In October 2018, Pelham voted in a new council, one comprised of entirely of candidates who had never held political office. The Voice asked them to assess their experience so far, in their own words.
Councillor Mike Ciolfi
I cannot believe how fast the year went by! The first year for me was like a baptism by fire. Several pressing issues came to the table at a very fast pace and decisions needed to be made, from the appointment of an interim CAO, going through both the operating and capital budget line by line for 2019, which, after lengthy debates, it was approved, to the development of the strategic plan that will be used for the next four years.
I know that action on cannabis is moving slower than the residents of Pelham would like. This committee has been meeting weekly for several months to develop bylaws and policies that will mitigate the adverse effects caused from this new industry. As you are all aware we had to extend the ICBL for an additional nine months, but moving forward I truly believe that we can have this all wrapped up sometime early spring.
Several other new committees were formed and have so far proved to be very beneficial. Staff will also bring a report back to council early in Q1 of 2020 in regards to reestablish the Heritage Committee.
Late spring council decided to start the search for the CAO and decided that the recruiting process would be handled from within instead of using an agency. This saved the Town a considerable amount of money. There were several qualified candidates that applied and we were pleased that Mr. Cribbs accepted the position of CAO. The Town has already benefitted from reduced costs from his experience and related education as a municipal lawyer in the short time that he has been on the job.
Then along came the gypsy moth. I never would have imagined the amount of time that was required to handle such a small insect. We still have a lot of work that needs to be complete in order to ensure that the Town and the residents can come up with a plan and policy that will be fair for everyone. I would expect this to be complete early 2020.
All members of council other than the Mayor have had no prior experience as councillors but we all work together as team and lean on one another for information. I truly believe that we have all grown together and have the best interests of the residents at heart. We all realize that there is a lot more work that needs to be completed over the next four years but overall are pleased with the direction that we are heading into. I have personally learned so much over the last year and I am looking forward to continue to learn and representing the residents of Pelham for the next three years.
With all of the help from the volunteers in this community, service clubs, Pelham Cares band shell group, volunteer firefighters, Town of Pelham staff and council we can continue to make Pelham the best place to live, work and visit!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
Councillor Lisa Haun
To say our council has had a steep learning curve this past year is quite an understatement. It will come as no surprise that we have had to find ways to rein in spending and work within very tight financial constraints and I am proud of our accomplishments. This past year saw council spending countless hours in meetings critically analyzing and passing two Town budgets for 2019 and 2020. We supported the formation of five important new committees for the purposes of (1) monitoring our financial health, (2) providing advice to council on mitigating adverse land use impacts of cannabis production facilities, (3) reducing Town energy consumption and utility costs, (4) sourcing new revenue streams at the MCC by capitalizing on new hospitality opportunities, and (5) coordinating activities and events for user groups at the MCC.
As promised, we have ensured that Poth Street was repaired and reopened, invested in major infrastructure repairs on Pelham Street, Station Street, and on Welland Road (including a fresh pave over those nasty potholes!). We have addressed many issues, some immediately obvious to residents, such as launching our brand new, user-friendly website, while other projects will take time to come to fruition, such as the future build of a new seniors’ multi-level care home in East Fonthill.
It is important to ensure we are effectively communicating with our residents. Hopefully residents have taken notice of the many public forums we have held this year on topics such as cannabis production facilities, gypsy moth spraying, and short-term rentals. We recognize staff and council have much work to do and thanks to all the feedback we’ve received we can work towards putting bylaws and programs in place to address your concerns.
While 2019 has been challenging at times it has also been exciting to be a part of building Pelham’s future. Fortunately I am a part of a great team of councillors that work well together and are equally dedicated to making the tough decisions that are often required. As your Ward 3 councillor I will continue to be your strong voice at council. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Councillor Bob Hildebrandt
It has been an amazing year that has brought great rewards and satisfaction. I am so grateful to the residents of Ward 3 that elected me.
As your representative, I serve on the Utility Sustainability Committee (Utility Costs), Niagara Road 12 Landfill Committee, Pelham Arts Advisory Committee, as well as the Board of Pen West Hydro.
Prior to being elected, hydro rates and Pelham’s hydro classification, which affected our hydro costs, was a covert operation I had been carrying on with little success. Then I met an individual while going door to door, Gordon Marasco, who was carrying on the same mission. We instantly became friends and joined forces on a mission that has translated into great progress on every front, including substantial dollar savings on the MCC hydro costs (over $400,000—accomplished by the Utility Sustainability Committee).
I had the opportunity to represent Pelham as part of a team effort at AMO in Ottawa in August, in a meeting with the Energy Minister and his deputy to discuss Pelham’s hydro density classification. This was followed by a meeting in December with Hydro One, MPP Sam Oosterhoff, and his executive assistant. We are optimistic that the new year will see the fruition of ten-plus years of research and result in a positive outcome of reclassification of Pelham’s hydro from Medium to Urban Density. We are looking forward to 2020 and additional cost savings.
Niagara Road 12 Landfill is an engineered landfill site (one of a very few in Ontario) that serves the towns of, and has representation from, Grimsby, West Lincoln, Lincoln and Pelham.
It opened in 1995 with an expected lifespan of 25 years. Its life has now been extended to 2048 because of the methods and technology involved at the landfill site.
It is clean, does not smell, and it is the best landfill operated site I have seen. The smell is minimized by the engineered design features of the site and the landfill practices.
The committee meetings deal with all facets of waste collection and recycling programs, with a goal of maximizing diversion and optimization, in an environmentally friendly way through the use of best engineered landfill site practices.
Pelham Arts Advisory—my mom would be proud of me. Her engineering son has finally joined a committee that fits her talents and abilities, and possibly even a dream she had for her son to be involved in some form of arts and culture education.
The committee’s vision and amazing artistic abilities are displayed each month at the MCC. If you haven’t seen their artwork and other events you need to go up to the second level and enjoy their many talents as I have.
In conclusion, I am a frequent visitor to the MCC on the walking track and attending meetings as well as at the 55+ Men’s Breakfast. Come and join the movement at the MCC.
My wish for each and everyone is have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
Councillor Ron Kore
I can’t believe that it’s been a year already! I have come to realize over the last 12 months that governing is a slow process, something I am not used to, coming from the business world, where we make decisions in a timely fashion.
For me, there have been some low points. Two that stand out the most are the enormous debt we inherited and having to deal with the subsequent loss of many services for the residents of our community (e.g., playground equipment, resurfacing of roads and sidewalks) and the second being how the whole gypsy month situation was handled, including how we billed certain residents and not others (this is a community problem, not an individual problem). There have also been a number of highlights throughout the year, including the implementation of the cost control of the MCC on a monthly basis, and the involvement of residents on various committees, voicing their concerns and bringing their expertise to help us resolve some of the issues.
Moving forward, we have a number of problems to deal with. These include short term rentals, a better strategy dealing with the gypsy moth issue, the removal of the chicane on Haist Street, and the ongoing cannabis issues within our community.
I am so proud of working alongside Mayor Marv Junkin, CAO David Cribbs, and my fellow councillors, who all deeply care about our community and are working hard to once again make Pelham a great place to live.
Councillor Marianne Stewart
Merry Christmas to all. After a year on council, Christmas and the New Year approaching feels like the appropriate time to pause and reflect. Being on council and in political life for the first time has been a very interesting and educational experience. I now understand why the wheels of government grind slowly. What may have seemed like a “no brainer” before, I have learned that making good decisions that will benefit our town now and into the future requires solid input from our senior leadership team and our own research to provide us with the information we need for responsible decision making.
I am proud to say that, as the “council team” we have become, we have worked hard and made good choices. Learning about the budget procedure was challenging, but we have managed to pass two fiscally responsible budgets within our first year.
Our council team is made up of seven individuals from different backgrounds and experiences. This allows us to look at the issues from a variety of perspectives, while we might not all agree, we remain respectful of the opinions and decisions our teammates make.
I did know that there would be more than a “couple” of meetings per month, but the surprise was the volume of reading involved in preparation for those meetings.
Our town faces many challenges, cannabis being the number one issue at this point. We have a cannabis control committee made up of diligent members of our community, including Councillor Ciolfi. They are working hard along with our senior leadership team to draft strong bylaws to protect us from the odours and light emitted from the growing operations.
Councillor Hildebrandt and his sidekick Gord Marasco, and the rest of the Utilities Sustainability Committee, have made great strides in making huge financial savings at the Meridian Community Centre, with more progress on the way.
The dreaded gypsy moths are another challenge. I am hoping for the weather conditions this winter and the coming spring to help to mitigate this problem naturally. I must admit that I didn’t know what a gypsy moth was until this year, when my white car started to look like a Dalmatian! Aside from that, work is being done to prepare for the next onslaught.
The Town is looking at the possibility of extending the hours of library service without cutting or adding staffing hours. There is technology available which could potentially provide more flexibility in library access hours while maintaining our qualified library staff.
All of our committees, some of which are not so much in the news, make huge contributions to Pelham, the community that we are all proud to call home.
All in all, I think it’s been a very good year working with my “council team” to make sound decisions to take us into the future.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year with friends and family.
Councillor John Wink
The first year of council is in the books and as I reflect on accomplishments and challenges, I am gratified with the progress we have made to date. Council has met 87 times this past year, including regular council, Committee of the Whole, Policy and Procedure, Special Committee, and public meetings. This total does not include all the committees that we are a part of. While council is not always in agreement with all issues, we have positive debate and we work well together as a team.
Some of our accomplishments this year include approving budgets for 2019 and 2020 in a matter of eight months. We are well prepared for 2020 initiatives. I was part of a small committee for our CAO recruitment and I believe we have picked the right person to lead our staff going forward. David Cribbs brings strong municipal experience as well as a legal background, to help your council make informed decisions.
Good work is being done by our Cannabis Control Committee and we should have appropriate bylaws in place by the second quarter of 2020. Additionally, our hydro committee has saved the Town significant dollars at the Meridian Community Centre and work is ongoing to potentially realize hydro savings for residents.
Council learned a lot about gypsy moths this year. We had $25,000 in the budget for spraying, but we had no idea of the magnitude of the problem. We have included $150,000 to address issues next year and any money not spent will be placed in a reserve for invasive species.
I am somewhat disappointed that we have not put bylaws in place for short-term rentals, but staff demands with respect to the cannabis issues have taken precedence. Short-term rental bylaws should be in place by the second quarter of next year.
I am gratified that the park in Lookout subdivision has been completed, as well as most of the work in Weiland Heights. Final touches, along with new playground equipment, will be completed in the spring.
My biggest concern for our Town is the amount of debt we have and the financial state of our reserves. Part of my frustration is the sale of Town property in East Fonthill as well as the old arena lands that have not been finalized as yet. We hope to have some positive news in this regard in the first few months of 2020.
Of further concern are the depleted reserves that the Town has, as it is these reserves that help us with capital projects in the Town. Staff has presented a draft of our debt and reserve policies to the Finance and Audit Committee, and this will be presented to council this Monday, December 16th.
I would like to thank staff for their hard work and dedication this past year. I would also like to thank all the volunteers on Town committees and those who support our initiatives throughout Pelham, to make our town a better place to live.