Monday, May 26, 2014

Compromises Enable Supper Market Pilot in 2014

On 3 February 2014 Council received a letter from the owners of Zest Restaurant, asking the Town to help initiate a “Supper Market” in Downtown Fonthill on Thursday evenings in the summer.

Like many downtown businesses, Zest sees a substantial decline in business during the well-attended Farmer’s Market and Fonthilll Bandshell Concerts on Thursdays. They proposed a Supper Market “under the Arches” – similar to last December’s highly successful Winterfest – as an opportunity to serve the Thursday crowds while using local produce and presenting local culinary features. They also proposed allocating two or three spaces for Pelham artists or Downtown retaillers. Finally, they suggested licensing the Supper Market so it could feature a local winery and / or brewery.

Staff investigated other Supper Markets and identified best practices including establishing a volunteer Committee. Staff also surveyed Pelham chefs, restaurants, food providers, local wineries and breweries to verify interest. Eleven Pelham restaurants and seven Niagara wineries / breweries wanted to participate; four restaurants declined involvement – two of which already participate in the Farmer’s Market.

While supportive of the idea, Council recognized several concerns from the community and directed staff to develop solutions. First, based on the experience from previous years and of Summerfest, Council required both an overall parking plan and an emergency plan for Thursday-nights. Second, because of concerns from the Farmer’s Market, the Bandshell Committee and local merchants, Council directed staff to resolve differences; this took effort and numerous meetings.

While staff continued to provide updates, members of the Farmer’s Market, the Bandshell, and of the newly formed Supper Market committee made presentations or sent letters to Council.

Heeding these and input from the community, Council reconfirmed holding the Supper Market on Thursdays, and approved the parking and emergency plans.

Most importantly, Council recognized that the location – under the Arches – represented a real concern from the community for inhibiting traffic flow.

On 5 May, Council asked the Committee to determine the best location for the Supper Market other than under the Arches. The Committee identified 19 possible locations, and short-listed to four priority locations. Following an evaluation, the Committee recommended the curved, one-way driveway connecting the parking lots at Pelham Town Hall as the best location.

The location meets Public Health Regulations, provides access for hydro and water, and increases visibility of the Supper Market. The location also gained acceptance from the Farmer’s Market and the Bandshell with the caveat that the Supper Market be a pilot for 2014 and that it be reviewed in the Fall.

Council accepted these compromises on 20 May and approved the 2014 pilot Supper Market to start on 12 June.

UPDATE -- June 2, 2014: Town Council received word that the Supper Market committee moved the start date to Thursday, June 19, 2014. They wanted more time to plan and ensure that they have all the details figured out -- hence the extra time.  Hope to see you on June 19!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Overcoming Information Bombardment with Creative Problem Solving

Between the 24-7 news cycle and updates from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, do you ever feel “bombarded” by information?

According to McMaster University professor Dr. Nick Bontis, whom Senior Management Staff from each of Niagara’s Towns and Cities heard last week, we experience “information bombardment” every day.

“By the 1930’s, the world’s cumulative information base doubled every 30 years. By the 1970’s, this rate shrunk to 7 years. Nowadays, the information base of the world doubles every 11 hours,” said Dr. Bontis.

So, what can one do to overcome information bombardment?

I was reminded of a sensible approach as I was re-reading a Dale Carnegie book over the weekend. Mr. Carnegie wrote in 1948 that “…knowledge isn’t power until it is applied. …The purpose of this book is to remind you of what you already know and to kick you in the shins and inspire you to do something about applying it.”

What do we do in Pelham to apply knowledge?

After examining several programs and opportunities to stimulate innovation over the summer of 2012, the Town began using the Creative Problem Solving process as taught by another McMaster professor, Dr. Min Basadur.

Eighteen staff and three members of Council undertook the initial training which consisted of three, five day sessions in the fall of 2012. Later, Dr. Basadur taught the process to all of Council and to the remaining staff.

After seeing the positive results, the Town imbedded the Creative Problems Solving (CPS) process throughout the organization. We use it to assist in resolving problems of individuals and groups within the community and share it with regional organizations and boards.

Problems are now viewed as opportunities – or "golden eggs" – and staff members are encouraged to seek out and solve problems using the CPS process. This winter, Public Works staff used CPS to develop a way to thaw water lines without digging up the road, saving thousands in repair costs. Council also uses the process to resolve important issues – from developing an environment protection bylaw, to recommending a location for the new Skatepark, to making Pelham Street more walkable and safe, to providing appropriate library service in Fenwick.

Over the last three years the Town budgeted $266,324 for all professional development ($70,512 in 2012, $111,222 in 2013, and $84,590 in 2014). From 2012 to March 2014 the Town only spent 38% of this training budget ($100,222.23) on the CPS process; this included training, facilitation, and strategic planning for all staff and Council.

By overcoming “information bombardment” with the CPS process, Pelham applies knowledge and yields positive and tangible results.