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Candidates react to community centre party expense

Mayor Dave Augustyn presents East Fonthill to Karen Kettle and her daughters Kaityn and Ashley during the Meridian Community Centre's "soft" opening in July. VOICE PHOTO

Last Friday the Voice reached out to current members of council, and all candidates running in this October’s municipal election, for comment on the Town’s Meridian Community Centre opening party budget. Their responses follow.

 

The Grand Opening will be both a thank you to many people and businesses have contributed to the success of Pelham’s Meridian Community Centre and a showcase of upcoming activities by groups that will be using the amazing facility. Existing Town budgets will cover the costs for the appreciation/opening.

Mayor Dave Augustyn
Candidate  for Regional Council

 

It is apparent that this council has lost sight of the economic realities facing this town. To spend a budget of $70,000 to throw a party at the opening of the community centre is irresponsible and a reckless use of taxpayer money. Our net debt for 2017 hit $31.76 million dollars. For 2018 this number is assumed to be between $45-$50 million dollars. Knowing this, how can they justify such an expense? And if these funds had not gone towards our debt, they could have benefitted families, seniors or business owners with much needed servicing and programming. It’s clear that Pelham Town Council has completely lost touch with its taxpayers, who are constantly relied upon for successive increases to our property taxes as a means to cover these extravagant and unnecessary expenses. An election could not have come sooner.

Diana Huson
Candidate for Regional Council

 

I do not know the anticipated numbers nor the nature of the proposed festivities. I was not invited to attend as Regional Councillor but will be there with Pelham Active Transportation Committee representatives. I do hope that plans are in place to deliver surplus food and beverages to Pelham Cares or soup kitchens. Residual funds could support a bicycle repair kiosk and air pump at the centre. I hope that the Oversight Committee is recognized for the saving of over $700,000, but I recommend that a two-year hold be placed on sale of the adjacent parcel of land and a portion of the $700,000 be used to provide a gravel parking area to assess real-time parking needs.

Brian Baty
Regional Councillor

 

Even if the Town’s finances were in a healthy state, I would find this figure excessive. Knowing that walking trails in the town are closed because there are no monies to hire outside contractors to make them safe, makes this amount seem ridiculous, even obscene.

Marvin Junkin
Candidate for Pelham Mayor

 

Yes, it’s a lot of money. Maybe that’s the realistic cost of running a two-day event with musicians (local I understand) and the NHL old timers hockey game. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Let’s hope it has positive residual effects for our town economically—it should, really. My friends from around Niagara are raving about our community centre, stating it’s better than their arenas. Once again, the Meridian Community Centre is a positive for our town. It will bring in new families with children. It is a first class community centre, not out of place or opulent, really just right for Pelham, a long time coming. I hope it all goes well next weekend. We have good staff working very hard to make it all work.

Barb Rybiak
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 2

 

In response to the money being spent on the community centre’s grand opening, whether it be $70,000 or $48,000, both numbers are ridiculous. How can council justify these numbers, and to have a separate ceremony for “V.I.P.’s” one day, and a second one for us lowly residents of Pelham the second. Who is paying for this building—we the residents. Yes, have a public ceremony, one ceremony. Open to all. We have a town with failing or aged infrastructure in need of replacing or repairs, being put off repeatedly due to lack of funds. Yet we have funds to throw a party to pat the backs of those V.I.P.’s (who are all these people, other than council?). Then do it again the following day for the rest of us? Council should be ashamed of themselves. I can’t believe that a quality ceremony can’t be had for significantly less money. There was a woman in history that said, “Let them eat cake!” If my history is accurate, things didn’t end too well for her and her husband!

Mark Bay
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 1

 

My first reaction to this as for most people was anger and frustration. How could the Town approve such an amount whether it’s $48,000 or $70,000, especially in the state that the Town is in. As I began to regain my composure and think this through, a thought occurred to me—can the Town change this amount? Can the Town reorganize to meet its goal with these opening festivities on a reasonable budget? My motto is, “Positive Forward,” and I will introduce this with my campaign for Town Council. I will turn all the negativity to positivity. Is this amount outrageous? Yes. Can we lower this amount to a more realistic amount? Yes. Can we fix this? Yes. Together we can accomplish anything, right any wrong that has been done. In essence we can use these opening festivities to get the word out  to our neighbouring communities and let this beautiful facility start to pay for itself. Like every concerned citizen, I do not want to see our taxes rise. I do not and will not support any rise in taxes. We need to work together by  1) listening to our citizens, 2) communicating with our citizens, and 3) being transparent with our citizens. We can achieve this and move “positive forward.” I will be that voice at Town Council to move beautiful Pelham forward so we can all be proud. Let Pelham lead and not be like every other municipality in Ontario.

Vince (Enzo) Della Marca
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 3

 

Irresponsible, outrageous, and out of touch with reality. October 22 can’t come soon enough.

Uwe Brand
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 3

 

I cannot image what they are planning on doing to pay homage to themselves that would cost either $48,000 or $70,000 dollars. That works out to a spending amount of either $6,857 or $10,000 for each of the six councillors and mayor. Unbelievable! But even more concerning is the fact that we are in the middle of an election campaign and all emails I receive addressed to all those running in the upcoming election come as CANDIDATE Augustyn, Accursi, Lane, Rybiak, Durley and Papp, and campaigning on municipal property and using municipal funds and using municipal employees is a definite no-no. One might wonder if any of them were to get elected could it not be challenged and possibly they could lose their seat and be unable to run in the next election if found guilty of this breach? I am sure they would say that they aren’t campaigning but any public appearance in front of voters is definitely giving them an advantage that the rest of the candidates don’t have. The community centre is already open and being used—leave it alone.

Sidney Beamer
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 1

 

Although I knew the amount to host the grand opening of the MCC was likely to be high I was not aware of the final amount.  I believe this to be yet another recurring theme at the Town of Pelham at the expense of the taxpayer. There are a couple of issues at work here.  Both of which have become glaringly obvious. The first being the lack of transparency and honesty, including consistent changes in the story surrounding the true affairs of the state of finances in the Town. The second being the lack of respect and accountability that Town Hall has to its residents, and that for me includes ignoring the requests from the media regarding this issue and many others. Things have to change and I hope the residents can see that a new and fresh approach to these issues has to be made and implemented this fall.

Mary Spehar
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 3

 

I’m against the expenditure. The Town already held an open house in July. They say it’s come in well under budget, so maybe they can put in the second parking lot that was in the original plan.

Marianne Stewart
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 1

 

It is disappointing to learn that once again our council has chosen to recklessly spend our money. At a time when we need to be critically analyzing and prioritizing our Town finances, Council has decided to host a $70,000-plus  grand opening event at the new community centre. I wonder if the key sponsors, whose names appear in and on the building, were asked to help finance this event?

Lisa Haun
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 3

 

For the year ending December 31, 2017, the total debt in our community was $31,905,664. We paid $740,632 in interest for one year for this debt. (Consolidated Financial Statements, December 31, 2017). $70,000 for a one day event seems excessive to me, then again I’m a low-cost operator. I would have considered different options such as: Having a soft opening and tying it in with the Junior B season opener; reaching out to the general contractor and all the subcontractors to subsidize the total cost of this event. (This is a normal practice in the business world when opening new buildings.) The other option is not to have a grand opening and save $70,000. We can’t find money to fix our roads but we can find money for a grand opening? When will this mayor and this council stop abusing taxpayers’ money?

Ron Kore
Candidate for Town Council, Ward 2

 

Editor’s note: No current Town councillor acknowledged or responded to our request for comment.

 

Related: Pelham party bill: $85K or $0?

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