Monday, August 13, 2018

Answering Pool, Haist Arena, and Double-Pad Questions

Since some people asked me recently about certain elements of the Meridian Community Centre, and the former Haist Street Arena, I thought I would also answer their questions here.

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.

Indoor Pool:
Despite the 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. This lack of sustaining demand makes sense because there are three indoor pools 5, 10 and 15 minutes from the Meridian Community Centre – at the Niagara Centre YMCA, Welland Wellness Centre, and Brock University.

LeisurePlan reported “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. Obviously, Council did not include a pool in the Centre.

Double Arena:
There are still some questioning the need for a double arena.

While LeisurePlan initially estimated that a second arena wouldn’t be financially sustainable until 2023, arena users questioned the completeness of that data and the Architectural Design Advisory Committee struggled with 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 will exceed those demand projections for the second ice pad. 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. (And the ice is currently being used in the Duliban; Staff plan to get the ice in the Accipiter once Lacrosse season ends this month.)

Twinning Haist Arena:
As the Town is currently decommissioning it, some folks have asked by whether the former Arena on Haist Street was ever built to be twinned.

We know that this Arena did not meet the Building Code when it was constructed; that’s why the brick cracked and the Town had to spend $120,000 to reinforce the arena walls a few years ago. And, we know that the Town scrimped on the construction in the 1970s – shrinking both the ice surface and changeroom size. Yet, this rumour prevails…

So, about four years ago, I asked a building official to examine the original plans for the Haist Street Arena to see if they gave any hints on the potential for twinning. The plans showed no indication of twinning – like you might do with hatching or marking an area “for future expansion.” Further, and more telling, had the structure been twinned, the fire / emergency exits on the East or West sides of the building would have exited right into a second rink.

Reflecting on these questions, I find solace in a quote from Winston Churchill: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

I am pleased that we have constructed Pelham’s new Meridian Community Centre based on a solid business case analysis and that it 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, August 6, 2018

Cancelling the Chair Election

Ken Seiling was re-elected in Waterloo Region, 2014.
Waterloo Region has elected the Regional Chair-at-large since 1997.
In light of the Ontario Government’s unexpected and anti-democratic announcement a week-and-a-half ago to cancel the Niagara Chair election this Fall, I filed my nomination in Pelham to become a Regional Councillor. I hope to win a seat on Council and to work together with other Councillors, residents and businesses across the peninsula to fix the Region’s integrity crisis and to create a better Niagara.

2016 Legislation:
In the Fall of 2016, the Province introduced legislation that included mandating the election of all Ontario’s Regional Chairs by the public-at-large, starting in 2018. While this push toward a more accountable and democratic election alarmed a few folks in Niagara, those watching the Municipal sector weren’t surprised.

At the time, Niagara stood as the only hold-out Region that still wanted to appoint the Chair from among members of Council. All other areas either already elected their Chair of Regional Council at large, or were working toward doing so.

Waterloo Region began electing their Chair 21 years ago. Halton Region has elected a Regional Chair since 2000. Durham Region first elected their Regional Chair in 2014.

A bill to elect the York Regional Chair-at-large was before the Ontario Legislature in 2016. And, in 2013, Peel Regional Council directed staff to report after the 2014 election on options to directly elect their Chair for the 2018 municipal election.

History:
When they first created Regional Governments in the 1970s, the Province also appointed the first Regional Chairs. After our first Chair (John Campbell) retired in 1985, Council appointed one of its own as Chair from Council (Wilber Dick).

This appointment process meant that the new Chair had to give up his or her seat and was appointed for the entire four-year term of Council.

In 1991 and again in 2013, Council reaffirmed this process of appointing from Council. And, since the Municipal Act states that if a Mayor were appointed as Chair he or she would have to give up his or her position on the City or Town Council, for practical purposes only elected Regional Councillors (not Mayors) put their names forward for Chair.

An Opportunity for Niagara:
With the direct election of Chair-at-large, candidates for the Chair’s position were putting together a vision that would appeal to all of Niagara. These visions were similar to the visions that Mayoral candidates present to the public – but they were for all in the peninsula.

Directly electing the Regional Chair would have helped pull the views and hopes of our Region’s citizen’s together and could have become an important and unifying force for moving Niagara forward.

I believed that it would have also helped us to work together to become more open, transparent, accountable, and democratic in Niagara.

Recent Announcement:
Sadly, the new Provincial government recently announced that they would be stripping that democratic right away from millions of voters in Niagara, Muskoka, Peel and York.

It doesn’t make sense that a Government that claims to be “for the People” removes your and other people’s right to vote and decide on our future together. And to erroneously claim that directly electing the Niagara Chair added an “additional level of government [that] competes with local municipalities” is misleading and insulting.

I had put my name forward to run for Regional Chair because hundreds of people across Niagara asked me to bring integrity back to the Region and lead the peninsula forward. To those who see the major problems our Region’s facing and the opportunities we are missing, the Government’s cancellation changes nothing. My commitment to restoring integrity to our Regional Government and bringing prosperity and compassion to people is unwavering and I will continue to work for a better Region.


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