strike

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.”)

Town to seek library funding from Essex County

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg wants its share of the savings from the Essex County library strike.

The town is requesting that Essex County council return its share of the costs, and passed a motion at a recent special meeting asking the county to release those funds. Essex County council had previously agreed to hang on to the $790,000 and use them for library purposes, with municipalities able to tap into those funds similar to that of a grant program.

Councillor Diane Pouget said the town has spent “quit a bit of money” on the current Amherstburg library and she believes the residents deserve to get money back from the county to help defray those costs.

Pouget noted such work as parking lot improvements and upgrades to the front steps have taken place, adding there are more expenses probable due to the age of the building.

Amherstburg council will be seeking money back from Essex County from the $790,000 saved during the library strike.

Amherstburg council will be seeking money back from Essex County from the $790,000 saved during the library strike.

“We’ve done a number of improvements and we’re going to have more,” said Pouget. “It’s an old building.”

Pouget made the motion to seek the town’s proportional share of the savings, believing it was respectful to Essex County council yet also showing that the town wants its share to help with its own library branch. She also pointed out Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale still have to work with their fellow county council members.

“I don’t want this council to get into an argument with county council,” she said. “Both of you have to go back and work with county council.”

County council decided last month not to return money directly to residents, citing there was no real mechanism to do so. Warden Tom Bain pointed out at the time that it amounted to only $4 per resident anyway.

 

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.

Where should the excess library funds go?

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg town council has voted to send a letter to the County of Essex asking they get a portion of the unused money that accumulated during the Essex County library strike.

The county deposited a $790,000 surplus into reserves but Amherstburg is asking that money be instead returned to municipalities.

Councillor Diane Pouget said residents didn’t get the services that funding was intended for so she wanted it returned. She said Amherstburg could use it to maintain the current Carnegie library at the corner of Richmond St. and Sandwich St. S.

“We are in desperate need of funding for our library,” said Pouget.

Councillor Leo Meloche had suggested the $790,000 be put towards the fund the county has for its share of the proposed new mega-hospital.

“Maybe it’s the opportune time to drop three-quarters of a million dollars into that fund,” Meloche questioned.

The Amherstburg library re-opens to the public at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 with Amherstburg council wanting the surplus the county accrued during the strike returned to municipalities.

The Amherstburg library re-opens to the public at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 with Amherstburg council wanting the surplus the county accrued during the strike returned to municipalities.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the county is trying to put away as much money as they can for the proposed new mega-hospital. He added the motion, which passed, calling for the municipalities to get the money back was “a relevant position to take” so that the county knows what Amherstburg’s position is.

DiCarlo believed he is now cleared to speak on library matters due to the strike being over. He had been declaring conflict on the matter due to his wife Laura’s employment at the library.

DiCarlo stated that the town’s position was “pretty clear” that the money should come back to the municipalities, noting he was contacted by a lot of residents who believed a refund was in order.

“I heard from a lot of residents that we gave that money in good faith for library services,” the mayor said. “It wasn’t used the way it was intended.”

The mayor did add that a municipality can not have too much reserve funds and also understood the position of saving for a new mega-hospital, which is proposed for County Road 42 and Concession 9. The county has agreed, by a population split with Windsor, to fund 46 per cent – or about $92 million – of the hospital costs.

The Essex County library strike ended last week with the union ratifying last Thursday and the Essex County Library Board last Friday. The libraries re-open tomorrow with the Amherstburg branch being open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Striking librarians receive donations of food, toiletries

by Jonathan Martin

The local librarians’ strike has been ongoing for more than a month now and for CUPE 2974 members, being out of work is starting to take its toll.

Dozens of picketers and their supporters gathered at the Essex library branch Thursday in a show of solidarity – and to add to their food bank.

Among them was a stony-faced Lori Wightman, unit chair for CUPE 2974.

“To be honest, finances are getting a little tight,” she said. “Some of us are the major breadwinner for our families. Every dollar counts and when you’re on strike you don’t make as much. Some of us are feeling that pinch, so this (food bank) is a major help.”

Secretary/treasurer of CUPE Ontario Candice Rennick hugs a teary-eyed Elaine Buschman at a CUPE 2974 rally in Essex last Thursday. During her quarter-century of employment, Buschman said she has banked between two to three years of sick days.

Secretary/treasurer of CUPE Ontario Candice Rennick hugs a teary-eyed Elaine Buschman at a CUPE 2974 rally in Essex last Thursday. During her quarter-century of employment, Buschman said she has banked between two to three years of sick days.

Secretary/treasurer of CUPE Ontario Candice Rennick handed out grocery cards and bags filled with toiletries to the picketers, many of whom accepted the donations with hugs and tears.

CUPE members are striking for a number of reasons, but a major sticking point is the library board’s proposed changes to its sick-day policy.

According to union officials, library workers can bank their unused sick days. Some have years saved up.

If the board’s plan goes through, workers would instead be given a payout for up to 60 hours at the end of each year.

“I think spirits get a little low when you’ve been walking the line for (more than a month) and we’re just trying to let them know that they may feel alone here in Essex,” said Rennick. “But they’ve got the backing of the largest, strongest union in the country and we’re not going to let them starve out here on the lines.”

Wightman’s face brightened as Rennick handed out the bags – and positively glowed when she approached the ice cream truck CUPE had hired to provide refreshments for the day.

Still, there was an edge to her voice as she spoke.

“It is very disheartening and very frustrating to be on this line for this long and to know that our employer and our elected officials do not want to listen,” Wightman said. “I don’t know whether they’re willfully not listening or they just don’t think it’s their issue, but it is their issue. Public services are being denied to the people who elected them and they need to make a stand.”