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Council adopts 2019 Capital Budget in principal

by Sylene Argent  

On Monday evening, members of Essex’s administration and Council sat down to further discuss the Town’s 2019 budget.

  During the meeting, held at the McGregor Community Centre, Essex’s Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Jeff Morrison, said the Town collects just over $15 million in taxes. Other sources of funding includes the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fun (OMPF). The 2019 confirmed allocation from this source will be $4,231,200. There was an estimated reduction of 20 percent, which would have accounted for $846,240.

  The average home assessment in Essex, using the most recent Statistics Canada info, was $179,000, he noted.

  The proposed property tax increase for Essex’s 2019 budget is 2 percent (or a total municipal levy increase in Wards 1 and 2 of 1.58 percent or 2.3 percent in Wards 2 and 3), which would account for an additional $291,516.

  As part of the Operating Budget, which was discussed in more detail at a previous meeting, Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he was against the Climate Change contract for a new employee. As previously discussed, Essex has a grant that would cover 80 percent of the cost of this position for up to two years. During meeting discussions, it was noted the Town also has a Green Reserve that could fund the remainder of the wage.

  Concerning this position, Vander Doelen made a Notice of Motion at the last regular Council meeting, for discussion at the next regular meeting, that this position be for a 24-month period only.

  At the budget meeting, he said he would prefer to see the funds go towards roads as each municipality forwards funds to ERCA, for instance, to look after climate control. He said no other municipality in the region has applied for the grant for this position. He also had concerns about the position and potential impact that he perceived it could have on farming operations.

  The Climate Control position is really a next step in the asset management, Morrison said.

  Mayor Larry Snively said he believes care would have to be taken with the position, and did have similar concerns as Vander Doelen. He is afraid the Town could be opening the door for a long-term position. ERCA is in place, and that is their mandate, he noted.

  Snively said he would like to see more of a job description. He believes the Town’s Green Reserve could be applied to do other things, like tree planting instead of the position.

  CAO Donna Hunter said Essex is leading the way on the matter.  She said a job description could be provided to Council for clarification on the Climate Control position.

The position, with benefits, is $88,000 per year. It could be an 18-month position by the time a person is hired.

  Morrison went on to explain how taxes are utilized. Of the taxes Essex collects, 59.1 percent goes to the Town, while 30.2 percent goes to the County of Essex and 10.8 percent goes to the School Boards. The breakdown of taxes for Essex’s departments includes: 22.7 percent goes towards infrastructure services, 22.5 percent goes towards community services, 17.3 percent to fire, 14.3 percent to corporate services, 9.3 percent to police services, 5.4 to development services, 5.3 percent to the office of the CAO, 1.9 percent for Council, and 1.3 percent to other files.

  Council moved to adopted the new Operating Budget in principal, with the new OMPF funding information.

  Council then spoke about the Capital Budget, which is sitting at $10,334,454. Of that, it is estimated $3.6 million would be spent on roads and roadside, $1.9 million on fire services, $1.9 million on community services, $853,000 on sanitary sewers, $778,000 on stormwater management, $552,000 on public works equipment, $467,000 on water, $249,000 on corporate services, and $86,000 on other files.

  With new items added to the budget, Morrison noted Asset Management come into play, which determines the lifecycle of the item and replacement costs, which is investigated through the budget process.

  The Capital Budget is broken up between tax supporter and user-rate supported.

  From the Office of the CAO, Capital Budget items included a roof ladder replacement for $12,000; replacement of cameras for the Essex Arena, Colchester Harbour, and at the McGregor Community Centre for around $10,000; a network security audit for $27,000; and $200,000 for the potential new town hall.

  It was noted at the meeting, the funds set in the Budget for the new town hall would likely be used for concept design. There will be a meeting in April to start talking about this file.

  In the Fire’s Capital Budget, $1,500,000 was set aside for the replacement of Station 2, and $300,000 was set aside for the replacement of a vehicle at Station #3. Funds were also set aside for replacement of essential firefighter gear, such as helmets, hoses, pagers, boots, bunker gear, thermal imaging camera, protective hoods, defibrillators, and the replacement of spreaders for the Jaws of Life for station #3.

  Under Fire’s Capital Budget, $1,500,000 will be long-term debt for an estimated 10-year period, with a 3.3 percent interest rate.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy suggested, that after there was an incident in the recent past of a car landing in the Colchester Harbour, getting wet suits and water training for some of the Station # 3 firefighters. Fire Chief Rick Arnel said there have been discussions about this, and it is something that will be looked at.

  Highlights in the Public Works-Equipment and Administration portion of the Capital Budget includes upgrades and repairs to buildings and equipment. Capital expenditures includes the replacement of a five-tonne dump and plow truck for $250,000.

  The Town’s current dump/plow truck was purchased in 2008 and parts are difficult to find. Essex’s Director of Infrastructure/Deputy CAO, Chris Nepszy, said with repairs, this equipment is hurting more than helping the Town.   

  Other budget items include renovations to the Gesto office for $6500 and replacement of a variety of pieces of equipment.

  In the Public Works-Road and Roadside portion of the budget, it notes the largest contributor for this section is funding from OCIF and gas tax grants in the amount of $1,538,382 or 43 percent. The amount of revenue from long-term debt is $680,000.

  This includes a variety of sidewalk and road upgrades or replacements, including rehabilitation for Gordon, Wilson, and Station in Essex Centre.

  In the Public Works-Storm Water Management portion of the Capital Budget, $40,000 is set aside for various bridges and culverts, $580,000 for the 3rd Concession and Suffolk Road Culvert, rain gauges in partnership with ERCA for $8000, and Harrow Junior Public School storm water improvements.  

  The Community Services portion for the for the 2019 Capital Budget includes upgrades and repairs to buildings, the acquisition of various pieces of machinery and equipment, the construction of an accessible ramp at Colchester Beach for $220,000, and the development of the Townsview Park for $275,000.

  It also has $15,000 set aside for each the annual Harrow and Essex Centre ball diamond and soccer fields. $100,000 is set aside to renovate the old pool house in Essex Centre for washrooms/change rooms and to remove a section, $215,000 is set aside for Colchester parking at Dunn and County Road 50 for a phase one of adding gravel, and nearly $400,000 for the third phase for the parking lot at the Essex Arena. The Essex dog park trail is also in the budget for $29,707. Other items were added to this portion of the budget.

  An item not added to the budget include the upgrade of the “D” docks at Colchester Harbour. Director of Community Services, Doug Sweet, said the whole project would cost $53,000, however, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will chip in $26,000. Council approved this.

  Council also approved $27,000 to make improvements of some kind to the Clerk’s counter as it is too small to serve more than one person at a time.

 Council moved the adoption of the Capital Budget in principal, with the addendums of the clerk’s desk and dock replacement.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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