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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex County Council notes for Wednesday, July 21

by Sylene Argent

13.47 percent increase for insurance program

Essex County Council received details regarding the insurance program proposal AON Risk Solutions submitted for the period of June 30, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

  At the County Council meeting on June 16, Council voted to allow the CAO, Mike Galloway, to approve the insurance program, as it was going to overlap before the next County Council meeting.

  Sandra Zwiers, Director of Financial Services/Treasurer, explained a 10 percent increase was added to the 2021 Budget in anticipation of an increase. She said the market was difficult again this year, and getting a resolution for the program was challenging.

  The recommended program renewal, however, came in with an increase of $128,420, or a 13.47 percent, in insurance premiums, as well as additional costs related to increased deductible levels, which will be influenced by the number of claims arising during the program period, Zwiers explained.

  With the increase, the insurance cost will be $1,081,792, plus applicable taxes.

  “The market continues to be a struggle for municipalities, for people who are seeking insurance in general, but particularly for municipalities. Carriers are really continuing to reassess their risk exposure and questioning whether they want to extend coverage to municipalities,” Zwiers said, adding she felt fortunate to bring the insurance plan to County Council.

  She believes the program she presented does meet the needs of the County of Essex.

  Administration will monitor insurance program costs for the balance of 2021 and, if necessary, recommends any deficit be covered by a transfer from the Corporation’s Insurance Contingency Reserve, the Report to County Council notes.

  In 2020, the County’s insurance program cost $953,372, plus applicable taxes. That was a $91,000 increase from the year prior.

  In 2020, the County had around $129M in assets, in 2021 it was just over $130M. For the 2021 program, there was a change in the deductible in property, boiler, and machinery. Previously, it was a $10,000 deductible per incident, this year it was $25,000 deductible.   

  In terms of the General Liability, the composition has slightly changed. Last year there was a $5M primary, $20M first excess layer, and $25M second excess layer. This year, the primary layer stays the same, the first excess layer is now $39M, and the second excess layer is $6M. In total, the County is still being covered for $50M.

  She added to be an attractive client to insurers, the County is being proactive in its higher-risk line of coverage, which is for fleet and cyber.

  Though the County will need to adjust to the 13.47 percent increase, Zwiers said some municipalities are facing 20 percent increases or more.

  County Warden Gary McNamara said the insurance increase issue is not a problem that will go away. He wondered if it would be a good idea to start creating a reserve at budget time for insurance purposes. Zwiers noted there is a reserve set aside for insurance-related exposures. There are funds in it, but it is not necessarily designed for that.

  Zwiers mentioned in the past about the possibility of the regional collaboration for the General Liability and Health Benefits programs. The health benefit review is well underway. The hope, she said, is to finish that program before moving onto the General Liability program.


2021 Federal Gas Tax Allocation approved

Essex County Council approved the 2021 Federal Gas Tax Distribution Schedule and accompanying By-Law.

  The Report to County Council advised of the Federal Gas Tax funds to be received from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the redistribution of these funds to the local municipalities.

  The redistribution is based on an agreement to share Federal Gas Tax funds on an 80/20 percentage basis (local/County), versus the provincially prescribed 50/50 percentage allocation, the Report to Council notes.

  In accordance with cost sharing of the Federal Gas Tax dollars, $6,775,117 of the County’s allocation is being redistributed to the local municipalities, based on the 2016 Census Data

  Sandra Zwiers, Director of Financial Services/Treasurer, explained the Federal Gas Tax was essentially doubled to all municipalities across the province this year.

Essex Windsor EMS Uniform Contract awarded

County Council awarded the Essex Windsor EMS Uniform Contract to Unisync Group Limited for the period from 2021 to 2024, at a base cost of $429,087. There is a possible three-year extension.

  Further, Essex County Council authorized the Warden and the Clerk to execute the agreement on behalf of the Corporation of the County of Essex.

  The Report to County Council notes an RFP for the uniform project was published and there were two submissions that met the criteria. Upon successful completion of the submission evaluation, the submissions were evaluated on online ordering, customer service, and reference engagements. They also supplied uniform articles for a washing evaluation that simulated approximately six-months of use. In addition to a financial evaluation, Unisync Group Limited scored higher.

  The EWEMS Uniform contract provides for a fixed priced three-year term and an optional fixed price extension for an additional three for all uniform items, uniform fittings, and delivery, the Report to County Council notes.

  The contract will allow for a balanced and informed budget decision process for upcoming and future deliberations, the Report to Council adds.

  EWEMS Chief Bruce Krauter noted uniform procurement has transformed over the years and it was decided during the 2021 Budget meetings that the department would benefit from, and become compliant with procurement policy, with the issuance of a uniform RFP.


 Essex Windsor EMS Experience 2020-2021 received

Essex County Council received the report “Essex Windsor EMS Experience 2020-2021” for information.

  EWEMS Chief Bruce Krauter said he provides a similar report every year. This report covered from January 2020 to June 2021, which provided background and information on ambulance call response experience and activity across the Essex-Windsor Region.

  He noted 2018 experienced the highest call volume, at just below 60,000. There was a slow decline in 2019 and 2020, which is mostly attributed to the effectiveness of the Vulnerable Patient Navigator Program and supplemented with COVID-19 impacts, the Report to Council notes.

  2021 is projected to have a continued decrease in ambulance volume, but he said discretion should be taken as the data analyzed is prior to the reopening impacts of COVID-19. He said re-opening impacts are being noticed.

  Municipalities with a projected increase of volume are Amherstburg (4.3%), Kingsville (14.4%), Lakeshore (1.6%), LaSalle (2.9%), Krauter explained based on growth and demographic increases.

  Municipalities with a projected decrease in volume are: Essex (-0.36%), Leamington (-10.36%), Tecumseh (-1.08%), Windsor (-2.69%), and Pelee Island (11.7%).

  He added the five-year average call volume trend for the County of Essex and City of Windsor is an increase of 6.3 percent. The call share between the Municipalities for 2021 is projected as: Windsor (65%), Amherstburg (4%), Essex (4%), Kingsville (5%), Lakeshore (5%), LaSalle (5%), Leamington (6%), and Tecumseh (6%).

  EWEMS and the local hospitals, he said, made great strides in offload delay management, mitigation, and regional delivery of the patients. In 2018 EWEMS began to see a decline in Ambulance Offload Delay (AOD) minutes. This was continuing into 2019, with a slight levelling.

  Staff, he said, are experiencing fatigue from not getting adequate time off over the past 18-months and isolating from family, in some cases.

  In the Report, it notes County partners at the Sun Parlor Home or other County departments within the health care sector, including EWEMS, there has been an increase of resignations and retirements. The reasons for staff departures are multifaceted, such as being closer to family, deciding on retiring early, other job opportunities, professional advancement, or a plain desire to no longer be a team member.

  EWEMS and CUPE are in regular discussion on how to address many staffing issues. In 2020/2021 EWEMS held two recruitment drives and the outcome of each was less than historical results.

  Krauter thanked everyone at EWEMS for stepping up and staff at the County of Essex for their support.

  “We’re not out of this pandemic, but we are focusing on getting there,” Krauter said emotionally, adding EMS has the ability to adapt and change.

  Warden Gary McNamara said there is no doubt 2020 and 2021 have been unprecedented and have put pressures on EMS.

  “We are extremely proud to be here, as community leaders. Sometimes it might not feel like that, we’ve got your back,” McNamara said, adding Krauter’s leadership has been second to none.

County Council adopted an amendment to its By-Law that regulates traffic and parking on highways within the Essex County Roads System to designate a school zone at Gosfield North Public School on a portion of County Road 27 within the Town of Kingsville.

  It was recommended to upgrade the school area signs with school zone signs with an associated reduction in posted speed from 80kph to 60 kph in operation from Monday to Friday 7am to 5pm. Road markings will also be implemented to enhance the school zone area.

  At the County Council meeting of April 7, County Council passed a resolution to add a School Safety Zone at Gosfield North Public School as a traffic calming measure. Kingsville Council had also discussed and endorsed the matter.

  In past discussions on the issue, it was noted that because of the pandemic, many parents were dropping-off and picking-up their children from the school. The school’s internal parking lot was becoming congested with buses coming in and out, and staff and parents were entering and exiting at the same two locations at the same time. Additional cars are waiting on the shoulder of the road, until they are let in to the parking area, which reduces sightlines.

  Jane Mustac, Director of Infrastructure Services, noted staff from her department conducted a review of the roadway to consider daily traffic volume, vehicle operating speed, pedestrian volumes, collision history, and the presence (or lack of) multi-modal amenities to determine areas that would benefit from being designated as a community safety zone or school safety zone.

  Through the study, Mustac told County Council that 85 percent of vehicles travel at a rate of speed that is greater than the posted speed limit on a continuous basis.

  Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen applauded the efforts to address the matter.

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