News

Town goes back to the drawing board on Sandwich St. relining project

 

Although the town approved realigning Sandwich St. into a three-lane highway at its July 14 meeting, that may not end up being the case. Council reconsidered that motion Aug. 11 and are now asking the traffic engineer to re-examine the issue.

Although the town approved realigning Sandwich St. into a three-lane highway at its July 14 meeting, that may not end up being the case. Council reconsidered that motion Aug. 11 and are now asking the traffic engineer to re-examine the issue.

By Ron Giofu

 

While preliminary work has started on the Sandwich St. repaving project, town council has sent the relining project back to the drawing board.

Todd Hewitt, the town’s manager of engineering operations, told the River Town Times last Friday he had been speaking with the town’s traffic engineer with the MMM Group after council gave direction to take another look at the three-lane alignment that the town had originally approved last month.

Hewitt said the traffic engineer is working on the matter and believed a new recommendation could come this week.

Dr. Frank Fox told town council at their meeting last week that realigning the road into three lanes – a northbound lane, a southbound lane and a centre left turn lane – and thus eliminate 53 on-street parking spaces would negatively impact business owners in the area. He used Kaysho Emporium, owned by his son Adam, as an example.

“Eliminating parking will almost certainly put them out of business,” said Fox.

Fox added he has heard from other business owners along Sandwich St. who are not pleased with the plan to eliminate the 53 spots and didn’t believe the realignment of lines would improve traffic flow along Sandwich St.

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland thanked Fox for his delegation, adding that Fox brought up issues that he didn’t think of during the July meeting. Sutherland wanted to know what would happen if the centre turn lane was removed.

Hewitt told council there is driver confusion in front of General Amherst High School where drivers think it is four lanes at the stop light at the crosswalk. The three-lane realignment was done through the entire street to create consistency for drivers. He added that a letter was circulated to residents and businesses in that corridor with two calls resulting from it.

Councillor Diane Pouget emphasized that she voted against the realignment proposal last month and told Fox “your concerns are my concerns.” She suggested council revisit the issue, which they later did when the July motion was reconsidered and a new motion was drafted to get a new look at the realignment of the lines on Sandwich St.

“We put the cart before the horse,” said Pouget. “This is really going to hurt a lot of businesses. We’re eliminating 53 parking spaces.”

Councillor Carolyn Davies wondered if the road could have the “serpentine flow” similar to that of Tecumseh Road in Windsor where parking is allowed in some stretches and not in others. Davies added she still wants to see if there is a way to place bicycle paths along Sandwich St.

Councillor Bart DiPasquale believed the town should consider adjusting the original proposal to better suit businesses in the area.

“We should look at everyone affected and try to accommodate them if we can,” said DiPasquale.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said the road is there to have traffic move through town and believed parking could be found nearby.

“Understand what the purpose of the road is for – to convey traffic through there,” said Hurst. “You may have to walk a little bit but there’s all kinds of parking.”

DiPasquale aims for deputy mayor’s chair in Oct. 27 election

 

Councillor Bart DiPasquale is running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 27 municipal election. He is the third candidate to run for the position.

Councillor Bart DiPasquale is running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 27 municipal election. He is the third candidate to run for the position.

By Ron Giofu

 

Another current council member is looking to move up and is running for deputy mayor.

Councillor Bart DiPasquale has become the third candidate in the race for the position, joining Councillor Carolyn Davies and former councillor John Menna. DiPasquale said he has received good feedback since word got out he was seeking the position.

“I carefully examined my options in partaking again in the election process,” said DiPasquale. “I thought the best thing to do was to run for deputy mayor. This was a position that was attractive to me. I feel I can do well in the position with my previous background and my one-term of (council) experience.”

DiPasquale, a retired deputy police chief, added he has had civic duty instilled in him his entire life.

Much like most other candidates, the town’s financial state is his main focus. With the financial review out, he said it is now time to get to work and put the 41 recommendations into action.

“Now we have to implement all these recommendations,” said DiPasquale. “It’s a good thing to know where you are at and what you have to do.”

DiPasquale acknowledged the town was offered a financial review by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing instead of an audit and believed there was “confusion” on council with what they were getting. He added there are some benefits to the review.

“I think they’ve covered and identified enough areas we can look at to help get our books in order,” said DiPasquale. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, that’s for sure.”

Working together as a team and doing what is best for Amherstburg “is paramount,” he stated.

“I’d like to take a leadership role, if my colleagues allow me to do it,” he said. “People are never going to agree 100 per cent. I think people really have to search themselves. You have to do your homework and you have to be prepared and ready to partake in the debate and decision making.”

There are projects that may not be done until there is more money available and the town’s finances straightened out, he stated.

“We have to live within our means,” said DiPasquale.

DiPasquale believes debate is a healthy part of the democratic process and that controversy arises when there is an appearance of ulterior motives or unfairness.

“That’s when you get division,” he said.

Transparency has to be there and be seen by the community, he added, though noting the town won’t be able to satisfy everyone.

“We have to engage the community and show them we are working for them and bringing the town forward,” said DiPasquale. “I feel the town has a bright future and we’ll get out of this situation we are in together.”

DiPasquale said he hopes citizens do their homework heading up to the Oct. 27 election and hopes he is the candidate chosen for deputy mayor.

“It’s been a long four years and, at times, very difficult,” he said. “Personally, I’ve probably become a better person. I’ve learned a lot and I think I can move on to a new position. It’s up to the people and I hope they will allow me to. I will do my best like I always have. I’m still for the people.”

Communication, team approach among the top issues for Cleminson

 

Frank Cleminson, a ten year veteran of the Amherstburg Police Services Board, is running for one of five  councillor’s seats in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Frank Cleminson, a ten year veteran of the Amherstburg Police Services Board, is running for one of five
councillor’s seats in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

By Ron Giofu

After ten years on the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), Frank Cleminson is trying to transition into a position as a town councillor.

“It has always intrigued me to take the next step,” said Cleminson, who believes his APSB experience gives him the knowledge and skillset to do so. “I want to bring a team approach to council. I want transparency, accountability and a good dialogue on all the issues that come before us.”

Cleminson said another focus is to look at what the town can handle, how it can manage it and still run the town. Believing that the budget is “a moving target,” he added the town still has to deliver services to residents but do so in a “mindful and cost effective” manner.

Once the new council is sworn in and they get a handle on the debt level, Cleminson believes they will have to work with administration proactively and work together on the options to bring the debt down.

Cleminson said he believes that working with setting the police department’s budget will give him the tools to be able to work with the overall town budget. He pointed out that the APSB has to remedy situations if a portion of the budget deviates in any way from what was originally approved and said those skills can be applied to the town’s budget if portions of it are coming in with higher numbers than anticipated. He acknowledged that bringing the budget back in line is time consuming, but “that’s what I want to be a part of.”

Amherstburg has good amenities that include quality police, fire and EMS services, Cleminson said, and also advocated for a hotel or motel to come to town.

“If people come to town and stay in town, they’ll spend their money in town,” said Cleminson.

Cleminson said he’d like to see growth in the town and improvements to such roads as Texas Road. He champions the option that had been originally approved by council that included sidewalks and bike paths.

“The original recommendation is the only one I would support,” he said.

That would help link that area of town to the downtown area, Cleminson added.

Cleminson said he wants to work with administration to ensure all the information council needs is received and that “I want to listen” as “hearing about the issues instead of reading about it is the best way to resolve the issues.”

He acknowledged that bringing the budget back in line is time consuming, but “that’s what I want to be a part of.”

Amherstburg has good amenities that include quality police, fire and EMS services, Cleminson said, and also advocated for a hotel or motel to come to town.

“If people come to town and stay in town, they’ll spend their money in town,” said Cleminson.

Cleminson said he’d like to see growth in the town and improvements to such roads as Texas Road. He champions the option that had been originally approved by council that included sidewalks and bike paths.

“The original recommendation is the only one I would support,” he said.

That would help link that area of town to the downtown area, Cleminson added.

Cleminson said he wants to work with administration to ensure all the information council needs is received and that “I want to listen” as “hearing about the issues instead of reading about it is the best way to resolve the issues.”

While it is fine to debate and disagree on issues, he said that animosity must not occur. He said communication is key.

“That’s what I’ll be all about is good communication,” said Cleminson.

Cleminson further stated he had a goal of being the longest serving APSB member when he was appointed to the board a decade ago. He said he is approaching his council run with the same mindset.

“I want to put my name to the issues,” he said. “That’s why I’m running.”

Five per cent budget cuts, sharing of services, examining vehicle fleet among Lavigne’s priorities

 

Jason Lavigne is running for council in the Oct. 27 election. He said he has stayed involved since last running in 2010.

Jason Lavigne is running for council in the Oct. 27 election. He said he has stayed involved since last running in 2010.

By Ron Giofu

 

Jason Lavigne is making another run at a councillor’s seat with plans on how to reduce the town’s debt and run the town more efficiently.

Lavigne, who ran for council in 2010, stayed involved in municipal issues such as the Ombudsman closed meeting investigation, an OPP investigation into fundraising for town projects, a 2010 election finance audit and a petition for a financial audit.

“I tried to educate myself on how things run and how you do things properly. I learned a great deal over the last four years.”

Lavigne said he learned a lot about the Municipal Act and believes some on council may not have educated themselves enough. That said, he acknowledged it is an often tough job to be a council member.

“There’s not a lot of thanks being on Amherstburg council,” he said.

Lavigne expects all candidates to be transparent, fiscally responsible and accountable and added several of his ideas to achieve those goals, including having the budget process include a 5% reduction strategy. He believed the town could save $3-5 million over the four years that could be put towards the debt or back into reserves.

Assessing and reducing the town’s current vehicle fleet and putting new vehicle purchase rules in place is another idea. Lavigne believes some of the town’s current fleet could be downsized from full-sized pickup trucks to more economical vehicles.

Sharing services is another way the town can be more efficient, he said. That would include approaching Western Secondary School for assistance with the hanging basket program and finding other ways for the police service to cost share, though adding the latter would not include switching to OPP. Lavigne added “we’re getting bang for our buck” in policing but the town’s safest community in Canada designation is the combined effort of police and the residents.

While noting there are good people in administration, he said other companies trim staff to save money. He stated the unionized workforce is doing a great job.

“I think we’ve added a few layers in management that could be reduced,” he said.

Fewer consultants should be used, he added, and that elected council members be “put back to work.”

Debt level is another issue and he stated it is important to know what the debt is and to “save first and spend second” in order to help pay it down.

Lavigne stated it should be easier for residents to address council, noting delegation requests have to be in seven days prior to the meeting even though the agendas aren’t finalized until later in the week. Other ideas include possibly televising council meetings, putting line-by-line accounts payable reports online and ensuring more public meetings are held prior to decision making.

Lavigne said he is a lifelong resident that believes the town has more positives than negatives. He said the residents are most important.

“They have to come first,” he said. “They are paying the bills.”

 

Amherstburg Community Services distributes 140 backpacks during “Family Fun Day”

 

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held its annual Backpack Giveaway and Family Fun Day last Saturday with help from a $2,000 donation from the Rotary Club. From left: Rotary Club past president Bill Wark, ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo, ACS board chair David Smith, Rotary Club president Lena Lazanja and the Amherstburg Admirals mascot, who was on hand to enjoy the day.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held its annual Backpack Giveaway and Family Fun Day last Saturday with help from a $2,000 donation from the Rotary Club. From left: Rotary Club past president Bill Wark, ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo, ACS board chair David Smith, Rotary Club president Lena Lazanja and the Amherstburg Admirals mascot, who was on hand to enjoy the day.

Artist Jay Raven paints a mural as part of ACS's Backpack Giveaway and Family Fun Day.

Artist Jay Raven paints a mural as part of ACS’s Backpack Giveaway and Family Fun Day.

Ryan Couture and Kaitlyn Dillen help Kadance, Salena, Harmony (not pictured) and mom Krystle with container gardening.

Ryan Couture and Kaitlyn Dillen help Kadance, Salena, Harmony (not pictured) and mom Krystle with container gardening.

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held its third annual “Backpack Giveaway and Family Fun Day” with new events and a new partnership.

ACS partnered with the Rotary Club of Amherstburg in presenting this year’s event, held last Saturday outside of ACS’s office at 179 Victoria St. S. ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo was satisfied with how the day proceeded.

“We added new events to it this year,” she said. “We anticipate giving away about 140 backpacks.”

The backpacks contained grade-appropriate school supplies for those students that registered.

“For us, it’s a community-building event,” said DiBartolomeo. “We’re glad it’s well received by the community.”
ACS plans on continuing the event in future years.

“Every year we want to do it,” said DiBartolomeo. “Every year we want to expand services and work with agencies and businesses and partner with them.”

The Rotary Club of Amherstburg donated $2,000 towards this year’s event. Rotary Club member Martin Breshamer said they have applied for grant funding through the Rotary Foundation for next year’s event. While the result of the club’s grant application won’t be known for about a month or so, Breshamer indicated they were willing to go ahead with a donation anyway even if the grant doesn’t come through.

Rotary Club past president Bill Wark said participating in the event helps fulfil a club mandate.

“Literacy is one of our focus areas,” said Wark. “We thought it would be an excellent idea to help out in this regard.”

Wark added that the Rotary Club wants to aid ACS in giving students a good start to the upcoming school year. He agreed with Breshamer that the club’s commitment to funding next year stands with or without successful approval of the club’s grant application.

“It’s such a good program. We’ll do whatever we can do to help,” said Wark.