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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council Notes for Tuesday, May 22

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Majority vote keeps Fire Department’s assessment away from council eyes

Cost of the report to come forward

  At the Town of Essex Council meeting held on Tuesday, May 22, a majority Council vote defeated a motion requesting that upon receipt of the executive summary of the Workplace Assessment of Essex Fire & Rescue Services, Council members be provided the opportunity to review the original document in its entirety prior to implementation of any proposed changes or actions. The motion continued that, prior to viewing the document, Council members would have to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Councillor Ron Rogers put forward the motion at the April 3 regular meeting. At that time, his motion was deferred until administration and Council could meet in-camera to discuss the matter. It was brought back to the table last week.

  Last Tuesday, after administration and Council had met in-camera to discuss the matter, the motion was defeated with a 4-3 vote. Councillors Ron Rogers, Sherry Bondy, and Randy Voakes voted in favour, and Councillor Larry Snively, Councillor Steve Bjorkman, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, and Mayor Ron McDermott opposed.

   Councillor Rogers said his intent was that if any Councillor want to review the report, it should be available to them without censorship. “I don’t know I’d want to see it at this point in time, but I should have the option,” he said.

  Councillor Bjorkman was against allowing Council members to view the document in its entirety. He said firefighters and staff of the department were told whatever they submitted to the review would be for the eyes of the CAO and the consultant who conducted the assessment only. He said after the fall election, there may be some current members of Council no longer at the table.

  Deputy Mayor Meloche said he talked to a number of firefighters who asked about confidentiality before they took part in the review.

  “If there is information we think is missing, that’s a whole other story,” Meloche said, who noted he was happy to not see the report.

  Councillor Randy Voakes said it was his intent to see the report for one reason, seeing is believing. He said that is not to say administration did not do a great job on the file. “I want to read the report myself and come to my own conclusions,” he said.

  Later in the meeting, Voakes brought forward a Notice of Motion he presented at the May 7 meeting, that Council be provided the cost for the Essex Fire & Rescue review.

  Hunter said she will be able to provide that information at the next meeting. She is just waiting for a couple of smaller, outstanding invoices to come forward first. 

Community Heritage Medal

The University of Windsor History Department recognized the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee (EMHC) during a special public presentation for the members’ continued efforts to preserve and celebrate local history within the town.

  Dr. Robert Nelson, the Head of History Department at the University of Windsor, presented the Community Heritage Medal during the Council meeting, and spoke to the importance of public history and its growing impact on academic history departments.

  “Public history is how the rest of the world engages with history,” Nelson explained. “History documentaries, historical films, historical fiction, national museums, but more importantly, on the local level. This is how the public engages with history through plaques, through historical designations, through heritage designations.”

  Nelson explained groups like the EMHC are critical and fundamental for the Town of Essex and its efforts in preserving local heritage, and it is the EMCH’s continued vision the Community Heritage Medal was designed to recognize.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, who is also the EMHC Chairperson, thanked the U of W History Department for the honour, and was thrilled to be recognized for the Committee’s efforts to protect local history.

  “We, as a Council, recognize that heritage is one of our best assets. It’s a draw for both residents and visitors to get out and explore our community,” Meloche said. “It’s also a reminder of those who came before us, those who helped make the Town of Essex what it is today.”

Highway # 3 update

Council receive two correspondences regarding Highway # 3; one from the Minister of Transportation, Kathryn McGarry, and another from Ministry of Transportation’s office of the Regional Director of the west region, Neil Zohorsky.

  The letters provided an update following the County of Essex’s meeting with the Ontario Good Roads association this past February.

  The letter from McGarry said, “Ontario remains committed to finishing our plans to widen Highway 3 between Windsor and Leamington to four lanes. The project from Essex to just west of Leamington is listed in the 2017-2021 Southern Highways Program under Planning for the Future. Funding will be considered in the context of other provincial infrastructure investment priorities.”

  It goes on to read the Ministry is continuing engineering work through the Town of Essex. The updated preliminary design for Highway 3 through the Town of Essex received environmental clearance in January 2017 for a Transportation Environmental Study Report (TESR) addendum to the 2006 study.

  “As a result of the TESR addendum, the ministry agreed that it is mutually beneficial to proceed with the easterly extension of Hanlan Street and entered into an agreement with the town. The town has initiated the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment for the planning of the extension. The extension is proposed as part of the residential development of adjacent lands and will accommodate the redistribution of traffic resulting from the future Highway 3 improvements.”

  In Zohorsky’s letter, it advised traffic growth on Highway # 3 had been below 2 percent over the last 10 years, which is below what they had forecasted in 2006. It further noted the overall collision rate for Highway # 3 remains below the provincial average.

  He noted Ontario remains committed to finishing our plans to widen Highway 3 between Windsor and Leamington to four lanes.The project from Essex to just west of Leamington is listed in the 2017-2021 Southern Highways Program under Planning for the Future.

  It continues the Ministry plans to do work on Highway # 3 from Essex Road 34 to Highway 77 in Leamington. Construction would begin between 2019 and 2021.This work would include resurfacing the highway and does not include widening the highway.

  Mayor McDermott said that this was an issue the Town could not afford to remain idle on.

  “We cannot let this go. It was thought that maybe we should wait until the elections are over. I got support from Mayor McNamara in Tecumseh that now’s the time to go after these three [provincial] leaders in particular,” McDermott said. “Who’s going to do something down here for us people in southwestern Ontario?”

Affordable Housing options

Essex Council received a planning report from Policy Planner Jeff Watson, pertaining to a funding initiative that would stimulate the construction of affordable and special needs housing in the town’s urban centres of Essex Centre, Harrow, Colchester, and McGregor.

  Watson explained the program would give a full rebate of the municipal development fees for the construction of the affordable housing projects built under the Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) Program. The rebate in development charges would be offered specifically to support projects approved under the IAH initiative.

  “We’ve had a couple discussions now on affordable housing, and especially the lack thereof in the Town of Essex,” Watson explained. “We have sort of looked at what possible options are available to encourage affordable construction in the Town.”

  Citing the continued rise in the cost of housing, Watson explained they would take initiative to making affordable housing development attractive to developers by re-zoning land to attract a wide-variety of housing options.

  The rebate on the municipal development charges would be funded through a loan from the Town’s landfill reserve, with the loan principal and interest paid through tax increases associated with each affordable housing development, and a payback period of up to five years.

  “We have carrots, but we don’t have a stick. We can’t force builders to build at a certain price,” Watson explained. “The idea is to leave the door open.”

Several councillors took issue with the idea that the Windsor Housing and Children Services would be the organization that would determine who would have access to living in the affordable housing projects.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he didn’t want to ask the balance of taxpayers to subsidize people moving into town.

  “I don’t want to see the rest of our taxpayers take on additional cost to allow residents from other communities to come in,” Meloche explained. “I don’t think it’s fair for Essex to pay more to subsidized housing to benefit other communities. You can’t keep subsidizing other individuals.”

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said if we have a project in Harrow, our residents are the ones paying to lure developers to the area.

  “We need to look into that to make sure this benefits residents of the Town of Essex,” Bjorkman said.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy took a different opinion, saying this would be closing potential residents out of the community and thought that it would be small-minded to shut the potential project down.

  Town Council voted to table the motion until Windsor Housing could address Council with additional information.

 Development of five single detached dwelling units

Council received a planning report prepared by Policy Planner Jeff Watson regarding the development of five single detached dwelling units by Compound Holdings Harrow on the east side of Levergood Lane, south of County Road 50 in Ward 3.

  Councillor Larry Snively raised concerns regarding the capacity for sewage at the new development, with Director of Infrastructure & Development Chris Nepszy explaining there is plenty of leeway with the system currently in place. A more thorough study to determine capacity will take place next year.

  Council further provisionally adopted a bylaw to enter into a Development Agreement with Compound Holdings Harrow.

Consultant retained for DC background study

Essex Council received the report, “Retention of a Consultant for Development Charges Background Study and Bylaw.”

  Council voted in favour of waiving the requirements for proposals for professional services to award Watson and Associates Economists Ltd., who prepared the 2014 study, the opportunity to prepare an updated development charge background study. In accordance with the Town Procurement Bylaw Number 1043, Council approval is required to waive the requirements for proposals, tenders, and quotations for consulting and professional services, it notes in the Report to Council.

  A Development Charges Background Study and Bylaw must be completed by the Town every five years, as required under the Development Charges Act. The objectives of the Study are to determine if development charges are sufficient to recover capital costs incurred by the Town to service areas of residential and non-residential growth.

Essex Centre library roof replacement

Council received the report “Results of Request for Tender-Roof Replacement/Restoration for Essex Library and Essex Community Centre 2018. It also awarded the roof replacement/restoration for the Essex Library and Essex Community Centre 2018 to Gillett Roofing Inc. in the amount $104,181.88, including applicable taxes.

  $206,000.00 was approved in the 2018 budget for the project.

  In February, the County of Essex announced the Town of Essex has been approved for $75,013 of the allocated funds saved over the course of the near eight-month library strike in 2016 to support 2018 capital projects at the branch.

Report on Erie/King intersection to come forward

Councillor Sherry Bondy said the corner of Erie Road and King Street in Harrow needs to be examined. She brought a Notice of Motion forward at the May 7 Council meeting for Council to consider last Tuesday evening.

  Chris Nepszy, Director of Infrastructure & Development, said he could obtain accident records and conduct traffic counts, and, if Council wishes, to have an engineer look at the intersection.

  Council moved to have administration come back with a report on the matter. 

Outdoor Café in Downtown Essex

Councillor Randy Voakes put forward a Notice of Motion that Council discuss opportunities to establish outdoor cafes in Essex Centre, in a possible partnership with existing restaurants.

   Policy Planner Jeff Watson said he would like to work with the Essex Centre BIA and members of the administration on the issue, and report back to Council.


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