Rick Fryer

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.

 

 

 

 

Fibre to the home project ahead of schedule, says Bell rep

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council received an update on Bell’s fibre to the home project Monday night and the news was that everything is good so far.

Senior manager of network provisioning Darin Meek noted the project got started in July and some areas of the town have been completed. The target date is June 30, 2020.

Meek said it is a matter of “rebuilding all of our infrastructure” as the fibre optic cables have to be laid.

“We have to place all of our cables in every area,” said Meek.

They work with about five other contractors in various aspects of the project, including burying cables, stringing them along hydro poles and even restoring lawns. The areas they have hit thus far were done because they are the “low hanging fruit” and that they were the places where Bell could roll out the plan the quickest.

“We’ve received incredible co-operation from the Town of Amherstburg and the residents,” said Meek.

Bell is also moving ahead with similar projects in LaSalle and Windsor, Meek added, with Tecumseh next on the radar.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he has seen the workers and from what he has heard from residents now with fibre internet, things are going well. He said the workers are courteous, clean and professional and that “they’ve gone above and beyond.”

Fryer said the town is open for business and this initiative will help.

“We are going to be cutting edge with technology and speeds and that will help get businesses to come here,” he said.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it has been a pleasure to work with Bell officials, noting he has been able to reach them and they have in turn contacted him about matters.

“As mayor, I’ve been genuinely impressed with the relationship they have brought to the table,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve communicated with Bell at every level and I’ve got to say they’ve reached out to me and it’s not just me reaching out to them.”

Residents are pleased, he added, noting he has been tagged on social media by happy homeowners who have now been connected. He also noted that Bell has to lay all new infrastructure, but are doing so much faster than what the town would have done had the town gone on its own.

While the town has to have resources available in case of issues, that is the only contribution the town has to make, DiCarlo added.

“It’s not costing us,” the mayor said. “Bell is paying.”

Integrity commissioner to investigate alleged in-camera leaks

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Who leaked information from an in-camera meeting and the circumstances surrounding it will be subject to an investigation to be conducted by integrity commissioner Bruce Elman as well as a private investigator.

The integrity commissioner will investigate council members that were in the Sept. 10 in-camera meeting while the other investigator will look at administration. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo called the special council meeting Monday night and said from an e-mail chain he was a part of that there was a “clear violation” and that the leak occurred somewhere between Sept. 10-13. Information was sent to Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic and Rozankovic sent an e-mail to council and CAO John Miceli with concerns about it.

No names were released as to whom the person or people are believed to be.

DiCarlo called for the integrity commissioner to investigate the alleged “breach of confidentiality” and council would agree, though not before other amendments were debated, defeated and adopted.

Councillor Rick Fryer’s amendment that council appointed Police Services Board members be removed during the investigation and the positions refilled was defeated. Councillor Jason Lavigne believed that “adding that clause to the motion smacks of guilt before a trial,” adding “that seems to be going a lot around this town lately.”

Lavigne questioned why this particular leak was of such interest and why it warranted a meeting. Lavigne said the current council hadn’t had a meeting of that nature before and further stated he will be asking his own questions at an upcoming Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) meeting, of which he is a part of. He added he e-mailed DiCarlo several months ago about an apparent breach at a parks committee meeting.

“Know what was done? Absolutely nothing,” said Lavigne.

DiCarlo took exception, responding that “you can’t say what I did or didn’t do” and added after the meeting that all possible violations are taken seriously and treated individually. He also said after the meeting that any member of council can file a complaint with the integrity commissioner if a breach occurs and that the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on the mayor.

Councillor Diane Pouget opposed Fryer’s amendment and that she believed “we are already pre-judging someone” and that “we don’t know who it is.” Fryer said he was not trying to accuse anyone and that his amendment would have removed the people from the APSB while the investigation was ongoing.

“I’m a little befuddled on why you are trying to lay blame on myself or the police board,” asked APSB chair Bob Rozankovic, when Fryer’s amendment was being discussed.

Rozankovic said he advised council and CAO John Miceli regarding the information he received, something he did “out of respect, not to make your lives difficult.” He noted the board is in the middle of severance package negotiations and other matters relating to the switch to Windsor.

The alleged breach did not occur from a APSB member, Rozankovic maintained.

“That came from someone else,” he said. “It was not the police board that created the breach.”

Fryer stated that when Rozankovic sent an e-mail to all of council  – including Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Pouget – it was not the correct course of action as the two council members were in conflict and not in the Sept. 10 in-camera session.

“When you declare a conflict, you are not privy to what happened in that meeting at all,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche said answers are being sought and that all parties are being looked at. He said it was an attempt to “put it out into the open” and find out why it happened.

“At the end of the day, I just want an answer,” Meloche said.

Councillor Joan Courtney wanted to make sure administration was investigated as well.

“With all due respect to administration, they were in the room too,” said Courtney. “Members of the police service board haven’t done anything wrong. They were acting on the information they were given.”
Town council voted 4-2 to reject the motion with Fryer’s amendment with DiCarlo noting his objection was due to the rest of council wanting administration to be involved in the investigation as well.

The second motion, which included DiCarlo’s request for an integrity commissioner to investigate council members and Pouget’s request that administration be investigated by an independent investigator was passed unanimously.

Following the meeting, Rozankovic said he was informed of information that he didn’t like was in town council’s with his belief that information was in the purview of the APSB. The e-mail voiced his concern that the information was out there and that it involved the employment status of people in the board’s employ.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” said Rozankovic. “This is all about the police issue. Things may not be going exactly as they would have liked (with the police transfer to Windsor). They have promised zero cost to the transition at all five of their town hall meetings, and I guarantee you this will not be the case.”

Rozankovic said the costs won’t be as promised and that he believes council has to blame someone. He said he would tell the integrity commissioner where the information originated, but didn’t tell council.

“They’re scared of the outcome of certain things and they’ll try to block certain things from happening and certain information from getting out,” said Rozankovic. “It’s the silly season.”

Fryer questioned why Rozankovic didn’t reveal more information about where the alleged leak came from. He asked that “if it’s silly season politics,” why didn’t Rozankovic inform council and “what do you have to hide?”

Fryer added that he has no reason to believe the transfer of policing duties to Windsor isn’t going smoothly.

“In general, I haven’t heard of anything that could cause a derailment,” he said.

In response to what was in the e-mail chain, Fryer indicated he could not comment on it because it contained in-camera information.

Fryer, Rozankovic, Meloche and Pouget are all running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 election. There were at least 13 candidates counted in the gallery or in the lobby at the meeting, not counting the candidates who are also members of the current council.

DiCarlo told the media after the meeting that, as the head of council, he had to call the meeting once he discovered there was a possible breach. He disputed claims it was politically motivated.

“It’s not the case,” he said.

The mayor added he did “what I was supposed to do” and that was to call a meeting and let town council discuss the issue. He wanted the two separate investigations, he said, because “no one should be targeted” and that it should include everyone.