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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex County Council notes for Wednesday, March 16

by Sylene Argent

County gets update on WEOHT, approves ownership for a Mobile High Priority Community Clinic vehicle

Members of Essex County Council were introduced to the Chairpersons of the Windsor-Essex Ontario Health Team (WEOHT), EMS Chief Bruce Krauter and Kristen Kennedy, in addition to Claudia den Boer, outgoing Chairperson.

  During the introduction, the Co-Chairpersons provided County Council with information on the recently approved Windsor-Essex Ontario Health Team. den Boer noted the local health team was formally approved by the province on February 10.

  She said members of the WEOHT were able to join Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Deputy Prime Minister, for the official announcement.

  “We are making some tweaks, based on some of the feedback we received from the Ministry, and then COVID hit” den Boer said. “That actually required us to come together as a community in ways we have never really worked together before. I have to say…that has actually helped us to break down some of the barriers and find some new ways to connect with one another as providers across the community. That is really the intent of the Ontario Health Team strategy, to find new ways to do a better job to connect the health system and other partners and to provide a system that is more easily navigable for our community.”

  As a result of the pandemic, she added, the team’s work resulted in a number of communities across the province being disproportionately impacted by COVID, with Windsor-Essex being one, and the last, of 16 identified.

  The WEOHT was encouraged to think of ways in which it could get into specific neighbourhoods, where there were a higher number of cases and positivity rates. The team organized a mobile clinic strategy, and went into those communities to provide vaccinations and testing, in addition to other means of support, such as referrals for mental health care or primary care needs.

  “This was actually a very successful strategy,” den Boer said. “We had numerous community providers [who] came together to support this work.”

  Part of the high-priority community work included with temporary foreign workers, and it will continue to be a priority moving forward.

  These specific neighbours are really in need, den Boer said. It was decided to build on that mobile clinic strategy to continue to provide education, wellness checks, and care.

  “We can bring a number of key supports right into neighbourhoods where populations are more vulnerable and at risk,” she said.

  In the last ten-months, that strategy was submitted to the Ministry, which wanted health teams to increase overall access to primary and preventative care, mental health and addiction services, and access to care in the most appropriate setting. This was in addition to increasing access to surgeries, procedures, and diagnostic services to these communities.

  “We believe it was actually based on this strategy and the success of our work during COVID that the Ministry actually provided us with our approval to go forward,” she said.

  Now that the WEOHT is approved, it will be funded. It has $200,000 to spend from the province before March 31, and $925,000 between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.

  “We will use this to bring a strategy to fruition,” den Boer said, noting the funding cannot be used for direct service care. Because of partnerships created across the community, she suspects there will be a number of in-kind services made available from a number of organizations.

  The WEOHT would like to utilize a large mobile clinic. Without this, it will be limited to whatever permanent locations are available, she commented.

  She wanted approval from County Council to obtain title for the mobile clinic with the funds provided through the High Priority Community Lead Agency from the local branch of the CMHA.

  den Boer Also sought approval that the 2022-2023 Operational costs be fully covered by HPC/OHT funding streams, and the at the 2023-2024 Operational costs be embedded in the OHT budget.

  Essex Mayor Richard Meloche asked when the schedule would be working throughout the County and City.

  Krauter answered that the schedule for the high-priority community work comes from a partnership between Essex-Windsor EMS and Erie Shores Healthcare, which created the Community Response and stabilization Team for COVID. Dates are scheduled and dates can be confirmed through referrals.

  He added the WEOHT has a partnership agreement with over 45 healthcare organizations and primary healthcare physicians. He added that around two-years ago, the LHIN gave way for the birth of Ontario Health and its health teams.

  Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald thanked the team for serving parts of her community that were identified as being in need over the pandemic, including ones focused on serving temporary foreign workers. She said she went to a few of the mobile clinics hosted within her municipality.

  “I saw the interaction with the people. It was amazing, and I was proud to be on the periphery and see it in action,” MacDonald said. “It is invaluable what went on and I think it only bodes well for the future.”

  Later in the meeting, Essex County Council authorized the Clerk and Warden to execute all documents necessary to take ownership and title of a Mobile High Priority Community Clinic vehicle, to be utilized by the High Priority Community Program or partners of the Windsor Essex Ontario Health Team.

  The Report to County Council on the matter notes in 2021, Windsor-Essex County received $1.2 million High Priority Community (HPC) Funding from the Province of Ontario, which was put in place to deliver key healthcare interventions to neighbourhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID across the region.

  A vehicle has been located and is available, is able to be retrofitted, meets the needs of the demographic served, and is quoted to be within the approved surplus amount of the HPC funding.

  A local vendor, MRA Mobile Experiential, was contacted and CMHA is arranging to procure the asset. CMHA follows similar policies and practices as the County of Essex in procuring capital assets, the Report to County Council notes.

  The estimated cost of the mobile clinic is $400,000, including to purchase, retrofit, decal, and license. It has been determined that following a sole source procurement process is appropriate, as this asset is currently available and is a unique configuration and is a specialized piece of equipment.

  The HPC program suggested the title of the vehicle be put in the name of the Corporation of the County of Essex, as an asset of the Corporation, and be used for the services provided by HPC and/or the WEOHT.

  Ongoing costs of maintenance and repairs would be paid for by the County and invoiced to the HPC and/or WEOHT on a full-cost recovery basis.


County supports City’s call for increased support for housing retention policies

County Council supported correspondence from the City of Windsor, calling on senior levels of Government to increase support for housing retention policies, including, but not limited to, the creation of long-term sustainable funding envelopes to increase supply and to promote successful tenancies through increased supports and supportive housing programming.

  Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said he is in favour of affordable housing. He believes the issue needs to be approached differently, as similar resolutions have been supported in the past.  

  “We are not getting anywhere. We are falling behind, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to affordable housing. Market conditions are not helping. Somehow, we need a different approach,” he said.

  Warden Gary McNamara said the issue is front and centre on the minds of those on County Council, as is ensuing affordability there. The County needs to continue to ask for this matter to be improved.


County supports participation in region-wide organics program

County Council moved to advise the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) all Essex County municipalities will participate in a regional solution for the collection and processing of organic waste material from urban settlement areas, at a minimum, as part of the short-term processing contract commencing January 1, 2025 or immediately upon the expiration of a municipality’s existing waste collection contract.

  The Report to County Council notes at the October 20, 2021 meeting, Michelle Bishop, General Manager of EWSWA, was a delegate and provided background information on EWSWA’s Regional Food and Organics Waste Management Project.

  At the time, County Council learned the primary purpose of the project is to comply with Ontario’s Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement, “The Organics Provincial Policy Statement” or “OPPS”), which will require some municipalities in Essex-Windsor to achieve specific reduction and recovery target rates by 2025.

  Locally, the City of Windsor will need to provide curbside collection of food and organic waste to single family dwellings in an urban settlement area and achieve a target rate of reduction of 70 percent. Amherstburg, LaSalle, Leamington, and Tecumseh will need to provide collection through a public drop-off depot or community composting area or through curbside collection of food and organic waste to single family dwellings in an urban settlement area and achieve a target rate of reduction of 50 percent.

  Essex, Kingsville, and Lakeshore will not be required to achieve specific rates of reduction for food and organic waste, based on their populations and population densities.

  Through the work of a consulting firm that looked at the matter, it was suggested all eight communities be part of a regional solution.

  At that meeting, Essex County Council moved to consider a regional approach to the Food and Organics Waste Management Project as it relates to participation from municipalities and report its decision back to the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority no later than December 31, 2021.

  Subsequently, EWSWA’s administration team was directed to schedule presentations at each of the seven County municipalities and at the City of Windsor.

  Following up with those meetings in each regional municipality, the Report to County Council noted, Amherstburg, Lakeshore, LaSalle, Leamington, and Tecumseh have all stated their support for a regional approach to food and organics waste management.

  In addition, Tecumseh Council also provided authorization for participation in a regional program. LaSalle Council also requested the EWSWA, with the County of Essex, begin investigating a comprehensive regional approach for the collection and management of waste, as well as organics and recyclables.

  Further, the Town of Essex resolution did not indicate support for the initiative, just received the presentation provided on the matter. Kingsville noted it did not wish to participate in a short-term service contract.

  Having received correspondence from the local municipalities, Birch said it was up to County Council to determine if it wanted to proceed on the matter as a regional approach or if County Council wanted to pass the information onto the EWSWA on behalf of those who wanted to participate.

  Sandra Zwiers, Director of Finance/Treasurer, said a regional-approach will provide for economies of scale.

  “This is a significant undertaking for the region, and doing it alone is not recommended,” she said, adding savings can be realized with larger participation in the program.

  She said there is a want to incentivize residents to participate in the organics waste program. “If we can link the garbage collection frequency to the organics and recycling frequencies, and perhaps dial-back the garbage collection and dial-up the other two, it will obviously incentivize folks to participate in the programs and source-separate at the residential-level.”

Considering to centralize garbage collection contracts would also have a similar potential for economies of scale, she added.

  With a ban on organics going into the landfill on the horizon, it is believed it would be prudent for all municipalities to participate to ensure any organics solution supports the entire region’s capacity needs, Zwiers said, adding there is concern that leaving some municipalities out exposes those municipalities to capital and operating risks to having to proceed with a standalone solution in the future.

  Zwiers said the regional solution for the organics program is the environmentally right thing to do, and aligns with the County’s energy plan goals.   

  She added County Council has a number of options to consider moving forward. It could take the approach of ‘majority rules’ and send word to the solid waste authority that all municipalities will participate regionally, or suggest support for the municipalities that identified their wish to participate, and set aside the municipalities that currently choose not to. The County could leave the door open for those municipalities opting not to participate, but may change their mind in the years ahead.

  “There is an ability to be flexible,” she said.

  Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald believes the organics program is something all municipalities need to do.

  “I feel strongly this is a really good initiative and it needs to be done as a whole. This will be our legacy for the future,” she said.

  Amherstburg Mayor Marc Bondy agreed with MacDonald. He said it is better for the region. “Together we achieve more.”

  Essex Mayor Richard Meloche said the dollars are allocated to each municipality, and are not County expenses.

  Right now, he said, Essex is not in a position to pay for the amount of funds it was told it would have to pay. It would rather pay it out, and put money away each year until the service is required. He believes the direction to come from Essex Council will be that it will wait and not be a part of it at the beginning.

  When EWSWA General Manager Michelle Bishop approached Essex Council on the matter last November, she noted EWSWA will not know costs until it knows who is participating. She added when consulting firm Tetra Tech was conducting a peer review, it was asked to estimate costs on three alternatives.

  Based on that, for the first year in 2025, the estimate for the Town of Essex for composting at the Regional Landfill is $305,462. Anaerobic digestion at the Landfill would be $443,295. Anaerobic digestion at the Windsor Biosolid Processing Facility would be $630,029. The chart showed the costs increasing per year.

  Bishop added Tetra Tech was also asked to review the EWSWA’s  15-year forecast and estimate the cost of anaerobic digestion at the landfill, assuming a regional solution. In 2025, she said, there is an estimated increase of the EWSWA’s budget of around $7.5 million.

  Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said County Council was trying to incorporate language into a motion that is contrary to language to resolutions received from municipalities that did not want to participate. He wondered if the question that should be asked is if garbage collection should be uploaded to the County first, and then go from there.  


Isolation and Recovery Centre discussion to continue April 6

At the March 2 meeting, Leamington Mayor, Hilda MacDonald, put forward a Notice of Motion that County Council discuss and debate the Isolation Recovery Centre (IRC) – as the City of Windsor will cease responsibility for the operation as of June 30 – and which level of government should apply to the federal government to operate the IRC for the coming year.

  Her resolution notes at least four County municipalities are home to temporary foreign workers.

  MacDonald said she has been in talks with the Ministry of Agriculture, the City of Windsor, and local CAOs on the matter.

  Someone needs to step up, once the City is no longer responsible for the IRC, she said.

  “I don’t believe we have the luxury of time anymore,” she commented, adding funding needs to be applied through the upper or lower tiers of the municipal-level of governance.

  She added all of the funding will come from the federal government, and was approved to the City of Windsor. Since the City no longer wants to offer the resource, it was felt it needs to be taken care of by the partners benefiting the most from its availability.

  “I can’t argue that point,” she said. “We need to move forward on this. They have basically written a manual on guidelines, policies, procedures, and processes, so it isn’t like anyone has to reinvent any kind of a wheel. It is just a matter of some oversight from the County.”

  To wait for a report would put everyone behind on the matter, she noted.

  She doesn’t believe “we are out of the woods yet,” as it pertains to COVID and the need for the IRC.

  She wanted the County of Essex to take over as the applicant for the funding, and go from there.

  Warden Gary McNamara noted the IRC is available. It will still be in the City of Windsor. Hotel operators agreed to maintain the 110 rooms to support the centre moving forward, beyond the date.

  He said the funding is there. It is just a matter of needing a lead for the program. He supported MacDonald’s recommendation.

  CAO Mike Galloway said by the next County Council meeting there could be some resolution of the ongoing operation for the IRC. He requested staff be given the opportunity to continue that discussion and come back with a recommendation on who will continue the operation, funding application, and any other items that will be needed to be taken care of in relation to the IRC.

  MacDonald said she will not sit back and give up on the IRC. She said she would agree to the two weeks Galloway asked for, but is not something she was particularly pleased with.

  Council moved to defer the matter, with a report and recommendation to come forward at the next regular meeting, which will take place April 6.

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