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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

County Council Notes for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

by Sylene Argent

County to obtain a consultant to explore regional insurance option

County Council approved expanding its focus on insurance beyond the County of Essex and incorporate a review to include the seven local municipalities. The recommendation on General Liability was to retain a consultant to perform a comprehensive study that would analyze coverage and retention limits from a regional stand-point.

  The total cost of risk, retention, limits, and risk-based technical premiums would be assessed for all of the County’s major lines of coverage, in addition to the seven local municipalities.   

  The cost of the consultant will be covered by the County, through the Rate Stabilization Reserve. It is estimated the cost of the study will be somewhere between $100,000 and $125,00, based on estimates received.

  Once the consultant is retained, it is estimated the study will take 10-13 weeks to complete. 

The goal of the study would be to garner data, conclusions, and recommendations, to support the County in analyzing other options there may be to the traditional insurance structure.

  With the County in its renewal process now, with its program expiring June 30, nothing would change this year as reviewing results will take time. The plan would be to have all municipalities proceeds normally with 2021 renewal processes, with everyone regrouping to consider potential options for next year.  

  The experience at the County-level, is not unlike what every municipality in the region are experiencing in terms of renewals and premium escalations, Sandra Zwiers, Director of Financial Services/Treasurer, said.

  She explained there are two components of insurance that relate to municipalities; the General Liablility insurance program and the health benefit program.

  Each program, Zwiers said, has a number of different layers of coverage with specific limits, deductibles, and premiums.

  She noted she spoke last year on the insurance market, and noted then there was a general trend of tightening in the sector. “That tightening has actually gotten worse, since I last spoke to Council last June,” she said. Similar to last year, some of the reasoning from the industry as to why there are continued pressures is related to a series of natural disasters, the joint and several liability – defined by as a legal term for a responsibility that is shared by two or more parties to a lawsuit – issue, and a general increase in litigation against municipalities.

  Those things combined, in addition to general market pressures and the COVID pandemic, are also looking to drive-up costs of insurance programs, premiums, deductible limits, and put downward pressure on coverage limits for the County that staff were able to put together in the various programs, Zwiers said.

  The regions of Durham and the region of Waterloo, she added, have been successful in developing regional insurance pools. “And that has certainly paid dividends in protecting them from this insurance sector volatility.”

  That, she added, could be an option for this region, based on report results.

  There could also be some opportunities for regional collaboration with the health benefit side of insurance. She said the County has already made some good strides in taking a regional approach.

  The County belongs to a group-buying opportunity in regards to the health benefit side. Not all municipalities in the region are participating in this option. A further recommendation she made included reconvening the buying-group, extending an invitation to the non-participating local municipalities, and have a renewed discussion on the opportunity.

  LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy said municipal insurance is an issue across Canada, noting joint and several liability is a big part of that problem. The composition of an insurance premium shows more than half is likely the liability portion, he noted.

  LaSalle Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche added AMO has been involved on the issue of joint and several liability for some time, but results are not being seen.

  Warden Gary McNamara said this was an issue when he sat on the AMO Board as President. The biggest thing is convincing the Attorney General there is a connection between rates and joint and several liability, he said.  

  Essex’s Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche loved the idea. “By collaborating across the County, we have such a larger buying power when we go out and try to secure some insurance.” Doing so, may give regional municipalities some savings, perhaps enough to potentially hire a specialist down the road to serve the County and look out for best programs, he added.


Essex’s small business resolution noted and filed

County Council noted and filed the Town of Essex’s resolution regarding the “devastating impact of COVID-19 related restrictions on small businesses.”

  At its April 6 meeting, members of Essex Council discussed the challenges facing small businesses, due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. It was noted at that meeting that small businesses are continuing to close, “Because of a continuing cycle of shutdowns and restrictions that are having disproportionate impacts on our local small businesses,” the letter noted.

  At the meeting, the letter continues, The Town of Essex called upon the Ontario Government, and all local and Provincial health officials, to immediately bring to an end the devastation that is occurring to local small businesses and to allow all local small businesses to immediately open and remain open for in-store sales, but with limited capacity and with increased safety measures.

Through the letter, Council also asked the Ontario Government and all local and Provincial health officials to recognize and alleviate the unfair impacts a province-wide shutdown has on local small businesses, and further asked health officials to continue to provide even more detailed local data in order to support and demonstrate the fact the Windsor-Essex Region should not have the same level of restrictions imposed as in those other regions in the Province that have much higher case numbers.

  “While it is vitally important to take all reasonable measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, it is equally important to recognize and take steps to protect the mental health of all Ontarians, who are suffering at this time, and respectfully our small businesses in the Windsor-Essex region are suffering greatly…” the letter states.


Tender awarded for culvert on County Road 27

County Council awarded the tender for the culvert on County Road 27 – Centre Branch No. 47 Drain, to D’Amore Construction (2000) Ltd., for $439,330, plus HST.

  There were six bids on the project, with D’Amore Construction (2000) Ltd. the lowest bid and below the Engineer’s estimate, Jane Mustac, Director of Infrastructure Services, noted.  

  This project is being completed as part of the 2021 structure rehabilitation program.

  There will be a road closure, which is anticipated to last four-weeks, starting in late July.

Tender awarded for Culvert on County Road 42

County Council awarded the tender for the culvert on County Road 42 – 4th Concession Drain (C-42-113) to Matassa Incorporated in the amount of $591,775.02, plus HST.  

  All bids were above the County Engineer’s estimate of $550,000. Due to savings from recent tenders, Mustac said there is money available to cover the cost difference with the Department of Infrastructure Services.

  Jane Mustac, Director of Infrastructure Services, said there will be an anticipated road closure of four weeks, beginning at the end of July or early August. Mustac noted a condition was put into the tender to have the road open before Labour Day, in anticipation of buses running at the start of the school year.


By-law authorizes purchase of lands for an EMS Facility in Kingsville

County Council moved a By-Law to authorize the purchase of lands for the construction of an EMS Facility in the Town of Kingsville for $685,000, plus any applicable HST.


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