Pelham Town Council quietly passed the municipality’s 2022 operating budget during its Jan. 24 virtual meeting, with little discussion on the matter. The budget is set at $20,374,879, and removed some $27,500 from advisory committee budgets, and cut an additional $50,000 by not constructing municipal parking this year for the short stretch of retailers in Ridgeville. The final tax levy increase for 2022 is 3.88 percent. For an average residential property with an assessed value of $373,000, this would be an increase of about $77.

Highlights include $250,000 for LED streetlight replacements, $250,000 for erosion mitigation related to the East Fonthill stormwater management pond, and $50,000 for a drainage study in the Webber/Farr Roads area.

However, approval of the water and wastewater budget was deferred until Feb. 7 over concerns about various rate increase options. Treasurer Teresa Quinlin-Murphy said she was preparing a new proposal.

For the second year in a row, council passed a property tax payment plan for residents adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. To qualify, a property must be either a primary residence or farm, and the owner must have experienced financial hardship directly related to the pandemic in the form of loss of employment or a decrease in income of greater than 70 percent.

“Obviously we’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic, we’re going to be feeling a huge jump of inflation this year, so although we didn’t have many people buy into it [last year], I think it’s important that the Town is again offering this for people in need,” Mayor Marvin Junkin said.

Development talk deferred

Council deferred a recommendation report for a zoning bylaw amendment for a proposed four-storey apartment complex on Pancake Lane, directly east of the Glad Tidings Church of God. The site plan was the subject of a vocal public meeting in early 2020, just before the pandemic, during whcih several nearby residents complained about the height and parking ramifications of the development.

Ward 3 Councillor Lisa Haun said a “fruitful conversation” between the developers and neighbours was still needed before anything could proceed.

Haun also asked about the status of the Town’s long-awaited parking study, but Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens said the status of the report remained unknown because locked-down stretches of the pandemic have had an effect on parking patterns.

Ward 2 Councillor Ron Kore recused himself from discussion on the matter, saying he was “not too sure if I have a conflict” on the matter or not. Kore said he had contacted the Integrity Commissioner over his concerns, but had not received a response. He did not specify the nature of the potential conflict.

The matter will be brought back to council in March.

Covid update

Pelham had 122 known active cases of Covid-19 as of Monday, Jan. 24, but Fire Chief and Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Bob Lymburner conceded the real number is likely higher due to a nationwide lack of testing. He noted, however, that the Town was in the process of procuring rapid tests for Town staff and members of council.

The MCC was scheduled to reopen per provincial guidelines on Jan. 31, with Town Hall set to remain accessible to residents via appointment only —something that will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

Council also unanimously voted to continue virtual meetings through the end of this year.