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  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Committee of the Whole meeting used to discuss variety of municipal matters

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, Town of Essex CAO Doug Sweet was appointed Presiding Officer during Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The meeting was held to discuss a variety of municipal-related matters, from winter plowing on tar and chip roads, to a green bin program, regional transit, and ATV and ORV usage.

  During the meeting, a number of items were discussed, which were brought forward by members of Council. Council had 15-minutes to discuss each topic.

Winter plowing on tar and chip roads

Councillor Sherry Bondy said a resident came to her with a concern about the tar and chips roads in the municipality being plowed by contractors. The concern was this process was hard on the roads.

  Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, noted through procurement of the work, contractors do have to meet certain standards for their equipment and trucks. He said contractor equipment is not any harder on the roads than the Town’s equipment.

  Harsh winters have created unfavourable conditions on the roads, which are being addressed, he said.

  Mayor Richard Meloche said there is an issue with breakage on the edges of tar and chip roads. If there is something the Town could do to prevent that, it could expand the life of these roads. He wondered if a cost analysis could be done to explore blade options.

  Girard noted it is more of an issue of harsh winters, and the freeze/thaw that happens that deteriorates the roads.

  Bondy asked how administration determines how to maintain road shoulders.

  Girard said roads are on a regular schedule for shoulder maintenance. In many circumstances, the Town, he added, exceeds the minimum maintenance standard.

LED light conversion program update

Mayor Richard Meloche said a few years ago, the Town budgeted to have all lights converted to LED lighting. The Town entered a contact with ELK to get the program done, but it seems it is taking a while to complete.

  He wondered if the Town should look to have the balance of the program completed through a different means, or reach out to ELK to get an update. If it will take too long to complete, he wondered if another company should be sought to complete the program.

  Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said the Town has around 1400 streetlights, of which the majority needed to be converted at the start of the program. To date, around 1100 have been converted.  

  The agreement asked ELK to convert the lights on an ‘as they could’ basis. It is taking longer than anticipated. The Town is in constant contact with ELK, which noted it is finding it difficult to get the time to work on the conversions. Town staff is trying to determine if a third-party should be obtained to speed things up.

  With around 300 lights still to be converted, Meloche said the program is in pretty good shape.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said the LED lights are supposed to save the Town money, and wondered if it would be cost-effective to get a third party to complete the project.

  Girard said staff is working on a solution.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek said the environmental benefits and cost savings were the initial reasons to implement the program. With the Town having many lights in stock, she would also like to see the program completed.

  The project was approved in the 2020 budget.

 Report a Problem usage

Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman wanted to talk about the Town’s Report a Problem tool. He wanted to have data presented so Council would know what is reported on a monthly basis.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the Town is averaging around 59 submissions per month, with the Town taking an average of four or five days to respond. Staff is looking to improve that.

  Development Services will provide a report on the service twice a year moving ahead.  

  Bjorkman was thrilled to hear the system is used.

  Sweet said the program is less than a year old. The program provides data for the Town to discover other issues that may be going on.


Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) – Ministry Meetings

The AMO conference takes place in August. Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman wanted to talk about ministries that will be important to Town-related projects. He plans to meet with the Ministry of Culture and Sports to continue to look for grants for the future sports complex and assistance for the break wall at Colchester Harbour. He also wanted to meet with the Ministry of Natural Resources to talk about shoreline protection.

  He also saw benefit in meeting with the Ministry of Infrastructure in hopes for consistent funding.

  Bjorkman said it is important to have those one-on-one meetings with Ministers, especially since there could be some changes after the recent Provincial Election.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy hoped those going would talk about tougher penalties when Municipal Act laws are broken.

  Other ministries mentioned included for transportation and housing.

 No Mow May

Councillor Kim Verbeek spoke of No Mow May, and hoped to bring awareness to the campaign, which is about saving pollinators and beneficial insects that are diminishing at an astounding rate.

  “We need our pollinators for our food crops,” she said.

  The idea is to leave beneficial plants alone for as long as possible to benefit those pollinators.

  The Town’s property standards do not allow more than eight-inches in length for grass.

  Verbeek wondered if that could be stepped back for May to support the pollinators through an education program, for those who would like to participate.  

  She hoped to embrace the No Mow May message.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the Town is doing a few things to support that.

  Building Official Kevin Carter said he understands No Mow May has great principles, this could, however, bring in more property standard complaints. In addition, the by-law would need to be altered.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he does not want to wade in waist-high wet grass everyday. Claiming this is about pollinators and the collapse of the bee population is misinformation. He believes bee numbers are up.  

  Councillor Morley Bowman said fields of clover are almost non-existent in the area, and a few of those fields could solve the issue. Moving forward, perhaps ideas can be explored to grow certain crops to support pollinators.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said perhaps a little pilot project can be started for next year.

 Regional transit

Mayor Richard Meloche said there is currently a public transit line that goes through Leamington, Kingsville, and Essex to St. Clair College. Around a decade ago, County Council explored a regional transit system for the county. He did not support it because nothing went up Walker to Colchester.

  He believes it may be cost-effective to do it now. It is something that needs to be investigated.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said there are things the Town can do to support the current line, such as collaborating with the local municipalities to advertise it.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek wondered if the Town could operate its own shuttle service to bring people from other parts of the municipality to the current bus line pick-up in Essex Centre, and if that would improve ridership.

  CAO Doug Sweet will look into rider data.

 Municipal-wide green bin program

Councillor Sherry Bondy said a green bin program, or municipal program that encourages composting, would be more beneficial than the organics program being discussed at the County-level that would entail a large truck driving down a rural road, where homes may be composting already.

  Councillor Morley Bowman explained the Town of Essex implemented a green bin program before amalgamation. The program was fairly successful, he said. After amalgamation, the product changed and table scraps were not accepted and it became a yard waste program. To his knowledge, this waste goes to the landfill, but to a separate area, where it is turned regularly.

  CAO Doug Sweet said it seems there is a desire to expand the green bin program outside of Essex Centre. That is something that can be discussed at budget time, if Council wishes.

 Town facilitated special events

Mayor Richard Meloche said prior to the Essex Centre Sports Complex being built, there was a desire to design it so there could potentially be trade shows and concerts. There has not been success in attracting large venue shows.

  He wanted Admin to think about potential shows moving forward, which could bring some cost to the Town, like for air conditioning for events held in the summer, for instance.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek would like the facility promoted for events, perhaps when it is cooler before the ice is needed.

  Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, said a challenge would be with a lack of air conditioning. He has reached out to see what could come of that. There could be some options with grants, etc.

  CAO Doug Sweet said Admin is trying to think-out-side-the-box, which could include purchasing a floor to use in the arena for such events, that other municipalities do not have, and could possibly rent for their potential events.

Four wheelers in Colchester Village/ATV usage

Councillor Sherry Bondy said there has not been much discussion on having four wheelers in Colchester Village. She wanted to have a discussion to see what other members of Council had to say on the matter.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said Colchester Village does have a different feel, compared to any other area in the Town.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek also spoke about how ATVs and ORVs are illegal to use on the roads. Farmer fields are being damaged. She gets calls from farmers and residents from Ward 2 about properties being torn up, especially in the spring.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he gets calls in Ward 3 on the matter as well. He wondered if the OPP should be enforcing it and are not. He hoped CAO Doug Sweet would follow up with the OPP on the matter.

  Mayor Richard Meloche said he has received complaints also, but also sees people using them respectfully. He said the County has no interest in passing a by-law to even allow ATVs to cross County Roads. He added insurance companies have said they would not want to insure the Town if something was passed to allow ATV usage on roads.

  Councillor Jason Matyi wondered if a park could be made for those who ride ATVs, which could allow for more tourism.

 Water billing

Councillor Sherry Bondy wondered if it is time to bring water billing in-house. Residents, she added, are looking for more itemization in their billing.  

Kate Giurissevich, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, said Administration reached out to ELK and learned billing includes a standard meter read and a separate component for wastewater charges. ELK will provide an e-billing service starting sometime this year.

  As far as billing in-house, CAO Doug Sweet said the Town needs to gather what the potential cost would be, such as with software and staffing, and looking at other options, like perhaps using a third party. Administration will investigate the matter further.

  ELK took over water billing around 2002, Giurissevich said.

Carpooling and ride sharing

Councillor Sherry Bondy wondered if something could be set up in McGregor or Harrow, where people can park their car and drive to their destination with someone else to support those who want to carpool.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said there are multiple places, such as at arenas and community centres, where parking is not fully used during working hours. A row of parking spaces could be set aside at key spots in Town to do so.

  Mayor Richard Meloche suggested a social media page where people can connect to discover who they can ride-share with.