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!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Enforcement or Trespassing?

There was a little controversy last week after media reported on the “Power of Entry” bylaw proposed during our Committee meeting on March 5, 2012.

You see, Staff brought forward a recommendation that the Town develop a bylaw to make it easier for enforcement staff to determine compliance with various Town bylaws like the accessible parking, animal control, sign, fence, clean yard, noise, and pool bylaws.

It was recommended that for the enforcement of these specific instances and for those specific bylaws, that Town staff be authorized to enter onto private property. It was intended that in some cases the need to provide notice to a property owner would be waived, so that Town staff could investigate and determine if a bylaw infraction occurred.

Amendments to the Ontario Municipal Act in 2006 granted Towns and Cities broader enforcement abilities – such as the authority to set fines for bylaw offences, and an administrative power of entry to determine bylaw compliance. (Please see sections 435 to 438 in the Municipal Act.)

Let’s use a specific example to explain the reason for the staff recommendation. If the bylaw does not specifically use the “new” Municipal Act rules, the Town bylaw enforcement officer might not be able to enforce the accessible parking rules in front of a school, church, the plaza, or other large retail store because they are on private property.

Now, I use this example because those property owners do want the Town to enforce these parking provisions – because it is a service to patrons / the community.

However, several Councillors expressed concern about the proposed bylaw.

Why? Because, what might work for the Accessible Parking bylaw, might not work for the Sign bylaw. Can’t staff wait 24 or 48 hours to give time for a property owner to grant entry so that Staff can inspect or measure a sign?

But, what about the case of the animal control bylaw? Could there be a situation when public safety might be at risk – where a pitbull is loose in an unfenced yard – and Town representatives need authority to enter private property?

Given the feedback I have received and the discussion we had during Committee meeting, I wonder whether there needs to be specific rules for specific situations – instead of the more generic bylaw that was recommended by staff.

I am thankful for the feedback and I am glad that Councillors approved my motion to send the issue back to staff for more work.

April 1, 2012 Update:
There has again been much discussion about this particular issue. Unfortunately, some of it has been erroneous.

The facts are:
- On March 5, staff proposed that Council consider a "power of entry" bylaw that was intended to correct certain deficiencies in and/or streamline the enforcement of some of the Town's bylaws;
- Council received and reviewed staff's report and recommendation and had a discussion;
- During the discussion Councillors asked several questions and informed one another about misgivings that we had with the suggested bylaw. Councillors outlined many of the same concerns that Pelham residents have recently expressed in letters to the editor;
- After a discussion, Council unanimously rejected the proposal by voting to return it to staff.
So, in fact, there is no bylaw regarding power of entry on our agenda at this time.

Based on my discussions with staff and the feedback received from people, I am confident that staff will propose a much different approach to bylaw enforcement.

I hope this helps with your understanding of the issue.

April 4, 2012 Update:
Some media have reported on this issue recently. For example, please see:

"Pelham enforcement officers still barred from private property," Welland Tribune.

"Proposed big brother bylaw angers Pelham residents," Toronto Star.

"Pelham bylaw met with outcry," Niagara This Week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Maybe" Now, But Answers Soon

So many people have asked me recently about issues that form part of the Recreational Facilities Committee’s mandate.

People ask: “What are you doing with the arena?” “Are you building a twin-pad?” “When are we getting a skateboard park?” “What’s the future of the pool?” “What about an art centre and theatre?” “What’s going on with the Town’s property at Rice Road and Regional Road #20?”

Quite frankly, we are not yet able to answer these questions yet. All we can say now is “Maybe.”

As you know, Council and I have prided ourselves and Staff as being known for action and for improving the Town in so many ways. We have worked diligently to find workable solutions and to build a better future for our community.

That’s why it was agreed at our February 21 Council meeting that the Recreational Facilities Committee will meet as soon as possible in March and restart the work to finalize these recreational issues.

You may recall that Council established a Recreational Facilities Committee in 2008 to review 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 and began work to determine the Town's short- and long-term recreational needs.

In July 2009 the Committee tabled an Interim Report. Council received the report and directed staff to hire an architect to develop a functional analysis and to refine the capital and operating costs based on the recommendations.

The architects held a couple of workshop sessions for user-groups in October 2009 and January 2010, and presented a draft report to the Committee in March 2010.

Staff presented another draft report to Committee members in September 2010. Then, when membership on the Committee changed because of the Municipal election, new members were given the draft report in early 2011. The Committee last met in June 2011 and was to have discussed a final report in July / August. However, as a result of the resignation and retirement of two Staff primarily responsible for the work, the process paused.

Now, with the work reactivated, I look forward to the Committee finalizing the report and presenting its recommendations to Council late spring / early summer. Then, the report will be made available publicly so that you and others can provide significant input and assist with decisions.

So, despite being only able to answer “Maybe” now, I hope that Council can make recreational facilities decisions before the end of 2012.