Sunday, December 13, 2015

Great Christmas Spirit, Even Without Snow

Pelham Santa Claus Parade, 2015
What a joy to join the Pelham Senior Citizen’s group last Wednesday at Old Pelham Town Hall for a special holiday lunch and carols – including Irving Berlin’s “(I’m Dreaming of a) White Christmas!” Despite the lack of snow, it does feel like Christmas in Pelham!

The holiday spirit began early in Pelham on November 5 when several businesses hosted holiday open houses. Some store-owners even closed their shops for a couple of days and stunningly transformed them into Christmas wonders.

Over the following weeks, the Town began decorating much of Pelham – from Peace Park and the Bandshell in Fonthill, to Town Hall, to hydro poles in Pelham’s urbanized areas, to the flagpole and trees in Fenwick.

And, some very dedicated, community-minded elves took it upon themselves to “spruce-up” our Town. While the rest of us were sleeping or working, these elves decorated almost every utility pole and light standard in sight using evergreen boughs and red bows. So many of us appreciate their efforts!

Then, the Fenwick Firefighters Association took the lead for the turkey raffle tradition, followed closely by the Fonthill Lions (with a chili cook off to boot).

Thanks to “Christmas In Pelham” volunteers and Town staff for organizing the third Christmas Under the Arches / Outdoor Christmas Market in Fonthill on December 4. The hundreds participating and the venders, services clubs, and musicians helped make the event wonderful and vibrant.

Then, hundreds and hundreds shared the true spirit of generosity on December 5th for the 25th Annual Pelham Food Drive for Pelham Cares. Thank you to each of the donors and all the volunteers that went door-to-door to support those less fortunate in our Town. Thanks, as well, for those volunteers unpacking, sorting, and repacking non-perishable food. Finally, thanks to the businesses who donated food and funds so that volunteers were fed and the event was publicized.

This past weekend, the Fabulous Fenwick Lions and others in the community organized the annual Santa Claus Parade. Despite the abundance of candy for kids, all knew it was not another Halloween when “Buddy the Elf” drove Santa through the recently revitalized Downtown Fenwick and to Centennial Park.

Add to all this the Christmas concerts at our schools, the open houses at businesses and private homes, the work parties, and all the celebrations at Pelham’s churches, and we are doing well to prepare for Christmas.

I hope that you and your family experience the joy of the spirit of Christmas this holiday season. I also wish you all the best in 2016!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Municipal Finance: Deficits, Debt, Reserves


Since that’s a lot of talk and media coverage about things like debt, deficits, and government spending, I wanted to add a few observations here.

While the Provincial and Federal governments can run deficits, Towns and Cities cannot.

Deficits occur when a Federal or Provincial government spends more on their services and projects during their fiscal year than their revenue for that year. The new Federal government, for example, just announced that they expect to end their fiscal year with a $3.0 billion deficit. Adding up this overspending is called an accumulated deficit or Federal / Provincial debt. And, that Federal and Provincial debt includes both operating costs (program spending) and capital expenditures.

On the other hand, Towns and Cities must run balanced books each year. We cannot budget for a deficit nor a surplus, nor can we accumulate deficits.

So, how do we mitigate unexpected expenses or pay for large capital projects? With reserves and municipal debt (called debentures).

Sometimes we accumulate specific funds over a few years in a reserve to help pay for something in a future year. For example, we might put $100K aside for a few years so that we can buy a $400K fire truck in year four. Or, we established a snow clearing reserve to cover excess operating costs for winter control methods (if required).

For multi-million-dollar community assets, however, it might not make sense to save up for decades in advance.

For example, does it make sense to pre-charge folks for a number of years to save up for a multi-million-dollar water or waste water project, when the asset will be used over 50 to 70 years? Why should people who move or pass away prior to a project’s construction pre-pay for an entire project? Wouldn’t it be better to allow folks benefitting from the project pay as they use it?

One could make the same case for a 40 -50-year asset like a community centre or a 25-year asset like a downtown redevelopment. It’s often in these types of cases that “smart debt” – a debenture period of less than the life of the asset – makes sense.

And, that’s especially beneficial during periods of low interest rates and infrastructure grants from other Governments. For example, by the end of 2014 the Town’s total long-term debt was just under $5.9 million. Last year we added nearly $1.8 million of debt to pay our share of Downtown Fonthill’s revitalization and Fire Station #2 construction after taking advantage of more than $4.1 million of Federal and Provincial stimulus funding; we also repaid $914,070 in debt principal in 2014.

I will continue to keep you informed as Council and I work to improve our infrastructure and increase the quality of life in our Town.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Region Increases Water & Waste Water Rates

Some Regional Councillors congratulated themselves for approving a “combined 0.03 per cent reduction in the Region’s Water and Wastewater budget, resulting in a net operating budget of $108 million.” A recent news release quoted the Regional Chair that, “These reduced budgets show that our Council is focused on affordability for Niagara residents.”

This upsets me. First, this misleads by telling only part of the story. Second, the facts show that the Region’s “zero budget guidance” did not focus water and wastewater affordability.

As you may recall, the Regional portion of your water and sewer rates pays for both the water and sewer treatment costs and delivery costs to 11 of Niagara’s Towns and Cities. The Region works with local staff to estimate the amount of water each municipality will sell to its residents and businesses and the amount of waste water it will send to the Region to treat.

Essentially, the Region wholesales water production and waste water treatment to the local municipalities. The local municipalities then add local distribution (water) and collection (sewer) costs to retail service to residents and businesses.

So, while a near zero budget change sounds good, it’s the impact on the customers (the 11 Cities & Towns) and, ultimately, residents and businesses, that really matters.

The Region charges 25% of their water budget to the local municipalities as a fixed cost; that portion of the bill is increasing by the 0.3%. But, what about the other portion? The Region will recover the remaining 75% at a set rate. Council increased that rate from $0.537 per cubic meter (m3) to $0.554 / m3; that’s a 3.2% increase!

What does that mean for local Cities? First, Cities will have to mitigate the Region’s 0.3% fixed-cost increase on the fixed-cost portion of our water bills. Second, the 3.2% increase on the consumption portion of our bill means a huge uphill battle – we will need to recover nearly $970,000 of distribution savings / innovations or pass along the costs to consumers.

What about waste water? It’s a similar scenario. While the overall Regional sewer budget will decrease slightly (by 0.2%), the Region expects to treat 2.0% less waste water. This forces Niagara Cities to contend with 1.8% increases in the costs per unit treated! That will force Towns to pass along another $853,800!

Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, these significant rate increases show that Regional Council failed to focus on water and waste water affordability for Niagara’s Cities & Towns and ultimately failed Niagara’s residents and businesses.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

How should we spend your money in 2016?

Do you have any suggestions on how the Town should spend your money?

Council will begin our 2016 budget process with a special public meeting where we listen to you and other members of the community about what you would like to see in next year’s and future budgets. That meeting will occur on Monday, November 30 at 6:30 PM in the Council Chamber at Pelham Town Hall.

While Pelham Council first started this type of a “pre-budget consultation” for the 2007 Budgets, we continue each year to welcome residents, representatives of sports teams and service clubs, businesses and property tax payers to provide input.

I am pleased that, following Council deliberations each year, we have been able to follow-through on most of the suggestions offered by your friends and neighbours. In previous year, folks have requested a dog park, a skate park, sidewalks along a number of roads, crosswalks, sidewalk snow clearing on every sidewalk in Town, partnerships on service club signs, and a girl’s change room in the arena. The Town has completed each of these requests or they have been approved and will get done soon.

That’s why 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!

And, this is just the start of our 2016 budget deliberations:

  • Pre-Budget Consultation – beginning November 30, 2015;
  • Draft Capital Budget available to public – December 31;
  • Draft Capital Budget presented to Committee – January 4, 2016;
  • Council consider approving Capital Budget – January 11;
  • Draft Operating Budget available to the public – February 5;
  • Draft Operating Budget presented to Committee – February 8;
  • Council consider approving Operating Budget – February 16;
  • Draft Water & Sewer Budgets available to the public – February 8;
  • Draft Water & Sewer Budgets presented to Committee – February 16;
  • Council consider approving Water & Sewer Budgets – March 7.


Prefer 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.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

“Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own”

Jim Summersides displaying his Congressional Gold
Medal while in Wageningen on 5 May 2015
As we commemorate Remembrance Day this year, I was reminded of part of my family’s trip to Europe last spring.

On May 5 we made our way to Wageningen, in Southern Holland. That’s where 70 years before German General Blaskowitz surrendered to Canadian General Foulkes, officially ending the war in the Netherlands.

Being the 70th Anniversary, Wageningen hosted a huge parade and festival including hundreds of Allied veteran soldiers (including 70 World War II vets from Canada), marching bands from varies Allied nations (including the Burlington Teen Tour Band), and current troops and cadets. It was amazing to be among the thousands and thousands who lined the parade route – at least five or six people deep – and cheer each of the veterans as they passed by in vintage vehicles.

We knew that among those Canadian veterans was Jim Summersides, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613 in Fonthill and a frequent Remembrance Day participant in Pelham.

It wasn’t easy finding him from among the hundreds of vets sheltered under several structural tents at the parade-start. You see, Summersides wasn’t with the other Canadian veterans because he was among eight veterans speaking with Canada’s Prime Minister. He was telling the PM about the Congressional Gold Medal (that he kept in his pocket!), awarded in February 2015 for his service and determination during WWII in the first Joint Canadian-American Special Forces unit.

After meeting Summersides, I noticed two huge banners surrounding one of the three Wageningen music stages. Loosely translated, one banner read “Freedom Is Something We Celebrate Together!” The other: “Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own.”

These are appropriate words this week.

During our Remembrance Day commemorations we celebrate together our many freedoms – the freedom to express ourselves, to participate in cultural, religious, and political activities, to come and go as we please, and to pursue a safe and happy life.

And, we also recognize the words on the second banner: that our freedoms did not happen on their own. Rather, our freedoms are due to the sacrifices of Veterans and of those members of the Canadian Armed Forces who serve today. They sacrificed their futures and continue to make those sacrifices so that our future might be free and might be one of peace and happiness.

As we celebrate our freedoms together and commemorate Remembrance Day 2015, let us be thankful. Let us never forget. And let us remember the “Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own.”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Pelham Volunteers Are Precious!

Sometimes in our fast-paced society, we neglect to honour and thank those that do something special. And, yet, those who volunteer in our community make a conscious choice to give of their time and talents to improve our community.

When you volunteer, you make a conscience choice and, I believe, carry out a sacred act of giving of yourself.

This goes for the many coaches and conveners of the various sports in Pelham and for members of the Town’s outstanding Service Clubs. It’s the same with the specially appointed members of Town Committees like those that volunteer on the Library Board, the Active Transportation Committee, the Beautification Committee, and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.

Presenting Peer Award to Fonthill Lion John Mills.
It’s a similar commitment from those involved in community based endeavours like the Farmer’s Market Committee, the Bandshell Committee, the Pelham Art Festival committee, the Pelham Horticultural Society, the Suppermarket Committee, and the hundreds of other volunteers in our community.

That’s why hosting the Town’s Annual Volunteer & Community Corporate Recognition Ceremony – like Council and I did last Wednesday – is one of our favourite events! It’s when we recognize the dedication and hard work of hundreds of Pelham’s volunteers.

We presented the “Peer Award” as a special way of recognizing outstanding individuals. Each community-based group or organization in Pelham nominated one of the most exemplary volunteers from among their group of exceptional volunteers.

We offered our deep appreciation and congratulations to each of the Peer Award recipients: Barb Matthie, Fonthill & District Kinette Club; Anne Durst, Pelham Farmers Market; Maria McMillan, Pelham Historical Society; Brian Iggulden, Fonthill & District Kinsmen Club; Enid Gatcke, Fonthill Lioness Club; John Mills, Fonthill Lions Club; Marisa Battista, Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council; Cora Ann MacKinnon, Niagara Centre Skating Club; Bill Gibson, Pelham Active Transportation Committee; John Swart, Pelham Art Festival; Sue Kicul, Pelham Cares; Gail Hilyer, Pelham Seniors’ Advisory Committee; Stuart MacPherson, Pelham Soccer Club; Robert Eamer, Rotary Club of Fonthill; Claire Rochette, Royal Canadian Legion, Ladies Aux.; Jake Dilts, Royal Canadian Legion.

We also honoured our Corporate Citizens – those businesses that give money, resources, product – to all facets of our community. We especially honoured the Fonthill Sobey’s with a Corporate Peer Award for their generosity to so many charities and commitment to improving our Town.

I offer deep thanks to each of the Town’s volunteers and corporate citizens for giving of themselves to help other people and to make Pelham a vibrant, creative and caring community for all.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Capping the Costs for Affordable Community Centre

At the end of July, I wrote here about how Council changed gears in the design of a more affordable Multi-Faceted Community Centre (MFCC). Council considered the matter again last week and approved hiring a construction manager and capping the operating and capital costs.

You will recall that, based on a detailed business case analysis in 2013/14, the Town confirmed that “sustaining demand” for a MFCC (single-pad arena, a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, 2,000 sq ft multi-purpose space, and double gymnasium) existed.

So, Council appointed a citizen/user-based Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) in August 2014 to help design that type of facility. In February 2015, Council agreed with ADAC’s recommendations of adding a large multi-purpose/ performing arts space (+6,000 sq ft), an atrium / shared public space (+9,600 sq ft), and +1,200 spectator/arena seats.

Council also agreed with ADAC’s later recommendations to 1) re-evaluate the business case for building a twin-pad arena during the initial build (instead of after 2023), and 2) tender the operation of the potential centre to the private sector.

Concerned with the project’s affordability in June, however, Council directed staff to determine potential capital and operating costs of this expanded design.

In early-July, Council agreed with a Leisureplan recommendation that, because “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time,” the Town should provide a second ice pad by 2018/19.

In late-July, Council learned that no private firms wanted to operate the Centre; that a “Class-D” estimate pegged the expanded design at $54 million; and that a pro forma estimated operating costs of that design at +$500,000 per year.

Clearly the design ballooned above the initial operating and capital business case and had to be rationalized and reduced.

So, Council directed staff to refine the pro forma’s operating costs, to start develop a realistic fundraising plan, and to recommend a construction manager who would help make the design more affordable to build and operate.

When these matters arose on October 19, we took action. First, Council approved hiring Ball Construction as a construction manager to help the architect and staff to find cost efficiencies and assist in reducing the facility’s overall capital and operating costs. Second, Priorities Committee placed a $30-million capital cap and a $200,000 operating-subsidy cap on the project’s design. When we sell excess property, raise community funds, or receive government grants, those funds will make these capital costs even more affordable. Third, we directed staff to circulate this information to ADAC members.

Staff suggested that we might see the next major re-design in early 2016.

I will continue to keep you informed about progress of the potential multi-purpose community centre.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Bit of Pelham to Help Bearskin Lake

Pelham Town Council and Welland Rotary welcome
Wayne Brown, deputy chief of Bearskin Lake First
Nation, and Larry Laviolette, Fire Safety Officer,
First Nation Fire Commissioner’s Office,
5 October 2015
How do you make the best use of a decommissioned fire truck? Despite be maintained in excellent condition and with just over 2,000 hours of operation time and 24,000 km, Provincial insurance regulations require that the Town has to decommission and replace the 1991 pumper from Pelham Fire Station #2 this year. (We planned for this and approved a new pumper in our 2015 Capital Budget.)

The Town could sell the vehicle for non-fire use. Or we could sell or donate the fire truck to communities or a
reas where less stringent insurance rules apply – in another country or areas covered by Canadian Federal regulations.

That’s where the Welland Rotary Club came in. After hearing the Town approved the purchase of a new pumper, the Club wondered whether there was a community in Central or South America that might need such a vehicle.

Then the Club heard about fires in First Nation communities in Northern Ontario. The Club made contact with Larry Laviolette, Fire Safety Officer, First Nation Fire Commissioner’s Office. Working out of Sioux Lookout, Mr. Laviolette indicated that Bearskin Lake First Nation (which is more than 400 km north) desperately needs fire equipment.

It was my pleasure to welcome and help host Wayne Brown, deputy chief of Bearskin Lake First Nation, on Monday, October 5. Deputy Chief Brown told us that while Bearskin Lake has a growing population of 900 people across four areas – airport, downtown, residential, and medical – they do not have adequate fire protection. Since they have been unable to get parts following the breakdown of a 1982 fire pumper, their community is served by a pickup truck carrying a water tank and a small pump.

In addition, Mr. Brown indicted that people access Bearskin Lake by air during the spring, summer and fall, and by an ice road during the winter. I understand this remote community gets all their building and medical supplies, non-perishable food, and fuel via that 12-hour ice road route!

Once removed from active service in November, Rotary will transport the fire pumper (via flat-bed truck) to Sioux Lookout; Mr. Laviolette will store the vehicle until February when the truck will be transported to Bearskin Lake via the ice road.
Hand-stitched moccasins presented in
appreciation to Pelham by Bearskin Lake 

Councillor John Durley, Deputy Mayor, and I presented ceremonial keys for the truck to Councillor Peter Papp, president of the Rotary Club; in turn, Councillor Papp presented the keys to Deputy Chief Brown during our October 5th Council meeting.

I am delighted that this bit of Pelham can help serve Bearskin Lake First Nation for many years. And, I hope this can be the start of a special relationship between our two communities.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Will a Chicane Help Calm Traffic?

Last Friday, Town Staff installed a temporary traffic calming measure on Haist Street North (north of Regional Road 20). Shortly after, I drove through and posted a photo on my Facebook pages and other social media. The reactions were immediate and polarized.

The Town has been grappling with ways in which to help calm traffic and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists for a number of years. More than a decade ago, the Town implemented “Community Safety Zones” on Haist Street (near AK Wigg School) and on Pelham Street (near GA Green School) to double the normal fine for speeders. We have added flashing lights in most school zones and employ a team of dedicated crossing guards help local students to cross the road.

Over the last nine years, we’ve also dramatically improved our walking and cycling infrastructure. We’ve added more than 13 km of sidewalks in areas like Pelham Street (Pancake to Broad), Haist Street (from Welland Rd to north of Regional Rd 20), Regional Road 20 (from Rice to Lookout), Maple Street (from Canboro to Sandra), Port Robinson Road (from Pelham St. to Rice), Church Street (from Martha Crt to Centennial Park) and along Pelham Town Square. We’ve also added more than 9 km of new bike lanes – notably on Haist, Port Robinson, and Regional Road 20.

To make it safer for folks to cross the street, we’ve added five new crosswalks – at the Fonthill Library Branch, at AK Wigg, and on Pelham St. at Church Hill, at Pancake and at Spruceside. We also added a traffic light at Pelham and Port Robinson and improved the pedestrian crossings on Regional Road 20 at Pelham and Haist Streets. We have also added stop signs to better regulate traffic – Quaker at Line, Port Robinson at Station, Canboro at Balfour, and Sawmill at Wessel.

To help slow traffic we’ve added speed bumps to Haist Street, and narrowed the road width on Regional Road 20 (up the hill between Canboro and Church Hill), and in Downtown Fenwick. We’ve even painted center lines and edge lines on a few roads to make them appear narrower so that drivers slow down.

Because of ongoing speeding and persistent resident complaints, staff recently set-up a temporary traffic calming measure – called a chicane or a bulbout – on Haist Street North. While they will be monitoring pre- and post-speeds, area residents emailed staff that the “temporary installment made an instant improvement. Traffic is slowing!”

Because of the diverse reactions on Facebook – some in favour, some confused, some vigorously opposed – I thought I would write about the pilot project here.

Please provide your own reaction to Town Councillors or me directly.
---------------------------------------------------
To see a sample of what other communities across the United States are trying to reduce traffic speeds, please see this USA Today article.

Update November 2016:
Tests showed a significant decrease in speeds as a result of this temporary chicane. Council approved the installation of a permanent feature. It is being installed before the end of November 2016.

Monday, September 28, 2015

WW1 Trench Mortar & Creative Solution Process

(Credit: G.Furminger/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network)
Back in the spring, I wrote briefly in my capital budget update about efforts to restore the World War One cenotaph and German mortar at Old Pelham Town Hall.

Since that time, thanks to the direction of a committed group of residents and funding support from Veteran’s Affairs, the Town beautifully restored the lead lettering on the historic cenotaph. (If you have not seen the work yet, I would encourage you to stop by Old Pelham Town Hall sometime!)

But, that left the future of the trench mortar uncertain. The Town received a pricey estimate to restore the mortar – more than $30,000 plus the costs for a new base. Another option? The Niagara Military Museum generously offered to remove the mortar from the site and painstakingly restore it at their location – so that they might display it there.

When the issue came to Council in late-August, many other suggestions arose: removal because it’s not a Canadian weapon; full restoration on site; partial restoration and protection; transformation into a serenity or “contemplation” garden. Some felt strongly one way, others as strongly the other way.

The solution? Council directed staff to host a creative problem session with as many of the key stakeholders as possible to discuss and make recommendations to Council. The thinking? Let’s get all the pertinent players in one room and discuss the emotionally-charged matter and, most importantly, try to understand each other.

The well attended session included: Jake Dilts, Jim Summersides, Bernie Law from the Royal Canadian Legion; Dell Clark, Carolyn Botari, Gary Chambers, interested Residents; Mary Lamb, from the Pelham Historical Society; seven members of the Niagara Military Museum; and Councillors Junkin and Rybiak.

The meeting was very positive and the group was able to work through the process respectfully and came to the conclusion of “How might we help Council make a decision to preserve the mortar at its current site?”

I understand that the session included some key “eureka” thoughts / challenges:

Since not many know the history of this German Trench Mortar, “how might we identify and interpret” the mortar’s history?

And, while some initially disliked displaying a “trophy of war,” others pointed out it was given to the Town in 1921 for a specific goal: How might we “never forget the sacrifice Pelham residents paid in WWI.”

The result? Last week, Council agreed to leave the WWI Trench Mortar at the Old Pelham Town Hall site and directed staff to work with the group again to recommend the extent of the restoration and identification and possible funding sources. (Please click here to review a copy of the Staff report of the creative problem solving session.)

Thanks, again, for the dedication of all involved!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Electing the Chair to Become Accountable, Open, and Democratic

Ken Seiling was re-elected in Waterloo Region, 2014.
Waterloo Region 
has elected the Regional Chair-at-large since 1997.
You may recall that in January, I wrote here about the effort to help make Niagara Regional government more accountable, open, and democratic, by electing the Regional Chair at large. What happened?

Well, Regional Council voted to defer the debate and get more historic information. That motion comes up for consideration at our Corporate Services committee on Wednesday, September 23.

Role of the Chair:
The full-time Regional Chair sets the legislative and economic agendas for the Region, presides over Council meetings, votes on every committee, and is the “face” of Niagara with Provincial, National, and other governments.

So, while serving as the face of the entire Niagara Region, ironically, the Regional Chair is only accountable to the majority of Regional Councillors.

Antiquated Process:
Our current process of appointing a sitting member of Council as chair comes from the Baldwin Act of 1849, which established local County Councils. The names of the annually appointed, former Wardens of Welland County and Lincoln County are etched on plaques at the Regional HQ (across from Brock University).

When they first created Regional Governments in the 1970s, the Province also appointed the first Regional Chairs. After our first Chair (John Campbell) retired in 1985, Council appointed one of its own as Chair (Wilber Dick).

But, this appointment differs significantly from County Councils days – the new Chair give up his or her seat and is appointed for the entire four-year term of Council.

Lagging Behind Other Regions:
All other Ontario Regional governments have already either adopted a more accountable and democratic process to directly elect their Regional Chair at large or are in the process of doing so.

Waterloo Region (Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wilmot, Wel
lesley, Woolwich, and North Dumfries) began electing their Chair 17 years ago.

Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, Milton, and Halton Hills) has elected a Regional Chair since 2000.

Durham Region (Pickering, Ajax, Uxbridge, Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington) first elected their Regional Chair last Fall.

A bill to elect the York Region (Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Whitchurch–Stouffville) Chair “at large” is currently before the Ontario Legislature.

Finally, in 2013, Peel Regional Council (Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon) directed staff to report in 2015 on options to directly elect their Chair for the 2018 municipal election.

It’s Time for Niagara:
It’s clear that the way in which Niagara Region currently appoints our Regional Chair is antiquated, undemocratic, and out-of-synch with all other Regions in Ontario.

That’s why I am supporting the effort to change toward a directly elected Chair. If you agree, please contact your Mayor and Regional Councillor and / or send me an email directly at mayordave@pelham.ca.

Let's work together now to become more open, transparent, accountable, and democratic in Niagara!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Help Increase Protection of the Kame

As I wrote about in the spring, the Ontario Government is reviewing the Greenbelt Plan, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Oak Ridges Moraine Plan, and Niagara Escarpment Plan.

In April, I wrote to the Expert Advisory Panel overseeing this Review and implored them to increase the protection of the Fonthill Kame. I recently sent another letter to the Panel, and I am hoping that you will too! (Please click here for a copy of my letter.)

The “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is Niagara’s rare, 75-metre-tall, 1,000 hectare landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. As the “hill” in Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville, the Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and serves as a significant water recharge area and forms the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek. Further, the Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, and plums.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) in 1988 as a way to help restrict development. The Province also protected parts of the Kame with general provisions in either the Niagara Escarpment Plan or specific provisions in the 2005 Greenbelt Plan.

And, after considerable public feedback, research and scientific evaluation, MNR confirmed a new ANSI boundary for the Kame in October 2013.

As the Province reviews the Greenbelt Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, they could inadvertently lessen these protections.

That’s why I wrote the Expert Panel in April and urged them to reinforce the ANSI re-designation by increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame in their land use Plans.

During the summer, Niagara Region approved maps and commentary as part of their submission to the Expert Panel. In that submission, Regional Council reiterated its request that the lands forming part of the “total morphology” of the Fonthill Kame be recognized and protected. (Please click here and see page 3 and 4 and appendix of Regional report. [Large 11.3MB.])

In fact, the Region suggested that lands as identified through scientific study by expert Dr. Menzies be added to the Niagara Escarpment Plan for increased protection. (For a map of those lands, please click here. [Please note, it would exclude lands in the Fonthill Urban Area and in the Ridgeville Hamlet.])

And, at the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conferences, Town Councillors and I asked the Ministry of Natural Resources representatives to add Fonthill Kame lands to the Niagara Escarpment Plan area. (For more about this and a copy of our presentation, please see my recent column.)

Now, I am asking you to provide similar feedback to the Panel this month; please let them know that you are interested in protecting the Kame via the Niagara Escarpment plan to help curtail further aggregate extraction or development.

Please email your comments to landuseplanningreview@ontario.ca or send mail to:
David Crombie, Chair
Land Use Planning Review, 
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 
Ontario Growth Secretariat, 
777 Bay Street, Suite 425 (4th floor)
Toronto ON M5G 2E5.

Thank you, again, for helping to further protect the Fonthill-Kame so that its distinctive features, microclimatic and water recharge functions might be better safeguarded for future generations!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Starting Public Transit in Pelham

In early 2015, Town Council and Senior Staff engaged in a strategic planning session to help identify goals and priorities for moving Pelham forward. One of our key priorities from our overarching goals was to “Offer public transportation to Pelham residents.” Why? It’s consistently something that folks of all ages have requested over the years.

Later in January, the Town applied for funding for the Ministry of Transportation’s “Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program,” which helps municipalities implement or improve public transportation. In March, the MTO approved the maximum -- $100,000 – to help cover the majority of the costs to implement transit system in Pelham.

Staff consulted with Pelham Cares; local Senior Housing Facilities and Associations; Pelham Senior Advisory Council; Mayors Youth Advisory Council; existing shuttle services; and Niagara Region and area transportation specialists. The Town also undertook a community consultation and received more than 200 responses with suggestions for routing, timing, pick-up / drop-off locations. Finally, the Town considered the times that we currently provide transit – for Summerfest, for the Thursday night events (Suppermarket, Bandshell, Farmer’s Market), and for Canada Day.

In August, the Town issued a request for proposal for a provider for Conventional Transit Service (offered 5 hours a day), a Trans-Cab Service (up to 5 hours a day, Monday to Saturday  and pre qualified by appointment), and Shuttle Service for special events and Festivals from September 2015 to March 2017 (19 months).

Staff reviewed the proposals, met with the potential providers, and recommend awarding the contract to Sharp Bus Line Ltd. at a special Council meeting on August 31. (Please click here for a link to the meeting's agenda and the staff report.)

This pilot’s expense budget is just under $175,000 – $118K for conventional transit, $22K for the Trans-Cab service, and $35K for advertising, signs, etc. The Provincial $100,000 grant and all revenues (fares and advertising) will significantly reduce this expense.

This service will not only link Fonthill and Fenwick, provide linkages for shopping and appointments, but will also link to other Regional transit – making it easier for Brock and Niagara College students / employees.

If approved, the new services could begin on September 8! Routes will be based on the public consultation and may be adjusted over the first few weeks of the service if necessary.

Please check out local media, the Town’s webpage and social media for more information about the implementation details.

Thanks so much to the Provincial Government and all who filled in the surveys and provided feedback and ideas. With their help, Council and I look forward to the Town offering this new service!
__________________________________
September 3, 2015 Update:
Council did approve the agreement and the service will start on Tuesday, September 8.
For more details, including the temporary route, please see: www.pelham.ca/transit

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kame, Hydro, and Public Transit at AMO Conference

This week, Councillors Accursi, Durley, King, Papp and Rybiak and I will attend the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Niagara Falls. The annual three-day conference offers a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities and organizers expect more than 1,600 delegates!

While at AMO, your Pelham reps will also directly advance your interests with the Provincial Government through meetings with various Ministries.

First, we plan to meet with Kathryn McGarry, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Transportation, regarding our Community Transportation Pilot Project. We realized that the Town already provided transit options for special events (like Summerfest, Canada Day, and Thursday night events) and Pelham Cares provided accessible transit for seniors. By getting feedback from the community and joining these services together, might we be able to structure a type of transit service? We will be thanking Ms. McGarry for the $100,000 Provincial grant which will help the Town work with the private sector to link these services and to connect with other transit systems. (Please click here for a copy of our presentation to the MTO.)

Next, we will meet with Eleanor McMahon, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Natural Resources, about increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. For the last seven years, we effectively used AMO and “Niagara Week” meetings to urge the Province to enhance the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protections of the Kame. Last year we thanked Ms. McMahan for finalizing those protections in late 2013. This year we intend to ask MRN to add much more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan. (Please click here for a copy of our presentation to MNR.)

Then, along with representatives from Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc. (NPEI), we will meet with Bob Delaney, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, to discuss Pelham’s electricity assets. While the former Village of Fonthill hydro assets are managed by NPEI, Hydro One owns and manages the remainder (and majority) of Pelham’s electricity infrastructure. We are calling for the Government to allow meaningful and substantive discussions for NPEI to purchase Pelham’s electricity assets at fair market value. By the way, the average Hydro One customer – using 800kWh per month – pays $290 per year (17%) more than an NPEI customer! (Please click here for a copy of our presentation to Min of Energy.)

Finally, I will be joining other Niagara Mayors and the Regional Chair to meet with the Honourable Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, to promote an extension of GO transit commuter rail service into Niagara.

Please be assured that Council and I will continue to take all opportunities to promote Pelham’s interests to the Provincial Government.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Help Encourage Future Quality of Life Investments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that "Since there are currently no Federal or Provincial grants available [for a potential new community centre], the Town will continue to lobby for a policy change and for funding." Now, I am asking for your help with this effort.

National Election:
As the National election started, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) ramped up their lobbying effort calling on all parties to focus on initiatives to “strengthen Canada’s hometowns.”

At the website Hometownproud.fcm.ca, FCM outlines a campaign to ask people to endorse their “roadmap” for strong cities and strong communities. They advocate for long-term, predictable and sustainable investment in local roads, bridges, and water / waste water infrastructure. They also suggest increased funding for public transit, for social / affordable housing, for local policing, and for emergency preparedness.

While “strong communities” need these elements, FCM seems to stop short of what a “hometown” or a community means.

So, while Pelham Council has worked hard to ensure that the Town improved its traditional infrastructure — like roads, bridges, and pipes – we have also worked to improve the quality of life for all. We understand that community is about a sense of place, about our joint heritage and shared histories, and about community activities and events.

FCM should also recognize that strong hometowns are about people – people coming together, interacting, celebrating, playing and remembering.

So, during this National election, please ask your local candidates to ensure that the Canadian Government will also help fund improvements to our quality of life – like new recreational and cultural facilities.

Provincial Consultation:
Last Thursday, I participated in a Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure consultation about how the Province should invest $15 billion over 10 years for “moving Ontario forward” outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

I commend the Ontario Government for working in partnership with Regions and communities to design programs and identify projects that will drive economic growth and address critical local infrastructure needs. They suggested potential investments in roads, bridges, public transit, high-speed internet access, and natural gas access.

During the session, I also advocated for funding for community and recreational facilities. I reminded the Parliamentary Assistant and the Ministry staff that the Province helped fund community facilities during the first round of stimulus grants and I encouraged them to add this criterion for future funds.

Please help by also offering this feedback at the Provincial consultation website at www.ontario.ca/infrastructureconsultation before September 18, 2015.


With your help, we can assist both the National and Provincial governments to develop policies and programs to help fund future quality of life investments – like a potential multi-faceted community centre.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Designing an Affordable & Desirable Community Centre

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about how Council wanted more information and took a pause in the design of a potential new Multi-Faceted Community Centre (MFCC). Council received that information last week and changed gears a little to design a more affordable facility.

You will recall that, based on a detailed business case analysis, the Town confirmed that sustaining demand for a MFCC (single-pad arena, a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, multi-purpose space, and gymnasium) existed in 2014.

So, Council appointed a citizen/user-based Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) in August 2014 to help design this type of facility. In February 2015, Council agreed with ADAC’s recommendations of adding a large multi-purpose/ performing arts space, an atrium / shared public space, and +1,200 spectator/arena seats.

Council also agreed with ADAC’s later recommendations to 1) re-evaluate the business case for building a twin-pad arena during the initial build (instead of after 2023), and 2) tender the operation of the potential centre to the private sector.

Concerned with the project’s affordability, Council also directed staff in June to determine potential capital and operating costs with the new design.

In early July, based on additional demand from minor hockey and the Junior B team, Council agreed with a Leisureplan recommendation that since “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” the Town should provide a second ice pad by 2018/19.

Last week Council learned some significant facts about the potential MFCC:
- While 16 firms considered the tender for the operation of the potential MFCC, none applied; (The YMCA has a pre-existing MOU so they felt that they did not require a tender submission.)
- A pro-forma statement, based on the Town staff running all programs and operations in the current facility design, estimates a very significant operating deficit (+$500K);
- A “Class D estimate” of the current design approximated $40 million in capital costs plus $14 million margins and contingencies, totalling $54 million;
- Since there are currently no Federal or Provincial grants available, the Town will continue to lobby for a policy change and for funding;
- While acknowledging many variables, staff estimated the Town’s debt tolerance level at $30 million – which would translate into a more than 10% tax increase;

After using the Creative Problem Solving process, Council directed staff to refine the pro forma to give an apples-to-apples comparison for operating costs, to start developing a realistic fundraising plan, and to retain a construction manager by the end of August to help make the design more affordable to build and operate.

I will continue to keep you informed about progress of the potential multi-purpose community centre.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dual-Duty Councillors Across Niagara?

Photo Credit: St. Catharines Standard.
St. Catharines Council recently voted to ask Niagara Region to ask the Province to allow a change in the way the City elects their six Regional Councillors. Regional Council will consider their request this Thursday.

Currently, St. Catharines elects 12 City Councillors (two in each of six wards), and six Regional Councillors (“at-large” across the City). City residents also elect a Mayor who serves on both Councils. That’s 19 people (12+6+1) representing the City on the two Councils.

The request would see St. Catharines represented by 13 people: the Mayor and six Councillors would serve on both City and Regional Councils, while the other six would serve only on City Council (6+6+1).

Proponents suggest that the change will reduce the number of local representatives and increase the “communication, cooperation, and accountability” between the City and Region.

Opponents suggest that the change will turn six into full-time Councillors, make local government less accountable, give “more control to developers” and political parties, and allow fewer people to make decisions.

While this double role model might work well for St. Catharines, it doesn’t work as neatly across all Niagara’s Cities and Towns.

It could work in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Thorold because their local Councillors are elected at-large. Niagara on the Lake’s and Thorold’s at-large elections could elect one person to both the local and Regional Councils and seven to local Councils; the Niagara Falls election could elect three to the City and Regional Councils and five others to City Council only.

But, this dual role model doesn’t work for in other Cities / Towns with ward systems because the number of local ward seats do not neatly match the Regional seats:  Fort Erie (6 wards / 6 local councillors / 1 regional councillor), Grimsby (4w / 8lc / 1rc), Lincoln (4w / 8lc / 1rc), Pelham (3w / 6lc / 1rc), Port Colborne (4w / 8lc / 1rc), Welland (6w / 12lc / 2rc). (Only the Mayors of Wainfleet and West Lincoln serve on Regional Council.)

If the Region agrees to the proposal, the Province will ask for at least one public meeting and require approval by the Region, and by a majority of the Cities, Towns, and Township Councils representing a majority of Niagara’s population.

While I am might support this change for St. Catharines, this dual-role plan will not work across Niagara. Nor is it needed in Pelham because we receive a written and verbal report by Regional Councillor Baty at every Town Council meeting.

Finally, while we discuss improving governance, I will continue to advocate for directly electing the Chair of Regional Council “at large” across all of Niagara.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Community Centre Design Paused & Twin-Pad Recommended

In April I provided you with a timeline for the design and possible construction of a new Multi-Faceted Community Centre in the East Fonthill area. Council recently paused that process to get more information.

You will recall that, based on a resident survey, a detailed business case analysis and a comparison to industry standards, Council confirmed that sustaining demand for a multi-faceted community centre containing a single-pad arena (with a potential second-pad after 2023), a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, multi-purpose space, and gymnasium sports / uses existed in 2014.

So, Council appointed a citizen/user-based Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) in August 2014 to help design this type of facility.

In February 2015, Council agreed with ADAC’s recommendations of adding a large multi-purpose/ performing arts space, an atrium / shared public space, and +1,200 spectator/arena seats.

Council also agreed with ADAC’s later recommendations to 1) re-evaluate the business case for building a twin-pad arena during the initial build (instead of after 2023), and 2) tender the operation of the potential centre to the private sector.

After presenting a draft schematic design to ADAC and Council in the winter, the Architect worked with individual users via specialized consultations this spring. On June 18, ADAC approved the architect’s revised schematic design in principal.

On June 23, Council also approved this design in principal, but paused further work by the architect until Town staff provided a high-level costing evaluation of the design and until ADAC met to review the plan again. (Please click here for a copy of the latest schematic design.)

Concerned with the project’s affordability, Council also met on June 29 and directed staff to provide additional information to help determine potential capital and operating costs for the revised design, including: 1) fundraising potential; 2) grant potential from other Governments; 3) estimated operating revenue; 4) any benefit of increased assessment; 5) results of twin-pad business case re-evaluation; and 6) response to the tender for potential private-sector operation. Town Staff expects to present this information to Council over the summer.

Finally, Council received the first report on Monday – the re-evaluated business case for a potential twin-pad arena. LeisurePlan updated their 2013 projections by considering missing information and additional demand from existing arena ice-users (13-15 hours/week) and from the Pelham Panthers Junior B Team (5 hours/week). They concluded that “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” and therefore recommended that the Town “should consider the provision of a second ice pad by 2018/19.” (Please click here for a copy of the report.)

I will continue to keep you informed about progress of the potential multi-purpose community centre.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Canada Day in Pelham 2015!

As we take this opportunity to gather and to proudly celebrate all it means to be Canadian, let’s also celebrate all the wonderful features about our Town!

From breathtaking vistas, to babbling brooks, to plentiful orchards and rich agricultural soil, Pelham enjoys a refreshingly natural and rural character. This natural character especially stands out during the spring and summer.

From the historic settlements of Effingham, Fenwick, Fonthill, Ridgeville, and North Pelham, the Town of Pelham remains grounded with a distinctive, small-town feel.

Home to diverse and creative businesses, Pelham also offers unique goods and services to residents and visitors. Their continued success depends on our patronage.

You and I are also blessed to have so many of our neighbours working to make our Town a prosperous, vibrant and caring community. I continue to marvel at the work and dedication of so many generous volunteers who form the foundation of our vibrant community. From the Fenwick Lions Carnival, to the weekly Farmer’s Markets, to the 10th Annual Fonthill Bandshell Concert Series, to Pelham Summerfest, to the Canada Day Parade, volunteers organize and run our Town’s significant public events.  From Communities in Bloom, to the Horticultural Society, to those that have “adopted a road”, volunteers work to beautify our Town. In every sport from baseball and hockey, to soccer and tennis, volunteers – like the coaches, convenors, and score keepers – ensure that our children enjoy the fun-of-the-game.

We also live in a peaceful, safe community with great schools, and many recreation opportunities. We enjoy clean water, wonderful libraries, and a great mix of fully-accessible neighbourhood and community parks.

A devoted volunteer firefighters, dedicated police service, and expert emergency personnel protect you and I from harm. We have fair access to good and affordable healthcare.

We enjoy freedoms of conscience and religion, of thought, belief, opinion and expression, of assembly, and of association. We are free from persecution and from tyranny.

And, while we may have some work in a few of these areas, when compared on a global scale, we fare very well and should be very thankful.

The Pan Am & Para Pan Am Games and the FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by and in Canada this summer help showcase our amazing country and her dedicated volunteers

As you and your family and friends commemorate our country’s 148th Birthday, I hope you will join me in celebrating and in giving thanks for our Pelham and our Canada.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

East Fonthill Finally Proceeding

Breaking ground with David Allen of Fonthill Gardens Inc.
Maryanne Firth/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network
On Friday afternoon, Town Council, Staff and consultants, Federal, Provincial, and Regional representatives, and land-owner representatives gathered to break ground for the East Fonthill development.

Why was it an historic moment for Pelham? Because 25-years of thinking, discussing and planning have finally become action and construction!

Former Mayor Ralph Beamer told me that it took more than a decade to get Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approval in 2000 to expand Pelham’s built boundary from east of Station Street to Rice Road – creating the 450 acres of “East Fonthill.”

But the OMB ruled that the Town needed to undertake more detailed planning – called a Secondary Plan – before development could proceed. Pelham’s 2000/03 Council hired the Planning Partnership to work together with the community and area developers to finalize the plan.

The 2003/06 Council, led by former Mayor Ron Leavens, purchased 32 acres of land at the corner of Hwy 20 and Rice Road to build recreational facilities and playing fields, and to construct a gateway feature. That Council also gave control of the Secondary Plan to private sector developers – hoping it could be completed more quickly.

Since 2006, Council and I took back the leadership of the Secondary Plan and, with exceptional planning and legal resources, worked together with the development community, the Region, and the public to complete the Plan and get OMB approval in January 2014.

Then we overcame the next obstacle by thinking more broadly. We notionally erased ownership lines and thought not just about the Town lands or the commercial / mixed use lands, but about how we might ensure this new area could improve the rest of the Town. And, Council directed Town CAO Darren Ottaway to work very closely with the commercial developer to design a great development.

This great development not only includes new commercial, retail, and food establishments, but also a Medical Centre, a significant Retirement Residence, and new Wellspring Niagara Cancer Support Centre. This development also includes a gateway pond, pedestrian and cycle-friendly paths and roads, a two-acre public square, new parks, and protection of significant environmental features – all linked to existing community. Finally, the development also includes space for a potential new Community Centre – with a single-pad arena, expandable to two pads, fitness facility and walking track, double gymnasium, multi-purpose & performing arts space.

With the vision, determination, and hard work of so many, we have worked together to complete this 25-year steeplechase. This groundbreaking signifies the start of construction of a more integrated and complete community and puts Council’s vision of a more vibrant, creative, and caring Pelham into action.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Welcoming Proposals to Operate Potential Community Centre

At our Pelham Council meeting last week, we received the March minutes of the Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC). (You will recall that Council appointed ADAC last August – with representatives from recreation user groups, youth, seniors, artists, service clubs and the community-at-large – to provide advice on the design of a potential new Community Centre.)

The March minutes of the ADAC’s meetings highlighted the committee’s interest in the way in which the facility might be operated. Some members expressed concerns with the Town beginning discussions with the YMCA of Niagara to potentially operate the fitness and other components of the potential Multifaceted Community Centre. Some committee members thought that the Town should ask the private-sector to put forward proposals to operate the Centre; others suggested that the Town should operate the potential Centre ourselves.

Over the weeks since Council signed a memorandum of understanding with the YMCA to begin talks, some members of the public have also expressed similar concerns.

Council addressed these concerns at our June 1st meeting by directing staff to “explore additional means by which programs and activities within the proposed multi-faceted community centre can be delivered.”

Highlighting the importance of transparency and community involvement, Council asked staff to recommend operating solutions that “ensure and maximize effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability, all the while meeting and sustaining the needs and demands of the community.”

Council accepted Town Staff’s suggestion to develop and issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to operate components of the potential new facility. Staff will investigate service delivery options and potential operating partnerships, which may include not-for-profit, for-profit, or other public/private-partnerships.

In essence, the motion puts the memorandum of understanding between the Town of Pelham and the YMCA of Niagara to explore an operating agreement on hold.

Rather, this June 1st motion opens up the process and allows others (and including the YMCA) to put together a bid to potentially operate the new Centre.

Allowing enough time for bidders to develop and submit their proposals, and for Staff to evaluate and make a recommendation, Staff suggested the entire process could take six to eight weeks.

Finally, Council reiterated that this RFP process should in no way impact the Community Centre design timelines. The Architect hopes to present a final draft schematic design to ADAC on June 18, and Council will receive this plan and ADAC’s feedback on June 23. Then, since Council wants to ensure that you and other members of the public have a chance to review these plans, we hope you will participate in public consultations (at community events like Pelham Summerfest) in July.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Improving Thursday Evenings in Pelham’s Peace Park

Over the last six weeks, Council approved requests from the Pelham Farmers’ Market, Pelham Supper Market, Fonthill Bandshell, and the broader community to help improve the Thursday Evening experience in Peace Park in Pelham.

And, based on some significant (and largely negative) feedback, Council reversed one of its earlier decisions.

First, Council approved expanding the number of Supper Market vendors and to include even more flavours and varieties. Some venders will also offer cooking demonstrations by local chefs using fresh produce from the nearby Farmers’ Market.

Second, Council approved the request from the Pelham Farmer’s Market to allow Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wine samples and sales in the market (as permissible through a Provincial pilot program). Any wine purchased is intended for personal use at home. I took advantage of this opportunity last Thursday and bought wine from Calamus Winery. (Vineland Estates also sells their wines at the Fenwick Farmer’s Market – Wednesday nights at St. Ann’s Church.)

Third, because of significant feedback from the Fonthill Bandshell and the broader community, all of Peace Park will NOT be licensed for alcohol; only a portion of the Park – the northern part containing the Supper Market – will be fenced and licensed.

In mid-April, upon recommendation from Town Staff, Council initially approved licensing all of Peace Park for the consumption of craft beer and local wine. The Special Occasion Permit would have required placing a discreet 36” fence around the Park’s perimeter each week, except for six access points. Licensing the entire area was to be a trial and Staff were to report monthly to Council.

But, after meeting directly with volunteers organizing the Bandshell, the Farmer’s Market, and the Suppermarket, and listening to the significant public opposition to the change, Council reversed this decision in early-May.

In late-May, Staff recommended that the Bandshell hire Police to patrol Peace Park to ensure folks weren’t drinking alcohol in the non-licensed areas while enjoying the concerts. Instead, Council directed staff to hire security personnel to monitor the non-licensed area at the Town’s expense.

Finally, Council approved a joint promotions committee to help circulate a weekly newsletter about the features of the Farmers’ and Supper Markets, the Bandshell schedule, shuttle bus and parking information, and to review operations.

After considering the recommendations of Staff and the feedback from residents and some of the Town’s most dedicated volunteers, Council approved these improvements so that your Thursday evenings in Peace Park might continue to offer a unique experience of food, family, friendship, music and fun. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 25, 2015

“Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own”

I haven’t written here lately because my family and I travelled to Europe for a couple of weeks on a long-planned trip. While there, we attended some special commemorations.

Celebrating Liberation Day:
Jim Summersides, Wageningen, 5 May 2015
On May 5, we travelled to Wageningen, where 70 years before German General Blaskowitz surrendered to Canadian General Foulkes, officially ending the war in the Netherlands.

Each year on this Liberation Day, Wageningen hosts a huge festival and parade. Being the 70th Anniversary, the parade this year included hundreds of Allied veteran soldiers (including 70 World War II vets from Canada), marching bands from varies Allied nations (including the Burlington Teen Tour Band), and current troops and cadets. Thousands and thousands lined the parade route – at least five or six people deep – and cheered and applauded each of the veterans driven by in vintage vehicles.

We knew that among those Canadian veterans was Jim Summersides, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613 in Fonthill. It wasn’t easy finding him from among the hundreds of vets sheltered under several structural tents at the parade-start. Finally, we found him being led to one of the parade’s jeeps; you see, Summersides wasn’t with the others was because he was among eight veterans speaking with our Prime Minister. (You may recall that American Congressional leaders awarded Summersides and 41 other Canadians with the Congressional Gold Medal on February 3 for their service and determination in the first Joint Canadian-American Special Forces unit.)

Full Honours:
The next day, on our way to Belgium, we specifically travelled to the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen-op-Zoom. We arrived just as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian government, and family, laid the remains of Private Albert Laubenstein from Saskatoon to rest. While serving with the Lincoln & Welland Regiment, Pte. Laubenstein was killed during the Battle of Kapelsche Veer on Jan. 26, 1945. While Laubenstein’s body was interred in a battlefield grave, during the chaos at the end-of-the war, his grave was lost. His remains were discovered in 2014. Now he was buried with full honours with fellow members of his regiment near a large monument that reads “Their Name Liveth For Evermore.”

What Is Freedom?
Two huge banners surrounded one of the three Wageningen music stages on Liberation Day. Loosely translated, one banner read “Freedom Is Something We Celebrate Together!” The other: “Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own.” My family and I will remember both poignant statements whenever we recall our special trip and commemorate our veterans.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Please Help Protect the Fonthill Kame, Again!

The Ontario Government is currently seeking feedback as they review four land-use plans: Greenbelt Plan, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and Niagara Escarpment Plan.

On behalf of Pelham Town Council, I recently wrote to the Expert Advisory Panel of this Land-Use Planning Review and implored them to increase the protection of the Fonthill Kame. I am hoping that you too will write to the Panel to indicate your support.

The “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is Niagara’s 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 Fonthill Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region. As the “hill” in Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville, the feature also serves as a significant water recharge area and forms the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek. Further, the Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit production including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, plums and pears.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) in 1988 as a way to help restrict development.

The Province also protected parts of the Kame with general provisions in either the Niagara Escarpment Plan or specific provisions in the 2005 Greenbelt Plan.

And, you will recall that after considerable public feedback, research and scientific evaluation, MNR confirmed a new ANSI boundary for the Kame in October 2013.

Sadly however, despite these efforts to protect it, residential development and aggregate extraction pressures seriously threaten the Kame.

As the Province reviews the Greenbelt Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, they could inadvertently (or purposefully!) lessen these protections of the Fonthill Kame.

That’s why I wrote the Expert Panel and urged them to reinforce the recent ANSI re-designation by increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame in their land use Plans. (Please click here to review a copy of my letter.)

Now, I am asking you to provide similar feedback to the Panel before May 28; please let them know that you are interested in protecting the Kame and curtailing further aggregate extraction or development.

Please email your comments to landuseplanningreview@ontario.ca or send mail to:
Land Use Planning Review
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Ontario Growth Secretariat
777 Bay Street
Suite 425 (4th floor)
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5.

Thank you for helping to further protect the Fonthill-Kame so that its distinctive features, microclimatic and water recharge functions might be better safeguarded for future generations!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Design of Community Centre Progressing

At our April 7 meeting, Council received an updated timeline for the design and potential construction of a new Multi-Faceted Community Centre in the East Fonthill area.

You will recall that based on a resident survey, a detailed business case analysis and a comparison to industry standards, Council confirmed sustaining demand for a multi-faceted community centre containing a single-pad arena (with the potential second-pad after 2023), a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, multi-purpose space, and gymnasium sports / uses. This business case demonstrated that the operating costs could be accommodated within the net costs for the existing arena ($92,486 in 2013). Given the dire condition of the existing arena, Council also determined that a potential new community centre should be part of other imminent East Fonthill developments – Medical Centre, Retirement Home, Wellspring Cancer Support Centre, and new retail.

Council appointed an Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) last August – with representatives from recreation user groups, youth, seniors, artists, service clubs and the community-at-large. In addition to recommending hiring the architect, the committee recommended adding a large multi-purpose, performing arts space (~6,000 sq ft), an atrium / shared public space (~9,600 sq ft) that would help link each of the centre’s main elements, and 1,200 to 1,500 spectator seats in the first arena to support ice and non-ice ice uses.

After working with the committee and presenting draft schematic designs in February, the Architect is now working with individual ADAC members on a series of specialized consultations. For example, representatives of ice users – figure skating, minor hockey, Junior B, etc. – met to review their specific needs. This process should be completed by the end of the April.

Based on these specialized consultations, the Architect hopes to present a final draft schematic design and preliminary capital-cost estimates in June. While ADAC and Council will review this plan, Council also wants to ensure that the public has a chance to review this progress at that time.

And, based on several requests from the community, Council has also asked for a concurrent report outlining the capital and operating cost-benefit analysis of building the second ice pad during the initial build instead of after 2023.

The Architect committed to presenting detailed design documents in September 2015. This will allow for “tighter” construction cost estimates. If these documents are approved, then “construction-ready” tender documents could be ready by January/February 2016.

This is an exciting project for Pelham! I will continue to keep you informed about progress on the potential multi-purpose community centre.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pelham’s 2015 Residential Taxes to Increase by 0.8%


As I wrote about last week, at our March 26 Regional Council meeting, we approved the 2015 Property Tax Rates and Tax Ratios. These rates and ratios apply to all property tax classes across all Cities, Towns, and Townships throughout Region.

What does it mean for Pelham?

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 by each of the tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

You may recall that 2013 was a “reassessment” year. That means that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) – the Provincial body that sets a value your home and property – re-evaluated and assessed all properties in the Province as of January 1, 2012. While this amount will be used as the value of your home in 2016, MPAC phases in any assessment increases evenly over a four-year period. The Town uses that changing assessment value when we calculate your property taxes each year.

When Town Council approved our 2015 Budget on February 17, we anticipated that the Pelham portion of your property tax bill would increase by 1.9%.

Now that the Region (+1.6%) and the Province (-2.3%) set their rates, we know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (valued at $302,815) in Pelham will be 0.8% or approximately $32. We anticipate this increase to be the lowest or second lowest in Niagara Region again this year.

The average increase of property taxes on your combined residential property tax bill for the last five years was 1.3% (total increase 6.9%). This was the “pocket-book” increase – the amount it cost an average residential property owner by adjusting for the average MPAC increase.

How do we measure whether that is “good” or not? Another important comparator would be inflation. Inflation for the last five-year period was 8.5% or an average of 1.6% per year.

I hope you too are pleased that our residential tax increases have been 1.6% below inflation for the last five years. Please see the chart for more information.

Pelham Council and I continue to direct staff to ensure that we only minimally impact you and other property tax-payers while we increase the level and quality of services to the Town.