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Community members provide feedback at Council open houses



by Sylene Argent  

Last week, Essex Council hosted two open houses to share information about ongoing Town-initiated projects and hear concerns or comments from residents. The Ward 3 and 4 open house was held at the Harrow & Colchester South Community Room last Tuesday evening and the Ward 1 and 2 open house was held inside the Shaheen Community Room at the Essex Centre Sports Complex last Wednesday evening.

During the Ward 1 and 2 open house, around 15 residents attended. Some of the residents voiced concerns about the time it is taking to get the future sports complex completed that will be located on the south side of Highway #3, the desire for more police presence in certain subdivisions to combat those running stop signs and prevent cars from getting broken into, and road maintenance.

One of the roads brought up during the meeting was the desire to have Victoria Avenue resurfaced. Councillor Morley Bowman said the Town is looking at this project, and is behind on other projects as well. This is one project on his radar, but it comes down to dollars and cents. Essex, he said, has to do more with less when it comes to roads as the Town has the second highest volume of roads to maintain in the County and one of the lowest tax bases and housing assessments.

CAO Chris Nepszy explained one cost-saving measure the Town tries to use is to combine road works with when sanitary and storm mains beneath the road are due as well.

Councillor Joe Garon noted a large portion of the 2019 budget went into roads. He added that one thing he has noticed since being elected in the fall is that of the tax money Essex spends, half of it goes to things Council cannot control. It comes down to finding the money to get more projects done, he said.

  As far as the desire to have more police presence, Councillor Garon noted if people are running stop signs, to call the police’s non-emergency number to note it is an issue. He said he would like to sit with police to discuss concerns Council is hearing from its residents.  

Councillor Kim Verbeek, who sits on the Essex Police Services Board, said she often hears residents believe there is not a lot of police presence out there. She urged residents that may have issues to continue to make those phone calls to the non-emergency number.

  Another issue brought up was the desire to have more gravel put into the entrance of the dog park and to have more shade trees. Essex’s Director of Community Services, Doug Sweet, said the trail will be paved and more agility equipment and other upgrades are in the works for the future. A tender was currently put out to have the splashpad bathrooms built. Sweet said this piece of infrastructure will be up this year at some point.

Another concern brought up was the fate of the historic Essex United Church now that it is up for sale. Garon said it is in the best interest of the Town to find a way to hold onto the church. That would come down to affordability and if any grants would be available to help. He believes it has a lot of amenities the Town could use, including seating, and possible program, storage, and office space. It is at least worth exploring, he said.

  Council could start discussions about exploring the church during upcoming term strategic planning sessions.

  Garon would also like to continue to attract new industry to the Highway # 3 and County Road 8 corner to continue to build the tax base.

  During the meeting, Verbeek spoke about how the waste diversion rate is up, which she contributed in part to education efforts, and the many recreational programs the Town provides for residents of all ages.

Nepszy said the open house events were a great way for Council members to gage what residents would like to see implemented in the future. It was also a great way to explain how the Town tackles project and address any concerns brought forward.

It was noted at the Ward 3 and 4 open houses hosted the night before, around 40 residents attended. Discussions centred around roads, police presence and enforcements, the future of Harrow, and possible future accommodation options to meet Town staffing needs.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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