Monday, July 17, 2017

Thanks for Another Amazing Summerfest!

On behalf of Council, thank you to the 2017 Summerfest Committee, Town Staff, service club and other volunteers for your hard-work and dedication and to the many generous sponsors who made this year’s four-day Summerfest an amazing success – with the highest attendance yet!

Pelham Summerfest 2017 (Photo: Cameron Young)
First, I greatly appreciate the work of the Summerfest Committee, including John Wink, Chair; Councillor Gary Accursi; Bill Gibson, Active Transportation Committee rep; Candy Ashby, Pelham Business Association rep; Matthew Leask and Michelle Stewart, Pelham residents; and Sofia Labricciosa and Mackenna Belding, Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council reps! The committee met for since last Fall to plan and finalize every detail and they worked very, very hard all weekend long to ensure a successful festival. Thank you very much!

Second, thanks so much to Town Staff! Thanks to Vickie van Ravenswaay, Sally Jaeger, Jodi Hendriks and other staff who helped organize the overall event and worked with the Committee to ensure success. I also appreciate the many Town staff who volunteered in one capacity or another – from setting up, to serving beverages, to cleaning up – throughout the four days; thanks for giving your time to our community. And, thanks to the (mainly) Public Works staff who worked during the Festival on logistics, garbage and recycling duty, and ensured the safety of participants and all the major clean-up!

Third, thanks to the very many members of the Town’s service clubs – including the Fonthill & District Kinsmen and Kinettes Clubs, the Fonthill Lions and Lioness Clubs, Fenwick Lions, and the Fonthill Rotary Club – for helping serve beverages and greeting patrons. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Fourth, thanks to the other members of the community who also volunteered! Thanks to members of the Pelham Fire Service, the Pelham Active Transportation Committee, St. John’s Ambulance, members of Town Council, and the many, many other community volunteers.

Fifth, thank you to the many Sponsors and Friends of Pelham Summerfest including our Gold Sponsors: Ball Construction, Brock University, Fonthill Bandshell, Fonthill Dental, Halco Mobile, Lafarge Canada, McAvoy Belan & Campbell, Meridian Credit Union, Niagara Peninsula Energy, and RBC Royal Bank. And, thanks to our amazing Media Partners including: Country 89; Giant FM; MyPelham.com; Niagara This Week; Pelham News; the Standard; and the Tribune.

Finally, thanks to the more than 40,000 people – the largest number ever – who enjoyed the Seventh Annual Pelham Summerfest over the festival’s four days. Your attendance and community spirit made it a huge success and shows why it’s one of Festival Events Ontario’s Top 100 Events.

On behalf of Council, I appreciate the vision, dedication, and tremendous work by so many volunteers and staff to celebrate our vibrant, creative, and caring community. Thank you and congratulations on a resounding and overwhelming success!

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mayors Meetings

A member of the community has recently raised questions about a June meeting of some of Niagara's Mayors and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs).

The CAOs, the Treasurers, the Planners, the Public Works officials and other Staff of the local area municipalities and the Region meet periodically to share ideas, best practices, and discuss opportunities for working together better.

I recall three times in the last 6 years where the Mayors and CAOs met. Once at City Hall in St. Catharines and hosted by former Mayor McMullan (prior to 2014); once in Niagara on the Lake at White Oaks about 7 months ago; and recently at the Town Hall in Fort Erie. (Please note that I did not host or call the meeting, as one suggested.)

As the notes of the last meeting show, the discussions are about ways in which we can work more collaboratively together. (Please click here to review the notes from that June meeting.)

For example, when the City of Welland CAO reiterated the public presentation he recently made about Regional Development Charges, the direction of the discussion with the Mayors and CAOs was about the impact on local area municipalities.

Then, it was the Regional Economic Development Officer who presented information about the Community Improvement Plans and the Region’s hope of working with the municipalities for more collaboration. It is noteworthy that this discussion was initiated by the Region to further something called “Team Niagara” – better collaboration across Niagara.

Next were discussions regarding Intermunicipal Transit and Airports. Again, joint areas of interest.

Then there was an important discussion regarding shared services and administration. The CAOs are working on increasing ways for the Cities and Towns to share specific services to find efficiencies and work together. These could reduce costs – because of economies of scale – or help with economic development across Niagara. Some examples were cited. I suggested that the CAOs make recommendations to local Councils for the various areas in which we might work closer together.

Finally, since my elected colleagues had already heard me at the Region address Pelham Council’s jurisdictional concerns of Regional Council getting involved in the affairs of Niagara’s Cities and Towns, the Town’s CAO addressed this jurisdictional concern from an administration perspective to other CAOs.

The Niagara Mayors have met occasionally, on our own, through the years. I understood from former Mayor Goulbourne (Welland) that the Mayors met often during the 2003-06 term. I understand that during the 1997-2000 and 2000-03 terms there were meetings of the Mayors.

The Southern Mayors (Pelham, Welland, Port Colborne, Wainfleet, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls) have gotten together more frequently recently – 2-3 times per year – to plan our joint presentations to the joint Chambers of Commerce.

The Mayors of Welland, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls and the Regional Chair and CAOs have met extensively (every 3 or 6 weeks) over the last year-and-a-half to help coordinate efforts on Intermunicipal Transit.

People expect Niagara’s Cities, Towns, and Townships to share best practices, the find efficiencies, and to work together. These types of meetings should continue to help all to meet those goals.

Monday, July 10, 2017

“Ahead of schedule and under budget”

A couple of weeks ago, Bill Gibson, Chair of the Pelham Community Centre Oversight Committee, presented an upbeat update to Council.

Looking East into Accipiter Arena (from second floor)
You will recall that Council addressed suggestions from the public for proper project supervision by establishing Community Centre Oversight Committee. The committee includes two community members, one Council rep, and the Chief Administrative Officer. This committee works to ensure that the Town receives value-for-money in every aspect of the project, the project gets delivered on time and on budget, and to provide the community with consistent and timely updates.

Mr. Gibson provided updates on the two tender packages, project milestones, and finances.

The first tender package included pre-grading site work, building excavating, site servicing, foundation, structural steel, elevator and stairwell shafts, sprinkler system, roof deck, and hollow core slabs. Tender package two covered the concrete floors, reinforced steel (for masonry and slabs), interior/exterior masonry, spray insulation, roofing, insulated metal siding, zinc paneling, metal doors and frames, finish hardware, glazing, drywall/acoustics, dash boards, and seating. These two tender packages account for 77% of the total project.

Atrium Lobby (facing South)
Working as the construction manager, Ball Construction did not just tender the entire project. Rather Ball works with the committee, the architect, and the various contractors to manage the project’s timing and construction.

The presentation indicated that this value engineering process, led by Ball Construction, and the work of the committee, “has resulted in a project that, as of this date, has in excess of 75 percent of all sub contracts awarded (including work completed) which results in the project being ahead of schedule and under budget, including the 9,000 square feet of additional space.”

The presentation made clear that it was Ball Construction that suggested adding 9,000 square feet to the community centre in June 2016 to increase accessibility in hallways, common areas, and areas with heavy foot-traffic. They based this recommendation on their experience building more than 30 recreational / community centres in Ontario. Because it was so early in the process, the architect changed the plans well before issuing final drawings. Further, Ball signed on to the $32.5 million construction price cap in September 2016 – which includes these changes. Finally, since Ball tendered the project with these improvements, there will be no additional costs to improve the Centre.

Activity Centre (double gymnasium) looking South
The work is on target to enclose the building by the end of December, and for the project to be “substantially complete” by June 2018.

This construction update, the recent fundraising announcement – “Thanks a Million, Pelham” – and the recent signing of 5-year, binding agreements with major user groups demonstrates great progress!

Council and I look forward to the Pelham Community Centre becoming the place for residents of all ages to gather and enjoy a wide-variety of recreational, social, health and community activities for many, many years.

______________________________

Accipiter Arena - July 2017


Duliban Insurance Arena & Walker Industries Viewing Galleria - July 2017


Activity Centre (double gymnasiums) - July 2017


Dr. Gary & Mall Accursi Multipurpose Area - July 2017




To see recent videos and pictures the Pelham Community Centre construction process, please visit www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca. You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca.

_____________________________
14 July 2017 Correction: The initial post cited Mr. Bill Gibson as Bob. I apologize to Bill for the error, but greatly thank him for his service as Chair! D

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Canada 150, Pelham!

Happy Canada 150!

Saturday became our opportunity to celebrate being Canadian and to celebrate our great nation’s special birthday! But we also took the opportunity to celebrate and to appreciate all wonderful features about our Town.

Our Town parade showcased many of the elements that make our community special – from the commitment of the Pelham Fire Service, to our numerous sport teams, to our dedicated volunteers, to our many devoted service clubs.

We 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.

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

And, as we marked Canada Day, we also embraced our history and our collective individuality.

After surveying where the ancestors of more than 150 Pelham residents were in 1867, the Historical Society unveiled “Pelham Roots Go Deep” display. The display graphically shows – with locations as the roots of the Comfort Maple – the multitude of countries and areas that make up our past.

We also unveiled Pelham’s 150 Mosaic Mural – a combination of more than 400 individual tiles painted by residents of all ages and skill levels and signifying an important element of Pelham or themselves. Artists Lewis & Paul Lavoie and Phil Alain then rearranged the tiles to depict the Comfort Maple. This art work will be displayed in the new Pelham Community Centre next year. (To see the mural, please click here.)

Thanks to the many contributions to make Canada Day in Pelham so special!

Thanks to the Rotary Club of Fonthill & District for the free children’s activities; to the Fonthill Lions & Lioness Clubs for great food – including poutine; to members of Niagara Regional Police Service who directed traffic; to St. John Ambulance who were at the ready to help as needed; to Kirk on the Hill and AK Wigg School and Pelham Evangelical Friends Church for parade logistics. We also deeply appreciate our many generous sponsors, including Heritage Canada; Fonthill Volunteer Firefighters Association (for donation to the amazing fireworks); Niagara Peninsula Energy; Sawmill Golf Course; and Sobey’s Fonthill (for the delicious Canada Day cake).

Finally, thanks to the Canada Day organizing committee, including Fred Arbour, Rhys Evans, Marylou Hilliard, Sue Kicul, Bill King, Steve Pellerin, and Lance Wiebe, and to Town recreation and public works staff for all logistics.

As you and your family and friends continue to commemorate our country’s 150th Birthday, let us celebrate, and let us be thankful for our Town of Pelham and for our great nation. Happy 150 Canada!

Please read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca and contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Comparing Pelham’s Residential Taxes

If you pay your property taxes by installments, you will know that your third installment of your 2017 property tax bill comes due on Friday. With this deadline, why not “take stock” of Pelham’s property taxes and compare with other Cities and Towns?

You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not solely based on the Market Value Assessment of your property by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC); one must multiply your assessment by each of these three tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

With the Region and the Province making some last policy changes and adjustments for rates and tax ratios, we now know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (which is valued at $316,400) in Pelham is 2.0%. Because of those changes, that’s actually a 0.3% decrease from what I reported to you in April.

You can consider this 2.0% a “pocket-book” increase – an increase in the amount it cost an average residential property owner by adjusting for the average MPAC increase.

How do we measure whether that amount is “affordable” or not?

One independent way to judge whether Pelham’s taxes are “affordable” is to compare with inflation. For example, the Bank of Canada calculated that, over the last 11 years (January to January), inflation increased the value of goods and services by 19.7%. Over the same period, Pelham’s combined taxes for the average residential property in Pelham increased by 19.7% – the same level as inflation. Notionally, that means that the average home is paying the same level of taxes in 2017 that they did in 2006.

And, this 19.7% includes the equivalent of approximately 1.1% (in 2016) to fund the Pelham Community Centre. And, it also includes our annual increases for improved infrastructure – approximately 1.7% over the last three years, for example – supporting new roads, pipes, and other capital improvements.

What about a more concrete way to judge? How about if we compare Pelham with other Niagara Cities, Towns, and Townships?

Last November, the Region published a table of non-blended property tax increases from 2010 to 2016 for local municipalities. If you start at zero and add up the cumulative increases from 2010, Niagara Municipalities increased their property taxes an average of 35% over the last seven years.

Pelham stands-out as the second lowest by increasing at 25% – including funding for the Community Centre in 2016. That’s 27% below the average increase. Only Grimsby was lower than Pelham (at 23%). Even the Region was higher than the Town, at 29% (if you don’t include the benefit of Provincial uploading).

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


Check out historic charts or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca. Please contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fonthill East Development Progressing

Over the last two Wednesdays I presented updates about the developments in Fonthill East to residents of the senior’s apartments on Pelham Town Square. I thought I would share some of those updates here with you now.

Summersides Boulevard: 
In this year’s budget, Council re-approved the construction of a new street linking Downtown Fonthill (by extending Pelham Town Square) with Wellspring Way and Rice Road. The street will include a centre boulevard, trees, and wide multipurpose sidewalks/trails on both sides. Council named the road after Jim Summersides, a World War II veteran of the elite, joint Canadian-American "First Special Service Force," and dedicated member of the Fonthill Royal Canadian Legion.

While much of the eastern portion was constructed last year, Council recently approved the completion of the western link to Station Street this year. Initially the intersection will have a four-way stop but we plan to construct a small-roundabout there in the future.

Council is committed to constructing this road to help better link newer developments with Downtown Fonthill, the Library, Post Office, Peace Park and Town Hall.

Walking & Cycling Paths:
You may have noticed some landscaping along Regional Road 20 from the new Tim Hortons to Wellspring Way. Did you also notice a new walking and cycling path at the corner of Rice and Port Robinson Roads, leading around the new development and the Community Centre?

Both of these features exemplify Council’s commitment to making the Town more walkable and cyclable. Soon, for instance, Ontario Hydro will start burying the hydro lines along Hwy 20 – in the area from the new landscaping along the buildings to the roadway. Then, a new treed, walking and cycling path– similar to the new one on Rice Road – will be constructed along Hwy 20.

Ponds & Park:
Water from roofs, roads, parking lots and paths gets collected and fed into the several storm ponds. These ponds store, clean and cool the water and release it at a rate no greater than “predevelopment flows.” We insisted on designing the ponds without fences so that people might enjoy them better.

The East Fonthill plan also includes some parks in key areas that link watercourses and ponds. One such park, near the intersection of Summersides Blvd and Wellspring Way, was granted to the Town in a standard process called a “excess parkland dedication.” The value of the parkland was based on a property appraisal and a peer review of that appraisal. (For a copy of these documents, please click here.) We look forward to adding trails, trees, and other features to complete this park.

Council and I continue to work diligently to fulfill the award-winning East Fonthill plan which offers mixed-use development, a range of housing-types, a walking/cycling network, and protection for existing environmental features.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pelham’s Population Growth from the 1970s

When I grew up and attended St. Alexander School, the Fonthill Plaza didn’t exist: no Shopper’s Drug Mart or Beer Store or Giant Tiger. In fact, I have distinct memories of walking through long grass and along a warn footpath to the Pelham Library – which was situated in the basement of Pelham Town Hall! And, the school was just an “L-shaped” building in those days – before the addition in the 1990s. The octagon-shaped Church along Hwy 20 (where the current playground is) was replaced in the 2000s.

The railway tracks – still in use along Station Street – had yet to be named the Steve Bauer Trail. With the Fonthill Firehall on South Pelham, it wasn’t odd to hear the siren calling the volunteers. And, school mates crossed Highway 20 to get to a treat at the convenience store where the Royal Bank now stands.

The Post Office likely moved from its location on Pelham Street (now ForestGreen creations) in the 1980s. And, the now iconic Fonthill Branch of the Pelham Public Library wasn’t constructed until the mid-1980s.

I also distinctly remember playing in dirt piles during the building of the roads and homes on Woodstream Boulevard and Spruceside Crescent. And the Town built the then new Pelham Arena – which replaced the outdoor rink in “the Pit” – in the middle of a farmer’s field in the mid-1970s.

Looking back at the population growth, one can see the reasons for these changes.

In 1971, Statistics Canada had the Town’s population at 9,997. While Pelham’s population only grew by 99 people by 1976 (up 1%), the Town’s population took off shortly thereafter. From 1976 to 1981 Pelham grew by 1,008 people – a whopping 10% increase! From 1981 to 1986, the population grew even more – by 1,061 people (or 9.6%). From 1986 to 1991, Pelham grew by another 9.6% to 13,328 – but this time increasing by 1,163 people! That was the Town’s largest growth spurt over a five-year period.

Then, Pelham’s growth started to slow down a bit. From 1991 to 1996, the population grew by 1,015 people (or a 7.6% increase to 14,343). From 1996 to 2001, the Town grew by 929 people or 6.5%. The 2006 Census had the Town’s population at 16,155 or growing by 883 people (5.8%). While I have been serving as your Mayor, the Town grew 443 people from 2006 to 2011 (up 2.7%) to 16,598 and now to 17,110 in 2016 (up 512 people or 3.1%).

Just like we hear a few people complaining today, I remember a few folks in the 1970s and the 1980s and the 1990s expressing concern about the Town growing too quickly.

And, while we are projected to grow by about 850 people (or 5%) to 17,960 by 2021, Council and I will continue to work together with you to ensure we maintain our community’s small-town feel – just as the Town did during our growth in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Community Centre Recap about Indoor Pool, Twin-Pad & Fitness Equipment

Since some people asked me recently about certain elements of the Pelham Community Centre, I thought I would also answer their questions here.

Solid Business Case:
As you know, recreational and cultural services in Pelham was at a “log-jam” for decades. Numerous consultant reports outlined great desires and drew nice designs of community centres. However, none evaluated the operating costs nor tested the “business case.” It was like those former reports offered a “shiny new sports car” but failed to account for operating costs and whether the community could afford to “drive” it.


To help break the impasse, the Town hired Leisureplan International to develop a market analysis and business case study. LeisurePlan surveyed 1,091 residents about their recreation and culture habits and spending preferences. They used this statistically significant market analysis and requirements from user-groups to form the business case and their recommendations.

Indoor Pool:
Despite the expressed desire – which still continues today – LeisurePlan recommended against including an indoor pool. They stated that demand for an indoor pool was only at 50% of that required to financially support it. “To be financially viable, a significant annual operating subsidy would be required from the Municipality in the order of $1,000,000 per year.” This is in line with other municipal pools; the Kiwanis Aquatic Centre in in St. Catharines, for example, costs $1.6 million net per year (expenses $2.36 million; revenues $734K). An extra $1 million for an indoor pool would mean about a 9% increase in property taxes for the average residential property, plus another 3% for financing the construction costs. (Please see pages 48-49 of the St. Catharines 2017 budget by clicking here.)

Double Arena:
While LeisurePlan initially estimated that a second arena wouldn’t be financially sustainable until 2023, arena users questioned the completeness of their data and the Architectural Design Advisory Committee questioned the feasibility of a phased design. LeisurePlan considered the missing information and concluded in June 2015 that “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” and recommended providing a second ice pad by 2018. In July 2015, Council agreed with that recommendation and directed that the design include two arenas.

It’s a good thing we did because we are already tracking to exceed that demand projection for the second ice pad. In March, the Town signed binding five-year usage agreements with local minor hockey and figure skating associations to use 100% of the Accipiter Arena and more than 90% of the Duliban Insurance Arena during prime time.

Fitness Machines:
LeisurePlan initially suggested including a fitness centre in a new centre if all fitness programs were run by the YMCA. They made this recommendation because of the extensive Pelham membership at the YMCA. Listening to the concerns of the Design Committee and local businesses over this plan, the Town issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to operate the community centre to the private sector in June 2015. Since no firms replied to the RFP and because of the increased difficulty of completing with discount ($10 per month) fitness centres, the Town removed the fitness centre component from the Community Centre design, ended discussions with the YMCA in November 2015, and will operate the facility for less than $200,000 per year.

I am pleased that we are constructing the Pelham Community Centre based on a solid business case analysis and that will serve as our community’s gathering place and recreational space for people of all ages and abilities for decades to come.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Donations “Overboard” at Ninth Annual Mayor’s Gala

Because of the generosity of sponsors, donors, and participants, the sold-out Ninth Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala netted $23,600 for four worthy charities and groups!

(L-R) Pete Behring, Treasurer, Pelham Minor Baseball;
Joe Maggiolo, Board Chair, OneFoundation for NHS;
Anne Kirkpatrick, Program Manager, Niagara Nutrition Partners;
Mayor Dave Augustyn; Brenda Langendoen, Program Director,
Horse Cents for Kids. (Credit: T. Lyons.) 
This past Saturday, community volunteers hosted the “Sail the Seven Seas” themed gala at Lookout Point Golf & Country Club.

The Gala showcased great music (thanks to Notre Dame Jazz Combo), exquisite food (thanks to Chef Abby), an amazing live auction (thanks to generous donors), and time to mingle and catch-up with other “passengers.” And, with Ross Macfarlane as emcee and Kevin Jacobi as the nautical quizmaster, the event was a “swashbuckling” great time!

Yet, these festivities supported the work of four local groups.

Horse Cents for Kids provides access to horses and the therapeutic and life enhancing attributes for children 5-18 years old, regardless of their financial circumstances. With the support of the community, the Gala will donate $5,000 to give children from less fortunate families – but who love horses – the opportunity to attend the summer riding program or the Wild West Summer camp. In addition, Bayshore Group generously offered to donate an additional $2,400 to Horse Cents during the Gala!

Niagara Nutrition Partners oversees more than 200 breakfast, snack, and lunch programs in 150 schools throughout Niagara! Amazingly, they help more than 17,000 students each day to fulfill the simple notion that if students eat right they learn right. Thanks to the Gala, NNP will receive $5,000 to support the recently initiated nutrition program at EL Crossley High School.

OneFoundation for the Niagara Health System raises funds to acquire the equipment and technology needed in all six of the Peninsula’s hospital sites to support a wide range of in-patient and out-patient services. Since doctors and medical technicians use their eight-year-old ultrasound equipment 7-days a week for emergency and in-patient exams, the Foundation identified they urgently need to purchase replacement equipment for the Site in Welland. The Gala will donate $3,500 toward this ultrasound equipment.

Pelham Minor Baseball Association provides organized youth baseball for Pelham residents aged 4-18. Their dedicated volunteers offer the opportunity to learn the love of the game and the importance of teamwork while players take part in healthy competition. Since 2017 registrations unexpectantly increased by 36%, the Gala will donate $7,500 to help replace equipment that has reached end of its useful life and also extra equipment needed to meet increased number of players.

Since 2009 and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, donors, and attendees, the Pelham Mayor’s Gala has raised more than a $250,000! These proceeds have supported more than 30 charities, not-for-profit community organizations and service clubs that play a vital role in shaping and improving the Town of Pelham.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pelham Changing Through the Years

Since Statistics Canada recently released additional information from the 2016 Census, I thought I would write here about the demographics of Pelham. And, since they also provide information for communities from the 2011, 2006, 2001 and 1996 Census, one can compare the make-up and changes of our population over a twenty-year period.

As you may know, Pelham is among the fastest growing communities in the Niagara Peninsula. Since our formation in 1970, we have grown from 9,855 to 17,110 in 2016. That’s a 74% increase!

Other large population increases include Grimsby at 80%, West Lincoln at 76%, and Lincoln also at 74%; compare this with the entire Region’s population which grew by only 33% during that period.

During the last 20 years, Pelham’s population grew from 14,345 in 1996, to 15,275 in 2001, to 16,155 in 2006, to 16,598 in 2011, to 17,110 in 2016. That’s more than 19% population growth over 20 years.

But, the story becomes more interesting when one looks at age groups.

For example, our Town’s population of children and youth (aged 24 and younger) declined slightly (6%) in raw numbers over the last couple of decades. This cohort numbered 4,820 in 1996 and 4,515 in 2016. The number of children and youth represented more than 26% of our population last year and essentially matched the proportion across the Niagara Peninsula (which stood at 27% of Niagara’s total population in 2016).

What about our seniors – those aged 65 and older? In 1996 there were 1,925 seniors in Pelham; in 2016 Statistics Canada counted 4,175. That’s a 117% increase! Seniors now make up 24% of our population. That’s up from 13% in 1996. Across the Region, the proportion of seniors was 21% in 2016.

Statistics Canada provides some very broad categories for comparison over the last 20 years. For example, Pelham’s population aged 25 to 54 (the “working-age” population) declined just over 8% from 6,095 people in 1996 to 5,595 in 2016. This working age group counted for 33% of Pelham’s population in the last census.

So, broadly speaking, where was the majority of our growth concentrated through the last 20 years? Those 55-and-older grew a phenomenal 104% from 3,400 in 1996 to 7,010 in 2016!

(It is important to note that these demographic changes result from both new residents moving here, others moving away, and from the aging of current residents.)

While one must be cautious about broad comparisons from relatively small sub-sets of our population, these numbers obviously show trends. Please rest assured that Council and I continue to consider these demographic realities as we provide public services and develop community economic development initiatives.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Too Long to Release Integrity Reports

An odd thing happened at Regional Council last week. On a vote of 14 in favour and 11 against, Council nearly did not approve the agenda for our April 28 meeting.

What does that mean and why?

The first order of business for any municipal council is to approve the agenda – that is agree on what to discuss and consider during the meeting. It’s usually approved without fanfare and the meeting begins.

But last week, after some other Councillors and I outlined our concern that the Chair neglected to include three Integrity Commissioner’s reports, 11 Councillors spontaneously voted against the incomplete agenda.

You may recall that, after some high-profile public protests, Council reinstated an Integrity Commissioner (IC) on December 8, 2016 and forwarded four Code of Conduct complaints about Regional Councillors. As others made subsequent complaints, Staff forwarded them to the IC.

On February 2, 2017, the IC submitted two reports to the Region on investigations about the conduct of two Councillors. In each case, the IC did not find a breach of the Code of Conduct and did not recommend any action by Council. Therefore, Staff simply published the reports to the public and Council on March 24.

Since then, a Regional Councillor revealed that the Integrity Commissioner investigated him and completed three Code of Conduct violation reports. Further, Staff revealed by email that the IC filed these reports to the Region on February 14, 2017.

In essence, this means that the Integrity Commissioner completed three investigations, determined that a Councillor(s) breached the Code of Conduct, and issued reports to the Region in February with recommendations on how to handle the contraventions.

Why is this important? To use a hockey analogy, if there is bad behaviour on the ice, the referee blows the whistle, stops the game, and makes a ruling. In this case, the referee has blown the whistle, and now we need to know why.

At our meeting last Thursday, I asked the Regional Chair to explain why these reports were not included on either the March 2, March 30, or April 27 Council meeting agendas. (Why did I ask this? With knowledge of these three reports, it is ultimately then the Chair’s responsibility to “ensure the appropriate placement of items on the agenda.”)

Unfortunately, more than 10 weeks later, the reports have yet to see the light of day.

By the end of last week’s meeting, Regional Council directed Staff to include any future Integrity Commissioner reports automatically on the next/subsequent Council agenda. Thankfully, this means that the February reports will finally be dealt with on May 18 – our next meeting.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pelham’s 2017 Residential Taxes Increase by 2.3%

Two months ago, I wrote about how Council approved our 2017 Operating Budget. Since the Province issued the property tax rate for Educational purposes last week, I can now provide you with an update on the total 2017 residential property tax bill.

You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not solely based on the Market Value Assessment of your property; we multiply your assessment by each of these three tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

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, 2016. While this amount will be used as the value of your home in 2017, MPAC phases in any assessment increases evenly over a four-year period.

Despite the recent double-digit home value increases and seller’s market, the MPAC assessment is to represent your property as of January 1, 2016. Further, the Town re-adjusts the tax rate down to compensate for the average overall increase in residential property values across the Town.

Now that the Region draft-approved the property tax rates and ratios and that the Province set their rate this month, we know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (valued at $316,400) in Pelham will be 2.3%.

Please note that this 2.3% is what folks term 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 amount is “affordable” or not?

One independent way to judge whether Pelham’s taxes are “affordable” or not, is to compare them with inflation. For example, the Bank of Canada calculates that, over the last 11 years, inflation increased the value of goods and services by 19.7%. Over the same period, Pelham’s combined taxes for the average residential property in Pelham increased by 20.1% -- only 0.4% above inflation.

And, this 20.1% includes the equivalent of approximately 1.1% (in 2016) to fund the Pelham Community Centre. And, it also includes our annual increases for improved infrastructure – approximately 1.7% over the last three years of this 20.1% was for increased sustainability – supporting new roads, pipes, and other capital improvements.

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 in the Town.

___________________________________________
26 June 2017 Update:
With the Region and the Province making some last policy changes and adjustments for rates and tax ratios, we now know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (which is valued at $316,400) in Pelham is 2.0%. Because of those changes, that’s actually a 0.3% decrease from what I reported to you above. Please see new chart and comparisons by clicking here.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

No Changes to Cherry Ridge Park

A large group of residents attended our Council meeting last week in anticipation of the discussion about a potential agreement with the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) for partial renovation and joint use of Cherry Ridge Park.

The DSBN is in the process of consolidating the former Pelham Centre School (grades 4-8) and E.W .Farr Memorial School (grades K – 3) to create one, grades K – 8 school at the former E.W. Farr site. The consolidation required classroom additions and renovations including a new gymnasium, a learning commons, parking and bus drop off. This construction is well underway and the Board hopes to open the renovated school this September.

With this expansion, the school’s soccer field was eliminated. In order to leave the natural
topography and existing toboggan area of the school property, the Board approached the Town to enter into a community partnership. They proposed building a soccer field partially on school board property and partially on the public park lands.

Councillors considered this possibility in a report to the June 6, 2016 Committee of the Whole meeting and, on June 20, Council approved the authorization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Town and the DSBN to negotiate an appropriate agreement.

As part of these negotiations, the DSBN proposed a draft redesign for the Park and their lands late last Fall.

At the request from the Town, the Board sent a letter and a survey to immediate neighbours and other Cherry Ridge residents in February. They also surveyed all families of students. As a result, the survey results included comments from both groups making it difficult to determine the comments from the residents of Cherry Ridge.

In March, however, Council received a petition that contained the names and signatures from most Cherry Ridge residents. The document outlined the concerns of neighbours and residents about the soccer field as part of the Park and petitioned Council not to approve the change.

Staff met with and corresponded with DSBN Staff to determine how they would address maintenance, complaints, and abutting neighbour concerns. After much deliberation, Town Staff recommended last week that the Town not proceed with the proposed partnership and the DSBN landscape and construct the soccer field solely on school property.

Applause broke out when Council agreed with the Town Staff recommendation and voted unanimously not to proceed with development of a shared soccer facility at Cherry Ridge Park.

Councillors and I sincerely appreciated the feedback from residents in Cherry Ridge and from across the Town about this issue.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Anchors Aweigh for Ninth Annual Mayor’s Gala

It’s gratifying when people support local charities that improve our community; it’s fun when people get dressed up for a great time. The Annual Mayor’s Gala combines both opportunities!

On Saturday, May 27, 2017, community volunteers will host the Ninth Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala. This “Sail the Seven Seas” themed gala will “set-sail” from Lookout Point Golf & Country Club at 6:00 PM.

In addition to activities that you might expect on a “swashbuckling” voyage, we will showcase great music, exquisite food, an amazing live auction, and time to mingle and catch-up with other generous “passengers.” No doubt, the event will be a great voyage!

Yet, these festivities have a purpose.

Since 2009 and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, donors, and attendees, the Mayor’s Gala has raised more than $230,000! Proceeds have supported more than 30 not-for-profit community organizations and service clubs that play a vital role in shaping and improving the Town of Pelham. With these funds, the Gala has helped youth and seniors, helped provide special education, supported children and women’s centres, and funded arts, cultural, and sporting initiatives.

The Gala also founded the Pelham Community Fund through the Niagara Community Foundation. Donations toward the fund’s principle may be given from not only the Mayor’s Gala, but also from anyone in the community. As you update your estate plan, for instance, you may want to donate to the Pelham fund – and your gift will assist the community in perpetuity!

The Mayor's Gala Committee is seeking applications from local organizations serving residents of the Town for the proceeds from this year’s Gala. To be eligible, an organization should: provide service/support benefitting residents of Pelham; be registered as a charity with Canada Revenue Agency, a Pelham Service Club or a Pelham based not-for-profit organization; complete and submit a formal application by noon on April 12; and not have received a donation from the Mayor's Gala fundraising campaign in the previous year.

The community generously supports the Pelham Mayor’s Gala. In fact, we are grateful for the many businesses and individuals that continue to support it year-after-year. If you are interested in sponsorship, please check out the website links below.

Finally, a few “boarding passes” are still available and “cabins” are booking quickly. Please call 905-892-2607 ext. 337 to purchase your tickets or see the website for more information.

The Application for Donation Form, sponsorship opportunities, and tickets may be found at www.pelhammayorsgala.ca or via www.pelham.ca.

Our voyage departs on May 27. Anchors aweigh!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pelham Submission about Regional "Motion"

 The Town of Pelham is taking the opportunity to respond to Regional Councillor Barrick’s motion entitled “Regional Taxpayer Affordability Guidelines” and on the 30 March 2017 Agenda for Regional Council.

Pelham Council and the Town of Pelham take pride in being open and transparent; as such, we are always prepared to answer questions from colleagues and from the public. Therefore, we are pleased to provide this accurate information and firm response to the Motion.


With this memo and the many accompanying documents, we will correct or clarify each of the points expressed in the Motion’s preamble and body with information from source documents. These documents have been filed with the Regional Clerk for inclusion on the agenda tonight.

I am pleased to provide links to the document here. 

The entire document is very large – more than 330 pages and nearly 17mb. Thus, please use the following link for a PDF with bookmarks. 




(Please note: these was a glitch earlier, which has now been resolved. This link is for the entire document.)

Thanks for your interest! D

___________________________________

Thanks to Tim Denis and CKTB 610AM for inviting me to speak on March 30 about the motion and Pelham's submission to Regional Council. Please click here to hear the conversation.

Despite asking two-times to speak and address the concerns directly during the Regional Council meeting (and make reference to the Town's +330 page submission), I was not allowed to speak and the matter was referred to the June 12 meeting of the Audit Committee.

Here's a media story about that Regional Council meeting: http://www.wellandtribune.ca/2017/03/30/augustyn-accuses-barrick-of-fear-mongering

We have included the report on the agenda for Pelham Town Council on Monday, April 3. It's the same report as above, but you may find it by clicking here.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Another Small Step Toward Niagara Inter-Municipal Transit

Before I write about the long road toward inter-municipal transit in Niagara, I have a question for you…

How excited would you get when friends who own a house and have been living together for five-and-a-half years announce engagement and complete wedding three-months-hence? Are you delighted for the couple, but wonder “what took you so long?” and “what’s going to change in your relationship?”

Last Thursday when Regional Council took another small step toward inter-municipal transit, many asked “What took so long?” and “What’s going to change?”

Niagara Region's public works commissioner Ken Brothers,
Niagara Region's chair Gary Burroughs,
Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey,
Grimsby regional councillor Debbie Zimmerman
and St. Catharines regional councillor Tim Rigby
 cutting the ribbon for the official launch
 of Niagara Region Transit, September 2011.
(Photo: D. Draper.)
You may recall that after working on an inter-municipal transit system for a few years, Staff presented a plan in 2010 for the Region to begin operating transit. As a response, the Cities of St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland made a counter-proposal that the Region fund a system that the three services would operate. Regional Council approved this Niagara Region Transit for three years with the intent that if successful, the group could take further steps.

That’s why the first Niagara Regional Transit buses started rolling-along in September 2011 and began making connections between municipalities. The next steps discussion took some effort, and since it was growing and working, the Region extended the pilot for another year.

Then, in May 2015, Regional Council “endorsed in principal creating an inter-municipal transit system in Niagara,” extended the pilot to December 2016, and requested that the three Cities work together to provide options on how best to provide Inter-Municipal Transit. After Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, and Welland approved similar motions, the group began meeting in earnest in January 2016. They hired Dillon Consulting to develop a high-level plan and receive public input and the Region again extended the pilot. Since January 2017, Dillon presented their report – “Niagara Transit Service Delivery & Governance Strategy” – and each of the three City Councils approved it unanimously.

Last week, Regional Council approved the report’s recommendations: endorse (again) the principal of a consolidated transit system; direct staff to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the three major transit providers by the end of 2017; form a Transit Working Group with representation from all 12 Niagara Cities and Towns. Finally, since the Region funded the pilot for five-and-a-half years beyond its “sphere of jurisdiction” in the Ontario Municipal Act, the report recommended a “triple-majority” process to sanction the funding.

So, what will happen in June if the majority of local Councils approve allowing the Region to operate conventional transit? To use an analogy, the transit marriage will become legitimate.

Although a small step, it’s an important one to keep Niagara’s inter-municipal transit path moving forward.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Committed to Urban Boundaries & Preserving Agricultural Lands

It doesn’t happen too often, but occasionally I am the only one to vote for or against something at Regional Council. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was the only one who opposed promoting development outside existing urban boundaries.

Pelham Town Council remains committed to development inside the existing urban boundaries so that we can protect the environment and agricultural lands outside those areas. We also do this to ensure that existing urban services (like water, sewer, and storm water infrastructure) get used to capacity – instead of continuously adding additional and costly services outside urban areas.

This commitment led Pelham Council to encourage greater protection for the Fonthill Kame. Similarly, we have refused to endorse additional lot creation in the Greenbelt. Further, we continue to protect rural “lots of record” and impose agricultural-only stipulations on remnant parcels so that houses cannot be built on new severed farm lots.

And, while some might be upset with new development inside Pelham’s urban boundaries, Council remains committed to development only on lands in the boundaries that were approved in 2000 (for Fonthill) and 1990 (for Fenwick). We oppose expansions or extensions of the urban areas. (For more information about the "East Fenwick Secondary Plan" please click here. For more information about the "East Fonthill Secondary Plan" please click here.)

Yet, this belief by Pelham Council is not held universally across Niagara.

A perfect example was the March 2 vote over whether to endorse a Regional Staff submission to seek “special policy opportunities” in the rural and agricultural, non-serviced lands along the QEW between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie. (For a copy of the report, please click here.)

You see, after the Province designated a Gateway Zone from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie and a Gateway Centre in Welland / Port Colborne / Thorold, Regional Council developed special incentives to encourage industrial growth. It was these “Gateway Incentives” that helped convince GE Canada to build their new plant in Welland. Further, the incentives helped encourage the Federal Government to designate Niagara as a Foreign Trade Zone to support export related growth.

But, some large, rural property owners informally lobbied Regional Councillors and Staff so that those incentives and servicing might be broadened outside urban areas.

Ironically, those property owners bought cheaper, rural land but now want the benefits of more expensive lands inside urban boundaries. Eventually, they will demand new water, waste water and transportation infrastructure at a time when the Region has an accumulated infrastructure backlog of $545 million just to replace poor and very poor existing pipes and roads! (For a copy of the February 2017 asset presentation to Regional Council, please click here and see pages 26, 28-29.)

Why lobby the Province to add benefits to new areas when it will cost an extra $1,121 per household per year for the next decade just to fix the Region’s existing infrastructure?

Sadly, I was the only one to vote against trying to expand urban boundary development rights in that QEW / Niagara River rural area.

__________________________
If you would like to view the discussion at Regional Council, please go to 3:45:00 at the video by clicking here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Demand Exceeded for Pelham Community Centre!

Last week, Town Council signed 5-year agreements with six major community groups for their use of the new Pelham Community Centre. These binding agreements exceed the Town’s revenue goals for the Centre and confirm the demand for a second arena.
Back: Doug Thomson, Southern Tier Admirals AAA Hockey; Paws, Pelham Junior Hockey Club Mascot; Ben Chambers & Dan Treblay, Welland Raiders Minor Lacrosse Association; Tim Toffolo, Pelham Junior Hockey Club; Brian Bleich & Darren Williams, Pelham Panthers Basketball; Mario Battista  & Todd Major, Pelham Minor Hockey Association.
Front: Mayor Dave Augustyn; Melissa Drulia, Southern Tier Admirals AAA Hockey; Dawn Good & Mandy Engemann, Niagara Centre Skating Club.

Council was thrilled to enter into these partnerships with the Pelham Minor Hockey Association, the Pelham Panthers Basketball Association, the Pelham Jr. B. Hockey Club and the Southern Tier Admirals AAA Hockey. The Town is also excited to welcome the Welland Raiders Minor Lacrosse and the Niagara Centre Skating Club back to Pelham. Now that we have these agreements with major users in place, the Town will work to rent and program the rest of the available time at the facility.

You will recall that a consultant report suggested sustaining demand existed for two ice surfaces. This LeisurePlan report projected 100% prime-time usage of one arena and approximately 70% usage of a second arena and influenced Council’s June 2015 decision to include two arenas in the design of the new Pelham Community Centre. (As you know, the Centre will also feature two gymnasiums, a walking / running track and multi-purpose spaces).

The recently signed agreements with the Town mean that the 1,000-seat Accipiter Arena will have 100% prime-time usage and the Duliban Insurance Arena will have more than 90% prime-time usage. This exceeds estimates from the LeisurePlan report and confirms the need for two arenas.

Before the signing, Brian Bleich, President of Pelham Panthers Basketball Association, said that the facility “can’t happen soon enough” for their 425 athletes from more than 350 Pelham families. He said that “Our agreement with the Town of Pelham guarantees that we can support youth basketball for many years to come” and suggested that the double gymnasiums will be known as the “Home of Champions” and the “Panther’s Den.”

Todd Major, President of Pelham Minor Hockey, reminded Council that their more than 300 Pelham families (representing more than 420 members) have “faced challenges in past years finding ice space.” In the 50th year of Pelham Minor Hockey, Todd said that the new facility will “ensure our programs meet our members’ needs and our Association’s goals.”

The President of the Welland Raiders Minor Lacrosse, Ben Chambers, informed Council that the group also started in Pelham 50 years ago as a Canada Centennial project. He said they were “excited to bring the Raiders back to Pelham” and promised that the club would reinstate the Pelham Raiders name.

I am delighted that these 5-year, binding agreements demonstrate that the Pelham Community Centre will be the place for residents of all ages to gather and enjoy a wide-variety of recreational, social, health and community activities for many, many years!

(To watch the signing of the agreements via the Town's website, please click here.)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

4-Year Freeze Means Pelham Rates 20% Lower!

I am thrilled that Council is set to approve the fourth year for a freeze on our residential and commercial water and waste water rates. Because of ongoing efficiencies and innovations, the Town will absorb the Region’s 8.5% waste water increase.

How are we able to freeze rates for the fourth year in a row? 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 14 kilometers of cast iron water mains, which helped stop costly leaks and reduces the number of breaks and repairs.

Best in Niagara By Far:


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!

Four of our neighbours – Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Thorold, and West Lincoln – are between 19% and 27% more expensive. The others – Fort Erie, Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Colborne, and Welland – are 33% to 79% more expensive!

Council and I are pleased that our investments in innovation and infrastructure save you hundreds of dollars each year and allow us to freeze water and sewer rates for a fourth consecutive year!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

4.7% Increase for Pelham Portion of Residential Property Tax

Council recently approved the Town’s 2017 Operating Budget. The new budget translates into an increase of approximately 4.7% (or $69.60) on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill for the average residential property (assessed at $316,400).

Since Pelham’s portion of your property taxes represents roughly 38% of your overall residential tax, we anticipate that the blended rate will be an approximate 2.6% overall increase. Thus, the Town will receive $1,558 of the $4,132 for the average residential property tax bill; the Niagara Region will receive 48% of the total amount and the Province (to fund education) the remaining 14%.

In preparing the operating budget, Council directed Staff to review all expenditures against customer service needs and the Town’s strategic plan.

First, we included an additional $197,827 for a “Sustainability Increase.” As you have noticed through the years, instead of cutting like other Cities / Towns, we continue to improve and maintain the Town’s infrastructure. We do this by increasing the amount we transfer to capital reserves. Thus, 1.8% of the 4.7% overall increase will help improve and sustain infrastructure. (This compares favourably to the 2.7% we added 2016 to capital and the 1.8% extra in 2015.)

Second, we added funds for the Pelham Public Library to open additional hours in the renewed Maple Acre branch. Council agreed with the Library Board and the broader community that the Library needed to increase hours to meet the demand and to better use the new facility—which was officially opened on Friday. The first month of operations showed a huge demand for the new facility over the former branch; every time I was at the Library, it is busy and well used!

Third, after a very successful pilot program, Council agreed to continue offering Pelham Transit. The ridership consistently increased during the Provincially-supported year-and-a-half pilot and many have come to rely on the service. For example, students use the morning and afternoon service to get to and from classes at Niagara College or Brock. Similarly, seniors from local retirement homes use the mid-day service to travel directly to the Fonthill Library, the Shopper’s Plaza, or to the grocery store. In addition, staff will work with Wainfleet and West Lincoln to potentially expand our transit service.

Finally, other increases include utility costs, staffing and benefit costs, and contracted services (like sidewalk snow clearing) so we can maintain expected service levels.

As a result of these and other initiatives, Council approved a net budget increase of $518,544 on a $11,791,264 net budget.

I will write more about your total property tax impact and compare with previous years after Regional Council approves the 2017 rates and ratios later this spring.

For more information about Pelham’s Operating Budget, please check out the Town's website at www.pelham.ca.
_________________________________
Extra information:
As stated above, we expect the blended increase to be approximately 2.6%. This compares favouably to other municipalities.
Some folks have asked how this compares to inflation. The Bank of Canada has year-over-year inflation to be 2.1%.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Starting Planning for “East Fenwick”

I was a little surprised during our Committee of the Whole meeting last week because the East Fenwick Secondary Plan area is bigger than originally thought.

Last Fall, Town Council identified the preparation of a Secondary Plan for East Fenwick as a priority for 2017. While we set aside funds over the last couple of years to re-start this detailed planning exercise, Staff hadn't been able to get it started until now.

As you will recall, previous Councils expanded the Town's "urban boundaries" – the areas in which one can build houses, stores, and other developments. Since the Town had installed water and sewer services to the former "hamlet" of Fenwick in the early 1980s, the Town’s 1987 Official Plan made Fenwick an Urban Area and added development rights to those lands in 1990.

So, although not currently built-up, the area in which one can develop includes an additional 235 acres (95 hectares) from Cream to Balfour and between Memorial and Welland Roads.

So, what was my surprise? Staff included properties along Sunset Drive, Alder Crescent, and the east-side of Balfour Street as part of this "secondary" planning process. When I asked about it during our meeting, Staff stated that both the Town’s and Region’s Official Plans policies call for all lands inside Urban Boundaries to be serviced (with water and sewers) and that part of the plan needed to include studies to achieve that.

The goals for the Secondary Plan for East Fenwick include: permitting new development compatible with the existing character of Fenwick but also consistent with Provincial, Regional and Local planning legislation; ensuring appropriate capacity of transportation, water, sewer, and storm services; establishing areas for "public space" and protected natural heritage features; establishing design guidelines; providing well-designed areas that prioritize pedestrians; and providing a phasing plan.

Committee approved the proposal that calls for a collaborative community engagement process, including a community charrette, public meetings, open houses, and the use of an internet tool called PlaceSpeak.

If approved at Council next week, Staff will issue a request for proposals for late-March and work could begin as early as April. Staff suggested that the process could then take nine months.

The East Fenwick Secondary Plan will provide the appropriate policy guidance – including protecting key natural features, walkability, and linkages to the historic Downtown – so that this large area might develop and integrate more fully into the Town.

Councillors and I will look forward to working together with the community as the Town develops the East Fenwick Secondary Plan.
______________________________________
Documents for More Information:

  • For the 6 February 2016 Staff report to Committee about East Fenwick, please click here.
  • For the Terms of Reference for the Request for Proposals, please click here.
  • For a video of the discussion at 6 February 2016 Committee meeting, please click here; discussion starts around 11 minutes, 55 seconds.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

DSBN Survey on Potential Park Revision

Last week, residents in the Cherry Ridge subdivision in Fenwick received a survey and draft plan from the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) about potential changes to Cherry Ridge Park.

As you know, the DSBN is in the process of consolidating the former Pelham Centre School (grades 4-8) and E.W .Farr Memorial School (grades K – 3) to create one, grades K – 8 school at the E.W. Farr site. The consolidation required classroom additions and renovations including a new gymnasium, a learning commons, parking and bus drop off. This construction is well underway and the Board hopes to open the renovated school this September.

With this expansion, the school’s soccer field was eliminated. In an effort to provide a soccer field for students the Board approached the Town last year to enter into a community partnership. They proposed building a soccer field partially on school board property and partially on the public park lands.

Councillors considered this possibility in a report to the June 6, 2016 Committee of the Whole meeting and, on June 20, Council approved the authorization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Town and the DSBN to negotiate an appropriate agreement. (Please click here to review a copy of the MOU.)

As part of these negotiations, the DSBN proposed a draft redesign for the Park and their lands late last Fall. (Please click here for a copy of the proposed redesign.)

At the request from the Town, the Board sent a letter and a survey to immediate neighbours and other Cherry Ridge residents last week.

Why is the DSBN is only surveying Cherry Ridge residents? When the subdivision was first developed in the 1990s, the developer paid the Town “parkland dedication” fees and provided land for this neighbourhood park. And, when the Town initially designed and built the Park around 2008, we only involved residents from that subdivision. We follow this approach in designing / redesigning other neighbourhood parks too.

The feedback on the design, a final proposed design, insurance and legal considerations, and any other items will form part of the potential final agreement. Just like any and all agreements between the Town and other corporations, Council will publicly consider the factors and the potential agreement during one of our meetings. DSBN Trustees would also have to consider such an agreement.

Finally, if approved, this would not be the first time for such a joint use agreement between a City/Town and the DSBN. Others with agreements with the DSBN include St. Catharines (shared park agreement), Welland (shared library), and Fort Erie (shared library and theatre).

Councillors and I will be interested in feedback when a proposed agreement comes to an upcoming Council meeting.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Maple Acre Library Now Open

Word got around quickly last week that the renewed Maple Acre Library opened on Tuesday. When I went by around 3:30 PM, it was a hive of activity!

Some folks worked in the Quiet Room (situated in the 1919 original Library), others used the computers in the Technology area. A senior signed up for a Library Card for the first time, and kids read and played in the new Children’s area. I met a resident reviewing the Pnyx collection (from the former Pelham Continuation School / District High School) in the Historical Society Collection reference room. At the same time, many came in for a quick tour and admired the ceiling, the natural light, and the link between the old and new.

Council and the Library Board recognized years ago that the aged Maple Acre Library branch required renewal; we struck a joint committee in 2008 to make recommendations. Because that group didn’t make progress, the Town retained a consulting firm in early-2013 to conduct facilities and operational reviews. This review recommended that the Maple Acre branch simply become a kiosk-type operation. The Library Board and the community-at-large rejected this recommendation.

To break the impasse, Council initiated creative problem solving sessions in late-2013 to early-2014, which included Council, the Board, Friends of Maple Acre Library and the community. Work on the challenge – “How might we provide the most appropriate library services in Fenwick?” – led to an April 2014 resolution of Council to “continue library services at the Maple Acre Branch.”

That spring, Council struck a tripartite working group to recommend a “state of the art, ideal, and resilient library” in Fenwick. In September, the group proposed renovating and adding on to the original 1919 Maple Acre building with a “learning commons”-type library with “rentable, flexible, multi-purpose, open space” and an area for the community’s “significant historic records.” Council accepted the report and approved a $1 million for the design / build of the facility. The same group oversaw the Library’s design and construction began last June.

On December 28, Library staff and volunteers started setting up and getting ready for the branch’s opening. While a few items need final tweaks (like the area around the ceremonial front door), the Library is operational and staff plan an Official Grand Opening in February.

The Maple Acre Library has been a part of Fenwick’s history and downtown since 1919. I am thrilled that the Library’s redevelopment maintains that history and continues Council’s commitment for the ongoing revitalization of Downtown Fenwick. I encourage you visit the renewed Library and I hope that the community enjoys and cherishes it for generations to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Dual Duty": A Less Democratic, Out-of-Date Approach

Do you think we should elect more full-time politicians in Niagara?

Current: 18 part-time Councillors,  1 full-time Mayor
Should it be harder for people to represent the views of their neighbours? Or, should anyone be able to serve part-time on local Council and offer their experiences from a job or other activities?

People are asking these thoughtful questions about the "dual duty, ward Councillor" proposal for the City of St. Catharines and Niagara Regional Councils.

Currently, St. Catharines elects 12 part-time (PT) City Councillors (two in each of six wards), and six part-time Regional Councillors ("at-large" across the City). City residents also elect a full-time (FT) Mayor who serves on both Councils. That’s 19 people (12 PT + 6 PT +1 FT = 18 PT & 1 FT) representing citizens on the two Councils.

The change would see St. Catharines represented by 13 people: the Mayor and six full-time politicians would serve on both City and Regional Councils; the other six part-time Councillors would serve only on City Council (6 FT + 6 PT + 1 FT = 6 PT & 7 FT).

Proponents suggest that by reducing the number of local representatives "communication, cooperation, and accountability" would increase between the City and Region.

Opponents suggest that the change will create six more full-time politicians (who would want "full-time wages"), attract partisans, and make local government less accountable and more out-of-touch from average citizens. Others believe it would give more control to fewer people (like at the NPCA where 11 of the 12 Niagara reps were appointed by the same Regional Council on which they serve).

Proposed: 6 full-time dual duty Councillors,
6 part-time Councillors, 1 full-time Mayor
Interestingly, the majority from across Niagara – more than 58% according to a survey last Fall – do not want the change.

And while proponents say that the dual duty "modernizes" communication and coordination of local government, we know that other Regions made similar changes more than 25 years ago. That was before AOL email (21 years old), Google (18 years), and web browsers like Netscape (21 years). That was also before the widespread use of cell/smartphones and cheap long-distance calling. At that time, everything was paper-based and getting a fax felt like a novelty.

Now, we live stream and archive Committee and Council meetings, pre-publish complete electronic agenda packages, and use smartphones, cellular iPads, texts, social media, pictures, videos, and emails to communicate instantly with colleagues, staff, and citizens.

Further changes over the last decade include routine meetings between Regional and City / Town chief administrative officers, planners, economic development officers, treasurers, engineers, transit managers, clerks, and Mayors. In some Towns – like Pelham and Fort Erie – the Regional Councillor presents written updates to local Council and answers questions every three weeks.

Because we solved these communication and coordination issues long ago, and because it will concentrate power into the hands of fewer people and increase the number of full-time politicians, I voted against the dual duty proposal last Thursday at Regional Council.

Since it was approved by a 17 to 11 vote, each local Council will also consider the proposal; please let your City, Town or Township Councillor know your thoughts.