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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council notes - Monday, February 7, 2022

by Sylene Argent

Photo courtesy of the Town of Essex

Essex welcomes 11 new firefighters

Essex Fire Chief Rick Arnel was thrilled to take the opportunity to welcome 11 new probationary recruits to Essex Fire & Rescue and congratulate them on their successful completion of training.

  “Tonight, I am very happy to be able to introduce our newest fire recruits, who have been promoted to probationary firefighters,” Arnel said, adding each of the new recruits received their badges, an Essex Fire Coin, and a special coin that symbolizes supporting easier access to mental health and well-being.

  “Their journey began March 1 of 2021. They have endured and overcome several challenges to get to this point in their career. With the COVID pandemic and delays in receiving their issued turn-out gear, this is the second last step in the process. They will move on to be evaluated by their peers over the next several months, and they are scheduled to write their provincial examinations to become certified firefighters on April 30.”

  He thanked all of the recruits for their dedication to the service. “Together, we are strong, but only when we hold each other up,” Arnel said.

  The new recruits include: Adam Mitchell and Kevin Sinn for Station # 1; Cole Freeman, Angela Lang, Dennis Lang, Austin Power-Wagenaar, and Kyle Vermast for Station # 2; and Jared Burns, Alex Dunmore, Daniel (D.J.) Lacey, and Kyle Renaud for Essex # Station 3.

  “We are very pleased to have these 11 as part of our Essex team. We look forward to working with them,” CAO Doug Sweet said.

Council approached about affordable housing

Colchester Resident Dave Mota approached Council regarding affordable housing.

  He said many individuals are struggling and facing complex pathways to secure housing and live a more stable life.

  Mota said he is an advocate for homelessness and affordable housing. He has volunteered to distribute food, clothing, and other basic living necessities to people who are homeless or live in severe poverty. In addition, he has hosted rallies on the matter in the recent past and plans to host a sleep out this month in front of the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation to rally for more affordable housing and emergency shelters.

  Through his efforts, “I have learned how a little misfortune results in a downward spiral for so many,” Mota said, adding homelessness can occur due to many factors, including abuse, loss of employment, unmanageable living expenses, mental illness, or issues with addictions.

  He said COVID has compounded these challenges. He said it is difficult to access emergency shelter services, which he said there is a lack of in Essex County.

  Possible solutions, Mota said, include modular dwellings that can be built by a company in Harrow. He suggested streamlining the process for this. He also suggested more zoning options to help combat homelessness, such as for residential second dwellings or second income. Modular homes could quickly become a solution for additional dwellings. He also suggested making it easy to view property eligibility for potential second dwellings, such as through a mapping website. In addition, he also suggested land be leased for modular dwelling parks, and create a land trust.

  Benefits, he said, include increasing tax revenue, conserve land, economic spinoffs, and existing infrastructure are already in place in some locations, he said.

  He suggested a group – including input from the community, Councillors, residents, and business owners – could determine the strategy to expedite an affordable housing plan. A task force could look at timelines and short and long-term goals to help solve the affordable housing crisis.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said affordable housing is a real issue, and the Town has perused allowing secondary dwelling units in certain areas. One of the things that needs to be done is define affordable housing. He liked the idea of finding ways to get secondary dwelling units into areas where they can be added.   

  Councillor Morley Bowman suggested giving the presentation to the Town’s Planning Department to see if there are any comments, ideas, or recommendations. He would like the department to come back to the table with those ideas in the near future. Council supported this motion unanimously.

  Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, said she is happy to look at the issue and noted the Planning Department is already planning on bringing a report forward that will include ideas behind obtainable housing. The availability of land is something she said needs to be talked about, in addition to efficiency of new housing construction, affordability of construction, and flexibility of providing options in Essex.  

  The Planning Department, she said, wants to talk about tiny home incentives, opening up zoning, possibly allowing first floor dwelling units in commercial areas, infill development, and secondary dwelling unit policies.

  Chadwick liked Mota’s mapping idea and will speak about it with those who work on the GIS team for the Town.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said everything is becoming unattainable, including housing, gas, and groceries. She suspects that it will get worse. She believes the Town needs to look at policies, and have a meeting on the matter to come up with a strategy.

  Bowman added the real issue is how to make it economically feasible to move forward with development. All three levels of government need to collaborate on the matter.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said red tape needs to be removed for housing projects. Council has done a great job in the past three-years in getting construction going. But, there are still projects on the sidelines, due to matters like studies that need to be conducted.

Council appoints engineer to complete 2022 bridge and culvert inspections

Council appointed Keystone Bridge Management Corporation to provide engineering services to complete the 2022 inspections of structures within the Town of Essex.

  The Report to Council on the matter notes The Town of Essex has 97 structures; 58 bridges and 39 culverts. The Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act requires that these structures be inspected every two-years under the direction of a professional engineer using the Ministry’s Ontario Structure Inspection Manual (OSIM).

  The Report to Council continues that Keystone’s fee for the 2022 inspections of bridges and culverts within the Town is $37,101.70, including applicable HST. The Town’s 2022 Operational Budget currently allocates $40,000 for these inspections.

2021 engineering services for bridge replacement/rehabilitation awarded

Council awarded the engineering services for bridge rehabilitation to RC Spencer Associates Inc., in the amount of $61,152.67, and further approved the additional funding of $11,152.67 above the approved 2022 Capital Budget of $50,000 for engineering for various bridges and culverts from the Town’s Asset Management Lifecycle Reserve to cover the shortage.

Colchester Harbour operating agreement renewed

Council approved By-Law Number 2121, to renew the operating agreement of the Colchester Harbour with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans under the same terms and conditions for an additional five-years, commencing February 1, 2022. Council also passed Bylaw 2121.

  In the Report to Council, it notes the Town has been in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to operate the Colchester Harbour ever since the Municipality was incorporated, and even prior when it was under the operation of Colchester South Township.

  The rent is $500, plus taxes, per annum or 20 percent of Gross Revenue plus taxes, whichever is the higher amount. The past fees paid as per the agreement were $28,086 in 2018, $27,194 in 2019, and $21,307 in 2020.

  It is too bad Essex cannot get the federal government to bring the Harbour up to date and give it to the Town to operate, Councillor Morley Bowman said, adding it would be great to own it, but the Town would like to own it when it is fixed up to where it should be. In the meantime, this is the best option.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the issue is basically federal funding. Two-years ago, an assessment was completed on the Harbour, which noted around $6m was needed to get the Harbour updated. The DFO does not have the funding, but is willing to sell it to the Town as is for $1.

Essex to submit application to Canada Community Revitalization Fund

for Essex Centre for the Sport Field

Council approved submitting an application to the Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF) for the development of a portion of Phase 1 of the new Essex Centre Sport Fields.

  Council further motioned that should the Town of Essex be successful in receiving the maximum of 75 percent of all eligible Canada Community Revitalization Fund costs submitted, up to a maximum of $750,000 of the total Phase 1A project, the Town of Essex confirmed funding for the remaining $318,899 of the total Phase 1A project cost through the General Contingency Reserve.

  The budget cost of phase 1A is $1,068,899.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the total cost for the whole project in 2019 was $20.7M. Administration has continued to apply for grants, but has been unsuccessful to date. Administration worked with the plan designer to create a phase-in approach.

  In the Report to Council, it notes the Town of Essex has been exploring land options to be able to accommodate the outdoor sport field shortage in Essex Centre. Several of the main user groups have presented to Essex Council in the past, requesting that the Town create additional fields to accommodate their current and future needs.

  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. In January 2022, Administration was notified that the Town’s application was being reviewed but confirmation was required that the remaining funds for Phase 1 were confirmed.

  If the Town of Essex is successful in receiving funding, work for Phase 1A would need to be completed by March 31, 2023. The fields would not be able to be used until the fall of 2023 or spring of 2024 to give the grass time to be ready for regular play.

  Phase 1A, Sweet said, includes adding a bridge culvert for entrance and exit, a gravel road to the gravel parking lot, and four senior soccer fields.  


Essex Fire 2021 Annual Review

Essex Fire Chief Rick Arnel provided Council with a 2021 annual review, which Council received.

  Arnel noted the document provides some of the highlights of what the values and principals are. It also includes a list of the names of firefighters. “We have a wonderful team here in Essex and they do a fantastic job for us,” he said.

  In 2021, Essex Fire & Rescue did not do as much public education as it has in the past, due to COVID. Call volume in 2021 was similar to the year prior, Arnel noted, which bounces between 320 and 350 annually.

  In the report, it noted crews were dispatched 332 times in 2021, with 90 being false fire calls, 25 rescues, 35 medical incidents, and 26 property fires/explosions.

  He said there was a large increase in false alarms in 2021. The false alarms happen through a variety of reasons.

  2021 has been a demanding, but rewarding year, Arnel said. “I am proud of each and every one of our firefighters for what they have accomplished. Together, we worked hard to improve fire safety in Essex for residents, businesses, and visitors.”

Arnel took the opportunity to thank each member of Essex Fire & Rescue for their courageous, compassionate, and dedicated service to the community.

Ice rental/floor rate increase approved

Council received the report, “Ice Rental/Floor Rate Increase Starting 2022-2023 Season” and further approved a 1.5 percent rate increase for all ice rentals beginning August 1, 2022.

   The Report to Council notes the Town of Essex has been operating the Essex Centre Sports Complex and the Harrow and Colchester South Community Centre with no change to the user fees since 2012.


Additional funds for Harbour gate requested

Council approved an additional $8,840.83 from the Parks and Recreation Building and Equipment Reserve to install gates and FOBs at each Colchester dock entrance.

  In the Report to Council, it noted that during the 2021 budget deliberations, Council approved that Parks and Facilities install controlled access gates at the entrance to each dock at the Colchester Harbour to increase security of the seasonal boats and prevent unauthorized people from walking in those areas.

  The Town of Essex approved $40,000 in the capital budget. Quotes were received for three different aspects of the project, including gate fabrication, FOB access installation, and electrical installation. The cumulative price of the three components totals $48,840.83 which leaves a shortfall of $8,840.83, the Report to Council continues.

Council receives Community Improvement Plan 2021 annual summary

Council received Economic Development’s report, “Community Improvement Plan (CIP)-Annual Summary 2021,” and further approved the transfer of $30,901.38 from the Harrow and Colchester CIP budget to fund pending applications through the Essex CIP program for the December 31, 2021 year end.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, said there was quite the rush for businesses to take advantage of the CIP programs, which are now completed in Harrow and Essex Centre.

  Instead, funds from the Essex Centre and Harrow CIP programs will go towards the streetscape projects in both project areas. The Colchester & County Road 50 CIP Program will expire in 2027 and has an approved budget of $50,000.00 in 2022.

  Moving ahead into 2022, Chadwick said staff see a lot of potential in businesses taking advantage of the Colchester/County Road 50 CIP program. Staff will continue to bring forward quarterly reports on that.

  The report totals $130,901.38 for nine projects through the Essex Centre Community Improvement Plan projects supported in 2021 that have either received CIP funding in 2021 or are pending approval based on the reallocation of funds from the Harrow and Colchester/CR50 CIP 2021 approved budget.


Meloche provides update regarding E.L.K. Energy

Mayor Richard Meloche updated Council on a meeting he, when he was still Deputy Mayor, and former Mayor Larry Snively had with Kingsville’s Mayor Nelson Santos and Deputy Mayor Gord Queen regarding E.L.K. Energy.

  Meloche said the meeting was also held with Essex’s and Kingsville’s CAOs. “We had an open discussion about issues Kingsville has heard from [its] residents and staff,” Meloche said.

  With Essex being the major shareholder, Meloche said he and Snively thought they should reach out, after Kingsville issued a letter to Essex on the matter.

  Meloche said they set out to see if there was something Essex could do as a town. During the meeting, Meloche said Kingsville was made aware of a meeting Essex had with Hydro One with regards to outages and that another meeting was to be held.

  One of the major issues Kingsville presented was with customer service from E.L.K. Energy, Meloche noted. Other issues had to do with tree trimming, communication with residents on issues, such as power outages or work to take place on streets, and lack of communication with wait times to developers on equipment, such as transformers.

  Kingsville noted it felt E.L.K. did not take ownership if contractors were used, and provided examples to pass along.  

  “Everyone agreed on communication and customer services need to be improved,” Meloche said. Currently, if a resident is not happy with customer service at E.L.K., they would contact the E.L.K. through its website.

  Concerns, he added, were also noted that E.L.K. Board Members are not listed on the utility’s website.

  “We did pass these communications along to E.L.K.,” Meloche said.

  CAO Doug Sweet will look to see if Essex has a road use agreement with E.L.K., as they wanted to see if one could be created between the utility and the three municipalities it serves: Essex, Kingsville, and Lakeshore.

  E.L.K. this year, in response to the Kingsville service area customers, will initiate a pilot project with small fault indicator systems to assist operations and monitor the distribution system, and provide quicker recovery times from outages.

  “We are hoping, over time, some of these issues can be resolved,” Meloche said.


NoM to be discussed on February 22

The following Notices of Motion will be brought forward for Council’s consideration at the February 22, 2022 Regular Council Meeting.

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask that Council give direction to Administration to explore and report back the cost of rehabilitating County Road 20, from Walnut Street easterly to the County of Essex Connecting Link limit in the Community of Harrow, and that the County of Essex be consulted on completing this in partnership under the connecting link agreement.

• Councillor Kim Verbeek will ask Council to have a discussion about returning to in-person meetings.

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