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  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Town of Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, June 7, 2021

by Sylene Argent

Council moves Accessibility Committee’s request for new approach on approval process for accessible/supportive housing

  Lisa Wallace, Chairperson of the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee, provided an update about exciting happenings in regards to the committee and further made a request that Council commit to leave no one behind and adopt a vision for planning and development that takes a new approach to the approval process for affordable, accessible, and supportive housing that provides a “how might we” attitude.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy believes Council can go back to the Development Services Department at the Town of Essex and look at the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee as a stakeholder through the review process of the development standards manual, prior to bringing a matter to Council for approval.

  Council moved the request.

  Wallace also spoke about how the Town of Essex recently participated in the nation-wide Access Awareness Week. She said that when barriers are removed, Canadians with disabilities can participate fully in society. This helps the country thrive and the economy prosper, she said, adding this Committee of Council is committed to removing barriers for those with special needs.

  Wallace also announced that the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee was recently successful in obtaining a $10,000 grant through the Enabling Accessibility Fund, which will be used to install accessible doors at the Essex Centre Sports Complex.

  Ehva Hoffmann, Youth Council Rep, was instrumental in securing the grant as a youth accessibility leader, Wallace said.

  The Town of Essex was also nominated for the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility. The Colchester Harbour was showcased through this nomination process.

  The Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee is committed to securing funds and grant opportunities, to promoting inclusion and accessibility, raising awareness about disability issues, and creating a culture of inclusion.   

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman commented it is important to be as inclusive as possible.


Town’s 2020 audited financial statement shows good financial health

Essex Council received and adopted the 2020 audited financial statements, which Cynthia Swift, Lead Audit Engagement Partner at KPMG LLP, presented, after reviewing the Town’s finances.

  Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Service/Treasurer, explained the Town issued an RFP in 2020 for a new auditing firm. KMPG was retained. He said it was a lot of work to complete the project, with having to switch to a new company, but worth it to get a new set of eyes on the material.

  Swift added, due to COVID, meetings between the firm and Town staff were held virtually.

  She said the Corporation of the Town of Essex, for the year-end of 2020, is in very strong financial health. She said the Town has net financial assets of $51.8M, which is up around $7.4M from the previous year. The total operating revenue is $44.9M, with expenses sitting at $34.3M, leaving an annual surplus of $10.5M. Included in that surplus is around $1.2M, which is increased investment from the subsidiary, ELK Energy.

  There was some fluctuation in statements, due to COVID, Swift said. Because of the pandemic, recreation revenue and expenditures have decreased.  The Town did, however, receive a restart grant.

  Council received and adopted the report.



Private school eyeing former Harrow high

Peter Thyrring, HeadMaster of St. Peter ACHS College School, a private school for boys in grades one through eight, explained the ACHS was founded in 1981 and the school was founded in 1990. In 2014, the school was moved from Vaughan-Haliburton to Amherstburg. There, the school renovated a former school facility that had been previously closed for three-years.

  He explained the private school is looking for a new home as a funder backed out, due to COVID, and would like to rent space at the former Harrow High School property. Thyrring spoke of the obstacle course, chicken coop, garden beds, and the over 200 trees that were planted at the site, and how involved the group has been within the Amherstburg community and its Legion. He also spoke of the academic and sporting achievements its students have accomplished along the way.

  Thyrring said the students and staff would like to rent 9000 square feet of the former Harrow High School, in addition to the gym and share the cafeteria and kitchen. They would also like to rent ice time. In the future, another 3000 square feet would be rented.

  The school would be willing to clean and help upgrade the area of the school it would use.

  Thyrring would like an agreement of some kind in place by June 1, as the school would need to start getting to work on the facility by August 1.

  Mayor Larry Snively said the Town of Essex does not own the former Harrow High School or has even received a price from the GECDSB on what that would cost, should the Town consider purchasing it in the future. Even if things went that way, he said there was no way the school would be able to start this fall. He said he appreciates what the school offers, but the request is putting the cart before the horse.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy, who has been vocal about her desire to purchase the former Harrow High School facility and greenspace to create a community hub, wanted there to be some out-of-the-box thinking on the matter to make it work. She said she has been inundated by user groups, who have interest in taking up space at the school. There are also people, she added, who are willing to fundraise and volunteer to help clean it up.

  Snively responded he realizes how passionate Bondy is about the project, but cost will be a factor.

  Councillor Joe Garon suggested St. Peter speak with Town administration, to see if there is another facility available that they could rent temporarily, until more information on the Harrow High School is presented.

  Council passed the motion that received the presentation and will have Thyrring speak to members of administration about possible alternatives.


By-Law to charge interest on outstanding Development Charges adopted

Essex Council adopted a By-Law to charge interest on outstanding Development Charges, equal to the Town’s borrowing rate, plus two percent. This will be fixed at the date of building permit issuance or at the date of related planning application, compounded annually.

  This will ensure the Town is offsetting the debt associated with the cost of new-growth infrastructure, as well as administration costs and lost interest, in relation to these Development Charge Payment arrangements, the Report to Council on the matter notes. Development charges are paid by new development to fund municipal infrastructure and services related to this growth. These improvements may include items such as sewer pipes and road improvements.

  Changes to the Development Charge Bylaw will be presented to Council on June 21, 2021. These changes are a direct result of the introduction of Bill 108, More Homes, More Choices Act and Bill 197 the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act.


 By-Law to Debenture 2021 Annual Drainage Maintenance Billings adopted

Council adopted a By-Law to provide for the authorization to debenture certain Drainage Maintenance Billings, at the Property Owners’ request.

  The Report to Council notes the current process for annual maintenance bills to Town of Essex Residents is to invoice for completed maintenance work, with a 45-day payment due date. At that point, if the payment is not made, it is added to the Tax Account and due by the last quarter installment of that tax year.

  It adds in the Report that drainage bills fluctuate, but it is anticipated that an individual property owner could be billed up to $20,000 in 2021. Currently, most property owners who have outstanding Construction Drainage Bills have the ability to debenture larger bill amounts over a period of five or 10 years at an interest rate prescribed by the Town. However, many property owners have raised concerns with the high bills they are receiving and wanted options to make the payments.


 Drainage Cost Recovery Update received

Council received the report, “Drainage Cost Recovery Update,” which Norman Nussio, Manager, Operations and Drainage, prepared.

  This report was developed after Council requested it be created in January, in order for Council to be fully aware of outstanding billings for drainage projects.

  The Report on the matter notes there are two types of billings that occur in a fiscal year, construction and maintenance.

  Drainage updates are tracked to help monitor the dollar value in the cost-recovery account. The Report states that all maintenance expenditures prior to 2019 have been billed and received and 2020 maintenance billing is being prepared for mail out in June of 2021.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said the news in the report is outstanding.


Victoria Avenue Improvements approved

Council authorized the additional expenditure for design and tendering services for the Victoria Avenue Improvements, in the amount of $134,628.48, to Stantec Consulting as part of the Essex Centre Streetscape.

  Council also authorized the over expenditure of the Essex Centre Streetscape, in the amount of $21,915.01, to be funded from the Asset Management Lifecycle Reserve, as the 2021 approved capital budget item of $460,000 for design and tendering services for the Essex Centre Streetscape is not sufficient to cover the total expenses for the design and tendering of both the Victoria Avenue and Essex Centre Streetscape.

  The Report to Council noted that in January, Council moved that because Victoria Avenue in Essex Centre is a premier route and has been in disrepair for many years, that the rehabilitation road project be included as part of the Downtown Essex Centre Revitalization.

The Report continues that the proposed scope of the engineering services for the Victoria Avenue corridor includes a multi-use path to be added along the north side of the road and to resurface the road from Talbot Street to Viscount Parkway. In addition, the watermain and storm sewer system will be reviewed to determine any required upgrades.

  In the Report, it notes Stantec has also provided pricing for engineering expenses for contract administration and inspection of each of these projects, $338,494.46 for the Essex Centre Streetscape and $167,598.72 for Victoria Avenue. The total budget of $506,093.18 will be included in the 2022 capital budget request, along with the construction costs, which will require Council approval.

Mayor Larry Snively said he was happy to see this come forward.


Engineering and design of washrooms/change rooms tendered for Harrow Splash Pad

Council appointed Architecttura Building Intelligence to provide engineering and design work for the new public washroom/change rooms at Harrow Splash Pad, in the amount of $18,569.37.00.

  The engineering and design for the Essex Centre washrooms was provided by Architecttura Building Intelligence.

  The 2021 approved capital budget project has a total budget of $150,000.00, which includes funding for professional services for this project.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy suggested deferring the matter, until the Harrow High School matter could be resolved. She said if the Town was able to purchase it, the washrooms in that facility could be used, instead.

  Several Councillors thought moving ahead with this project would not affect any decision for the Harrow High School, should the possibility arise. The community has noted the need and it was felt the project should move forward.


 Funding for Essex Centre tennis courts approved

Council approved four recommendations regarding tennis courts coming to the Essex Centre Sports Complex grounds: the additional funding of $3,206.40 above the approved budget; the additional funding of $8,649.60 for wind screens; and the additional funding of $40,704 for court lighting. All the additional funds will come from the interest earned from the Parks Contingency Reserve account.

  Council also awarded the Request for Proposal for the Essex Tennis Courts to GreenLight General Contracting Inc., in the total amount of $292,560.

  In the Report to Council, it notes $240,000 was approved for the installation of three new tennis courts in Essex Centre. The total proposal price came in higher than the approved budget.

  Director on Community Services/Deputy CAO, Doug Sweet, said the space selected was due to there not being another large enough option in Essex Centre. There is room to add additional courts in the future, if needed.


 Council approves land acknowledgement statement

Council provisionally adopted a Land Acknowledgement Statement for a six-month trial period, to allow for additional time for Indigenous community members to provide feedback on the proposed statement.

  The land acknowledgement is, “We acknowledge that this land is the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy of First Nations (comprised of the Ojibway, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi Peoples), and of the Huron-Wendat Peoples. We value the significant historical and contemporary contributions of local and regional First Nations and all of the Original Peoples of Turtle Island, who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial.”

  The Land Acknowledgement Statement will be read at the beginning of all Regular Council Meetings and at other such special events. It will also be placed on the Town of Essex website.

  Mayor Larry Snively originally brought up the idea for this previously through a Notice of Motion, which Council supported.  

  Clerk, Robert Auger, said reconciliation with Indigenous people is not a task of the past, but one that must continue.

  Council Notes from the June 7 meeting will be continued in the June 17 edition of the Essex Free Press.