Call for cannabis cash

Town of Pelham Council endorsed a resolution moved by Ward 3’s Lisa Haun on Monday, Oct. 5, that will petition the federal and provincial government — as well two neighbouring municipalities — for financial assistance in dealing with ballooning legal costs associated with emerging cannabis regulations.

The resolution passed unanimously. Councillor Ron Kore was not in attendance.

The lengthy motion calls on MP Dean Allison and MPP Sam Oosterhoff to “champion the Town’s plight” in dealing with both Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, respectively. Both levels of government will be asked for an undetermined financial contribution to go towards litigation costs, while the cities of Thorold and Welland will be asked to voluntarily contribute $15,000 each because Pelham has received complaints from residents of both municipalities pertaining to light and/or smell associated with the industrial production of cannabis.

It’s currently estimated the Town of Pelham owes some $300,000 in legal fees stemming from seven challenges from producers in the wake of the passage of new cannabis-growing bylaws this past summer.

CAO David Cribbs said he had received a complaint that same day from somebody outside Pelham. He added that the only way to cover the added costs without outside help was through a tax levy.

“A complaint was forwarded to me from a resident of the city of Welland complaining about cannabis odour from a cannabis producer here in the Town of Pelham,” Cribbs said. “So I have firsthand experience that there are in fact complaints from neighbouring municipalities. It is true the town is shouldering all of the financial burden associated with all of this litigation, what is currently seven separate actions. One assumes that this will in fact set precedent, as things are currently structured, all of that cost … has to come from [taxes]. There are no other alternative sources of revenue to support this.”

Cribbs said what Pelham is asking for is fair.

“I think those are reasonable requests,” he said. “Whether those who receive them think they’re reasonable or not is beyond my jurisdiction.”

Pelham became a ground zero of sorts for cannabis production after the federal government fully legalized the product in 2018. New bylaws were passed this year to regulate growing, but producers Woodstock Biomed, CannTrust and Redecan are currently involved in legal challenges with the Town.

Mayor Marvin Junkin thanked Haun for moving the motion.

“[It] at least makes other levels of government stand up and take notice that Pelham, like every other municipal government, is unfortunately having to bear the financial burden of what’s commonly known as mistakes made at the federal level,” the Mayor said.

Council tells staff to open bidding on sewer

Junkin took issue with a staff report urgently asking for $44,000 to conduct sanitary sewer diversion upgrades in the Station Street/Summersides Boulevard area. The report recommended awarding the contract to Beam Excavating Inc., which is already involved in the current construction on Station. However, Junkin strenuously objected, stating council’s preference is to open such projects to bidding under request for proposal (RFP) protocols.

“I can’t see any reason why this report wasn’t brought to us several months ago,” the Mayor said. “I don’t think this council appreciates being handed something on the 11th hour and making it sound like it’s a do-or-die situation. I was very disappointed that the report suggests that we should deviate from our purchasing policy.”

The report had some alarmist undertones, specifically that the sewer upgrade is badly needed, and failure to address it could jeopardize future developments. It also highlighted that council previously deferred the construction of a roundabout at Station and Summersides, which apparently impacted the sanitary sewer diversion project.

Despite the later stage of the year, Cribbs said that it shouldn’t be a problem to finish the work with a proper bidding exercise.

“What’s critical here is the work get done in a timely fashion,” the CAO said. “But we can reasonably proceed in a more traditional fashion.”

Director of Public Works Jason Marr said the RFP process would tack “five-to-six weeks” on to the project, but said it could still be completed in time to repave Station Street by the end of December.

Council then voted to amend the motion — approving the work, but requiring staff to follow the Town’s purchasing policy.

Community centre COVIDIOTS

During his regular COVID-19 update, Cribbs made note to council of a recent disturbing trend.

“I regret to inform you that staff have been experiencing an increase in a level of incivility and disrespect … particularly of staff at the [community centre],” the CAO said. “Essentially individuals challenging the need to wear masks, or any social distancing.”

Cribbs said he has been in discussion with Bylaw Enforcement about an added presence at the facility, and added that the Town plans to bring forward a public code of conduct document of sorts at the next council meeting.

“We think we need to take some proactive steps,” he said. “Everyone’s under a lot of stress these days of course and I think we do understand that, but at the end of the day we do have some obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide a safe workspace.”

Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness Vickie vanRavenswaay reported to council that 48 people made reservations ahead of time for public skating on Oct. 4.

PATC plan

Pelham Active Transportation Committee (PATC) chair Bea Clark presented the committee’s updated master plan. It focuses on four priorities, including completing a sidewalk gap analysis, better signage, and both reviewing progress on the master plan, while ensuring budget allocations are included in long-term planning.