Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does it FEEL like Christmas too?

One song that appears to be very appropriate for Pelham right now is the Mededith Wilson classic “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas.” You might recall the words: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, ev’rywhere you go…”

The holiday spirit began early in Pelham on November 5 when several businesses hosted holiday open houses. Some store-owners even closed their shops for a couple of days and stunningly transformed them into Christmas wonders.

Over the following weeks, the Town began decorating much of Pelham – from Peace Park and the Bandshell in Fonthill, to Town Hall, to hydro poles in Pelham’s urbanized areas, to the flagpole in Fenwick.

Then, the weekly charity turkey raffles began. The Legion led the way on Friday, November 14, followed by then the Fonthill Lions, the Fonthill Firefighters Association, and, finally, the Fenwick Firefighters Association. Each group raises funds during these lively, fun events to support our community.

Then, some very dedicated, community-minded elves took it upon themselves to “spruce-up” our Town. While the rest of us were sleeping, these elves decorated almost every utility pole and light standard in sight using evergreen boughs and red bows. I appreciate their efforts!

Next, hundreds turned out on December 6th for the Annual Food Drive for Pelham Cares. Thank you to each of the donors and all the volunteers that went door-to-door to support those less fortunate in our Town.

That same weekend, the Pelham Business Association members hosted “Christmas in Pelham.” They organized local choirs singing at various businesses, sleigh-rides from Peace Park, Santa in the Bandshell, and a special Artisan & Trade Show at Lookout Ridge Retirement Home.

Then, this past weekend, the Fenwick Lions and others in the community organized the annual Santa Claus Parade. Because of all the candy for kids, some may have thought it was another Halloween. No doubt, Santa and Mrs. Claus at the end of the parade cleared up any confusion!

Add to all this the Christmas concerts at our schools, the open houses at businesses and private homes, the work parties, and all the celebrations at Pelham’s churches, it is indeed “beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

And so, I hope it not only “looks like” Christmas in Pelham to you, but that it also feels like the spirit of Christmas for you and your family this holiday season. I also wish you all the best in 2009!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Early Capital Budget Invests in Pelham


It’s not only the earliest for Pelham ever, it’s also the first across the Region.

You see, Pelham Council adopted your 2009 Capital Budget on Monday, December 1st – two weeks ahead of last year’s approval. Because we are ahead of the game, I hope the Town will save thousands of dollars on early tendering.

As you may know, a capital budget plans for the acquisition or rehabilitation of major infrastructure and equipment that have a long life. Such capital assets include municipal buildings, arenas, trucks and vehicles, roads and sidewalks, and water/sewerage pipes.

(The operating budget provides for the “day-to-day” expenditures such as salaries, wages, benefits, heat, hydro, and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure.)

So how will your money be invested?

Your $5.4 million Capital Budget will fund many improvements, such as:
• Pelham’s share of the revitalization of Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s Downtowns (if we receive joint “Building Canada” funding from the Federal and Provincial governments);
• Road reconstruction on Station Street (Hwy #20 to Town Square), Effingham Road (Canboro to Pancake and Oille to Pelham Road), Chantler Road (Balfour to railroad crossing), Foss Road (Victoria Ave. to Farr), Metler Road (Balfour to Maple), and Church Street (Canboro to Foss);
• Traffic light installation at Port Robinson and Pelham Street (which is expected to be justified in a traffic study);
• Sidewalk installation and driveway repairs at Fonthill Fire Station #1;
• Fonthill Stormwater Master Servicing Plan to determine drainage needs in an area bounded from Station, to Port Robinson, to Highland, to Shorthills Place.
• Park enhancements such as the construction of two junior soccer fields in Centennial Park, playground equipment in Harold Black Park, and playground equipment and multi-purpose court resurfacing in North Pelham Park;
• Vehicle replacements such as the 20-year-old one-ton utility truck, the 17-year-old five-ton dump truck, and the 21-year-old backhoe;
• Fonthill Library Branch renovations like flooring, lighting, and shelving.

Finally, despite all the talk over the last number of years about replacing Firehall #2, the Maple Acre Library, and the Pelham Arena, would you believe that no money has ever been set aside for them?

Well, another first then!

This capital budget sets aside funds in 2009 for a new firehall, and establishes funding plans for a new library branch in 2010 and a new Arena in 2011.

Your 2009 Capital Budget provides a responsible, well-planned, and future-focused investment in Pelham.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Investing in Infrastructure and the Economy

As a recession looms, I have been concentrating on what the Town and the Region can do to help the local economy.

After Canada’s prolonged period of general economic expansion, we must look to history to navigate our way out of the crisis.

The Great Depression, for example, offers some striking lessons. Various governments made the depression worse in four main ways:
1) Allowing a rapid contraction of the banking system (by not freeing up credit);
2) Allowing deflation (falling prices);
3) Enacting protectionist policies (by raising tariffs and other impediments to trade);
4) Balancing the books at all costs (by increasing taxes and curtailing government spending);

Thankfully, our National and Provincial leaders appear to have learned the lessons. And, municipal leaders must follow suit.

According to their website, the Bank of Canada has “acted swiftly to ensure that adequate liquidity is available to institutions within our borders.” The National Government has also increased the amount of insured mortgages that it will buy from financial institutions, thus increasing the available credit.

Now, after several years of surpluses, both the Premier and the Prime Minister have signaled that their Governments may faces deficits for 2008-09. And, while both have made moves to cut some discretionary spending, both have also reiterated the need to continue with longer-term investments – like on infrastructure.

So, what can municipal governments do to help the local economy? Should the Town and the Region stop investing in infrastructure and let roads and bridges deteriorate? Should we liquidate any reserves and give it back to you and other property tax payers?

No.

Instead we need to moderate taxes while accelerating investments in much-needed infrastructure. As a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities study uncovered, a “$2-billion tax reduction would produce fewer jobs and a lower economic stimulus than $1 billion dollars spent upgrading roads, bridges and water mains.” Second, in a recessionary market, we can expect lower costs and better value for your money.

That’s why I’ve been pushing so hard at the Region to move projects that were budgeted and taxed in previous years to tender as quickly as possible. (In fact, I am on a small sub-committee to accelerate capital works.) And, that’s why the Town is continuing to focus on the Build Canada grant – to secure Federal and Provincial funds that pays 66¢ of every dollar invested in Pelham to help build a stronger community for today and for the future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Appreciating Volunteers


Last week, I had the honour of being asked by a highly-respected Pelham resident to consider joining the Board of a long-standing and significant Niagara arts group.

I phrase it that way, because the individual that was inviting me to the Board knows about volunteering. She knows that volunteering is a conscious choice. She knows that to join a Board (in this case) is a choice that one must make given all other commitments and engagements in one’s life.

Wouldn’t you say it’s the same with all types of volunteerism?

All volunteers make a conscious choice to give of their time and of their talents to improve some part of our community or our region for the benefit of others.

Sometimes we don’t think of it that way. Sometimes we feel that we must volunteer or maybe our kids won’t have a coach. We might feel forced to volunteer.

But, in reality, if you are the one stepping up to the plate and volunteering, it is your conscience choice to act – to make that commitment.

I believe that all acts of volunteerism are sacred acts. Volunteers give of themselves, without any personal benefit, to help another person or to make community a better place.

This goes for the many coaches and conveners of the various sports in Pelham and for members of the Town’s outstanding Service Clubs. It’s the same with the specially appointed members of Town Committees like those that volunteer on the Library Board, the Active Transportation Committee, the Downtown Beautification Committee, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, and the Pelham Community Policing Committee.

The same commitment is given with more community based endeavours like the Farmer’s Market Committee, the Bandshell Committee, the Pelham Art Festival committee, the Pelham Horticultural Society, the Communities In Bloom committee, and the hundreds of other volunteers in our community.

In this way, I am very pleased that tonight is Pelham’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation. It is extremely important to honour and thank the hundreds of volunteers that work to make our community better.

On your behalf, this evening I will offer special thanks to the hundreds of volunteers in our Town who work tirelessly to build and improve our community. I will thank them for their vision of a better community, their dedication to acting on that vision, and their generosity of sharing their time, talents, and treasures for the benefit of others.

Next time you get a chance, I encourage you to thank a volunteer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Revitalizing Our Downtowns

Will you help promote the Town’s multi-million application to the Federal and Provincial Governments to revitalize Pelham’s downtowns? Will you also help finalize the Community Improvement Plan for our downtowns?

You see, the Federal and Provincial governments recently agreed to jointly fund an infrastructure improvement program called Build Canada.

In October, Town Council directed staff to prepare a Build Canada application for the revitalization of the Fonthill and Fenwick downtown cores.

Why our downtowns? Well, according to a 2007 Regional telephone survey, when asked “What areas in your city or town do you think need development/ growth?” nearly 50% of Pelham residents said “urban areas / downtowns.” In addition, it’s the municipal project that best fits the application.

Based on a 2002 Beautification Plan, Pelham’s $7.1 million project would include a series of major infrastructure developments: water, waste-water, and storm-water improvements of nearly $1.5 million; burying of hydro cables for $2.25 million; road work of $1.5 million; and proper streetscaping – accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists, better parking, brickwork, decorative lampposts, benches and planters – of nearly $0.5 million. (There’s another nearly $1.5 million for the environmental assessment, engineering, and contingencies.)

If successful, the Town will receive $4.76 million in funding from the Federal and Provincial governments. The balance of the funding would come from the Town’s various reserves and reserve funds, and long-term debt.

I assure you that our senior staff is developing an excellent application. But, because this could make such a major improvement for Pelham, and because Pelham has never received any significant Federal or Provincial funding, we are also organizing a significant lobby effort.

We have already spoken to Ontario Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman, MP Dean Allison, and MPP Tim Hudak. The Welland/Pelham Chamber of Commerce endorses the proposal and hopefully the Pelham Business Association will do the same. I know of a number of individual businesses that offered to send letters of support.

Therefore, we are inviting you and your neighbours to send a letter of support for this exciting proposal. How? Please check out the Town’s website at www.pelham.ca for more about Pelham’s application and contact information for the Federal and Provincial decision-makers.

Finally, the Town’s consultant is in the final stages of developing recommendations for incentives (like a fa├žade improvement fund) and tax-increment financing to assist downtown land-owners to improve their properties. The consultant will host a public meeting on Monday, November 24 from 7:00 PM at Pelham Station #1, 177 Highway #20 West, Fonthill. I hope you can join us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Park Dedication Address


Today, we remember those brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.
 
We honour those valiant men and women for their courage, their commitment, and their devotion to Canada.
 
They willingly gave of their lives and their futures –- so that we might live in peace.
 
How fitting, on this the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, that we dedicate this Veteran’s Park to them and to their memory.
 
How fitting that we stand on their bricks -- stand on their names -- just as our society stands upon the freedoms for which they fought.
 
Our veterans did more than “stand on guard” for these principles, they sacrificed for them; they sacrificed for us.
 
And, so, we dedicate this beautiful Pelham Veteran’s Park, in their honour.
 
Their names, their sacrifices, are engraved here for us to see.  May they also be engraved in our minds and on our hearts.
 
As a result, let us be thankful.  Let us rededicate ourselves to peace.  And let us never forget.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Join Us At Pelham’s Remembrance Day

As you know from people donning the familiar poppy, Remembrance Day is almost upon us.

This Remembrance Day will be a very special occasion in Pelham. Not only will it be the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, but the Veteran’s Park will be officially dedicated at the cenotaph.

In fact, nearly 600 veterans, families, individuals, schools, businesses, and service clubs have purchased and engraved bricks from the Pelham Veteran's Park committee and donated $120,000 to beautify the cenotaph.

More than 340 Veterans 12"X12" bricks have been purchased and engraved with the Veteran's name, rank, branch of service, and the words “Lest We Forget” with a red poppy. More than 200 Citizens 6"X12" bricks have been purchased and engraved with a citizen's or family’s name. And, more than 40 corporate 12"X12" bricks have been purchased and engraved with the business’s logo. There are other donors of $1,000 or more, each “purchasing” a bench, a light post, a war marker, the flag pole, a sign, or shrubbery.

A new flag pole, accent lights, a decorative fence, and a specially engraved sign have all been installed. The park includes distinctive markers for World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Peacekeeping Missions, and Afghanistan. All the work was designed and completed by DeKorte Landscaping.

The official dedication of the Veteran’s Park will occur immediately after the Legion’s Remembrance Day service at 11:00 on November 11 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Fonthill.

The dedication will feature greetings by the Veteran’s Park Chair, Gerry Berkhout, and an explanation of the park’s vision by Jack DeKorte. Because of the importance of the park’s dedication, Dean Allison, MP, Tim Hudak, MPP, and Peter Partington, Regional Chair will each participate. Chair Partington will present a special sign to mark the section of Regional Road #20 from Rice Road to Station Street as “Veteran’s Way.” I, too, will speak on behalf of you and other Pelham residents about the importance of Remembrance Day and the park.

In addition, Jeff Brazeau, a Canadian soldier stationed in Afghanistan, will provide a current perspective. Then, the St. Ann School Choir will sing “There Is A Place.” Finally, Don Cotter, President of the Legion, and other dignitaries will officially dedicate Veteran’s Park.

More than ever, this year’s service will be a very important and moving dedication to honour the service and sacrifice of our Veterans. I hope you will be able to join us on Remembrance Day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Assessment Only Half the Picture


Starting next week, MPAC – the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation – will mail you and every other property owner in Niagara a new property assessment notice.

Updated for the first time since 2005, your notice will outline MPAC’s determination of the market value of your property as of January 1, 2008.

MPAC considers many factors when assessing property values, such as the sale prices of comparable properties in your neighbourhood, and the age, location, and size of your property and home. In essence, MPAC bases the value on the amount your property could have sold for on the open market.

Because of changes the Province made last year, your assessment will remain the same for the next four years. However, if the value of your property increases, that increase will be phased in over the four years; if the value goes down, you will immediately see a reduction.

For example, if the value of your home increased by $20,000 over its current assessment, the value for determining your property tax will increase by $5,000 per year over the next four years.

If the value of your home goes up, does that mean that your property taxes will also go up?

No, not necessarily. Market Value Assessment is only one half of the property tax equation. The amount you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and for Education is based on the Market Value Assessment of your home multiplied by the three tax rates and added together.

Say the Town budgeted for $10 million from property taxes in 2009. If all assessments double, the Town would cut the tax rate in half to collect that $10 million. If everyone’s assessments went down, we would increase the rate to collect the same $10 million.

But, what if your assessed value increases more than the average?

The property tax system is a bit of a blunt instrument. Municipalities set the tax rate based on the average assessment for each of the tax classes – residential, multi-residential, commercial, industrial, farm/managed forest, pipelines.

If your assessed value increases more than the average you will likely pay more than average. By the same token, if your assessed value increases less than the average, you will likely pay less tax.

The Town will be organizing open house sessions with MPAC so you and your neighbours can ask any and all questions after you receive your new Market Value Assessment notice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Deserve Better from Police Brass

Did you hear about how Regional Council turned away the contingent of Niagara Regional Police senior staff and Board members who appeared at Regional headquarters intending to speak to Council about their new facilities?

You see, the Chief of Police, the Chair of the NRPS Board’s Facilities Committee, the Chief Administrative Officer, and several others came to the Regional Council Chambers last Thursday. They were there because they wanted to make a presentation about the NRPS Board’s facilities recommendations.

It was to be dealt with behind closed doors for two main reasons: first, because the Police requested it be confidential under the Police Act; and, second, because was to deal with the "proposed acquisition or disposition of land" by the Region. (These are some of the legal reasons for a Council to go "in camera" – or behind closed doors: to uphold confidentially requirements under another act; and to stop land speculation if specific properties are to be discussed.)

But, instead of hearing Police representatives and debating the recommendations in their letter, I made the motion to refer the entire matter to a special committee. My motion passed quickly.

Why, you ask?

You may recall that in my June 4th column I wrote about the joint committee and the "soap opera" that was developing because of its formation.

You see, the Police Board contended that they alone must safeguard and oversee all elements of "policing standards" throughout the Region.

But, that’s not all there is to constructing new and better digs for our Police Service. Regional Council must ensure that any facilities are both financially sustainable and properly planned and located.

Well, as you may know, since the spring the Region and the Police have taken great pains resolve the dispute and to establish a special joint committee. Called the Police Long Term Accommodation Committee, this working group is charged with overseeing all processes related to Police facilities including financing, planning, design and construction.

Then, last week, the Police Board tried to come directly to Regional Council and bypass the joint committee process.

So, Regional Council sent the Police brass and board members to the joint committee where they should have gone in the first place.

Quite frankly, I believe you and all Niagara’s citizens deserve better from the Police Services Top Brass.

As I wrote in my June 4 column, "Sadly, this dispute keeps us from the real task at hand – service and protection."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How should we spend your money?


Do you have a suggestion on how the Town should spend your money?

You and your friends and neighbours are invited to give Council your suggestions at a public meeting on Monday, October 27, 2008 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers at Pelham Town Hall, Pelham Town Square, Fonthill.

This Council first started a pre-budget consultation for the 2007 Budget. For your 2008 Budget, we got a jump on it early and had a special meeting in late-October of 2007.

Following Council deliberations, I am pleased that we were able to follow-through on most of the suggestions by your friends and neighbours during these sessions.

I am very excited that we are undertaking this consultation process again. It is so important to hear directly from you about your needs, wants, and ideas. Our Town improves when more and more people become involved in its success!

Council recently adopted this budget schedule:
- Draft Capital Budget Available to the Public – November 21;
- Draft Capital Budget Presented to Committee – November 24;
- Council Approve Capital Budget – December 1;
- Draft Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets to Committee – February 9, 2009;
- Council Approve Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets – February 17.

We are beginning the process early again this year. Why? Not only to allow staff to better plan the works and work their plans, but also so that we can get better pricing on projects we tender ahead of other Towns and Cities. Last year’s early tenders saved us hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars and we want to do the same again this year!

So, now it is your chance to offer suggestions in any of our Town’s many service areas: Fire Protection & Prevention, Building & By-law Enforcement, Animal Control, Roads & Sidewalks, Water & Sewers, Winter Control, Planning Services, Library Services, and Parks & Community Services.

For background budget information, please call the Clerk at 905-892-2607 or go to www.pelham.ca. If you would like to make a presentation at the meeting, you are encouraged to provide a copy to the Clerk and to keep your time to a maximum of 10 minutes so that we can hear from as many as possible. You can also provide written comments c/o Town Clerk, 20 Pelham Town Square, P.O. Box 400, Fonthill, ON L0S 1E0 or by email to ourbudget@pelham.ca.

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bumps in the Highway #20 Reconstruction

So, if you’ve been travelling Highway #20 lately, you know that it’s in rough shape. When will it be fixed, you ask?

Well, this has been a topic of discussion during the last few Pelham Council meetings. Since the Region owns and maintains the former Provincial highway, I too have been trying to get answers during recent Regional committee meetings.

You see, the work on the road will actually be considerable. Not only does the road need to be reconstructed because of wear and tear by the 20,000 vehicles that travel it daily, it also needs realignment and widening in some places. The realignment will help at intersections like Cataract Road (in Thorold) to make them safer; they are also planning to install a traffic light at that intersection.

This work has been budgeted for a few years. During the fall of 2007, the Region had hoped to start Phase One – from Rice Road to Cataract Road – in spring 2008. Obviously that didn’t happen.

This past spring, we heard they were hoping to start in the fall.

Then, on September 18th Pelham staff were notified that construction would not begin until next spring. That would delay Phase Two – from Cataract Road to Highway 406 to the fall of 2009 at the earliest. The final piece – Phase Three from Station Street to Rice Road – wouldn’t be started until 2010.

As soon at I heard the news, I sent a letter to the Regional Chair, demanding action.

In addition to outlining safety concerns and the terrible state of the road, I also informed him that several Regional Road #20 businesses are holding up improvements in landscaping or building renovations until after the reconstruction. I also let him know that the Town is delaying its significant upgrades and improvements to Port Robinson Road and Station Street because it would be foolish to start before (or during) the reconstruction of the Regional Road.

Chair Partington responded immediately.

The hold-up? Difficulties in “acquiring several parcels of land which are required before actual construction can commence.” The Region has been successful in attaining settlements with most owners, however “a couple of property negotiations have been particularly frustrating and time consuming.” I understand that the Region may have to resort to expropriation to acquire the last few properties.

Chair Partington assured me that the Region will do “everything it can to expedite the completion of these critical road improvements.”

Rest assured that I will keep pressuring the Region for timely action along this bumpy road.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Increasing Prosperity in Niagara

You may remember that last year I wrote about poverty in Niagara and in Pelham. I bring it up again because of action that was approved at Regional Council last week.

As background, you may recall that in August 2007, the Region estimated that 54,300 of the 427,400 people that call Niagara home live in poverty because they earn below the “low-income cut-off.” That’s more than the entire population of the City of Welland (at 50,331).

By the way, Niagara’s low income cut-off was estimated at $17,900 for one-person, $22,500 for two, $27,000 for three, and $33,000 for a family of four.

The Regional report estimated that 5.1% of Pelham’s population – or approximately 825 people – lives below this cut-off. According to the report, Pelham has proportionally more low-income people than Niagara-on-the-Lake (4.2%), Lincoln (4.7%), and Wainfleet (4.8%).

What are the municipalities with the highest? The report lists St. Catharines with 15.5%, both Welland and Port Colborne with 14.9%, and Niagara Falls with 14.4% living below the cut-off.

You may remember that I also wrote about the success of Ireland’s precedent-setting National Anti-Poverty Strategy which placed poverty issues at the heart of government decision-making. Using a “10-Year Plan”, Ireland slashed its poverty rate from 15% in 1997 to 6.8% in 2007.

Irelands success was based on obtaining broad support and participation from all parts of society – public, private, and non-profit sectors – and developing concrete, specific strategies and action plans. The approach was not to find one “magic bullet” but, rather, to develop detailed, small-scale solutions.

Well, now, I am pleased to tell you that Niagara has begun a similar process.

At last week’s Regional Council meeting, we decided to establish a broad-based Advisory Committee to oversee the implementation of seven specific prosperity strategies and to develop future strategies. Recognizing their solid track record of addressing poverty issues and of involving community leaders, the actual implementation will be accomplished by Opportunities Niagara and the Business Education Council over the next two years.

I am hoping that with involvement from across the community – from representatives of the Federal, Provincial, Regional governments, the Niagara Regional Police, faith-based organizations, the Niagara Health System, the business community and Chambers of Commerce, social service agencies and the United Way, and school boards – the Advisory Committee will quickly develop and implement appropriate action plans.

Poverty is a complex issue. Its solution – increasing prosperity – requires complex solutions that I and many other will continue to move forward on your behalf.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pelham's "Buy Canadian" Compromise


Pelham Council recently considered a “Buy Canadian” resolution from the City of Thorold.

As you may have heard, members of the District Labour Council recently asked Thorold to endorse a resolution to “Buy Canadian.” Buying Canadian in this case would mean requiring a minimum of 50% Canadian content and domestic final assembly in goods purchased. Thorold accepted the challenge and circulated their declaration to other municipalities.

On September 2, Pelham Council cautiously referred the matter to staff for a report of the financial implications of the Thorold motion.

I am pleased to tell you that over the last year or so, the Town has made a concerted effort to become very supportive of local businesses and of “buying local.” Whether it’s paint for the arena, parts for the Town’s trucks, printed material, or food for events, Town staff now buy local whenever possible and practical.

Also, we work closer-than-ever with both the Chamber of Commerce and the Pelham Business Association. In fact, because of collaboration with these two groups, the Town is launching an internet-based Business Directory today. From the stack of cards already submitted, staff have learned about some Pelham businesses for the first time. I hope you will review the directory, so you can not only purchase the goods and services you require but also so you can support your neighbours. (Please go to the Town's website at www.pelham.ca and click on "Business Directory" in the lefthand column.)

So then, why not wholly approve Thorold’s resolution?

Well, the Town has a “best practice” procurement policy that seeks to obtain the “lowest costs consistent with the required quality and service” regardless of the location of the product’s manufacturing. That means that the Town tenders for all major purchases – and, now, consistently advertises in local media.

But, some items are simply not available in Canada or Canadian companies sell products with greater than 50% foreign content. The September 15 staff report outlined two recent examples – the purchase of a custom fire truck and of a vehicle hoist – that cost us $404,300 to purchase directly from foreign manufacturers. Had we totally abided by Thorold’s resolution, we would have paid 55% more – nearly $224,000 more – to buy the same products from Canadian sales agents!

Thus, Pelham attained a good compromise when Council passed the following: “Be it resolved that the Town of Pelham, acting in good faith and in accordance to the “Best Practices” policy enacted by the Town, will make every effort to ensure that all products and or services are obtained locally or within Canada where possible.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Business Directory Coming!

Have you heard about the new initiative to support Pelham businesses? Wednesday, September 24th marks the official launch of the Town of Pelham Business Directory which has been developed in collaboration with the Welland-Pelham Chamber of Commerce and the Pelham Business Association.

How many times have you found yourself searching your memory for a business you’ve heard about or used in the past but just can’t recall the name or find the phone number? As you know, the Town continues to work with Pelham businesses to involve them in broader initiatives to market the Town, and encourage people to “Shop Locally”. The launch of the Business Directory underscores this commitment.

The new Business Directory allows all Pelham businesses – from retail, to service, to home-based – to participate. This initiative is aimed at promoting Pelham-based businesses through the Town’s official website: www.pelham.ca, as well as adding links from the Chamber and PBA websites.

There is no cost to participate and the Town will maintain the Directory. How do you ensure that your business or service is part of this exciting new opportunity? Sign up cards will be available at the official launch, or at the businesses listed below. Simply complete and sign a Business Directory contact information card and return it to any one of the following locations, or mail it directly to Town Hall:
In Fonthill:
- Butterflies Boutique, 1475 Pelham St.;
- Fonthill Library Branch, 43 Pelham Town Square;
- Lewis Family Chiropractic, 165 Highway 20 West;
- Town of Pelham Municipal Building, 40 Pelham Town Square;
In Fenwick:
- Einstein’s Laminated Art, 726 Canboro Road;
- Maple Acre Library Branch, 781 Canboro Road;
In Ridgeville:
- The Whisk & Ladle, 306 Canboro Road

Do you want to know more about this exciting project? Come and get a glimpse of the Directory and see first-hand the advantages of participation.

The official launch event will take place on Wednesday, September 24th in the Council Chambers at the Pelham Municipal Building from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Bring in your signed cards and begin to take advantage of the benefits!

- Easy to Use
- Free Advertising
- No Registration Fee
- Cross Referenced
- Links to YOUR Website & E-mail
- Annual Updates

If you are a Pelham business, you are encouraged to participate! For further information, please contact Town Clerk, Cheryl Miclette at (905) 892-2607, ext. 20 or Nancy Bozzato, Deputy Clerk, ext. 15.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The more things change...

As you may have heard, St. Alexander School celebrated its 50th Anniversary this weekend. The event got me thinking about Pelham’s past and present.


The anniversary started with a “pub night” on Friday, and continued with an open house all-day on Saturday. The special weekend concluded with a Mass at St. Alexander Church, celebrated by Bishop Wingle.

As a proud graduate of the school, I was both honoured and privileged to offer congratulations on behalf of Council at the opening ceremony Saturday afternoon.


All the doors were open as hundreds of current and former students and their families wondered throughout the school. The organizing committee, chaired by Debbie Pine, did an amazing job of assembling memorabilia – old yearbooks, photographs, and newspaper articles of students and their accomplishments.


I personally enjoyed catching-up with one of my former classmates. Our discussion allowed me to reflect on not only our joint school experiences, but also on what Pelham was like more than 25 years ago.


The school certainly has had many physical changes over the years. It was just an “L-shaped” building in those days. The small gymnasium and the expansive tarmac (on which we tirelessly played foot-hockey) has been replaced with classrooms, a much-larger gym, and a centre courtyard. The baseball diamond, and homemade hanging bars and sandbox are now a contemporary playground and swings. The very small library (which was always packed with paperbacks) has become a cloakroom for the kindergarten class.


In those early days – the mid-1970s – the Pelham Plaza didn’t exist. I have distinct memories of walking along a footpath from the school through long grass, only to emerge at the Pelham Library in the basement of Town Hall.

The railway tracks were still in use along Station Street and had yet to become the Steve Bauer Trail of today. With the Fonthill Firehall on South Pelham, it wasn’t odd to hear the siren calling the volunteers. Kids who wanted a treat crossed the very busy Highway 20 to get to a convenience store where the Royal Bank now stands. (Imagine how much parents and the school liked that!) And, do you remember our one-and-only traffic light – at Highway 20 and South Pelham?


While much has changed over the years, Pelham is still the most beautiful and vibrant community in Niagara. From breathtaking vistas, to babbling brooks, to rich agricultural lands, Pelham enjoys a rich rural character. And, because of committed volunteers in our service and sports clubs and other associations, Pelham continues to be the community with a small-town feel, where neighbour helps neighbour.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Inspired at the AMO Conference

Have you ever participated in a conference for your work or for a service club or group with which you are involved?

If so, you know that the right conference can be inspiring and encourage you to reach greater goals. It can be a time to “take stock”, compare one’s efforts to the “best practices” of others, and to build relationships. And, some conferences often contain exhibits with new products or services.

That’s why I’m pleased to let you know that I felt this year’s annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference from August 25 to 27 in Ottawa was all of these things.

More than 1,800 delegates from municipalities across Ontario attended – including Pelham Town Councillors John Durley and Sharon Cook, Town CAO, Martin Yamich, and myself. The conference included more than 30 plenary sessions and workshops. The main topics included energy management, infrastructure investment, environmental protection, sustainability planning, immigration promotion, waste management, youth involvement, federal gas tax funding, trade and labour mobility, and labour relations. In addition, all three provincial party leaders and 17 Provincial Ministers and Parliamentary Assistants addressed us.

You may have heard that the Premier announced $1.1 billion of funding to all 445 Ontario municipalities. Since the allocation will be based on the 2006 census, Pelham will receive $775,259 and the Niagara Region will receive $20.1 million. While the exact criteria isn’t yet available, the Government indicated that it should be used for “infrastructure” and urged municipal leaders to “choose their next infrastructure project, and to move that project forward.”

While at AMO, your Pelham delegation also advanced your interests with four Provincial Ministers. First we met with Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, to inform her about several “buy local produce” initiatives in Niagara and to encourage her to support farmers. Then we met with Jim Bradley, Minister of Transportation, about the arrangement Pelham made with Welland Transit to link us to the rest of the peninsula; he was impressed with our leadership and our plan. Next, we urged Donna Cansfield, Minister of Natural Resources, to come forward with a funding program to assist with spraying for Gypsy Moth. Finally, we informed George Smitherman, Minister of Energy & Infrastructure, about Pelham’s significant infrastructure needs – from roads and bridges, to pipes and facilities.

Not only did the AMO Conference encourage your Pelham delegates to use “best practices” and reach higher goals, it was also a tremendous opportunity to advance your interests with Provincial Ministries and build relationships with other municipal leaders.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Please Consider Coaching & Volunteering

On Saturday, the pre-squirt soccer league – in which I had the pleasure of being one of the co-coaches – had its final play-off games and award presentations.

You see, last spring the Pelham Soccer Club desperately needed coaches – only four of 12 teams had one. So a friend invited me to co-coach a team that could also include her daughter and my son.

I enjoyed playing Pelham soccer and I fondly remember my coaches. They encouraged us, pushed us to excel, and brought out our best.

Naturally, I wondered what would happen if I didn’t step forward. Could our kids play at all? How would they learn the fun of the game?

So, with some hesitation, I agreed to co-coach. And, now, I am thrilled by the experience!

First, each player improved as an individual and a team member. At the start of the season, most players were timid, and unsure of themselves. Players would seldom try to capture the ball or block opposing kicks. They “bunched-up” around the ball.

But, by the end of the season the players lost their timidity and challenged the other team for the ball. They tended to stay in position and to pass. They played like a team and some were even starting to anticipate the play!

Second, the time commitment was very manageable because the club provides everything you need to coach. They offered a coaches “clinic”, hints and tips, balls, pylons, all paperwork, and even a pump to inflate the balls.

Yet, I was dismayed to recently learn that the Soccer Club needs even more volunteers to help the +800 players. No doubt it is similar with our other sports.

So, please consider this an invitation to you or your family to become involved in Pelham sports by volunteering your time to help the kids in our community.

Coaching just takes a couple of hours a week for you, but it helps build a positive foundation for kids for their lifetime. Will you please consider coaching or volunteering for a Pelham sport?

Please check out these websites for more information and to get involved:

Pelham Figure Skating Club: www.pelhamfigureskatingclub.ca

Pelham Minor Baseball Association: www.pmba.ca

Pelham Minor Hockey Association: www.pelhamminorhockey.com

Pelham Panthers Basketball: www.pelhambasketball.org

Pelham Soccer Club: www.pelhamsoccerclub.com

Pelham Tennis Club: www.pelhamtennis.ca

Fenwick Softball: www.fenwicksoftball.ca

While my personal experience is with soccer, I deeply appreciate the dedicated volunteers in every sport in our Town. Thank you to all coaches and youth sports volunteers!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Investing Your Surplus Now


As you may have read in the local papers, the Town ended 2007 with an accumulated operating surplus of $421,207.

Why do Towns accumulate surpluses, you ask? Put simply, it is a combination of more revenue than anticipated and less spent than anticipated.

As you know, many people continue to build new homes or renovating current homes in Pelham. All these improvements translate into increased assessment, which eventually means increased property tax revenues. Since these “in year” improvements are not known, they are not budgeted.

At the same time, some costs come in lower than anticipated either because of favourable tenders or because of improvements / efficiencies to the original work.

Under our former system of budgeting – for which 2007 was the last year – any such savings were lumped into a general surplus operating account. (Now, we keep them in their specific reserves. For example, if a road reconstruction tender comes in under budget, we keep those savings in the roads reserve to use of future roads projects.)

At our last Committee meeting, Councillors allotted your surplus funds for nine specific uses:

Transit: In May, Council agreed to enter into an agreement with Welland Transit to offer Pelham residents transit for one year starting on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. While the system will cost $91,000 total, we set aside up to $60,000 to cover any expenses above grant and fare revenues.

Physician Recruitment: The 2008 Operating Budget decreased the allocation for Physician Recruitment. Now, we are not only reinvesting $20,000, we are also establishing a specific reserve for this important program.

Welland Hospital Foundation: Following a formal presentation by the Welland Hospital Foundation, Councillors agreed to invest $20,000, but only into equipment for those programs that will remain at the Welland Hospital Site. (Since 1984, the Town has granted more than $450,000 to the Hospital.)

Winter Maintenance Reserve: A harsh winter can lead to a deficit, while a calm winter can lead to a surplus. Thus, Councillors agreed to initiate a $50,000 Winter Maintenance Reserve to reduce this risk to our operating budget.

Tree Maintenance Program: Council previously approved the tender of $83,000 to respond to an inspection of trees conducted last fall. This work, already being carried out by Shorthills Tree Service, includes 79 removals, 92 prunings, and 59 cablings.

Town Square Crossing: Following a formal request by Shirley Potts, 45 Pelham Town Square Tenants Association President, Council approved $52,000 for a signalized crosswalk between the Library and the Plaza.

Other: Councillors also agreed to allocate $70,000 to a Facilities Reserve; $50,000 to the Fire Equipment Capital purchase account; and $16,207 to a Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve.

These allocations are scheduled to be formally ratified by Council at our next meeting on Monday.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Committee Membership to Serve You


Last week, Town Council approved the membership and terms of reference of three facilities committees.


As you may recall, Council approved the creation of three special committees in June – one for Maple Acres Library branch, one for Pelham Fire Station #2, and one for all of the Town’s Recreation Facilities. But at the June 21st meeting, Council asked staff to take another look at the membership and the terms of reference.


The official resolution that Council approved in June was general – it “referred” the Facilities Committees to the Chief Administrative Officer “taking into consideration the numbers of councillors to sit on each Committee.” During the discussions that Council and Committee have had on the matter, however, some Councillors wanted both a balance of representation from across the Town and a balanced number of Councillors on each committee.


First, this meant that the CAO had to scrap his initial suggestion that only one Councillor serve on each of the Library and Firehall committees. Council wanted a mix of Councillors from across the Town. Thus, now Debbie Urbanowicz (Ward One) and Peter Papp (Ward Three) serve on the Firehall Committee and Malcolm Allen (Ward One) and Dave Emmons (Ward Two) serve on the Library Committee.


Second, the direction to balance the number of Councillors on each committee – two on each – conflicted with a staff recommendation.


You see, initially staff recommended that two Councillors sit on the Recreation Committee and that only one Councillor serve on each of the Firehall and Library committees. Why double for Recreation? The work of this committee will be extensive. The Recreation Committee will make recommendations not only regarding the arena, but also renewing all other recreation facilities including the pool, baseball diamonds, parks, and soccer fields. It is anticipated that this committee will exist for many years.


Thus, last week Council voted to ensure that this Recreation Committee included Council representation from all parts of the Town and increased the number of Councillors to three. The Recreation Committee’s representatives include Malcom Allen (Ward One), Sharon Cook (Ward Two), and John Durley (Ward Three).


As your Mayor, I will serve as an “ex officio” member of each committee – I can attend and speak, but not vote or make motions. Each of the special committees will make regular updates by reporting to the one of the Town’s existing General Committees.


I am pleased that Town Council has conclusively approved this representative membership and that these three facilities committees can now begin to serve you and everyone in our Town.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Update

As the lazy-hazy days of summer are headed our way, I thought you might be interested in a short update of significant Town issues.

Town Facilities – from Feasibility Study to Committees:
As you may recall, the consultant hired to solicit significant public input to help determine the long-term needs for Town facilities presented her final report in April 2008. This report called for a joint facility to replace and enlarge Fire Station #2 and the Maple Acres Library, a new twin-pad arena in town or in partnership with Welland, and to keep the campus-like feel of Fonthill’s downtown with the continued presence of the Town Hall and the Fonthill Library Branch.

As a result, Council recently approved the creation of three special facilities committees – one for Maple Acres Library branch, one for Pelham Fire Station #2, and one for Recreation Facilities – to make recommendations on the construction / replacement of Town facilities. We also asked for a conceptual plan for a new Town complex, which might include a new Administration / Library facility in Town Square in 10 years time.

Council asked to finalize the terms of reference and membership of these Committees at next week’s Council meeting.

Decision to Sell Land:
As you know, Council agreed to sell the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Highway 20. Because it is a public asset – the asset of you and your neighbours – the Town will follow open and transparent policies to dispose of the property. Council is awaiting an update report from staff.

Downtown Beautification:
Following an open house in the spring of 2007, Council designated a representative citizen’s group as an official Town committee to help beautify our downtowns. The active group encouraged Council to develop a Community Improvement Plan in 2008. This formal process began this spring and the first-set of public meetings were held last week to establish beautification guidelines and incentives for our downtowns. Any incentives will need to be funded by your tax dollars.

Other Significant Items:

  • Formalized a transit-link from Pelham to the rest of the Region via a hub at the Niagara College, with buses set to start this September;
  • Worked closely with the Ministry of the Environment to reach agreement that saw the removal of the Sound Sorb berm from Pelham;
  • Approved another fiscally-responsible budget (with a 1.6% combined Town, Region, and Education increase) and established reserve and reserve funds to better plan for multi-year capital projects;
  • Continuing to work with developers and planners to ensure that both the East Fonthill and East Fenwick developments fit with Pelham’s small-town feel and our vision for a walkable community.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You Can Help Plan Pelham's Downtowns

While venturing downtown Parry Sound on a recent family vacation, I noticed some significant improvements over previous years. I wondered what prompted the changes.

I found the answer in the Spring 2008 edition of "Sideroads of Parry Sound & Area." Maybe you will find a connection to Pelham's downtowns.

You see, the Town of Parry Sound introduced a Facade Improvement program in 2006 as one of the key strategies of their Downtiwn Revitalization Plan. Because of the history of Parry Sound, the program includes a marine heritage theme. And, in recognition of their Georgian Bay works, the program uses a colour pallet from the Group of Seven.

The objective of the program is to encourage property owners and tenants to improve the look of their buildings and businesses. The special program was not offered in 2007, but with the addition of $100,000 in funding from the municipality, it returned in 2008 for qualified applicants.

This Facade Improvement Grant provides limited funding for architectural plans, site plan drawings, facade improvements on the primary and secondary sides of the building, sign improvements, exterior lighting improvements, and landscape improvements. It is a matching grants program where 50% of these costs are covered up to various maximums -- everywhere from $200 for signs to $10,000 for primary facades. In two years, a total of 11 properties have taken advantage of various program features.

Finally, the Parry Sound program also includes a property tax increment grant. It grants up to five years of relief from any property tax increases which directly result from facade improvements.

So, you might ask, what does the Parry Sound program mean for Pelham?

Well, as you may have read in our local papers, Pelham recently sponsored two open houses about our downtowns. The first was last night with Fonthill's downtown as a primary focus. The second will be tonight at the Old Pelham Town Hall and focusing mainly on Fenwick's downtown.
These open houses are just the start of a public input process in the development of something called a Community Improvement Plan for Pelham's downtowns. I am told that there will be another two sessions before the CIP is finalized and presented to Council in the fall.

Will the plan propose incentives like those offered in Parry Sound? That's up to you and others providing feedback and direction. It will also be up to Council since any incentive programs will need to be funded by your tax dollars.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Acting to Improve Our Environment




Last week I wrote about two appeals to Niagara’s municipalities to help the environment. Adam Shoalts offered a challenge as he accepted the Region’s 2008 Environmental Volunteer Award and Dr. Homer-Dixon gave a challenge during the Smarter Niagara Summit in May.

Well, this week, I want to let you know about how your Town Council has taken some concrete action to help the environment.

First, your Council encourages water conservation by promoting rain barrels and low-flush toilets.

In March, Council approved a rain barrel program with a goal to distribute 200 315L and 50 500L rain barrels to Pelham residents at a rate subsidized by both the Town and the Region. The response was amazing since not only did we sell-out, but there are 150 people on the waiting list! (Staff recently suggested that if the waiting list reaches 200 units, they will recommend that we subsidize another allotment this year.)

Council also approved a Toilet Replacement Program by offering a $25 incentive to the first 100 households to submit receipts for purchasing a toilet that uses 6 litres per flush or less. Since most toilets use 13 LPF, and some even use 25 LPF, your water savings can be substantial.

Second, your Council encourages electrical conservation through initiatives like “Earth Hour” and through a retrofit of Town Hall.

“Earth Hour” called on individuals around the world to turn off their lights for one hour on March 29. The campaign intended to show that “individual action on a mass scale can help change our planet for the better.”

In addition, the Town recently replaced all old fluorescent light ballasts and bulbs at Town Hall with energy efficient ballasts and “T-8” fluorescent bulbs. Along with energy efficiency and cost savings, staff now enjoys the additional benefits of better lighting.

Third, your Council discourages our reliance on cars through initiatives like “Bike-to-Work-Week” and through an Active Transportation Committee.

The special Bike-to-Work-Week from May 26 to June 1 encouraged the use of bicycles as not only a healthy lifestyle choice but to decrease gas emissions and help the environment.

Similarly, the Active Transportation committee encourages walking, cycling and running through design. That is, they will make suggestions on retrofits or improvements to make Pelham a more active / walkable community.

I acknowledge that much more can be done at the municipal level to mitigate global warming through planning, infrastructure, public facilities, and emergency preparedness. However, these concrete examples show how your Council is encouraging environmental stewardship now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Challenge of Improving Our Environment

Last Thursday, I had the honour of co-presenting one of the 2008 Environmental Awards with Regional Chair Partington and John Lundrigan, Chair of the Region’s Ecological & Environmental Advisory Committee, to Pelham’s Adam Shoalts. Mr. Shoalts received the 2008 Volunteer Award for actively raising environmental awareness across Niagara.

Perhaps you have read some of Mr. Shoalts columns about environmental, nature, and conservation issues in the Tribune and the Voice of Pelham. I always find them poignant and thought-provoking.

Mr. Shoalts also sits on the Tribune’s Youth Editorial Board, ensuring that the paper has a “green” voice, and speaks about environmental issues across Niagara. As a student of Brock University, he is active on campus as a member of the Brock Environmental Club.

In addition, Mr. Shoalts is the founder and chair of the Friends of Coyle Creek – a volunteer community group dedicated to cleaning up and preserving a tributary of the Welland River that flows south through Pelham and Welland.

Upon receiving the award, Mr. Shoalts thanked the Region, but also eloquently urged municipal leaders to push the “green” envelope.

“There's a great deal of work yet to be done ... before we can really celebrate anything. Saving the environment won't happen without the support of municipal and regional governments,” said Mr. Shoalts.

This challenge by Mr. Shoalts reminded me of a similar challenge by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a professor at the University of Toronto, during the Smarter Niagara Summit in May.

Homer-Dixon also challenged municipal leaders to play a significant role in shaping humanity’s response to global warming. In fact, he suggested that half of the changes needed to deal with global warming must be made at the local level. He suggested that municipalities need to link global warming with planning, infrastructure, public facilities, and emergency preparedness.

Homer-Dixon suggested that all public buildings make use of renewable energy sources. He also suggested that municipalities increase the requirements of future storm water collection systems so they can handle more frequent and extreme weather. He encouraged transit and municipal planning that makes more efficient use of land.

Because of the high price for fuel, Homer-Dixon suggested that production should be closer to consumers and that employees should be closer to work – to “buy local” and “work local.”

I want to assure you that members of Pelham’s Council have been discussing these issues. Next week, I will outline what actions we have already taken and some of our considerations for future action.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Moving Forward on Town Facilities

As you may have read in the papers, members of Council took significant steps regarding Town facilities last week.

The Corporate Services Committee (which includes all Councillors) approved the creation of three special facilities committees – one for Maple Acres Library branch, one for Pelham Fire Station #2, and one for Recreation Facilities. We also approved the development of a conceptual plan for a new Town complex, which would include a new Administration / Library facility in Town Square. Finally, we forwarded all other identified deficiencies in Town facilities to the 2009 budget considerations. With some small refinements, these recommendations were forwarded to next Monday’s Council meeting.

So, what does this mean for the current arena, you ask? The Recreational Facilities Committee will review all arena options – including twinning the current rink, partnering with Welland or Niagara College on a new twin-pad, fixing-up the current rink and partnering with Welland for ice time, or only revitalizing the current single-pad arena. – and report back by mid-2009. Because some of these decisions may impact on the soccer fields, general purpose sport courts, and platform tennis currently at the arena property, this committee will also suggest improvements to other recreational facilities. Regardless of the final option, I believe we will be moving forward to improve arena facilities and services.

The two other special committees will address the construction of a new Maple Acres Library branch and a new Pelham Fire Station #2. Councillors agreed that the library and fire station committees should report back before the end of 2008 with conceptual plans so that we can take advantage of any federal or provincial grants in 2009.

Finally, since the Town Hall and Fonthill Library Branch complement the downtown, the band shell, and other amenities, staff will report in September 2010 with plans for a new Town complex in the area. I believe that this will help to maintain the walkable, campus-like feel that we currently possess in downtown Fonthill.

How are we going to pay for all this, you ask? The report includes realistic construction budgets and funding estimates – with 10% community fundraising for both the library and arena projects and shows costs with and without government support. In addition, the three special committees will have to determine how to pay for any extra operating costs.

So, pending Council approval on Monday, Councillors will be working together over the next few months to plan the fiscally-responsible construction of facilities to better serve you and everyone in our Town.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stop the Police Facilities “Soap-Opera”


Have you been following the “soap-opera” between the Niagara Regional Police Board and Regional Council regarding police “accommodations”?

Most recently, Larry Iggulden, Chair of the Police Board, stated that the Board had “lost all confidence” in the Niagara Region’s ability to oversee new police facilities.

You see, the Board is nearing the end of a process to decide the location and composition for new Police buildings. The Board called for proposals for the site of a suggested new Police Headquarters in March. You may recall that Pelham Council voted unanimously to offer to sell 12 acres of Town-owned property at the corner of Highway 20 and Rice Road. The Police are still reviewing the +30 proposals they received.

On May 1, Regional Council released all documents about the renovation of the current HQ at 110 James Street, St. Catharines. And, to ensure that tax-payer affordability and planning issues were also considered in any proposed facilities, Regional Council also formed a joint Region-Police committee to “review, analyze, oversee, and manage” the project.

This move prompted a May 23 letter from Police Board Chair Iggulden to Peter Partington, Regional Chair. The letter asserts that the Police Board holds the responsibility to determine and maintain “adequacy” of Niagara’s police service – including police accommodations. They also submit operating and capital budgets that reflect those needs to Regional Council.

At the same time, the Police Services Acts states that the Regional Council “shall establish an overall budget for the board.” And, while Regional Council cannot “approve or disapprove specific items,” the Council is “not bound to adopt the estimates submitted by the board.”

If the Police Board isn’t happy with the decisions of Council, they can appeal to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services.

As you may recall, my February 6 column was about how some political leaders had turned the issue into a parochial debate. At that time, I feared that the parochialism was far from over.

Now, as a result of that Khrushchev-like shoe-banging and parochialism, this power-struggle has developed between the Police Board and Regional Council.

Sadly, this dispute keeps us from the real task at hand – service and protection.

Let us keep our “eye on the ball” and work together with the Police Board to find efficiencies across Niagara’s Police Service – including in facilities – and reduce costs while providing outstanding police service and protection to you and all the residents of Niagara.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Sell The Land?

You may have heard that last Monday, the majority of Council’s Planning Committee – which is actually made up of all of Council – voted to sell the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Highway 20. Yesterday, Council was to have ratified that decision.

I would like you to know my personal reasons for voting to sell that property.

In January 2005, the majority of the Council-of-the-day voted to purchase the 32 acres of land to build or relocate many Town amenities. That vision was to build a community centre that included a Twin-Pad Arena, an Indoor Pool, a Recreation Centre, a Library, and a Town Hall. The dream was to also relocate most baseball and soccer fields to the site so it would become a “one-stop-shop” for Town recreation, culture, and administration.

But, because it’s in the furthest quadrant of Town, 99.5% of all current residents would have had to drive and park on acres of asphalt. (That dream also made no reference of what to do with the more walkable sites of our current parks and facilities.)

The Facilities Feasibility Study that this Council received on April 7 dismissed that “one-stop-shop” vision.

Based on extensive participation from community groups, sport associations, and members of the general public, the consultant praised the campus-like feel of the Fonthill downtown. The presence of the Town Hall and the Fonthill Library Branch complement the downtown’s businesses and other features like the Bandshell, Farmer’s Market, Post Office, and senior’s residences.

Pointing to the thousands of Pelham’s YMCA members, the consultant dismissed the idea of a Town-run recreation centre.

And, while calling for a new Twin-Pad Arena, the consultant made no recommendation on location – despite those 32 acres.

Without any ringing endorsement, I knew we needed to sell the property.

But, I also voted to sell because we need to provide you value for your money.

Did you know that by the end of this year, the Town will have paid $493,000 in principal and more than $700,000 in interest for that property? That’s $1.2 million and not one more kid played hockey or soccer or baseball or figure-skated!

My vote was not about whether we should repair, rebuild, or replace any of your Town facilities; that report will be coming to Council on June 2.

I voted to sell the property because I support facilities and parks that complement and enhance our Town and that provide value and service for your tax-dollars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Smarter Growth" is Good for the Environment

As you may have heard, the Region’s Planning Department held a “Smarter Niagara Summit” last week. Since I am the co-chair of the Smarter Niagara Steering Committee, I made sure I participated.

What is “Smarter Niagara” you ask?

Well, it really encourages “Smart Growth” in Niagara. “Smart Growth” is growth based on more sustainable development choices in an effort to ensure a healthy environment, sustain a strong economy, create vibrant urban centres, and combat urban sprawl.

The “Ten Principles of Smart Growth” for Niagara include:


  1. Create a mix of land uses for employment, stores and homes;

  2. Promote a more compact “built form” so neighbours get to know each other (instead of each other’s cars);

  3. Offer a range of housing opportunities and choices;

  4. Produce walk-able neighbourhoods and communities;

  5. Foster attractive communities and a sense of place;

  6. Preserve farmland and natural resources;

  7. Direct future development into existing communities to take advantage of existing community assets;

  8. Provide a variety of transportation choices;

  9. Make “smarter” development predictable and cost effective; and

  10. Encourage plans developed with strong community involvement.

The most striking presentation of the Summit was given by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a professor at the University of Toronto.

First, Homer-Dixon updated the participants on the latest and worsening climate-change data and predictions. Then, he challenged municipal leaders to play a significant role in shaping humanity's response to global warming. He said that we must start planning now for extreme storms, prolonged droughts and oppressive heat waves.

In fact, Homer-Dixon said that half of changes needed to deal with global warming must be made at the local level. He suggested that cities need to link global warming with planning, infrastructure, public facilities, and emergency preparedness.

What could this mean for Pelham? Homer-Dixon suggested that all public buildings make use of renewable energy sources. He also suggested that municipalities increase the requirements of future storm water collection systems so they can handle more frequent and extreme weather. He encouraged transit and municipal planning that makes more efficient use of land.

Because of the high price for fuel, Homer-Dixon suggested that production should be closer to consumers and that employees should be closer to work. This “buy local” and “work local” approach could mean more employment options in Pelham.

In essence, “Smart Growth” could mean that Pelham becomes more of an environmentally sustainable community.

Please see www.regional.niagara.on.ca/living/smartgrowth for more information about the Smarter Niagara Summit.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How Will Your Money Be Spent?

I promised to keep you informed about how your money is spent within the Town.

Following a pre-budget consultation in October 2007, Council approved “in principal” the 2008 Capital Budget in December 2007 and the 2008 Operating Budget in February 2008. Since we now know the Region’s final Tax Policies, your Town Council was to formally adopt both budgets during this past Monday’s meeting.

The Town portion of your taxes – 33.3% of your tax bill – will increase 4.85%. The School Board portion remains unchanged and makes up 17.3% of your taxes. The Regional portion, which makes up 49.4% of your bill, will increase by 0.4%. When you add all this together, your total tax bill will increase by 1.96% – less than the 2.2% rate of inflation.

So how will your money be spent?

Your $3.8 million Capital Budget will fund many improvements, such as:
· Replacement of the Fire Pumper for Station One (approx. $400,000);
· Purchase of a generator in case of an officially declared emergency;
· Road reconstruction of Line Avenue (already started!); Effingham between Ollie and Roland Roads; Farr, Brock, and Elizabeth Streets; and Pelham Street for 300m North from Shorthills;
· Engineering design for the road and water/waste water for Haist Street between Canboro and Welland Roads;
· Fonthill Traffic Study in areas of Port Robinson, Station, and Pelham Streets;
· Repairs to the Fonthill Cemetery Mausoleum (paid by the Perpetual Care fund);
· Playground equipment renewal in Marlene Stewart Streit, Rolling Meadows, and Harold Black Parks;
· Addition of security features to the Town’s Pool;
· Loan to the Farmer’s Market Committee for hydro service installation for the Market;
· New pitching mound and bleacher replacement at Harold Black Park;
· Improvements to the Arena, including safety netting and new glass;
· Improvements to Centennial Park, including drainage and soccer catch-netting; and
· Funding for the Community Improvement Plan and Urban Design Guidelines for the Town’s downtowns.

In addition to the regular Town services to which you are accustomed, your 2008 Operating Budget also includes funds for many special initiatives, such as:
· Additional resources to better support the successful Bandshell Concert Series;
· Continuation of Monday service at the Town’s Library branches;
· Revenue neutral staff changes in Planning and in Infrastructure Services;
· Information and coordination services for a Gypsy Moth spray program; and
· Increases in road and sidewalk maintenance – ditching, patching, flushing, and cleaning.

If you have any questions, please contact me at mayordave@pelham.ca or 905-892-2607.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Off-Load Delays" Directly Effect Pelham


Have you heard about “Offload Delays” in our Regional Ambulance service? I have been deeply concerned about it and I am pleased that we are now taking action.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) refers to an “Offload” as the time taken in an emergency department to transfer a patient from an ambulance stretcher to the care of the hospital. Generally, this interval takes 20-minutes in Niagara.

As you can guess, an “Offload Delay” describes a transfer that takes longer than the standard 20-minutes and any ambulance team stuck in offload delay is unavailable to respond to emergency calls!

While ambulance offload delays are common across Ontario, they are also a symptom of serious health care and community support systems problems. For example, when a community lacks general physicians and, therefore, access to comprehensive and effective primary care, people tend to visit emergency departments at hospitals. This overcrowds ERs and causes delays in triage and treatment.

Offload delays also occur when a community lacks adequate supportive housing, rehabilitation beds, and specialized at-home treatment programs. In these cases, patients who may be well-enough to leave a hospital cannot because they are too ill to be on their own. They require an “alternative level of care” (ALC) that is just not available.

In Niagara, we experience both types of challenges and, over the last two years, the frequency and duration offload delays at our hospitals have significantly increased.

At first, because of Niagara’s dynamic dispatch system, our EMS staff adapted well to these challenges. If an ambulance was stuck in an emergency department, the other ambulances in the system would move from their stations to other positions in the Region; in this way, when one, two, or three ambulances were delayed, EMS could still provide adequate coverage.

But, when seven (as happened 42 times thus far in 2008!) or eight (8) (25 times!) ambulances of the Region’s 22 vehicles get stuck on offload delay, the system starts to breakdown. The breakdown especially puts communities without hospitals – like Pelham, Thorold, and Fort Erie – at considerable risk.

In fact, Pelham’s EMS response times increased 33% from 10:27 in 2007 to 14:05 in 2008! It is now among the worst in the Region.

While the Province, the Niagara Health System, and Niagara EMS continue to work on solutions, I believe we cannot wait any longer.

That’s why I moved the motion in the Region’s finance committee to provide temporary (six-month) funding for two additional ambulances during peak times. I was also part of the Niagara Week team that met with Health Minister George Smitherman last week to persuade the Province to act.

Offload delays is a complex problem. By taking action now we can provide better EMS service while a solution is developed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Does Pelham Compare?

During the last two of my blogs, I have written about age characteristics of our Town. Well this, my final examination of the 2006 Census data for Pelham, considers home ownership, mobility, education, and other characteristics for your interest and information.

If all you had was the Pelham Census data, you may not appreciate the differences between Pelham and the rest of the Region. The best way to determine statistically significant differences is not only to compare the data between Pelham and all of Niagara, but, to actually remove Pelham from the Region’s data.

So, that is what I have done. And, the comparison between Pelham and the “rest of the Region” has yielded some interesting results – some significant, some not.

For example, the number of single-detached houses as a percentage of total occupied private dwellings is an interesting comparison. Across the rest of Niagara that number is 68%. Maybe it’s no surprise to you that in Pelham that statistic is 16% higher at 84%.

And, when you compare the number of owned vs. rented dwellings, there is also a significant difference. For Pelham, 90% of our dwellings are owned and 10% are rented. Across the rest of Niagara, 75% of dwellings are owned while 25% are rented.

Compared to the rest of Niagara, once we find our home in Pelham, we tend to stay put. For example, 71% of you and your neighbours lived at the same address five (5) years ago, while 92% lived at the same address one-year ago. Compare this to the rest of the Region at 64% for five years and 88% for one-year ago.

Another interesting comparison is with the number that said they possessed either a College certificate or diploma (or equivalent) or had a University certificate diploma or degree. Across the rest of Niagara, 36% of the adult population had these levels of education; in Pelham it was 10% higher at 46%.

Finally, Statistics Canada also tracks location of employment. Ten (10) percent of Pelham’s “labour force” works at home; compare this with six (6) percent in the rest of Niagara. Yet, at the same time, more than 71% of those working do so in a different municipality! Across the Region, that number is only 35% -- a whopping 36% less than in Pelham.

Perhaps you suspected some of this information about our Town. Or, perhaps some of it was unexpected. Regardless, I hope you know that I will continue to consider these demographic realities as I serve as your Mayor.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Pelham Stats


You may recall that my last column was about the demographics of Pelham – that is, the study of human population for our Town.

You see, Statistics Canada recently released new information from the 2006 Census. And, since they also provide information for communities from the 2001 and 1996 Census, one can compare the make-up and growth of our population over a ten-year period.

As you may know, Pelham is the fastest growing municipality in the Region. Since our formation in 1970, we have grown from 9,855 to 16,155 in 2006. That’s a 64% increase! The next largest increases are West Lincoln at 60%, Lincoln at 59%, and Grimsby at 58%; the entire Region’s population grew by only 27% during that period.

During the last decade, Pelham’s population grew from 14,345 in 1996, to 15,275 in 2001 (an increase of 6.5%), to 16,155 in 2006 (+5.8%).

But, as you may recall from my last column, the story becomes more interesting when one looks at age groups.

For example, our Town’s population of children (aged 14 and younger) declined in raw numbers over the last decade – from 2,920 in 1996 to 2,745 in 2006. This was a 6% decrease! It’s no surprise, therefore, that the proportion of children also dropped 3% from 20% of our Town in 1996 to 17% in 2006. According to a recent report, the proportion of children across the Region is expected to decline from 16.4% in 2006 to 14.3% in 2031.

What about our seniors – those aged 65 and older? In 1996 there were 1,925 seniors in Pelham; in 2006 Statistics Canada counted 2,680. That’s a 39% increase! Seniors now make up 16.5% of our population, up from 13% in 1996. Across the Region, the proportion of seniors is expected to increase from 17% in 2006 to 27% in 2031!

Statistics Canada provides some very broad categories for comparison over the last decade. For example, Pelham’s population aged zero to 24 grew 3% from 4,820 in 1996 to 4,965 in 2006. Our population aged 25 to 54 essentially flat-lined at a 1.1% growth from 6,095 in 1996 to 6,165 in 2006. So, broadly speaking, where was the majority of our growth concentrated? Those 55 and older grew a phenomenal 46% from 3,400 in 1996 to 5,030 in 2006! (One must be cautious of these broad comparisons; this growth is because of both new residents and the aging of current residents.)

As your Mayor, I continue to consider what these demographic realities mean for our current and future public services.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Boom, Bust & Echo in Pelham


Do you remember the book entitled “Boom, Bust & Echo” that was popular in the late 1990s? I was thinking about it lately as Statistics Canada released new data for all communities, including Pelham, from the 2006 Census.

The book, by David K. Foot and Daniel Stoffman, theorized that demographics – the study of human population – explained “about two-thirds of everything.” They wrote that demographics describes “which products will be in demand, where job opportunities will occur, what school enrolments will be, when house values will rise or drop, what kinds of food people will buy and what kinds of cars they will drive.”

Looking at Canadian demographic data, the book groups of the population into “cohorts” and names them. For example, you have likely heard of the most famous and largest of cohorts – the “Baby Boomers” – born from 1947 to 1966.

So I took the Statistics Canada data and compared our population in Pelham with the rest of the Region (excluding Pelham). It reveals some interesting facts.

In terms of population distribution, the data clearly identifies the presence of “Baby Boomers” – those 40 to 59 (in 2006) – in Pelham and in the rest of Niagara. If you are one of them, you make up 33% of Pelham’s population, compared to 30% in the rest of Niagara.

The next group – the Baby Bust – born from 1967 to 1979 would have been 27 to 39 years old in 2006. This group makes up fewer than 12% in Pelham and is 15% of the rest of Niagara.

Do you too find these differences between Pelham and the Region fascinating?

The Echo group – the children of the Baby Boomers – is another huge cohort. If you were between 11 and 26 years old in 2006, you were one of more than 22% in both Pelham and in Niagara.

Yet, the next group of children – from zero to 10 years old in 2006 – form only 10% of the population.

Those of other cohorts include the “Roaring Twenties” (aged from 77 to 86 in 2006 and roughly 5% of the population), the “Depression Babies” (from 67 to 76 in 2006 and 7%), and “World War II Babies” (60 to 66 in 2006 and 8%).

Perhaps you, like me, wonder what this means to the future of our Town and our Region. As Mayor I am thinking about what this demographic reality means in terms of current and future public services.

I plan to write more about Pelham’s demographics in future columns.