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.