Votes to stop or delay some $700K in expenditures
BY JENNIFER CHORNLEY
The first full meeting of Pelham’s newly elected council was also its last for 2018. About 30 onlookers were in the gallery as the meeting was called to order on December 17.
Two delegations were on the agenda with Trevor Ferguson representing Deloitte on their 2018 Audit Service Plan to council, while Chair of the Pelham Community Preservation Coalition Jim Jeffs, presented to council to opt out of allowing retail cannabis stores to operate within the town.
Just say no
Chair of the Pelham Community Preservation Coalition, Jim Jeffs, made a presentation to council for the Town to opt-out of permitting cannabis retail stores within its boundaries.
Jeffs posed the question, “What will Pelham look like in the future?”
He said that over the past 50 years, “Pelham has grown from a small village with not even a single traffic light to a large bedroom and retirement community.”
“I remember when Fonthill Nurseries owned well over 100 acres of along the west side of South Pelham Street and the downtown consisted of just a few stores, and immediately behind those stores was an open field.”
With that, he acknowledged that, “time does not stand still and the population continues to grow.”
“The choices you make will determine [the future of Pelham],” Jeffs said.
Opting out of having cannabis retail stores in Pelham or to allow them with no restrictions as to number or location is the “choice” Town Council has to face.
He asserted that while the previous Council chose to classify cannabis production as agricultural use of land, other municipalities deemed it as industrial.
“The result [in Pelham] was cannabis production facilities taking over greenhouses that used to grow vegetables and orchards that used to grow.”
Jeffs also asserted that since Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014, crime rates have been “rising, outstripping the national trend. Violent crime went up 12.5 percent from 2013 to 2016, while the national average was less than five percent.”
In addition, car accident claims increased and the number of teens sent to emergency rooms “more than quadrupled.”
“Is this what we want for the future of Pelham?” he asked.
With the licensing of cannabis retail stores the responsibility of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, as of November 29 all relevant licensing and application requirements were unknown.
With these requirements, Jeffs added only some were published, including outlets must be at least 150 meters away from a school’s property line and there must be a notice posted on the proposed retail store’s location for 15 days.
Jeffs expressed concern that the minimal distance is not very much, as it’s equivalent to the same distance you must be behind an emergency vehicle while driving.
“Any objection to the proposed store location will only be valid if it relates to a matter of public interest as defined by the Federal Government.”
The timeline for council’s ability to vote and discuss opting out was concerning to Jeffs, especially since January may be subjected to days where weather may be inclement. He inquired if a special council meeting could be called specifically to discuss the issue earlier.
Mayor Marvin Junkin acknowledged it is “cutting it close,” however he explained that Town staff needs time to develop a report to council from the information and guidelines set out by the province.
No 2019 pay increase for council
In a unanimous decision, council voted against a salary increase that would have been in lieu of the one-third tax exemption salaries previous council members were entitled to.
This tax exemption was to help cover the cost of work-related expenses.
In a report to council, staff stated the 2017 Federal Budget eliminated this tax exemption provision, resulting in salaries becoming 100 percent taxable as of January 1, 2019.
Currently, the Mayor receives an annual salary of $34,670, of which $11,557 is tax-free. Councillors receives an annual salary of $15,890, of which $5,297 is tax-free.
Town council was presented with two scenarios.
In scenario 1, where gross pay remains the same, the Mayor will see a reduction in net pay of some $2,296 and each councillor will see a reduction in net pay of some $304. Town costs are expected to increase by $2,232— $595 for the Mayor and $1,637 for councillors, due to increases in benefits, Employee Health Tax and WSIB.
In scenario 2, the net pay after tax would have remained the same with the Mayor and council members seeing no change in their take-home pay.
In order to ensure net pay remained the same, the Mayor would have needed a salary increase of some $3,118 and each councillor some $410.
Under this scenario, the costs to the Town would have expected to increase by some $13,730, of that $7,126 for the Mayor and $6,604 for the six councillors, due to an increase in salary and benefits.
All councillors agreed that they “were not in it for the money, but instead to make positive changes in the town.”
Their decision received a round of applause from the gallery after the motion was declared passed by Junkin.
Radio replacement purchase order approved
Council unanimously approved a motion to issue a purchase order to secure pricing for the Town of Pelham’s Fire and Emergency Services radio system.
The radio system is price-tagged at just under $292,000, while installation would be just over $6,200. Even though the purchase order was approved in 2018, the cost of equipment and installation will be incorporated in the Town’s 2019 budget.
The reason for securing a purchase order before December 31 was that the Town’s previous contract is expiring with the Niagara Regional Police and if the Town granted approval in 2019, the cost would have increased 20 percent.
Pelham Fire Chief Bob Lymburner told council that in 2015 the NRP started a project to replace their aging and outdated radio system, a system that had reached its end-of-life as repairs and maintenance were becoming too costly, and the issue of safety was at the forefront.
During this time, the NRP also reached out to the region’s fire services concerning their radio systems, which indicated they were in a similar situation. Further, there was no opportunity for inoperability between the services.
“Department communications is our first line of safety when operating on an emergency scene,” said Lymburner.
The Chief expressed concern about the 35-year-old radio system, as it is an analog system operating on a low-band frequency.
“We have very serious issues regarding coverage, parts, repairs and overall reliability on the fire ground,” he said. “To compound matters, we also share this single frequency with three other fire departments.”
These issues pose a serious health and safety concern for all firefighters operating at emergency incidents, asserted Lymburner.
One scenario Lymburner described was that if a firefighter fell through the floor in a burning structure, and another area’s signal was stronger and blocked Pelham’s ability to signal a mayday, it could result in a fatality.
Lymburner said the new system would offer tactical channels to operate on with no interruption, channels solely theirs.
“Replacing our current radio system with a new P25 system will allow fire personnel to operate safely and efficiently at all emergency scenes,” Lymburner said.
Parking overflow option defeated
In a last-minute agenda addition, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Darren Ottaway, asked for council’s approval for change order totaling no more than $80,000 to address the issue of inadequate parking at the community centre.
Ottaway explained the issue had come up as the facility is hosting two major hockey tournaments after Christmas and in the New Year. Due to the size of the tournaments, along with regular scheduled activities, parking will be an issue. The first Silver Stick tournament began December 27, while the second major international event is from January 10 to 13.
The option that Ottaway asserted was the most “palatable” involved removing the topsoil on land north of the community centre, then laying down 100 millimetres in depth of a granular material. The land north of the community centre is a proposed future plaza area for the Town to host major events. Until the plaza is constructed, the area would remain as parking overflow and accommodate the required extra parking spaces.
Another cost-saving option Ottaway proposed was using recycled granular material, which would reduce costs to $40,000. Also, this granular material would be reused later.
He said the proposed solution didn’t require any new money to be set aside as it was already in the 2018 budget. Also, if approved, the project could have been done in three days.
Councillor Lisa Haun questioned Ottaway if there were any other quotes obtained by the Town, to which he responded no, and asserted that other quotes would be higher.
“Because it’s changing the scope of work that’s already been awarded, there’s no requirement to [get competing bids].”
Also, he said, to obtain more quotes would consume construction time.
Councillor Marianne Stewart questioned the temporary location, as once the plaza was developed where would the overflow parking be relocated.
Ottaway responded that another option was to take land owned by the Town and create a lot to ensure a permanent solution. However, if a portion of that land was taken off the market it would be loss of revenue for the Town, and incur the additional cost of building the parking lot, which “would make for very expensive parking stalls.” Ottaway said a report on this option would be coming forward to council.
Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness Vicky vanRavenswaay said this short-term solution would accommodate parking needs during the time of the centre’s regular programs and the two major hockey tournaments.
Junkin said he thought it was a “good short-term solution,” however four of six council members voted against the resolution.
Humane Society contract
Council voted unanimously to renew the Welland and District Humane Society’s contract beginning January 2019, ending December 31, 2021 with an optional one-year extension for 2022.
Contract costs for animal control services will be to a maximum of $36,000 for 2019, a maximum of $36,900 for 2020 and a maximum of $37,800 for 2021. The 2022 contract extension cost will be a maximum of $39,000.
About 60 percent of the costs reflect animal control, 30 percent are shelter expenses, while other costs represent 10 percent. Other costs cited in the total incorporate medication and blood work services performed on any animal that is received for care.
The Welland and District Humane Society provides Pelham with two part-time officers along with a variety of administrative and bylaw enforcement services. Administrative services includes licensing matters record keeping, issuing Offences Notices (Certificate of Offence) for infractions of the Dog Nuisance By-law, Animals at Large By-law, Exotic Pet By-law, and Dog Control By-law currently in place and provide representation in court for the enforcement of such By-laws.
Animal control services include quarantine services as directed by the medical officer of health, euthanasia and disposal of stray dogs and cats and disposal of “road kill” animals, which have been delivered to the Society by municipality staff.
Audit Committee to be established
Town council approved a motion establish an audit committee terms of reference effective January 2019.
This committee of council would approve, monitor, evaluate and provide advice on matters affecting the external audit, risk management and the financial reporting and accounting control policies and practices of the Town.
Newly-elected councillors have made it known that municipal finances will be a focus of their term.
The committee would provide a focal point for communication between council, the external auditor, and Town staff, and facilitates an impartial, objective and independent review of management practices.
Two options were presented to council on how the committee would be comprised.
The first option was a committee including all members of council, and no more than two members of the public who possess a CPA in good standing.
The second option was the committee could be limited to three members of council only, reporting the activities of the committee to council as whole, and no more than two members of the public who possess a CPA in good standing.
Councillors approved the first option.
Mayor Junkin stated that the new committee would allow financial figures to be communicated in a better way that everyone can understand. The Chartered Public Accountant members must be qualified so they can “talk the same lingo as the Treasurer.”
The Mayor added that because some councillors have an above average ability to interpret financial reports, “I see nothing but positive aspects of this audit committee.”
Councillor Rob Hildebrandt said that establishing the committee sends a “positive statement” to the public, staff, and future councils, and that “accountability is here to stay.”
Town Treasurer Teresa Quinlin has worked with audit committees in past jobs and volunteer positions. She said she was “happy” and “excited” that council is moving forward, as many municipalities have adopted such measures already.
Station Street roundabout update
Public Works Director Jason Marr provided an informal update on the status of the potential Station Street roundabout.
Mayor Junki n said it was brought to his attention that many Station Street residents were unclear on the cost of this project. From his perspective, a roundabout now isn’t justified, even though it was intended to accommodate increased traffic flow four to five years from now.
A meeting with the Town Clerk, CAO and a member of Public Works was what allowed the issue to return to council, even though the past council approved the project.
Junkin said his concern was spending money on a project that isn’t required until four or five years time and putting aside “serious infrastructure” work that needs to be done now.
Ottaway suggested that council ask the Public Works Director for a report on the project to be brought forward to an upcoming council meeting so it can be discussed in regards to incorporating it into the 2019 budget.
Councillor Mike Ciolfi asked if there was an estimated figure for the project, which Public Works Director Jason Marr stated was almost $700,000 as designed.
Hildebrandt asked Marr to provide a project breakdown of all costs and also provide insight on how pedestrian traffic will flow.
Marr responded that it would be better to bring a report to council on how the roundabout was designed, how it came about, and the associated costs, which can be reviewed and commented on by councillors.
If the roundabout doesn’t proceed, Marr said, there would be no need for a four-way stop, as the intersection would function as it stands now with a two-way stop.
Currently there are just over $1 million in purchase orders for work that may or may have not been completed yet, said Marr. Some $700,000 of that total is attributed to the roundabout itself, while there is another $300,000 of additional work needing to be completed, including $110,000 of landscaping and sidewalks in the East Fonthill area.
Marr said he would add to the report a plan to put in a temporary sidewalk along Summersides Drive to ensure safe pedestrian movements.
Hildebrandt asked Marr if work in the $300,000 figure could be delayed, to which Marr responded that $97,000 had already been committed to completing sidewalks, with an additional $11,000 required in the spring for topsoil and sod restoration.
Councillor John Wink asked Marr if the roundabout was delayed, would the Station Street water mains be fixed quicker, especially since they have been there for decades and there were “serious issues” regarding water quality.
Marr said there is a separate contract that’s been issued for work between Highway 20 and Port Robinson Road, which is proceeding and is separate from the roundabout work.
Council approved that Marr was to move forward with a report for an upcoming council meeting in the new tear.
Audit Service Plan presentation
Trevor Ferguson, from the financial services firm Deloitte, made a presentation to council for its audit service plan for the 2018 fiscal year ending December 31.
Ferguson explained to council that the audits of the Town’s financial statements are performed in accordance with the Canadian Public Sector Accounting Services.
At this point, Ferguson said they were not aware of any “significant events” that would impact the 2018 audits.
He explained the process and relayed some audit risks that may be encountered.
Ferguson also highlighted the new and revised auditor reporting standards, which were approved on April 11, 2017. New and revised accounting standards were also implemented in 2017.
While you’re here…consider taking out a Voice Membership to express your support for local journalism.