Tom Bain

County, city make progress towards 2017 EWSWA budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After a prolonged dispute between the County of Essex and City of Windsor, it appears a 2017 budget has finally been struck for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA).

The board has been operating without a budget during the past year as the county and city representatives on the board were unable to agree on a budget. County council rejected a 2017 budget at their Dec. 2016 meeting but it was at their second meeting of December of 2017 that elected officials learned progress appears to be at hand.

Responding to a question on the matter from LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya, Warden Tom Bain said that he met with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins on the matter and that they – along with the chief administrative officers (CAOs) from the two municipalities – have reached a compromise.

“We have come up with a solution to the problem,” Bain reported to Essex County council.

Bain expressed confidence it will be a solution that the EWSWA board will approve of. Should it be approved of at that level, it would have to be also approved by county and city councils.

The warden did not provide much detail as to what the proposed new budget contains, but indicated that the county wants to ensure there are reserves for the landfill “and this (agreement) will do that.”

“We feel we’ve reached a compromise,” Bain told reporters after the meeting, noting it has been a “unique” situation to go for a full calendar year without one.

“We’ve been able to carry on and pay the bills and not run into any problems,” said Bain.

The recommended solution will also assist in drafting a 2018 budget as well as lay the groundwork for the next five to ten years, he believed.

“We’re going to suggest a path to be followed so we don’t encounter these problems again,” said Bain.

The warden added that he, Dilkins and the two CAOs put their “cards on the table” and after some “give and take,” they were finally able to come up with a solution.

The proposal is expected to go before the EWSWA in early January.

Essex County budget calls for 1.54% tax increase

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

The 2018 budget has been approved by Essex County council unanimously and it comes with a 1.54 per cent tax increase.

“I think it’s great news for the county,” said County of Essex Warden Tom Bain. “I think it just shows the work that’s been done in the last 10, 15 years that we’ve gotten ourselves at a point now where we have an excellent base as far as reserves are concerned and we are able to meet any needs that come along, as far as infrastructure goes. I’m really pleased with that small increase.”

The 1.54 per cent translates into a $14.46 increase on a home valued at $200,000.

The total county operating budget requirements have increased to $95,645,480. There is a $600,000 increase in the county’s commitment to the new Windsor-Essex Hospital System levy, which will be a repeating trend until 2025. The municipal contribution is $200 million over 10 years, with the county contribution being $90-$95 million.

Other highlights of the budget include a 1.5 per cent levy increase for capital project funding valued at $1,345,500, an incremental increase to rehabilitation program valued at $420,000, an incremental increase to the CWATS program valued at $100,000 and the Civic Centre acquisition and equipment and machinery amortization valued at $350,000. For county construction, the 2018 budget also highlights a total expenditure level of $35,793,090. As for county maintenance, some of the highlights include the program to replace the HPS lighting with LED, five bridge repairs and small culvert replacements, and the continued focus on upgrading line painting, CWATS maintenance and roadside operations. The county has also made the commitment to a $2.8 million equipment acquisition, which includes two tandem dump trucks, a 1.5 tom dump truck, three pick ups, a tractor with a lawn mower, a tandem truck hoist and a mini excavator.

“When it comes to increases, my favorite question is ‘why do you want to raise taxes?’” explained Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We don’t want to raise taxes. We have to raise taxes to compensate for our costs, the same as everyone else. It is an increase but I think it’s a very reasonable increase, right in line with the cost of living.”

The Essex County Library board also brought forth some changes in their budget. They were approved for an increase from $4,829,090 in 2017, to $5,222,210 projected for 2018, an 8.1 per cent increase. Some of the reasoning for their increase included legal fees and administrative office budget overages in the 2017 year due to the work disruption, and looking to programming and outreach changes and wage and benefit increases in 2018.

All matters discussed during the county council meeting Dec. 6 were approved, including approving the corporate reserve strategy plan to transfer $2 million from the rate stabilization reserve to the capital reserve, which was a matter deferred from council Sept. 6.

The 2018 budget for the Essex-Windsor EMS, which included a matter that was also deferred Nov. 1 involving the development of a master plan and enhancing their response times, was also approved.

“When you get to this level, I think everything is a little more clear, the numbers are tight, and I would say administration does a pretty good job of laying out exactly what is required which leaves not a whole lot of questions,” said DiCarlo. “I can’t imagine what you would disagree with because it’s so focused on roads and services and so when you break it all down, it’s very accountable.”

Annual accessibility workshop aims to create a more accessible community

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“I started by skiing in the trees, I started sailing (by) falling out the boat. Now I have a bronze at a Canadian competition. Instead of Paralympic trials, which I got to do, I sail in world cup regattas against able-bodied predominantly men.”

Tracy Schmitt, known as Unstoppable Tracy, shared her story with those in attendance at this year’s accessibility workshop. She explained how everyone has barriers and obstacles, and we may not succeed at first, but through trying and being persistent we will succeed. Tracy was born a four-way amputee.

“We didn’t know how I was going to ski. We just put men’s ski boots backwards on my thighs, and it put me in a duck squat position. Who would have guessed?” explained Tracy. “We wouldn’t have thought of that on a couch. We had to get out there on that hill and be looking around and just do it. We didn’t know how I would ski but we knew I would. It’s the same in business, it’s the same in having a conversation with your teenager, and it’s the same in opening doors and opening minds for accessibility. You don’t know how, but do it anyway and you can do it. What’s your excuse?”

Tracy Schmitt, known as Unstoppable Tracy, speaks as a keynote speaker at this year’s annual Accessibility Workshop.

Renée Trombley, manager of corporate communications and accessibility for the County of Essex said she works with the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee each year, whose focus is to create awareness and share information around accessibility. The idea is just to start a conversation in the community.

“For me it’s really about starting those engaging conversations about how can we be a more accessible society and how can we remove barriers whether they are physical or attitudinal, to help make sure that we are very inclusive,” said Trombley. “Perhaps in sharing some of this information and getting these groups of people together that wouldn’t typically necessarily congregate, it just allows us all to become better informed and perhaps turn into better advocates.”

Amongst those in attendance were municipal officials, such as Warden for the County of Essex Tom Bain. He said he believes it’s important for all officials to attend this type of conference because they can take the messages given at the workshop back to their communities and spread the information.

“I think it’s a tremendous conference,” said Bain. “It really shows what people who have a physical disability can do and what a motivator, not only for those with disabilities but everyone. When you saw today in the videos and heard what can be done, there’s no stopping someone. You can ski, you can swim, you can mountain climb and not only can you do those things but you can be one of the best at those activities. It’s an unbelievable motivator for anyone who is really feeling they can’t do something, that’s the message today, yes you can.”

For more information about the accessibility committee visit www.countyofessex.on.ca/en/government/essex-county-accessibility-advisory-committee or check them out on their new Facebook page www.facebook.com/EssexCountyAccessibility.

Essex County council bids farewell to CAO

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“Before I ask for adjournment, I just want to note that this is the last meeting for our CAO Mr. Gregg.”

Warden Tom Bain stood in front of Essex County council last week with a plaque which read “Essex County Council resolves to extend our sincere appreciation and best wishes to Chief and Administrative Officer Brian Gregg for your commitment, guidance and outstanding leadership to the council and to the staff of the Corporation of the County of Essex and for your 30 years of service to the residents of Essex County. May the blessings of good health, the joy of good friends, a loving family and the contentment of a job well done fill your life with happiness. Congratulations on your retirement.”

The new CAO of the County of Essex is Robert Maisonville. Maisonville assumed his new duties last Thursday.

Warden Tom Bain presents retiring CAO Brian Gregg with a plaque, addressing his 30 years with the County of Essex during the Sept. 6 council meeting.

Bain continued to explain what Gregg was like on job. He explained that he’s serious, he digs down for the information needed, he gets the answers and he’s tremendous to work it.

“As with most people there is another side of Brian and I didn’t really believe it until one night I was in Lakeshore arena and I see this guy playing hockey,” explained Bain. “When you put a helmet on someone and a pair of skates can it ever change someone. I thought, is this our CAO out there on the ice, in that little box on the side?”

Jokingly, Bain recalled the first time he saw Gregg play hockey, bringing a light-hearted bit of cheer to what was a heavyhearted farewell.

“I do want to certainly say on behalf of all of county council what a tremendous job you’ve done,” said Bain. “For 30 years you have led us and working with you and I know it’s teamwork, but you’ve got us into a position that as a county we are strong and we don’t have the debt there, we are able to meet any problems that come head on and I know that you and I have sat down a number of times and I can honestly only think of one time when I didn’t see eye to eye and I gave into you anyways.”

Gregg followed up Bain’s speech with one of his own. He laughed with agreement that during his time playing hockey he most certainly has spent a little too much time in the penalty box.

Officially, Gregg explained September 29 will be his retirement date but with some of the vacation time he has available, he tentatively scheduled Friday as his last day in office. However, he did have a Monday morning meeting scheduled. With some loose ends to tie up before leaving, he plans on being in and out of the office between now and Sept. 29, however the Sept. 6 county council meeting would be his last.

An honour and a privilege is how Gregg described his service to the County of Essex as the CAO, a position which he has held for 19 years, closing out his 30 year career with the County of Essex, an accomplishment he said he is extremely proud of. He is also proud of what County of Essex has been able to accomplish over the last 19 years, which he describes as being “conservatively progressive.”

– County councillors bid farewell to their CAO Brian Gregg. The new CAO for the County of Essex is Robert Maisonville.

“I was never one to try to hit the big home run or make the big splash, but it was more about continuing the move forward and do the right thing to enable us to serve the residents of the county of Essex,” said Gregg. “I am extremely proud of the initiatives we have undertaken as a county over the last 20 years. However the success that we have achieved over the last 20 years isn’t mine alone. It certainly is shared by the strength of the administrative team that we have here in the county. These folks that sit to the left and to the right of us are really the backbone of the county. I am continuously amazed at the creativity that they bring to their jobs, the responsiveness that they bring to their residents and to the members of council. They drive to be proactive and I suggest that maybe we aren’t always flashy, but we are open and we are doing things that anticipate what’s coming down the road next rather than just always having to react to things.”

Through tears, Gregg thanked his family. He said while he believes every politician probably does this when it comes time for him or her to move on, he is no different.

“Going forward I firmly believe the County is in a great place and is in excellent shape both financially and operationally,” said Gregg. “I wish you all and the administrative team here at the county the best as you continue to administer the affairs of the county. In summary, I’d like to borrow a couple little lines that Warden Bain has come out with in a number of these addresses that he’s made over the past few years. The first one is that Essex County is indeed the pre-emptive place to live, learn, work, play, invest and visit. And if anyone, any time ever hears anybody that says why Essex county? The answer ought to be, why not Essex County?”

 

Essex County doesn’t look far to find its next CAO

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After what the County of Essex dubbed a “lengthy search and competitive recruitment process that spanned several weeks” for its next chief administrative officer (CAO), the final selection ended up being a familiar face.

The county announced Friday that Rob Maisonville will be the new CAO and will replace the retiring Brian Gregg. Maisonville, the current director of corporate services/treasurer, will begin his new duties Sept. 7.

“I got the word Thursday afternoon,” said Maisonville.

Maisonville knew he was one of three people who received a second interview for the job and said he wasn’t afraid to go through the process and competing with other people for the position.

“I’ve been working for the corporation for 27 years,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of good things in the time I’ve been here. I look forward to continuing to work with residents, staff, council, partners and stakeholders to deliver high-quality services and contribute to making Essex County the outstanding region that it is. My goal is to continue the great work we’ve been doing.”

Rob Maisonville will become the County of Essex’s new chief  administrative officer (CAO) Sept. 7. He is currently serving as the director of corporate services/treasurer.

Rob Maisonville will become the County of Essex’s new chief
administrative officer (CAO) Sept. 7. He is currently serving as the director of corporate services/treasurer.

Maisonville said the county is in “great shape” financially, citing numerous factors including no debt, a fully developed asset management plan and a AA credit rating. He added there are challenges to face as well, such as social issues like homelessness, service delivery, and the ongoing road rationalization study to analyze the county road network and a possible adjustment of that..

Following several years of employment in the private sector, Maisonville began his career with the County of Essex in 1990 as a financial analyst, progressing in various capacities throughout the years, from financial supervisor to controller/deputy treasurer to his current position as the director of corporate services/treasurer in Sept. 1999.

Maisonville doesn’t eye any major alterations when he takes over as CAO.

“I don’t see any fundamental changes,” he said. “We’re just going to continue to improve what we’re doing.”

A resident of Essex County, Maisonville also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Masters in Business Administration degrees from the University of Windsor. The latest promotion is something he sees as “a natural progression of my professional goals.

“I am thankful for (county) council’s support and trust in the work I have done,” he added.

Warden Tom Bain said in a press release that the search for a new CAO was a very detailed and extensive process.

“We conducted our search using a variety of platforms and we received a number of interested applicants. The hiring committee and county council are pleased that Mr. Maisonville, given his expertise and passion for community, has accepted the position. We have every confidence that he has the vision and dedication to fully serve the residents of Essex County and that he will continue to build upon the organization’s long-standing reputation for success.”

Maisonville added that the county will have to “go through the process” of having to fill his current role but said he will remain as director of corporate services/treasurer until that process is undertaken.