Tom Bain

McNamara new Essex County warden, Santos acclaimed as deputy warden

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council held its inaugural meeting for the 2018-22 term last week and selected a new warden to lead them.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara was chosen as the warden, which is the head of county council, for this term. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos also sought the position, but he didn’t leave without a new title either, as Santos would be acclaimed as deputy warden.

“I’m honoured,” said McNamara. “It’s always a privilege to be recognized by your peers around the table.”

McNamara said he first joined Essex County council about 20 years ago and served as deputy warden from 2000-03 and 2010-14. It was his third time seeking the warden’s position.

“I would say the third time is a charm,” he remarked.

Newly-elected Essex County Warden Gary McNamara (right) accepts the gavel from former warden Tom Bain. Bain served as warden from 2010-18 with McNamara being elected by his colleagues to be the new head of county council at the inaugural meeting Dec. 12.

McNamara said he hopes to continue the work done by his predecessors, two of which remain on county council. Santos was warden from 2006-10 and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain was warden from 2010-18.

“The county is in a tremendous place. It’s because of the leadership we’ve had in the past,” he said.

With questions hanging overhead about how the Progressive Conservative government will deal with the province’s debt, McNamara said the county and lower-tier municipalities have to work collectively and deal with any potential impacts.

“We are going to have to be vigilant that they don’t balance the books on the backs of municipalities,” he said.

Working with all seven Essex County municipalities is important, McNamara indicated, but so too is working with the City of Windsor. He added that they have to continue to promote the fact that Essex County “is a great place to do business and raise a family.”

Investing into infrastructure was cited as a priority, including dealing with busy roads in Tecumseh, LaSalle and Lakeshore as well as roads in the southern half of the county as well. Continuing to work on the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) is important, he added, as is completion of a roads needs study.

Members of Essex County council for the 2018-22 term were sworn in last Wednesday night. Top row (from left): Essex Mayor Larry Snively, Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti, LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy, Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain. Bottom row (from left): LaSalle Deputy Mayor Crystal Meloche, Deputy Warden and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos, Warden and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Tracey Bailey, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was absent.

The mega-hospital that the County of Essex is committing about $100 million towards has to be completed, with the site for that being the corner of Concession 9 and County Road 42, near Windsor Airport.

“It has to come to fruition,” added McNamara.

McNamara, recently retired from Hiram Walker, is also a former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). He hopes those contacts will help him in his new role as warden.

“It’s given me an opportunity to connect with the upper levels of government,” he said.

Santos said “it’s great to start a new term of Essex County council” and that “I’m really excited to be a part of the team.”

The Kingsville mayor stated continuing to reduce EMS wait times at hospitals is another priority, noting that while they have gotten better, there is still room for improvement. Santos also noted there is a strategic plan for Essex County being developed and that will “lay out a game plan” for the future. He added that will map out what the county can strengthen.

Santos said that “it will be a good one-two punch” with McNamara as the warden and himself as deputy warden, noting they both have a lot of experience and can help the new members.

“I think it’s a positive for the region,” he said.

County council decided also decided its striking committee that will help determine which members sit on what committees. Bain, Santos, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy were elected to that committee.

Essex County council is comprised of the seven mayors and seven deputy mayors from around the county.

Bain honoured at Warden’s Banquet, potential successors emerge

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Warden Tom Bain is saying goodbye to that position and now knows who is officially interested in taking over the Essex County’s top political job.

Bain, who will be returning to county council as the mayor of Lakeshore, is stepping down as warden at the term’s end. Bain has served as warden, which is the head of county council, since 2010. He also served as warden in 1993 when the position had a one-year term.

Seeking to replace Bain as warden are Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara. Santos was the warden from 2006-10 and while McNamara has never been warden, he has 20 years of experience on county council and is a former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

Bain is finishing up two consecutive four year terms as warden, and told the crowd at the Warden’s Banquet Friday night he enjoyed the experience.

“It’s been great the last four years,” he said. “It’s been great the last eight years.”

Bain said past wardens have been his mentors and many were on hand to show their support.

“They gave me a lot of experience and they taught me a lot of knowledge,” he said.

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle, Windsor West MP Brian Masse and Essex MP Tracey Ramsey paid tribute to Tom Bain (second from right) at the recent warden’s banquet.

Essex County staff have also been great to work with, he added, noting that former CAO Brian Gregg and current CAO Rob Maisonville were very helpful when he brought issues to their attention.

Noting he recently looked at a photo of the 1993 Essex County council, Bain joked about being the only one left in municipal politics.

“I’m like a TV star,” he quipped. “I’m the Last Man Standing.”

Bain said he has always pushed the concept of teamwork over the years, whether it be on county council, his council in Lakeshore or with staff. He added that he has had a good working relationship with Windsor, including current mayor Drew Dilkens and former mayor Eddie Francis.

Essex County is now debt-free with a AA+ credit rating, he added. Other priorities have included health care, such as the new mega-hospital, and the Hospice in Leamington. Widening Highway 3 is still an issue, he noted, and “we as county council have to keep pushing for that.”

Bain also received numerous awards and tributes during the night. A trio of local Members of Parliament – Essex MP Tracey Ramsey, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor West MP Brian Masse – were on hand as was Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, the latter also making a presentation on behalf of Essex MPP Taras Natyshak.

“He really has made a significant difference in our community,” said Ramsey.

Hardcastle, who once served on county council with Bain, praised him for his leadership and said she was inspired by him. Masse served on the ERCA board of directors with Bain when Masse was a Windsor city councillor and said Bain was someone he could look to as a role model.

Warden Tom Bain addresses the crowd at a banquet in his honour Friday night. Bain is will not seek the county warden position again but will return to county council as Lakeshore mayor. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara will attempt to succeed him as warden.

Santos, when declaring his interest to be the next county warden, said he is “very proud of the progress that has been made” and said he has an open door policy. He believes he has a calm demeanor and that he will continue to listen to people and other county council members.

“I am willing to fight for causes for Essex County,” said Santos.

McNamara also pointed out the county’s debt-free position.

“Not many municipalities can say that,” he said.

McNamara thanked his own residents in Tecumseh for returning him to Essex County council and believed he has the leadership and experience to lead county council through 2022.

The inaugural meeting of the new county council will be Dec. 12. That is the night the new warden and deputy warden will be elected by their peers.

Harrow Fair presented for 164th time

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A Labour Day weekend tradition continued in Harrow for the 164th time last weekend.

The Harrow Fair ran last Thursday through Sunday with such events as the pie auction, parade, 4-H Club competitions, the midway and more keeping people busy over the four days. Luke Korcok, the president of the Harrow Fair board, thanked not only the public for attending but the committee members and the volunteers for helping out.

“A lot of hours have been put in to make sure we have a successful festival,” said Korcok, adding preparations for the 2019 Harrow Fair are already underway.

Home craft director Rose McLean also thanked the volunteers as well as those who attended.

Sarah Parks waves to the crowd during the Harrow Fair Parade Sept. 1.

“If you people didn’t come out, there would be no reason to have the Harrow Fair,” she told the crowd at Thursday night’s opening ceremonies.

McLean added that roughly 6,000 volunteer hours were spent organizing the Harrow Fair.

“What a tradition – the Harrow Fair,” commented Essex Mayor Ron McDermott.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak brings greetings during the opening ceremony of the Harrow Fair. The 164th annual fair runa from Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

McDermott, who is not seeking re-election this fall, said it has been his honour to represent his ratepayers as mayor for 15 years and welcome people to the fair.

“It’s been my honour and privilege to thank you for everything you’ve done with the Harrow Fair,” McDermott told organizers.

Warden Tom Bain said it is an event for the entire county to enjoy.

“I think if you are a good county person, you’ve got to go to the fair,” said Bain. “If you want to have fun, you go to the fair. It’s a great family event.”

A quartet of women take a ride during the Harrow Fair parade Sept. 1.

In addition to also thanking the volunteers, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey also thanked those who bid on pies in the pie auction, as all proceeds went to the John McGivney Centre in Windsor.

“I love coming to the fair. I’ve been coming to the fair my whole life,” said Ramsey. “It takes an army of people to make such an event successful.”

Ramsey pointed out the fair has been a multi-generational affair and one that helps promote the health of the community and bolster the economy.

“It’s a wonderful tradition,” added Essex MPP Taras Natyshak. “It kicks off the end of the summer.”

TWEPI boasts increased numbers in social media, web and hotel activity

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Representatives from Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) were at Essex County council at their most recent meeting with improvements being touted in several areas.

TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr, vice president Lynnette Bain and director of marketing Kris Racine were at county council’s most recent meeting updating the elected officials about what the tourism agency has been doing. Highlights included a new logo, the “Where Can We Take You” and “Visit Your Neighbour” campaigns and the fact four conferences either have been or will be in the Windsor-area this year.  The Barrels, Bottles and Breweries tours along with coffee trails and “We Heart Local” campaigns were also highlighted for county council.

Some of the big gains have been made online, with statistics showing that unique visitors to the www.visitwindsoressex.com website have risen 12.9 per cent over the last year. Social media activity has been on the rise with Facebook activity going up 49.9 per cent, Instagram 19.3 per cent and Twitter 75.6 per cent.

“We’re seeing double-digit growth in all social media platforms. It’s a great way to push out content,” said Orr. “Social media teases the receiver and then they click on and they go back to our website where they get more information. They’re given a number of reasons of where we can take you when they come to visit Windsor-Essex and Pelee Island.”

Kris Racine, Gordon Orr and Lynnette Bain appeared before Essex County council at their most recent meeting providing an update on the area’s tourism and social media activity.

Orr said TWEPI is also offering a pilot project where grants are awarded to those with new tourism ideas and the funds are used to develop them. That program has resulted in innovative ideas and job creation, he stated.

Hotel occupancy in Windsor-Essex County has risen 1.2 per cent in terms of overnight stays while overall occupancy has increased 4.95 per cent in the last year.

“Those are positive figures because for a lot of years they were kind of flat-lined. More people are staying overnight and when they’re staying overnight they’re spending more money in the region,” Orr said. “Everyone right from Windsor to Haldimand County, Windsor-Essex has seen the most positive hotel growth in that entire region. So it’s not everybody, it’s Windsor-Essex that’s doing very well. London is doing well but we usually beat them or we come close to doing it on a quarterly basis.”

Orr acknowledged that Amherstburg is working to land a hotel, with Lakeshore and Tecumseh also wanting one as well.

Warden Tom Bain thanked the TWEPI officials for their hard work and for keeping county council informed.

“We appreciate you coming in and keeping us up to speed on the work you are doing,” he said.

 

Bain cites teamwork and collaboration as successes for county in final warden’s luncheon

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County Warden Tom Bain championed teamwork, collaboration and the region’s successes during his annual “Warden’s Luncheon” address.

The 11th annual “Warden’s Luncheon” was held last Friday afternoon at the Ciociaro Club with Bain noting there is “a new sense of vitality” in Essex County. Bain said that the area is known for its creativity, innovation, ingenuity and perseverance, and that shows in the unemployment figures. The unemployment rate in the area was 9.4 per cent in early 2015 and said it is now at 4.9 per cent, “one of the lowest in the province.”

The warden pointed out his belief that municipalities don’t create jobs but can create the conditions where economic improvement is possible.

One of the issues Bain addressed was the expansion of energy capacity in the region and “thankfully, this is finally getting addressed.” One issue that is not getting addressed is the expansion of Highway 3 from Essex to Leamington. Bain stated that it is a vital gateway for the shipment of agricultural products and called the widening of the highway “a priority for county council.”

There are also safety concerns with Highway 3 as Bain referenced the volume of traffic that uses that roadway.

“This leads to a number of accidents and, sadly, fatalities,” said Bain.

The county is in solid financial shape, he continued, noting Standard and Poor’s has given the county a AA+ credit rating, the highest possible for a municipality in Ontario.

Warden Tom Bain gestures during his address at the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce’s “Warden’s Luncheon” last Friday. It was Bain’s final luncheon as Essex County warden.

“This long-term financial vision is credited to county council and administration,” said Bain.

Essex County has also been able to control tax increases, he added.

“Over the past 15 years, the CPI (Consumer Price Index) has increased on average 1.8 per cent per year,” said Bain. “Over the same period of time, our county tax rate has increased on average 1.3 per cent per year.”

Those increases come despite $440 million in roadway expansion, $171 million in new trail projects and $100 million committed for the county’s share of the new mega-hospital. The hospital, he added, went through a “fair and thorough” site selection process.

The mega-hospital was one of the examples listed by Bain of Essex County’s willingness to collaborate. He said the SWIFT project, which aims to bring fibre optic high-speed internet to the region, is another example while also noting environmental gains by working with ERCA and economic gains by working with the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission (WEEDC).

Essex County is also bidding to jointly host Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conferences with Windsor up to four times between 2021-24, something Bain said could bring 2,600 and $3 million in spinoff revenue to the region.

Municipalities can’t ignore change and have to work together, he believed, but can control how they react to change.

“In today’s day and age, the way we have been doing business is no longer feasible or reasonable,” he said, touting the benefits of teamwork and collaboration between municipalities.

Bain said he is proud of the work that has been done around the county council table and of the work still to come.

“We have such a good team here,” he said. “The team has worked together on so many things. The results are there and I’m so proud of that and proud of our team.”

In this municipal election year, he advised candidates to avoid the trappings of short-term gains and look long-term.

Bain indicated that while he is not running for another term as warden, he is looking at running for re-election as mayor in Lakeshore. He is the longest serving warden in Ontario, having been in the position since 2010. He was also warden in 1993. Bain has been a municipal politician since 1978, when he was first elected as a councillor in the former Rochester Township.

The luncheon was presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce with Libro Credit Union being the main sponsor.