Monday, October 16, 2017

How should we use your money in 2018?

Do you have any suggestions on how the Town should use your money to improve our Town?

Council will begin our 2018 budget process with a special public meeting where we listen to you and other members of the community about what you would like to see in next year’s and future budgets. That meeting will occur on Monday, October 23 at 6:30 PM in the Council Chamber at Town Hall.

Pelham Council first started this type of a “pre-budget consultation” eleven years ago – for the 2007 Budgets. We continue each year to welcome residents, representatives of sports teams, service clubs, and committees, and businesses and property tax payers to provide input and ideas.

I am pleased that, following Council deliberations each year, we have been able to follow-through on most of the suggestions offered by your friends and neighbours. In previous years, folks have requested a dog park, a skate park, sidewalks along a number of roads, crosswalks, sport field improvements, sidewalk snow clearing on every sidewalk in Town, partnerships on service club signs, and a new community centre. Town Council discussed each of these requests, and most have been approved or are scheduled in future budgets.

That’s why we are undertaking this consultation process again. Council and I want to hear directly from you about your needs, wants, and ideas for our Town. Our community improves when more and more people become involved in its success!

And, this is just the start of our 2018 budget discussions:
Pre-Budget Consultation – beginning October 23, 2017;
Draft Capital, Operating, Water & Waste Water Budgets available to the public – December 1;
Draft Capital, Operating, Water & Waste Water Budgets presented to Committee of the Whole – December 4;
Council consider approving Capital, Operating, Water & Waste Water Budgets – December 18;

We usually seek to approve the Capital Budget before the budget year starts – so that we might tender large capital projects earlier than other Cities & Towns. This has worked effectively in the past.

New this year: Staff will be recommending the Operating and Water & Waste Water budgets early as well – to get them approved before we actually start the budget year.

Would you prefer to provide written input?  Simply send a letter via email to a special email address:  ourbudget@pelham.ca. You will also soon be able to view background budget information at the Town’s website: www.pelham.ca/en/services/Budgets-and-Reports.aspx

Not internet savvy? You can also provide written comments via normal mail c/o Town Clerk, Town of Pelham, 20 Pelham Town Square, P.O. Box 400, Fonthill, ON   L0S 1E0. You can also simply drop a letter off at Town Hall.

We hope to hear from you and look forward to discussing your ideas so that we can continue to build a better future for our Town together.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca to suggest future column or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Comparing Pelham’s Household Income & Status

You may recall that I wrote here in June about Pelham’s population growth through the years. I based that analysis on previous Censuses.

A couple of weeks ago, Statistics Canada released another round of data from the 2016 Census of Population. These new data provided information on individual, family and household income for various levels of geography and demographic groups.

I find it not only interesting to examine the Pelham data, but to also compare Pelham with the Niagara Region (including Pelham) or with other Cities, Towns, or Townships in the Peninsula.

For example, in 2015, the median total income of households in Pelham was $95,052. This was the highest across all of Niagara! The next highest were Grimsby at $93,145, West Lincoln at $91,325, and Lincoln at $86,816. Across all of Niagara, the median total income of households stood at $65,086 in 2015 – nearly $30,000 less than Pelham.

But, that’s “median” income of all households in Pelham – the middle number across the distribution of all household incomes. What does that distribution look like and how does it compare with Niagara?

According to Statistics Canada, 46% of households in Niagara earned less than $60,000 in 2015; in Pelham, however, only 27% earned less than $60K. Those households in the next income range – from $60,000 to $124,999 – were 36% across all of Niagara and 39% in Pelham. However, there’s a huge difference in the next income bracket: 18% of households in Niagara earned $125,000 or more; compare that to Pelham where 34% of households earned more than $125,000 –nearly double the amount across Niagara.

Statistics Canada also tracked persons with low income. A single person was considered low-income if their after-tax income measure was below $22,460 in 2015. Stats Canada used a slightly higher number for larger households.

In 2015, 5.4% of Pelham’s population – or approximately 925 people – were considered low-income. We were the lowest percentage in the Region. Stats Canada shows Grimsby at 6%, West Lincoln at 7.1%, and Lincoln at 7.2%. But, the number is very high – 17.5% – for both Welland and St. Catharines. The Census reported 14.5% of people in Niagara Region were low income; this compared to Ontario, at 14.4%, and Canada, at 14.2%.

Finally, folks reporting being married or living common-law is also an interesting comparison. For example, Stats Can reported 67% of Pelham’s total population were either married (61%) or living with a common-law partner (6%). The remaining 33% were not married and not living with a common-law partner, including those who were single (never-married), separated, divorced or widowed. Across the Region, 57% of the total adult population were either married (48%) or living with a common-law partner (9%); and 43% were not married or living with a common-law partner.

Perhaps you suspected some of this information about our Town. Or, perhaps not. If you want to find out more, check out other info about Pelham at http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/fogs-spg/Index-eng.cfm

I intend to write more about housing, education, and employment in Pelham after Statistics Canada releases that data over the next two months.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Recommending an Audit, but Refusing the Money

Niagara Regional politics got even stranger last week when a Niagara developer offered a lot of money – $50,000 – to the Niagara Region Audit Committee. His proposal was to get the Committee to recommend that Regional Council ask Pelham Council to audit two Town matters – a parkland over-dedication transaction and development charge credit agreement.
Developer Rainer Hummel holds an envelope during Regional
Audit  Committee meeting that he said contained a cheque
for $50,000 to pay for an audit of the
Town of Pelham finances. Credit: POSTMEDIA

You will recall that some Regional Councillors started questioning Town issues on March 30, 2017 when Regional Councillors Barrick (Port Colborne) and Gale (Niagara Falls) put forward a motion that included 13 accusations about Pelham’s debt, finances, and property taxes. Why at the Region? They said the Region could talk about Pelham because the Town’s debt might impact the Region’s Standard & Poor’s AA Credit Rating. This was later disproved since the 2017 S&P report shows that the Region could borrow an additional $282 million before risking a credit rating downgrade.

Town Staff responded with a 335-page comprehensive report that refuted each of the 13 claims in the motion. Yet, instead of letting me respond to the March 30 motion as Pelham’s rep, a majority of Regional Council referred the matter to a June meeting of the Regional Audit Committee.

On April 3, Town Council reviewed and endorsed the Town’s response to the Regional motion. Worried that Pelham residents might have questions, Council directed Staff to organize an “Evening with the Experts.” About 100 people attended the panel discussion on April 24, with 17 people asking questions of Town Staff and professional advisors.

Then Town Staff attended and answered all questions at the June 12 Regional Audit Committee meeting. Despite my insistence that the Region has no jurisdiction in Town matters, Committee Chair Quirk (Grimsby) allowed specific questions about Pelham including parkland over-dedication, property purchases, water and tax rates, development charges and credits, library budgets, and cemetery fees. After these Town responses, the Audit Committee approved a motion that removed all references to Pelham.

When that revised motion went to the June 29 Regional Council meeting, Rainer Hummel, a Niagara developer, made numerous accusations about Pelham regarding a parkland over-dedication and a development charge credit agreement with Fonthill Gardens. Despite my request, the Regional Chair refused to recognize that the presentation was outside the Region’s jurisdiction. Following the presentation, a majority of Regional Council referred the matter to the September 18 Regional Audit Committee.

After Sept. 18, 2017 Audit Committee, I chatted with
Rainer Hummel for the first time. Credit: VOICE PHOTO
During the September 5 Town Council meeting, Staff and Callum Shedden, the Town’s lawyer, reviewed and refuted each of the claims made by Mr. Hummel. Mr. Shedden also confirmed that the Region has no jurisdiction in these matters under the Ontario Municipal Act. The Town published the accusation’s disproof and posted information about parkland over-dedication at www.pelham.ca/ParklandFAQ.

Town Council sent a strongly worded motion and Mr. Shedden to outline the Region’s lack of jurisdiction to the September 18 Audit Committee meeting. Instead of heeding the legal advice, the majority of the Audit Committee voted to allow Mr. Hummel to speak again. During his presentation, Mr. Hummel admitted to never raising his concerns with the Town or myself directly. Instead, he said he had a cheque for $50,000 for the Region to pay for the Town to undertake an audit of the parkland over-dedication and development charge credit agreement.

The committee “endorsed” the funds and recommended that Regional Council ask the Town to undertake an independent audit, but with the involvement of Mr. Hummel and Regional Staff.

I have thought a lot about and spoke to many people about this matter since last week.

For example, neither Town Staff nor Fonthill Gardens fear an audit, because it will then clearly show that all parties handled the parkland over-dedication and credits appropriately and legally. Some folks asked me why the Region’s Audit Committee was baited by the cash and agreed to the involvement of a developer in what should be an independent process. Others still cannot understand why some Regional Councillors interfere in Pelham business.

I will recommend to Pelham Council, therefore, that we initiate an independent, third-party audit of all transactions and documents related to the 3.3-acre Parkland Over-Dedication to the Town by Fonthill Gardens and a 2015 Development Charge Credit agreement between the Town of Pelham and Fonthill Gardens. While I am certain that we followed all laws and appropriate policies with these transactions, I hope than an independent audit will help satisfy those with questions.

Yet, I will not recommend that Pelham Council accept the lure of the money. I believe it is ethically inappropriate to accept the $50,000 because it sets an unacceptable precedent of granting wealth great influence and privilege in municipal decision-making. Further, it is beneath the high-standard that the public expects from Town and Regional Councillors and Staff.

Watch for Town Council to discuss these types of motions at our next meeting.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

_____________________________________________
Update: Monday, October 2, 2017

Pelham Council approved proceeding with an independent, third-party audit. Council also refused the "cash to influence" offer.

Here are the approved motions:


Initiate an Independent, Third-Party Audit of Parkland Over-Dedication and 2015 Excess Parkland Dedication Agreement

WHEREAS the Council and Staff of the Town of Pelham pride themselves in being open and transparent; and

WHEREAS the Town has provided complete details and answered all questions generated by some members of Regional Council and some members of the community by presenting a 335-page comprehensive response document and addendum to a March 2017 motion at Regional Council, answering all citizen questions during an “Evening with the Experts” panel, and disproving all claims and accusations made by a Niagara developer at Regional Council; and

WHEREAS despite these answers and complete documentation, some members of the local community continue to ask questions about the 3.3-acre Parkland Over-Dedication to the Town by Fonthill Gardens and a 2015 Excess Parkland Dedication Agreement between the Town and Fonthill Gardens; and

WHEREAS Deloitte Canada has provided the Town with independent, third-party audits of the Town’s financial statements for the last six years with “unmodified Independent Auditor’s reports” that are “free from material misstatements”; and

WHEREAS KPMG Canada would be an acceptable supplier of services to the Town of Pelham having ranked second in the 2016 tender by Pelham for independent, third-party auditing services;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT Pelham Town Council directs Staff to RETAIN forensic auditing experts with KPMG Canada to undertake an independent, third-party audit of all transactions and documents related to the 3.3 acre Parkland Over-Dedication to the Town by Fonthill Gardens and a 2015 Excess Parkland Dedication Agreement between the Town of Pelham and Fonthill Gardens; and

THAT KPMG Canada PRESENTS a public report of their findings, with costs to undertake the audit, directly to Council at a meeting before the end of November 2017; and

THAT this resolution be CIRCULATED to Niagara Regional Council for their 5 October 2017 meeting, to all Niagara municipal Councils, to all Niagara MPPs, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, to local news media and to KPMG Canada, and posted on the Town’s website.


Refusal of Cash to Influence Offer

WHEREAS the Council and Staff of the Town of Pelham pride themselves in being open and transparent; and

WHEREAS the Town has provided complete details and answered all questions generated by some members of Regional Council and some members of the community by presenting a 335-page comprehensive response document and addendum to a March 2017 motion at Regional Council, answering all citizen questions during an “Evening with the Experts” panel, and disproving all claims and accusations made by a Niagara developer at Regional Council; and

WHEREAS despite these answers and complete documentation, some members of Niagara Regional Council and a Niagara developer continue to accuse Pelham Council and Staff of impropriety regarding a 3.3-acre Parkland Over-Dedication to the Town and a 2015 Excess Parkland Dedication Agreement with the Town; and

WHEREAS Pelham Council unanimously approved a motion to send the Town lawyer to the September 18, 2017 Regional Audit Committee to clarify that the Municipal Act does not grant Niagara Region jurisdiction in these Town matters; and

WHEREAS during that meeting some members of the Regional Audit Committee ignored the fact that the Region does not have jurisdiction, yet persisted in asking detailed questions about Pelham transactions and made accusations of impropriety; and

WHEREAS the Regional Audit Committee accepted and endorsed a cheque from a Niagara developer for $50,000, and recommended to Regional Council that it request Pelham Council to consider using those developer funds to undertake an audit of Town transactions; and

WHEREAS the Audit Committee motion compromised the independence of such an audit by specifying the involvement of the developer, the Regional Audit Committee members, and Regional staff in the audit; and

WHEREAS the Niagara Regional Council Code of Conduct demands that members shall observe the highest standard of ethical conduct and are expected to “Act honestly, independently, impartially, with discretion…” and to “Conduct themselves in a way that maintains and promotes the public’s trust in the Regional Municipality of Niagara;” and

WHEREAS accepting these funds would grant wealth great influence and privilege in municipal decision-making and goes against the Values of the Town of Pelham; and

WHEREAS, to us, accepting money from a developer is behaviour which is beneath the high-standard that the public expects from members of the Regional Audit Committee, and Regional Council generally;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT Pelham Town Council unequivocally REJECTS the inappropriate request by the Region’s Audit Committee to influence Town actions; and

THAT Pelham Town Council REAFFIRMS its jurisdiction over Town of Pelham matters and REQUESTS Regional Council to reaffirm the “Spheres of Jurisdiction” between regional and local municipal corporations as legislated by the Ontario Municipal Act; and

THAT this resolution be CIRCULATED to Niagara Regional Council for their 5 October 2017 meeting; to Mr. Rainer Hummel, the Niagara developer; to all Niagara municipal Councils; to all Niagara MPPs; to the Minister of Municipal Affairs; and to local news media; and posted on the Town’s website.



_____________________________________________
Update: Friday, October 6, 2017

Pelham Retains KPMG Canada for Third Party Audit

On October 2, 2017, at the regularly-scheduled Town of Pelham Council meeting, Town Council retained KPMG Canada to conduct a third party audit of all transactions and documents related to the 3.3 acre parkland over-dedication to the Town by Fonthill Gardens and a 2015 excess parkland dedication agreement between the Town and Fonthill Gardens.

The Town is encouraging all those with questions to submit them directly to the forensic auditor, Karen Gorgan, senior vice-president of KPMG Forensic Inc.

Questions and concerns will be acknowledged with a receipt of submission, but will not be responded to directly. Instead, the questions submitted will be addressed and noted in the report without names.

“Town of Pelham Council recognized that there are many questions from the community regarding parkland over-dedication,” said Mayor Dave Augustyn. “To make the audit completely independent, Pelham Town Council has retained KPMG Canada to undertake an independent, third-party audit of all transactions and documents related to the parkland over-dedication and the development charge credit agreement.”

Any comments, questions, and concerns can be sent to townofpelhaminfo@kpmg.ca up until October 17, 2017.

KPMG Canada has been asked to report their findings, publicly and directly to Council at a meeting prior to the end of November 2017.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Welcoming Wellspring Home, to Pelham!

On behalf of Pelham Town Council, it was my honour and privilege to participate in the special groundbreaking for a new home for Wellspring Niagara last week.

Wellspring Niagara groundbreaking, Sept. 2017
Wellspring Niagara’s exceptional services are well known across the Peninsula. For more than 16 years their dedicated volunteers and staff have provided free social, emotional, psychological and informational support to people coping with cancer. Wellspring receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations so that every dollar raised in Niagara, stays in Niagara.

For individuals and families impacted by cancer, Wellspring stands as a beacon of light and a rainbow of hope – as one speaker said on Tuesday. The Wellspring board, staff, and volunteers embody a spirit of generosity and sacrifice at a critical time in people’s lives.

They have provided this amazing support from a very small space – a mere 2,000 square feet on Schmon Parkway in Thorold – which was meant to be temporary

In the fall of 2013, Council and I learned that Wellspring needed to move but could not find a suitable location for a new facility. Town Council discussed how incorporating Wellspring into Pelham matched our vision of being a vibrant, creative, and caring community. We recognized that offering a Pelham location provided the best way to show our caring nature. Therefore, we immediately and unanimously embraced Wellspring.

In addition to the use of the land, the Board recognized East Fonthill as a central location in the Niagara Peninsula and the synergy of other developments nearby – a potential Community Centre, medical centre, and retail – and natural features.

By the spring of 2014, we signed a memorandum of understanding to give use of up to two acres a land in East Fonthill for as long as Wellspring Niagara operates their Niagara Cancer Support Centre. We also named the street “Wellspring Way” to highlight the location and our commitment.

This past May we signed a long-term lease, thereby donating the perpetual use this land – and approved their exceptional site plan for their 11,000 square foot facility which will offer a home-like feel and make full use of the property.

It’s so important for everyone in the Peninsula that Wellspring has a new home to continue to provide welcoming and safe supports and encouragement for individuals and families affected by the many challenges of cancer.

Pelham Council and Staff are delighted and honoured to partner with Wellspring and we offer them our best wishes and congratulations on the groundbreaking and fundraising success to date.

May Wellspring’s spirit of generosity and sacrifice deepen and may their “beacon of light” shine even brighter in their new home.

“Welcome to Pelham. Welcome home!”

_____________________________________

TVCogeco Niagara video of Wellspring Niagara groundbreaking:




You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pelham’s Parkland Over-Dedication

Despite assurances that Town Council, staff, and professional advisors followed all appropriate laws and policies when dealing with a parkland over-dedication in East Fonthill, persistent questions still exist in the community. My column this week, therefore, explains how and why this type of special transaction occurs.

The award-winning East Fonthill Secondary Plan calls for a community park near the intersection of Wellsping Way and Summersides Boulevard and along-side a watercourse. Since it didn’t own all of this land, the Town had to ultimately acquire some property.

Parkland in East Fonthill Plan
To acquire the parkland, the Town followed the Planning Act and the Town’s Parkland Dedication Bylaw and used funds exclusively from Pelham’s Parkland Dedication Reserve. (The Town did not use property tax funds to acquire this park.)

The Planning Act provides options for how a municipal council can acquire parkland and/or “cash-in-lieu” of actual land in new developments.

When a developer proposes a residential subdivision or builds a house, the Planning Act allows a Town to take 5% of the land from the new subdivision for public parkland, or to take a cash percentage of the land value (instead of actual property).

In the case of a cash-in-lieu allocation in Pelham, the Town requires a payment of 5% of the value of a serviced building lot at the “day before the of issuance of the building permit.” To determine this value, a developer or builder provides the Town with an accredited real estate appraisal for the land or for the subdivision.

As time goes on and other homes or businesses are built nearby, the property values increase and, therefore, the parkland payments increase.

Towns must deposit these cash-in-lieu-of-parkland funds into a segregated fund called the Parkland Dedication Reserve.

Sometimes, an overall community plan calls for a park that is larger than an individual property owner is legally obligated to provide – larger than 5% of the land the developer owns or plans to develop. In that case, the owner must give a “parkland over-dedication.”

A parkland over-dedication must be valued in the same way as a cash-in-lieu-of-parkland payment. In Pelham, therefore, an accredited real estate appraiser must value the over-dedication at the “day before the of issuance of the building permit.” Then, the Town uses funds from the Parkland Dedication Reserve to pay for the parkland. (Again, no property taxes are used for this purchase.)

Just as the value of building lots increase over time and as development occurs, the valuation for excess parkland also increases as nearby development occurs; it makes sense and costs less, therefore, to value and purchase parkland early and before the construction of nearby homes or businesses.

In the case of the 3.3 acres of East Fonthill parkland, the Town peer reviewed a 2015 accredited real estate appraisal and negotiated a parkland over-dedication value of $3.6 million. Since the local real estate market increased by as much as 20% since the time of the appraisal, the Town saved parkland funds by negotiating this transaction two years ago and before recent nearby construction.

The Town paid for this land from the Parkland Dedication Reserve. As new houses and businesses are constructed in the East Fonthill area and property values increase, builders and developers will have to contribute 5% of those increasing values to pay for this park and other parklands.

Negotiating the parkland over-dedication early and before rising property values, makes fiscal sense. And, getting re-payed for that parkland by builders as property values increase will provide value-for-money for the Town over the long run.

_________________________________
2017 September 15 Update:

The Town published some answers for frequently asked questions regarding parkland over-dedication and the development charge credits. Here's the text:

Q: Why did the Town purchase parkland in East Fonthill?
A: The award-winning East Fonthill Secondary Plan calls for a community park. Since it didn’t own this land, the Town purchased the parkland.

Q: Who determines the amount of land needed for parkland?
A: When a developer proposes a residential subdivision or builds a house, the Planning Act allows a Town to take 5% of land for the new subdivision for a park, or to take a percentage of cash instead of a property. In the case of a cash-in-lieu allocation in Pelham, the amount of payment is valued at 5% of the value of a serviced building lot at the ‘day before building permit’. For commercial or industrial property, the parkland is 2%. See section 51.1 in the Planning Act to read more: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90p13

Q: Who determined the value of the land?
A: The land was appraised and peer reviewed by a professional accredited appraisers to establish the value of the land.

Q: Wasn’t the appraisal value much higher than other land sold in the area?
A: The land was purchased at a price that reflected the value of the land at the ‘day before building permit’ stage. Land without roads, sidewalks, or additional development, for example, would not be valued the same as land that included all of those things, or at the ‘building-permit ready’ stage. When the Town purchases parkland land, it is done so using this formula, a system that is fair to both developers and the Town.

Q: What is this land going to cost me, the taxpayer?
A: Nothing. The land was purchased with funds in the Town’s Parkland Dedication Reserve. As new houses and business are constructed in the East Fonthill area, the property values will increase and builders and developers will have to contribute 5% of those increase values to pay for this and other parklands, replenishing the reserve fund. Towns must deposit these cash-in-lieu funds into that reserve fund.

Q: What is Parkland Over-Dedication?
A: Sometimes, an overall community plan calls for a park that is larger than an individual developer is legally obligated to provide – larger than 5% of the land the developer owns or plans to develop. In that case, the developer must give a parkland over-dedication.

Q: Was purchasing the land in 2015 a good idea or not?
A: Negotiating the parkland over-dedication early and before rising property values makes fiscal sense. Getting repaid for the parkland by builders as property values increase will provide value-for-money for the Town in the long run.

RE: OP-ED: Stop the dodging, I'll pay for the audit – The Voice of Pelham, September 13, 2017
Q: Did the Town do a secret deal with a developer, wherein the Town agreed to buy land from the developer, land the developer did not even yet own, in exchange for some $3 million dollars’ worth of  “Development Charge credits,” and was this credits scheme even legal?
A: No, the Town did not do a secret deal with a developer. All agreements between the Town and any individuals or corporations are publicly approved. Specifically, on September 8, 2015, Town Council considered and approved the report “Over Parkland Dedication (East Fonthill) Agreement (Issue #20150901002)” and approved by by law 3650 (2015).

Q: Can parkland legally be purchased with Development Charges?
A: The Town did not purchase parkland using development charges. Parkland is purchased through the Parkland Dedication Reserve.

Q: Why did Town Council agree to pay $928,000 dollars per acre for this land when the going rate was approximately $150,000 to $200,000 per acre?
A: In the case of the 3.3 acres of East Fonthill parkland, the Town peer reviewed a 2015 accredited real estate appraisal and negotiated a parkland over-dedication value of $3.6 million. Since the local real estate market has increased by as much as 20% since the time of the appraisal, the Town saved parkland funds by negotiating this transaction two years ago and before recent, nearby construction.

For a printable version of these questions, please go to www.pelham.ca/ParklandFAQ.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Appreciating Pelham’s Small-Town Feel

Time and again this this summer, I have been very proud of Pelham’s wonderful community and small-town feel!

Congratulations and thanks to the Fonthill Lions, for instance, who hosted a first-time, amazing community event on Saturday – called Sliderfest! Held at the Lion’s GL Klager Park, the sold-out event featured a head-to-head “slider” competition between five Pelham restaurant Chefs: Zest Restaurant, Lookout Pointe Country Club, Pub on the Hill, Iggy’s Pub & Grubb, and Churchill Meats (the crowd’s favourite). While the Lions and Lioness members served beverages, local corn-on-the-cob, and fresh cut fries, Kame & Kettle Beer Works served craft beer, local bands played the blues, and folks visited and celebrated with friends and neighbours on the baseball field. The title sponsors – including Pen Financial Credit Union and Enviro-Niagara Hearth & BBQ – and other local supporting donors and businesses helped sponsor the event and/or provided fundraising prizes. All event proceeds will support the Fonthill Lions ongoing community service and their sponsorship of the elevator – the “Lions Lift” – in the new Pelham Community Centre!

Kudos as well for the organizers and participants of the “First Annual Timber Creek Block Party” on Sunday. I was pleased to attend the gathering where the Town closed a portion of the street, and neighbours from the entire subdivision joined together for live music, a barbeque, and street. Aided by the Town’s “Love My Hood” program, it was wonderful to see longtime home-owners meet new residents and folks from one part of the neighbourhood get to know families from just around the corner. (Thanks also to the other community-minded folks who hosted “Love My Hood” events this summer – notably Highland Avenue residents!)

And last weekend, sod covered Downtown Fenwick! Deep appreciation to Young Sod Farms for presenting, promoting and whole-heartedly supporting the Green Street Challenge – temporarily installing freshly-cut sod on the street to promote outdoor activities and increase community spirit. Thanks as well to DeKorte Landscaping, Nature’s Own Landscaping, Landscape Ontario, and the Pelham Fire Service (esp. Station #2) for helping lay-down and take up the sod, cleaning the streets, and installing the sod on a much-deserving, local family’s lawn. About 750 people enjoyed gathering on the street with family and friends and participate in free activities – ranging from Monkeynastics, to facepainting, to balloon animals, to free freezies, to poutine and library activities. Again, it was wonderful seeing neighbours greeting other neighbours and three generations of families playing on the street!

And, then, the Town hosted Indie Music Fest on August 12 at Peace Park. Despite the thunderstorm that rolled through at dinnertime, more than 500 people listened to local artists and enjoyed local food and beverages.

And there’s the 12th season of the Fonthill Bandshell Concerts! Coupled with the Thursday Night Suppermarket and Pelham Farmer’s Market, these amazing concerts draw thousands of local and regional residents weekly.

And, then there was the 7th Annual Pelham Summerfest in July that attracted more than 40,000 local and regional participants combined throughout the “Four Days of Family Fun.”

And, then there was Pelham’s Canada 150 Celebrations

Deep thanks to the amazing community volunteers, sponsors, and staff that organize and support these uniquely-Pelham events! Your hard work and dedication helps bring our community together to celebrate, to promote local artists and culture, and to enhance Pelham’s small-town feel.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fonthill Kame, Ridgeville, Strategic Funding & GO Rail at AMO Conference

Last week, Councillor Papp, Town CAO Ottaway, Treasurer Quinlin, and I attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa. The annual three-day conference offered a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for the more than 1,500 delegates.

While at AMO, your Pelham representatives also met with various Ministries to directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government.

(Photo credit: AMO)
We met with Kathryn McGarry, Minister of Natural Resources (MNR), about increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. For the last nine years, we effectively used AMO and “Niagara Week” meetings to urge the Province to enhance the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protections of the Kame. For the last couple of years we thanked the Provincial Government for finalizing those protections in late 2013. Now, we asked to work together with MRN Staff to add more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

We also thanked the Minister for recognizing the historic hamlet of Ridgeville during the Greenbelt review. Now that the Government fixed this Greenbelt error, we will work together with the Region and Province to delineate, re-designate, and re-zone the “rural commercial” / boutique Ridgeville area.

We also met with Daiene Vernile, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Transportation (MTO), and with Grant Crack, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, about funding for municipalities. We encouraged the government to fund municipal projects that help create wealth and prosperity for a community; we spoke not only about projects like downtown revitalizations but also community and cultural facilities like community centres and libraries. We also discouraged the government from investing in projects that create more sprawl – like urban boundary expansions or “smart centers” disconnected from community.

We listened to the three party leaders discuss and dismiss the AMO idea of a 1% increase in the HST to help fund municipal infrastructure.

Shockingly, one party leader also spouted a lie that needs to be quashed. Mr. Brown, leader of the opposition, told the hundreds of delegates that the Government broke their promise of extending GO Rail to Niagara. Later, the PC Party Press Office cited a 2014 quote from Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP, in which he stated that he thought the government would announce Niagara GO in 2015.

However, since the Region failed to deliver the case for support for GO Rail to the Premier by the end of 2014 (as she requested), how can anyone blame the government for inaction? In fact, because we delivered the business case after they finalized their 2015 budget, the Government and Metrolinx made the announcement for GO Rail to Niagara at their first opportunity – in the 2016 Budget. Since that and the formal announcement in June 2016, the Government and Metrolinx have continued to work on expanding GO Rail to Grimsby in 2021 and St. Catharines & Niagara Falls in 2023, as promised.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca and view past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Deficits and Levy vs. Development Charge Debt

Since that’s a lot of talk about debt lately, I thought I’d write about it here.

While the Provincial and Federal governments and businesses can run deficits, Towns and Cities cannot.

Deficits occur when a Federal or Provincial government spends more on their services and projects during their fiscal year than their revenue for that year. Adding up this overspending is called an accumulated deficit which becomes Federal / Provincial debt. And, that Federal and Provincial debt includes both operating costs (program spending) and capital expenditures.

Sometimes businesses can do the same. A small business could continue to operate for a while, accumulating their weekly loses into a relatively large deficit. This type of spending can last as long as their directors or creditors allow.

On the other hand, Towns and Cities must run balanced books each year. We cannot budget for a deficit nor a surplus, nor can we accumulate deficits.

So, how do we mitigate unexpected expenses or pay for large capital projects? With reserves and municipal debt (called debentures).

Sometimes we accumulate specific funds over a few years in a reserve to help pay for something in a future year. For example, we might set $100,000 aside for a few years so that we can buy a $400,000 fire truck in year four. Or, we established a snow clearing reserve to cover excess operating costs for winter control methods (if required).

For multi-million-dollar community assets, however, it might not make sense to save up for decades in advance.

For example, does it make sense to pre-charge residents for a number of years to save up for a multi-million-dollar water project when the asset will be used over 70 years? Why should people who move or pass away prior to a project’s construction pre-pay for an entire project? Wouldn’t it be better to allow folks benefitting from the project pay as they use it?

One could make the same case for a 50-year asset like a community centre or a 25-year asset like a downtown redevelopment. It’s often in these types of cases that “smart debt” – a debenture period of less than the life of the asset – makes sense. And, since municipal debentures lock in the interest and principal payments for the entire life of the loan, they provide certainty on pay back amounts. Once approved, interest rate hikes or changes do not impact these locked-in debenture payments.

And, many find this approach beneficial during periods of low interest rates and infrastructure grants from other Governments. For example, a portion of Pelham's debt includes our share of Downtown Fonthill’s revitalization and Fire Station #2 construction after taking advantage of more than $4.1 million of Federal and Provincial stimulus funding. If we didn't use this type of smart debt to pay for those projects, we would have left that $4.1 million (representing 66% of the project costs!) on the table for another community to use. We used the same approach for Haist Street reconstruction and for our nine new, fully accessible playgrounds.

Finally, much of the Town's long term debt is to help support new development and is, therefore, not funded by existing residents and businesses.

You may know that Development Charges are applied on new developments – from new homes to new commercial buildings – to help pay for the facilities and capital projects that are required to support that new development. For example, if a road needs to be widened, a new water line installed (like on Rice Road), a Fire Hall expanded, or a new trail system built, that new development needs to pay for those new items. Development Charges allows “growth to pay for growth.” And, that’s good news for current residents and businesses.

But, sometimes those facilities or improvements need to be built or installed ahead of the growth – like that new water or sewer line or new Fire Station – to help serve and stimulate the growth. In fact, this approach was encouraged by the Niagara Homebuilder's Association and others at the Region this month as Regional Council considered a new Development Charge bylaw. In these cases, the Town might build the project but add the debt to the Development Charges account; in this case, those Development Charges pay for both debt interest and principal and the new development projects get build ahead of time.

Since we have been preparing for growth for a while, more than 55% of Pelham’s long-term debt is for these Development-Charge-funded projects. (And, these are some of these type of DC-funded debt projects in the Region's new Development Charges bylaw too.) To be clear: more than one-half of our long-term debt will not be paid back by existing residents and tax-payers, but, rather, by new development.

Pelham Council and I continue to ensure that we only minimally impact you and other property tax-payers while we continue to improve our infrastructure and increase the quality of life in our Town.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thanks for Another Amazing Summerfest!

On behalf of Council, thank you to the 2017 Summerfest Committee, Town Staff, service club and other volunteers for your hard-work and dedication and to the many generous sponsors who made this year’s four-day Summerfest an amazing success – with the highest attendance yet!

Pelham Summerfest 2017 (Photo: Cameron Young)
First, I greatly appreciate the work of the Summerfest Committee, including John Wink, Chair; Councillor Gary Accursi; Bill Gibson, Active Transportation Committee rep; Candy Ashby, Pelham Business Association rep; Matthew Leask and Michelle Stewart, Pelham residents; and Sofia Labricciosa and Mackenna Belding, Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council reps! The committee met for since last Fall to plan and finalize every detail and they worked very, very hard all weekend long to ensure a successful festival. Thank you very much!

Second, thanks so much to Town Staff! Thanks to Vickie van Ravenswaay, Sally Jaeger, Jodi Hendriks and other staff who helped organize the overall event and worked with the Committee to ensure success. I also appreciate the many Town staff who volunteered in one capacity or another – from setting up, to serving beverages, to cleaning up – throughout the four days; thanks for giving your time to our community. And, thanks to the (mainly) Public Works staff who worked during the Festival on logistics, garbage and recycling duty, and ensured the safety of participants and all the major clean-up!

Third, thanks to the very many members of the Town’s service clubs – including the Fonthill & District Kinsmen and Kinettes Clubs, the Fonthill Lions and Lioness Clubs, Fenwick Lions, and the Fonthill Rotary Club – for helping serve beverages and greeting patrons. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Fourth, thanks to the other members of the community who also volunteered! Thanks to members of the Pelham Fire Service, the Pelham Active Transportation Committee, St. John’s Ambulance, members of Town Council, and the many, many other community volunteers.

Fifth, thank you to the many Sponsors and Friends of Pelham Summerfest including our Gold Sponsors: Ball Construction, Brock University, Fonthill Bandshell, Fonthill Dental, Halco Mobile, Lafarge Canada, McAvoy Belan & Campbell, Meridian Credit Union, Niagara Peninsula Energy, and RBC Royal Bank. And, thanks to our amazing Media Partners including: Country 89; Giant FM; MyPelham.com; Niagara This Week; Pelham News; the Standard; and the Tribune.

Finally, thanks to the more than 40,000 people – the largest number ever – who enjoyed the Seventh Annual Pelham Summerfest over the festival’s four days. Your attendance and community spirit made it a huge success and shows why it’s one of Festival Events Ontario’s Top 100 Events.

On behalf of Council, I appreciate the vision, dedication, and tremendous work by so many volunteers and staff to celebrate our vibrant, creative, and caring community. Thank you and congratulations on a resounding and overwhelming success!

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mayors Meetings

A member of the community has recently raised questions about a June meeting of some of Niagara's Mayors and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs).

The CAOs, the Treasurers, the Planners, the Public Works officials and other Staff of the local area municipalities and the Region meet periodically to share ideas, best practices, and discuss opportunities for working together better.

I recall three times in the last 6 years where the Mayors and CAOs met. Once at City Hall in St. Catharines and hosted by former Mayor McMullan (prior to 2014); once in Niagara on the Lake at White Oaks about 7 months ago; and recently at the Town Hall in Fort Erie. (Please note that I did not host or call the meeting, as one suggested.)

As the notes of the last meeting show, the discussions are about ways in which we can work more collaboratively together. (Please click here to review the notes from that June meeting.)

For example, when the City of Welland CAO reiterated the public presentation he recently made about Regional Development Charges, the direction of the discussion with the Mayors and CAOs was about the impact on local area municipalities.

Then, it was the Regional Economic Development Officer who presented information about the Community Improvement Plans and the Region’s hope of working with the municipalities for more collaboration. It is noteworthy that this discussion was initiated by the Region to further something called “Team Niagara” – better collaboration across Niagara.

Next were discussions regarding Intermunicipal Transit and Airports. Again, joint areas of interest.

Then there was an important discussion regarding shared services and administration. The CAOs are working on increasing ways for the Cities and Towns to share specific services to find efficiencies and work together. These could reduce costs – because of economies of scale – or help with economic development across Niagara. Some examples were cited. I suggested that the CAOs make recommendations to local Councils for the various areas in which we might work closer together.

Finally, since my elected colleagues had already heard me at the Region address Pelham Council’s jurisdictional concerns of Regional Council getting involved in the affairs of Niagara’s Cities and Towns, the Town’s CAO addressed this jurisdictional concern from an administration perspective to other CAOs.

The Niagara Mayors have met occasionally, on our own, through the years. I understood from former Mayor Goulbourne (Welland) that the Mayors met often during the 2003-06 term. I understand that during the 1997-2000 and 2000-03 terms there were meetings of the Mayors.

The Southern Mayors (Pelham, Welland, Port Colborne, Wainfleet, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls) have gotten together more frequently recently – 2-3 times per year – to plan our joint presentations to the joint Chambers of Commerce.

The Mayors of Welland, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls and the Regional Chair and CAOs have met extensively (every 3 or 6 weeks) over the last year-and-a-half to help coordinate efforts on Intermunicipal Transit.

People expect Niagara’s Cities, Towns, and Townships to share best practices, the find efficiencies, and to work together. These types of meetings should continue to help all to meet those goals.