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.”
AGW security upgrade to cost almost $400 K
WON.com Dec 10 2013
It’s going to cost almost $400,000 to upgrade the security of the city’s art gallery as it makes way for a new community museum. City Council will vote next week to approve $363,608 plus HST to improve security cameras, intrusion alarms, card access and even the building’s HVAC system. Mid South Contractors got the job with another bidder being non-compliant. Tom Graziano, manager of facility operations for the city, said the money was approved when council decided to take over the art gallery. Click to read more
Ont students qualify for in-state tuitions
WON.com Oct 24 2013
Even though it’s not labelled on the accompanying university map and even though Ontario is not a state, Detroit’s Wayne State University is offering provincial students the same deal as Michigan students. Undergraduates in neighbouring Great Lakes jurisdictions including Ohio, Minnesota and New York as well as Ontario can take advantage. The appropriately called Great Lakes Tuition Award will see Ontarians pay the same tuition – along with a 10 per cent fee - as in-state students. Students who take 15 credit hours per semester will save a “substantial” average of $11,633 a year, the university says. In addition, they’ll be eligible for all five merit-based WSU scholarships, which can save students an additional $11,500 each year. “We look forward to giving a broader array of students the opportunity to take advantage of a very reasonable tuition base to attend this top research university,” Provost Margaret Winters said in a statement. The university is fighting a decline in enrolment. The average in-state tuition is $9,780 and the average for non-Michiganders is $23,070.
Final touches being put on the new jail
WON.com Oct 9/13
It may look gleaming and ready to open but the new Windsor regional jail – officially called the South West Detention Centre – located alongside Hwy 401, still needs to be commissioned before a planned opening in the spring. Staff training still needs to be done as well as “inmate programming” and discussions completed with other agencies and “stakeholders” for delivery of services to the jail. “Some finishing work is underway to complete the project and move to the commissioning stage,” Andrew Morrison of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said. A prisoner transfer plan to and from courts and the jail still had to be worked out with local police, OPP and provincial Bailiffs, he said. Testing of automated security systems and equipment is now taking place. As for the future of the old Windsor Jail on the city’s west side Morrison said there have been “no further discussions” on what will happen to it after it closes. Some in the community have called for it to be turned into a community museum. “Infrastructure Ontario will determine any future use of the facility,” Morrison said. The new 315-bed facility will result in “an increase” in correctional service jobs, the ministry said in an earlier fact sheet. Major construction of the $247 million building started in September 2008 and wrapped up in August.
No pay for workers who refuse to cross university picket lines
WON.com Sept 11/13
University workers who refuse to cross picket lines to honour a strike by CUPE Local 1393 will not be paid. University spokeswoman Holly Ward said: “If an employee chooses not to cross the picket line, they must inform their supervisor of this decision and they will not get paid.” Many non-striking staff have refused to cross lines, respecting the pickets in union time-honoured tradition. But Ward said she did “not have any information on how many have chosen to do so yet.” CUPE Local 1393, representing 282 staff including everyone from trades to computer programmers to student health service nurses to ESL instructors, hit the pavement Sunday morning just as classes for another academic year were about to resume. The union says it’s on strike for job protection. “The administration entered our contract talks with an agenda of concessions that would make it easier to lay us off and contract out our work and over months of bargaining, it has not moved from that goal,” CUPE says in a bulletin. “We think University of Windsor students — and the surrounding communities — deserve better.”
Bridge toll increasing
WON.com Aug 12/13
The Ambassador Bridge is raising its tolls again – just over a year since its last toll increase. The new $5.00 per crossing toll takes effect August 15, according to the bridge’s website. Last summer the bridge raised the toll from $4 to 4.75, which was the highest for all major bridge crossings between Canada and the United States. Bridge management did not return requests for comment. Last year the bridge’s toll increase made the Ambassador’s toll almost 50 per cent higher than most other international crossings. The next highest was the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which is now $4.50 Windsor to Detroit and $4.75 Detroit to Windsor. Both the tunnel and bridge offer discounts with special travel cards. Prior to the previous bridge increase all major crossings in Ontario were under $3.50 with the cheapest being the Thousand Islands Bridge near Kingston at $2.50. According to the Public Border Operators Association 4.8 million passenger vehicles crossed the bridge last year. Year to date traffic until June showed traffic had increased 2.87 per cent – or more than 66,000 vehicles - over the first six months of 2012.
Bridge owners "thuggish" - Norton
WON.com July 11/13
Canada’s Consul General in Detroit, Roy Norton, described the Ambassador Bridge ownership as “thuggish” during a local presentation before a largely American group of urban experts. Speaking in May at a one day session in Windsor about the Herb Gray Parkway and a new border link between Canada and the U.S., Norton, during a slide presentation to Urban Land Institute (ULI) delegates, said legal challenges by the Marouns over the development of a new bridge were “characteristic of the thuggish nature of the Ambassador Bridge folks.” He was referring, among other things, to a company claim that the bridge had the almost 100-year-old “exclusive and perpetual right” to provide transportation across the Detroit River. “Like everything they do one can assume that there was an element of intimidation in filing (the claim) scaring the state department away from issuing the permit for fear that any action that they took would subsequently be overturned in court,” Norton told the audience. “We’ll never know for sure (whether) it actually worked in slowing down the process (of obtaining a presidential permit for the new bridge). But the mere fact that the permit was issued suggests that the state department satisfied itself of the frivolousness of the Maroun lawsuit.” Obtaining the permit, issued by the U .S. Department of State in April, was one of the last hurdles before construction of the new bridge can begin.