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.