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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Town of Essex council meeting notes - March 7th, 2022

by Sylene Argent

ERCA presents 2021 Annual Report, transition plan, draft 2022 Budget

Essex Council received a presentation from Tania Jobin, Chairperson, Kieran McKenzie, Vice-Chairperson, and Tim Byrne, CAO/Secretary-Treasurer, for the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), which outlined the organization’s 2021 Annual Report, transition plan, and its draft 2022 Budget.

  Jobin explained the transition plan is required as part of Bill 229, and details times associated with compliance with the recently released regulations.

  In accordance with the transition plan, Jobin said before the end of 2023, ERCA will need to enter into agreements with participating municipalities, where municipal support is needed to fund non-mandatory services.

  She went through the inventory of mandatory and non-mandatory services. Mandatory services include programming related to hazards, protection and provision of passive recreation at conservation areas, drinking water source protection, and enabling services to provide these programs.

  “Some of the important deliverables identified in this transition plan have already been accomplished with the 2022 Budget, which is transparent, detailed, and provides clarity as to what programs and services are funded by the local tax levy,” Jobin said.

  “It is important to emphasis that historically, the local investment of levy and municipal special project funding for the services that the province has categorized as non-mandatory has been matched dollar-for-dollar, if not, exceeded,” Jobin said, adding between 2017 and 2021, ERCA received municipal funds of just over $9.75M for non-mandatory projects and programs. During that time, non-municipal funds of $9.9M were received to support those very same initiatives.

  She said ERCA’s 2022 Budget – totalling over $9M and a total levy funding of $3.5M – represents a 2.5 percent increase, equalling just over $85,000. Per household, this equates to an around $26.15 increase, based on an assessed home value of $300,000.

  The budget has an emphasis on improving building and maintaining conservation areas for the public, especially the significant and historical resources of the John R. Park Homestead, addresses significant increases of external demands and legislated responsibilities of development and corporate services staff, adds urgent updates to data systems to improve security efficiencies, and customer services.

  As an elected official for the Town of Tecumseh, Jobin said she believes, “We need to ensure we are working together, collaboratively, to protect and restore our natural environments.” She added she is looking forward to working with Essex to negotiate the municipal agreements as needed and required through the transition plan.

  In 2021, ERCA initiated a digital transformation to mitigate risk, modernized business operations, improved service, unified collaboration, and improved security. In addition, ERCA staff reviewed 1182 applications and issued 1076 permits, revealed the new Heritage Conservation Centre at the John R. Park Homestead, created the new Enbridge Natural Playground, monitored water quality, and undertook wetland rehabilitation at the Collavino Provincially Significant Wetland, amongst other projects.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said it is taken as an insult that the provincial government has said what programs are or are not mandatory, based on what they think is important. He thanked ERCA’s reps for the work they put in to keep all of those programs going.

  As much as the transition plan has been an administrative burden and challenge, McKenzie said one thing that has been noted is the return on investment. For the $9M ERCA spends in the region, just over a third is from the municipalities. In that non-mandatory service basket, $1.10 is given back for every dollar invested from senior levels of government.


Jason Matyi appointed as Ward 3 Councillor,

over former Councillor Caixeiro

After receiving applications, and meeting virtually with the ten candidates interested in filling the vacant Ward 3 position on Essex Council, Jason Matyi was selected to fill the position, after two-rounds of voting.

  Matyi will become the appointee for the position until the end of the term, which will end this fall.

  Councillors had put three nominations forward.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek nominated Matyi to the position. Councillor Joe Garon seconded the nomination.

Verbeek said she has never met him, but she nominated Matyi because he is a long-time resident and a long-time volunteer, who is engaged with his community and has no personal ties with anyone on Council.

  “It is time for our Council to make some positive moves forward, not going backwards,” Verbeek said. “I would love to have a voice at the table with no previous biases or alliances.”

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman nominated Mac Goslin. Councillor Sherry Bondy seconded the nomination, noting she wanted Council to move forward without any optics of any backroom deals.

  Bjorkman said Goslin has reached out to him in the past in regards to County Road 50 and flooding issues. He said he has been an engaged individual who looks to problem solve.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen nominated former Councillor Bill Caixeiro. Councillor Morley Bowman seconded the nomination.

  Vander Doelen said he only met Caixeiro once, but he made an impact on him. He found Caixeiro supportive and enthusiastic.

  “He gave a great sort of punch in the arm [saying] ‘you are doing good work and keep at it. The Town needs you.’ I was impressed by this man’s passion,” Vander Doelen said. “Some people say we can’t appoint a guy who resigned, but don’t forget, he was working for Chrysler’s six-days a week, required, and he had four little girls and he just got overwhelmed.”

He said he believed Caixeiro is the best person for the job because of his experience.

  Bowman said there is no time for a new Councillor to learn, with the term being almost over.

  Caixeiro resigned as one of the two Ward 3 Councillors last term, triggering a By-Election Ron Rogers won.

  Garon said he heard Colchester is looking for a new, fresh face. He said experience is not the be all, end all.

  Bjorkman voted for Goslin. Bondy, Verbeek, and Garon voted for Matyi. Vander Dolen, Mayor Richard Meloche, and Bowman voted for Caixeiro.

  With three votes for each Matyi and Caixeiro, a second-round of votes took place between the two. During which, Bjorkman put his support behind Matyi, earning him the position.

  Matyi will be set up for orientation this week and will be declared to office at the March 14 Essex Council meeting.


Essex supports ERCA in acquisition of the abandoned CASO Line

Council approved a $28,553 financial commitment to ERCA towards the acquisition of the portion of the former CASO line that runs through the Town of Essex.

  The funds for the Town’s commitment will come from the Land Surplus Reserve Account.

  The Report to Council on the matter notes CN Rail and CP Rail ceased operations on the former CASO rail line in Essex County around 15-years ago. The railway ties, steel rails, and other equipment were removed from the property around seven-years ago and the property has since been left to naturalize.

  CAO Doug Sweet said ERCA has been working with CN Rail and CP Rail to acquire the abandoned line that stretches around 43 kilometers through Essex, Lakeshore, and Tecumseh.

  The portion that runs through Essex is just under 3kms, and goes from County Road 23 to County Road 8, adjacent to Essex District High School.

  “This would be an important trail connection for Essex Centre,” Sweet said, noting it runs through Heritage Gardens Park, and makes a direct link to Sadler’s Nature Park and the greenway trail.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said this is great luck for the Town of Essex. With only a small portion of the rail line going through the municipality, Essex has to pay a smaller amount to be linked to a larger trail system. He also congratulated ERCA on the negotiation on retaining the property.

  “This is actually the centerpiece for Heritage Gardens Park,” Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said, adding when the Town was first looking to develop that area, plans could not be designed for the middle section of the park as the Town did not own the land. He said this will allow Essex the opportunity to create those centre pieces in the park.


Council directs admin to continue exploring 2022 Essex Municipal voting methods

Essex Council moved to have administration come back with a report detailing the cost of two voting methods for the next municipal election: all in-person voting with advanced polls in each of the four centres; and a hybrid option of in-person voting on election day, in conjunction with in-person advanced polling stations in all four wards and advanced internet voting.

  The decision was made after a lengthy discussion on the topic. Administration presented recommendations that sought Council adoption of By-Law 2132, to authorize the use of internet voting as an alternative voting method for the advance polls in the upcoming municipal election. The by-law was also set to authorize the use of mark sense ballot and optical scan vote tabulators on Voting Day in the 2022 Municipal Election.

  Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, Robert Auger, added voting locations would be determined and located in each of the four town centres for election day.

  A couple of factors played a role in administration recommending internet voting for the advanced polls, Auger noted. The first factor was when staff reviewed all election policies and procedures in 2019 and 2020. During the review of the proxy vote procedures, Auger said suggestions were made that elections should be made more accessible, including expanding the locations in which someone could vote and the time periods in which the electors could vote in advance.

  Some of the feedback was that in-person advanced voting was not enough.

  He explained that during the 2018 Essex Municipal Election, Essex had two advanced poll days; one in Essex and another in Harrow.

  Staff then explored the issues, and came up with the recommendations presented.

  The second factor, Auger added, was the pandemic, which forced municipalities to adapt and change its service delivery methods. Though there may be signs pointing towards the pandemic’s end, he said there is still going to be a demand to provide alternative ways of voting, as a proportion of the electorate may still have pandemic anxiety and may be apprehensive this fall.

  He said a Voter Help Centre should be established at physical locations within Town so as to assist voters that are not comfortable with technology or simply wish to cast their ballot in-person.

  This proposed hybrid method of voting is expected to be at or near the proposed budget of $140,000.

  Because of the pandemic, it is not known what will happen this fall, so Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said he believes there needs to be an option to vote, where people do not have to go to Town Hall. Internet voting, he added, could attract voters. He also believes there needs to be more options for in-person voting.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy believes there needs to be paper-ballot advanced polls in all four wards.

  “We tightened up the proxy loopholes so there is no threat to proxy procuring like there was in the last election,” Bondy said, noting other communities who offer internet voting did not have an election charge on a candidate. It does not mean she would not be willing to go to internet voting in the next election, but this is a short window of time.

  She suspects people will be hesitant to vote online. At the polling station, she added, ID needs to be shown. She had concerns that internet codes could be obtained through recycled mail, as she saw in a past election where mail-in ballots were issued, several of those ballots were discarded inside the Harrow Post Office.

  “Our elections are only as good as the integrity of the candidates running in them,” Bondy said, adding there can be no mishaps in the upcoming election. “This election needs to be about restoring trust in the process.”

  She wants a system of one person, one vote, and believes the way to achieve that is by having advanced polling stations in all wards and on election day.

  Councillor Joe Gaon was not opposed to adding a secure electronic vote to the process. He believes the polls are where the turnout will be. With having electronic voting in place, there is no need for proxies, he said.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek did not feel like this election was the time to introduce internet voting. She would rather see elections pay community members to work at the polling stations, than a company that would tally the votes electronically.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he wanted to correct the claim that the last election was a disaster. All the people the voters wanted elected, were elected, “Proxy votes or no proxy votes, there would not have been any change,” he said. Using internet voting only for the advanced polls, however, would be a mistake. He had concerns with those with poor internet connection and the effect that could have.

  Councillor Morley Bowman said he is still a person who favours in-person ballot casting.

  Meloche said he is in favour of in-person polling. He does not think the voter list is super accurate, and that could allow for “funny things to happen.” He hopes that list will become more accurate, and perhaps at that time, he would consider it then.

  Auger said there could be challenges in getting workers for the polling stations, and if there is a COVID outbreak, the Town may have to, somehow, find an alternative at the last-minute.

  Auger said he does not recommend using in-person and internet voting on election day.

  Council then directed administration to investigate the cost of the two methods: all in-person voting with advanced polls in each of the four centres, and a hybrid option of in-person voting on election day in conjunction with internet voting and in-person advanced polling stations in all four wards.

Before discussions on this matter took place, Bondy wanted to defer the matter, noting newly appointed Ward 3 Council rep Jason Matyi would not be able to vote until the March 14 meeting. She wanted a full complement of Council to have input on the matter.

  Her motion was defeated.


2022 Wage Reallocations approved

Council approved the reallocation of funds currently held in the Contingency Reserve for an Asset Management Specialist, to instead be used for consulting services to assist in the Ontario Regulation Mandatory Asset Management Plan update in the amount of $56,000; and also approved the reallocation of wages for the contract extension of the Financial Analyst through to December 31, 2022 and the creation of a full-time permanent Assistant Manager of Capital Works and Asset Management.

  Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, said it has become apparent filling certain roles, such as the Asset Management Specialist and the Manager of Finance and Business Services, have been difficult to fill. Both positions, she said, have been posted many times and remain unfilled, which is why she made the aforementioned recommendations.


Release of Performance for Phase 1 Securities for

Parkland Woods Residential approved

Council received the report, “Release of Performance Securities for Phase 1 of the Parkland Woods Residential Subdivision (Ward 3);” and approved the reduction of the commercial letter of credit, from 1552843 Ontario Limited (Noah Homes), by $209,746.90.

  This leaves a remaining credit amount of $390,253.10.

  The Report notes the request was received from Mr. Gerard Rood, Consulting Engineer, for the Parkland Woods Residential Subdivision. The report adds the Parkland Woods Development consists of two phases. The first phase consists of 20 single-detached dwelling lots and seven semi-detached dwelling lots.

  Performance securities in the amount of fifty percent of the value of the development or provision of all services required are held to ensure due and proper performance of the works set out in the executed Subdivision Development Agreement. Performance securities are only released after final completion of all required municipal infrastructure and services and when all deficiencies have been addressed to the satisfaction of the Municipality, the Report on the matter notes.


NoM to be presented March 21:

Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to have a discussion regarding the lack of progress on a new High School being built in the Kingsville area for high school students of the Harrow/Colchester area.

  Look in the March 17 edition of the Essex Free Press to read about the Annual Development Update that was presented during the March 7 meeting.


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