Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Potential Development Coming to Pelham


As I have written about before, Pelham has a few tracts of land set aside for new growth.

The largest is in the “East Fonthill” area – between Rice Road and Station Street / Steve Bauer Trail and from Regional Road 20 to the Town’s southern boundary (south of Merritt Street).

While much of the nearly 450 acres of East Fonthill lands are currently farmed – the corn was harvested last week – the entire area was added to the Urban Boundary by an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2000.

Recent questions in local media about whether property owners should be allowed to develop on those lands would have had to have been asked and answered during the OMB’s consideration more than a decade ago.

The OMB decision disallowed the inclusion of any lands to the East of Rice Road in the Urban Boundary and required the Town to undertake a “Secondary Plan” before allowing development to proceed.

All Towns and Cities must have “Official Plans.”  Essentially, an Official Plan contains policies and guidelines and outlines where commercial, agricultural, industrial, and residential developments can occur. It uses a series of maps to demonstrate those areas.

Like an Official Plan covering the entire Town, a Secondary Plan contains detailed policies and guidelines for growth and development for a specific area – in this case, this East Fonthill area.

Since the Province began changing their governing policies in the mid-2000s – adding the Greenbelt Plan, “Places to Grow”, and the Provincial Policy Statement – the Town needed to adapt our own policies and guidelines.  That’s one of the major reasons why it took until this Fall to finally approve this Secondary Plan.

Some of the goals of the East Fonthill Secondary Plan include ensuring a well-designed, attractive, pedestrian-friendly community with a mixture of housing types; encouraging significant retail / commercial development while at the same time protecting the existing Fonthill Downtown; providing a “Greenlands System” that protects existing environmental features and integrates with the Steve Bauer Trail system; and developing a pedestrian / cyclist-friendly and transit-ready road network.

It is estimated that 5,000 people could be living in this area within 20 years.  That’s why the Region (with a little assistance from the Town) undertook multi-million dollar improvements – installing water and sewer trunk lines along Rice Road, and widening Regional Road 20 between Station Street and the 406.

Some property owners in the East Fonthill area are now working on their next steps toward development and have suggested that the first-phases of construction could begin in 2014.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Please Stop the Health Care Bickering

Aerial photo of new North Niagara Hospital (May 2012).

On November 27, I spoke to the Chamber of Commerce about the recent progress we’ve made in the Town and about the exciting improvements that will occur in Pelham over the next couple of years.

I also discussed health care in Niagara – especially in Southern Niagara.

Those that oppose the construction of a new hospital for the Southern part of Niagara say that their community needs to maintain their local health care services.

I agreed that communities need more local health care options and services; that's why Pelham Town Council recently petitioned the Province to designate one of the future Urgent Care Centres (UCCs) in Pelham. And that’s why Council also directed staff to work with a couple of doctors who are assembling new family health teams and facilities in both Fonthill and Fenwick.

But, providing local health care options and services in 2012 shouldn’t mean we continue to follow a 1950s model of “a hospital for every community.” That now-outdated-model lead to the construction and relocation of hospitals across Southern Niagara in the 1930s and the 1950s. (Douglas Memorial was constructed in 1931; Port Colborne was constructed in 1951; GNGH was relocated in 1958; and Welland was relocated in 1960.)

You can have day surgery for something today that would have kept you in the hospital for weeks in the 1950s. And, the hundreds of procedures that are routine today, weren’t even imagined then – two-and-a-half generations ago.

Our health care facilities and system needs to adapt to the new reality of health care, and so does our thinking.

Other parts of Ontario have caught on. They realize that funding for new hospital facilities from the Province is scarce. Dr. Smith, Niagara Health System Supervisor, and Minister Matthews, Minister of Health & Long-Term Care, have said this repeatedly in Niagara this fall.

At the same time, changes to health care are not stopping. A new Northern-Niagara health care facility will be opening on March 24, 2013. The movement of services across the NHS has meant that the new Northern-hospital is much more than a local St. Catharines / Thorold / Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital as was first anticipated. This “clinical reconfiguration” and trends to “community-based health services” continue to occur regardless of South Niagara’s location debate.

So how should we react? Should we curse the change, or embrace the opportunity?

During my speech, I encouraged the Chamber and individuals to embrace Dr. Smith’s plan and work toward "…a new era focused on creating a sustainable, high quality health system” for all of Niagara.

I believe that we owe it to future generations to stop the health-care bickering in the South, to embrace the opportunities, and to move forward.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Assessment Only Half the Picture


Have you received your new property assessment notice from MPAC – the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation?

Updated for the first time since 2008, your notice will outline MPAC’s determination of the market value of your property as of January 1, 2012.

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

Just like in 2008, our 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 revenues of $10 million from property taxes in 2013. 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 property’s assessed value increases more than the average you will likely pay more than the average tax. By the same token, if your assessed value increases less than the average, you will likely pay less tax.

What if you don’t think the MPAC assessment on your property is correct? You can issue a “request for reconsideration” before April 1, 2013 so that MPAC will review your assessment.

Please check out their website (www.mpac.on.ca) and your notice for more information.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Increasing Pedestrian Safety on Pelham Street


What should we do to help increase pedestrian safety on Pelham Street?

A couple of years ago, parents from Glynn A. Green School implored Council to increase the safety of children walking to and from school along Pelham Street. They highlighted traffic counts that estimated that 10,000 vehicles drove past the school every weekday. They also reminded Council about a woman who was tragically killed +12 years ago while she jogged on the road’s gravel shoulder.

Council reacted swiftly. We approved a new traffic signal at Port Robinson to calm traffic and to help pedestrians cross; we approved a new sidewalk from Elizabeth to Brock Street (on the west side of Pelham); we approved an engineering study for the reconstruction of Pelham Street from Port Robinson to Quaker; and we earmarked $2.5 million in future budgets (starting at $1.5 million in 2013) for the road’s reconstruction – including sidewalks, curbs, new storm sewers, and new water lines.

After completing the first two items, staff asked Council whether Pelham Street from College to Port Robinson should also be reconstructed; if so, staff suggested that new bikelanes be installed in that section (to fulfill the Region’s bikeways Master Plan) and that the hydro lines be buried. The estimated cost was an additional $400,000 and Council agreed.

When the engineering design and construction estimate came back this fall at $6.5 million – two-and-a-half times more than the estimate – all were surprised and disheartened. This work would consume all of the $2 million (on average) that we invest each year in major road projects.

Given that staff believes the road surface remains in great shape, staff began looking at alternatives.

What about following the new design but install only the sidewalk now? The new sidewalk would have been installed at a different level than the current land’s contours, impeded storm water flow, and obstructed future storm sewers and waterlines.

On November 6, staff suggested a couple of solutions for an estimated $150,000:

  • install a traffic signal at Pancake to help ease traffic flow and make it easier for pedestrians to cross;
  • install rumble strips along the both sides of the existing road surface (like on the edge of the QEW) to warn drivers to stay off the shoulder.
  • install a 1.5 metre asphalt strip on both sides of the road for pedestrians and cyclists.


Council will review these suggestions during our Capital Budget meeting on Monday, November 26; I hope you will provide your suggestions and feedback to Council and me before that discussion.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"How Might We...?"


As you may have read in the local media last week, Council used a somewhat different method to focus discussion and help solve issues surrounding the potential Site Alteration Bylaw.

You see, during the Committee of the Whole on November 5, staff reported on the feedback received about a proposed Site Alteration Bylaw. The report also contained an alternative bylaw.

Instead of the normal method of engaging in debate (and counter-debate) about what is needed and what may not be needed, we used a process to focus the discussion and focus on the problem.

To do that, I used a flip-chart (and several pages) and asked Councillors to offer the “key facts” about the “ambiguous situation” of fill being dumped on agricultural lands. After recording 28 facts, Councillors placed three dots each on the flip chart paper to identify the most important facts. Each Councillor explained the reason for picking that key element.

From those most important facts, Councillors then outlined eight distinct issues that needed to be solved. Finally, the Committee directed staff to take the information, and present staff’s best ideas and recommendations for solving those distinct issues. On November 19, Councillors will evaluate the ideas and likely direct staff to develop and present action plans. (I want to emphasize that the process does not prejudge solution(s); the solution(s) to these issues may or may not require a bylaw(s).)

Council used part of an eight-step creative problem solving process developed by Dr. Min Basadur, Professor Emeritus of Innovation in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University (www.basadur.com). Over the last couple of months, Town staff has also used the process to help solve various challenges, like developing ways to increase and improve communication with residents

The three-stage, eight-step process includes:
Stage 1:  Problem Formulation: including problem finding; fact finding; and problem definition. (Council completed this stage regarding “Site Alteration” above.)
Stage 2:  Solution Formulation: including idea finding; and idea evaluation and selection. (Councillors will undertake this portion at our November 19 meeting, regarding “Site Alteration.”)
Stage 3:  Solution Implementation: including action plan; gaining acceptance; and action. This stage recognizes that “Unless the solution is skillfully prepared for implementation, and its implementation skillfully executed, the problem solving will not have been successful.”

Council will continue to use this creative problem solving process to not only deal with this particular issue but to also take steps toward solving several other key challenges and opportunities that face our community.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Take Time to Remember


Each year in Pelham, the Legion and Cadets organize a number of very special ceremonies to commemorate Remembrance Day.

On the Sunday before Remembrance Day – this year on November 4 – the commemorations will begin at the Cenotaph at Centennial Park at 9:00 AM. During this special service, Veterans, members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613, the Ladies Auxiliary, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, the Fenwick Volunteer Firefighters Association, the Fabulous Fenwick Lions, and Federal, Provincial, and Municipal political representatives will march to the Cenotaph and lay wreaths to remember those brave men and women who served (and who continue to serve) our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.

Then, at 10:00 AM, the Legion will organize another commemoration at the Cenotaph at Old Pelham Town Hall in Ridgeville. This service recalls those that served from the Ridgeville area and often also includes representatives of the Niagara Regional Police Service and several local veterans.

At 11:00 AM, Reverend Russ Myers and the congregation of Fonthill Baptist will host a special church service. The ceremony usually includes reciting John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”, a scriptural reflection, and a video that highlights local veterans.

Later, at 12:30 PM, the Legion will host a commemoration at the Cenotaph at Peace Park in Fonthill. This service calls to mind those who served from the Fonthill area, and also includes the laying of wreaths by members of the Fonthill Volunteer Firefighters Association, the Fonthill Lions, the Fonthill Rotary Club, the Fonthill & District Kinsmen and some local businesses.

On Remembrance Day itself – this year on a Sunday – the Legion will host a complete service at Veteran’s Park at the Legion in Fonthill. The service begins between 10:30 and 10:45 AM so that the moment of silence can occur at 11:00 AM. In recent years, and especially since the revitalization of the cenotaph, many people participate in this Remembrance Day service.

The freedoms that so many of us might take for granted – to express ourselves, to participate in cultural, religious, and political activities, to come and go as we please, to pursue a safe and happy life – are all due to the sacrifices of Veterans and those who serve today. They sacrificed their futures so that our future might be one of peace and of happiness.

Let us each take a few moments to participate in these Remembrance Day ceremonies so that we can be thankful and rededicate ourselves to peace. Lest we forget.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Focused on Priorities


During the last four months, Council and the Town’s new CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) and other senior staff have focused on ways in which we might accelerate the Town’s priorities.

You will recall that in the spring of 2011, Council worked together with the community to develop a new strategic plan with a clearly articulated vision – that Pelham become the most vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara.

In August 2012, Council met with senior staff to evaluate progress, celebrate successes and prioritize the plan. Together we developed a detailed report with staff milestones that offers a measurement tool for Council and the community.

But, Council and I also came to recognize that to achieve the vision, we needed to adjust our governance processes.

You see, under our former structure, the Council debated specific issues and a mundane or low-priority item would garner as much attention as high-priority items. The former structure – the same one followed by Council’s throughout the Region – also bogged down issues in separate Council committees and neglected to provide a way in which senior management could provide regular progress reports.

So, over the summer, Council worked together with the CAO and Clerk to revamp our “Procedural Bylaw” – the way in which Council business is structured and run.

The process starts with Committee of the Whole (COW), during which all of Council receives information, asks questions, and provides direction regarding the Town’s operations. Staff brief Council on a wide spectrum of issues while highlighting important statistics, emerging issues, trends, and resident concerns. Because Council reviews the activities of all departments each month, important matters can be decided and accelerated.

During the Policies & Priorities (P&P) Committee, Council reviews the policies and ongoing priorities of the Town. P&P allows Council to exchange information and ideas, respond to external influences, receive requests for policy review or creation, and review bylaws. For example, during our October 15 P&P meeting, Council reviewed the way in which staff enforce bylaws, outlined the importance of education, courtesy and respect, and directed staff to draft improved enforcement policies.

Formal Council meetings remain largely unchanged – except for a new start time of 6:30 PM. During Council we receive delegations, correspondence and presentations, we ratify the recommendations of the COW and P&P, and we approve any changes to bylaws.

Finally, in our ongoing effort to be as open, transparent, and accessible as possible, you may review complete Council and Committee agendas – including all reports and recommendations – through the Town’s website www.pelham.ca (starting November 5).

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Official Plan Approved!


I was very pleased on October 4th when Regional Council approved the Town of Pelham’s new Official Plan. Our old plan – amended many, many times through the years – was originally approved in 1973!

What is an Official Plan? In general, an Official Plan (OP) describes a Town’s policies on how land in a community should be used. It is prepared with significant community input and helps to ensure that future planning and development will meet the specific needs of a community. An OP explains the Town’s general land use planning policies; helps property owners understand how their land may be used now and in the future; helps decide where roads, watermains, sewers, parks and other services will be built; provides a framework for municipal zoning rules, like the size of lots and height of buildings; and provides ways to achieve local, regional and provincial interests.

In Pelham’s case, the new OP establishes a vision for the Town that strongly supports the protection of environmental features and agriculture and focuses future urban growth within the settlement areas of Fonthill and Fenwick. The hold-up recently has been to ensure that our OP would be consistent with recent Provincial and Regional plans – “Greenbelt Plan,” “Growth Plan,” “Provincial Policy Statement,” and Regional Policy Plan Amendments.

In Fonthill, future residential and employment growth will be accommodated primarily within the East Fonthill Secondary Plan area – the 450 acres along the west side of Rice Road from Regional Road 20 (RR20) to south of Merritt Road. This land could accommodate an additional 5,000 residents and jobs over the next 20 years. The OP also encourages residential intensification in the downtowns and through redevelopment in downtown transitional areas – along the north side of RR20 from Pelham to Station Street, and along the east-side of Station Street from RR20 to Pelham Town Square.  Since our Town contains hundreds of home-based businesses the OP also allows greater flexibility for live-work arrangements – commercial / office space downstairs, residential upstairs, for example – especially in the East Fonthill area.

In Fenwick, significant undeveloped urban land – along the west-side of Cream Street to Balfour from Welland to Memorial – could accommodate an additional 1,000 residents within the next 20 to 30 years.

Rest assured that the OP calls for new development in both of these areas to be sensitive to the surrounding character of the neighbourhoods and to embody high quality urban design.

I look forward in working together with you, Council, and staff as our community grows, evolves, and matures according to the vision in our new Official Plan.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

How should we spend your money in 2013?


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

The question seems timely not because the final installment for 2012 property taxes came due last week, but, rather, because Council will begin our 2013 budget considerations in October.

Council will begin our 2013 budget process with a special public meeting where we listen to you about what you would like to see in future budgets. That meeting will occur on Tuesday, October 9 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chamber at Pelham Town Hall.

Pelham Council first started this type of a “pre-budget consultation” for the 2007 Budget. That consultation welcomed residents and property tax payers and invited input. Following Council deliberations that year, I was pleased that we were able to follow-through on most of the suggestions offered by your friends and neighbours. In subsequent years, we had similar consultation processes.

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

We want to hear about the specific things that you think the Town should do or things that we should stop doing in 2013. How can we make Pelham a better place to live, work, grow, and play?

Council adopted this budget schedule:
Pre-Budget Consultation – beginning October 9, 2012;
Draft Capital Budget available to public – November 23;
Draft Capital Budget presented to Committee – November 26;
Council consider approving Capital Budget – December 3;
Draft Operating Budget available to the public – January 25, 2013;
Draft Operating Budget presented to Committee – January 28;
Council consider approving Operating Budget – February 6;
Draft Water & Sewer Budgets available to the public – February 15;
Draft Water & Sewer Budgets presented to Committee – February 19;
Council consider approving Water & Sewer Budgets – March 4.

Want to provide written input?  Simply send a letter via email to a special email address:  ourbudget@pelham.ca. You will also soon be able to view background budget information at the Town’s website: www.pelham.ca.

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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Southern Hospital, Two New UCCs


Last Friday, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented his Final Report regarding NHS restructuring to the Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Health & Long-Term Care.

Among the 23 final recommendations, Dr. Smith suggested that the Province construct a new hospital “in the QEW and Lyons Creek area of Niagara.” He suggested that the new “South Hospital” should include emergency and critical care, the Regional stroke centre, the Regional geriatrics program, the total joint replacement centre, general internal medicine and surgical services, complex care, and maternal child / in-patient pediatrics.

Smith also recommended operating two, free-standing Urgent Care Centres in “South Niagara” -- sites and locations to be determined -- and closing the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

You will recall that in May, Dr. Smith asked the “Mayors of the ‘Southern Tier’ with input from the Regional Chair” to come to a unanimous recommendation for the locations of the new Hospital and one, stand-alone Urgent Care Centre by mid-June.

The six southern mayors -- Vance Badawey, Port Colborne; Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls; April Jeffs, Wainfleet; Doug Martin, Fort Erie; Barry Sharpe, Welland; and myself -- and Regional Chair Gary Burroughs met five times and reviewed population densities, ambulance call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, NHS referrals, and ER usage.

We came to a unanimous decision and recommended two geographic areas for the new “Southern” hospital -- generally described as the QEW & Lyons Creek area, and the East Main Street and Highway 140 area. We also recommended that the NHS operate two Urgent Care Centres.

I am pleased that Dr. Smith honoured the Mayors’ and Regional Chair’s unanimous recommendations for siting of a new hospital and for the operation of two Urgent Care Centres to serve South Niagara.

I did communicate with Dr. Smith directly about the potential impact of the Lyons Creek / QEW location for Pelham residents.  When the Province builds a new hospital there, it seems likely that many Pelham residents will travel instead to the new Northern hospital. When he wrote back to me on Friday morning, Dr. Smith reaffirmed his earlier position: “I can absolutely confirm that Pelham residents will be provided care at the site they choose to use. If that is the North site we will welcome them there.”

I sincerely appreciate the significant and comprehensive work by Dr. Smith. I will now work together with colleagues from across the Region to help convince the Provincial Government to build the new facilities and embrace, as Dr. Smith writes, “…a new era focused on creating a sustainable, high quality health system” for all of Niagara.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wanting Your Feedback on Site Alteration Bylaw

I am writing to give you an update regarding a draft Site Alteration Bylaw, hoping that you will provide some feedback by October 1.

You may recall that in the spring of 2011 a rural resident made a presentation to Council about construction fill being dumped on a neighbouring property and built into a high berm.  The material not only covered rich agricultural soil, the neighbour built the berm right up against the property line. The resident asked Council to consider developing a Site Alteration Bylaw to regulate this type of activity.

Many other municipalities have enacted this type of bylaw because it allows Towns to regulate activities with the potential for environmental degradation (dumping, erosion, sedimentation), drainage problems (blockages, impact on neighbouring properties) and public nuisances (tracking of mud on roads, dust).

The Town convened a public information session in August 2011 to give people an opportunity to ask questions and provide written comment.

Following that input, Council convened a public meeting to receive feedback in September, 2011. Farmers, nursery operators, and sod growers asked to be exempt for "normal farm practices"; landscapers asked for exemptions for their business activities.  Some neighbours of existing “berms” implored Council to act and to regulate that activity and the dumping of construction / excavation material on good farm land. Others asked Council to stop consideration of any "infringement of property rights."

Based on that public meeting, Town Staff developed a draft bylaw and presented it to Council in January 2012.  At that time, Council discussed whether the bylaw should deal exclusively with berms or include additional elements raised during the public meeting.  Council sent the bylaw back to staff to make further changes.

At our August 13 Committee meeting, Councillors received a new draft Site Alteration Bylaw and directed staff to make it available to residents for feedback.

You can pick-up a draft at Town Hall or review a paper copy at the Library; you can also download a copy from the Town’s website at www.pelham.ca.  We hope to receive your written feedback by October 1, so Staff can present it to Council in November.

Finally, you may be pleased to know that this draft Site Alteration bylaw would not allow Town staff the right to enter private property without appropriate notice – something like Staff knocking on the front door, identifying who they are, and seeking permission to undertake an inspection.

I look forward to your feedback regarding this draft bylaw.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Please Help Save the Fonthill Kame

"It's on the Minister's desk for his decision," responded a Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) official when asked by Mike Cole, MPP and MNR Parliamentary Assistant, about the status of the review of the Fonthill Kame ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest). The discussion took place during an August 20 meeting between Pelham representatives -- Councillors Durley and Papp, CAO Darren Ottaway, and myself -- and MNR senior policy reps during the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa.  (Please click here for a copy of Pelham's presentation to Mike Cole, MPP.)

The "Fonthill Kame" is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. At 6 km long, 3 km wide, and nearly 1,000 hectares, the Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek.

The Kame's microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit production including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, plums and pears.

In simple terms, the Kame is the "hill" in both Fonthill and Shorthills and the "ridge" in Ridgeville.

The MNR identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1980 and as an "Area of Natural and Scientific Interest" (ANSI) in 1983. This ANSI designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education. (Please click here for a copy of a map of the Fonthill-Kame and the ANSI.)

In May 2009, the MNR recommended making changes to the ANSI, significantly reducing its coverage to "representative samples."

The Town of Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, scientific experts, more than a dozen Pelham residents, Tim Hudak, our MPP, and Minister Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP, voiced opposition to changing the ANSI.

As a result, in early 2010, Pelham received a letter from Donna Cansfield, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources, in which she stated "Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary."  (Please click here for a copy of the letter from former Natural Resources Minister, Donna Cansfield, MPP.)

Despite that assurance, the Ministry proposed further refinements to the ANSI in 2011. Unfortunately, that proposition would have reduced the ANSI to "Swiss-cheese," failing to protect huge portions of the Kame -- especially those areas that are under direct threat of new or expanded gravel pits.

Since the final review of the Fonthill Kame ANSI is "…on the Minister’s desk" for an imminent decision, I ask you to write to the current Minister, the Honorable Michael Gravelle, asking him to honour the commitment to "…maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary."

Hon. Michael Gravelle, MPP
Minister of Natural Resources
Whitney Block, 6th Floor, Room 6630
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto ON M7A1W3
Phone: 416-314-2301

It is imperative that Minister Gravelle hear from you and others about the importance of the Fonthill Kame and that you request that the 30-years of ANSI protections remain. 

(For some points that you can incorporate into a letter to Minister Gravell in support for the ANSI boundaries, please click here.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Join Us at Pelham’s Second Outdoor Movie Night!

Did you hear about the Second Outdoor Family Movie Night coming up next Wednesday at Peace Park? We need you and your family to vote for the films you want shown.

Where did the idea come from? At the spring 2010 Youth Forum, 90 teens representing Pelham's Youth from grades 7 to 12 clearly told the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) that they wanted more activities for youth and teens.

The second highest response for ideas was "Outdoor movie night." (You can find the complete report on the Town’s website in the MYAC section here.)

I was also very pleased that the 2011 Mayor's Gala raised funds to support various activities for youth. Along with four other groups, Gala sponsors and donors raised funds specifically for the MYAC to host an outdoor movie night and other youth activities.

Last year’s outdoor movie night was a huge success -- with hundreds enjoying "Despicable Me" in Peace Park on an idyllic, summer evening.

This year, the MYAC expanded the event to two movies -- one for families, and one for teens -- while also projecting local, youth videos!

Families can vote for one movie from among six -- "The Lorax", "Madagascar" 1 or 2, "Pirates: The Band of Misfits", "We Bought a Zoo" or "Happy Feet 2".

Teens can pick one movie from four -- "The Hunger Games", "A Team", "Footloose", or "Sherlock Holmes". You can cast your ballet at Pelham Town Hall, the Pelham Public Libraries, or through the MYAC Facebook page.

Cast your ballot by this Friday -- August 24 -- so that we can get the movies most wanted by the community.

In between the two winners, we will show two youth-produced short films: "Double" by Daniel Parent, and "Open Happiness" by Natasha Panter. These creative, thought-provoking, and home-made videos were chosen through a contest and showcase the exceptional talent of Pelham's youth!

The MYAC will also continue to "pay it forward." Last year, the MYAC used the event to raise funds and awareness for the United Way of South Niagara; the event was so successful that the United Way recognized Pelham's Outdoor Movie Night as the "best youth event."

So, proceeds from the sale of popcorn -- generously donated by Shriner's Creek -- and soft-drinks will again support the work of the United Way.

Please spread the word, pray for good weather, and join us on Wednesday, August 29 in Peace Park for Pelham's second Outdoor Movie Night!


UPDATE from Monday, August 27:
Voting is complete and the movies will be "The Lorax" (garnering +60% of the vote), and "The Hunger Games" (receiving 51% of the vote).
Hope to see you there!
Mayor Dave


UPDATE from Tuesday, September 11:
Thanks to all who attended. With your help, the MYAC raised more than $300 for the United Way of South Niagara.
And, if you want to see the two youth movies that were presented at the event, they are now available on the Town's Website by clicking here.
Finally, thanks to the members of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council and Pelham staff who helped organize the event!
Mayor Dave

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

As Reconstruction Progresses, Support Businesses


So, it has been more than a few months, now, that we have lived with the reconstruction of Regional Road #20 from Rice Road to Station Street. By now, each of us have likely changed our driving patterns -- either by leaving a bit earlier to compensate for potential delays, or by taking alternative routes.

The crews from Norjohn have finished the first phase -- those lanes on the South side of the highway. Now, after transferring the traffic to the new road, the workers are well on their way with the portion on the North side of the street.

As the reconstruction continues, you can see some of the foundational elements of the new road.

There will be a new centre turning lane (where appropriate) and a couple of new "islands" to help calm traffic and delineate the turning sections. The contractor has already realigned the Hurricane Road intersection; this will take some getting used to for many.

The new sidewalk, to be installed on the North-side of the road, has already been marked out. Finally, underground work -- including upgrades to the watermain, and replacing the sanitary sewers -- is being incorporated as the above-ground work proceeds.

Although this section of Regional Road 20 reconstruction is shorter than previous the phases from the 406 to Rice Road, it is more complicated because of the more urban setting and the total rebuild of the intersection at Rice Road. It is also of a higher profile.

You will recall that the construction began in April and was scheduled to run for a maximum of 110 "working days." If we received reasonable weather and things went smoothly, it was thought that the work could be substantially complete by Labour Day; if they run into snags, the contract could run through late September/early October. It looks like it will be a little longer than Labour Day.

To help facilitate traffic, the contractor has maintained two lanes of traffic at all times. They have also done well in attempting to mitigate negative impacts on local businesses by doing their best to keep accesses open.

But, as the reconstruction continues, those businesses are likely being negatively affected by an aversion to driving through the area.

Now, those businesses in the construction zone deserve our support.

So, just as was suggested during the reconstruction of Downtown Fonthill, I encourage you to "reset you GPS" to Regional Road 20 and to support local businesses as we complete the reconstruction project.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thanks for Four Days of Summerfest!


Were you among the more than 15,000 people that enjoyed Pelham Summerfest on Saturday in Downtown Fonthill? Or, the more than 2,500 people that defied the drizzle last Thursday to hear “Elvis” at the Fonthill Bandshell, participate in the Pelham Farmer’s Market, and Art in the Park? Or, were you one of the 2,000 who came out on Friday night for the Region’s first “Niagara Nights of Art” program in Peace Park? Or did you and your family participate in the family walk, the last day of Art in the Park, or in the Communities In Bloom Garden Tour on Sunday?

As you recall, dedicated volunteers and the Town worked together in 2011 to host Pelham’s first Summerfest. The single day, community event celebrated the end of the reconstruction of Downtown Fonthill, promoted local businesses, and hosted more than 10,000 people!


On behalf of Council and the community, thank you to the 2012 Summerfest Committee for your vision, your hard-work, and your dedication to make this year’s four-day event an amazing success! Thank you to Councillor Gary Accursi, chair; Todd Barber, from the Downtown Beautification Committee; Bea Clark, Pelham Active Transportation Committee; Kathleen Goodman, Pelham / Welland Chamber of Commerce; John Wink, Pelham Business Association; and Vickie van Ravenswaay, Town of Pelham staff.

The committee worked together with so many other dedicated volunteers including those from: Fonthill & District Kinsmen; Rotary Club of Fonthill; Fonthill Lions; Fabulous Fenwick Lions; Pelham Active Transportation Committee; local artists who shared their voices, visions, and vibrancy as part of the Niagara Nights of Art; Patricia Haftar; the Pelham Art Fesitival, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council; the Fonthill Bandshell Summer Concert Committee; and the Pelham Farmer’s Market Committee.

Thank you to the community-minded contractors / suppliers who built the Pavilion at the top of Pelham Town Square. So many have complimented the designer – Todd Barber – on it and since Town Council has agreed to keep the Pavilion there until October, we are interested in your feedback.  Please fill out the Pavilion on-line survey at www.pelham.ca.

And, thank you to the many Friends of Pelham Summerfest and the many generous corporate sponsors including: Forestgreen Creations; Lafarge Canada; Fonthill Dental; McAvoy, Belan & Campbell; Enbridge; Travelers; Fonthill Sobey’s; and Shoalts Brothers Construction!

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pelham's 2012 Residential Property Taxes


If you pay your property taxes by installments, you will know that your third installment of your 2012 property tax bill came due late last month. Because of that deadline, a number of people asked me questions that I hope to answer over my next few columns.

First, you may recall that I wrote about the 2012 property tax change in February just after Council approved the Town’s operating budget. At that time I wrote "...the average residential property value for 2012 is expected to be $284,566. If MPAC assessed your home and property at that value, you will pay an additional $31 or a total of approximately $1,289 on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill."

I am pleased to let you know that those values still hold true. However, you may recall that that "Pelham portion" of your tax bill accounts for only 34% of your total residential property tax bill.

The Niagara Region accounts for 49% of the property taxes you pay in Pelham, while the Provincial educational portion is the remaining 17%. For the average residential property, the Regional portion of your tax bill increased by 3.3% -- or $59 for a total of approximately $1,850 -- and the Education portion barely changed -- increasing $0.57 for a total of approximately $629.

When you combine these amounts, the average residential property tax bill increased by $91 (or 2.48%) for a total of $3,768.

For clarity, that is for an average residential property assessed at $284,566 and that increased in value by 4.6%. This 4.6% was the average residential assessment increase from 2011 to 2012.

But, what if you residential assessment increased more than the average? Or, what if the assessed value increased less than the average?

If your assessed value increases more than the average you will pay more than average. For example, if the assessed value of your home increased by 7% from 2011 to 2012, that’s higher than the 4.6% average, and you would pay more property tax than the average increase.

By the same token, if your assessed value increases less than the average -- say by only 3% -- you will pay less tax than the average increase, but likely more than you paid in 2011.

I hope that helps explain why the specific experience of property owners varies from the average. I will write further about changes to property taxes over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Areas for New Southern Hospital


You will recall that in early May, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS.

Among the 23 recommendations, Dr. Smith suggested that the Province should construct a new general acute care hospital as well as a free standing Urgent Care Centre in "South Niagara" and close the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

He asked the "Mayors of the 'Southern Tier' with input from the Regional Chair" to come to a unanimous recommendation for the locations for the new Hospital and the stand-alone Urgent Care Centre by June 15.

The six southern mayors – Mayor Vance Badawey, Port Colborne; Mayor Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls; Mayor April Jeffs, Wainfleet; Mayor Doug Martin, Fort Erie; Mayor Barry Sharpe, Welland; and myself -- and Regional Chair Gary Burroughs met five times. Regional GIS staff provided objective data and analysis mapping relating to population density, EMS call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, and NHS referrals and ER usage.  We made use of the best information we had during the short time we were given.

A unanimous decision was reached, and Chair Burroughs announced the results during our Regional Council meeting on June 14.

We recommended two geographic areas (about 4 square kilometres each) for the new "Southern" hospital -- generally described as the QEW and Lyons Creek area, and the East Main Street and Highway 140 area. These two areas are separated only by approximately 8 km -- about the same distance as between Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s downtowns.

We also recommended that Urgent Care Centres in Port Colborne and Fort Erie continue to operate.


What other sites did we examine and why didn't we recommend them? After reviewing some preliminary data, the six Mayors and Chair short-listed to six potential sites or areas.  We reviewed each site, based on our criteria -- EMS call volumes, municipal servicing, drive-times, population densities -- and found the four other sites deficient in relation to the two recommended areas. 


Specifically:


  • Highway 406 and Regional Road 20:  No water or sewer servicing and expensive to install; too distant for historic EMS call volumes, especially in relation to ambulance return times; too much overlap with coverage of new Northern Hospital;
  • Netherby and Montrose Roads: Great coverage of population and drive times to location; however, but no water or sewer servicing and very expensive to install; too distant from historic EMS call volumes, especially in relation to ambulance return times;
  • Existing Niagara Falls Hospital Site: Very poor coverage for entire Southern portion of Niagara; no room for a new build;
  • Existing Welland Hospital Site: Poor coverage for entire Southern portion of Niagara; not enough room for a new build; Dr. Smith ruled-out this site when suggested by Welland City Council.

Why didn’t the six Mayors and Chair recommend just one site / location as was requested?  We did this for two main reasons:

  • First, we acknowledge that any siting for a new hospital will be subject to detailed consideration by the Niagara Health System, the Local Health Integration Network, and the Provincial government. Inevitably, the Health Ministry will have additional siting criteria about which we are not aware of nor privy to.
  • Second, since a new Southern hospital will have a life of at least 50 to 75 years, we also called for a thorough and respectful public consultation about the two locations.

Finally, I spoke to Dr. Smith directly about the impact these two sites may have for Pelham residents. If the Province builds a new hospital near Highway 140 and East Main Street, one could expect that roughly the same proportion of Pelham residents that currently use the Welland site would use the new facility (approximately 70%). If, however, a new facility is built near Lyon's Creek and the QEW, it seems likely that nearly all Pelham residents will travel to the new Northern hospital.  Dr. Smith acknowledged the NHS will continue to welcome Pelham residents at any NHS site, now and into the future.

I am very interested in hearing from you about the two sites; please email me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca. You can also email Dr. Smith directly with your thoughts at nhssupervisor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pelham Changing through the Years


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 2011 Census. And, since they also provide information for communities from the 2006, 2001 and 1996 Census, one can compare the make-up and growth of our population over a fifteen-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 16,598 in 2011.  That’s a 68.4% increase! The next largest increases are West Lincoln at 68.1%, Grimsby at 67%, Lincoln at 65%; the entire Region’s population grew by only 28% during that period.

During the last 15 years, Pelham’s population grew from 14,345 in 1996, to 15,275 in 2001, to 16,155 in 2006, and to 16,598 in 2011.

But, 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 15 years – from 2,920 in 1996 to 2,535 in 2011. This was a 13% decrease! It’s no surprise, therefore, that the proportion of children to the total population also dropped 5% from 20% of our Town in 1996 to 15% in 2011. According to a 2008 Regional 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 2011 Statistics Canada counted 3,450. That's a 79% increase!  Seniors now make up 21% 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-and-a-half.  For example, Pelham's population aged zero to 24 declined 4% from 4,820 in 1996 to 4,635 in 2011.  Our population aged 25 to 54 (the "working-age" population) declined more than 6% from 6,095 in 1996 to 5,715 in 2011.

So, broadly speaking, where was the majority of our growth concentrated?  Those 55-and-older grew a phenomenal 82% from 3,400 in 1996 to 6,255 in 2011!

(It is important to note that any demographic changes result from both new residents moving here, others moving away, and from the aging of current residents.)

While one must be cautious about broad comparisons from relatively small sub-sets of our population, these numbers appear to show a trend. As your Mayor, I continue to consider what these demographic realities mean for our current and future public services.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Boom, Bust & Echo” in Pelham and Niagara


Do you remember the book entitled "Boom, Bust & Echo" that was popular in the late 1990s? I pulled it off my shelf last week as Statistics Canada released new population data for all communities, including Pelham, from the 2011 Census.

The book, by David K. Foot and Daniel Stoffman, theorized that demographics – the study of 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 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 Niagara Region (excluding Pelham).  It reveals some interesting facts.

In terms of population distribution, the data clearly identifies the presence of "Baby Boomers" – those 45 to 64 (in 2011) – in Pelham and in the rest of Niagara.  If you are one of them, you made up 33% of Pelham’s population, compared to 30% in the rest of Niagara in 2011.

The next group – the Baby Bust – born from 1967 to 1979 would have been 32 to 44 years old in 2011.  This group made up just more than 13% in Pelham and 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 large cohort with additional differences. If you were between 16 and 31 years old in 2011, you were one of more than 16% in Pelham and 19% in Niagara.

The next group of children – referred to as the "Millennium Kids" and aged from zero to 15 years old in 2011 – formed nearly 17% of the population.

Those of other cohorts include the "Roaring Twenties" (aged from 82 to 91 in 2011 and roughly 4% of the population), the "Depression Babies" (from 72 to 81 in 2011 and approximately 8%), and "World War II Babies" (65 to 71 in 2011 and just over 8%).

Perhaps you, like me, wonder what this means to the future of our Town and our Region.  As your Mayor, I will continue to consider what this demographic reality means in terms of current and future public services and facilities.

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

(To see what these numbers looked like from last Census, please check out one of my columns from four years ago.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Progress with Southern Tier Mayors re: NHS


You will recall that in early May, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS.

 Several of Dr. Smith’s 23 recommendations dealt with facilities. Dr. Smith recommended that in addition to the new St. Catharines facility currently under construction, the NHS should construct a new general acute care hospital as well as a free standing Urgent Care Centre in “South Niagara” and close the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Dr. Smith estimated that this preferred option would cost $879 million in capital, but would “save” $9.5 million in annual operating expenses (on annual budget of $410 million).

His report also identified that a revitalized status quo – 3 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines, Welland), 3 complex care sites (NOTL, Fort Erie, Port Colborne) and 2 Urgent Care Centres (Fort & Port) – would cost $883 million in capital upgrades and “save” only $2 million in more efficient operations.

The hybrid option – 2 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines), 1 Ambulatory & Urgent Care Centre (Welland) and 2 Complex Care Sites (Fort & Port) – would cost $1,165 million in upgrades and “save” $2.8 million in operations.

Dr. Smith stated that the consolidation in his preferred option leads to a “critical mass of clinical activity”, simplifies physician and staff coverage, and better attracts health-care “learners”.

Finally, he recommended that the “Mayors of the ‘Southern Tier’ with input from the Regional Chair” recommend to him the locations for the new Hospital and the stand-alone Urgent Care Centre in the “South”. He suggested that “population density and access” be the primary considerations in our recommendation. (Please see www.niagarahealth.on.ca/supervisor for your copy of the report.)

This group of Mayors and the Chair has met three times. During our first meeting we agreed upon how we would approach our task. In the second meeting, we spoke directly to Dr. Smith and with the Medical Officer of Health and EMS and GIS staff. Last week, we met to review the work of Regional staff and sought additional information. We will meet again during the week of June 4 – just in time for our June 15 deadline.

While we deliberate, I would like to hear directly from you. What additional criteria do you think should be considered in our Mayoral recommendation? What about the impact on communities, or travel times for visitors, or the impact on allied health professionals? What is the priority or ranking of these criteria?

While I have heard from a handful residents already, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts. Please email me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca. You can also email Dr. Smith directly with your suggestions at nhssupervisor@gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Support Now, Support Forever

It's gratifying when people not only get dressed up to have a great time but when they also support local charities now and in perpetuity.

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, community volunteers will host the Fourth Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala. The "Old Hollywood Glamour" Themed gala will occur at Lookout Point Golf & Country Club. We will have the red carpet, a walk of stars (the generous sponsors), great music, exquisite food, an amazing silent auction, and it will be a time to remember.

 But the fun and festivities will have a purpose. Half of the proceeds will be awarded to community groups – charities, service clubs, or not-for-profits organizations – following an application process.

The Gala will support four local groups:
• In The Orchard: to provide one week of art camp for 15 Pelham youths – aged 12 to 18. Their art will be displayed throughout the Town and participants will be expected to offer a free art’s workshop at an upcoming community event.
• Project Lifesaver Niagara: to purchase equipment and work together with the Niagara Regional Police to aid in the search for lost / wondering people with Alzheimer’s disease, autism or any other special needs requirements;
• 1st North Pelham Sparks, Brownies & Guides: to provide camping equipment to a unit that continues to grow in members;
• Horse Alternative Therapeutic Services (HATS): to continue equine experiences and therapy to Pelham residents with special needs – both physical and emotional;

The other half of the gala proceeds will support the establishment of a "Pelham Community Fund" with the Niagara Community Foundation; this fund will make funding for local charities available in perpetuity.

How will that work, you ask? The Niagara Community Foundation provides a structure to establish the Fund, where professional money managers invest the principal, and where the interest will be available in perpetuity to support local / Pelham charities.

Donations toward the fund’s principle can be given from not only the Mayor’s Gala, but also from anyone in the community. As you update your estate plan, for instance, you may want to donate to the Pelham fund – and your gift will assist the community for years and years to come.

 The community continues to generously support the Mayor’s Gala. Both Darla-Prana Healing & Wellness Centre – a new business in Fonthill – and Enbridge Gas Distribution offered to be Platinum / Title sponsors for this year’s gala! Thank you for your significant generosity! Similarly, Dr. Peter Fritz, Accipiter Radar Technologies, E.S. Fox Ltd. and LaFarge Canada are Gold Sponsors. Silver Sponsors include Emterra Environmental, Walker Industries Holdings Limited, Niagara College, and CIBC. Many thanks to all!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wanting Your Input About New Hospital

Last Thursday, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS.

Dr. Smith's 23 recommendations ranged from undertaking a national search to recruit a CEO and a Chief of Staff, to establishing a Patient Advisory Committee to ensure patient-centred care, to re-establishing the Board of Directors with "skills based" members.

Several of his recommendations dealt with facilities. Dr. Smith recommended that in addition to the St. Catharines site currently under construction, the NHS should construct a new general acute care hospital as well as a free standing Urgent Care Centre in "South Niagara" and close the existing facilities in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Welland, and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Dr. Smith estimated that this preferred option would cost $879 million in capital, but would "save" $9.5 million in annual operating expenses (on annual budget of $410 million).

He also showed that a revitalized status quo -- 3 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines, Welland), 3 complex care sites (NOTL, Fort Erie, Port Colborne) and 2 Urgent Care Centres (Fort & Port) -- would cost $883 million in capital upgrades and "save" only $2 million in more efficient operations.

The hybrid option -- 2 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines), 1 Ambulatory & Urgent Care Centre (Welland) and 2 Complex Care Sites (Fort & Port) -- would cost $1,165 million in upgrades and "save" $2.8 million in operations.

Dr. Smith stated that the consolidation in his preferred option leads to a "critical mass of clinical activity", simplifies physician and staff coverage, and better attracts health-care "learners".

 Finally, he recommended that the "Mayors of the 'Southern Tier' with input from the Regional Chair" recommend to him the locations for the new Hospital and the stand-alone Urgent Care Centre in the "South". He suggested that "population density and access" be the primary considerations in our recommendation. (Please see www.niagarahealth.on.ca/supervisor for your copy of the report.)

 While I look forward to working with my Mayoral colleagues, I want to hear directly from you regarding this matter. (I will also seek input from Town Councillors at our May 22 meeting.)

 What additional criteria do you think should be considered in our Mayoral recommendation? Should we include other costs like the impact on the Regional EMS program, costs for new transportation infrastructure, or costs for water and waste water servicing enhancements? What about the impact on communities, or travel times for visitors, or the impact on allied health professionals (specialists, pharmacies)? What is the priority or ranking of these criteria? Are there other considerations?

 I am very interested in hearing your views; please email me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca or leave a message for me at Pelham Town Hall. You can also email Dr. Smith directly with your suggestions at nhssupervisor@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Volunteers Key to Town's Success

Last week was National Volunteer Week in Canada. Here’s a snapshot of just one week of volunteers in action in Pelham. Pelham Cares: Congratulations to the members of Pelham Cares for being awarded a June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Volunteerism in Ontario last Friday! The Hon. Charles Sousa, Minister of Citizenship & Immigration, recognized eleven individuals and seven groups for their “…superlative volunteer contributions to their communities and to the province of Ontario.” As the nominee for Pelham Cares, it was my pleasure and honour to witness the awards during a special ceremony in Toronto. As you know, for nearly 30 years, Pelham Cares has supported Pelham and the surrounding area through a variety of community support services. They provide food and supplies to low-income or single parent families, fund sports leagues for kids and offer a volunteer driver service. Again, congratulations on this Provincial honour! Pelham Art Festival: Last Wednesday, the Pelham Art Festival committee held a special event to thank the many committed and creative volunteers who have arranged and organized the Festival for the last 26 years. Not only do they put together the best Art Festival in Niagara, they have also donated more than $345,000 to the Pelham Public Library! Thank you! Please plan on attending the Festival on May 11, 12 and 13 at the Pelham Arena. Fonthill & District Kinsmen: Thanks to the Kinsmen for organizing the Annual Home Show in the Pelham Arena. The show this year not only highlighted businesses, products, and services that serve Pelham residents, they also raise significant funds for Pelham Cares! Other Groups and Volunteers: During last week, I also had the honour of participating in special appreciation lunches for volunteers with the Woodlands of Sunset and Rapelje Lodge Regional Homes, and with the March of Dimes. Thank you to those volunteers who build gardens, pour coffee, organize events, and visit and pray with residents and clients. In addition, the volunteers with the Fonthill Lions & Lioness organized their Annual Agricultural Night to honour and thank the agricultural community for their importance and impact in Pelham. I was also reminded on this Saturday’s Community Clean-up when I saw volunteers from the Church of Christ in Fenwick picking up garbage along the portion of Welland Road that they have “adopted”. And, some Town-related committees – including the Heritage Committee, the Summerfest Planning Committee, members of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council – met to help move the Town forward in specific areas. And so, thank you to the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers in Pelham; you form the foundation of our vibrant and caring community. Because of your hard work and dedication, your vision for an improved Town is being realized!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Sound System Makes Council More Accessible


During a recent Council meeting, Town staff pointed out to me a gentleman sitting in the front row who was using a small machine to audio-tape Council’s proceedings. This surprised me since we are fortunate that our local Cogeco Cable company regularly video tapes and broadcasts Council meetings. (In fact, I am always pleased when residents inform me that they regularly watch our Council meetings on Cogeco!)

At least one member of Council saw the gentleman’s action and raised a “point of order.” While the Town Clerk read from our procedural bylaw – which was approved in 2005 and allows for recording of Council meetings with expressed written consent – the gentleman ceased his recording. (That meant that I did not actually have to rule on the matter.)

Because Council recently approved some major audio and video improvements to Pelham’s Council Chamber, our meetings should be totally accessible and available for future reference.

Within the last year, the Town applied for and received an “enabling accessibility grant” from the Federal Government. The grant “…supports community-based projects across Canada that improve accessibility, remove barriers, and enable Canadians with disabilities to participate in and contribute to their communities.”

The grant funded improvements include:
* Microphones at each Councillor’s seat and at the presentation podium;
* Speakers to assist members of the public to better hear the proceedings;
* Video cameras, able to record all meetings – including public meetings, Committee of Adjustment meetings, or special meetings (that Cogeco does not currently tape);
* Media inputs for Cogeco, so that their set-up and take-down time will be dramatically reduced to five minutes.

These improvements will also mean that the Town will be able to “stream” digital recordings from the Town’s website and to offer and maintain a record of all meetings.

I hope that these changes will not only make it easier for folks to hear the proceedings of Council or Committee of Adjustment, but also that it will make Council meetings even more accessible to you and your neighbours.

For example, if there’s an issue you read about in the newspaper and you want to see what the discussion looked like, you should be able to do so from the Town’s website.

I hope that these improvements will help advance one of Council’s Strategic Plan themes – “An Engaged and Integrated Community” – by increasing opportunities for you and your neighbours and friends to interact with Council and I and for Council and I to better interact with you.

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Regional Reconstruction About to Begin


Have you noticed the signs announcing the imminent reconstruction of Regional Road #20 from Rice Road to Station Street?

Since I wrote about the project a few months ago, you may recall that this is the final phase of the reconstruction and expansion of Regional Road #20 from the 406 to Pelham Street. Because of the length of the stretch of roadway, the complexity of the work, and the costs involved, the Region undertook this work in phases.

The actual final construction area will be from just east of Rice Road to just east of Station Street.

I was pleased to support the inclusion of $3.0 million in the Region’s and $750,000 in the Town’s 2012 capital budgets for this work.

The works will include adding a centre turning lane (where appropriate), installing a couple of new “islands” to help calm traffic and delineate turning sections, realigning the Hurricane Road intersection, and preparing for an intersection leading into the East Fonthill Secondary Plan lands (the +450 acres to the south of Regional Road #20). The Town’s money will fund the installation of a sidewalk on the north side of the road, replacing and upgrading the existing watermain, and replacing or repairing the existing sanitary sewer laterals.

Although this section is shorter than previous phases, it is more complicated because of the more urban setting and the total reconstruction of the intersection at Rice Road. It is also of a higher profile.

Norjohn Contracting and Paving Limited, a division of Walker Industries, won the reconstruction contract.

I understand that staff anticipates the construction to begin the third week of April and could run for a maximum of 110 “working days.” If we continue to get reasonable weather and things go smoothly, the work could be substantially complete by Labour Day; if they run into snags, the contract could run through late September/early October.

To help facilitate traffic, the contractor must maintain two lanes open at all times. They also plan on paving in “echelon” – side by side – to avoid joint problems like those developed in previous phases.

Regional staff assures me that they will be in contact each of the local businesses regarding access issues prior to any actual construction taking place. Further, they will attempt to mitigate all negative impacts on abutting residents and merchants, including noise and dust control.

I am pleased we are moving ahead with this work and continue to improve our community.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Congratulations Pelham Panthers!


What a great weekend of hockey in Pelham!

You see, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Pelham’s Atom teams –both Rep. and AE (alternative entry) – hosted teams from Napanee and Collingwood at the Pelham arena. Pelham’s talented and hardworking players on both Teams have stickhandled their way through a succession of playoffs to advance to the Provincial Finals!

On March 18, the AE team -- sporting a short-handed line-up – lost their first game of the finals in Collingwood. But, with both willpower and skill they won game two in Collingwood on Friday, and game three – to a revved-up hometown crown – o n Saturday.

In game four on Sunday afternoon, the AE team beat the Collingwood Blackhawks and won Ontario Minor Hockey Association finals for their divisions! Congratulations! They played as a team and they won as a team!

I understand that the Team had more than 3,600 minutes of ice time for practices, skills training, and games. What an investment from the Coaches, parents, and players!

The Atom Rep. team also lost their first game on the road and during March break. But, they came back strong on Friday and had a great win in Pelham. Back in Napanee on Saturday, they lost a close game. But, they gained it all back on Sunday with a decisive four-to-two victory in Pelham.

The “first to six points” series is now tied at four points each. One win could mean an overall victory. The Rep. Team plays on this upcoming Friday in Napanee – and I wish them the best of luck! (If needed, game six could be held in Pelham next Sunday at 2:30 PM.)

Each of the games this weekend was fast and the play was tremendous. Each Panther team showed exceptional skill. Clearly, not only have they worked very hard individually and as a team, but they also have received great coaching this year and in previous years.

You could see everyone playing to the best of their ability. The only things that mattered on the ice were their skills, their training, and their hard work.

These series did prompt discussion at our March 19 Council meeting. While we waived the fees for use of the Arena’s Community Hall, we also asked staff to work together with Pelham’s sport associations to develop a protocol to make it easier for Teams to promote Pelham’s hospitality when future “Panthers” make it to Provincial championships.

Go Panthers Go!