Town of Pelham Clerk Nancy Bozzato and Mayor Marvin Junkin in chambers before the start of last Monday’s regularly scheduled Pelham Town Council meeting. The rest of council and staff participated by video-conference YOUTUBE

Pelham looking to double up on mask bylaw

Despite the Niagara Region already instituting a mask bylaw that requires residents in the peninsula to wear mandatory face coverings in enclosed public places and on public transit as a COVID-19 precaution, Town of Pelham council voted July 27 to direct staff to prepare its own similar municipal bylaw.

Mayor Marvin Junkin was the only vote against the proposal, while Ward 1 councillor Marianne Stewart abstained because she has been stitching masks on her own, mostly for charitable purposes, while also selling some.

“Myself, I will not vote for this bylaw,” Junkin said. “I’ve talked to several mayors throughout the Region, their municipalities are more than content to stay with the regional bylaw. They think it’s a waste of staff’s time and resources to draw up their own bylaw. I won’t support a Pelham bylaw at this time.”

The Region’s bylaw was passed July 23 and came into effect last Friday.

However, Fire Chief and Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Bob Lymburner supports Pelham having its own bylaw, as it could be utilized further if and when the Region’s expires. He would also like penalties for violating the bylaw to be incorporated into the AMPS monetary penalty system.

“The bylaw pretty well mirrors the Region’s,” Lymburner said.

Junkin disputed Lymburner’s assertion regarding the Regional bylaw’s expiry point. The mayor said the mask rule is set to end Oct. 1, unless otherwise addressed.

“I kind of disagree with you on that, Chief. [Matters] got very hotly debated at the Region that [it] has a sunset clause in it, a very specific sunset clause. It says Oct. 1, if the Regional Council wishes to extend that, then it has to address it to extend it. If they don’t address it, it falls by the wayside. The fear was that the bylaw would be put in place and then would stay there for a lot longer than what would be deemed necessary.”

Councillor John Wink noted some differences between the Regional bylaw and the proposed municipal one, such as the Niagara version defining a minimum age of five for mandatory mask use, while Pelham proposed age three.

“When this was brought forward, the Region had not [implemented] a mask bylaw,” Wink said. “But the Region’s bylaw supersedes all the municipal bylaws. So, if council wants something in place in the event that the Region drops the requirement of masks, I would suggest the Town bylaw mirrors that of the Region’s to provide consistency and less confusion in the future.”

Councillor Lisa Haun agreed with Lymburner.

“Aside from the age discrepancy, it’s the same,” Haun said. Councillors agreed to make the minimum ages uniform.

Aside from the age discrepancy, it’s the same

Staff is scheduled to bring the proposed bylaw back to council for a vote at its next meeting on Aug. 10.

(In an interview to be published in the Voice next week, former Mayor Ron Leavens says that Junkin’s vote was the right way to go, citing the Region’s overriding authority, and the prospect for chaos if each Niagara municipality enacted its own mask bylaw.)

Lymburner also provided council with his regular COVID-19 update, with the Mayor asking him how enforcement would work for whichever mask bylaw is in effect.

“Our businesses have done a very good job,” he said. “They have the right not to allow [non-masked people] in the building. Unfortunately, if we got someone that barged through and said ‘I’m not wearing a mask,’ and there was an issue, we would receive a call from that. And then we would respond as required.”

Lymburner said that as of July 27 there were three active cases of the novel coronavirus in Pelham, but warned the low numbers should not create complacency among the public.

“The younger demographics are really treating this lightly,” he said, citing the recent case where more than 200 people attended a house party in the Toronto suburb of Brampton — complete, remarkably, with valet parking.

“We gotta keep doing what we’re doing.”

Cost of COVID

Treasurer and Director of Corporate Services Teresa Quinlin painted a relatively upbeat financial picture given the circumstances of the ongoing pandemic. She reported that Pelham’s projected tax levy operating deficit is down to just over $669,000 — an improvement from May, when it was pegged at almost $850,000. Quinlin credited the reopening of the community centre as the driving force in the difference.

“Most of this decrease is the result of opening up the Meridian Community Centre,” she said, adding that cash flows have also improved with the return of development charges.

Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens concurred, saying that July has been “exceptionally busy” for building permit activity— after none were issued in May.

“A strong fall is expected in the construction industry,” Wiens said.

Quinlin also said that the Town’s two percent decline in taxes receivable after the waiving of penalties as a courtesy to residents “isn’t bad at all.”

More good news appears to be coming from Queen’s Park after the province promised to provide up to $4 billion in one-time assistance payments to Ontario’s 444 municipalities.

“[Worst case scenario] if we didn’t receive anything, right now it looks like it would be 4.5% of a tax levy increase,” Quinlin said.

First-ever Pelham annual report issued

In a first, the Town has published an annual financial report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2019. Mayor Junkin read aloud the dedication in the document to the late Ward 1 Councillor Mike Ciolfi.

“The report is dedicated to the Councillor Mike Ciolfi, whose business acumen and leadership were tremendous assets in developing the Town’s new approach to financial issues and helping put Pelham on a positive financial track. Councillor Ciolfi is very much missed.”

The Mayor added that the report is further evidence that Pelham is getting its books in order.

“This council and staff deserves a lot of credit that we are heading in the right path financially,” Junkin said. “Kudos to everyone involved in this report.”

This council and staff deserves a lot of credit that we are heading in the right path financially

The report is available to read on the Town’s website.

Tight window for ending Sulphur Springs saga

Council passed a staff report for the repair of Sulphur Springs Road in North Pelham, at the cost of $637,000 — about $147,000 more than its initial budget, but significantly less than preliminary estimates made in 2016 and 2017. A chunk of the winding byway along the banks of Twelve Mile Creek has been closed since February 2016 due to erosion, leaving residents on the road with only one access point. That itself remains in peril.

“With erosion … there’s a real risk we could lose the road in that area,” Public Works Director Jason Marr said.

Marr said Duffin Contractors Ltd. has provided the Town with the best offer available, but that the project remains tricky given the environmental sensitivity of the area and the very short work timeframe available.

“We really only have a two-month construction window,” Marr said, referring to July and August. Ideally, the work would be completed next summer and included in the 2021 capital budget. Councillor Marianne Stewart asked him about his confidence in Duffin to be able to do the job correctly in the allotted time.

“Am I confident that they can complete the work? Yes I am,” Marr said. “But it’s going to be very tight for us.”

Parking penalty complaint

Council received a letter from the management of the Root and Bone restaurant on Pelham Street, asking the Town to waive parking penalty issuances after some customers received tickets while waiting outside of the establishment during takeout pickups. Owner Gemma Copland cited bylaw enforcement officers in Niagara Falls waiving such tickets during the pandemic.

“We have had some parking ticket concerns from our customers, and we are worried that this will impact our business by losing clientele due to the fact that our takeout customers are being ticketed outside of Root and Bone while waiting for their orders,” Copland wrote. “This is starting to financially sway customers from coming to the restaurant as times are tough for everyone.”

Lymburner disagreed with the assertion, pointing out that anyone ticketed outside the restaurant had to have been stopped in a live lane of northbound traffic, as there are no curbside parking spaces on that stretch of Pelham immediately south of Highway 20.

There are no parking spaces in front of the restaurant or other businesses on Pelham Street just south of Highway 20. Those parking in front of the establishments block traffic. GOOGLE STREETVIEW

“I read the report and I don’t support it in any way,” Lymburner said, adding that the businesses on that stretch of Pelham all have parking available at the rear of the buildings, on the east side facing Town Square.

“The trouble as we see it … is someone doesn’t want to walk 30 feet,” he said. “All of these buildings have rear access.”

Parking enforcement will continue as usual.

The trouble as we see it … is someone doesn’t want to walk 30 feet

CCC taking August off

Council passed two cannabis-related bylaws to require site plan control, and to amend the odorous industries nuisance bylaw to include administrative penalties. Cannabis Control Committee (CCC) chair Tim Nohara said his group is still working on bylaws surrounding light pollution, with an expectation they will be completed in September. Until then, the committee is taking a month off.