Monday, April 30, 2018

Community Centre Update: “On schedule and within budget”

A couple of weeks ago, Bill Gibson, Chair of Pelham’s Meridian Community Centre Oversight Committee, presented another upbeat update to Council.

You will recall that Council listened to suggestions from the public for proper project supervision by establishing Community Centre Oversight Committee two years ago. The committee includes two community members (Gibson and Bill Sheldon), one Council rep (Councillor Accursi), and the Chief Administrative Officer (Darren Ottaway). This committee works to ensure that the Town receives value-for-money in every aspect of the project and that the project gets delivered on time and on budget, and to provide the community with consistent and timely updates.

You will also recall that Ball Construction serves as the project’s construction manager and works with the committee, the architect, Town staff, and the various contractors to manage the project’s timing and construction.

Mr. Gibson provided updates on the project’s milestones, and finances. He showed pictures of the significant progress on the Meridian Community Centre. He outlined that the rink boards, glass, and netting were already installed in the Duliban Insurance Arena. He showed the painting and finishing work in the activity centres (named the Lucchetta Homes Courts). He spoke about the great work of local contractors – like Star Tile, which has tiled each of the washrooms and change rooms. He showed photos of the glass along the Walker Industries Upper Viewing Galleria and around the Mountainview Homes Upper Arena Lobby. He outlined improvement in the Dr. Gary & Mal Accursi multi-purpose room. His pictures showed progress along the Lookout Ridge Walking / Running Track and final preparations for the 1,000 seats in the Accipiter Arena.

He also outlined some imminent construction milestones like installing the basketball nets and divider curtains in the activity centre and installing the centre scoreboard in the Accipiter Arena. He said that most of the porcelain tile floors on the second floor would be completed by the end of April and, depending on the moisture levels, Ball Construction would also oversee the start of the wood floor installation in the activity centre. Later in May, workers would commence installation of the rubber “skaters” flooring and the poured rubber walking / running track floor.

Mr. Gibson said that the Oversight Committee was forecasting that this project will be within budget and will reach substantial completion on time – on June 1, 2018.

“Substantial completion” means that Ball Construction will “turn over the keys” to Town staff. Over the summer, staff will re-test systems, move in furniture and equipment and work with volunteer user groups so they can move furniture and equipment into their rooms and storage spaces. We are also planning for tours and open houses over the summer – but they have yet to be scheduled.

Obviously, all of this is great news for our community! Council and I look forward to opening the new Meridian Community Centre so that it can become 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 review the presentation by the Oversight Committee, please click here. You may contact Mayor Dave at

Monday, April 23, 2018

Pelham Water & Sewer Rates Lowest Again

I am delighted that Council is set to approve a water and waste water budget at our next meeting where Pelham’s charges will be the lowest across Niagara again. While we plan to increase the fixed component slightly, this change will mean an increase of $8.76 per year or 1.4% for the average residential home (that uses 25 cubic meters of water every two months).

How do Pelham’s water and waste water charges compare with others Cities and Towns in Niagara? And, how are we able to keep rates so low?

Best in Niagara Yet Again:
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 $106 for two months (for the average residential use of 25 cubic metres) Pelham leads the pack again with the lowest combined water and waste water charges!

Two of our neighbouring municipalities – St. Catharines and Lincoln – are between 13% and 17% more expensive than the combined water and waste water charges for Pelham. Five others – Niagara Falls, Thorold, West Lincoln, Niagara on the Lake, and Welland – are 25% to 55% more expensive. Two – Port Colborne and Fort Erie – are 93% and 189% more expensive than Pelham. (The average charge is $360 more (or 57% more) per year than Pelham’s charges!)

RF Meters Continue to Pay Dividends:
You will recall that 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, 1970s, and 1980s. Many of the aged-meters counted slowly or were failing/broken. It took two weeks to collect readings. If your water had a leak, 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 more than 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, Canboro Road, and Hurricane, we also replaced old water and sewer pipes. Over the last number of years, we replaced more than 15 kilometers of cast iron water mains, which helped stop costly leaks and reduces the number of breaks and repairs.

Council and I are delighted that the Town’s investments in innovation and infrastructure save you hundreds of dollars each year and allow us to provide the least expensive water and sewer charges in Niagara yet again!

You may contact Mayor Dave at or see comparison charts at

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pelham’s 2018 Blended Residential Taxes Up 1.9% -- 12 Year Increase Less Than Inflation

If you pay your property taxes by installments, you will know that the second installment of your 2018 property tax bill comes due in two weeks (April 30). With this deadline approaching, I wanted to tell you about Pelham’s 2018 blended residential property tax increase – at 1.9% – and also to compare with other Cities and Towns.

You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Niagara 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 both the Region and the Province making some 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 $328,138) in Pelham will be 1.9% for 2018. That means an average residential tax bill of approximately $4,187 or an increase of about $79 over last year. (Because of some rates changes, that’s actually a bit lower than the 2% to 2.3% range that I reported to you in February.)

You can consider this $79 or 1.9% a “pocket-book” increase – an increase in the amount it cost an average residential property owner because it’s adjusted for the average MPAC increase in Pelham.

Since Pelham’s portion of your property taxes represents roughly 39% of the total bill, the Town will make use of about $1,618 of the $4,187 for the average residential property.

Who gets the most? The Niagara Region will get about $2,012 or 48% of the total amount. Meanwhile, the Province will receive the remaining approximately $558 (or 13%) to help fund education.

How do we measure whether the increase 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 12 years (February to February), inflation increased the value of goods and services by 22.7%.

Over the same period, Pelham’s combined taxes for the average residential property increased by 22.0% – a bit lower than inflation. Essentially, that means that the average home is paying the same level of taxes in 2018 that they did in 2006!

And, this 22.0% over 12 years includes so many improvements in our community – from renewed Downtowns in Fonthill and Fenwick, to new Fire Halls in Fenwick and North Pelham, from nine renewed playgrounds, to a new skatepark and a new dog park, from a renewed Maple Acre Library to a renovated Old Pelham Town Hall, from 15 km of new sidewalks and 5 km of new trails to the new Meridian Community Centre. And, the list of other infrastructure and services goes on and on.

Another way to judge would be to compare with other Niagara Cities, Towns, and Townships.

Last Fall, the Region published a corrected table of non-blended property tax increases from 2010 to 2017 for local municipalities. If you start at zero in 2010 and add up the cumulative increases, Niagara Municipalities increased their property taxes an average of 35% over those eight years.

Pelham stands as the forth lowest because ours increased 30% – including an increase in funding for the Community Centre in 2016. That’s 14% below the average increase of other Cities and Towns for the same period. Three other growing Towns – Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and West Lincoln were lower than Pelham since 2010.

Pelham Council and I continue to work together with staff to ensure that changes in property taxes only minimally impact you and your neighbour while improving the level and quality of services in the Town.

Please check out historic charts or read past columns at Please contact Mayor Dave at

Monday, April 9, 2018

Let’s Get Active! Let’s Get Moving!

Early last month, it was an honour to travel to Nova Scotia, with Darren Ottaway, Town CAO, and Vickie vanRavenswaay, Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness, to present at a special “Creating Active Communities Together” conference in Dartmouth.

We were delighted and honoured a few months ago when a representative from the Nova Scotia Ministry of Communities, Culture & Heritage contacted the Town and invited us to be part of a two-day symposium to inspire more physical activity in communities. They asked Pelham to participate because of our walkable and cycling designations – a Walk Friendly Ontario Bronze and a Silver Bicycle Friendly Community – and because our size is similar to many communities in Nova Scotia.

The first day – “Creating Active Communities Together” – involved “physical activity practitioners” who work for communities across the Province to develop and implement physical activity strategies. Town Staff presented detailed information on how we work to encourage physical activity – especially walking and cycling.

The second day – “Vibrant, Active Nova Scotia Symposium” – included Mayors and Councillors and other leaders from non-profit organizations, universities and businesses to focus on broad outcomes and overall success strategies. I presented on this day about Pelham’s successes in increasing walkability, cycling activities. I focused on our dedicated staff and volunteers – like members of Pelham’s Active Transportation Committee – that have tirelessly worked with the community and Council to encourage significant infrastructure improvements and overall active-lifestyle focus.

But, it was not only a time to share Pelham’s successes and to encourage communities across Nova Scotia. The conference was also a time to learn about strategies from other communities in North America and about the latest research on the importance of participation and an active lifestyle.

For example, there are huge physical and mental-health benefits of simply walking in a few 15-minute spurts throughout the day. Research shows that the “built environment” of a community – being built for the “human scale” and not just the automobile – impacts the participation and health of residents.

Or, that new health standards will not only focus on the number and intensity of the steps we take, but also on our overall movement or sedentary lifestyle over a 24-hour period. And, some doctors in Nova Scotia are writing actual “prescriptions for walking” and even walking with patients in community facilities or on trails each week. (I hope we can set up this type of walking club in the new Meridian Community Centre!)

Special thanks to the Lieutenant Governor LeBlanc and Minister Glavine for their focus on helping Nova Scotians to “increase their quality of life” by committing to a “healthier and active lifestyle.”

Now that spring is here, let’s follow their lead. Let’s all get moving more, get active and reduce our own sedentary living. Let’s strive to “sit less and move more.” And, let’s continue to work to create the conditions for a more active lifestyle across Niagara.

You may contact Mayor Dave at or read past columns at