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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, March 6, 2023

by Sylene Argent

Council provided with ADUSearch overview and demonstration

Sarah Cipkar, Founder and Co-Lead Researcher for ADUSearch, provided an overview and tool demonstration to Essex Council.

The Town of Essex is using the ADUSearch webtool to allow property owners to discover if a detached ADU (Additional Dwelling Unit) – also known as an SDU (Secondary Dwelling Unit) – can be built on their lots, based on zoning by-laws in place for their municipality. The tool provides information on suitability.

ADUSearch’s mission is to help Canadians discover the potential in their own backyards. It was developed in Windsor. So far, it has mapped 30 cities, including Essex, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Calgary.

So far, 6000 residential lots have been mapped in Essex. Of which, 3,113 are suitable and 76 are potentially suitable to have an ADU. In addition, 621 are suitable for an internal or attached ADU. There could be more in the rural residential zoning areas, which were not included.

Essex’s Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, said the Town has been progressive with these regulations and in working with ADUSearch for around the past year on this project.

The Town also has an ADU manual residents, builders, and contractors can use to help design and look at minimum building code requirements.


CAO provides update on recent ice storm

CAO Doug Sweet provided a high-level update on the February 22 ice storm, including how it was handled by the Town and challenges experienced.

On the day of the ice storm, the Town’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation staff were out salting roads, parking lots, and sidewalks in anticipation of the storm predicted later that evening.

He said most Essex residents lost power that night, between 7pm and 9pm, approximately when the storm began creating safety issues. Between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, Public Works received numerous calls regarding tree branches that had fallen that were blocking roads or tangled on hydro lines.

Fire dispatch, he said, was overwhelmed with calls on Wednesday night from the public, and all three stations were dispatched throughout the night in numerous locations to assist in barricading roads, due to branches or hydro line issues.

The Harrow Water Treatment Plant, around 4pm, was also unable to communicate with the water tower transmitter, due to freezing rain. Staff were immediately dispatched to monitor the system to ensure the system was not compromised, Sweet said. Pressure was restored around 5:30pm.

The Water Division was notified at 7am on Thursday of two watermain breaks. Staff repaired both by 2pm, he said.

With hydro out through most of the municipality on Thursday morning, the only two Essex facilities with power were the Maedel Community Centre and the Essex Centre Sports Complex. The decision was made to close all facilities and use the Essex Centre Sports Complex as a warming centre.

The Town’s phone system was changed to direct all incoming calls regarding storm damage to go to the call centre. Sweet said the system of contacting the OPP non-emergency line or the Town’s call centre seemed to work well as it allowed Public Works managers to prioritize emergency situations.

By 10am, the Essex Centre Sports Complex also lost power, so it was no longer available as a warming station.

For the first time, the Town used its Emergency Notification System to inform residents what was happening and how issues could be reported. This was sent to 6400 residents, who signed up for the notifications.

Sweet said the Town will continue to encourage residents to sign up for those notifications for future events.

The majority of power, Sweet said, was restored to homes by Thursday evening or Friday morning. Public Works contacted cable suppliers about downed lines, and further blocked roads off due to these.

Town staff had to wait for hydro providers to clear lines before they could remove branches from roadways, for safety reasons.

He added that regular debriefing meetings were held over the storm event with staff, the Mayor, and hydro companies, to discuss where the problem areas were and where assistance was needed.

All Town-owned facilities reopened on Friday. Internal meetings were also held on how to address the cleanup and get messaging out to residents.

In regards to the cleanup, Sweet said he contacted EWSWA on Thursday morning to ensure it could take brush, and asked for the criteria. Staff established a cleanup plan for the Town on Friday morning. Options were provided to residents. A contractor was brought on to help Public Works with the cleanup.

On Tuesday, February 28, staff members met for a debriefing, reviewed challenges, and looked at ways to improve.

Some of the challenges included staff. There are only eight Public Works operators. With these types of events, it becomes challenging because they still need to work on winter control, have legislated rest periods, and deal with fallen branches and cleanup.

He said it is fortunate the Town has a team environment and Public Works staff worked with Parks and Recreation in the cleanup. Parks staff was limited, however, when recreation facilities were opened.

Another challenge was fuel and food, with power out. Staff did have a contingency plan if power wasn’t restored in a reasonable manner, which was not needed. Staff are looking to install a manual bypass for the gas pump at the Public Works yard. Radios will also be looked into for use if cell phones are not working in a future event.

Administration is also looking at creating manual material and contact info for the public for when they have no power or internet, possibly to be added in the collection calendar.

He said after staff has been able to make one round of cleanup across the municipality, administration will reassess and determine if another round of cleanup will occur, or if the landfill drop-off locations will be promoted. The Town will also promote emergency preparedness two to three times a year for residents, so they can become better prepared.

In addition, Community Services is looking at adding generators at the two arena meeting rooms in future budgets to ensure warming or cooling stations if power is lost.

In addition, he said a challenge was the warmer temperatures following the storm, which created a hazard of ice falling from trees and poles. The Town, in the future, will create messaging on holding off on cleanup until it is appropriate to do so.

Administration will bring a summary report to Council on what the storm cost the municipality later in the year. Most of the costs will be associated with the cleanup, staffing, and lost revenue.

“It is important to remember that it will be several weeks until we have recovered from this ice storm. We are moving in the right direction, but we do ask residents to be patient,” Sweet said.

In addition, Sweet said he was so proud of the support from E.L.K., and how Hydro One received assistance from across the province, with numerous line workers coming to the area to help get the power back on.

He thanked Town staff on their work they have done and continue to do.

Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, said Essex Fire & Rescue attended over 60 different locations in the 32-hour span. He said Windsor Dispatch received over 1000 calls the evening of the storm and into the next day. He thanked its workers for their efforts as well.

Mayor Sherry Bondy thanked Sweet for his leadership and town staff for their efforts in addition to E.L.K., contractor Entegrus, Essex Powerlines, and Windsor Utilities Commission for their assistance.

“We did learn, but I think we did really well,” Bondy said. “It was an emergency and we will have talks at E.L.K. as well on how we can improve there.”


Essex Fire & Rescue responded

to 328 incidents in 2022

Jason Pillon, Deputy Fire Chief, presented Essex Fire & Rescue’s 2022 Annual Report.

“It was a busy year, it was a good year,” Pillon said, noting in 2022, there were 328 incidents reported to Essex Fire & Rescue. That was an increase of around 20 percent from the previous year.

The increase was due to a rise in the number of responses in the Station 3 (Harrow) area, which had an increase of 48 responses from 2021.

Pillon said there was no real one specific call-type that contributed to why that went up. They were spread out throughout all its emergency responses.

In total, there were 38 fire responses, which was around 12 percent of the calls put into Essex Fire. Of the fire responses, 15 had no loss fires, and 23 had dollar losses. Nine of them were vehicle fires.

Great training was provided to Essex Fire & Rescue’s staff last year, Pillon said. Training was provided to officers, firefighters, and District Chiefs. Essex Fire went over and above the required training of the Southwest Base Hospital Medical Program, and certified all firefighters in standard first aid and CPR. To his knowledge, Essex Fire is the only fire department in Essex County to have all staff trained for that.

With pandemic restrictions loosening, staff was able to get public education and fire prevention back to normal, and able to get back into schools and at community events, providing fire safety messaging to around 5000 people.

A key highlight was being able to open the new Station 2 last year.

“I can’t say enough about our staff,” Pillon said. “Our firefighters are extremely dedicated. They work very hard. They are very professional. They are the key to the success of this fire department,” Pillon said.


Colchester Harbour Canteen Lease Agreement approved with Ice Cool Treats

Council approved entering into a lease agreement, and provisionally passed a By-Law, with Ice Cool Treats for leased space at 78 Sullivan in Colchester for a one-year term, subject to an additional two-years. This will commence May 1, 2023.

The Report to Council notes there have been three different operators since 2012. The most current operator notified Administration they would no longer be operating the Colchester Harbour/Beach Canteen for the upcoming season.

Three proponents attended a mandatory site meeting to operate the Colchester Harbour/Beach Canteen for the upcoming 2023 season and submitted a proposal.

The Town of Essex had an administrative team of four representatives independently consider the proposals. Ice Cool Treats, represented by Patricia Calcilhas, met all requirements of the scope to operate the canteen, and scored highest amongst the team of evaluators on the proposals submitted, the Report to Council notes.

Ice Cool Treats will pay a monthly rate of $700, plus HST, while operating.

Councillor Rodney Hammond asked if there was potential to leave names off applications if someone on Council or from the town applies, so that does not weigh on the decision. He was not insinuating there was pressure. He noted Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley was involved with the business. Shepley was absent from the Council meeting.

Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, said there is no pressure in any regard. An independent panel of four staff members from the Town evaluated submissions. According to the procurement policy, a conflict of interest was declared. Each staff member evaluated the applications in several different categories, and the ratings were averaged out.

Kate Giurissevic, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, said it would be hard for a panel to operate without the name of the applicant as background references are investigated. All members of the panel act in complete professional discretion. She said no pressure was felt.

Councillor Jason Matyi asked if there may be opportunities for youths or entrepreneurs in regards to canteens, instead of the metrics favouring existing businesses.

Morassut said it really comes down to the proposals put forward. Ultimately, the Town evaluates the business plan.

CAO Doug Sweet added the Town needs certain requirements from vendors, and that can be difficult for youths to meet.


Final update provided for My Main Street Accelerator Program

Nelson Silveira, Manager of Economic Development, provided a final update on the My Main Street Local Business Accelerator Program.

In December of 2021, the Town of Essex was approved for funding through the My Main Street Local Business Accelerator Program. The Town was one of 65 successful applicants in Ontario that received funding for a dedicated Main Street Ambassador contract position, customized marketing research, data analysis, and non-repayable funding contributions for small businesses in Essex Centre and Harrow downtowns, the Report to Council notes.

The position started last February, and helped businesses apply for funding, identify opportunities and challenges, and provided training. This person also created a Community Market Profile for businesses, which was secondary market research to understand the community’s trade area, demographics, how residents spend their money, etc.

The Town received $57,000 in funding for the position, and $100,000 to distribute to local businesses through 10 grants, all of which were approved to businesses in Essex Centre and Harrow.

Overall, he said it was a successful program.


Statement of Remuneration and Expenses received

Essex Council received the Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for 2022.

Remuneration only for Council members included: $37,449.84 to Richard Meloche as Mayor/Deputy Mayor; $ 23,966.35 to Sherry Bondy as Mayor/Councillor; $20,883.32 to Steve Bjorkman as Deputy Mayor/Councillor; $21,400.16 to Kim Verbeek as a Councillor; $21,387.60 to Joe Garon as a Councillor; $19,666.79 to Chris Vander Doelen as a Councillor; $18,767.79 to Morley Bowman as a Councillor; and $16,985.02 to Jason Mayti as a Councillor, who started in March of 2022.

The chart also outlined new councillors, elected in the fall and former Mayor Larry Snively.

The report also shows dollars earned through certain committee work to Councillors and members from the community.

NoM: letter to support reinstating previous legislation permitting a municipality to apply for and retain surplus proceeds from a tax sale

At the February 6 meeting, Mayor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion for discussion on Monday evening, asking Council to direct Administration to send a letter to all relevant taxation bodies, including the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, urging them to reinstate previous legislation (Municipal Act s. 388.2) that permitted a Municipality to apply for and retain the surplus proceeds from a tax sale in their jurisdiction.

The rationale, Kate Giurissevich, Director of corporate Services/Treasurer, said is based on the work municipalities have to do in regards to the sale and because the property is physically located within the municipality.

Legislation, she said, has changed, and all proceeds in excess of the cancellation price, which is the overdue taxes for the municipality, are forwarded to the province.

Council passed the motion and will also send the letter to AMO, County Council, the Essex MPP, and all Ontario municipalities.


NoM: Letter to ask MPAC to investigate tax classification of short-term rental units

At the February 21 meeting, Councillor Rodney Hammond put forward a Notice of Motion for Monday evening, asking Council to direct Administration to send a letter to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (“MPAC”), the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and any other relevant bodies, to investigate the tax classification of short-term rental units and consider taxing them as commercial as opposed to residential.

He believes this is something the Town is entitled to. He does not believe it is right rental units in residential areas are charged residential taxes, when they earn an extra income.

Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, said currently MPAC must follow specific regulations for tax classification for these units. It states a rental property is considered residential, until it has seven or more self-contained units. At that point it becomes a commercial designated property. The fact Short Term Rentals conduct commercial businesses means perhaps the parameters of the regulation should be looked at.

In speaking to the Manager of Economic Development, she will bring forward the concept of a Municipal Accommodation Tax at the local treasurers’ group to speak to that.

Councillor Jason Matyi said he likes the idea and wants to hear what MPAC has to say about it.

The motion passed.


NoM: on safety measures for South Talbot/Victoria postponed

At the March 20 meeting, Councillor Joe Garon will ask Council to direct Administration to provide a report on safety measures for the corner of South Talbot Road and Victoria Avenue, which may include lighting and adding a 4-Way Stop. This Notice of Motion has been postponed.


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