Town council

Wightman believes her experience will benefit council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Lori Wightman believes she is at a good time in her life to try and obtain a position as a town councillor and hopes voters feel the same way.

Wightman was the first candidate to file her nomination papers and seek a position as a councillor. She said she has been thinking about running for council for the last few years and the Oct. 22 municipal election is the right time to do it.

“I’ve always been interested in local politics and I believe I can be good for the town,” said Wightman. “I have a lot of experience working with a variety of opinions and a variety of visions. I know the value of compromise and negotiation.”

Believing there is a lot of promise for Amherstburg, Wightman said she is hoping to help the municipality realize that promise.

“I love this town,” she said. “I think there is so much potential here.”

Wightman believes that Amherstburg “is on the right track” and believes it is important to not only plan for the four-year council term ahead, but for the next number of years as well. She cited the parks master plan process as one of the ways that the town is planning ahead.

“It’s important not only to look at what you are doing right now, but to look ahead five, ten and 15 years,” said Wightman. “Everything is not in a capsule. You have to have that forward vision.”

Wightman works for the Essex County Library system and represented workers during the 230-day strike in 2016-17 as unit chair of CUPE 2974.0. She believes that may help her during the election campaign, noting that “name recognition is always a good thing.”

“I like to think I put forth a good image during the strike,” she said.

Lori Wightman is running for the
position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Wightman said she wants to see people come to Amherstburg and “stay for a while” and that she knows there is talk of bringing a hotel to Amherstburg.

“I hope that happens,” she said.

Building the commercial and industrial base are other goals Wightman would like to see accomplished.

“I’d like to put Amherstburg on the map and get industries to come here,” she said. “I’d like to grow what is here for the people that are here.”

Noting the town’s finances and debt were the big issue in the 2014 campaign, she believes that four years later, things have improved. She added her belief that things will be even better four years from now.

The big issue of the current term has been the matter of policing and Wightman believes there is a lot of “misinformation” that is being discussed by residents.

“Social media is a great tool but it also has a flipside,” said Wightman. “If you read the reports, council was tasked with saving money and delivering the same service. I understand people are leery but I think (switching to the Windsor Police Service) saves a lot of money and that’s what people want. I think you are going to have to see proof in the pudding for some people.”

Wightman added that she is confident she can do a good job if elected as a councillor.

“I honestly believe I can do a good job for the town,” she said.

Councillors have to be informed, read their documents and look into the issues.

“You need people who will do the work,” she said. “You need to know what you are talking about. You need to know the details and make an informed decision.”

Ombudsman finds violation in how JPAC, council handled meetings

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Ombudsman of Ontario has found violations in how the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) and town council handled in-camera meetings.

According to a report from Ombudsman Paul Dube, there were complaints that alleged that several meetings were improperly closed because they did not fit within any of the exemptions set out in the Municipal Act. Three complaints were received in November and December 2017.

Those meetings included a closed session of council July 10, 2017 about a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for policing services, four closed session meetings of the JPAC to discuss the draft RFP held June 1, June 22, July 6 and December 7, 2017 and a closed session of council Jan. 22, 2018 to discuss the composition of the JPAC.

Dube said the town was advised Jan. 12 and Jan. 24 of his office’s intent to investigate the complaints.

While acknowledging that council and the JPAC “operated in good faith in closing these meetings to the public and understand their concerns about public discussion of sensitive policing information,” there were violations found. Dube’s report stated the JPAC violated the town’s local boards/committees terms of reference when it discussed the police costing RFP in closed session June 1, June 22, July 6 and Dec. 7, 2017.

“Failing to comply with these terms of reference was wrong under s. 21 (1)(d) of the Ombudsman Act,” Dube wrote. “The discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the ‘security of the property’ exception or any of the exceptions provided in the local boards/committees – terms of reference.”

Dube also found that town council contravened the Municipal Act when it discussed the police costing in closed session July 10, 2017. In his opinion, Dube stated the “discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the exceptions to the open meetings requirement of the Act.”

The news wasn’t all bad for the town, as the Ombudsman found that council did not contravene the Municipal Act when it discussed the JPAC composition in an in-camera meeting Jan. 22, 2018. Dube’s report stated that “the discussion on that date fit within the Act’s ‘personal matters about an identifiable individual’ exception.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. The Ombudsman of Ontario has found that council and the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) had several contraventions as it dealt with in-camera meetings.

There were four recommendations in Dube’s report “to assist the Town of Amherstburg in fulfilling its obligations under the Act and ensuring the transparency of its meetings.” The first recommendation was that “all members of council for the Town of Amherstburg should be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligation to ensure that council complies with its responsibilities under the Municipal Act, 2001 and its own procedural bylaw.”

The second recommendation was that “committee members for the Town of Amherstburg should be vigilant in complying with the local boards/committees – terms of reference” while the third recommendation was that the “Town of Amherstburg should ensure that no subject is discussed in closed session unless it clearly comes with one of the statutory exceptions to the open meeting requirements.”

The fourth recommendation was that “the Town of Amherstburg should clearly set out the rules for committees around holding closed meetings. The procedure bylaw should be consistent with the committee’s terms of reference in setting out open meeting rules.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said in the three-and-a-half years this council has been in office, it is only the second time that an Ombudsman’s report has found contraventions.

“Our initial response was a bit of surprise,” said DiCarlo, of the recent report.

The previous contravention was early in the term when clerk Paula Parker was away and there was uncertainty while she was gone about the reason to go in-camera. There have been investigations since, said DiCarlo, but this is the first time since early in the term that anything was found.

DiCarlo said they have made gains from where the previous council was, stating there were 10-13 violations in one year at one point last term. The mayor said at least one of the current contraventions would not even be one today due to legislative changes. He also pointed out the statement by the Ombudsman that the town was trying to act in good faith.

Many of the issues will not arise again, he added, due to the fact there will be no more meetings by this council on the policing issue.

“It was a one-off process,” he said. “It’s an anomaly. Council is never going to discuss this again unless the OCPC doesn’t approve our application (to switch to Windsor police) and a future council wants to do it over again.”

Some of the meetings involved operational matters and some confidentiality issues, he added, so while the Ombudsman found some issues, the mayor wonders if they will become issues the Amherstburg Police Services Board may have to look at.

DiCarlo added that regular council meetings have yielded nothing in the way of issues for the Ombudsman’s office.

The findings of the Ombudsman will be used to improve how the town does business, the mayor stated.

“They give us information to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate,” he said. “We will apply the recommendations to all our future meetings of council.”

DiPasquale announces he will not seek re-election

 

By Ron Giofu

The town will be electing a new deputy mayor Oct. 22, as the current deputy mayor has decided to step out of the political arena.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale made it official Monday night that he will not seek re-election. His political career lasted eight years, as he was elected as a councillor in 2010 and won the deputy mayor’s job in the 2014 municipal election.

In a statement read during the “new business” portion of Monday’s town council meeting, DiPasquale said that “after careful consideration and discussion with my loving wife and family, I would like to announce that I will not be seeking re-election this fall and (will) be spending more time with my friends and grandchildren. I will also be looking forward to casting my ballot in this year’s election.”

DiPasquale said he enjoyed serving the town as deputy mayor and as a member of Essex County council.

“I have also been truly blessed in serving this community as a municipal employee and also a police officer,” he said.

DiPasquale had a 35-year career with the Amherstburg Police Service, retiring as deputy chief in 2009. His community involvement has also seen him serve with local service clubs and non-profit organizations and has resulted in numerous awards and honours over the years. He recalled starting to work for the town at age 16, grooming baseball diamonds under the direction of former administrator Tom Kilgallin.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale announced May 14 that he will not seek re-election.

“During my years of employment with the Town of Amherstburg and as an elected official, I have learned that this community is truly special and resilient. We have persevered through much of our debt load adversity and began updating our aging infrastructure,” he said. “We also began rebuilding our management structure and I am grateful for being part of this and serving together with all the other council members.”

DiPasquale also thanked CAO John Miceli, the management team and employees “that kept this great municipality solvent, the neighbourhoods and roads safe, the water flowing and clean and our parks active. It has been a truly superb performance and thank you.”

Wishing the next deputy mayor and council members well, DiPasquale said he wishes they will have “the same wonderful experiences and lifetime of memories I have acquired” by serving the community.

Following his statement, DiPasquale was met with a standing ovation from all in attendance at Monday night’s meeting, including his fellow council members. Several members of DiPasquale’s family, including his wife Carmen, daughters Luisa and Sandra, their grandchildren as well as other loved ones were in attendance.

Town council’s remuneration report for 2017 released

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

How much money were your elected officials paid in 2017?

The answer was revealed as part of the agenda for the March 19 town council meeting. Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated in his report to town council that municipal treasurers are required under Section 284 of the Municipal Act to provide their councils “an itemized statement of remuneration and expense payments in the previous year.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo’s total remuneration was $45,071.97 for 2017. That includes his salary at $32,506.70 with the remainder including his $7,040 in remuneration (salary, meeting fees and travel/mileage) from being on the Essex Powerlines board as well as his communication allowance, per diem, public reception and travel and mileage from the town. He also earned $1,200 for being on the Amherstburg Police Service Board (APSB).

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale’s remuneration for 2017 was $22,430.90. The salary for being deputy mayor is $21,658.25 with the remainder being his legal fees, communication allowance, public receptions and travel and mileage.

All councillors earned a salary of $18,141.05.

The total remuneration for Councillor Rick Fryer was $22,303.87. That includes his salary, communication allowance and public receptions. Also included is Fryer’s remuneration for being on the ERCA board of directors, where he serves as the chair. His honorarium, per diem and mileage for being on the ERCA board totalled $2,767.

Councillor Joan Courtney’s total remuneration for 2017 was $22,071.56 That included her salary and the other associated expenses such as her communication allowance, training and conferences as well as her travel and mileage.

A total remuneration total of $21,533.09 was attributed to Councillor Leo Meloche for 2017. That included his salary plus his communication allowance, public receptions, training and conferences and travel and mileage.

Councillor Diane Pouget’s total 2017 remuneration was $19,869.39. That included her salary plus communication and legal fees.

Councillor Jason Lavigne had a total remuneration of $19,386.02. That includes his salary plus public receptions as well as his $1,200 honorarium for being on the APSB.

Also receiving $1,200 APSB honorariums were Bob Rozankovic and Patricia Simone. Ron Sutherland received $1,150.80 for his mileage and per diem being Amherstburg’s second appointee to the ERCA board of directors.

Appointees to the committee of adjustment who received $975 in 2017 included Sherry Ducedre, Duncan Smith and Donald Shaw while Michael Prue and David Cozens each earned $900. Simon Chamely and Shirley Curson-Prue from the heritage committee went to the Ontario Heritage Conference last year and their expenses were $1,511.94 and $1,668.14 respectively. William Whittal’s honorarium for being on the accessibility committee was $300 for the year while the honorariums, training and mileage expenses for the drainage board members – Robert Bezaire, Brad Laramie, Allan Major, Bob Pillon and Ron Sutherland – totalled $4,663.97 for 2016.

Amherstburg Fire Department trying new method to save money on resources

By Ron Giofu

 

Though the Amherstburg Fire Department will continue with tiered response for medical calls in conjunction with Essex-Windsor EMS, expect to see fewer firefighters respond to calls.

Fire chief Bruce Montone said they are looking to change the way they do business with regards to attendance at low priority calls, noting that upwards of 13 firefighters attend calls. Pointing out the expense to do that, Montone said they are going to cut back on those numbers.

Montone stated that, upon review of the data from thus far in 2017, there aren’t as many calls where firefighters make a large difference versus the amount they actually go out on. He said, as of the Dec. 11 town council meeting, that they responded to 61 medical calls.

“When we further looked into the detail, only 14 of those calls would be ordinarily, under all of the other criteria of the agreement, would we have responded and made a difference,” he said.

Firefighters will be broken up into squads with the squads going out on a rotating basis. Alarm calls with no significant injuries and car crashes where the main duty of firefighters would be to control fluid spills would also see a reduced number of firefighters respond.

Fire chief Bruce Montone

In his report to town council, Montone stated: “Each fire station has assigned 20 volunteer firefighters including officers. It is suggested that each station organize into two groups or squads lead by a volunteer captain and made up of roughly equal numbers of firefighters (nine and ten) plus the responsible district chief attached to both groups which would be called on a rotating basis for those calls not requiring large amounts of resources.”

The chief added that currently a station of 20 firefighters on average has 13 firefighters initially for a 60 per cent turnout rate.

“It is estimated that for those calls and utilizing squads, assuming the same 60 per cent turnout rate from calling a squad of nine or ten, we would see five or six firefighters attend/respond to calls not requiring large amounts of resources,

reducing our costs by approximately half for applicable calls,” Montone also reported.

Montone said in his report that, as of Oct. 17, the cost of responding to medical calls has been $71,530 for the Amherstburg Fire Department. He envisions a cost savings of 40-50 per cent under the new plan.