Town of Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, April 6th

by Sylene Argent

Essex Community Centre to be renamed “Maedel Community Centre”

Essex Council voted in favour of renaming the Essex Community Centre, located inside the 25 Gosfield Townline facility, to “Maedel Community Centre.”   The name change is in honour of Edward Charles Maedel, who, in 1908, purchased a struggling soft drink company on Talbot Street in Essex. He renamed it “Maedel Beverages,” where he made soft drinks and sold the product throughout the County.   In 1935, he received the first Pepsi Cola franchise in all of Ontario, and the second franchise in all of Canada.  He later built a new shop at the corner of Talbot Street and Brien Avenue. In 1989, the Maedel family sold the business to a company from Toronto.   Mayor Larry Snively thought it was nice to name the facility after Maedel. “I think it is the proper thing to do,” he said.

  Town’s response updates to COVID-19

• Staffing: CAO Chris Nepszy said as of March 23, Essex reduced its workforce in the recreation department by 100 workers.   On top of that, Nepszy continued, 25 percent of the existing parks and facilities staff took a voluntary layoff.   Nepszy said there is concern that operations need to be maintained with the current reduction of staff. In the event this pandemic goes on for months, the Town can reassess the situation.   • Harbour/Parks/Facilities: Director of Community Services/ Deputy CAO, Doug Sweet, said staff is being spread out over seven days for social distancing. On March 13, indoor recreation facilities were ordered closed. On April 1, the province ordered the closure of outdoor facilities, including harbours and marinas. For now, people are allowed to use walkways and trails.     • Building Department Operations: Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, said the Building and Bylaw Department continues to operate with new methods of practice. At this time, the Building and Bylaw Division is booking all inspection types and requests. As of April 4, there will be a delay of some inspections related to residential development. Those applications can be received and plans can be reviewed. Ongoing residential government, that construction can continue if a foundation was in place is in prior to April 4, she said.    She said her team set out last week to find expansion projects that were being undertaken without a permit. Seven infractions were noticed, and the work was asked to be stopped until proper permits or measures were issued. She said that will continue once a week to ensure if something was being built without a permit, action is being taken.   • Interest on Water and Wastewater Waiver:  Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Jeff Morrison, received approval from he request that Council consider waiving interest and penalties on water and waste water until June 30. • Preauthorized payment program: Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Jeff Morrison, said individuals have removed themselves from the Town’s Preauthorized Payments Program (PAP) for taxes. He suggested that once they rejoin for the month of July, their outstanding balance can be equalized over the remaining PAP payments for the year to create flexibility. • Credit card payments: Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Jeff Morrison, reported the town cannot add a surcharge to credit cards over phone. • Capital Projects and impacts: Chris Nepszy, CAO, said the province brought down reduction in essential service on Friday but should not impact on the Town’s capital construction.

RFT results for soil steel structure replacements and bridge deck rehabilitation

Council received Capital Works and Infrastructure’s report “Results of Request for Tender - Essex Soil Steel Structure Replacements and Bridge Deck Rehabilitation” and awarded the Request for Tender to Sterling Ridge Infrastructure Inc. in the amount of $502,582.47, including HST.   Projects include Concession Road 6 over Laporte Drain, McCormick Road over Lockhart, and Coulter Road over 9th Concession.  

ECBIA asks for 2020 levy to be lowered or eliminated

Essex Council received correspondence from Terri Grondin-Sweet, Chairperson of the Essex Centre BIA looking for consideration to be given to lowering or eliminating the 2020 tax levy until businesses can operate as usual.   Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he had no opposition as this is a real time of hardship for businesses and this is their money. Councillor Steve Bjorkman used to be the Chairperson of the Essex Centre BIA. He said the Board needs to decide how much money they need based on what has been spent already, what events they want to hold, and employee expenses, for example. They will come back to Council for a request.

NoM: Roads discussions

At the February 2 meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion to have Council discuss the road tendering of the cold roll recycled material and the pulverized tar and chip material in order to provide a comparison of the two applications. The issue was brought forward Monday.   Bondy said she wanted to raise the issue before tenders went out as road applications has been a contentious issue in the past. She said it doesn’t hurt to shop around and compare. When the tender on a road is put out for cold rolled, historically, there has been only one company that submits an application.   Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure Services, said cold rolled allows for the road to be built up. The Town looks at each road independently. Not every road needs the same type of rehabilitation method, depending on the needs of each.   Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he recently drove many roads. The 8th Concession, he said, had some rough spots, the part of Gore Road that was done with cold rolled was immaculate, and the 5th Concession was also wonderful. He said he thought it was pretty smooth. It is unfortunate there is not a local firm that can offer cold rolled, he said.   Councillor Chris Vander Doelen is opposed to delaying any road work.   Councillor Steve Bjorkman added Council did get a lesson on costing. He said tar and chip and cold rolled are similar in cost and both should last between four to seven years. Bjorkman said he drives Essex roads, and looking at their condition, does not see a difference obtained between the two types. Staff members go out and makes recommendations on how to fix the roads.     Councillor Kim Verbeek said she can’t get behind just putting out roads to tender in a fashion that could alienate local contractors to bid on them for the work. She would like tenders put forth in a way that would not block local contractors from bidding on them.  Council moved that it acknowledged that a discussion was had regarding road rehabilitation methods.

NOM: animal and special needs signs

At the February 18 regular Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche put forward a Notice of Motion that administration prepare a report on the Town’s policy on special needs street signs and warning signs for deer or turtle crossings. He would also like a form for people to fill out. The discussion on the issue took place on Monday.   Around two-years ago, he said, he was approached by a family with an autistic child. They wanted a special needs sign to go up in their area. Meloche learned the Town was no longer installing these types of signs because they were hard to manage and there is no definite amount of time the sign would stay up.   He wondered if the Town could create a tracking program where a sign could be installed and followed up on in a certain amount of time, so that the sign is up only as needed. The signs, he said, could have an expiration date.   Councillor Sherry Bondy said she thought this was a good initiative. She said there could be a program that could track signs like this. Perhaps summer students could track the signs. Her worry is that Council is waiting on many reports, but thinks this is a good one.   “Children Playing” signs in subdivisions, she said, can create a false sense of security and wondered if there would be any liability issues with such signs.   Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he doubted animal crossing sign locations would need to be reviewed.   Council moved Meloche’s motion.  

NoM: Installation of surveillance cameras at Co-An Park

At the February 18 meeting, Councillor Kim Verbeek put forward a Notice of Motion that Council discuss and have administration look into the possibility of having surveillance cameras installed at Co-An Park. She wanted Council to use part of the Council Contingency Fund to cover the cost and have administration reach out to Amherstburg for their commitment.   The request came to Council after the park was vandalized, she said.   The cost to put up 14 surveillance cameras around the pavilion at the park is estimated to be between $18,000 and $23,000. Essex’s portion would be around $11,500, as it would be hoped Amherstburg would pitch in as it is also a co-owner.   Mayor Larry Snively did not believe the cameras would catch people who may vandalize the area in the future, but he said he was not against the idea.   Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche added that if the cameras go up, there will be signage, which should help curtail vandals as well.    In a recorded vote, the motion passed unanimously.  

NoM: $100,000 donation to ERCA for Heritage Centre

At the March 2 Council meeting, Councillor Steve Bjorkman made a Notice of Motion that he would like Council of the Town of Essex to discuss ways to appropriate funds through, but not limited to, the sale of existing properties, including part of the Colchester School House property and other developable properties in Colchester, to donate $100,000 to the John R. Park Homestead Education Centre. In return, he would like a designated Tourist Information Centre named for the Town of Essex.   ERCA is trying to raise $1.2 million to build the Heritage Centre, and its fundraising is well underway. Reps approach Council in December about making a $100,000 donation.   The Town of Essex, he said, has a desire to have a Tourist Information Centre in the south end of the Town, preferably on County Road 50, but the preferred location, the Old School House in Colchester Village, is years and hundreds of thousands of dollars away from fruition.   He does not want this to be a tax item, it something that can be funded by selling something the Town is not using. He said the Town would not have to forward the funds right away, but ERCA would like an assurance.   Though he liked that the money would not come from current year property tax dollars, Councillor Chris Vander Doelen still had a problem with giving $100,000 to ERCA for the project. The conservation authority is expanding its mandate into an area it does not need to do, he said. “We don’t need ERCA to be an educational entity,” he said.   He estimated 95 percent of the visiting students to the John R. Park Homestead are not from Essex, and the towns they come from are not donating, that he knows of. So, Essex property taxpayers are being asked to pick up the share for the parents in the rest of the county who are not donating to help build this, which he found unacceptable. He said he is always up to studying a project, but he was also worried about duplicating what is spent on tourism.   Councillor Kim Verbeek said she supported the idea and was excited for it. Councillor Sherry Bondy also supported the motion. She said the students’ schools and parents pay for their trips there. She said Council has $25,000 earmarked in the budget for Council wages, so she thought that money could go towards supporting youth education through this project.   Mayor Larry Snively said he has no problem forwarding funds to the project, but it has to come from the right source.     Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, said there are still funds left in the Council Contingency Fund and there are funds that left over in the Community Partnership Fund, which could be considered for this project.   Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, said there could be grants ERCA can apply for through the CIP program, which could be between $20-$30,000.   In a recorded vote, only Councillor Vander Doelen was opposed. Motion carried.  

Drive by planned to lift spirits of healthcare workers

Councillor Kim Verbeek said on Tuesday, April 14, a drive by is planned to show support to local healthcare workers and seniors who live in long term and retirement homes. Those who are participating will meet at the Essex Centre Sports Complex at 11a.m. They are to stay in their vehicles.