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: You will also soon be able to view background budget information at the Town’s website:

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.