Search
  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Town Council meeting notes - Monday, September 21, 2020

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Council will host hybrid meetings in the future

Essex Council voted to move to a hybrid system to host meetings in the future, selecting option three of the possibilities administration presented. This will include continuing to use the Zoom method of hosting meetings online with some staff and Council members in the Council Chambers, with the idea of bringing everyone in gradually.

  Delegates and viewership would be conducted from home. Special meetings will continue to be held using Zoom.

  Option three include obtaining 360-degree cameras, integrated mic and speaker that works with Zoom, and active speaker view. The Town Clerk will utilize Zoom for delegates, publish the agenda online, and will stream to YouTube.

  It is estimated this will cost around $3000.

  Jack Barron, Manager of Information Technology, noted the goal is to produce productive, live meetings to ensure transparency to the public.

  Before Council voted, Barron gave an overview of findings and options. He noted he and a handful of fellow staff members brainstormed as a team to come up with ideas.

  Before the pandemic, he said all staff and Council members convened at the Essex County Civic and Education building to host regular meetings. Council meetings were filmed and were posted online around 48hours after the meeting. This method was minimal work for staff and was easy to manage and maintain, he said.

  After the pandemic began, meetings were switched online. Zoom, he said, is easy to maintain and manage for staff. The con, he added, is there is no in-person component.

  He recommended the hybrid form of regular meetings to commence on October 5.

  Chris Nepszy, CAO, said it has been a long road to solve this issue. It was not a “plug and play” solution, especially when trying to keep meetings live. A few trial tests have been done, which he said the last one was successful.

  Nepszy said this option could be permanent if Council chooses.

  Before the pandemic, it cost around $250, plus HST, per meeting to rent the Council Chambers, plus $635, plus HST, for the video streaming. The Town budgets for this, based on 21 meetings per year.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche does not want to put anyone under more stress or increase their chances of catching COVID, he wanted an option for Councillors who do not want to meet in person yet.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen liked Option 3, and noted the Council Chambers is large, which would work well for social distancing. He doesn’t think the Town can be run virtually forever. The hybrid model could be considered for some wanting to stay home.

  During the meeting, Nepszy said he would no longer be providing a verbal update about Town business and COVID, but operations would come through regular reports as needed. Councillor Sherry Bondy said she does like the verbal updates, and was sad to see that go.

Council approves two new billboards

Essex Council has approved the construction of two new fixed billboards on agricultural lands on busy thoroughfares within the municipality.

  By-law 1946 will allow for the construction of the two billboards by third party company DB Media, with one at County Road 8, near Malden Road, as well as County Road 20, near McCormick Road.

  These signs will be of a traditional, non-electronic format, and must not exceed 2.5-metres in height, five-metres in width, with a maximum height of five-metres above the ground. The signs must also advertise a single business, organization, event, or activity within the Town of Essex, or serving the local community.

  To date, 12 locations have been approved for billboard placement, and 10 such signs have been constructed along county roads and highways within the Town of Essex.

Policy for Vulnerable Children Warning Signage passed, with revisions

At the July 6 meeting, Council directed Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, to draft a policy regarding vulnerable children and children at play signage.

  At that meeting, administration had recommended Council authorize and direct the Infrastructure Services Department to no longer install signage indicating vulnerable children or children at play in the Town of Essex. It was also suggested that Council authorizes the removal of the existing signs when the existing signs fall into disrepair or when the child it serves reaches the age of majority or moves from the area.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche was one of the Council members who was not in favour of administration’s recommendation, as he believed there is a value in having these signs up.

  At Monday’s meeting, Girard presented the drafted policy and application for initiating the signs. He added the Town will try its best to track signs. In the draft policy, it was recommended applicants complete an application form, provide a physician’s statement identifying the extent of the disability, and concurrence would be needed from the parents to note their understanding that the sign will only remain in place for five-years. In the draft policy, it was recommended the sign be removed when the child reaches the age of 13-years.

  Parents will also have to acknowledge in writing their understanding that the sign is no guarantee of their child’s safety and that they remain responsible for the monitoring of their child’s activities. Parents will also have to notify the Town in a timely manner of any positive changes in their child’s impairments.

  Meloche said there will be a number of residents happy to see this report.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said she understands the needs of the doctor’s note to install the sign, but really didn’t think the Town needs to know details of the extent of any disability. She said that made her a little uncomfortable. She said she thinks the age of 13 is a little low. Once, they turn 14, vulnerabilities do not magically go away. She wanted to see the age raised to 16.  

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen feared the program could be abused if specifics are not required.

  Verbeek agreed with Bondy there are some that need these signs, and there is not a magic age when they are no longer needed. She believes an age limit should not be included as signs will be addressed every five-years, anyway.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman made a motion to receive the report and adopt the policy, with the amendment that the doctor’s note would only be to confirm the disability and the nature of the sign to be accommodated. The stated age was also moved to the age of 16, subject to extensions when required, with discretion given to Director of Infrastructure.   

  Motion carried.  

Part of this noted that “Children at Play’ signs will only be installed within community areas, such as parks, schools, and other institutions that have a main purpose to provide services for children, as recommended in the Ontario Traffic Manual.

  Councillor Bondy believes some residents will be sad they can not get “Caution Children at Play signs,” but she agrees with the recommendation.

Fire Station #2 project awarded, budget increased

Council awarded the Request for Tender for Construction of the new Fire Station 2 to Bear Construction and Engineering Inc., in the total amount of $3,003,446.40, and also approved a total budget amount of $3,399,031.

  Bear Construction submitted the lowest bid on the project.

  The project was previously approved Capital Budget amount of $2,689,849, and the remaining unfunded balance of $709,182 will be funded through long term debt.

  Fire Chief Rick Arnel said a bunch of items were removed to try and get the new fire hall into budget.

  For the new site, Essex Fire & Rescue was required to grade and build a swale and raise the property over 1.3m as it has to be accessible in case of a disaster, across the whole three acres. “We want to make sure we can get in there if there is a one in one-hundred-year storm,” he said.

  Prevention of erosion had to be considered and roof anchors needed to be added. Wood, asphalt, and steel prices have gone up.

  All these factors contributed to the higher cost.

  He said it will take seven months to complete the building.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen hopes the project can get the fill at no cost. Arnel said once the contract is signed, soil has to be tested and they will use free fill if they can find some.

  In the Report to Council, it notes in 2016, Stephenson Engineering Ltd. completed a facility review and identified that the existing Fire Station #2 in Gesto, with its current size and layout, does not meet the current needs of fire and rescue services for a variety of reasons.

  The following year, Town Council approved the purchase of property at the intersection of County Road 15 and North Malden for the new fire hall, as another report highlighted a better location was needed to improve response times.

 Additional funding approved for bridge rehabilitation

Council awarded municipal engineering services to RC Spencer Associates Inc. for bridge rehabilitation projects at several sites within the Town of Essex in the amount of $50,371.20.

  Since this is in excess of $10,000 over the approved 2020 Capital Budget of $40,000 for Various Bridges and Culverts from the Town’s Asset Management Lifecycle Reserve, authorization from Council was required for the approval.

  This will have site rehabilitation at three structures within the Town of Essex, including a concrete rigid frame structure at South Malden Road and Mole Side Road, a concrete culvert at Walker Side Road and North Malden Road, and bridge rehabilitation at the 3rd Concession Road.

 Site zoning amendment approved in Colchester

Council approved a site zoning amendment on Poplar Bluff Drive in Colchester, allowing for the construction of a second dwelling unit on an existing property on the street.

  A site zoning amendment is required for the project, as within current R1.1 residential zoning, an accessory building is only permitted if limited to one storey with a total gross floor area of 750 square feet, and a second dwelling unit only being permitted within an existing single attached dwelling.

  This approval comes after a special meeting on the matter on September 8, where the discussion of allowing for similar zoning amendments in the future would go a long way in the creation of additional affordable housing options for individuals and families across Essex.

  With this approval, the construction of a 1120 square foot accessory building with a secondary storey will be permitted to accommodate the property’s existing single dwelling unit.

 State of broadband in Essex

Essex Council received a report regarding the state of current broadband internet service across the municipality, and the challenges in developing new internet infrastructure across Essex.

  In the presentation, it was noted that Essex’s large geographic area and various population centres and densities make it difficult to provide consistent internet service for all residents of the municipality.

  While most residents in the town’s urban centres of Essex, Harrow, Colchester, and McGregor have access to broadband internet in the range of 25 to 50 megabits a second, residents in the large rural section of the municipality have much less reliable internet speeds, sometime in the range of 1 to 5 megabits a second.

  “The issue really lies with outside of the urban centres, those rural pockets, where there can be a distance of more than one kilometre between neighbours,” Essex’s Economic Development Officer, Nelson Silveira, explained.

  To assist in bridging this urban to rural digital divide, current internet infrastructure in the Town of Essex would require upgrades with new infrastructure being required to be built in some areas.

This would require time and financial resources and a collective effort from all levels of government, the internet industry, stakeholders, and partners.

  In July, Administration met with several local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to gather more information on these challenges, and how to address some technical solutions to address internet issues with more rural residents.

  These included the municipality leveraging existing assets (municipal property, roads, and facilities) to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure by ISPs in these rural areas, as well as the town and ISPs making a more concentrated effort to improve connectivity in underserved areas, as opposed to further investment in areas that are already served and meet the CRTC target.

  Essex will continue to work with local ISPs on potential broadband expansion projects, as well as seek additional funding from the provincial and federal government in seeking cost-effective internet access for residents.

Winter salt awarded to K + S Windsor Salt

Council awarded a request for tender to K + S Windsor Salt Limited in the amount of $424,850 to provide salt for the 2020-21 winter season.

  This is based on an estimated quantity of 5000 tonnes of salt required for winter road de-icing.

  In general, winter control budgets are based on a three to five year rolling average in attempts to predict upcoming expenditures. The 2020 operating budget for Winter Control Materials is $260,000.

  Due to the uncontrollable nature of winter storm events, in any given year, the Town may fall below or exceed this average, which will be funded from contingency reserves earmarked for Winter Control. 

NoM: Councillors feel five year roads plan would not work

At the September 8 meeting, Councillor Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion that Council give direction to Administration to prepare a five-year roads plan for Council discussions, public transparency, and the budgeting process.

  It was brought forward for discussion on Monday evening.

  As the leadership of Town, Council needs to follow through with that she said. Roads are a big deal, and residents want clarity.

  Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, said many factors come into play when scheduling road work and other infrastructure in the ground. The Town has to work with the County to ensure there are no conflicts, and ensure each Ward in the municipality is awarded road work. Traffic and vehicle use are also taken into consideration.

  There is not a lot of room for flexibility when financing roads. The roads budget is quite limited. He said a road’s plan demands a lot of Council.

  One hiccup can change the entire plan, he added.

  Girard said what really needs to be done is focus on the priority, which is done on a daily basis. Administration considers things like constructions and rehabilitation to protect assets.

  When Council and the public receive a road plan, because there is not much flexibility, it gives the perception a road may be done, but it may get bump several years into the future.

  Councillor Joe Garon said maybe a five-year plan could be difficult to achieve, but if Council has knowledge of roads, which ones need infrastructure or have different needs, it would be beneficial. When talking to residents, Council may not know the road needs. He said he would definitely like to have an idea of what roads need to be done and what their needs are.

  Councillor Morley Bowman said the plan sounds great in theory, but it does not work. He said Fairview Avenue started eight-years later than it was suppose to, for example. Council takes flack from residents when those projects do not get done. Funding from upper tiers of government also can dictate which roads are selected.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said there use to be maps of roads in Essex, and the colour code offered a good descriptor to allow Council to explain to residents why certain roads were done over another. He asked if that map was still at Town Hall and if it has been updated.

  Girard said he has not seen the map he is talking about, he said it does provide Council some kind of idea of conditions and it can be located down at the municipal building.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen added future Councils can not be bound to a plan created by past Councils. He does not think a roads plan should be tried. He said the current wish list works perfectly.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said there are pros and cons to having a plan. Budgets give a general direction as to where you are going. He tries to push to get gravel roads tar and chipped. He said at one point he wanted a ten-year plan to tar and ship those gravel roads. Though that timeframe has passed, there are still roads that need to be done. And, there were residents who were upset because their road had not been treated as planned.

  Bondy wanted to know if in 2021 it would be a lump summary for roads in the budget.

  It was noted that imminent roads would be included, but moving beyond that, it becomes a lump sum. The details of the lump sum, there is one for surface treatment, there is lump sum for shave and pave.

Happy with having the discussion, Bondy removed her Notice of Motion.

 NoM: Emancipation Day in Essex

At the September 8 Council meting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion to ask Council to consider recognizing August 1 as Emancipation Day in the Town of Essex.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said Emancipation Day is recognized by the Country and Province of Ontario, and the first Emancipation Day parade was held in Windsor. He was in favour of the motion.

  Motion carried.

 Town to explore school bus cameras

Brought forward as a Notice of Motion by Councillor Kim Verbeek during the September 8 meeting, town Administration will now explore the feasibility of installing cameras on select school bus stop signs, in an attempt to penalize drivers who pass the buses while their stop arms are engaged.

  “I can see that there’s a lot of pieces to be put in place,” Verbeek said. “However, there’ll be long term benefits if we do look at this. Every step we take to lessen any risk to our children, is a good step.”

  This comes as the Province will indroduce a new regulatory framework, which sets out evidentiary rules to govern school bus stop arm camera programs.

  Municipalities who choose to implement school bus stop arm camera programs will be able to use evidence from camera systems in court without requiring a witness to introduce that evidence.

  Verbeek explained one municipality that started this project with just two bus cameras, paid for the project entirely with fines collected from their use.

  Mayor Larry Snively agreed that the cameras should be installed on the buses for safety, but that the potential costs shouldn’t be on the Town.

  “If they want cameras on their buses, I believe that’s the way it should be,” Snively said. “I do agree on safety, but I don’t think it should be downloaded to our municipality.”

  Council voted to direct Administration to undertake a feasibility study on the matter, and return with the findings to Council at a later date.

 NoM: to be discussed at the October 5 meeting

• Councillor Bjorkman will ask Council to consider directing administration to review the Town’s noise bylaw, specifically to the use of bird bangers in agricultural zoned areas, and to use Best Management Practices outlined in the Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA)1998 for reference.

  • Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche will ask Council to consider directing administration to investigate the feasibility of potentially partnering with Amherstburg with the respect of operations and ownership of the McGregor sanitary system.

Council tabled decision to pass sign bylaw

When passing bylaws, a majority Council vote tabled the decision on By-law Number 1950, being a By-law regulating the erection of signs in the Town of Essex.

  This issue was spoken about extensively at the previous Council meeting as it relates to CREW winery and its sign.

Councillor Sherry Bondy had concerns with the sign being illuminated for the duration of events, which could be up to 11pm at the winery. The By-law, she said, indicated the sign could be left on during business hours. She wondered if Council would consider amending that. She also had concerns with controlling the brightness of the sign.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development, said it is hard to measure brightness, but, through the By-law, she tried to limit the impact to surrounding properties by not allowing the sign to be operated during the middle of the night.

  Bondy also questioned how the sign height was being measured. As the By-law applies to everyone with a sign in the municipality, Councillor Joe Garon wondered if it was measured starting from the grade or if a berm could be used to prop it up higher.

   Garon said he had concerns with the By-law as it was written because some of the language did not seem to jive with what he believed the intent of the motion was at the previous Council meeting. One of the concerns he has was he thought the intent was to allow one line of illuminated letters, but the By-law seemed to allow more.

  CREW owner Bernard Gorski was allowed to speak at the meeting and noted he planned to use up to two or three lines.

  He said he has a way to control the illumination, and found the brightness “offensive” when it was at full power. He does not want to offend neighbours with the brightness.

  Tabling the By-law will allow for the wording to be looked at again.  

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • issuu