Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Regional Road #20 Reconstruction

Just when you thought the construction work might be over for a while, I wanted to alert you to some major work that will affect Pelham this year – the expansion of Regional Road 20 from Rice Road to Station Street.

As you will have noticed, over the last number of years the Region has been reconstructing and expanding Regional Road #20 from the 406 to Pelham Street. Because of the length of roadway, the complexity of the work, and the costs involved, the Region undertook this work in phases.

The first phases began in Pelham with the reconstruction from Sobey’s to Pelham Street. This work added a centre-turning lane and the now infamous “islands” – meant to calm traffic and beautify the Town.

(After a dozen or so drivers hit those “islands”, the Region installed flashing lights and large reflective markers; since the Niagara Regional Police charged more than half of those drivers with impaired driving, the NRP also increased R.I.D.E. checks in the area.)

In the next phases, the Region built four lanes from the 406 to Rice Road. It also realigned the intersections at Merrittville Highway and at Cataract Road (including a new traffic signal) to increase safety. This work required the purchase of several significant strips of property along the roadway and at the intersections.

The final phase will be the section from just east of Rice Road to just east of Station Street. Again, the Region purchased property in strips and at the Rice Road intersection. You may have noticed that over the last six months, crews have been relocating the hydro lines along that area.

In the fall, I was pleased to support the inclusion of $3.0 million in the Region’s 2012 capital budget and $750,000 in the Town’s 2012 capital budget.

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.

Regional staff expects to issue the tender in late-February; they hope that Regional Council can award the contract for an April construction start. While the successful bidder will set the timeline, staff expects the works to take three-to-four months.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ways of Working Together with You

Last week I wrote to you about how your municipal council is organized. But, how can you or other members of the public get your suggestions or improvements examined and implemented?

You can provide suggestions during “public meetings.” Most public meetings involve specific planning matters and follow a formal agenda – presentations by staff and the applicant, direct input by members of the public with questions and comments, comments by Councillors. We invariably direct staff to prepare a report for action based on the public input.

You can also give us your ideas at open houses or “public information centres.” These sessions generally include diagrams, maps, or mock-ups and, over a couple of hours, provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and make written suggestions or comments. For example, staff is organizing an open house as part of the development of the Town’s New Heritage Master Plan on January 27.

After generally starting with a presentation by a consultant or staff, workshops usually break-up into small groups to solicit interactive feedback and suggestions. In the past, the Town as held workshops regarding a vision for the Town’s “Community Improvement Plan”, the Official Plan, and the East Fonthill Secondary Plan.

I am very proud that Council starts our annual budget deliberations with a special public meeting. We listen to all public input on any spending or Town issue. We refer all your input for consideration as staff prepares the budget. We held our 2012 Pre-Budget Meeting in October and the ideas and issues raised at that meeting will receive special attention as we consider the operating budget on January 30.

You can also use standard communication methods to make a suggestion or get your point across. If you write about a major issue or request a policy change, your letter will go to the appropriate committee for information or action. Of course you can also call staff, councillors or myself directly. You can also request a meeting to discuss your issue.

You can also make a formal presentation at one of our Council or General Committee meetings. To do you, you need to make a formal request to the Town Clerk in writing before 4:30 PM on the Wednesday preceding the meeting. The Town’s Procedural Bylaw limits presentations to 10 minutes, but offers no time limit on questions by Councillors; it also limits the number of presentations to four per meeting.

These are some of the major ways in which Council and I welcome your involvement in the Town!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pelham Council, Committee, and You

I recently heard a radio interview about “Pop-Up Democracy” – small ways in which people can become involved in shaping the future of their communities.

That reminded me that a number of people have asked me about how Pelham Council and Committees function. When do we meet? How can you get your suggestions or improvements discussed? How can you get involved in shaping Pelham’s future?

As a general rule, your Town Council meets at 7:00 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Council Chambers in Town Hall. (During July and August we tend to only meet once.) If one of our regular meetings falls on a holiday Monday (like Labour Day), we meet on the Tuesday.

Council is formal; it’s where we undertake the official business of the “Corporation of the Town of Pelham.” We advance the Town’s business through motions and a Procedural Bylaw provides order for our discussions. At Council, we make resolutions and enact bylaws – for taxation, spending, administration and enforcement. We set policy, approve legal agreements, and act on official correspondence. We also ratify the decisions of the Town’s General Committees.

Immediately following these Town Council meetings, we hold a “General Committee” meeting. Slightly less formal, General Committee tends to be more detail oriented. All Councillors are members of General Committee and act as either Chair or Vice-Chair of one of the three divisions.

Planning & Development Services deals with matters involving development proposals, subdivision plans, zoning bylaws, official plans, building permits and the building code, and bylaw enforcement. Councillor Papp is Chair; Councillor Accursi is Vice-Chair.

Community & Infrastructure Services deals with roads, sidewalks, streetlights, sewers, water, cemeteries, drainage, parks, recreational services, facilities, and special community events. Councillor Clark is Chair; Councillor Rybiak is Vice-Chair.

Corporate Services deals with all matters relating to budgets, taxation and fees, and all other financial matters, human resources, and fire and library services. Councillor Durley is Chair; Councillor King is Vice-Chair.

What General Committee approves at one meeting is scheduled for ratification by Council at its next meeting (roughly two weeks later).

Both Council and Committee require “quorum” – at least a majority (four) of seven members – to legally function and make decisions. Each member of Council, including the Mayor, gets one vote. If the majority of members at the meeting support a motion, it is “Approved” or “Carried.” If not, the motion is “Lost” or “Defeated.” In the case of a tie vote, the motion is defeated.

Next week, I will write about how you and other members of the public can get involved in this democratic process.