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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Town of Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, December 5, 2022

by Sylene Argent

Residents seek approval to retain curb cut and driveway at back of property

Dale and Natalie Koziana approached Council regarding their driveway curb cut on Queen Street, hoping to retain it and a driveway at the back of the property.

It was explained they believed they had permission to add the curb cut and driveway when they got approval for a Minor Variance to build a garage through the Town’s Committee of Adjustment in 2019.

It was noted during the meeting that the Committee of Adjustment does not deal with driveways. In addition, Council passed the Development Standards Manual last year, which indicates single dwellings can only have one driveway. This has been the standard since 2003.

Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, said when Town Administration noticed the curb cut, the Koziana’s were asked to fill it in, and told them they could approach Council with the request to retain it.

Councillor Joe Garon sympathized with the situation, but worried about setting a precedent if approved.

Councillor Kim Verbeek moved Council receive the delegation and approve the request to retain the driveway curb cut. A majority Council vote approved the motion.

Mayor Bondy said Administration can reiterate what members of the Committee of Adjustment can and cannot approve for clarification purposes moving ahead.

Emergency Response Plan approved

Council received the report, “Emergency Response Plan Town of Essex,” and enacted By-Law 2203 102, to enact it.

In addition, it identified the Mayor, CAO, Community Emergency Management Coordinator, Fire Chief, members of Senior Administration, the Manager of Communications, and the Manager of Human Resources as part of the Town of Essex Municipal Emergency Control Group.

Fire Chief Rick Arnel said the Emergency Response Plan is legislated through the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. It is the primary statute in governing emergencies in Ontario.

Part of the legislative requirements is that the Town must provide the positions in the Municipal Emergency Control Group.

The purpose of an Emergency Plan is to, during an emergency, facilitate the effective coordination of human and physical resources, services, and activities necessary to protect and preserve life and property, protect the environment, minimize or mitigate effects of an emergency on residents, quickly and efficiently enable recovery and restoration, and provide mutual aid to neighbouring municipalities.

The plan also defines the levels of emergencies, and roles and responsibilities of those in the Municipal Emergency Control Group.

Council receives report outlining inflationary costs

Essex Council received the report on inflationary costs that Ann Marie Unis, Manager of Finance and Business Services, submitted.

Unis said the report was meant for informational purposes only, and outlines the financial impact the Town is experiencing because of inflation.

This year, she said, the Town has felt the pressure of increases in the Consumer Price Index, as well as the Non-Residential Construction Building Index.

In January 2022, it states in the Report to Council, Statistics Canada reported the 2021 annual average Consumer Price Index increase was 3.4 percent, a jump from the 2020 annual average of 0.7 percent.

The impact of the increase is being absorbed in the 2022 Operating Budget. Senior Management is aware of the increases and made efforts to minimize impact to the Operating Budget, she said.

This year, a new garbage contract resulted in an increase of sixty percent from the last contract in 2015. There were also increases in capital contractor costs, because of the increases in labour and material, as well as limited availability of certain materials, such as steel, concrete, and cement.

One of the largest increases includes the cost of hot mix asphalt, as the Town experienced a year-over-year unit price rise of 91 percent.

It adds in the Report to Council that at September 30, 2022, fuel costs increased by 56 percent from the previous year (mainly the public works department) and natural gas has increased by 10 percent (in facilities).

Town Administration, she added, has taken the high Consumer Price Index into consideration, while working on the 2023 Budget.

To date in 2022, it adds in the Report to Council, Administration requested from Council $358,200 in additional reserve funds to help cover the inflationary increases in capital projects.

Councillor Joe Garon said municipalities nation-wide are dealing with these impacts. He said the Report captures where the money is going.

Mayor Sherry Bondy said the Report will be helpful when heading into 2023 Budget deliberations.

Construction value for October up 153.3% compared to same month in 2022

Council received the Development Overview for October, which highlights the total construction value for October 2022 – including all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments that required a building permit – was $21,285,000

This was an increase of 153.3 percent, when compared to the same month of 2021.

The Report to Council also highlights the average sale price of homes has decreased, when comparing October 2022 to October 2021.

In October, the average home sale price in Wards 1 and 2 was $412,222, compared to $559,073 in October 2021. The average home sale price in Wards 3 and 4 in October was $401,000, compared to $614,090 in October 2021.

Ribbon Cutting and Ground-breaking

Events Policy adopted

Council adopted a Ribbon Cutting and Ground-breaking Events Policy.

Nelson Silveira, Economic Development Officer, explained the Town has hosted ribbon cutting and ground breaking events for the past several years. This policy formalizes the process.

Next steps will include making the online request form for ribbon cutting and ground-breaking events accessible as of the day following the Council meeting.

The Ribbon Cutting and Ground-breaking Events Policy is intended to provide a fair and equitable distribution of Town resources to celebrate the opening of new businesses, new developments, and Town of Essex projects of a significant scale, the Report to Council notes.

He said the onus is on the developer or business owner to request a ribbon cutting or ground-breaking.

Tree Management By-Law receives two readings

Council gave two readings to By-Law 2205, to regulate tree management in the Town of Essex, for provisional adoption at the December 19, 2022 Council meeting.

The Report to Council notes Council directed Administration to develop a Tree Management By-Law to regulate the care and maintenance of trees within the Town of Essex. The purpose of the By-Law is to ensure clarity on how trees are maintained, as well as the responsibilities when adjacent to private property owners.

The Town currently does not have such a By-Law.

The proposed Tree Management By-Law will address concerns with trees that are part of, or will become part of, public property.

Key aspects of the By-Law includes defining public and private trees; details what types of trees can be planted, and specifies authority to control plantings, outlines prohibited species, and maintenance/removal if there is a health and safety concern. It also outlines the duties of owners/occupants of private property and other aspects, such as offences and penalties, reforestation, and obstruction, enforcement, conflicts, and severability.

Since only the first two readings took place, Councillor Kim Verbeek hoped the matter of replacing trees taken down when clearing ditches and creeks can be looked at.

Former Harrow High could cost $10M to repair as community centre

Essex Council received the Report “Harrow High School Condition Report” and moved that the remaining funding for the “Harrow High School Assessment Costs” in the amount of $35,457.10 be utilized for continued expenses at the former Harrow High School, which include future assessments.

During the 2022 budget deliberations, Administration proposed $60,000 for assessment costs for the facility to have a better understanding of the costs required to bring the facility to a state that is a usable facility for public occupancy.

Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, explained the information he provided at the meeting was for information purposes only. He will come back to Council in the near future with different options that can be done with the property. That could include demolition of part or the entire building, pricing for additions and features, a potential extension onto the Harrow Arena, etc.

The Town is currently working on creating a Community Services Master Plan, which Morassut said will be a valuable tool with the Harrow High School project, so a needs assessment and community wants can be determined before decisions are made.

The consultant for the Harrow High School Condition Report was Haddad, Morgan and Associates. The consulting team included structural, architectural, mechanical, electrical, and thermal imaging.

The project was meant to review and evaluate the facility based on the use as a school. Each consultant provided estimates for their specialized areas, based only on a visual assessment.

The architectural estimate for roofing, chimney, and brick totaled $2,750,000.

The structural cost estimate totaled $185,000 for roofing, masonry walls, monorail certification, stair replacement, other repairs, and cracking.

Morassut said those are mostly minor in nature, and the building overall is rated as being in fair to good condition.

The estimated mechanical costs total $3,6000,000 for equipment and systems and plumbing systems.

The estimated electrical costs, for electrical systems, totaled $2,100. 000.

The estimated total cost of all areas totals $8,635.00. If the use of the facility was to change, such as to a community centre, it is anticipated to cost $10M or more. This would take any asbestos removal that may be required into consideration.

It could also be less, if a decision is made to go with a sectioned-off area of the facility.

Mayor Sherry Bondy wished it was a little better news.

Councillor Joe Garon was flabbergasted at the amount of money required to be put into the former facility.

CAO Doug Sweet said the new Council will be taken on a tour of the facility in the spring.

Decision on scope of Essex Centre Streetscape to take place

December 19

Essex Council received the Report, “Essex Centre Streetscape Tender Results” and voted to defer the matter to the December 19 Council meeting for further discussion and consideration.

Councillor Joe Garon suggested the temporary deferral, after a lengthy discussion about potential debt, costs, and scope of the project was brought to the Council table.

The Essex Centre Streetscape project was initiated by Council in 2013 with a plan that was developed by Stempski Kelly Associates Inc. It includes road paving, watermain replacement, storm sewer improvements, sidewalk reconstruction, street lighting, landscaping, and furnishings. It also includes a flex street design, from Laird Avenue to Victoria Avenue, that will allow for the closing of parking spaces to accommodate street events.

The original scope for the project was Talbot Street, from Maidstone Avenue to Gosfield Townline, in addition to Victoria Avenue.

So far, $9.36 million has been approved for the project, between 2021 and 2022, to complete the Essex Centre Streetscape. Of this, $830,325.03 was allocated to engineering services for the streetscape and $302,227.20 was allocated to the Victoria Avenue works for engineering services, the Report notes.

This leaves a budget of $8,227,447.77 for construction expenses.

Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said when Administration looked at the financials for the project, it was estimated the total cost would be around $14,258,000, or approximately $4.9M in additional debt.

He presented three options to Council, with the recommended action including reducing the streetscaping to Talbot Street, from approximately Cameron Avenue to Arthur Avenue. In addition, it includes the Victoria Avenue works from Talbot Street to South Talbot Road.

This option would require around $425,000 of additional debt.

If this was eventually approved as the path forward, Council would have to have Administration cancel the previous tender for the Town of Essex Downtown Essex Centre Streetscape in accordance with the Town’s Procurement By-Law, and awarded Stantec Consulting Limited additional funds to re-scope the Essex Streetscape project in accordance with the recommended option in the amount of $65,940.48.

The other options included completing the Streetscape as tendered, including Victoria Avenue, completing the Streetscape as tendered, removing Victoria Avenue. These two options, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, said would likely put the Town in a high-risk position when it comes to debt.

Other options include cancelling the tender and rescoping the project. Completing the core area Streetscape only – from around Arthur Avenue to Cameron Avenue, or the core area Streetscape including Victoria. Or, cancelling the project, where the Town would lose grant funding and dollars already invested.

Garon explained the previous Term of Council wanted to move with the Streetscapes as nothing had been done to the downcore core in decades. He added the Town has other long-term debt projects that need to be considered, such as the Essex Sports Fields, Fire Station # 3, and possibly the former Harrow High School.

CAO Doug Sweet encouraged Council members to make appointments with Giurissevich and Girard before the December 19 meeting to learn more about the possible financial impacts.

Council approves 12 matters relating to committees

Council approved the 2022-2026 Election of Striking Committee and Procedure, and further directed the Clerk to call a meeting to convene the Town of Essex Striking Committee on Monday December 12, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. so recommendations can be made for Council on the appointment of 2022-2026 Town of Essex Committee members.

Four Council members needed to be appointed to serve on the 2022-2026 Town of Essex Striking Committee. This included Mayor Sherry Bondy and Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley.

Bondy recommended Councillor Jason Matyi and Councillor Kim Verbeek hold the other two positions, giving the committee two men and two women, and representation from each Ward.

Verbeek and Matyi accepted the nomination.

Councillor Joe Garon likes the idea of having representation from all Wards, but took a little offense gender was put in there, as he does not believe someone’s gender needs to be relied upon to determine if they are capable to serve on a committee. Verbeek was glad to see gender parity.

Council approved this.

The Striking Committee will bring its recommendations on committee appointments to Council’s December 19 regular meeting for Council’s consideration.

Council moved the Communities in Bloom Committee be dissolved for the 2022-2026 Term of Council, pending Council’s discretion to form or create the same or similar committee if required in the future.

Council approved allowing the Striking Committee to provided the County of Essex with a nominee for the Essex County Library Board.

Bondy made that recommendation.

The Mayor and/or Deputy Mayor were directed to each indicate the EWSWA Board as their first preference when selecting the County Committees that they each wish to serve on.

Council directed the Mayor and Municipal Clerk to sign the Shareholder Declaration in order to give legal effect as a Shareholder to resolution R22-10-85310.

Councillor Verbeek was appointed to serve as the County Council alternate in the place and stead of the Mayor and/or the Deputy Mayor in their absence from County of Essex Meetings during the 2022-2026 Term of Council.

Bondy had recommended Garon or Verbeek for the position as the most experienced Councillors. A Council vote ended in a tie between the two candidates. Clerk Robert Augur noted the next step was to pick a name from a hat. Garon withdrew his name as he thought to draw a name from a hat was ludicrous.

The Town of Essex Procedural By-Law was amended to provide for the reading of a Land Acknowledgement at all Committee and Board meetings.

Council also directed Administration to return to Council in the first quarter of 2023 with a further Committees Report that reviews the feasibility and financial viability, and which makes recommendations concerning: committee per diems and/or mileage/travel reimbursement; hybrid meetings; live streaming of committee meetings; additional committee training requirements; and new Committees of Council.

Salvation Army Week proclaimed

Council proclaimed the week of December 18 – December 24, 2022 as The Salvation Army Week in the Town of Essex.

Third reading given to cost of Harrow Streetscaping

Council gave first, second, and third and final reading to By-Law 2208 603, to authorize the borrowing upon serial debentures in the principal amount of $2,291,500 towards the cost of the Harrow Streetscaping.

Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich explained this is just one of the ways the Harrow Streetscape project was funded. There were also grant funding and reserves. This debt will cover costs incurred in 2020 and 2021 the Town internally funded.


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