Pelham Town Council unanimously passed Mayor Marvin Junkin’s motion to direct staff to undertake a study on the storm water management pond at Highway 20 and Rice Road during its Nov. 2 regular meeting.
Councillor Bob Hildebrandt was absent following the death of his mother. Ron Kore continued his second leave of absence.
The pond, mischievously nicknamed by some “Lake Augustyn,” after Pelham’s former mayor, who oversaw its construction, was built before the community centre and other developments came online in East Fonthill. Designed as a runoff basin in an area that was historically prone to standing water, the pond feeds north under Highway 20 into a stream that in turn feeds Twelve Mile Creek.
Junkin is not the first to highlight the fact that the pond is failing in its purpose by causing severe erosion on the north side of the highway, while allowing warmer-than-ideal water to enter the environmentally sensitive Twelve Mile Creek watershed.
“I’ve observed personally the force of the water coming out of that culvert,” Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson said, citing damage to both the Lion’s Club and Pelham Cares’ properties on the north side of 20.
Junkin’s request for a staff report does not ask for money to be allocated to do so, something CAO David Cribbs wanted to clarify.
“There may be a finite amount of [research] that can be done without budgetary dollars associated thereto, and currently this is not a budgeted task,” Cribbs said. “It’s fundamentally a good initiative, but we don’t have any money set aside for it.”
The Mayor said that this was fine, as the report would be a technical compilation of existing records regarding its construction, function and maintenance.
“In respect to the financial constraints that this council is indeed feeling, and having faith in Town staff, I have no problem at all if we can do a thorough review of the technical aspects of the pond and then we’ll go from there,” Junkin said.
As such, it is not difficult to read between the lines that the report could be precursor to potential litigation against the firm that constructed it.
“It’s disheartening that this Town is spending good money looking after mistakes— if I can call them mistakes — that were supposed to be solved by engineered ponds,” Junkin said. “Something is not right. Either these firms are not taking into consideration the silt soils of the Kame, or I don’t know what it is, but the residents of this Town should not be paying this kind of money for engineered projects.”
Junkin noted that the Town is already set to spend $100,000 on repairs to a different storm water drainage pond, at the end of Station Street, and mentioned a legal settlement with a property owner after a decades-long problem with another one.
Public Works Director Jason Marr said that the Station Street pond and the East Fonthill one were built by different entities, and added the latter was approved by both the provincial Ministry of the Environment and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Marr asked council for time to complete the report given the fact the Town’s engineering department is presently down to a staff of two.
“We’re running on fumes here,” Marr said.
Cribbs suggested February for the report, while Councillor John Wink posited it be due at some point during the first quarter of 2021.
“I guess what you’re saying is, this Friday is definitely out,” Junkin half-joked.
Crackdown on community centre bonfires
Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Bob Lymburner told Council that a trend has emerged of what appears to be tailgating in the community centre parking lot. Due to the facility’s COVID-19 policy of only allowing one parent inside per child, Lymburner said that during the warmer months some were congregating outside and consuming “beverages” from the trunks of their vehicles.
Now, with cooler temps, it seems some are trying to truly recreate the atmosphere of a Buffalo Bills tailgate party.
“What has repeated itself a number of times, and has really come up as a big safety concern … is that people are congregating out in the parking lot behind their cars and they’re bringing fire pits,” Lymburner said. The Fire Chief added that his patience has run out, and told councillors that fines are coming—and with them potential complaints to council.
“We had another incident on Friday night, we’ve had a number of incidents prior to that. Just to let council know, that I’m at the point where I’m going to start issuing fines,” Lymburner said. “There’s no way around this … it’s definite a safety issue. But unfortunately, the way things usually play out is when I issue a fine, the first phone that rings is a councillor’s phone. So, I’m just giving you the heads-up that we’re going to start cracking down on these people, and they may not like the end result.”
In other community centre news, council unanimously approved a motion from Ward 3’s Lisa Haun to create a short-term working group tasked with improving the facility’s bar/servery area and dedicating it to late Councillor Mike Ciolfi.
“This was something that was very important to Mike,” said Haun, who appointed herself to chair the group. “It’s very fitting that it would be at the MCC. He was very proud of the MCC. It’s something I know the Ciolfi family is very keen on as well.”
Junkin was supportive of the idea, but mentioned that some resident in Ciolfi’s Ward 1 have asked him about other options to honour the late councillor in that particular area.
Haun said she would support that, but said the MCC dedication “certainly is the project.”
Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Stewart added that because the whole town uses the community centre, she felt that “it’s a better place for a tribute to Mike.”
Consulting with Burlington over development spats
Council also passed a motion by Stewart that will have staff consult with the City of Burlington regarding a process there that mandates developers consult with nearby residents over proposed projects before submitting them to the municipality for approval.
Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens said that something similar exists here in a casual manner, but is not mandated.
“At a staff level we encourage the developers to speak to their neighbours,” Wiens said. “We’ve seen some success with that … certainly when the Fonthill Lumber yard was redeveloped. [Cannabis producer] Leviathan also held meeting on their own.”
Stewart lauded the rules in Burlington, the GTA suburb of 185,000 people that has seen substantial development between the QEW/403 and Highway 407 since 2000.
“I’m not saying we’re not doing a good job. This is another step to be taken,” Stewart said. “I know from what I’ve read about the Burlington process is it’s worked out very well for them.”
Cannabis Control Committee chair Tim Nohara provided an update to council on the group’s work. Nohara told Wink that he expects to have a draft bylaw available on cannabis industry light pollution in Pelham by the end of the year. Elsewhere on the cannabis front, the City of Thorold advised council by letter that they have “received and filed” Pelham’s request that the neighbouring municipality contribute $15,000 toward this Town’s cannabis-related legal costs.
Bridge and culvert analysis
Council heard details of the 2020 Bridge and Culvert Inspection Program, a provincially-mandated engineering checkup on every major bridge and culvert in the Town every two years.
Marr ran down the items for councillors, making note of their previous request to keep “pages in the agenda short.”
According to the data, Pelham has 23 such structures defined as having a span of three metres or more. Seventy-eight percent of the structures were defined as in being in “very good” or “good” condition, with the remaining 22 percent categorized as “fair” or “poor.”
However, nearly half the total structures require urgent maintenance or repair according to contractor Ellis Engineering — although much of that is classified as due-diligence maintenance.
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