Essex Council Notes for Monday, November 6

Filed under: Headline,IN THE NEWS |

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Moment of Silence
Essex Council began its November 6 meeting with a moment of silence in recognition of the upcoming Remembrance Day services to be held on Saturday.


Communications Manager appointed

Essex CAO Donna Hunter was pleased to welcome Alex Denonville as the Town’s Communication’s Manager. Most recently, he was the Events Planner with ERCA where he organized community events. He is a graduate of Wilford University.

A bylaw was later passed at the meeting to make the appointment official.


Extension of Integrity Commissioner Report

Council authorized an extension to the Integrity Commissioner agreement between the Town and Robert J. Swayze to April 3, 2018.

CAO Donna Hunter said the contract was up on November 3. She said she got a sense Council may want to go through an RFP process. This six-month extension will allow the Town to go through a procurement process.
The Town pays Swayze for the work he does and does not provide a retainer.

Councillor Randy Voakes voiced how he recently had two months worth of Council pay taken away due to report from the Integrity Commissioner-based on complaints made from other members of Council, but now Council may want to seek another individual through a procurement process.


Site Plan Control Approval for pavilion

Council approved site plan approval for the Essex Centre pavilion. The pavilion is a joint-project between the Essex Centre BIA and the Town of Essex. It will be placed in the Heritage Gardens Park.

Bylaw 1651 was also adopted to approve three readings for the issuance of tenders for the construction of the pavilion.

The report to Council notes the need for the pavilion was highlighted 2014 Stempski Kelly Associates Inc. Streetscape report.

The Essex Centre BIA has dedicated $150,000 to its construction. The Town has permitted the use of land and will contribute $100,000.

Councillor Randy Voakes asked what the timeframe looks like in getting the pavilion installed.

Nine contractors attended a recent site-meeting, Doug Sweet, Director of Community Services said. He anticipates a spring build. He said once it is awarded, the time-line will be discussed.


Ward 1 development

Council received “Ward 1 Development – 1) Highway 3 and County Road 8, and 2) Cost of Waiving Development Charges for Ward 1.”

Council requested this report at the September 18 meeting. It was in regards to vacant property at Highway 3 and County Road 8 and its development plan status. It was asked that the report include an analysis of the amount of taxable revenue that this area, fully developed, would have provided for the Town over the past ten years in addition to the cost of potentially waiving development charges for Ward 1.

Councillor Randy Voakes had wanted the report in the past as he believed major tax dollars have been lost over the years as this particular parcel is undeveloped. He hoped the report would build a case as to whether or not the Town should waive development fees for that area to induce building of commercial or residential properties.

Jeff Morrison, Director of Finance and Business Services, noted the report was filled with assumptions and estimates as there were many possible variables. A lot of information was also gathered, when coming up with possible tax revenues for the parcel.

The report highlighted the 2017 Development Charges for Ward 1 within the Town of Essex are $10,456 per Single and Semi-Detached Dwelling.

He estimated, in the report, that the potential financial impact to the 2018 Operating Budget, if Council were to move forward with eliminating development charges in Ward 1, can be estimated to fall between $105 thousand and $1.8 million, depending on the number of new homes built. This would be funded through a combination of wastewater revenue from Ward 1 and taxes levied on residents in all wards.

Councillor Randy Voakes said he appreciates the report, but didn’t understand a word of it. The bottom line was to see if it would make sense to waive the development fee.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott said Voakes was preaching to Council and slamming administration. “Just be respectful to our staff,” he said.

Donna Hunter, CAO, said she knows the number of hours that went into it, she thought Voakes’s comment was disrespectful.

Voakes responded that he wasn’t being disrespectful. He thanked administration for the report, but noted he didn’t understand it because he is not an accountant. He assumed the majority of Council didn’t understand the report either. He asked Council to consider waiving development charges for that land for one time. He suspects in a five to six year period, the funding would be recovered through those taxes once it is established.

Councillor Ron Rogers suggested putting a time limit on it.

Councillor Sherry Bondy said it is frustrating when Council members do not listen. She said she understood the report. She said for every home built, there are expenses.

Larry Snively said he would not support waiving development fee in Essex Centre. He said he supports any developer moving in here. He said he supported waiving fees in Harrow, for specific reasons of need there.

Council should do what it is good for the community. Voakes felt that Council is not open-minded on the issue and that there are many opportunities that could be explored there, such as commercial development. He said he used housing as an example. The original site plan called for commercial usage, too, Voakes said.

CAO Donna Hunter said there are development charges on commercial properties, but not industrial opportunities.

Council received the report. Further, Councillor Voakes asked Council to waive the development charges for vacant commercial/residential property in that area for 90 days. In a recorded vote, Councillors Voakes and Rogers were in support, and Mayor McDermott, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, and Councillors Bondy and Snively were opposed. With a voted of 2-5 opposed, the motion was defeated.

A little tiff between McDermott and Voakes broke out when McDermott cut Voakes off at another instance he was speaking. Voakes said he only gotten a few words out. The Mayor cut him off because he said Voakes typically doesn’t stick to the motion.

Voakes continued, and point out that waived development charges in Leamington and struggling areas in Windsor were implemented in the past and proven to be successful.
Proposed zoning bylaw revisions

Council received the Planning Department’s report, “Proposed Zoning Bylaw Revisions” and plans to host a public meeting on Monday, November 20 to garner public input to change the Town’s General Zoning Bylaw 1037.


4-way stop at Walnut Street and Centre Street East

Council received the review of the placement of a 4-way stop sign at the intersection of Walnut Street and Centre Street East.

Council also approved “stop ahead” signs and oversized stop signs be installed on Centre Street to improve awareness. The Town will also request the OPP increase enforcement of the area.

Council requested a review of this intersection at the November 7, 2016, and further requested a review at the October 2, 2017 meeting as Councillor Larry Snively thought it was a means for safety.

The report to Council noted the guidelines and warrants for installing signs examine the traffic volumes, crash history, traffic flow and sight distance at the location to determine if a stop sign should be used.

Based on a site survey and current traffic patterns, there is no indication that traffic volumes or sight lines are issues. In addition, there have not been any reported accidents at the intersection going back to 2002, the report notes.

Information can continue to be collected, Essex’s Director of Infrastructure Chris Nepszy added.


CRS Certification

Norm Nussio, Assistant Manager of Operations, recently obtained a Certified Road Supervisor (CRS) Certification.


Nominations for Essex County Ag Hall of Fame

Councillor Larry Snively brought up discussions regarding nominations for the Essex County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

He explained he has information about a farmer, and asked Council to nominate Terry Wright. The Town, he said, can make the nomination. Wright graduated from Ridgetown and was the Chairperson of the Essex County Growers, and has sat on many boards. He is also quite active in the community. Councillor Snively recommended, and received approval for the Town to nominate Terry Wright.


NoM re: ½ load on municipal loads

At the October 16 meeting, Councillor Larry Snively brought up discussion in hopes of council and administration finding a way to restrict vehicles over a half load on municipal roads during the spring and summer months in an attempt to mitigate damage.

Snively said there are roads that are a mess. He said he had residents count 200 dump trucks on one road. They have been told to lower the third axel to distribute weight properly, and they don’t do it, he claimed.

As a taxpayer, Snively said to pay $120,000-$140,000 per km to do a road is unfair to taxpayers if damage is done this way.

When the roads are soft due to hot weather, they are coming down loaded, he added.

Right now, he said he thinks there is $1000 retainer if bringing down fill. “What does that fix?” he asked.

He knows the MTO has been notified. “I’m not going to sit by and watch our roads get destroyed,” he said. “Somehow we have to police this.”

Chris Nepszy said enforcement is always the toughest issue. He said when Essex’s supervisors or managers see these issues, they try to talk to the drivers. A bylaw has been in the works with the Clerk’s department with an upfront retainer. “Then we have a pot of money to use if the road is damaged.”


NoM re: cannabis retail opportunity

Councillor Ron Rogers brought forward a Notice of Motion that the Town proceed with whatever needs to be done through provincial mandate to get the Town out there as a candidate for a potential cannabis retail store in the urban area of the municipality; more specifically, Harrow.

Discussion came about this when Council received correspondence from the Ministry of Finance regarding Ontario’s framework to govern the lawful use and retail distribution of non-medical cannabis by July of 2018.
Location of Banner Poles for Harrow Centre

Council decided on the location of the Harrow banner poles from the motion put forward at the October 16 regular council meeting.

Councillor Sherry Bondy stated the Harrow Chamber of Commerce had recommended the proposed location at the corner of Queen and Munger.

“They felt it should be in Town, not outside of Town,” Bondy explained of the Chamber’s decision.
Councillor Snively said that he supported that recommendation.

The motion carried.


Water and Sanitary Sewer Rates

Council voted to provisionally adopt By-law 1653 on the subject of water and sanitary sewer rates and changes.
Councillor Sherry Bondy requested CAO Hunter explain the reason for the difference in rates between some of the  municipal wards.

Hunter explained that several years ago, the Town had received a wastewater review, and had used the standard of 175 cubic metres as the average per household across the entire municipality. The Town realized that the average in some wards was much lower than the 175 cubic metre average.

“What we had to do in order to ensure that our reserves were coming up to where they should be, we had to do a bit of a catch up. In order to do that, we had to raise rates more for that ward, Ward 3, than the rest of the wards,” Hunter said.

Water will remain uniform across the entirety of the municipality.

The motion carried.


CAO Verbal Report on Bill 68

CAO Hunter presented a report to Council summarizing Bill 68, which has recently received Royal Assent.
Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, will amend several previous bills, including the 2001 Municipal Act, and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

Key themes highlighted in this Bill include increased accountability and transparency, municipal financial sustainability, and responsible and flexible municipal government.

Electronic participation at meetings is part of a subsection of the Bill.

With this subsection, members of Council would be able to participate and vote in meetings which are open to the public. Any member attending electronically would not be counted in determining whether or not a quorum of members is present.

Councillor Sherry Bondy expressed approval at the idea of remote voting, especially if Councillors have young children at home.

Other points of interest in the Bill, include the requirement of municipalities to establish and maintain a public conflict of interest registry, as well as establishing a code of conduct for elected officials.

Effective dates for the various actions on the Bill are varied.

Full details of the Bill can be found on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s website.


Harrow Christmas Lights Beautification Fund

CAO Hunter explained that municipal Christmas lights will go up in Harrow on November 15, regardless of their condition.

At that point, it will be determined which lights are operational, and which need repairs.
With this method, the Town can determine the cost of repairs for the lights as are deemed necessary.


Notice of Motion for Regular Council Meeting November 20

A notice of motion from Councillor Sherry Bondy will be brought forward at the November 20 Council meeting, asking administration to prepare a report on grader issues on Given Road (Snake Lane) in Ward 3 Harrow.


Minister of Health invited to Council meeting to discuss regional healthcare

A notice of motion was carried, inviting the Ontario Minister of Health to a Council meeting regarding the state of healthcare in the region.

“I’m just requesting Council send a letter, not asking, not telling, but requesting from Eric Hoskins, our Health Minister, when he can attend Council,” Councillor Randy Voakes said. “I want to talk to him specifically about, let’s take some small steps, let’s look at our E.R. rooms.”

Voakes claimed that local hospitals are overcrowded, with serious medical procedures being performed in the hallways of the E.R.

“There’s people giving birth in our emergency rooms, there’s people dying in our emergency rooms, there’s people having blood drawn in the hallways of our hospitals,” he claimed.

Voakes finished by saying that the Minister of Heath owes it to Council and the community to address the “deplorable” state of our emergency rooms.