 1990’s when she headed up the Parent-Teacher Council (PTA) at General Amherst High School. She said they fought to preserve the school from being lost by the public board and they were successful in keeping it as General Amherst after some struggles. She said she was sued at the time, adding “Glenn, I know what you’re going through,” in reference to mayoral candidate Glenn Swinton’s ongoing defamation suit filed against him by CAO John Miceli.

Pouget said efforts to save the school included blocking off streets, meeting provincial officials and gaining national headlines. The lawsuit against her was eventually dropped. That led to the start of her career in municipal politics. She said they had to save General Amherst again earlier this term when it was part of a PARC process, along with Western Secondary School and other schools in the area.

Town council hired local lawyer Anthony Leardi to represent them in the matter and Pouget called the $12,000 expenditure some of the best tax dollars ever spent.

“I believe my 14 years of municipal experience will assist me in becoming your next deputy mayor,” she said.

Pertaining to roads, Pouget said they now have a roads needs study and that the town has to follow it and the advice of its engineers. She said they have to proceed carefully pertaining to roads but added they have made other successful investments including ones to combat flooding.

The debt will be $35 million by the end of the year, she said, with $15 million in reserves. Much of the debt, she added, is tied up long term.

Rozankovic said “the next council will be pivotal in determining the future of Amherstburg for many years to come. Moving forward we need to make decisions ensuring that residents get the maximum value for  their tax dollars.”

Rozankovic wondered where the $24-30 million will come from to update and replace the Amherstburg water treatment plant and said other issues include roads, plans for both Duffy’s and Belle Vue, a new outdoor swimming pool and a decision on the remaining 12 acres at Centennial Park.

The policing issue has become the focal point of this election, Rozankovic added, and that people were actually wondering four years ago whether the town was getting value for the money they spend on policing.

“Whether to contract out policing or not is not simply an exercise in ‘what is cheaper.’ There is the emotional attachment of residents to consider,” he said.

Rozankovic said a referendum could have been on the ballot and would have pushed the contract start date to July 2019.

“So where do we stand today on the policing issue?” he asked. “The residents were told that every employee of the Amherstburg Police Service Board would be offered employment with the Windsor Police Service. That was not the case. The residents were told that there would be no severance payouts attributed to the contracting out of police services. While we do not have solid numbers yet, we can say that the total possible exposure exceeds $2.5 million.”

Rozankovic said he will, if elected, ask the new council “to hit the pause button” and re-evaluate the situation.

The $1.41 million committed annually for roads will likely lead to the town falling further behind, said Rozankovic, and that “we have to find money somewhere in the system.” He suggested maybe it wasn’t such a good move to buy the Duffy’s property and Belle Vue.

Leo Meloche, Rick Fryer, Diane Pouget and Bob Rozankovic discuss issues during the Meet the Candidates Night presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce Oct. 4 at Western Secondary School.

On the subject of economic development, Meloche believed small business is the key for economic development. That will be aided by further residential development with the new force main to lead to over 700 new homes coming to town.

Commercial development will spur job growth, Meloche added, and the town has to look at helping small businesses and “build from the ground up.”

The town “sells itself,” Pouget believed, and that the local real estate industry does a good job in promoting the town. The tourism department also does a great job, she said, and touted the General Chemical site for future development.

Pouget also noted the need for a hotel in Amherstburg.

“We have so much to offer,” she said.

Rozankovic said he travels through China, Mexico and the southeastern United States through his employment and questioned the ability to attract industry to town.

“Everyone is chasing industry,” he said. “Amherstburg doesn’t have anything to sell to industry. This is a reality.”

Rozankovic suggested promoting commercial and residential growth, including more distilleries and microbreweries. He said there is a reason there are not takers for the former General Chemical site and that the future is residential and commercial development.

Fryer said he would want to set up a “task force” for economic development and touted the area’s workforce. There should be incentives offered to companies, Fryer suggested, and that such a proposal is happening in Windsor.

The town has “turned the corner,” said Fryer, but now a “revival” is needed. He suggested streamlining the application and permit processes.

“We need to go after jobs,” he said, adding he voted in favour of the Wendy’s proposal.

One of the questions was about policing. Pouget said she could not answer because of a conflict of interest. Going against the advice of her lawyer would be “very, very serious” and potentially end up in a court of law.

“I can’t put the residents of Amherstburg at risk or my family at risk,” she stated.

Rozankovic said should the deal be finalized, Windsor would do “a fine job” but believes a referendum should have been held. He reiterated that more information should be obtained before any deal is finalized.

Fryer said it has been referred to in the media as a “takeover” but it is not. He said the same officers will patrol the streets of Amherstburg and that the only thing to change will be the uniforms.

“Our officers are still going to be there,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to change.”

Rick Fryer, Leo Meloche, Bob Rozankovic and Diane Pouget took turns presenting their cases and answering questions last Thursday night at a “Meet the Candidates” event at Western Secondary School. The four are running for deputy mayor.

Meloche described himself as a “numbers guy” and that at the end of the day, he believed switching to the Windsor Police Service would result in “significant savings.” In 2014, he said, policing costs were the number two issue he heard and that he compared services to Essex and Amherstburg currently pays $1.9 million more. Municipal policing is also a hot topic at conferences, he added.

“The only thing that’s going to change is the boss,” said Meloche “The employees will still stay the same.”

Relating to taxes and funding local government, Rozankovic said there are costing pressures for such things as roads so needs have to be focused on. He stated that police severance payouts could eat up the first five years of savings “so be careful there.”

Fryer quoted a figure of $2 million to purchase Belle Vue and said he was “totally against it.”

“That’s a (heck) of a lot of roads we could have done,” he said.

Meloche said growth will take some pressures off of tax bills but stated the Libro Centre is built to the size of a 40,000 person town while the wastewater treatment plant is built to accommodate 50,000 people.

“21,000 are paying for it,” he said. “How we address it is growth.”

Pouget called for the reinstatement of the finance committee. She said that committee warned against hiring nine new staff members at the beginning of the term and that she is opposed to positions as plumbers and electricians as the town contracted those services out to “excellent people.”

In closing arguments, Rozankovic stated public trust needs to be regained and that people need to know all the facts before moving forward on projects. Pouget said she has served in every committee imaginable and that she will “continuously work” if elected deputy mayor. Meloche said both the senior and youth populations have to be consulted going forward while Fryer indicated his black and white campaign signs are keys to his campaign as “the answers I give you are in black and white.”

Councillor wants update on Concession 2 bridge

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The bowstring arch bridge on Concession 2 North was scheduled to be torn down and replaced this year, but now there are delays.

Councillor Rick Fryer questioned the status of the project, which had initially been approved by town council about a year ago.

“Is it going to be done this year?” Fryer asked, with the response from administration being that the contractor has been having issues obtaining permits from the necessary government ministries and that the project may be delayed until next year.

Fryer suggested the speed limit be reduced in the area.

“There’s a lot of concern abut how the bridge is going to hold up during the winter,” Fryer added.

Town council has elected to tear down and replace the Concession 2 North bridge with a new bridge of modern design.

Should the project be delayed until 2019, engineers will take another look at the aging structure and take appropriate action, administration added.

In Oct. 2017, town council decided to replace the bridge at a cost of approximately $1.2 million with replacement being the recommended option from town administration. According to a report at that time from manager of engineering and operations Todd Hewitt, the new bridge will have a standard design and a 75-year design life.

Town council had two other options – replacement of the bridge with one of a similar design or repairing the current bridge – but opted for replacing it with a standard design. Repairing the current bridge would have cost $927,000 but Hewitt said drawbacks of that option would be a 25-30 year probable service life and the fact bridge weight restrictions and width would remain restricted.

To build a new bridge that would look similar to the current bridge, it had a cost estimate of $1.8 million as it is “an extremely complex design to build” and would carry increased lifecycle and maintenance costs.

The bridge is believed to be roughly 80-years-old.

CANDIDATE Q&A – Rick Fryer

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

Amherstburg the place where the only thing we overlook is the water!

 Having one of the longest coast lines in Essex County allows for Amherstburg to show off our beautiful landscape and quaint shops and restaurants. Amherstburg has that beautiful small town community with the likeable charm. We are at a cross road now with many great festivals and events our next steps will be to welcome new commercial and industry businesses to offset the higher taxes our ratepayers have experienced. The mandate for the next council should be to brand ourselves that Amherstburg is open to business and not to put up road blocks. We need to streamline how commercial and residential processes are handle to ensure fast timelines for business to operate. Amherstburg in the future should be a livable community where you can live and play where you work.

 

Rick Fryer is running for the position of deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

Infrastructure to all of Amherstburg is vital to ensuring our residence are the ones that come first. Good roads, bridges, walkways and bicycle paths are a must for everyone to enjoy. I have always maintained the objective that those items above that affect our everyday lives need to come first and other projects should be a distant second.  I have and always will commit to infrastructure first.

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

Being accessible to the taxpayer is good governance. Anyone that has concerns knows that I am easy to talk to, easy to contact, and have always returned calls in a polite manner. I brought up the accessibility to council during the last election and will continue to ensure anyone that has a concern that needs to be address will have the ability to speak to council. I will always advocate for all the residence of Amherstburg no matter what the issues are and how tough the decision making is I always represent the ratepayers concerns first.

 

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

Fiscal responsibility must be continued over the next four years. As your elected representative I have always kept the cost to the ratepayer in mind first as to how much is spent and where it is spent. We must start to diversify our resources to ensure you the current ratepayer aren’t always taxed continuously year after year. The incoming council should be actively pursuing new opportunities for commercial, industrial and new cutting edge businesses in tech jobs to help support our local residents. We have some of the greatest workers in the entire country right here in Amherstburg we just need the proper resources to attract new companies with economic development.

 

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

Policing and regional services are to entirely different issues. Our Amherstburg Police officers will be managed by Windsor Police after January 1, 2019. None of our current officers will be working in Windsor unless the current officer in Amherstburg would like to bid on a job in Windsor to further their policing career. During the contracting process we were able to find savings to help offset our current debt load and for fiduciary reasons alone as a representative for Amherstburg it is only good governance to apply the savings to debt. We have already have a regional ambulance service and many other shared services that if we as council can find saving without losing our identity, as an elected representative, I have a fiduciary responsibility to you the taxpayer.