By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on Jan. 20, 2017
It was a night of remembrance at LaSalle’s council meeting on Jan. 10, as the town’s elected officials started the year’s first gathering with Mayor Ken Antaya memorializing three local public servants who passed over the holiday season.
When Mayor Antaya opened the meeting, he stated that council “trust[s] the past holiday season was a peaceful and restful one for you and your families. Unfortunately, during the holidays, we lost some people who were an important part of our town hall families.”
The mayor was speaking of the recent passings of retired town employees Mary Lovell-Meloche and Luella ‘Pearl’ Pearce, as well as former deputy mayor of Leamington Rob Schmidt.
Mary Lovell-Meloche, who was an employee of the Town of LaSalle for 37 years, passed on Dec. 23 after a short battle with cancer.
Antaya reminisced, “she was a bundle of energy and very entertaining. You could always get a reaction from her and her personality and laugh was infectious and endearing.”
Lovell-Meloche had retired in April of 2014 and spent at least a quarter century as the town’s receptionist.
“[Luella Pearce] had a smile and commitment to assist that went beyond the call of duty,” reflected the mayor.
Pearce, who worked as the head tax clerk, retired in 2000 and was a town employee for 28 years.
Mayor Antaya stated that Pearce and the staff of the tax department “created such an atmosphere that people would actually enjoy coming in to pay their taxes, and in a lot of instances, they would drop off baked goods…”
Pearce passed away on Jan. 3, surrounded by family.
Antaya feels that the ladies made a lasting impact on the town’s offices.
“Together, [Lovell-Meloche and Pearce] were part of a legacy amongst our staff, committed to public service,” said the mayor. “As a public servant, you sometimes get criticized by the very people you are trying to assist, but these women exemplified what we try to establish. That is, to sort of keep your eye on the prize – you never forget why you are here to serve.”
Although not a member of LaSalle’s town structure, Antaya also took the time to remember Rob Schmidt.
Schmidt, who served in the past as reeve of Mersea, warden of Essex County, and deputy mayor of Leamington, passed away of Dec. 27.
“[Schmidt] was always known for his calm demeanour and rational approach to most issues,” reflected Antaya. “He served his community and region well and with dignity.”
Having served as president of the Windsor-Essex unit of the Canadian Cancer Society and as the chair of the Leamington Mennonite Home, Schmidt was first diagnosed with cancer 26 years ago.
After these fond farewells, the council then started into community business. On the docket was the Adams Lane proposal for the development of a three-story, ten-unit apartment building by applicant Mike Byrd.
The proposal was accepted in principle, with Byrd emphasizing that he lives across the street from the location and that he wishes for the apartment building to be a positive component of the block he lives on. Concerns were discussed among the council members on the ramifications of traffic to the area, especially during the Strawberry Festival.
Council also received a draft of the 2017 budget for the Essex Region Conservation Authority. If approved, the ERCA’s budget will total just under $11.2 million and will include a levy on member municipalities of just over $3 million.
Over $200,000 was cut to reduce the requested levy increase on member municipalities down to $90,900 overall. The resulting increase proposed is 34 cents per household based on property valuations conducted by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
The ERCA states that they received $26.5 million in levy funding from 2007 until 2016, and in turn, secured in excess of $35 million in funding – a net benefit of nearly $10 million for the Essex Region. They also maintain that they are consistently among the bottom of Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities in terms of levy-funded operations, but in the upper tier in regards to program and program-related revenues.
As the meeting drew to a close, Coun. Mike Akpata brought to the attention of council the timeliness, diligence, and heroics of LaSalle Police’s Const. Al Gibson who spotted a house fire, on the night of Dec. 9, when he was patrolling the non-arterial roads in the area of Gignac Crescent and Michigan Avenue.
Although there was no fire visible, smoke was pouring from top peak of the roof and the house’s soffits. Drawn by the excess of smoke and the aroma of the burning residence, the officer informed the LaSalle Fire Services of the active emergency, then woke and assisted the family in vacating the danger zone. With the family and their pets removed to safety, flames began to lick out the top of the garage door, but soon the Fire Services arrives and extinguished the blaze.
“Were it not for [Const. Gibson’s] alertness and quick actions, this incident could have turned tragic resulting in serious injury or death,” said the LaSalle Police Service through a press release. “We are very proud of his actions and thankful for the quick response by our diligent firefighters who contained and extinguished the fire before it spread further or affected other homes in the area. We are also grateful to the neighbours who stepped forward and assisted a family in need.”
Council will next be in session on Jan. 24, at 7 p.m., at the LaSalle Civic Centre.