Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016 Road, Bridges, Sidewalk Projects in Pelham

Jim Summersides, First Special Service Force veteran,
awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, February 2015,
in Washington DC (Photo Credit: Eric Morgensen)
To build on my column last week about some of the largest projects for 2016, I wanted to continue to inform you about some of the major road, bridge and sidewalk improvement planned for Pelham this year.

Highway 20 Resurfacing / New Sidewalk to E.L. Crossley: The Region approved resurfacing of Regional Road 20 from Lookout Street to Centre Street this year. The Town will fund a new, asphalt sidewalk/trail along the South-side of the road from Timmsdale Crescent to E.L. Crossley High School. I hope this will be of great benefit to students and families!

Highland Avenue: Council re-approved the final phase of reconstruction of Highland (from Elizabeth to Canboro), including a new waterline, and sewer laterals (as needed). You may recall that this work was supposed to be done in 2015; it was deferred to allow for a better storm-water management design.

Effingham Street: Another year, another section of Effingham. This year, we will reconstruct Effingham from Highway 20 to Canboro Road in Ridgeville.

Sawmill “Bridge”: Replacing the corrugated steel “bridge” on Sawmill (just east of Centre Street) with a new concrete structure was deferred from last year because of environmental constraints. The Town continues to evaluate and improve bridges throughout Pelham.

Church Street Sidewalk: Promised last year, Council re-approved funds this year because the pricing was too high in 2015 to construct the missing section of sidewalk on the west-side of Church from where it ends (near 1010 Church) to the railway track.

Roland Road: Despite best efforts to reconstruct Roland Road in 2015, Town staff informed Council it will finally get fixed this spring.

Pelham Street North / Hurricane Road: After expanding the scope of this project to include an upgrade to the stormwater management facility on Shorthill Place, Council approved road reconstruction on Pelham (Broad Street to Hurricane) and of Hurricane (Pelham to Chestnut) to fix historic storm water issues and replace more cast-iron watermains.

Summersides Boulevard: Council approved the construction of a new street linking Downtown Fonthill (by extending Pelham Town Square) with Wellspring Way and Rice Road in the East Fonthill development. The street will include a centre boulevard, trees, and +3 metre multipurpose sidewalks/trails on both sides. Council will name it after Jim Summersides, a World War II veteran of the elite, joint Canadian-American “First Special Service Force,” a dedicated member of the Royal Canadian Legion (Fonthill Branch 613), and a volunteer public speaker to school children about the travesties of war.

More about our other planned capital improvements for 2016 next time.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

2016 Capital Budget and Major Projects

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi speaking at the
Toronto Region Board of Trade (Photo: CBC News)
Since both Town and Regional Councils approved 2016 Capital Budgets, I want to inform you about some major improvements planned for Pelham this year. Let’s start with a couple of the biggest.

Pelham Community Centre:
As I wrote about previously, Pelham Town Council earmarked $37 million in the Town’s budget toward constructing a potential Community Centre.

I purposefully use the word “earmarked” because we included what’s like a place-holder in the 2016 capital budget. In the case of the potential Community Centre, both the design and the spending of any of these funds will have to come back to Council for approval.

Why did we do this? The major reason is so that this project might be eligible for government grants. You see, previous Federal and Provincial grants only funded projects that local Councils already included in their approved capital budgets.

In fact, in his speech to the Toronto Board of Trade last Thursday, the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, stated the Government’s desire to invest $10 billion in infrastructure projects now – to help stimulate the economy. He stated that he trusts municipal governments to set priorities and that he wants both “shovel-ready” and “shovel-worthy” projects.

By earmarking these funds this year and by working to finalize the design this spring, I hope that we can be well positioned for Council to consider proceeding with this important project this year.

Maple Acre Library:
You may recall that last year we budgeted $1 million for the design / build for a renewed Maple Acre Library. Now, we will proceed this year with the construction.

Since last Fall, the Maple Acre Advisory Committee worked with an architect and builder toward a design that meets the Town’s guidelines for Civic Landmark Buildings, enhances the heritage / original portion of the Maple Acre Library, and adds-on a “learning commons” with “rentable, flexible, multi-purpose, open space.”

Last Wednesday, the Maple Acre Advisory Committee approved “Option A” as the design for the new library facility. The Committee considered more than 130 comments – gathered during a public open house, through comment sheets at the Pelham Arena and Pelham Libraries, and via an online consultation – and agreed with the 72% of those who chose “Option A” over “Option B.”

I’m thrilled the Town will reconstruct Maple Acre into a state-of-the-art library while honouring nearly a hundred years of library service in Fenwick. I look forward to people enjoying the renewed facility for many years to come.

More about our other planned capital improvements for 2016 next time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Encouraging Provincial Quality-of-Life Investments

On Monday, the Pelham Chief Administrative Officer, Darren Ottaway, and I presented to the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs “Pre-Budget Consultation” in Hamilton.

We provided two main messages: First, be sure to partner with municipalities to help invest in future quality of life investments – like a potential Pelham Community Centre. Second, don’t penalize municipalities that have exercised financial discipline and made wise infrastructure investments or with high property values, by excluding them from grant opportunities.

As you know, over the last number of years Pelham Council and I have worked to invest heavily in traditional infrastructure – like roads and bridges and pipes. Major projects like the reconstruction of Haist Street, Port Robinson Road, and Effingham Road, and (with the Region) Regional Road 20, Rice Road and O”Reilly’s Bridge come to mind.

At the same time, we have also worked to improve the quality of life by investing in other types of community infrastructure. The revitalization of both Downtown Fonthill and Fenwick, the construction of two new Fire Stations, the development of nine fully-accessible playgrounds, restoring Old Pelham Town Hall and the Pool House, and the development of the Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark and of the Centre Street Dog Park are examples. In addition, we’ve added walking and cycling infrastructure like the 13 km of sidewalks, 9 km of bike lanes, 7 km of trails, and 5 crosswalks.

But, after applying last summer for a Provincial grant to reconstruct Station Street to help support development/new community investment, we received a rejection letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs in October 2015. The letter explained that “Your project proposal was not selected to move forward primarily because other applicants with highly critical projects had more challenging economic conditions and fiscal situations.

At first blush, that sounded ok. The Province essentially said it wanted to support projects to improve critical infrastructure – leaky pipes and deteriorating roads and bridges – in poorer communities and those municipalities in poor fiscal shape.

However, doesn’t that essentially penalize Cities / Towns (like Pelham) that have demonstrated disciplined financial management through wise infrastructure investments, maintaining affordable tax rates and providing quality services? Further, doesn’t it preclude funding for projects in communities with high and increasing property values – thereby supporting communities in decline?

Shouldn’t Provincial grants also encourage quality of life projects that lead to increasing the overall wealth and well-being of the City or Town (and, therefore, the Province, too)?

We asked the Standing Committee’s MPPs to consider these types of policy questions when providing advice about the 2016/17 Provincial budget.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Help Encourage “Social Infrastructure” Investments

You may recall that during the summer there were no grants available from the Provincial or Federal government for “quality of life investments” like recreational facilities.

In July, I informed you that “Since there are currently no Federal or Provincial grants available [for a potential new community centre], the Town will continue to lobby for a policy change and for funding.”

In August I asked that you assist the Town’s efforts; I wrote “So, during this National election, please ask your local candidates to ensure that the Canadian Government will also help fund improvements to our quality of life – like new recreational and cultural facilities.”

Since that time, Canadians elected a new Federal Government. During their election campaign, the Liberal Party promised: “Over the next decade, we will invest almost $20 billion more in Canada’s social infrastructure.”

What did they mean by “social infrastructure”? They meant investments that “improve quality of life for millions of Canadians” like investments in “affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, early learning and child care, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.”

This could potentially mean great news for Pelham; it could help make our potential Community Centre more affordable. And, it’s one of the reasons why Pelham Council recently earmarked $37 million in the Town’s 2016 budget toward constructing a potential Community Centre; you see, previous Federal and Provincial grants only funded projects that local Councils already included in their approved capital budgets.

Now, I am asking again for your help with our lobby efforts. You see, last week the Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau launched 2016-17 pre-budget consultations. He  “…called upon Canadians to share their thoughts on how to better support the middle class, create jobs, and set the right conditions for long-term prosperity and stronger economic growth.”

The Federal Government is seeking feedback from Canadians on a number of topics, including: “What infrastructure needs can best help grow the economy, protect our environment, and meet your priorities locally?”

Therefore, I encourage you to participate in the Federal government’s pre-budget consultations and suggest that they help fund cultural and recreational facilities with the Provincial Government(s) and Municipalities.

Please check out their website at www.budget.gc.ca/pbc16/ and follow the options for online consultations (including via Facebook and Twitter). You can also write to: Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, Department of Finance Canada, 90 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ontario   K1A 0G5.

With your help, we can encourage the Federal Government to help make “social infrastructure” investments – like for a potential Pelham Community Centre – a priority and a reality!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Upcoming Open House for Maple Acre Design

Proposed design of  renewed Maple Acre Library
(prior to committee's 18 December 2015 revisions)
Members of the Maple Acre Advisory Committee and I want your feedback on the design of the renewed Pelham Library Branch in Downtown Fenwick. We invite you to an Open House on Wednesday, January 13 from 4:00 to 8:00 PM at Pelham Fire Station #2 (766 Welland Road) where the architect and builder will display the latest designs. (To review the minutes of the Committee, please click here.)

Council and the Library Board recognized years ago that the aged Maple Acre Library branch required renewal; we struck a joint committee back in 2008 to make recommendations. While that committee looked at many ideas – building a joint Library / Firehall (prior to the new Fires Station #2), constructing a new library either in Centennial Park or at the former Fire Station (Welland Road at Canboro) – it got a bit bogged down.

Then, despite an increasing Town grant and best efforts by the Library Board, the Library posted a +$60,000 year-end deficit for 2012. The Town retained a consulting firm in early-2013 to conduct facilities and operations reviews.

The facilities review recommended that the Maple Acre branch become a kiosk-type operation, instead of a full-service branch. This recommendation was rejected by the Board and met the ire of the community-at-large.

So, in late-2013 to early-2014, Council initiated combined Council, Board, Friends of Maple Acre Library and community creative problem solving sessions. The challenge – how might we provide the most appropriate library services in Fenwick – led to an April 2014 resolution of Council to “continue library services at the Maple Acre Branch.”

That spring, Council struck a tripartite working group to recommend a “state of the art, ideal, and resilient library” in Fenwick. In September, the group proposed renovating and adding on to the original 1919 Maple Acre building with a “learning commons”-type library with “rentable, flexible, multi-purpose, open space” and an area for the community’s “significant historic records.” Council accepted the report and approved a $1 million for the design / build of the facility in our 2015 Capital Budget.

The proposed design includes a quiet / study room, a lounge area facing Canboro Road, a technology centre, an historic record workroom, and children’s activity / multipurpose rooms that can be used / rented separately. The exterior endeavours to follow the Town’s design guidelines for Civic Landmark Buildings (like Libraries): “Where additions or external alterations are proposed, the design should be sympathetic and subordinate to the heritage aspects of the buildings while clearly distinguishing between that which is new and old.” (S4.7, P35).

Now, we are ready for and want your thoughts and feedback on the design. I hope you can join us next Wednesday!

____________________________
UPDATE: Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Maple Acre Advisory Committee met on 20 January 2016 and approved a motion to proceed with one of the designs presented by the architects at the open house last week. The preferred option was “Option A” with 72% of those choosing design A over design B. (57 said A, 19 said B, 3 said either A or B.)
We received great feedback – more than 130 comments/ sheets/emails – from the community over a very short time. We definitely appreciate that feedback!

Here's a chart of the feedback we received:

As you will note from the above table, a large number of people (64), did not like either option for the exterior.

The Committee concluded that since 23% more respondents (79 vs. 64) liked either Option A or Option B, a majority liked the proposed designs. Then, the Committee considered responses between either Option A or Option B. Since 72% of those preferred Option A, the committee recommended moving ahead with Option A.

The committee considered the matter extensively. Some of those committee comments include:
  • Most respondents really liked the design of the interior of the Library;
  • The design dramatically improves and highlights the historic 1919 building (which was a key goal of earlier community engagement);
  • While many respondents wanted a pitched roof, most of the buildings in downtown Fenwick have either a flat roof or a false-front that hides the roof, thereby making the design appear similar as this design;
  • A pitched roof would require:
    • a dramatic redesign (which would cost additional funds and that Council has already opposed);
    • a significant delay in the start of construction;
    • that the ceiling would have to be dramatically reduced, and / or the main floor would have to be lowered (which would disallow accessible use of the 1919 portion of the building);
  • The $1,000,000 budget does not allow for a brick fa├žade – something that others wanted;
  • The design meets the Town’s Downtown Design Guidelines;

The approved design follows up on the vision of last summer’s Maple Acre Working Group – which recommended a “state of the art, ideal, and resilient library” in Downtown Fenwick.

That Working Group proposed renovating and adding on to the original 1919 Maple Acre building with a “learning commons”-type library with “rentable, flexible, multi-purpose, open space” and an area for the community’s “significant historic records.” The proposed design includes a quiet / study room, a lounge area facing Canboro Road, a technology centre, an historic record workroom, and children’s activity / multipurpose rooms that can be used / rented separately.

I hope this helps clear up any questions you might have. Should you have other questions, please contact me directly at mayordave@pelham.ca.