Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pelham's Good News Budget

You would not have heard much fanfare about it had you been at our Town Council meeting last week. And, yet, it was very important for you and for all property tax payers in Pelham.

You see, Council officially approved our 2009 Operating Budget.

From the start, our budget working group gave direction to ensure minimal impact on you and other property tax-payers without decreasing the current level and quality of services.

In essence, we said find efficiencies, find ways to work smarter, and stay focused on service to the community. I am pleased to let you know that the budget does just that.

In addition, Town staff continues to look at all work processes and to seek opportunities to reduce costs through the use of new technology, procedural improvements, and/or alternative sources of revenue.

Overall, these initiatives allowed the Treasurer to suggest a minimal general tax levy increase of $282,025 (on a $10 million budget) or 2.62% BEFORE adjusting for real assessment growth. Real assessment growth in 2008 – from new businesses, new homes, or improvements to existing properties – was $164,383. (This growth has nothing to do with MPAC’s changes in market value assessment of existing properties.)

Once growth is removed, the net effect on the tax levy will be $117,642 or an increase of 1.48% on the Town of Pelham portion of your 2009 property tax bill.

What does that mean for your pocket book, you ask?

Well, the average residential property value for 2009 is expected to be $248,583. If your home and property were assessed at that value, you would be paying only an additional $23 or a total of $1,218 on the Pelham portion of your property bill. This year’s average increase is less than half of last year’s $54 average increase.

You can see that Council and staff have taken global economic situation very seriously.

In fact, I am pleased to tell you about a conversation our Treasurer recently had with the Treasures of the other 11 Cities, Towns, and Townships across the Region. While most have not yet completed their budgets, given the discussions other Council’s, it looks like our increase will be the lowest in the entire Region. That’s good news for you, isn’t it?

If you would like additional information about the 2009 budget, please download the budget presentation from the Town’s website at or watch it on Cogeco on Wednesday, March 18.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Facilities Update

Many people have asked me recently about how things are progressing with some of our facilities in Town.

As you’ll recall, during the summer Council established three facilities committees – Fire Station #2 Replacement Committee, Maple Acre Library Branch Replacement Committee, and Recreational Facilities Committee. Working to plan and develop various facilities, each committee includes Town Councillors, myself (as a non-voting member) and appropriate staff.

The Fire Station #2 Replacement Committee, chaired by Councillor Debbie Urbanowicz, started meeting in September. The committee determined that the Town needs a new Fire Station because the current vehicle bays do not have enough room for future vehicle requirements. In addition, parts of the building are structurally inadequate; for instance, the south-east corner is severely cracked and deteriorating. There are also significant safety concerns with the firefighters backing fire trucks into the station after each call.

Next, the committee determined that required improvements cannot occur on the current site. An additional fire bay attached to the current building would eliminate vehicle parking for the volunteer fire fighters. And, if the current building was demolished and totally replaced, there’s not enough land to construct a new firehall with enough parking.

Thus, the committee developed a “site criteria matrix” with weighted scoring to evaluate other public lands – Centennial Park, downtown Fenwick lands. The matrix showed that those lands didn’t even meet 50% of their ideal site requirements.

So, in December and again in January, the committee invited public landowners to submit options for new sites which were to be evaluated with the same site criteria matrix. Finally, the committee has undertaken a functional analysis to determine the fire service’s specific requirements for individual rooms and building configuration.

The Maple Acre Library Branch Replacement Committee, chaired by Councillor Dave Emmons, started meeting in October. The committee determined that, even as it stands now, the current facility is deficient – not accessible, structurally unsound. Working to determine short- and long-term requirements, the committee is considering circulation statistics, population projections, and the interplay between branch usage patterns. The committee is still evaluating the “Top 10” needs and objectives of the library branch and site. It too has undertaken a functional analysis to determine specific requirements for rooms and building configuration.

The Recreational Facilities Committee, chaired by Councillor John Durley, began meeting in November. Its mandate is very broad and includes the future of all Town recreational facilities – arena, outdoor pool, sports fields, and parks. The committee assembled all recommendations from the many previous recreational studies. It has begun determining challenges and establishing priorities.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Secret of Fenwick Flossie

To my delight, one of my responsibilities as Mayor has been to assist with Pelham’s Annual Groundhog Day event and help greet Fenwick Flossie.

We all know about Wiarton Willy. As the website dedicated to him states: “On February 2nd, just after 8:00 AM, Canada's groundhog soothsayer, the great Wiarton Willie, emerges from hibernation in his burrow long enough to announce to the world, his weather report. Discovered in 1956, he has consistently delivered accurate predictions on the remaining course of winter.”

So famous has Wiarton Willie become that in 1995 the Town erected a beautiful white limestone statue called “Willie Emerging.” The statue has become a ‘must see’ for tourists travelling in the Bruce Peninsula any time of year.

And the Annual Wiarton Willie Festival occurred this past weekend. Voted the Most Popular Event in Ontario in 2000, the festival features a parade, a Monte Carlo night, a dart tournament, a special hockey game, a pizza eating contest, and the Groundhog Ball.

What about the other spring prognosticator? I haven’t forgotten about Punxsutawney Phil. His Pennsylvania website states that Phil “is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.”

Since the late 1800’s, Phil has made his prediction at 7:25 AM. Have you send the Hollywood movie starring Bill Murray, entitled Groundhog Day, which focuses on the event?

But, what about Fenwick Flossie? Are not her predictions at 10:30 AM equally as valid? Where is her world-wide fame, her website, her TV crews?

You see, each year Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 students from E.W. Farr, St. Ann schools participate in Groundhog Day at Centennial Park. While waiting for Flossie to rouse, the Fenwick Lions award colouring contest prizes. Then, the students cheer loudly and enthusiastically to wake-up Flossie from her long winter nap; she was last seen in the Santa Claus parade in early December. After Flossie makes her weather prediction, the Fenwick Lions treat the children and their teachers to cookies and hot chocolate.

As a former member of the Fenwick Lions, I know that the event is not about fame, predictions, the tourist trade or economic spin-offs.

In the end, it’s all about good fun for kids in the community. That’s the real secret of Fenwick Flossie.

I hope you will agree that it is special events like this one, organized by caring, community-minded volunteers, that makes our Town the best in Niagara!