Monday, September 29, 2014

Planned & Improved Community Facilities

Reopening of Renewed Pool House, June 2014
Facilities are important to communities. They are buildings and amenities where friends and neighbours come together to celebrate, to compete, to gather, to discuss, and to provide service.

That’s why Council and I continue to focus on improving community facilities or other public amenities.

For example, the Town recently built a new Fire Station #2 (in Fenwick) with the funding assistance of the Federal and Provincial Governments. We are currently completing the construction of a new Fire Station #3 (in North Pelham) to provide better service from an appropriately-sized facility; expect information about the Official Opening in mid-October.

But, we haven’t always built new. We recognize important heritage assets like Old Pelham Town Hall; its restoration should be complete by December 1 and I can’t wait for folks to use it again! We also improved and restored the Pelham Pool House in Marlene Stewart-Streit Park – keeping the original structure but improving the change rooms, adding outdoor showers and a public washroom for other park users.

Parks & Recreation Ontario Design Award for
Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark, 2014
Parks & Recreation Ontario (PRO) recognized Pelham’s design of recently constructed public amenities. In 2011 we received PRO’s design award for our nine, new and fully accessible playgrounds and last September the Lieutenant-Governor for Ontario, His Hon. David Onley, visited one of the playgrounds. Then, this spring, Pelham won the 2014 PRO design award for the new Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark; thanks again to the dedicated members of the design committee.

Council also recently committed to the continued service of the Maple Acre Library. A working group report should present their report to Council and the Library Board soon with recommendations on how best to achieve this.

Finally, I am very pleased that Council worked together with LeisurePlan International and the community to develop a market analysis, business case study, and facilities review regarding arena and community centre desires. Based on a resident survey, detailed analysis and a comparison to industry standards, Council:
Confirmed demand for single-pad arena now, and potential for demand for twin-pad after 2023-24;
Confirmed sustaining demand for fitness activities (working with YMCA), walking / running indoor track, multi-purpose space, gymnasium sports;
Confirmed that the operating costs are affordable for new multi-faceted community center;
Confirmed the dire condition of existing arena and determined an alternative location for a potential new community centre – as part of the other imminent East Fonthill developments (Medical Centre, Retirement Home, Wellspring Centre, retail);

In essence, Council agreed with the recommendations that the community would provide sustaining demand for a multi-faceted community centre; if we can afford to construct a new multi-faceted community centre, we could afford to operate it.

So, to try to make the capital costs for a potential new community centre affordable for local, municipal tax-payers Council recognized that we need to attain financial support from the Federal and Provincial governments and to fundraise locally.

To do both of these steps, we will need more detailed plans (investment-ready plans), and tighter cost estimates.

That’s why Council appointed a community design committee members in July – with representatives from recreation user groups, youth, seniors, artists, service clubs and the community-at-large.

A couple of weeks ago, Council recently approved the Architectural Design Committee’s recommendation to retain Petroff Architects to develop construction-ready documents for a potential multi-purpose community centre.

Council agreed to fund the maximum $1,050,000 architectural costs – which is a lot of money but is actually less than the standard 5% architectural fee of the total potential project – from already budgeted funds and our facilities reserve.

Now, after clearly determining the recreational facility need and feasibility, Council and I are committed to working to secure Federal and Provincial funding and significant donations so that a potential new facility can be affordable to local tax-payers.

Facilities form an important part of our community. I will continue to work with Council and you to improve Pelham’s community facilities and other public amenities.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fiscally Responsible Leadership

Since the final installment of 2014 Pelham Property Taxes are due next week (on September 30), I thought I would give you a recap of our 2014 Property Taxes and the results of this term of Council.

Property Tax Calculation:
You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not only based on the Market Value Assessment of your property; we multiply your assessment (as assigned by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) by each of the tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

Despite your tax rate being set by each entity for their services, the Town collects the taxes and distributes it appropriately.

This Year and Four Years:
As I reported in April, both Pelham Town Council and Regional Council approved only slight tax increases this year. The combined property tax increase for an average property in Pelham for 2014 is 0.9% above the 2013 amount. I report this as a “out-of-pocket” value, so that translates into an approximate $36 change from last year for the average residential property owner (value of $298,000). This increase was the lowest or second lowest in Niagara Region again this year.

But, what about over a longer period of time? Let’s compare this term of Council with the last term of Council, and with inflation.

The average increase of property taxes on your combined residential property tax bill for the last four years was 1.5% (a cumulative increase of 6.0%); for the previous four years – from 2007 to 2010 – it was 1.8% (a cumulative increase of 7.3%).

Lower than Inflation:
How do we measure whether that is “good” or not? Another important comparator would be inflation. Inflation for the last four-year period was 7.4% or an average of 1.8% per year.

I hope you too are pleased that our residential tax increases have been 1.4% below inflation for the last four years. Please see the chart for more information.

Debt Reduction & Capital Improvements:
Some folks have asked me about the Town’s long-term debt and capital improvements.

You will be pleased to know that since the end of 2006 to the end of 2013 (the most up-to-date, audited data), we reduced our long-term debt by 20% – from $6.3M to $5.0M. Over the same period, our “debt to revenue ratio” – a private sector measure – reduced by 30% (from 53% for 2006 to 33% for 2013). (Source: Audited Financial Statements, Town Pelham, 2006-2013.)

Further, I anticipate that we can significantly reduce our debt levels over the next few months when we complete the sale of property for public benefit. You will recall that the Allen Group agreed to purchase 7.7 acres of Town-owned lands in the East Fonthill area for $375,000 per acre to facilitate the construction of a Medical Centre (5-10 Family Doctors and Allied Professionals) and a Retirement Home (135 apartment-style units with 12 town-house units).

Finally, at the same time that we reduced our term debt and increased property taxes at a rate lower than inflation, we dramatically improved the Town’s infrastructure. From better roads and more sidewalks and trails, to new playgrounds and new and improved parks, to renewed Downtowns, and thanks to our success in achieving significant investments by other levels of government, our four-year capital budget totaled $32.5M – an average of $8.1M per year.

Pelham Council and I continue to ensure that we only minimally impact you and other property tax-payers while we continue to improve our infrastructure and increase the quality of services in the Town.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Proven, Servant Leadership

A good friend and I grabbed a coffee last Saturday. It had been a while since we had seen each other and we needed to catch-up. Eventually, our conversation turned to this Fall’s Town election and leadership.

You see, I believe that this Mayoral election campaign is about proven leadership. But, it’s also about style of leadership.

As you know, under my proven leadership and service, and together with Council and the community, Pelham has improved considerably over the last eight years. From better roads and more sidewalks and trails, to new playgrounds and new and improved parks, to renewed Downtowns and improved community events, to huge investments by other levels of government, to better protections for agricultural lands and the Fonthill Kame, our Town has improved substantially.

But, I also view my role as Pelham's Mayor and Regional Councillor as one of a servant to the community.

That's why I am so accessible, continually listen to people and discuss issues, write a weekly column (270 times!) in local news media , attend as many community functions as possible, and work to keep residents and business owners informed about and involved in things that matter in Pelham.

My role is also to lead Council and the community through common processes of clearly defining problems, solving them, and implementing the agreed-upon and new solutions. Some recent examples of this include our environmental protection bylaw, the development of the Thursday night parking plan and a Supper Market, and confirming the business case for a new Multi-Faceted Community Centre (contingent on funding and tax-payer affordability).

I am both humbled and encouraged by the many residents who have asked me to continue my style of service and to build on my proven experience as Pelham’s Mayor & Regional Councillor.

So, what’s next? My vision for Pelham continues to include appropriate and affordable parks and recreational facilities, vibrant and livable downtowns, safe and walkable neighbourhoods, lively cultural and artistic activities, an environment for small- and medium-sized businesses to thrive, improvements to our quality of life, protecting our natural and rural character while supporting agricultural operations, and maintaining Pelham’s friendly, small-town feel as we continue to grow and prosper.

My record of proven, servant leadership shows that I have the vision, the commitment, and the experience to continue to work together with Council and the community to realize this vision.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Update on “Construction Season” in Pelham

Now that we are fully into “construction season” in Pelham, I thought I would give you an update on progress.

“Uptown Fonthill” Reconstruction:
You will recall that the Region leading the reconstruction of Regional Road 20 from Peachtree Park to Lookout Street, and of Haist Street from Canboro Road to Highway 20.

These works include adding bike lanes and sidewalks, upgrading the watermain, road reconstruction, and a new traffic signal. As part of our ongoing efforts to rid the Town of break-prone, cast-iron watermains, the Town asked the contractor to replace the watermain from just East of Pelham Street.

The contractor also completed the replacement of the watermain on Highway 20 between Pinecrest and Haist; now they will work on connecting individual properties. The watermain on Haist Street between Canboro and Highway 20 has been completed, with storm sewer construction underway.

Downtown Fenwick Revitalization:
You will recall that this important project includes reconstructing Canboro Road and parts of Maple and Church Streets and the Welland Road intersection. Since the contractor is replacing the storm sewers and tying them correctly into systems on adjoining streets, they have undertaken significant “dewatering” to reduce the high water table.

During this dewatering process, standard environments tests identified some hydrocarbons in the soil on Canboro Road; this contamination likely emanated from historic gasoline and oil service centres. While this may mean higher soil disposal and dewatering costs, work currently continues at the original tender price and on budget.

Since Hydro One continues to bury the electricity lines on Canboro Road and Maple Street, the excavation contractor has commenced storm sewer construction on Church Street. I understand that we may start to see some of the landscaping – like curbs – materializing soon.

Port Robinson Road – Station to Rice:
As you know, the Town is continuing to enhance walkability and cycle-ability by reconstructing Port Robinson from Station Street to Rice Road.

In addition to bike lanes, sidewalks on both sides, and road reconstruction, we are also installing sewers to support both existing and future potential development. Folks currently along Port Robinson will have the option to connect to these new sewers.

The contractor has completed more than half of the sanitary sewer and watermain construction. To help overcome chronic drainage issues in the area, the contractor has also begun storm sewer construction at the East-end of the project.

To review periodic updates on these and other significant Town projects, please see

As construction “season” continues in Pelham, I sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding. I also look forward to the completion of these and many other improvements in 2014!