Marijuana honcho to speak in Windsor
WON.com Aug. 3/16
No smoked-filled rooms on the agenda but a top marijuana regulator will speak to politicos here later this month. Also, Ontario’s three senior political leaders will be in Windsor for the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference. Premier Kathleen Wynne, Opposition Leader Patrick Brown of the Progressive Conservatives, and Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP, will be speaking at Caesars Windsor on Monday Aug. 22, the conference’s first full day. Three other government ministers will also be speaking including Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray, who will talk on how carbon cap and trade will impact municipalities. Ashley Rea Kilroy (above), executive director of marijuana policy for the city of Denver, CO., will tell delegates - made up of municipal politicians from across the province - how her city “tackled marijuana regulation, enforcement and education,” according to the AMO conference agenda. Windsor last hosted the conference in 2010 and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara is AMO president.
These sidewalks can actually legally be used by cyclists
WON.COM / July 8 2016
Cyclists have long appropriated pedestrian sidewalks. But in the rural village of Colchester riding on the sidewalks is perfectly legal, since the sidewalks have been converted to bike/walking trails. The only change from the existing gray concrete was they were repainted – about two years ago – to light green and have cycling and pedestrian logos painted on them. The bike lanes are the first along County Rd. 50, which is an increasingly busy tourist route serving the region’s fast-growing wine and agritourism industries, and where cycling is being encouraged. While the narrow road has long been slated for bike lanes Essex councillor Larry Snively says there isn’t sufficient shoulder width along the rest of the route as far east as Kingsville and west towards Amherstburg. But at least in Colchester there were existing sidewalks which could be converted. “It was because of the width of the paved road itself, we never had enough space,” Snively said. Essex County has a plan to roll out extensive cycling-pedestrian routes over 20 years. Based on its County-wide Active Transportation Study (CWATS). Full implementation of more than 700 km of routes would cost just over $50 million, paid for largely by local municipal and county governments.....UPDATE: July 12: CWATS tells us: "The construction of the additional paved shoulders on CR 50 from Islandview to Holiday Bluff (east of Colchester) are expected to start at the end of July 2016. The shoulder width will be 1.5m each side."
Windsor's namesake runs into problems
WON.com June 20/16
The City of Windsor’s namesake sub (picture right) ran into a problem last week en route to a training exercise in Norway. But Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the outgoing head of the navy, called the incident a “hiccup” and the sub is now back to full speed, the National Post reported. The breakdown symbolizes the chronic problems with Canada’s fleet of four subs. And it comes at a critical time where the federal government is being asked to make a major investment so they can operate past the mid-2020s, or give up the fleet. The subs were acquired from Britain. The HMCS Windsor was originally the HMS Unicorn, launched in 1992, and obtained by Canada in 2001 and commissioned in 2003. “Her training program in 2002 was interrupted on 28 March by what proved to be a minor flooding while submerged,” the navy says on its website. The sub later participated in several international exercises, including the “successful tracking of a United States Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine” and “in the first-ever parachute rendezvous at sea practiced with Canada's Patrol Pathfinders (Canadian Army paratroopers).”
$3000 hit to homes, more for businesses
WON.com, May 19/16
Southwestern Ontario’s leading natural gas supplier says it will cost homeowners as much as $3000 more per year to heat their homes if the province makes good on its climate change policy. The Globe and Mail this week published a leaked copy of the Climate Change Action Plan. The plan would eliminate natural gas as an option for new homes by 2030 and all buildings by 2050. Yet 80 per cent of homes and businesses now use natural gas. Union Gas says the policy would lead to a non-growth strategy because new home and commercial developments, seeking to use cheaper natural gas, would be sidelined. The plan would also place businesses “at a disadvantage relative to surrounding” states and provinces with which they compete. The reason for the cost increase is because of much more expensive electric heat. But Union Gas also plugs its own industry, saying the government should target the “largest source of emissions – vehicles” and have them use “cleaner and less expensive” natural gas.
More mystery surrounds Chatham Street building
WON.com April 4/16
The former Million Dollar Saloon on Chatham St. E. has been sold. Windsor Business magazine reports the building, which has been partly modernized to be converted to what was supposed to be a new health centre and lend itself to downtown revitalization, has been sold to a company called Winthorp Valentine Inc. The sale was valued at $1.3167 million. The vendor was 38-44 Chatham St. E (2012) Ltd. Kim Vangeloff, a former owner of defunct Pitt for Pasta restaurant building on Chatham St. W., as well as Million Dollar saloon, is listed as the president, director, secretary and treasurer. Bill Arvanitis, who heads Toronto-based Arvan Rehab Group, had sought to turn the building into a sports injury and walk-in clinic. The front façade was modernized and an elevator installed. Arvanitis did not return a request for comment and an attempt to reach Vangeloff was unsuccessful. The building originally was put on the market for $2.6 million, reduced to $1.9 million, and sold for substantially less. Meanwhile, next door, The Kilt & Fiddle Irish Pub closed and the space remains for lease, having been sold to Toronto’s Henry Tam six months ago, according to Valente relator Robert Peters. Tam has big plans for major commercial investment along Chatham St.
Rare Shakespeare book coming here
WON.com Feb 23/16
The first collection of The Bard’s plays, published n 1623 – seven years after his death – will be on display in Detroit beginning March 7. The book is considered one of the most influential in the history of publishing. The First Folio contains plays “that otherwise would have been lost,” says the Detroit Institute of Arts, where the book will be displayed. These include “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Tempest,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “The Comedy of Errors” and “As You Like It.” When displayed its pages will be opened to the most quoted lines in the world “to be or not to be” from Hamlet. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most influential books ever published. Shakespeare continues to have a great cultural influence 400 years after his death,” museum spokeswoman Pam Marcil said.
Transplanted exec keen on Windsor
WON.com Jan 25/16
The Windsor Club’s general manager Jennifer Ralston hails from Montreal. But she’s fallen in love with the City of Windsor. Ralston was hired to oversee a major move of the club from the CIBC tower downtown to the Wiser’s Reception Centre, as well as a significant architectural upgrade at the Wiser’s site and an expansive membership and marketing drive as the club takes its status to a whole new level. “It’s remarkable,” Ralston says of the city. “I never ever thought I’d have a reason to come here and I have been totally smitten by the city.” The new club (story left) looks out on to the Detroit River and Detroit beyond. About Windsor, Ralston says, “it’s way under appreciated, way under marketed, I would tell you, compared to other places in Canada. There’s something about this area. It’s a phenomenal little corner of the country and it’s kind of hidden away. Nobody thinks of going to Windsor.”
WON.com Jan 6/16
Detroit’s highest skyscraper might seem like it’s turning into a giant billboard. It is, but only to highlight the products of the corporation that owns the RenCen, General Motors. Four years ago the company changed its fixed GM logo to LED lights to highlight various corporate brands as well as to use various coloured bands around the top of the various towers. These include “to support community events” like using orange for Tigers baseball, said GM corporate spokesman Pat Morrissey. More recently GM added “wraps” to its buildings. The same as bus wraps they advertise a product over a larger space. Currently the wraps, which take up about a quarter of the tops of the towers, are for a run up to the North American International Auto Show. “It’s also occasionally used to highlight specific product launches, in this case we’ve got the new Chevrolet Malibu and the new Colorado being highlighted,” Morrissey said. GM also does the wraps as a nod to the Detroit Grand Prix in June. “It’s very visible from Belle Isle,” where the race takes place, the official said. GM is hardly the first to use such giant wraps on buildings. “It’s been used all over the world,” Morrissey said.
Imagine the mega - hospital in Essex
WON.com Dec 9 2015
While one local group of activists has roundly condemned the decision to locate a new regional hospital at the edge of the city - citing issues related to sprawl - imagine the reaction had planners chosen the county seat for the location of the mega-hospital. Essex town planner Jeff Watson said his municipality had applied to host the future hospital and scored 82 per cent for meeting objectives of where the hospital should be located. “There was a lot of skepticism about what we had to offer,” he said. But given the town’s location at almost the geographic centre of the county it pretty much fit the bill as a central location. The site is on lands once owned by Mady Corp.- which sought a big box development more than a decade ago - and which are now the property of businessman Don Hearn. They’re located behind Tim Hortons, McDonalds and Canadian Tire – 85 acres at the corner of Hwy 3. and Maidstone Avenue.
Tecumseh tower sole sourced bid called out
WON.com Nov 17/15
The Town of Tecumseh has been taken to task by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for failing to open bidding on a contract to clean and repaint its water tank. Federation Ontario director Christine Van Geyn called it a “sweetheart” deal between the town and the company, Landmark, which originally built the tank in 1991. The town accepted an unsolicited bid of $170,000 to do the work as well as paint the town logo. Landmark has also done regular five year upkeep on the elevated structure. Daily Commercial News quoted another contractor, Alec Hunter of Toronto-based Heritage Restoration’s Sanding and Coating division, as saying, “When I asked if we could bid, I was just pushed off.” The town cites a bylaw that it doesn’t have to open bidding on contracts of more than $30,000 so long as the department director and purchasing coordinator agree. Mayor Gary McNamara said the town got a great deal though he didn’t know the job’s true market value because of the lack of open bidding. “We’re not reckless with taxpayer money,” he said.
Hospital's dialysis expansion likely to begin this month
WON.com Oct 6/15
Expect an update any day on construction of Windsor Regional Hospital’s expanded nephrology program, according to hospital spokesman Ron Foster. Seven contractors submitted bids that closed late last month. The work, which was scheduled to begin in early October, will take about a year to complete. Construction will take place at WRH’s Ouellette (Hotel-Dieu) campus. To cope with increasing demand to treat kidney disease the hospital is creating additional dialysis space in the adjacent so-called Bell building (above). The hospital says its renal program has grown by 45 per cent in the last five years.
Tunnel bus and bikes just don't compute
WON.com August 19/15
Windsor cyclists who want to take part in Detroit’s increasingly busy bike touring scene - Slow Roll Detroit, for example, offers regular Monday evening events - will likely have to take their bikes to the Motor City in a car. Transit Windsor, which offers bike racks on 90 per cent of its fleet, can’t take bikes across on the tunnel bus. There are several reasons. One is requiring a licence because bike racks actually extend the vehicle’s length. Transit Windsor has such Ontario licencing but not from Michigan. As well, getting through the tunnel and into downtown Detroit requires some tight maneuvering which a longer bus makes more difficult. Finally there’s U.S. Customs “who are not overly supportive of it,” transit GM Pat Delmore says. That’s because disembarking passengers have to bring all their belongings, including their bikes, with them into the small indoor Customs inspection facility. However, cyclists can brings a bike on board the tunnel bus, so long as they keep it in a bike bag.
Maroun's family an early victim of Ambassador Bridge
WON.com June 26/15
Detroit billionaire Matty Maroun’s family had humble roots. But few people probably know that many of them were right here in Windsor and Essex County and that his family was an early victim of, yes, the Ambassador Bridge, which the controversial businessman now owns. According to CanadianArabCommunity.com Maroun’s grandfather moved the “poor family” from Quebec City to River Canard and lived “next to the historic St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.” Then the family relocated to Comber where they operated a grocery store. Later, they moved to Huron Church Road, directly across the street from Assumption Church. But, says the website - which celebrates Windsor-area Arabic entrepreneurs and professionals - Maroun’s father, “was forced to sell the home in 1924 to make room for the Ambassador Bridge that would span from Windsor to Detroit.” The family then chose to move to Detroit where Matty was born in 1927. Ironically, Maroun currently seeks to build a new bridge next to his current span and his company has expropriated some 120 nearby homes that would be on land needed for the proposed development, still waiting for government approvals. But the boarded-up deteriorating homes along Indian Road are a source of controversy, after the City of Windsor ordered the company to repair them. The company says it’s under federal jurisdiction and the city has no authority. The case remains in litigation. - 26/6/15
Email income tax scam
WON.com May 27/15
Got an email from Canada Revenue Agency indicating you’ve recently got a refund? The email is fraudulent. It looks - kind of - official, with a date and “Our Ref” and “Your Ref” numbers with the title Notice of Tax Return for Last Year. Then it’s “Dear” to your email address. “After the annual calculation of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax return of: CAD 290.00. To receive your return, you must have a Government Gateway account" and then tells to click to register for a refund. “ Our head office address can be found on our web site at Canada Revenue Agency: www.cra-arc.gc.ca." There is even a copyright by the CRA and the statement “Unless expressly authorised by us, any further dissemination or distribution of this email or its attachments is prohibited.” But, says CRA spokesman Neil Shalapata, no official correspondence from the agency is done through email. “We simply don’t do that,” he said. “If you had a balance owning we might telephone you after sending you letters but it’s usually through a letter,” he said.
Overpass stick-like figures reflect nature
WON.com Apr 10/15
Ever wonder what those stripes or stick-like figures on the walls of new overpasses and tunnel tops on the Herb Gray Parkway represent? They’re part of an overall Parkway graphic theme that will become more apparent as the final parts of the six lane border highway are put in place before an official highway opening later this year. They’re designed to resemble the grasses found in the nearby Tallgrass Prairie landscape. While the stripes, drawn at various angles (just like grasses), are embedded in gray concrete on overpasses and retaining walls, a more colorful ochre look - representing Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savannah - is depicted on noise barriers. Meanwhile the tunnel top walls will literally give way to genuine plants because the long tunnel surfaces will feature natural environments with walking trails.
Transit requires “significant" cash
WON.com Feb 12/15
Transit Windsor requires a “significant investment” if it’s to lower fares, improve scheduling, make routes more efficient, and create shorter passenger trips. That’s the conclusion from a report going before the city’s Environment, Transportation & Public Safety Committee. The report compares Transit Windsor’s 2013 operating stats to other urban transit systems in cities with 150,000 to 400,000 people. It found that riders per capita “is low” due in part to lower municipal funding, higher fares, “and service not meeting customers’ expectations.” It says “a common complaint … is that the service is overcrowded, late, and not frequent or direct enough to make it attractive.” It added Transit Windsor “does not have sufficient service to maintain its advertised schedules.” City council “has recognized these challenges” and provided some additional funding in 2014-15 but this “does not address the expansion that is required to make the system more effective,” the report by Transit Windsor executive director Pat Delmore says.
Border officers now asking Ebola questions
WON.com Nov 11/14
Canadian border officials, including at the Ambassador Bridge and tunnel, are now routinely asking travellers entering the country whether they have visited West Africa in light of the Ebola outbreak. “Border services officers are now asking additional questions of all persons arriving in Canada,” Canada Border Services Agency said in a response to a WON.com query. “These questions relate to the person’s travel history over the past month and their general health.” Those “identified” with having been in that region will be “automatically referred to a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Quarantine Officer for a mandatory health assessment.” As well the officer will assess a person “feeling ill, or who may have been in contact with an ill individual from an affected country.” This isn’t a first for CBSA. Part of its normal duties are to “regularly” assess people “for signs of illness,” the agency said. Moreover, “Every person arriving in Canada is required to disclose under the Quarantine Act if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that he or she may have, or has been exposed to, a communicable disease.”
U Windsor reviewing travel in light of Ebola
WON.com Oct 22/14
The University of Windsor is reviewing its travel protocols in wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. University spokeswoman Lori Lewis said she spoke with Robert Orr, Acting Provost and Vice President Academic, and he indicated “that UWindsor has begun to review the issues related to student and faculty travel to countries with Ebola outbreaks.” In the U.S. various universities have started to tighten travel to West Africa for research and humanitarian purposes. WON.com asked the university in light of the Ebola outbreak if any conditions were being imposed on travel for university staff and students - including those from West Africa who might attend UWindsor as students.
City set to announce museum plans
WON.com Oct 15/14
The City of Windsor Friday will announce details to expand the Art Gallery of Windsor and modify the Francois Baby House as part of a plan to upgrade city museum attractions. Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects is doing the design work and Thornhill-based MMM Group Ltd. is the consulting engineer. Five construction firms have bid on the project with Amico Design placing the highest bid at $3.5 million and Oscar Construction the lowest at $3.3 million. The plan includes a long-desired stand only museum on the ground floor of the art gallery and the gallery operating from the building’s upper floors. The Baby House a block away on Pitt St. has long exhibited artifacts of local interest.
Batman booted from Caesars Windsor
WON.com June 12/14
When it comes to questionable gambling even movie stars are suspect. Ben Affleck, aka Batman and notorious gambler, got the boot from Windsor’s casino in late May. He apparently has a reputation as an “advantaged” gambler. If Star magazine can be believed the “Batman v Superman” star was asked by security to leave Caesars Windsor May 31. A source said Affleck was spotted at the high rollers table playing hands of $5000. “He sat down and played for roughly 20 minutes before security heard he was there,” said the witness. “They made the dealers stop what they were doing and asked him to leave. Ben seemed pretty mad.”
County librarian Woodbridge retiring
WON.com May 13/14
Janet Woodbridge, Essex County chief librarian for eight years, will be spending more time, ironically, reading, once she retires Sept. 30. Woodbridge joined the award winning county system after a stint of 23 years at Windsor Public Library, where for a period she managed the main branch or Central Library. An advertisement running through the Canadian Library Association advertised the job with a 2014 salary of between $105,813 - $129,910 with deadline for new applicant submissions mid-April. Woodbridge said an announcement by the library board, which makes the hire, should be made by the end of June. Woodbridge and the new librarian will spend a few months overlap so Woodbridge can “get them up to speed”. The library excels in developing new electronic materials and has been a “mentor” to other library systems, she said. Woodbridge, born in England and who grew up in Toronto, now lives on a farm outside Harrow. “Obviously I’ll get a chance to a lot more reading,” she said. “I’m planning to still be an advocate for public libraries because I firmly believe in the crucial role of libraries.”
We're not number one
WON.com March 10/14
The oft-repeated phrase that the Windsor-Detroit border is North America’s busiest commercial crossing just took a hit in a Sunday article in the Detroit Free Press. The story, which looked at why it might be difficult for the U.S. Government to cough up the $250 million for a new border bridge customs plaza, quoted 2009 U. S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reporting that Laredo, Texas was the busiest trade crossing. The 14-lane World Trade International Bridge (pictured), is only one of several crossings in that city, and is dedicated to commercial traffic only. Windsor - Detroit? We’re number two. The article suggested the teeming U.S. - Mexican border was more a priority for Washington lawmakers than the Canada – U.S. border, despite the often stated importance of a new bridge and access roads between Detroit and Windsor. The overall busiest border U. S. crossing? San Ysidro, Cal., with 20 million vehicle passengers a year.
Kouvalis now working on Tory campaign
WON.com Feb 26/14
Nick Kouvalis, a one-time locally-based Conservative campaign official and then manager for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s first election bid, has now joined the campaign of one of Ford’s rivals, John Tory (pictured). Tory was Ontario PC party leader from 2005 to 2009. “Mr. Tory’s campaign has been marketed as a ‘big tent’ coalition, with Liberal insider Bob Richardson and Conservative strategist John Capobianco at the forefront,” the National Post reported this week. “It includes Nick Kouvalis, the brains behind Ford’s last mayoral bid, who is expected to bring much of his 2010 team with him.” Kouvalis might be remembered locally for an incident in 2005 during which he allegedly uttered a death threat against current Essex Conservative MP Jeff Watson. He was then serving as campaign manager for Conservative candidate Rick Fuschi. But Judge Lloyd Dean acquitted him, saying the words were uttered in frustration during the heat of the political moment.
Tack welding not cause of Parkway girder removal
WON.com Jan 29/14
It wasn’t tack welding that was the cause of the removal of deficient girders from the Herb Gray Parkway project it was the fact the building of the girders didn’t follow technical plans. Tack welding has been raised as a major reason for why the girders were badly fabricated by European manufacturer Freyssinet. The company set up a temporary yard near the west end of the 11 km border highway, which will connect Hwy. 401 to a new Windsor-Detroit bridge. But a news release from the consortium building the road, Windsor Essex Mobility Group, states explicitly that the decision to remove the girders “is unrelated to the use of tack welding.” Indeed, it says, the much-maligned tack welding “is a common means and method that has been used in the fabrication of girders used in bridges for many years.” Testing under the government review process “has thus far supported the evidence….that the tack welding in the Parkway’s girders did not impact the structural strength of the steel used for the girders.” Rather, the reason for replacement “is based solely on this discrepancy between the documentation and the product delivered, which forms an important part of our quality control process.” Destructive testing found “unauthorized use of materials..…and other fabrication issues which were not adequately and accurately documented in Freyssinet's quality control documentation,” the release says.
Mail is still getting through - in spots
WON.com Jan 7 2014
The severe cold hasn’t been preventing the mail from getting through. Depending, that is, on where exactly you’re located. A Canada Post official admitted delivering Monday and Tuesday was spotty or non-existent depending on local weather conditions in southwestern Ontario. “Our delivery today (Tuesday) for instance there was a break in the wind and our delivery agents in Windsor were out for delivery,” Eugene Knapik said. Knapik said not only are conditions affecting home delivering but the post office also considers the logistical chain of getting mail from one city to another. “We assess the conditions locally and nationally daily and we look to see if it’s reasonable and safe to send our people out,” he said. “And if we just can’t deliver, well, we just won’t deliver.” Knapik said while letter carriers are equipped with “good quality layered warm” clothing “more and more” of them are using the Ford Transit Connect electric vans (picture above) to do “park-and-loop” delivery. The vans were introduced in 2010. “So they have an opportunity to warm up in their vans which is quite helpful.”