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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, May 3, 2021

by Sylene Argent

Split vote leads Council to request ELK Board fund a valuation report

Council will send a request to the Board of Directors of ELK Energy Incorporated to obtain and fund a valuation of the local utility.

  In the Report to Council, it notes in 2009, the Town of Essex became the sole shareholder of ELK, when it bought the shareholder interests of its former municipal partners, Lakeshore and Kingsville.

ELK operates independently from the Town of Essex, with the municipality’s role in comparison with the operations of ELK limited to that of a shareholder of a corporation.

  “This means that all operations of ELK are overseen not by its shareholder, but by its appointed Board of Directors, and further the day-to-day operations/management are carried out by the officers of the Corporation, hired by the Board,” the Report, which Essex CAO Chris Nepszy submitted, states. He added that members of Essex Council, who are appointed to the ELK Board, may have  a duty to act in the best interests of the ELK Corporation when serving on the Board.

  On July 8 of 2020, Council directed Administration to investigate obtaining a valuation of ELK to determine the current worth. A business valuation may include an analysis of the company’s management, its capital structure, its future earnings prospects, or the market value of its assets, the Report to Council notes.

  In a preliminary investigation, the cost of a valuation would be in the range of $20,000.

Councillor Morley Bowman, did not support the motion. He said the value of the utility is what someone would pay to own it, if it were for sale. Council is provided an audited financial statement. He said that should be good enough. Mayor Larry Snively and Councillor Chris Vander Doelen agreed with Councillor Bowman.

Vander Doelen voiced concern there was a “hidden agenda” as to why some want the valuation completed.

Councillor Sherry Bondy, however, was in favour of sending the request. She said no one can answer what the Town-owned utility is valued at. As Essex has owned the utility for ten-years, she said it would be nice to identify its value.

  As the Harrow area often experiences hydro-flickers, which could be Hydro One issues, she said the Town should do its due diligence in regards to what it owns. If the motion is not moved forward, she said residents could get suspicious as to why.

  In a recorded vote, Councillors Bondy, Kim Verbeek, Steve Bjorkman, Joe Garon, and Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche supported the motion. Mayor Larry Snively and Councillors Vander Doelen and Bowman were opposed.

Council learns of COVID-19 financial impact

Council received the Report, “COVID-19 Financial Impact at December 31, 2020,” which noted the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to impact the TOWN. Administration will continue to monitor the COVID-19 environment and the impacts.

  The Report to Council, which Manager of Finance and Business Services, Kate Giurissevich, prepared, notes measures were introduced throughout the onset of the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of staff and residents, in addition to attempting to provide economic relief where possible.

  The total impact to revenue for period ending December 31, 2020 versus period ending December 31, 2019 is a decrease in revenue of $2,204,764.

  The largest decrease is realized in the Community Services Department, which had a 50 percent decrease in revenue, or a decrease in $1,282,484 when comparing 2019 and 2020. Reserve Revenue (not within divisions) was down $641,489, and General Government was down $248,150, to name the top three decreases.

  As part of the government orders introduced, the Town closed all recreational facilities, which impacted user-fee revenue from programming and rentals, the Report to Council explains.

  The Report highlights that 2019 compared to 2020 showed a $431,954 decrease in revenue in ice rentals, $138,538 decrease in Youth Recreation Programs, $128,366 decrease in swimming lessons, and $81,349 decrease in sign advertising.

  The main contributor to the decline in fines and penalties revenue grouping, the Report continues, was a direct result of the waiver of penalties and interest on property tax accounts, which accounted for a loss of $168,902. The waiver expired on October 1, 2020.

  By December 31, the Town experienced a decline in investment revenue, compared to 2019 figures, of over $720,000. This decrease can be directly attributed to interest earned.

  The Town has been able to reduce operational expenses, related to facilities and programming. There was a decline in the cost of materials and supplies, salaries and wages. There was an overall decrease in Salaries and Wages of $511,000.

  The report notes the total loss to date, for COVID-19 impacted revenue and expense groupings, is approximately $1,056,245, when comparing the period ending December 31, 2020 to 2019. Total operating loss (removing reserve interest loss) was $414,755.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said other municipalities in the area ended up with more costs.

Council approved recommendation to cancel 2021 Fun Fest

Council approved the Essex Festival Committee’s request to cancel the 2021 Essex Fun Fest, which would have been scheduled for July 8-11, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

   Mayor Larry Snively said it was disappointing to have to cancel the event again.

By-Law to establish and regulate fire services adopted

Council adopted By-Law 2012 to Establish and regulate fire services.

  In the Report to Council, it notes the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, every municipality must establish a program in the municipality, which must include public education with respect to fire safety and certain components of fire prevention and provide such other fire protection services as it determines may be necessary in accordance with its needs and circumstances.

  The Establishing and Regulating Fire Services By-Law is a document approved by Council that provides the authority to Essex Fire and Rescue Services to operate and the bylaw sets out how service will be provided within the municipality, the report notes.

  Essex had to update its By-law, because the Town of Kingsville’s Fire Department recently updated its technical rescue capabilities and advised the County it had downgraded its response level regarding high-angle rope rescue, anything above 50 degrees, to awareness level, and will continue to provide low-angle rope rescue service to the County upon request.

  The reason Kingsville Fire is no longer providing this service to the County, the Report to Council notes, is that the annual commitment is an additional 40 hours of training.

Essex Fire & Rescue personnel are trained to NFPA 1001 Level II which provides awareness level training for this technical rescue. A review of over 7,500 incidents in which Essex Fire & Rescue has responded to since 1999 notes there has never been an incident requiring this technical training, the Report to Council notes.

  Because Kingsville Fire Department has amended its Establishing and Regulating Fire Services By-Law and have reduced the service it provides to its community and County regarding Rope Rescue, the Town of Essex had to amend its bylaw to reflect the change.

Lifesaving Society Affiliate Recognition Awards 2020

Council received the report regarding the Lifesaving Society Annual Report Affiliate Recognition 2020 for informational purposes.

  The Town of Essex’s Community Services department is an affiliate of the nation-wide Lifesaving Society (LSS) organization, which offers the Learn to Swim program, Lifesaving Certifications, First Aid, Automatic External Defibrillation, and a number of specialty certifications.

  Annually, the Lifesaving Society of Ontario Branch awards points to affiliates, based on the total number of certifications and awards that are delivered within their community.

  Although 2020 was a challenging year, the Town of Essex program was recognized in the top ten of each of the categories that the Town qualified under. Highlights include earning first place in the Scarborough Cup, which is awarded to the municipal affiliate with the largest lifesaving/leadership program in a community with a population between 10,000 and 50,000.

  This is the 10th time the Town of Essex has won this cup since 2008.

  Essex took second place under the Bredin Staples Cup, which is awarded to the municipal affiliate with the largest leadership training program per capita.

Essex also took third place in the Arnold H. Morphy Cup, awarded to the affiliate with a single facility with the largest lifesaving/leadership program, and the John E. McCutcheon Bowl, awarded to the single-facility affiliate with the largest first aid program.

  The Town of Essex is a Top 20 affiliate in Ontario based on the overall point system.

  “We were just very excited we were able to accomplish this,” Manager of Recreation and Culture, Cynthia Cakebread said. She added Essex has historically done well with the program, but she was unsure of this year, due to COVID.

  Essex, she said, was the only municipality to open its pool last July, while others were not opened until August or later, and did not run the programs found here.

RFP for Remove and Replace of surface for Colchester Park Playset awarded

Council awarded the Request for Proposal to remove and replace the rubber surface for the Colchester Playset in Colchester Park to Softline Solutions AB Inc.

  Five proposals were received. After evaluation, administration recommended Softline Solutions AB Inc’s option 2, as it scored the highest.

  $140,000 was set aside in the budget for the project. Softline Solutions AB Inc.’s proposal was for $109,035.15, including HST.

  Mayor Larry Snively said he was glad this was getting done.

 RFP for design, supply, install playground equipment for Hunter Park awarded

Photo courtesy from the Town of Essex. Pictured is the design for the future Hunter Park playground. 

Council awarded the Request for Proposal to design, supply, and install playground equipment for Hunter Park to New World Park Solutions Inc.

  The proposals were evaluated. There was a fixed budget of $200,000, including all applicable taxes, the Report to Council notes.

  Due to COVID and the current gathering restrictions, a one-week virtual open house was held from April 12 to April 19, which allowed residents to review and rank all six designs for the Hunter Park playground replacement, instead of the traditional open house.

  Participants were asked to rank their top three favourite designs. There were 379 online votes. Option 5, submitted by New World Park Solutions Inc, received the most first place votes, with a total of 179 choosing this option as their number one playground choice.

New World Park Solutions Inc.’s bid on the project was $189,920.27, including HST.

It is hoped the new structure will be installed by July.

 Additional Funds approved for the Automatic Sliding Doors at the Essex Arena

Council approved the additional budgeted expenditures of $5,148.79 for Automatic Door Replacement at the Essex Centre Sports Complex project for 2021. Funding will come from the Asset Management Plan Reserve.

  The total project cost is $65,148.79. The Approved 2021 Capital Project Budget was $50,000, with the addition of a $10,000 through the Enabling Accessibility Grant Fund, leaving a shortfall in funding of $5,148.79.

  While the original plan was to replace three doors, the grant funding led to exploring having the remaining five doors completed to ensure consistency and provide accessibility at all entrances and exits at the front of the facility, the Report to Council notes.

  The project was tendered, with the lowest price of $61,641.12 submitted from RC White Ltd. In addition, electrical connection is required, with a cost of $3,507.67 (including the non-refundable tax).

 Council receives four letters on proposed Telus cell tower

Essex Council received four letters regarding a proposed 40m communications tower in Essex Centre.

  Concerns outlined in the letter includes health, property values, potential added commercial traffic route to and from the tower increasing the noise burden, the lack of visual aesthetics, and it being proposed too close to a residential area,

 NoM: recognizing significant dates

At the April 19 meeting, Mayor Larry Snively put forward a Notion of Motion for Council to consider at the May 3 meeting, that Council recognizes significant dates, such as special milestone anniversaries and birthdays for members in the community. The motion was supported.

  This will include the Mayor creating and delivering certificates to recognize milestone birthdays and anniversaries.

  “It is good for the town and Council to recognize these people in our community,” Snively said.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said it was a great idea, as it creates a sense of community.

  Councillor Chris Van Doelen was against the idea. He did not want the task to fall on the shoulders of administration. He also had concerns that the idea may take away such announcements from local newspapers, which is a source of revenue.

Administration to prepare a report on on fill issues

At the April 19 meeting, Councillor Kim Verbeek put forward a Notion of Motion for Council to consider at the May 3 meeting, that when permits are issued in accordance with By-Law 1799, referred to as the Fill By-Law, such permits only be extended or renewed once after the initial permit to limit the negative impact the ongoing extensions are having on community residents and roadways.

  After discussion on the matter, Council voted to direct administration to review the matter and prepare a report on the issues, in addition to the pros and cons, as it relates to infill sites, limitation of sites permits, and their extensions.

  Verbeek and Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche will work with administration to relay concerns they have heard on the matter from residents. In addition, all Councillors and members of the public are urged to reach out to administration to voice opinions and concerns on the matter.

  Verbeek brought the matter forward because she was hearing from residents in her Ward of McGregor, who have been affected by neighbours having fill excessively dumped onto their own properties. Sometimes this goes on for many years, with many trucks heading down these roads, that would otherwise be quiet.

  In some cases, farmers are trying to build up land, however, there is concern there could be other reasons for the collection of infill, such as stockpiling. She voiced concerns regarding soil testing associated with the collection of fill.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said the intention was not to lump everyone into the same category, as there are those who genuinely need the fill. He suggested limiting the number of sites to two or three throughout the municipality. He said better controls are needed.

NoM: Secondary Plan for McGregor

At the April 19 meeting, Councillor Kim Verbeek put forward a Notion of Motion for Council to consider at the May 3 meeting, that a secondary plan be created for McGregor, similar to those issued in Essex Centre, Harrow, and Colchester South and as indicated in the Strategic Plan for this Term of Council.

  Discussion on this matter led to Council giving direction to administration that when reviewing the five-year Official Plan for the Town of Essex in the near future, consideration be given to thoroughly review long-term needs of the McGregor Secondary Settlement Area in consultation with residents and the Town of Amherstburg.

  Verbeek brought up the matter as McGregor was the only Ward in Essex without a Secondary Plan. As the rep of this Ward, she said residents are always asking her why that is and why other Wards receive certain items. One issue she hears is why all three other Wards have a splashpad and McGregor does not. A plan needs to be in place for funding to get set aside, so such infrastructure can be added.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche suggested that since Essex is planning to meet with Amherstburg in the near future on shared infrastructure, he suggested a plan for McGregor also be discussed at this time, as part of McGregor is in Amherstburg.

  Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, explained McGregor is designated as a hamlet, which gives it some flexibility. A secondary plan could be limiting for McGregor, so she suggested being open to other options.

NoM for consideration at the May 17 meeting

Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to consider supporting a public education campaign through print and social media, regarding the dangers of putting cut grass on the road.

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