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  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Town of Essex Council - Monday, December 21, 2020

by Sylene Argent

Council gets an update on broadband

Grahame Soley and Mitchell Johnson from Cogeco Connexion Inc. updated Council on the Cogeco-SWIFT (Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology Initiative) broadband internet project.

  Soley said he understands how important broadband internet is presently and will continue to be with the pandemic lockdowns.

  Cogeco, he said, was one of two ISPs awarded funding as part of the Essex broadband program. $6.1m was received to expand broadband availability to residents and businesses in Essex, Leamington, and Kingsville, Soley explained.

  As part of the program, he said, around 3600 homes will be serviced with fiber-to-the-home, of which around 1544 will be in Essex. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

  The project area in Essex includes: Ambassador Beach, Lypps Beach, Comet, Arner, New Canaan, Levergood Beach, Gesto, Pleasant Valley, and Seymour Beach.

  “This is exciting. We’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen,” Mayor Larry Snively said.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he has been helping residents find out if they have been included on the service map, and noted his own home landed just outside the service area.  

  In November, the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) announced Essex County would receive $19M in broadband upgrades to support five fibre-to-the-home projects.

  This project awarded contracts to expand high-speed fibre-optic broadband services to 5,173 households and businesses throughout the municipalities of Essex, Kingsville, Leamington, and Lakeshore. Construction will be complete by the fall of 2022.

 

 Essex Food Basket gets permission to use Scout Hall for storage

Kathy Beaudoin, an organizer with the newly formed Essex Food Basket, asked if this organization could use the Scout Hall on McAffee Street in Harrow to store non-perishable food items over the next few months, as the pandemic stretches on. She said the facility, due to the pandemic, is currently not being utilized.

  Council voted to allow Essex Food Basket to use the Scout Hall to store non-perishables, and received Beaudoin’s presentation.


Essex Non-Profit Homes asks Council for financial support

Zachary Bastien and Hans Kogel of Haerko Inc., a consulting firm representing Essex Non-Profit Homes, asked Council for a Letter of Support for Essex Non-Profit Homes and for its Renewal and Repair Project, and financial contributions for it.

  As part of the financial contribution, Council was asked to consider up to $2,500,000 in contributions in 2023-2024 (or $170,000 for 40-years) and the waiver of building permit fees.

  It was also requested Council send a Letter of Support to the County of Essex to provide financial contribution for this project.

  Kogel explained Essex Non-Profit Homes includes 120 (three to five bedroom) single family affordable rental units, which houses 343 people. Currently, 40 of the homes are under the rent subsidy. He noted significant capital repairs need to be done, but there is a lack of capital funding.

  Ten homes were demolished 2011, due to foundation issues and condition of the houses, which is planned to be rebuilt in the future. Essex Non-Profit Homes, he added, contributed $500,000 to restore the foundations of 15 homes from surplus and lending.

  Bastien added Essex Non-Profit Homes secured $75,000 in seed funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which was used to complete a targeted building condition assessments and energy audits. It was also able to complete a portion of required design work. It also applied for the second round of seed funding of $150,000 for co-investment funding. In order to get that, it would need to secure $1.5m to $2.5m in external funding in the 2023-2024 timeframe or an annual contribution for 40-years. A Letter of Support from partners would also be required.

  It is also currently pursuing a project grant of $500,000, covering 80 percent of initial project costs for which the project will complete critical work at four to five homes.

  The plan is to stabilize the existing housing structure, reduce energy usage by 51 percent, reduce Greenhouse Emissions by 76 percent, improve residents’ living environment, and reduce residents’ utility bills by 14 percent.

  Bastien added rent has been increased to improve financial stability. It is hoped to start construction in June of 2021.

  Council voted to provide the requested Letters of Support. Council will have discussions about any financial terms of reference in the new year.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said affordable housing is something Council would want to support, but in what capacity, she was not sure. That would need to be discussed in the future.


Crystal Beach Drain appeal, RFT approved

Council awarded the Request for Tender for the Construction of Crystal Beach Drain to Sterling Ridge Infrastructure Inc. in the amount of $457,207.68. The town is paying for around 27 percent of the cost.

  Residents Ron and Jill Kennedy approached Council regarding the project. They submitted a Letter of Appeal in regards to the matter. They noted they have been residents there for around 13-years and are located at the topside of the road elevation. In their time there, Ron said, they have witnessed severe storms and have never had standing water on the topside.

  The quote for the project, Ron said, came in at 133 percent higher than the Engineer’s estimate. He said there was discussion about doing half the work at the lower end of the street at first. He said he is not trying to stop progress, but has concerns that the plan will not work, and wondered if it fails, if residents would be out of luck after paying for it.

  Appointed Engineer, Gerald Rood, said the design is set up to follow the original drainage works to help minimize standing water. He added municipal staff tried to do camera work on a large portion of the drain, but the poor condition created obstructions. The drain is 40-years old.

  Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, said it was not recommended to divide the project in half for a variety of reasons, including risking being able to tap into debenture opportunities. Though all residents are not experiencing flooding now, it is imminent, he said, as the drain is in such poor shape.

  According to the Report to Council, the lowest tender was received from Sterling Ridge Infrastructure Inc. Because the lowest tender price received is more than 133 percent over the Engineer’s estimate, a Drainage Board Meeting was held on December 9.

Discussions on fate of Colchester Schoolhouse to resume January 18

At the beginning of the Monday, December 7 Essex Council meeting, Town Clerk, Robert Auger, announced Council had given direction to administration to disclose in open session the intention to declare 195 Bagot Street, also known as the Colchester Schoolhouse, as surplus to the needs of the municipality.

  At Monday’s meeting, Council discussed what it should do with the old Colchester Schoolhouse, and listened to a few delegations on the matter.

  Ultimately, a majority Council vote moved discussions on the matter to the January 18 meeting.

Anne Beneteau and Monica Carruthers of the area spoke to Council about the unique community garden at the Schoolhouse. Beneteau made the proposal for the project around five-years ago. The Town granted the space and some funding, and has been nothing but awesome in caring for the garden.

  “They always come through for us,” she said of the Town staff., adding it was with dismay that the garden club has discovered the property may go up for sale. The group, she said, has been disappointed.

  The garden has received an award for community involvement. There are around 23 gardeners, with four on the waiting list, involved. It is not just about planting fruits and vegetables, it was about growing community, she said. The garden space has expanded over the years, and intergenerational family groups utilize the space.

  It has been a place of true connection, and the gardeners do not want to lose that,” Beneteau said.

  “We really want to stay in that place,” she said, adding the gardeners have invested dollars into their boxes.

  Carruthers added the historical charm and community connections are reasons why people love Colchester. The Chimney Swifts, which are threatened, have a roost there.

  “I’ll have a broken heart if it sells,” she said.

  Perry Basden was also opposed to the sale of the property. He said the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee seems to have had interest in the site in the past few years. Creating a “Friends of the Colchester Schoolhouse” Committee has been discussed at the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee, which may be able to tap into grants the municipality may not be able to.

  He noted most of the meetings in 2019 were cancelled.

  Carol and Lynn Quick also spoke opposed to the sale of the property. Carol said there have been a lot of suggestions and plans for the facility, but nothing has come through. There has never been anything brought forward from the Town for community members to bring about ideas or host fundraisers for the schoolhouse.

  She also had concerns with parking in the area, and how the potential sale of the schoolhouse could possibly impact that.

  Council received the presentations.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he hopes no one thought Council was trying to diminish their accomplishments.    

  Director of Community Service/Deputy CAO, Doug Sweet, said there is other Town property down in the area that could be considered to move the community gardens to.

  In 2016, the previous Term of Council had the Schoolhouse appraised. The estimated value at that time was $180,000. It was built in 1881.

  At that point, the Town had spent $510,745.68 on the property, including the lots, water main work, asbestos abatement and removal, and outside wall repairs.

  Clerk Robert Auger explained after the surplus was declared, a conditional offer was accepted by a private party, which is conditional on bylaw passage. Council has to January 31 to pass that bylaw. There will then be rezoning approvals that would need to be satisfied by March.

  The idea from the proponent, Sweet said, is to utilize and preserve the building.

  Information forwarded from the Town of Essex on the matter noted the developer will provide an update and present their proposal, as it relates to the Schoolhouse as a heritage asset, to the Heritage Committee on Thursday, January 14. The developer will then provide a presentation of their full proposal, including a proposed site plan and architectural drawings, to Council at their Regular Meeting on Monday, January 18.

  Director of Planning, Lori Chadwick, said the proposed rezoning was for a short-term rental boutique. She added the property is listed as being historically important. This means any changes to the infrastructure has to go to the Essex Municipal Committee.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek said for many Councillors, this seemed liked a win/win/win, because the developer has intentions to preserve the schoolhouse. She added the Chairperson of the Heritage Committee asked that Council defer the decision until members of the Heritage Committee has a chance to meet.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he would vote against any deferment, and noted his mind has not changed since he heard the proposal. “If your goal is to save that schoolhouse, our only hope to save it is to sell it, because it is falling apart before our eyes…We will never be able to afford what it will cost to, under government rules, to restore that thing. It would cost us millions we should not spend on it, because we need to build our infrastructure and get our roads up to snuff.”

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman it is smart of Council to take the time to consider options. He said he is glad for the conversation and hoped people from within the community will champion involvement.


3rd Concession Truck Traffic Petition

Council received the report, “3rd Concession Truck Traffic Petition” and also received the petition filed by the residents of the 3rd concession, between County Road 11 and County Road 23. It also voted that the road remain a “Class B” road, but the residents’ concerns regarding speed go through the proper process.

  In the Report to Council, it notes the petition was received on October 19, 2020. “Although the petition states that the petitioners wish ‘to stop the illegal use of truck transport traffic on Concession 3,’ it was further clarified that the residents are requesting the Town consider making the 3rd Concession a “No Truck Route,” the Report to Council notes.

  In accordance with the Highway Traffic Act, the 3rd Concession, from Arner to Walker, currently has a load restriction in place of 5 tonnes per axle. It is also a “Class B Road,” which provides restrictions in regards to weight.

  Through the Report to Council, Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, noted after receiving the petition, the Town requested the OPP enhance enforcement to identify if vehicles using this stretch of road were in violation of the posted signage.

  Following an OPP blitz of the area, it was identified all of the vehicles, specifically trucks, were not carrying cargo and were under posted weight limit of 5 tonnes per axle.

Through the Report to Council, it was recommended that the 3rd Concession remain a Class ‘B’ road.

  In the Report to Council, it also notes the Town also received a second petition to review the speed limit on the 3rd Concession, between McClean Road and McCormick Road. This petition will be reviewed in accordance with the Town’s Policy for Establishing Speed Limits on Town of Essex Roads, which Council adopted last summer.

  The Town also requested that the speed radar trailer be set up on this stretch of road to bring awareness to speed limits and overall enforcement.

  As far as the speeding concerns, it was suggested the subsequent speed limit reduction petition be examined through the Policy for Establishing Speed Limits in the Town of Essex.

  A concerned resident said the petition was signed by a large majority of residents there. He said there are residents who no longer utilize the road to walk because of the truck traffic. He claimed to have seen loaded transports on the 3rd Concession.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said she would like to have a larger sample of trucks inspected.

  Girard said more public education could be undertaken, and he would be willing to develop some means of awareness.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek, who is the Chairperson of the Essex Police Service Committee, will bring the truck issue to this Committee for discussion.

  In regards to the trucks, Mayor Larry Snively said this is an enforcement issue.  

  Council received the presentation.


Proposed Allocation of Remaining UWSS Treatment Capacity

Council received Infrastructure Services – 2020-14, “Proposed Allocation of Remaining UWSS Treatment Capacity” and authorized the Director of Infrastructure Services to draft and send a response letter of non-support for the correspondence received on November 2, 2020 from Union Water Supply System regarding the proposed allocation of remaining water treatment capacity.

  Mayor Larry Snively thanked Councillor Vander Doelen and Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, for going to bat for the Town on this file.