Monday, March 28, 2016

An Elegant and Affordable Community Centre for Pelham

Last Tuesday, Council received several presentations about the Pelham Community Centre.

The Architects presented an elegant yet very efficient design that includes adaptable and multi-purpose community spaces, a double-gymnasium (dividable into four sections), a double arena (main arena with 1000 seats; second with less than 100 seats), an indoor walking/running track, a concession area, change rooms and washrooms, and an atrium / lobby area. (Please click here to see the Architect's slide presentation.)

Based on an item-by-item-review of the design and informed by their experience on more than 30 community facilities, Ball Construction estimated the construction costs at $32.5 million. The construction managers also pegged total project costs – including design, furniture, fixtures, permits – at $36.2 million. (Please click here to watch a video of Ball Construction's presentation.)

Staff stated that the Community Centre will cost $46.66 for an average residential property (assessed at $309,200) or 3.44% on the 2016 Pelham portion of the tax bill only. That amount will allow the Town to purchase a 30-year debenture of $9.07 million from Infrastructure Ontario. Since Council already approved project funds in our 2016 Budget, the Town will not require any further property tax increases to build the Centre beyond this year.

The Town will fund the remaining costs through development charges, East Fonthill land sales, and fundraising. (Please click here for Staff's slide presentation.)

All new housing units and construction pay Development Charges (DCs) to cover the costs for the facilities and infrastructure required to help serve their new developments. The Town’s DCs can fund $12.1 million for the Centre.

In 2005, the Town purchased the 32-acres at the corner of Rice Road and Hwy 20 for $3.6 million ($112,000 per acre). After re-designating, re-zoning, and fully-servicing those lands, the Town will be able to sell nearly 20 acres for an estimated $12 million ($600,000 per acre). (Including the $1.1 million in interest payments, this sale would represent a return on investment of +150%.)

Based on a number of one-on-one interviews, a professional fundraising feasibility study recommends that the community can raise at least $3 million for the Centre. The Town will acknowledge donor generosity through naming and various other types of donor recognition.

This conservative financial plan does not include revenue from other sources like assessment growth from new housing/developments or from upper levels of government. (Council and I will continue to work with local MPs and MPPs to attract government investments for this project and/or other infrastructure improvements.

You may review the designs and the financing plans for this very important and exciting project at or at Town Hall or Library branches. And, you may speak to the Architect, Construction Manager, Town Staff, volunteer Architectural Design Advisory Committee members and Councillors at Open Houses on Saturday, April 16:

  • Fire Station #2 (766 Welland Rd.) from 10:00 AM to Noon;
  • Fire Station #1 (177 Hwy #20) from 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Thanks for your interest in this very important and exciting project for Pelham!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Starting Public Engagement About Pelham Community Centre

Over the last number of years, Pelham Council has diligently scrutinized and prepared for a potential Community Centre. Starting next week, final designs, cost estimates, and financing options will be available to Council and the community.

In late-2012, Council directed staff to provide an executive summary of the seven consultant and staff reports – which date back to 1990 – recommending new or improved recreational and community facilities.

In 2013, we hired LeisurePlan International to conduct a statistically-significant resident survey about our community’s needs and preferences. They also tested the business case for various community facilities.

In 2014, LeisurePlan presented a number of reports demonstrating sustaining-demand for a Community Centre and recommending that the Town construct a facility in the East Fonthill development area. Council also established an Architectural Design Advisory Committee with volunteers representing various recreational user groups, youth, seniors, artists, service clubs and the community-at-large. (You may access these report at

During 2015, the Committee worked with the architect, LeisurePlan, and staff to develop concept drawings and presented a design. Council directed staff to hire a construction manager to review and refine the design and to develop an operating pro forma.

All this work confirms the need and the sustaining-demand for a Community Centre that would include adaptable and multi-purpose community spaces, a double-gymnasium, an indoor walking/running track, and a double-arena. This facility could serve as the hub for residents of all ages to gather and enjoy a wide-variety of recreational, health, and community activities for many years.

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016, Council will receive updated information about the potential Pelham Community Centre, including presentations from the architect with the design and elevations, the construction manager reviewing the construction costs, and staff with details about financing.

Council plans to officially receive this information – thereby making it publically available – as the start of 4-5 weeks of community engagement.

We recognize that not everyone is able to drop everything to attend a Council meeting or an open house. That’s why there will be many ways for people to get information about the project.

For example, so that hundreds of folks can review the March 22 information, the Town will post the video of the presentations on the Town’s website at on Wednesday, March 23. Further, Cogeco TV will broadcast the presentations on Thursday, March 24 at 1:00 pm.

The weeks of public engagement will also include at least one open house – at the largest venue possible – so folks can speak directly to the architect, the construction manager, Town staff, and Councillors. Please watch traditional and social media for details about this meeting soon.

Finally, we are also planning several other opportunities – presentations to service clubs, athletic groups, and Town committees, and displays at various Town facilities and at the Pelham Home Show – for folks to learn about this exciting project.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

“Three-Peat” Freeze & Best in Niagara

I am thrilled that Council is set to approve another freeze on our residential and commercial water and waste water rates. Because of ongoing efficiencies and innovations, the Town will absorb the Region’s 3.2% water rate increase and 1.8% waste water increase.

How are we able to freeze rates for 2016 and how do we compare to others in Niagara?

RF Meters Paying Dividends:
Prior to 2010 the Town measured water usage and calculated waste water charges with old gallon and cubic meter odometer-type wheel meters – many from the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the aged-meters counted slowly or were failing/broken. It took two weeks to collect readings. If a system leaked, it could take months to detect.

In 2010, the Town worked with Neptune Technology to replace and upgrade all 4,200 our meters to electronic, RF (Radio Frequency) meters. In addition to leak, backflow, and tamper detection, it only takes 3-4 hours for staff to collect usage data every two months.

Not only does this cost less and give much more accurate billing, but we also automatically notify residents / businesses by phone if there is a leak or other issue with their water service. And, after replacing all the meters, we reduced our water loss from +20% to less than 10%.

Infrastructure Upgrades:
As you know, we have also upgraded significant Town infrastructure over the last number of years. As we reconstructed or improved roads like Haist Street, Pelham Street, and Canboro Road we also replaced old water and sewer pipes. Over the last nine years, we replaced more than 13 kilometers of cast iron water mains, which helped stop costly leaks and reduces the number of breaks and repairs.

Best in Niagara:
I reviewed the most up-to-date rates and calculated the fixed charges and the rates for both water and waste water for Pelham and for the other local municipalities. At $161 for two months (for the average residential use of 50 cubic metres) Pelham leads the pack with the lowest combined water and waste water charges!

Half of our neighbours – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Thorold, and West Lincoln – are between 19% and 29% more expensive. The others – Fort Erie, Lincoln, Port Colborne, and Welland – are more than 49% more expensive! (Please see the comparative chart at by clicking here for all the details.)

Council and I are pleased that our investments in innovation and infrastructure continue to pay dividends and allow us to “three-peat” the water and sewer rate freeze.