Appreciates local little library

As a response to your article on sidewalk libraries [These streetwise libraries never close, Jan. 27, p. 12], we are writing, both as grateful neighbours and avid readers, with regards to the “little library” on Fallingbrook Drive.

Joe and Maggie VanBolderan have been our neighbours and friends for 35 years. We’ve watched their children grow and have families of their own and appreciated enormously the care they took of our home as we spent several months in Florida over 20 years. The library is just an extension of their devotion to the neighbourhood which, as it ages, truly appreciates popping down the street, or in my case, next door, to invariably find something to while away the hours during the COVID crisis.

Thanks to Maggie and Joe, and all those who have contributed books.

Jerry and Lin Whitaker
Fonthill

Liked Ruehle reminiscence

I enjoyed Michael Ruehle’s story about his parents and Sun Valley Gardens [Growing up with nudists, Jan. 27, p.10]. I have been a nudist since the early ‘80s and have loved every minute of it. My wife and I are members of the local resort. We find members to be just as he writes—good folk. I have not read Au Naturel: The History of Nudism in Canada, but if I do I’ll now know the other side of the story.

James Schaefer
Voice website

 

Churches must obey health orders

Shame on every church who blatantly defies or plans to defy universal COVID-19 legislation. Instead of shining a light on a world that is darkened by this “power of the air,” you are an example of utmost arrogance! As opposed to an organization that is to be an example of Light and Life, you are contributing to the increase of Darkness and Death!

How does this compare with Romans 13:1-5, or I Peter 2:13-15? Or have you torn those references out of your Bibles? If you were an object of religious persecution, then maybe you would be justified. You are not! These are restrictions placed on all non-essential services. If you claim to provide an essential service, it can be done within the parameters already set via restricted assembly or technology. There is even technology that enables your finances to be maintained by those who wish to donate. Currently your behavior is encouraging religious persecution but for the wrong reasons. (1 Peter 2:20)

I plead with those who already hold a distaste for this religious institution. They are not all the same! I am thankful my church is not defying this legislation, or I would disassociate myself from it.

Michael Benson
New Dundee

 

Pelham Cares gives a shout-out

All food banks remained open throughout the pandemic, as we are declared essential. Pelham Cares is 85 percent volunteer-run with only two part-time staff. Through the past year we had to minimize volunteers’ capacity along with increasing staff responsibilities. Our staff and volunteers have been on the front lines, working incredibly hard to continue to serve those who need it the most, despite many challenges. Pelham Cares is so grateful for the selfless support of all those involved that made Pelham Cares continue to thrive to meet our community needs.

Pelham Cares 2020 at a glance: Transitioned clients able to enter and browse model to a contactless “drive thru” pick up by appointment. Limited the number of volunteers’ capacity within our facility and food drive. Increased staff responsibilities. Ordering and purchasing items by bulk. Purchased freezer for additional storage. Upgraded our driveway for visibility and added an extra parking spot. Partnered with other food banks, resulting in further storage support for both dry items and frozen food. Purchased further shelving to expand our storage. Introduced Zoom for board meetings and staff training. Provided summer activity boxes for families this past summer. Changed annual food drive as a drive thru food drive adhered to Ontario Public Health regulations.

Pelham Cares had an increase this year: 31 percent increase in use of our services. 92 percent increase in emergency food orders. 163 percent increase in providing referrals for further supports.

Tremendous community support: When we say, “It takes a village,” we mean it! Our fundraising efforts were challenged, as was the case for many other agencies and clubs this past year. At Pelham Cares, we were supported through many creative fundraising efforts within the community. The following top creative fundraising supporters exceed over $2,000 in donations: Keith’s Restaurant Cookbook; Pelham Cares Gives Back Raffle; Meridian Community Centre Drive Thru Food Drive; 3rd Fonthill Scouting’s Toilet Paper Ornament project; the “JoyTruck” Light Up Truck; Pelham Street Grille’s Pancake Breakfast; Fenwick Parade; PetValu dog and cat food for our furry friends’ support; Sobeys Donate $2 to Pelham Cares Campaign; Peter Piper Pub Golf Tournament.

We are so grateful for the outstanding community supporters and the way that businesses came together and joined in many of these efforts to also support Pelham Cares while many were experiencing their own challenges. It makes it such an honour to be located in such compassionate and supportive community.

Thankful for our Grant Partners: Niagara Region; Niagara Community Foundation; Nutritional Partners; Branscombe Foundation; Food Bank Canada.

We received a shipment of emergency food boxes from Feed Ontario, and we had the ability to share with those who struggled with food demands such as Youth Shelters, soup kitchens and those servicing individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

Our Pelham community that stepped up: We cannot say thank you enough to all our volunteers, The Town of Pelham, Pelham’s small businesses, our local schools, organizations, and social clubs that equally supported us this year. Every contribution goes right back into the community and aids us to remain open and essential. We cannot thank you enough Pelham Community!

Jennifer Dube
Coordinator, Pelham Cares

 

Thank you for assistance

To the two Fonthill lady residents and Mr. Ron Kore from the Sobeys store, and to the EMS team for their very quick support which I received after my fall on January 11 in the afternoon. Getting me slowly up and calling for the EMS who were very quick at this spot. This was not a pleasant fall to my face and nose, but I then noticed how nice it is to have many good people in this very fine town helping out in these moments. Thank you again.

Theo Brunet
Fonthill

 

Lauds fight against moth spray cost

This man is to be commended for all the work he did. [Spray complaint rejected by Integrity Commissioner, Jan. 20, p.9.]

I read a quote somewhere: “Change is made by people who show up.” Perhaps you don’t succeed all the time, but what would our world be like if you never tried?

Tillie Clapp
Fenwick

 

Open letter to Welland mayor and council

I would like to begin this letter by extending my sincere thanks to those councillors who voted to bring the topic of the expropriation of my cousin Marsha’s farm back to the table for discussion. Thanks to Councillor Green for your leadership and compassion. Thanks to Councillor Chiocchio for recognizing the importance of home and that the timing of this development is not right. Thanks to Councillor Graham Speck for acting with integrity and pursuing the truth. Thanks to Councillor DiMarco for your commitment to fair decision- making that puts the needs of longstanding landowners ahead of corporations. I’m sorry if I missed anyone whose work deserves recognition. I truly appreciate your consideration and commitment to the preservation of local history, family and community heritage, and farmland.

I am writing with a few requests:

1. In all discussions of Lot 16 Concession 7, please refer to the property as “The Watter’s Farm.” Referring to it as nothing more than a piece of data erases any recognition of the people who own and work the land and renders potential outcomes of this decision devoid of emotional consequence and personal responsibility.

2. Please consider what other available land may suit this purpose. I know Marsha’s lot is serviced. I do not think that’s a good enough reason to remove her from her home, which is also a working farm. Financial considerations need to be balanced with those of the environment, our foodshed, the community, and our heritage. This is not the only opportunity Welland will have for new industry. Perhaps invest in servicing other areas for future development.

3. Please examine your reasons for supporting this particular development. Does it fit into the vision of what you want Welland to be, what you want to achieve with your time on council, and what business ventures you want to support? Will there be future projects that will achieve the same, or better outcomes, for the people of Welland?

To Mayor Campion, Councillors Moote, McLeod, Van Vliet, and Spinosa, thank you for your work in making Welland a good place for my family to live. I speak to you directly because you are the ones who have remained unmoved by concerns brought to you by your community. If you stand by your decision, please consider discussing your reasons with those who oppose it. After all, is that not fundamental to a healthy democracy? Feel free to reply to this email and we can set up a time to speak. There are many others in the community that would be open to a conversation as well.

Liz Anderson
Stratford

 

REGIONAL COUNCIL UPDATE | Regional Councillor Diana Huson

Raiders of the Lost Reserves

Last week the Region finalized our levy budget, which encompasses our operating expenses, some capital expenditures, our suite of programs and services, and also our agencies, boards and commissions.

Staff had followed a 2 percent budget guideline and, to their credit, were diligent in sticking to that number despite unexpected COVID costs created by the pandemic. Similar to the Town, the Region received significant funding from the Province to mitigate these costs. However, there were other financial pressures, largely resulting from the Niagara Regional Police budget which came in at a 4.3 percent increase. Last year council had approved an additional 40 new officers to respond to an escalation of calls, largely due to mental health pressures, and to preserve our 9-1-1 response time. Half of these hires fell onto last year’s budget with the remainder covered this year. This landed the Region’s budget at a 2.9 percent increase.

However, council decided to slash the budget down to 1.8 percent in order to assist those in our community who are struggling. They accomplished this by raiding our reserves to the tune of $4.3 million dollars. And I fear this will come at a great cost.

To put this into perspective, a 2.9 percent increase would have resulted in an additional $46 annually for the average household. A 1.8 percent increase will result in an additional $29 annually, representing a savings of $17. To be fair, the average Niagara household is assessed at $278,000. In Pelham, the average household is most likely double this, so the savings would be closer to $34. It’s not a lot of money, but 1.8 percent makes for a great headline.

The Region is in a unique position compared to our lower tier municipalities where nearly 84 percent of our programs and services are deemed essential. The demands placed on these services, such as waste collection, policing, EMS, public health, and long-term care have directly increased. The pandemic is not over. These units will continue to need priority resourcing and support into the near future as we respond to an ongoing public health crisis.

There’s also a question of what role the Region will play in a post-pandemic recovery. The answer to this is dependent on how the Region is funded and the resources we need to respond. For this reason, our financial health and capacity to service our residents are of vital importance.

So, where do we stand financially?

In a recent sustainability review, the Region was found to have the second lowest reserves and reserve funds per household in comparison to other Ontario municipalities. It was also found to have the second highest in long-term debt per household. Additionally, we have the lowest capital additions as a percentage of our amortization expenses, meaning we aren’t replacing our capital assets as quickly as they are wearing out. In other words, our financial position is not great. Actually, it’s quite poor.

The Region has a Taxpayer Reserve Fund dedicated to protecting the Region from emergencies that result in significant and unexpected costs. It can act as a buffer in cushioning the taxpayer from absorbing significant budget increases resulting from unexpected events. One could argue that the pandemic is such an event, but this would ignore the fact that the Region has already received Provincial funding to cover the bulk of these costs. We’ve also undergone significant budget mitigation efforts that have helped keep our budget lean and ease the financial burden created by the pandemic.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the reserves issue.

As noted, the taxpayer reserve fund (TRF) was designed to protect the Region, and subsequently the taxpayer, from significant and costly events. Based on that sustainability review, it should have a balance around $60 million. In 2014 the taxpayer reserve fund was half of this, having a balance of $30 million. By 2018, the reserve dropped to $26.4 million, a reduction of $3.4 million dollars. Today, and in consideration of our most recent budget actions, the reserve fund will drop to an estimated $14.25 million. This means the current council has depleted the reserves by more than four times that of the previous council in only three years!

I was not in support of the $4.3 million drawing from reserves. I had actually tried to increase the budget by 0.1 percent to make a point. If we want to spend money, the reality is we have to collect taxes to pay for those commitments.

The West Lincoln Hospital funding is a glaring example of this. The Region has committed $12.6 million dollars but allocated only $1.5 million over each of the next four years. This leaves a deficit of $6 million that needs to materialize in 2024. When that was voted down, I tried to cut something from the budget. I argued that if we want to spend money and we don’t want to increase taxes, then we need to cut something. That was voted down too. It seems that reserved dipping seems to be the long-term financial funding strategy of preference.

But more importantly, as a response to financial hardship, I can say a 1.8 percent budget increase attains very little. And I say this from experience. I know what it’s like to lose your job and own a home. Saving $34 on my property tax bill would not have helped my financial position, nor would it have allowed me to keep my house. If we’re trying to respond to economic difficulty, we need to invest in the programs and services that lift people up. Programs like subsidized childcare or investments in affordable housing can truly make a societal difference. But underfunding our municipalities in this manner, through raiding reserves, will only hamper our ability to achieve those efforts.

Perhaps it’s time we focused on a new financing strategy. My preference would be one that emphasizes financial stability, protects residents from a roller-coaster of tax increases, and prioritizes spending public money based on where there is the greatest need.

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Larry Coté

Time to stop avoiding this topic

It’s a discomforting topic few people want to think about: Fraud, committed against seniors. A little research into this topic will upset any decent person’s sense of compassion and common decency.

One of these findings that will shake one to the core was the National Council on Aging’s (NCOA) claim that 90 percent of the scams against seniors are perpetrated by the older person’s own family, even sons and daughters. Does that not fit the definition of bastard? Another scary aspect is the fact these crimes are considered “low risk” and difficult to prosecute. Such factors invite the scum of society to engage in such amoral conduct.

According to the RCMP, the annual rate of fraud in this country exceeds $3 billion dollars. With a population in the neighbourhood of 40 million, the issue isn’t an insignificant one.

The list of scams against this vulnerable sector is both unexpectedly long and abhorrently scary. The worst of these scams can leave victims penniless and sometimes homeless. How’s that for respecting your elders as the old admonition recommends?

While in the vicinity of ethics, researching crimes against seniors could cause devout moralists to rethink the commandment to love your neighbours. To extend love to those who would scam seniors could be a stretch.

A sad irony associated with the scamming of seniors is that many victims are known to love and trust their families and neighbours. That is how they were raised and guided their lives. Unfortunately, such inclinations allow the swindlers’ exploitative behavior to be much easier to execute.

As stated earlier, the list of types of scams is extensive and beyond this column’s space limitations. However, perhaps it is important to identify the top five that target seniors as listed by NCOA. Scams associated with medical/health issues, counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery scams, fraudulent anti-aging products, and telemarketing scams promoting a miscellany of products and services are the most common.

According to Canada’s Department of Justice, it is important to identify ways to help prevent elderly fraud. Such suggestions are intended for implementation by seniors themselves and their caregivers. The Justice Department suggests that seniors stay involved with family, friends and community activities. Seniors must execute and include absolute clarity in their power of attorney documents. Seniors must refuse anyone who calls or comes to the door selling anything or looking for donations. All seniors must use direct deposit for checks of any and all kinds of transactions. All of these suggestions, and more, encourage seniors to remain active and avoid being isolated. Such a strategy will help maintain a level of alertness that allows one to figuratively //smell a scam a mile away.

According to James Dolan, writing in the CSA News, “Fraud thrives in secrecy. Like cancer, it spreads because victims don’t know it’s there and, therefore, can’t take steps to stop its spread and eradicate it.”

All attempts to defraud seniors should be reported to law enforcement. That is the best way to constrain these despicable onslaughts. As Dolan suggests in his article, the proper place for fraudsters is in jail.

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Nearly 50 percent of high-risk residents are vaccinated

News on the vaccine front took another disheartening turn this week when another drug maker announced that it would be reducing vaccine shipments to Canada by 20-25 percent. Moderna, a U.S.-based company, had originally agreed to ship 230,000 shots in the first week of February, with 249,600 shots to follow three weeks later. The company has revised the first-week shipment down to 180,000 shots.

So far the overall target of 2,000,000 doses to be delivered by the end of March is still expected to be met; we will have to keep our fingers crossed on that one. This announcement came on the heels of the other major supplier to Canada, Pfizer, stating that it would be delivering roughly 80 percent fewer shots over the next four weeks than initially promised. This number could conceivably go even lower if the European Union introduces export controls on shots leaving that area. If the E.U. feels that they are not receiving a sufficient number of shots they can block exports to outside countries.

On the Niagara front, total number of doses administered reached 3,993 as of Friday, with 103 people vaccinated on that day. All long-term care homes in Niagara have been vaccinated, and 42.9 percent of high-risk retirement home residents have had their shots.

As for COVID-19 numbers, new daily cases in Niagara continue to hover around the 100 mark, give or take, with new cases on Jan 29 being at 91. Pelham’s active cases were at 35 on Sunday, with all reported cases self-isolating at home. Total number of deaths in the Region is at 311, every single death being one too many.

The past week saw a bit of snow fall in town, with temperatures falling to seasonal lows. Perhaps this will be the extent of our winter, as temperatures are forecast to go above freezing, starting on Wednesday.

It is great to see so many residents out walking, at any given time through-out the day. With the days getting longer and the sun’s heat getting stronger it is nice to say goodbye to January.

Until next time…