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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council Notes for Monday, August 22, 2022

by Sylene Argent

$43k spent on Integrity Commissioner in 2021,

contract not extended to end of the year

Town of Essex Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze, presented his annual report for 2021 to Essex Council, which noted he contributed 183.4 hours to deal with complaints, which translates to $43,000. His hourly rate is $235, plus HST.

  He said 2021 was a busy year for him, in terms of dealing with complaints sent to him regarding Essex officials, noting Essex was one of his most active clients.

  There were eight complaints reported to him from Essex in total last year.

  When presenting his report, he noted the Municipal Act does not allow him to report too much detail regarding matters he dismissed.

  He noted the issue he dealt with regarding Councillor Chris Vander Doelen’s Tweet calling the Corona Virus the “Chinese Flu” last year had a huge response from throughout Western Ontario.

  He said what he did not report on were two complaints against the former Mayor, Larry Snively, because he was charged under the Municipal Elections Act.

  “The complainant refused to accept my approach, which was ‘he is innocent until proven guilty.’ I couldn’t deal with it at the time. That was the complaint where the Ombudsman became involved and accepted my view after conferring with him,” Swayze said.   

He noted his contract expired. He agreed to stay on until January 31, 2023, according to his report, but told Council the Town Clerk was suggesting December 31, 2022, so the new municipal decision-makers could start the Request for Proposal process when the new Term-of- Council is sworn in.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy asked if Swayze undergoes any annual training to keep his certification as an Integrity Commissioner. After hearing he does not with Swayze noting he has been an Integrity Commissioner for 13-years and has a lot of experience with 28 clients, she suggested that may help. She claimed in 2021, when a report was brought forward about a meme she posted, that she felt she was treated differently than Vander Doelen. He was given the option to remove his Tweet, apologize, and undergo training, which she was not. Ultimately, a majority Council vote suspended her pay as a Councillor for a month.

  “I noticed I was treated very differently than a Council colleague, so I think training might help in terms of treating people fairly,” she said.

  She hoped, moving forward, the Town of Essex would have fewer complaints to the Integrity Commissioner.

  Vander Doelen said if Swayze was able to receive complaints, he would make one on the Councillor to his right (Bondy) about comments she made publicly about who was the cause of the complaints and most of the costs.

  Swayze noted most of the complaints he received were not about Vander Doelen, but his “Chinese Flu” comment had a lot of reaction, which he had to deal with.

  In a recorded vote, all of Council received Swayze’s report. The option to extend his contract to December 31, 2022 , however, was defeated.


Essex’s ED selected top ten through EDCO  

Nelson Silveira, Essex’s Economic Development Officer, made the top ten list through the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO).

  The EDCO Top Ten project was introduced in 2021 to celebrate the top ten members and their achievements through 2019 and 2020. The program was developed to boost morale and provide value to members, information on the matter notes.

Applications could have been nominated or self-nominated. Themes considered were leadership, dedication, innovation, and results.

  The Town of Essex has an incredibly talented and hard-working team, Essex Mayor Richard Meloche said, noting Silveira’s achievements include leadership in the site-selection and negotiation of a municipal property that led to a $5m hotel development in Colchester, driving private investment, job creation, and tourism. In addition, as the Treasurer of Community Futures Essex County, he led the application approvals for the regional relief and recovery fund, which brought over $4m in immediate financial aid to businesses across Essex County negatively affected by COVID 19.

  He also successfully completed an application for the Main Street Ambassador program, which funded an ambassador position for a one-year period for the two main street communities in Essex, Essex Centre and Harrow.

Meloche congratulated Silveira.


 Council supports Union Water restructuring

to a Municipal Service Corporation

Council received a report from representatives of Union Water Supply System (UWSS), that sought support on its restructuring to a Municipal Service Corporation.

  Council also accepted ten recommendations attached to the file, including adopting the “Proposed Business Case Study for Restructuring Union Water Supply System (UWSS) into a Municipal Service Corporation” and the “Policy on Asset Transfers to Municipal Service Corporations,” appointing Councillor Chris Vander Doelen to serve as the Town’s Director on the Board, for a term ending upon the end of this current Term of Council, and directing Administration to review and report and/or make recommendations to the 2022- 2026 Town of Essex Council as to Council’s options for appointing a Director to represent the Town of Essex on the Board for the next Term of Council.

  Essex CAO Doug Sweet noted Essex was the last of the four UWSS municipalities (with the other three being Leamington, Kingsville, and Lakeshore), to receive this presentation. The other three municipalities approved the ten recommendations.

  He noted in 2018, UWSS presented its case on restructuring UWSS to a Municipal Service Corporation. Since, its reps have worked with staff members of the four affected municipalities.

  Rodney Bouchard, UWSS General Manager, noted the service was incorporated in the 1960s. In 2001, after amalgamation, the system was transferred to the four municipalities under the 1997 Water and Sewer Transfer Act, as the Ontario Government at the time did not want to own any water or wastewater systems.

  The reason for the restructuring, Bouchard said, was because as it currently operates, through the four municipalities, there is a lack of legal status for the system, it is not governed through the Municipal Act, and it cannot obtain financing or apply for senior government funding on its own.

  Currently, UWSS’s debt shows up on the municipalities’ books, instead of on its own.

  As part of the restructuring, its assets – such as water towers, watermains, and treatment facilities – will be transferred from the municipalities to UWSS. Any profit will be generated back into the water system, Bouchard said.  

  It has a Board of Directors, which currently has 12 members. Each of the municipalities has at least one rep, with an additional rep for every 10 percent water share. Currently, Leamington has six members and Kingsville has four, while Essex and Lakeshore each have one.

  Leamington consumes 53 percent of the water, Kingsville 38.72 percent, Essex 4.92 percent, and Lakeshore 3.35 percent. These consumption rates are re-evaluated every four-years.

  Through the restructuring, the new Board of Directors will be made by the same method, with some changes. For instance, for shareholders who can appoint more than one director, no more than 50 percent (to a max of two) can be an elected official or municipal employees. Others have to be identified of the municipality, who have competencies in accounting, engineering, legal, IT, etc.

  With the upcoming election, UWSS recommended each municipality appoint temporary Directors to its Board, like the Mayor. After the election, the new Term of Council can decide its rep or reps for the upcoming four-years. It is hoped the restructured UWSS’s first meeting will take place early in the new year.

  Under the new restructuring, water rates will continue to be set by the Board, in accordance with Board policies and provisions of Board-approved lending agreement; UWSS, not the municipalities, will bear the risk of volume fluctuations and uncollectible accounts; and UWSS will pay a service fee to the municipalities for work done by the municipalities as agents of UWSS (billing and collection services).

  Councillor Vander Doelen has been on the UWSS Board for the past four-years and has been impressed with the organization. He was fully in favour of the ten recommendations as he said it will be good for ratepayers.  


 Resident approaches Council

regarding speeding on South Talbot

Essex resident Tanya Fryer approached Council regarding ongoing speeding on South Talbot Road, from Victoria Avenue to Maidstone.

  She said speeding is an ongoing issue there, since the new South Talbot Road has been opened up, and claimed she has witnessed many flying down this stretch of road.

  Fryer outlined an array of issues, such as there is only one 50km/hr sign, which faces one way, pedestrians and children on bikes using the road as there are no sidewalks, issues with on-street parking, and some residents have to enter their driveways slowly as the road surface is uneven with their driveways.

  Fryer also had concern for first responders as she believes there is no room for vehicles to pull over if they need to get through.

  She asked for speedbumps in the residential area, for the speed to be reduced to 40km/hr, more signage, a three-way stop in the area where Victoria is to slow traffic.

  “I guarantee somebody is going to get seriously hurt on that road if there is nothing done about it,” Fryer said, noting she was hoping something could be done to improve the situation. “It is an accident waiting to happen.”

  Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said he can contact the MTO as this road is still under its jurisdiction, and likely will be until the end of 2023, when the Highway 3 expansion is scheduled for completion.

  He had a meeting with reps from the MTO the previous week, where discussion took place about increasing OPP presence. Girard also asked about what other measures can take place.

  This section of road can be put in queue for the Town of Essex’s new radar data collection devices, which records speed of vehicles and what time speeding occurs. This data is helpful to allowing police know what time of day speeding is an issue and the Town about traffic behaviours.    

  In addition, he said the Town did get permission to put up additional speed signs from the MTO.

  Fryer asked about making street parking available to residents only. Girard said Council could enact a policy for no commercial parking in that area once the road is officially adopted by the Town of Essex, if it chooses to.

  Through negotiations with the MTO, a trail will run from the greenway to Maidstone Avenue to the Tim Hortons/McDonald’s intersection. That is not slated to be  completed until 2023.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek said police will patrol the area for speeders more, if asked, but officers cannot be there all the time. She was glad to hear the data recording devices will be added to the area as that information will be helpful.

  “It is about modifying people’s behaviour,” Verbeek said. “Right now, that we’ve opened that strip, is the time to do it. We have to be proactive now, before people learn this is a speedway. Right now, is when we have to modify their behaviour.”

  In responding to Councillor Joe Garon, who asked about traffic calming measures, Girard said there are methods that can be used that are less likely to frustrate drivers, like narrowing the road, adding centre boulevards, and speed radar trailers.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a motion, which Council supported, to use the Town of Essex’s policy on creating Community Safety Zones to see if the section of this road, from the development to Victoria Avenue, would qualify for that.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman also put forward a motion, which Council supported, to direct administration to reach out to the MTO to see if the Town of Essex could temporarily reduce the speed on this section of road from 50km/hr to 40km/hr.  


 Council postpones sale of parkland

on Brien Avenue West, will still service lots

Resident Brittany Colenutt approach Council regarding the use of parkland next to Brien Avenue West.

  She said she built her house in 2014 under the notion the land next to her property was considered parkland. She called the Town before purchasing the lot to make sure the adjacent land would stay parkland. She claims she was told by Town staff at that time it could be developed into a park for small children or would remain a green space.

  She, and neighbours, were shocked to learn Council declared the lot as surplus in July, and that it would be severed into three lots.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the parkland has come to Council twice. It was declared surplus in July and was approved for public sale. In 2015, through the Town’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan, the parkland was identified as redundant.   

  The Town has to create a Draft Reference Plan, which is expected to be completed in October or November. At that time, there would be public notice on the matter.

  He noted of the three future lots, two are not serviced. He suggested they be serviced this year as that can happen when construction in the area takes place at a reduced cost.

  Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, said the Town will ask for Request for Tenders to obtain a consultant to create a new Parks and Recreation Master Plan in the near future. He is hoping something can be presented on that in the spring.

  Mayor Richard Meloche suggested the Town put the sale of the lots on hold until the new Parks and Recreation Master Plan is completed. He said this will allow an opportunity for residents to weigh-in on what they want to see happen to the aforementioned lot.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen moved that the Town go ahead with servicing the lots and postpone the sale, with the decision on what to do with the lot to take place when passing the future Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

  Motion carried.


 Council gives two readings to Sign By-Law

Essex Council received Planning Report “Town of Essex Sign By-Law 2167,” which Jeff Watson, Planner, prepared, and further gave two readings – with the adjustments administration needs to make – on the By-Law regulating the erection of signs within the geographical boundaries of the Town of Essex.

  In the report to Council, it notes on July 4, Council and the public had the opportunity to consider the draft of a new sign by-law for the Town of Essex to replace the current by-law that was adopted in 2015.

  The reasons for introducing a new Sign By-law included making it more user-friendly by laying out regulations in chart form and by setting out when a sign permit was required and when it was not; to bring more clarity for By-law enforcement in the Courts by adding and clarifying definitions and refining passages and regulations for greater ease in interpretation; and to address matters arising from the application of the current Sign By-Law, since its adoption in 2015, such as the removal of election sign regulations and the establishment of regulations related to electronic media signs.

  One of the questions from Council when the matter was previously discussed related to novelty signs, for which no time limits for their placement were set out in the By-Law. The By-Law has since been amended to permit such signs for a maximum of three consecutive days, the Report to Council notes.

  Watson said the By-Law is ready for approval, however, staff noticed a couple of conversion errors at the last-minute that need to be corrected on signage permitted without a permit.

  He asked that the third and final reading take place at the next meeting, so staff can make those corrections.

  Councillor Joe Garon had concerns with the three-day limit for feather signs as he said he knows a lot of businesses use them all year round and have invested in them. He suggested they instead be limited in number, depending on frontage.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said the point of the By-Law is to limit signs to eliminate all that distraction. He said this allows for businesses to have a good sign and add celebratory signage from time-to-time.


 Essex Sports Park Phase 1A Development to move forward

Council awarded the contract for the Essex Sports Park Phase 1A Development to Sterling Ridge Infrastructure Inc. in the amount of $852,540.19 (including non-refundable HST).

  Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, noted back in February, Administration approached Council about moving forward in applying for grant monies for the future Essex Centre Sports Fields.

  The Town of Essex was successful in its application and will receive $750,000, but will be responsible to add 25 percent.

  In July of 2021, Administration applied to the Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF) to potentially receive up to $750,000 towards developing Phase 1 of the project. Administration worked with Bezaire Partners to develop a Phase 1A plan that would only include amenities that are required as soon as possible.

  Council approved the additional funding in excess of the CCRF grant at the February 7, 2022 Council meeting in the amount of $318,889.

  The 1A of the project was put out to tender and came in within the budget. This will allow for the development of a bridge and culvert, driveway going into the property, parking area, and site-serving for the sports fields. He said there will be four senior-sized soccer fields and two junior-sized soccer fields.

  “It is very exciting to receive the grant funding,” he said.

  In 2015, a Parks, Recreation, and Culture Master Plan was conducted, and the plan recommended that the Town look at purchasing property to be able to add outdoor sport fields to accommodate the current needs and potential growth of the community.

  The initial budget estimate for the whole project was for $20,649,659

  The first phase work needs to be completed by March 31, 2023. The fields will not be able to be used until spring of 2024 as the soccer fields would need a full year to have the grass germinate and be ready for regular play.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek said this is a great feather in the cap, and she is glad it is moving forward.


 Overview shows 93.4 percent increase in

development, comparing July in 2022 to 2021

Essex Council received the Development Overview for July 2022, which noted the total construction value – including all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments that required a building permit – totalled $5,413,700. This was a 93.4 percent increase from July of 2021.

  The average home sale price in July of 2022 in Wards 1 and 2 was $523,308, which was lower than the $613,881 recorded in July of 2021. The average home sale price in July of 2022 in Wards 3 and 4 was $592,402, which was significantly lower than the $773,136 recorded in July of 2021.


 Engineering services awarded for

Irwin Avenue, Walnut Street

Council awarded the Engineering Services for Irwin Avenue and Walnut Street South to TYLin International Canada Inc. in the amount of $252,570.36, including non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax.

  The 2022 Capital Budget had an approved combined amount of $430,000 for Engineering for both Irwin Avenue and Walnut Street South projects, the Report to Council notes.


 Surface treatment, additional funds approved

for projects coming in over budget

Council awarded the surface treatment to Shepley Road Maintenance Ltd. in the amount of $1,286,425.88, including non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax.

Council approved the additional funding of $33,927 above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $65,000 for Old Malden Road, 14th Concession to 12th Concession from the Canada Community Building Fund reserve.

  Council approved the additional funding of $28,888.40 above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $240,000 for Bell Road Rehabilitation, from Gore Road to County Road 50, from the Canada Community Building Fund reserve.

  Council approved the additional funding of $96,252.84 above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $160,000 for yearly maintenance overlay from the Town’s Asset Management Reserve.

  Kate Giurissevich, Director of Corporate Services/Treasure, noted the additional funds were needed because many projects are coming in over budget throughout the region, due to record-inflation. The Finance Team will bring a report to Council this fall detailing inflation.


Hot Mix Asphalt Resurfacing Tender awarded

Council awarded the Hot Mix Asphalt Resurfacing Tender to the Mill-Am Corporation in the amount of $178,588.80, including non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax. In addition, Council approved the additional funding of $48,588 above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $60,000 for Victoria Street (Oxley, south of County Road 50) from the Town’s Asset Management Reserve.


Engineering services awarded for bridge rehabilitation

Council awarded the Engineering Services for Bridge Rehabilitation to RC Spencer Associates Inc. in the amount of $73,460.54 including all non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax.

  Council also approved the new project budget of $73,460.54, above the original $70,000, for Engineering for various bridges and culverts, with the additional funding of $3,460.54 coming from the Town’s Asset Management Reserve.


 NoM: policy amending practice of verbal requests

At the July 18 Council Meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion for the August 22 meeting, asking Council to consider creating a policy to amend the practice of verbal requests that stipulates when Town staff serve notices of infractions to residents, the notice must be in writing, referencing the policy violation, by-law infraction, or other issue that Town employees request resident cooperation on.

  Councillor Morley Bowman said verbal reports provide an easy way to comply without starting the process, and the process can be started later, if needed.

CAO Doug Sweet explained staff have verbal conversations with residents when necessary to start voluntary compliance, but if it gets to where there will be a written infraction, the Town does want to have that proper documentation in place.

What the By-Law and Building Departments are doing is working on a best practices method, and that is being extended to the Town’s other departments as well, he explained.

Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said there are times when staff need to approach a resident and can verbalize that they need to comply with low-level issues, such as the need to cut their grass, but that would not apply to someone who has a black mold issue. He suggested if the process was to be changed, where notices must be in writing, etc., that more direction would need to be given.

  Bondy said she has had some cases brought to her attention where residents almost feel strong-armed by Town staff, where they are ordered to comply by a certain day or it will be added to their taxes. Residents have come to her upset about the issue, wondering who to contact and what by-law they are in violation of, when they are basically left a voicemail with a demand for compliance.

  She was not sure how to find that balance.

  She said she saw a gap in policy and wanted to bring the matter to Council to find a solution. Verbal warnings can become a “he said, she said,” matter. With documentation, perhaps the Town could be more proactive, she noted.

  Sweet said if residents experience an interaction with Town staff like that, they should contact the department head or himself.

  Bjorkman said if a resident is told they need to comply, or there will be a penalty, then perhaps that should be in writing. Maybe there should be a policy where if there is a penalty attached to a warning, it needs to be in writing.

  Council passed a motion to consider creating a policy that when Town staff serve notices of written infractions to residents that have a punitive damage, the notice must reference the policy violation, by-law infraction, or other issue that Town employees request resident cooperation on.


 NoM: Admin to create list of land lease properties

that have fire hydrants and fire plan

At the August 2 meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion, for discussion at the August 22 meeting, asking Council to consider directing Administration to come back with a comprehensive list of all land lease properties/developments, ensuring they have necessary fire prevention and protection and that Council be provided with reassurance residents living in these private properties have working fire hydrants and a fire plan.

  This is a fire safety issue. She was informed about a hydrant that had not been inspected in a while on a private property, and wanted to follow through. She wanted a policy that shows when fire hydrants are inspected on land lease properties and apartment buildings.

  Fire Chief Rick Arnel said Essex Fire & Rescue is currently working on the fire hydrants, and he will have a report in September on the matter. In regards to fire plans, any place that needs one has to have it posted. He noted hydrants on private property have to be maintained by the owner and checked annually by an accredited third-party and that info is to be sent to the fire department. Essex Fire & Rescue is compiling a list of those hydrants and will paint them a different colour, so they do not match the current hydrant system.

  In a recorded vote, Council passed the motion.


 Notices of Motion to be considered

at the September 6 meeting:

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to direct Administration to set up a free business registration section on the Town website, where businesses can select a ribbon cutting and obtain information about Town services.

• Councillor Bondy will ask Council to direct Administration to make the active transportation trail more accessible by installing two curb cuts on the bike lane on South Talbot Road, across from Diane Street, so residents can access the walking path with walkers, wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers.

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Essex Council invite E.L.K. Energy Board to provide Council, as sole shareholder of E.L.K. Energy, with an update on its most recent Ontario Energy Board application.

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to consider installing updated population signs, based on the most recent census.

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