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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council Notes for Tuesday, May 19

by Sylene Argent

Cassidy asks Council to consider small business support during COVID-19

- Council to send two letters to the province to support small businesses-

  Local fitness centre co-owner and Essex resident, Dave Cassidy, approached Council as a delegate to ask for support for local small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  Cassidy said there are businesses in town that are struggling during the pandemic. He spoke of the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) which provides interest-free loans of up to $40000 to Canadian small businesses and not-for-profits. One of the stipulations to qualify for CEBA is that a business had to have a $20,000 to $1.5M payroll to qualify.

  “There [are not] too many small businesses, potentially, that fit in that. A new business starting out, doesn’t have an opportunity to pay people. They are trying to make ends meet as they move forward. And, then, you get shutdown because of COVID,” he said.

  Cassidy, who is also the President of UNIFOR Local 444, asked if the Town was going to lobby to the government on behalf of local businesses.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek hoped the Town could lobby the government on behalf of local businesses. She was planning to put forward a Notice of Motion on this issue later in the meeting (which she did).

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said it is important for Council to chase down ways to help small businesses run their operations. He said he knows small businesses are finding any way to generate income to pay insurance, taxes, and fees; things that don’t go away for small businesses. A way needs to be used to engage political reps to find those ways, he said.

  He made a motion to request the province create a support program for business that do not qualify for that $40,000 loan. Motion carried.

  Cassidy also asked about municipal tax breaks for small businesses.

  It was noted at the meeting, tax breaks are something that has not been discussed yet at the local decision-making table.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said taxes are too high at all levels, everywhere, all the time.

  “Rather than hand out boutique tax breaks, especially to the private sector – because as a residential tax payer, I am worried right away that I am going to have to make up that difference, which I am opposed to. And I am sure most residents are, but if we can somehow reduce the tax burden on our business class, I think that would be terrific. But not just one time, we should look at lowering it anyway. That’s where all our revenue comes from, that’s where all our jobs come from. If this lockdown has proven anything, it’s the value of the private sector to our society.”

  Cassidy also wondered that since some outdoor recreation facilities are opening with restrictions, if the Town would be prepared to allow his business to run bootcamps outdoors, until the facilities can be open, with social distancing.

  Verbeek added she knows people who use gyms for physical and mental health reasons, and hoped a way could be found to do parking lot bootcamps.

  CAO Chris Nepszy said as far as hosting outdoor bootcamps, he was not sure of the implications and that would have to be explored. “I don’t think it is an easy answer.”

  Doug Sweet, Director of Community Services/Deputy CAO, said he does have sympathy for Cassidy and other fitness clubs, but currently the Province has not lifted restrictions on outdoor or indoor recreation.

  Vander Doelen said he is in favour of opening things up. “I am one of those people who thinks this is probably been historic overreaction; especially in our region, maybe not in other communities, or in Quebec or in Vancouver. But here, it certainly seems to be an overreaction, and I don’t understand why we are still locked down so tightly.”

  He added that the COVID-19 decision is not political, it is, supposedly, a scientific, and absolutely, a medical one. He suggested if Council wants to lobby, it should start with local doctors, nurses, and PSWs, because it is a bottom up opinion in the medical industry that the lockdown has to continue. The premier is getting pressure from the medical side.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy agreed with Vander Doelen in that they may not be able to change the Premier’s mind, but they could ask for more clarification on how some of these forgotten businesses, like a photographer who works from home cannot operate and one in a strip mall can operate in phase one.

  Nepszy said the Town is just following the directions of the Province, as muddy as they can be, to protect residents.

  “If we could open up every business today, we would. Believe me. We are all behind the businesses, 100 percent. We want to see every business open,” Essex Mayor Larry Snively said. “I hate to say, but a lot of the residents really don’t get that. They blame us because there are different activities people can do.”

  He gave an example that happened to him at the Colchester Harbour on Saturday. “I got called everything a human-being can be called down at the Harbour. I was to blame for the Harbour being closed. I was to blame. Council was to blame,” Snively said. He said he explained to this individual the Harbour ramp was closed up until recently because of a Provincial mandate.

  He agreed with Cassidy about an outdoor bootcamp. If Council could lobby the government, hopefully that letter would reach the Province the following day.

  Snively said he would press Essex MP Chris Lewis to see what he can do. “Council is behind you100 percent,” he said to Cassidy.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a motion that Council send a letter to the Provincial Government, asking for permission to allow small businesses, such as boot camps, that operate outdoors, to do so safely with a max of five people practicing social distancing. The letter will also be sent to MP Lewis and MPP Taras Natyshak. 

  Bondy said she understands the vulnerable have to be protected, but people need to be allowed to start moving.

  Motion carried.

  Council also received Cassidy’s report.


Essex’s COVID-19 Update:

-Council prorates boat slips, limits use of payments with credit cards-

Essex’s CAO Chris Nepszy reported to Council on the re-opening of the Colchester Harbour on Saturday, May 16. Around 60 boaters used the ramp on that day. Staff members were located at the top of the hill and were prepared. Everything went well, he added. Directional arrows showed were boaters could walk.

  He looked for direction from Council on prorating the slip season, from May 1 to June 1. This would reduce it from 23 to 19 weeks.

  Council moved that recommendation.

  “It makes sense. It’s practical. It is one of those things you are talking about that [is] something we can do to assist,” Nepszy said.

  On Tuesday, the Province lifted restrictions to allow municipalities to open dog parks, tennis courts, pavilions, and benches. In reaction, staff members for the Town of Essex removed signs from benches. Public washrooms at marinas remain close, until the WECHU gives the go-ahead.

  The Town of Essex is waiting on further direction from the upper levels of government on anything moving forward.

  There are still six staff members on voluntary layoff, until May 29. Nepszy said Town staff members are talking about the layoffs, and how they could be impacted by non-openings of facilities later in the year. As things stay closed longer, the impact to staffing levels are greater, he said. All directors are in discussion about those impacts.

  “Right now, we are operating well,” Nepszy said. “The staff complement we have is functioning great, we are getting things done at a reduced level of service.”

  Building and construction was opened as of Tuesday, Nepszy noted. Facilities are closed, but there are greenlights for permits, which is great for builders.

  “That’s great news in terms of income and the economy that way,” he said.

  He also spoke about the Town looking to reopen, inline with the government’s phasing. “Our objective is to develop realistic timelines and procedures to begin the process of bringing staff back to regular work locations and normal work hours. So, we have the capacity to reopen our administrative facilities and provide that level of service for our residents.”

  The first section of the three-phased approached will be over the next two or three weeks. The goal is to limit staff anxiety and ensure there is an ability to address any concerns, such as physical separation. He added that not all facilities may open at the same time.

  The Town is looking to be inline with Provincial Government. The viability for a start date, could be as early as June 1, Nepszy said.

  Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, said, in preparation of reopening of facilities in relation to COVID-19, the Town of Essex is looking to eliminate the acceptance of credit cards outside recreation services and virtual city hall.

  Around 15 percent of in-person transactions are processed through credit cards, assessed based on total transaction value. There were 882 transactions ran through the Point of Sale machine at the Tax Counter for the February installment due date. Of those, 64 percent were credit card related transactions. Due to current environment, the Town is trying to reduce touchpoints.  

  On the property tax side, the Town has a number of ways individuals can pay, including a drop box, virtual city hall, telephone and online banking, postdated cheques, and regular mail to substitute a payment made at the counter.

  The Town of Essex is also trying to correct the financial impact and burden associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and reducing the costs that have been historically subsidized by the general levy and all residents in the municipality.

  In 2014, he said, the Town was subsidizing credit card usage to about $120,000 per year. The Town changed vendors. In May 2018, there was a $1000 cap on taxation, which dropped the Town’s subsidization to around $60,000 per year. With an increase in building and development, which can also be paid by credit card, the subsidization is sitting at around $80,000 per year that the Town absorbs.

  He was looking for approval for elimination of the use of credit cards for all payments that are processed outside of recreation and virtual city hall. He also wanted to extend the waiver of processing fees for credit card transactions on virtual city hall until December 31, 2020. At that time, staff will report back to Council.

  Morrison added Essex is one of the only lower-tiered municipalities in the region that accepts credit card payments. There is one other, but it is done through a third-party company that charges a transaction fee.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy hoped the Town could push this message to residents.

  Motion carried.

Dock B to be replaced at Colchester Harbour

Council received Parks and Facilities’ Report, “Request for Tender for Colchester Harbour Dock B Replacement,” and further awarded the tender to Kropf Industrial Inc., in the amount of $160,180.42.

  The Report to Council noted Council approved the replacement of Dock B at Colchester Harbour at the amount of $178,059 in the 2020 Capital Budget. Two applications were received for the work. Kropf Industrial Inc. provided the lowest tender application.

  There are currently 17 slips at Dock B. This work will increase the slips to 22 and will have all slips serviced, Director of Community Services/Deputy CAO, Doug Sweet, said.


Maintenance Stone Tender Awarded to Southwestern Sales Corporation

Council received Operations’ report, “Request for Tender -Supply and Application of Maintenance Stone,” and further awarded the tender to Southwestern Sales Corporation Limited, in the amount of $160,000.

  The Report to Council noted, as part of the maintenance program, the Town has to seek a qualified contractor for the supply and application of 100 percent crushed dolomite stone. The stone has to meet Ontario Provincial Standard Specification requirements.

  Two tenders were received, with Southwestern Sales Corporation Limited submitting the lowest bid. 

The Report to Council notes $160,000 was approved in the 2020 Operating Budget for the supply and application of maintenance stone.  Administration will utilize the unit prices to supply a quantity of maintenance stone that does not exceed this amount.


Mayor takes leave from Police Services Board

At the May 7 Essex Police Services Board, Essex Mayor Larry Snively took leave of absence as its Chairperson. In the Minutes for this meeting, it notes the Essex Police Services Board received correspondence from Snively, regarding a leave of absence.

  The Board requested Essex Council approve appointing Vice-Chairperson, Councillor Kim Verbeek, as Chairperson of the Police Services Board in place of the Mayor during his leave of absence. Council also had to select an interim Vice-Chairperson to take on Verbeek’s former role.

  To avoid Conflict of Interest, Snively had Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche take over the regular Council meeting while this matter was discussed.

  On February 26, the OPP announced that its Essex County Major Crime Unit completed its investigation into the 2018 Essex Municipal Election, which related to the reported misuse of proxy voters.

  The OPP commenced an investigation after receiving a complaint in October of 2018 of the alleged improprieties under the Municipal Elections Act of Ontario.

  As a result of the investigation, the OPP charged Snively with the offence of Procuring Persons to Vote in a Municipal Election, when those persons were not entitled to do so, contrary to Section 89(d) of the Municipal Elections Act.

  In March, Snively announced he would resign from this Board until the issue was settled.

  Verbeek nominated Councillor Morley Bowman to fill her former role as Vice-Chairperson of the Board. She said the Province has been moving towards bringing all the local detachments to one Board, which is quite the transition. Bowman, she said, has extensive experience on this Board, having served as Chairperson in the past.

  Councillor Joe Garon seconded the nomination. He said adding someone with experience would be favourable as it would eliminate having to catchup on what is going on with the amalgamation of the local boards.

  Bjorkman nominated Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche. He said the Police Services Boards are being brought together through the County, and he serves on the County Council. So, this move would make sense.

  Meloche did not accept the motion because he said Verbeek put a wise-move forward in nominating Bowman. He did, however, think about taking on the position beforehand.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said there is no rep from the southern-end of the municipality on the Board. When you give experiences to those with experience, no one new can get experience, she said.

  The reason Verbeek wanted to go with experience in this case was because there are all kinds of changes with the amalgamation of Boards, and Bowman would bring valuable past knowledge to this Board.

  Next year, there will likely be one rep from each municipality on the future amalgamated Board, Verbeek noted.

  Councillor Bowman accepted the nomination. Council received the Police Services Board Meeting Minutes and appointed Bowman to the Board.

For more Town of Essex Council news, check out additional articles in this issue of the Essex Free Press.

The remaining notes of the May 19th Essex Council meeting will appear in the June 4th edition of the Essex Free Press.

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