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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Continued Essex Council Notes from December 19, 2022

by Sylene Argent

Property Services Policy adopted

Council adopted Infrastructure Services Policy #52, “Property Servicing Policy,” and further authorized and directed Administration to begin utilizing it.

The Schedule A of the Miscellaneous Fees and Charges By-Law was also amended to include charges and deposits.

Rob Mackie, Manager of Environmental Services, explained the “Property Servicing Policy” provides a formal process for property owners in the Town of Essex to perform property servicing works from municipally-owned transmission lines to private property. It also sets out the procedures to become a contractor licensed to work within the Town’s rights-of-way.

The current practice has not been amended since it was established in 2004. In addition, the Town’s flat-rate fees did not cover today’s construction costs.

The policy was meant to discontinue the current service practiced and create a streamlined approach for private property owners to perform site-servicing works, Mackie explained.

In addition, private property owners will be able to contact authorized contractors directly to obtain pricing and enter a private agreement.

The policy will not apply to servicing of properties that are part of a Plan of Subdivision or Site Plan Control process.

Council approves purchase of two new vehicles, expresses concern with additional costs

Council awarded the Request for Tenders for two vehicles, and additional funding needed above what was approved in the 2022 Budget needed to acquire the vehicles.

The first was for a pick-up truck for the Water Department from Ken Knapp Ford Essex in the amount of $67,592.66, excluding trade-in value. Additional funding of $22,592.66, above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $50,000, was also approved.

A pick-up truck for the Community Services Department from Blue Mountain Chrysler in the amount of $72,795.03, including trade in value, was also approved. In addition to another $23,795.03 above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $58,500. Of the additional funds required, $5,088.00 will come from the General Parks and Rec Reserve and $18,707.03 will come from the Town’s Asset Management Reserve.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley commented that the increases for both vehicles were huge. He expressed concern with seeing prices of equipment continue to increase.

Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, explained staff members begin to formulate numbers for the budget months ahead of the budget discussions that took place around a year ago, which explains the difference. They are hopeful this is the end of large anomalies and that this will not be a regular occurrence in the future.

Councillors Kim Verbeek and Katie McGuire-Blais questioned if the Town could shop around and not go so far over budget in purchasing the vehicles, or if the current vehicles were in good enough shape to hold off on the new purchases for another year or two.

Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, explained staff does its due diligence to try and find suitable options, including looking at used vehicles. If a vehicle breaks down, it could hinder staff from being able to perform duties, and finding a replacement can be a lengthy process.

For the pick-up truck Community Services needs to replace, the computer board is failing, which is expensive to replace itself. It has become a danger for staff to use and is now off-the-road.

Vehicle replacement is typically on a ten-year lifecycle.

Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, added staff assess each vehicle from a depreciation and maintenance standpoint, and evaluates the best time to replace vehicles.

CAO Doug Sweet noted staff does not intend to keep going back to Council for additional funding for equipment and projects. There have been internal conversations about project costing. Because it is a municipality, some contractors believe the money will be found to fund projects or equipment. So, some projects may not take place moving forward.

Council passes user fees, water/wastewater

charges with increases

Council adopted three user fee/charge schedules that became effective January 1, 2023:

• By-Law Number 1812, respecting the maintenance, management, regulation, and control of any cemetery owned by The Corporation of the Town of Essex. Annually, the rates are updated to reflect the change in the Consumer Price Index. It has been updated to reflect the year-to-date average of the year-over-year change in the Consumer Price Index of 6.9% as at September 2022.

• By-Law Number 2040, being a by-law to establish a schedule of miscellaneous fees and charges has been revised to reflect the year-over-year change of 6.9% for all fees, except for lottery licences, which are provincially regulated.

• By-Law Number 1850, being a by-law for the imposition of Development Charges. The change in the Construction Price Statistics reported for the third quarter of 2022 reflects a 15.6% increase.

User fees, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, explained are attributed to users for specific services that only they benefit from.

Council also approved By-Law Number 2209, to establish Water and Wastewater Rates and Charges, and its accompanying schedules.

Water rates include an increase in annual water charges: 1.3% for Wards 1 and 2 and 1.6% for Wards 3 and 4 for consumption, and a 2% increase for the base charge for all Wards.

The annual sanitary sewer charges will also include an increase of 2% for Ward 1, 2.5% for Ward 3, and 2.5% for Ward 4 for consumption. The base charge also increased by 2% for Wards 1, 3 and 4. Sanitary sewer charges are not applicable to Ward 2 as this service is provided by Amherstburg for that area.

Each of the fee/charges scheduled in the By-Laws were up for final reading, because they were based on previous studies conducted and adopted by previous Councils.

Colchester Guardian berthing fees

waived for four-years

Council approved waiving the Colchester Harbour berthing fee for the Colchester Guardian Rescue vessel for four-years, from 2023 to 2026.

The cost of doing so is around $1,519 per year. It will be funded from the Community Partnership Grant.

Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, said Council has waived this fee for a few years now.

In the Report to Council, it notes the Colchester Guardian Rescue Incorporated is a non-profit organization that provides a marine rescue service dedicated to saving lives and safe boating activities.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley voiced support for the motion as he said the Colchester Guardian provides fantastic support to the community.

Councillor Brad Allard also voiced support. He said the vessel’s crew has received awards over the years for the rescue service provided.

Additional funding for basketball nets approved for Maedel Community Centre

Council approved the additional funding of $19,971.48 for the basketball net winch at the Maedel Community Centre.

Originally, $11,500 was set aside for the project in the 2022 Budget to replace the pulleys. The entire net systems are now being replaced, bringing the total project cost to $31,471.48.

Of the additional funding, $544.30 will come from the Town’s Asset Management Reserve and $19,427.18 will come from the Ontario Trillium Grant the Town recently received for the facility. This reallocated some funds from the grant back into the facility as the window replacement project associated with the grant came in under budget.

The Report to Council notes the Town of Essex is replacing its assets at the Maedel Community Centre gym as the current basketball net winches are no longer working or meet current standards.

Three quotes to complete the project were received. Upon review, Jack Watson Sports Inc. was the lowest tender price at $31,471.48.

By-Law allowing Town to investigate video surveillance complaints, issue fine provisionally adopted

Council provisionally passed By-Law Number 2210, to prohibit and regulate fortification and protective elements.

When the final passing of By-Law Number 2210 takes place, the existing Fortification By-Law Number 476, will be repealed and replaced to enhance the ability to regulate video surveillance camera usage.

The new By-Law would allow the Town’s By-Law Enforcement Department to receive and investigate video surveillance complaints.

Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, explained this subject came up at a regular meeting two-years ago when a delegate expressed concerns with personal security cameras.

Council, at that time, asked Administration to come back with a report on the development of a potential by-law meant to protect the rights of residents with respect to surveillance cameras installed on private property.

Video surveillance is addressed somewhat in the Town’s current fortification By-Law, created in 2003. It states no person shall apply excessive protective elements to land – including visual surveillance equipment viewing or listening beyond the perimeter of the land upon which the devices have been installed – so as to restrict, obstruct, or impede law enforcement or emergency services from accessing or existing any land.

In the existing By-Law, complaints about video surveillance can only be accepted by By-Law Enforcement, if the cameras are being used with the intent to restrict lawful access of law enforcement or emergency services, Auger said.

If the Town receives a complaint from a neighbouring property directing cameras onto private property, technically their complaint is currently outside the current parameters of the existing By-Law, Auger explained. The resident complaining would likely be informed it is a civil matter or possibly a criminal matter.

The Report to Council recommends amendments to the current By-Law to assist with enforcement on an ongoing basis. As such, Administration recommended amending the definition of “Excessive Protective Elements” by removing the requirement to establish intent of preventing law enforcement and emergency services in the exercise of their duties.

In addition, it would apply to any devices permitting the viewing or listening beyond the perimeter of land.

This would allow By-Law Enforcement the ability to take complaints about cameras possibly capturing activity on adjacent private property. The revised By-Law will not affect any stationary device on the front wall of a property or any cameras that are recording activity solely within that land or within the public right-of-way, exempting doorbell cameras.

In addition, Administration recommended a minimum set fine of $500 to the Provincial Offences Act for Contraventions and permitting the Chief Building Official the ability to grant exemptions to the By-Law in certain scenarios.

Possible enforcement issues include Town By-Law Enforcement Officers not being able to lawfully enter a home without consent, which may require a search warrant for those purposes. Violations could also revert back after inspection. If satisfactory evidence is collected, By-Law Enforcement could proceed with a more serious charge. If it is believed a potential violation is criminal-related, it can be referred to law enforcement.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley voiced concerns with the proposed By-Law. He said cameras have been useful tools in aiding with break and enters of neighbouring properties or car accidents. He believes it should remain a civil matter.

Councillor Joe Garon said if security cameras on private property are used the way they are supposed to be, they are meaningful and helpful. The previous Term of Council wanted to improve on the current By-Law in being respectful to people’s privacy and ensure there is a By-Law that was defendable.

“There is a difference between protecting your house and going outside of that and maybe inappropriately aiming it at someone else’s privacy,” he said.

By-Law requiring reduction of interior greenhouse light emission provisionally adopted

Council gave two readings and provisionally adopted By-Law 2211, to require the abatement of interior greenhouse light emissions.

Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, explained this matter came up midway through the last Term of Council, which directed Administration to review and report on the implementation of a By-Law prohibiting and regulating lights and odours from greenhouses.

The Town of Essex has not yet experienced a mass influx of greenhouse development, but it is an area expected to grow as it has in neighbouring communities.

Last March, it was recommended to the previous Term of Council that this By-Law focus on the light nuisance, Auger explained. Odour is currently regulated by Federal cannabis regulations and the Town already regulates odour emitted from agricultural operations.

A resolution passed last March was that the By-Law follow best practice recommendations from the greenhouse industry in regards to light emissions.

The proposed greenhouse light recommendations in the By-Law before Council have two key components: the owner/occupant of a greenhouse that utilizes lights as part of its operations shall ensure barriers – commonly curtains – are installed in good practice and cover the entirety of sidewalls and end-walls from sunset to sunrise; and that the barriers cover a minimum of 90 percent of the ceiling of the greenhouse from sunset to sunrise.

In addition, the barriers will need to be permanently installed and maintained. They can be permanently affixed or part of a system to permit them being extended and retracted manually.

Auger said the proposed recommendations were provided to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and feedback has been favourable. Feedback included that consideration should be considered for ventilation, as heat and humidity cannot escape the greenhouse when ceiling light abatement curtains are used. It recommended 10 percent gaping of light abatement at certain times.

He said it is believed there are no greenhouses currently in operation in Essex that utilize lights. If they do proceed with using lights for their production, they would need to conform to the policy. In addition, any future greenhouses would be subject to Site Plan Control, where operators would be advised of the regulations to ensure they are followed.

Assuming the proposed By-Law receives its third and final reading in the near future, the Town of Essex would apply to the Ministry of the Attorney General for set fines. The maximum fine under the proposed By-Law is $1000. The Town could apply for a Court Injunction to prohibit any continuing violations.

2023/24 TNR, Spay/Neuter Voucher

Programs approved

Council passed a spay and neuter voucher program for feral cats for 2023 and 2024, up to a maximum of 175 vouchers each year, with a value of $75 each for a total cost of $13,125.

It also approved a spay and neuter voucher program for dogs and cats of low-income families for 2023 and 2024, up to a maximum of 10 vouchers each year with a value of $75 each, for a total cost of $750.

A Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) program was also passed for 2023 and 2024, for a total cost of $9,750 each year.

In addition, any unused funding from the prior year’s spay and neuter voucher programs and the Trap Neuter and Release (TNR) program will be transferred to reserve to offset the cost of the TNR programs in future years.

Members of Essex’s boards and committees

for the 2022-2026 term confirmed

Council received Legal and Legislative Services’ Report regarding the 2022-2026 Striking Committee, and confirmed the Striking Committee’s recommended committee and board appointments.

In addition, Council gave all three readings to and passed By-Law Number 2215, to establish and appoint Town of Essex Boards and Committees for the 2022-2026 Term of Council.

Mayor Sherry Bondy said the members of the Striking Committee – which decides on which applicants would be appointed to a Town-based board or committee – tried to appoint Councillors to the committees or boards they applied for.

She is excited to see new faces on the Town’s committees and boards and what they will accomplish over the next few years.

There are still vacancies on some of the Town of Essex’s Committees. Residents who may be interested in getting involved are urged to contact the Town to learn more.

Council supports Mayor Bondy for a position

with ROMA Zone 1

Council supported Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy, who will apply for a position as the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Zone 1 rep on the Board of Directors, 2023-2027.

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