by Sylene Argent
Richard Wyma, General Manager of the Essex Region Conservation Authority, approached Council to deliver the 2017 ERCA Budget, 2016 Annual Report, and outline ERCA projects scheduled for 2017.
During his presentation, Wyma said ERCA and partners launched Place for Life, a commitment to improving water and landscapes and protect from flooding erosion, in 2016. It is ERCA’s commitment, he said, to learn about the region and what makes the area great to be able to act to respond to changes in rural and urban spaces.
“And, ultimately, the greater our experiences and attachments to the Essex Region, the more we can celebrate it. And, we do have a lot to celebrate in this region. We live in a pretty amazing place,” Wyma said. He added that the region boasts of having over 4000 acres of conservation areas, many greenways and trails, and is surrounded by nearly 300 km of Great Lake shoreline.
But the region has its challenges, including that in the past 200 years, around 95 percent of wetlands have been drained. For over 40 years, ERCA has been working to address the region’s challenges.
“We have achieved some great successes. Our natural area cover has grown from 3.5 percent to more than 8.5 percent,” Wyma said, noting ERCA has planted over 6million trees and has restored more than 10,000 acres of forest, tall grass prairies, and wetlands.
2017 is the first full year for the 10-year strategic plan for ERCA, which he said has set 45 actions. This year, he added, ERCA will implement a regional plan with municipalities to address climate change and will address Great Lake water quality through research pertaining to phosphorous. There will also be focus on greenways this year.
He said the work ERCA does relies on a strong board.
The board has set an ambitious agenda for 2017, Wyma said. By the end of 2017, the deficit will be overcome, he added.
The 2017 budget, he said, will total $11.1million, including municipal contribution of $3million. This proposes an increase of 34cents per household, accounting for less than $16 per household.
Councillor Sherry Bondy was the Essex Council rep on ERCA during the last term of Council. She noted that during the recent AMO Conference, there was a workshop she attended that urged decision-makers to implement health considering on all polices. Essex Council will soon have its own strategic session in the near future, and she would like that plan to have a health link. Every decision Council makes, she said, has an environmental impact and Council should keep that in mind.
Council received Wyma’s presentation.
New Business Agenda Items
Council moved to receive the report “New Business Agenda Items” and further directed administration to look at the Procedural Bylaw to provide Council members a section where they can make an announcement in a five-minute time frame on non-debatable topics.
The motion came after a lengthy discussion on the topic. Councillor Randy Voakes originally brought this up at past Council meetings, saying he had several items he wanted to speak about during Council meetings not added to two separate agendas.
It was noted the Mayor has the right to not include items if they do no meet criteria to be added or if the issue is better dealt with through administration. At the February 21 meeting, administration was directed, through a motion, to review the current process used to request New Business items to be placed on the Regular Council Meeting agendas. These items must be minor and urgent, meaning they do not require extensive research and are time sensitive.
The report to Council highlights that the Procedural Bylaw was adopted in May 2016. It includes a “New Business” section, which allows Council to add items to the agenda after it has been published. The deadline for items to be submitted is Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. The Mayor reviews the draft agenda, in consultation with the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Clerk, and Directors, on Thursday mornings and it is published later that day.
The report continues that if an item does not meet the criteria, the Mayor, in consultation with the CAO, can remove items if there is insufficient information provided to facilitate Council deliberations; the matter does not meet the requirements of the Procedural Bylaw; or if the matter is operational and should be referred to Administration for follow-up.
The report adds that there used to be a “Council Discussion” section, but it was removed in 2013 because insufficient information was being provided for items identified for discussion and as a result, discussions were taking place and decisions were being made without sufficient information.
In addition, discussions were taking place and decisions were being made without sufficient stakeholder participation and public notice for transparency.
The most open and transparent means for a member of Council to add an item to the agenda is by a Notice of Motion, it is noted in the report.
Director of Corporate Services Donna Hunter commented during the meeting that a Notice of Motion is likely the most transparent course of action as it lets the public know the matter will be discussed at the following Council meeting.
Councillor Sherry Bondy noted during the lengthy discussion on the topic that a Notice of Motion means it takes to the next meeting to take action on an item, which can be too long in some instances.
BIA Board member appointed
Council supported the appointment of Dr. Mark Belisle of Essex Chiropractic, Rehabilitation, and Massage to the Essex Centre BIA Board.
At the previous Council meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put a Notice of Motion Forward that Council instruct administration to investigate increasing the fines for illegal dumping of items in Essex with improved enforcement measures. Council moved her motion at the March 6 meeting.
She said it is not acceptable for anyone to dump any discarded items on the side of the road.
Councillor Randy Voakes said he would be ok with raising the fines to $3000 as if someone is that ignorant, he is not concerned about imposing a high fine.
Director of Infrastructure & Development Chris Nepszy said enforcement has always been an issue. He also noted there are limits to the fines that can be issued.
As far as items, like tires, that can be tracked, Councillor Larry Snively suggested tracking that person down and insisting they come pick up the item.
“They’ll be embarrassed,” he said.
Councillor Steve Bjorkman urged residents who see illegal dumping occurring to report the incidents.
Notice of Motion on Great Lakes
Councillor Sherry Bondy put a Notice of Motion Forward for Council to consider at the next public meeting. The Notice of Motion looks at ensuring safe drinking water for Ontarians. It notes that as residents depend on Lake Erie as a source for their drinking water, and since it has struggled with algal blooms in the recent past, be it resolved that Council wishes the federal and provincial governments be leaders in the development and implementation of action plans that will protect drinking water and address the algal bloom issue and would further protect and restore the health of Lake Erie. She would want this resolution sent to various related ministries.