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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Special Council meeting notes for Monday, March 23

by Sylene Argent

Delegation of Authority to the CAO during the COVID-19 emergency

Essex Council voted to delegate authority to the CAO during the COVID-19 emergency. According to the associated Bylaw, this will help protect the health and safety of residents during this pandemic.   “Council considers it to be in the Town’s best interest to delegate its authority during a period when conducting Council meetings may not be feasible, subject to restrictions prescribed by the Municipal Act, 2001 and by this Bylaw,” the Bylaw notes.   The Chief Administrative Officer shall report to the Council all acts taken under the authority of this Bylaw at a Council meeting following the conclusion of the emergency.   Councillor Steve Bjorkman said, in relation to this Bylaw, people may think Council members are putting up their hands and are letting administration run things. That’s not what this delegation is about, he noted.   What is important, he explained, is that in the motion, it states when Council is unable to get together due to an emergency, the CAO is given power to make some decisions for Council that need to be made. There will still be Council meetings, whether that be online or in person. “We are not going to stop making decisions and meeting,” he said.     Councillor Joe Garon added those decisions the CAO could make would be on behalf of Council in an extreme case. The Clerk has to be aware, and the decision has to brought to the attention of the Finance Department if costs are involved, he said.   A for instance Garon provided, included something along the lines of something dropped down on the CAO’s desk and there was not enough time to get Council together for a meeting or quorum could not be met due to sickness or the internet going down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Bylaw will continue to keep business of Town moving forward, he said, adding, it would not include non-emergency issues.   “It’s an unordinary situation. We don’t know how long it will be,” Garon said.   Councillor Sherry Bondy said residents elect Councillors to be their voice. She still wants to be active in decision-making. When residents understand what is going on, they feel better. People are looking for leadership right now, she added.

Amendment to Permit Electronic Participation for Council Meetings

Council received Legal and Legislative Services’ Report, “Procedural Bylaw 1681 Amendment to Permit Electronic Participation for Council Meetings,” and adopted a Bylaw to amend Procedural Bylaw 1681, so that electronic participation in a meeting can be permitted.   As part of this, Council also voted that public participation in Council Meetings be limited to livestream or other available electronic avenues, until the Provincial State of Emergency has expired, and also adopted Bylaw 1902, to amend Procedural Bylaw 1681, to permit electronic participation in a meeting.   The Report to Council notes members of Council, local Boards, and Committees may have the ability to participate electronically in meetings, subject to the provisions and requirements of the Procedural Bylaw.   Virtual meetings are a good positive step, Councillor Joe Garon said. They are safer if everyone is required to stay home.   Councillor Steve Bjorkman added that part of this Bylaw looks beyond the current Coronavirus emergency. In the future, if, for some reason, a Councillor can’t be present because of a personal emergency, that individual will be able to vote via electronic means and will count as part of quorum.

Property tax relief during COVID-19 pandemic

Essex Council received correspondence from Laurie Brett, a local commercial property owner. She asked that Council consider property tax relief.   Council approved waiving penalties and interest through to, and including, April 30. And will review the situation in and around 20-days. At that time, Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, said Council will see if anything else needs to be done moving forward. This measure is consistent with the other lower-tier municipalities in the region and will account for everyone, including residential, commercial, industrial, agriculatural, etc., he said

Council to send letter to support elimination of time of use hydro rates during pandemic

Councillor Sherry Bondy asked that Council support sending a letter to the Minister of Energy, Greg Rickford, to suspend time of use billing during the quarantine period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.   The motion passed with a majority Council vote. In a recorded vote, Mayor Larry Snively, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, and Councillors Kim Verbeek, Joe Garon, Bondy, and Steve Bjorkman were in favour. Councillors Morley Bowman and Chris Vander Doelen were opposed   Garon said he believes sending the letter is a good idea. He hopes the message is heard at the provincial level and that it helps those staying home.   The letter will be sent to the Ontario Energy Board, the Premier, Essex MP Taras Natyshak, and all Ontario municipalities.


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