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Essex Council Notes for Monday, June 15, 2020

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

CAO’s COVID-19 report

Chris Nepszy, CAO, provided Essex Council with a COVID-19 update, as it pertains to the business for the Town of Essex, during the virtual meeting held on Monday night.

  Business of the Town of Essex: Nepszy said staff continues to make tweaks based on comments heard from residents at the facilities that have been open for several weeks, such as the Colchester Harbour, the Municipal Building, and the facility in Gesto. He said things have been smooth to date for the most part, and this is due to the good signage and protocols staff implemented prior to the facilities getting reopened.

  As it relates to the community services department with the Town of Essex, staff members are looking to prepare facilities to be ready for then they can be reopened. This will ensure there is no delay. This means the sports fields will be ready for practices only. Harrow Minor Soccer, Harrow Minor Baseball, and Essex Minor Soccer have cancelled their seasons, which he said is disappointing.

  The splashpads are also being prepared, and the indoor pool is being prepared to allow people in and access the change rooms. Patrons will have to register. Everything will be done within ministry guidelines. The Town will offer private swim lessons.

  Nepszy said the Town is close to being able to open public washrooms. The safety of the public and staff have to be considered. When the time is right, Councillor Steve Bjorkman hoped the public washrooms at the Colchester Harbour and Beach would be first to be open as it is an end-of-the-line trip area. Nepszy said the bathrooms there would be first to open.

  Nepszy hoped when everything reopens that Council tours facilities to see what residents will do upon entering.

  In regards to hosting Council meetings back in Council Chambers, Nepszy said it can’t come soon enough. He is working with CFTV on producing a live demo that will work, as if the public is not allowed in, they have to have access to watching the meeting. Delegations will have to be done via Zoom. He hopes to be in the Council Chambers in July.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche had concerns with getting back in the Council Chambers for meetings too early, in wanting to keep those in his social bubble safe. Councillor Vander Doelen wondered if there was a way to allow some of the Councillors who are not comfortable attending a Council meeting in person to do so via Zoom as well.

  Nepszy said all Provincial protocols would be followed to do this.

  Council pushing for mandatory testing in farm industry: Nepszy said he and Mayor Larry Snively were on a conference call that morning with Windsor Essex County Health Unit’s Dr. Ahmed and other mayors and CAOs of neighbouring municipalities.

  Nepszy said the region was disappointed to not be able to move onto phase two of reopening, and there was a lot of discussion about this during that conference call. There was a lot of discussion about why that is, why numbers are high in the region, and how the region can focus on getting to phase two of reopening.

  A lot of questions were asked about mandatory testing, and what can be done to flatten the curve and be able to move into phase two. “Not a lot of answers, but at least a lot of questions…are being asked,” Nepszy said, adding it seems it is the numbers of positive cases in the area that is keeping the region in phase one.

  Snively said it was a very disappointing meeting. He thought the region was headed in the right direction, but indications are that the area is heading in the opposite direction in regards to numbers.

  The number of positive cases has doubled since last month, he said, “Which is a very disappointing report from the Doctor.”

  While on the call, Snively said he brought up to the Board that testing should be mandatory, as it is known where the hot spots are, and one of the hots spots is in the Leamington and Kingsville area, with the farm industry.

  The issue with testing is that they could be negative at the time of the test, but get infected the following day, Snively said, wondering if the farm industry can be pressured into making testing mandatory for employees. He said he was told by senior levels of government that is not possible, but he believes if the virus continues to grow as it is, it will come down to that.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek agreed that the region would never be able to move on to phase two if the elephant in the room is not addressed. The farming sector has been identified as a hot spot.

  This time, Essex could be at the forefront, and she did prepare an emergency notice of motion, that the Town of Essex Council ask for urgent and emergency action in support of local farm workers, from all levels of government. That the local Health Unit, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Labour all come together immediately to stop this spread of COVID-19 in the local farm worker population.

  The health and welfare of farm workers is vital to the community and opening up of the local economy. There needs to be testing, tracking, and tracing, she said. Council passed it unanimously under a different section of the meeting. She hoped other municipalities would follow suit.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche will also talk to Dr. Ahmed to express the concerns of Council. He thinks testing should be on a regular basis. He did not know if there was a way to segregate that portion of the community to allow the rest of the region to open up.

  Councillor Joe Garon said this region is not the only one that has migrant workers, other communities do and he suspects they are open. He wondered who decides what region gets open up. Nepszy said he asked the same question to Dr. Ahmed, who said the Premier asked the local health units to collect data and provide opinions, but he was not sure how much influence health units have.

  “If we do not move into phase two shortly, there is going to be a lot of businesses not [going] to be reopen at all. And that’s a shame. We have to really, really push,” Snively said. 

  Dog tags purchase price to remain at stage one cost: Council voted to allow the costs of dog tags to remain at its stage one price, during to COVID-19.

  Clerk Robert Auger explained the price of dog tags typically raise on April 1, then again on July 1.

 

Development “tool box” discussed for town

Council received a verbal report from Essex CAO Chris Nepszy, regarding the development of a “tool box” to assist with large scale developments for the Town of Essex.

  A policy such as this would allow the possibility of providing financial assistance for large-scale development as it relates to front-end loading a portion of a developer’s upfront costs in an accountable and upfront manner.

  “This really would pertain to the Essex Crossing [housing] development, and we would look at that as a potential pilot or initial project to give consideration to this,” Nepszy explained. “We’re hoping it’s going to lead to the formation of a policy that can be used to guide future large-scale development applications.”

  The policy would identify a consistent approach to the cost sharing structure and to the repayment plan between developers and the municipality.

  “It can’t be dependent on sales. It’s got to be some fixed repayment plan. We want to make sure we identify what the acceptable level of risk would be for the municipality,” Nepszy said. “We would need to know proper consultation. It comes down to developing that policy with the criteria and a guide to consider.”

  This policy could potentially lead to kickstarting many area projects, which have been in development limbo – and according the CAO – could have a tremendous impact on large scale housing developments within the town.

  With the support of Council, Nepszy and Administration will continue to explore the implementation of the development tool box, and will report back to Council with potential next steps.


Council approves $15,000 digital grant for businesses

-Verbeek suggests similar program for newspaper advertising-  

  Council received Economic Development’s report, “Business Support during COVID-19,” that Nelson Silveira, Economic Development Officer, prepared, and further approved $15000 in COVID-19 related funding to support the Town of Essex Digital Growth Grant in 2020.

  Silveira said the Town of Essex Digital Growth Grant is intended to provide up to 20 businesses with up to $1,000 of one-time, non-repayable funding to allow a business to better focus on digital activities and strategies for a stronger online presence. This can include setting up an online store, creating tools to provide services online, subscription costs for online tools or services, staff training for digital technology, digital marketing (like social media ads), or other digital growth needs.

  There is a criteria for eligibility.

  The Town has partnered with the Small Business Centre for this program to help review applications and to provide access to its Digital Squad. The Essex Centre Business Improvement Area contributed $5000. The Harrow & Colchester South Chamber of Commerce was unable to forward a financial contribution at this time.

  The grant would be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Submissions for the Town of Essex Digital Growth Grant would commence upon Council approval and would be made available until August 31, or when all funds have been spent.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek thanked Silveira as she thought it was a great initiative, but she said there are still many who are not engaged on social media. She wondered if a similar program could be brought forward using the two local newspapers, perhaps in paying for a portion of advertising. This way, the businesses can get in print, and drive people to their social media accounts.

  This is a win/win, she said, because it is important to support the local papers.

  Silveira said that is something to consider. The main purpose of this grant is to make that shift to digital. He said there is some value in print advertising as well, but the majority of advertisements, and the effectiveness of advertising, has moved towards digital.

  If businesses are making an effort to go digital, newspaper ads could be considered through this application process.

Verbeek said some may not want to drive to digital, but she would like to see a similar program to benefit the newspapers. Silveira said this can be considered, and perhaps it is something business will ask for.    

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman liked the partnerships with the digital grant program, but noted there is some urgency for patios. He said the Town needs to find a way to accommodate businesses wanting to extend their footprints or liquor licensing, when the Province gives the go ahead, and the Town will have to be ready to assist.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, said staff is already preparing for this. Businesses have said they will be looking for support to extend their patios and possibly liquor licenses.  She added the Town will be ready to receive the applications and working to look at this in terms of municipal property that could be used. This includes legalities.

  In the report to Council, it notes that on March 30, the Town of Essex initiated an online survey to study the impact the current pandemic has had on the local business community. Thirty surveys were completed. Results indicated that of the respondents, 56.3 percent have laid off all employees. A large majority indicated they experienced a loss of business and have also implemented temporary changes to their operations. The temporary suspension of operations and the cutting of unnecessary costs were the most popular measures to offset impact.

  The Town has also hosted a 12-days of giveaways campaign to promote shopping locally and launched an open for business map. In addition, Town staff has also looked to the Essex Centre BIA and the Harrow & Colchester South Chamber of Commerce to learn about additional ways the Town can provide support.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche told staff not to hesitate to ask Council for another meeting next Monday as it pertains to the encroachments of extending business footprints and liquor licenses to help businesses succeed, if it is needed.


Site Plan Control approved for commercial development

A Site Plan Control Approval was passed by Council, which will allow for the development of a commercial warehouse at the corner of County Road 20 and Ferriss Rd in Harrow.

  With this approval, construction will be slated to begin on the 15,000 square foot structure for Classy Caps MFG INC, which will be in addition to its current building.

  Classy Caps MFG. INC. has manufactured a number of unique outdoor solar lighting options for nearly 20 years.

  The proposed warehouse is a pre-engineered steel building to be used strictly for the warehousing of their products. The existing block building will be utilized as an office space and the existing pole barn will be utilized as a warehouse for the repackaging of products.

 

Repeal of Site Plan Control at South Talbot and Highway 3

Council approved the repeal of Site Plan Control on South Talbot, southeast of Highway 3, to allow a parcel of land directly south of McDonald’s to be conveyed to the Ministry of Transportation to facilitate the reconfiguration of South Talbot Road.

  This will help to accommodate heavier traffic volumes when South Talbot Road and South Talbot Road North are connected from an arterial road connecting Victoria Avenue to Maidstone Avenue to compensate for the elimination of the intersection at Victoria and Highway 3.

  This is in anticipation of the construction of the Victoria to North Malden underpass, which will eliminate the ability to exit Highway 3 at Victoria Avenue.

 

Portuguese Club of Harrow seeks tax relief

Essex Council received correspondence from the Portuguese Club of Harrow, seeking a program for property tax forgiveness.

  In their letter, a club representative stated that the approved tax deferral until July 31 would not be sufficient as they would still have to pay the full tax in time, and that, with the cancellation of over 80 percent of its 2020 events, the club’s future would be in jeopardy.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman put forward a motion to reach out to Essex area MPPs, to request that the province look into relief for all area service clubs.

  “Let’s have the whole of Essex County go back to the Province and say ‘we’re the only ones sitting here and everybody else is working,’” Bjorkman said. “Everybody else is getting their money, making their money, except these groups.”

  Mayor Larry Snively added that this was an issue he and the Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche would take before County Council and seek their support at this week’s meeting.

 

Deputy Mayor looks for update on caution signs

Recently, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche asked staff to look into Town-issued caution signs, such as for autism, children at play, and animal crossings. He said there was a near miss with an autistic child on South Talbot, and though staff is preparing a general report on this matter, he hoped this situation could be addressed sooner.

  Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, said he would look into this particular matter and report back to Council.

 

NoM: RE: 50km extends on 3rd Concession to McLean Sideroad

Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion at the June 1 meeting for discussion at Monday’s meeting. This was to have Council consider approving an extension of the 50km speed limit zone on the 3rd Concession to include east of McLean Sideroad to act as a buffer zone.

  She said she raised the issue to get feedback. Speeding is an issue down this road, and noted the OPP has stepped up its presence down there in the past few weeks, which she was happy with. She said this matter can wait until Town staff has completed its road policy report. She withdrew the motion.

  Mayor Larry Snively said speeding has been an issue there, and he has been pushing for radar. He said most of those getting fined on that road for speeding live on that road.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said speeding is an issue on every road. If limits are risen or dropped unfairly, it inspires contempt from drivers because it is viewed as unreasonable.

  Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said he is working on a policy for speed modifications within the Town of Essex, which will help address matters like this. One of the key factors is ensuring the speed is appropriate for the road.

 

NoM: Evaluation of ELK Energy

Councillor Sherry Body presented a Notice of Motion to be discussed at the July 6 meeting. It will ask Council to designate funds from the 2021 budget process to hire a consultant to evaluate ELK Energy, as it is a town asset.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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