Continued Council Notes for Monday, October 2

Filed under: Headline,IN THE NEWS |

by Sylene Argent

Environmental Assessment for Hanlan Street extension

Council received the report, “Results of Request for Proposal–Municipal Environmental Assessment Project for Halan Street Extension,” and awarded the Request for Proposal for the Municipal Environmental Assessment Project for Hanlan Street Extension to BT Engineering Inc. for $132,384.67.

In the report to Council, it notes the Ministry of Transportation will provide the funding of consultant costs to the Town for the completion of the Municipal EA after the selected alignment for the Hanlan Road extension is incorporated into the Town’s Official Plan.

Within the Town of Essex, Phase 3 Widening will include the removal of the existing Highway #3 intersection at Victoria Avenue. It would be replaced with an overpass at Victoria Avenue, the report continues.

To compensate for the elimination of this intersection, some roads within Essex Centre will be extended and connected. South Talbot Road will be joined to County Road 8 and extend continuously to Fairview, it notes.

Director of Infrastructure & Development Chris Nepszy commented the Town has no indication the expansion of Highway # 3 is outside of the Province’s Planning for the future, or outside of five years. The Environmental Assessment, he added, is meant to protect the alignment of the Hanlan extension, which is the first step. The next step would be to move into construction.


Summer-based Economic Development Report

Council received the activity report for economic development over July and August.

In the report, it shows data highlighting a decrease in the unemployment rate in Essex, from 7.3 percent in 2011 to 6.2 percent as of February 2017.

The median household income in 2011 was $62,393, and is now $71,936. It also notes that the downtown commercial vacancy rate in Essex Centre is 7.8 percent and is 8.3 percent in Harrow Centre.


County of Essex buying Civic Centre

Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, who is a Town of Essex representative on Essex County Council, said over the past few years the County has put in an ongoing effort to purchase portions of the Civic Centre.

He noted recently the Essex Region Conservation Authority signed a ten-year lease to remain in the building after selling its portion of the building to the County. He also noted the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is slowly moving out of the building in conjunction with the Hospice built out in Leamington.


Voakes wants to move the caboose

Councillor Randy Voakes wants to move the caboose at the historic Essex Railway Station to Talbot Street to be used as a tourist kiosk, with Heritage Essex’s blessing.

He made a Notice of Motion about this to Council previously. It was brought forward for discussion and consideration at the October 2 meeting.

Voakes said he has a vision of a white fence surrounding it. He sees it as a place people could visit to find out what the community has to offer. He would also like to see a horse and carriage stationed there to bring people on a narrated tour to the Spitfire Memorial, cenotaph, and murals. The intention of the horse and carriage would be on donation bases, with the proceeds to a charity.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott called a Point of Order on Voakes because he said he got off topic as his Notice of Motion was to move just the caboose. McDermott then said he would vote against it as the Town does not own the caboose.

“Why would I want to put the Heritage Committee on the hot seat by having us pass this and it doesn’t belong to us,” he asked.

Voakes said the intention was to have the Town meet with the Heritage Committee.

Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said Heritage Essex would first have to be approached to see if they would be interested, and further noted the cost to move a caboose would be high as large machinery is needed. The caboose would also have to be made accessible.

Meloche said he would be in favour if the wording of the Notice of Motion was reworded to ask if Heritage Essex would be interested and then to look at costs.

Voakes withdrew his motion. He said there was a plan for no cost.


Desired tax increase for 2018

Acting Director of Finance and Business Services, Jeffrey Morrison, said his department has been working diligently on the 2018 budget and the 2019-2022 forecast. He said he was looking for direction from Council regarding a potential tax increase.

He noted last year’s budget forecast included an approximate 2.7 percent increase, split between the Operating and Capital Budgets.

Morrison explained that last year, due to the School Board reduction, the Town put away .7 percent of the Capital Budget in 2017 for the Asset Management Plan, which wasn’t planned until 2018. So, the actual increase for Capital for 2018 will be around 1.3 percent.

Councillor Steve Bjorkman and Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said they were comfortable with looking at an approximate two-percent increase.

Councillor Larry Snively is glad the 2018 Budget is being moved on now.

Council received the verbal report and to have administration to look at a two percent tax increase for 2018.


Voakes’s two months suspended remuneration

At the September 5 Essex Council meeting, a majority Council vote moved Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze’s recommendation to suspend Councillor Randy Voakes of two months worth of remuneration. Complaints were filed against him for various reasons by remaining members of Council.

Voakes had put a Notice of Motion forward that the funds be forwarded to the Arthritis Association.

Town Clerk Robert Auger noted a Motion to Reconsider would be needed as he said the original motion had the dollars moved to the General Funds. In order to do this, a two-thirds support from those who voted in favour of the original motion was needed.

Voakes withdrew his Notice of Motion, noting Council could keep the funds.


Four-way stop in Harrow

At a previous Council meeting, Councillor Larry Snively brought a Notice of Motion forward, which Council wanted support, regarding a request for a report on potentially installing a four-way stop at the corner of Centre and Walnut Streets. He said this was for safety purposes as he has heard from residents there is quite a bit of traffic. There is a school two blocks away.

Director of Infrastructure & Development Chris Nepszy said it is a perceived safety issue. He noted the OPP put a mobile traffic sign there and there was no indication of speeding issues that hasn’t been notice in other areas the sign has been placed. He added 81 vehicles went through that intersection from 4 p.m. the Friday before the Council meeting to that Monday evening at the same hour. The average speed was 37 km/hr. Six of those vehicles were over  50 km/hr.

Putting stop signs where they are not necessarily needed can create issues, for instance of people wanting to run stop signs, he said.


Integrity and Actions within Council Chambers

Councillor Randy Voakes said anyone sitting in the gallery inside the Council Chambers has no right to physically attack anyone. He spoke of a claimed incident that was brought to Council’s attention. He said he was not allowed to mention names.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott asked Voakes to speak to what he knows and not hearsay.

“The fact is I know this lady sent an email to Council that said she was physically abused. It’s as simple as that. I don’t need witnesses…even though there was a host of witnesses,” Voakes said. He added unless that individual woke up that morning with an idea to create an abuse fallacy and launch it off to Council with hopes of a resolution, he didn’t take what was told to Council about the incident as hearsay.

Voakes wanted to know what Council wanted to do about it.

McDermott said the claimed incident has nothing to do with the Town of Essex. He said Voakes had been told this a number of times by administration. He added he wished this individual would come forward and complain to the police so witnesses could present the other side of the story.

Town Clerk Robert Auger said as best as he can tell, this is a civil matter that should be dealt with by the proper authorities. He further cautioned Council with making further comment as it could interfere with what could be an investigation.

Councillor Sherry Bondy said a Code of Conduct was created for service users at the local library system because there have been instances of individuals becoming irate. She said Council could create a public code of conduct.
CAO Donna Hunter said the Town does have a procedural bylaw in place, and there are ways of addressing issues with the public in a Council meeting.

McDermott said the Chairperson is in charge of keeping things under control. He claimed he did not see a thing. Council received Voakes’s presentation.


NoM for four-way stop sign in Essex Centre

Councillor Randy Voakes put a Notice of Motion forward, to be discussed at the October 16 meeting, regarding a request for a stop sign potentially to be installed at the Hanlan Street/Iler Street intersection.


NoM re: truck traffic

Councillor Larry Snively put a Notice of Motion forward that a bylaw be considered to regulate truck traffic on Essex’s roads to half loads during extreme weather conditions. This will be discussed at the first meeting in November.