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?


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.