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Letters & Op-Ed, August 10 2022

Sad and avoidable end It was disgusting that the lone female Arctic wolf that got loose last week in Port Colborne was shot. Especially after the humane society and a wolf group announced humane trapping methods were in place.

Sad and avoidable end

It was disgusting that the lone female Arctic wolf that got loose last week in Port Colborne was shot. Especially after the humane society and a wolf group announced humane trapping methods were in place. Apparently there is no person capable of tranquilizing in Niagara.

We are not told the whereabouts of where this lone wolf was caged on a Port Colborne property, or how it was safely brought from the Arctic ripped away from its natural environment.

The lone wolf made the fatal mistake of wandering near a farm and immediately the public panicked that it would tackle livestock rather than feasting on rats, mice, rabbits, snakes, etc. But there was no pack to help kill larger animals.

Thankfully hunting season is upon us and more treacherous wildlife can be taken out to save people. Canadians, we have become cruel.

Faye Suthons Wainfleet


Don't forget: Bill Sheldon played key role in new arches

In February 2019, when the original arches were damaged, Bill Sheldon was on the phone to me. “Gibson, the arches fell down. Get down there and take some pictures, and when you’re done get up to my house. We have to fix this.”

So began the partnership between the Town’s Summerfest Committee (Bill and I were its co-chairs) and Fonthill Rotary. Over the next couple of weeks, with Bill’s lead, we put together a draft design and budget for presentation to the Summerfest Committee. They accepted our draft proposal—also with a commitment of $35,000 towards the cost of the project.

Bill and I spent the next six to eight months meeting with potential builders, engineers, supporting sub-trades, the Mayor, the Town CAO, etc. At the end of this period we finalized our design and produced a scale model of the arches for the Town of Pelham, Summerfest Committee, and donors review.

During the above period the Rotary Club of Fonthill was contacted and they agreed to lead the fundraising for the arches. The Rotary Club appointed Frank Adamson to lead the fundraising for the project and as the liaison between the Rotary Club and the Summerfest Committee.

Over the next two months Bill, Frank, and I meet numerous times to consolidate an action plan for the “Raise the Arches Project.” Both the Rotary Club and the Summerfest Committee approved and gave the go-ahead to present the project to the Town. Council agreed to a draft proposal to proceed with stipulation that the Summerfest representatives would meet with the Town engineer to discuss the design, engineering standards, etc. Over the next month or two Bill and I meet with the Town engineer and other department directors to reach agreement on a number of design elements to meet various standards and codes.

With these parameters, Bill and I consulted with a locale engineer, material suppliers, paint specialists, construction companies, foundation specialists, etc. At the end of this process it was decided that the design and engineering would be by Fenwick engineer James Federico, and the greenhouse company GSI agreed to build the arches. The project could not have materialized without their support, material guidance and expertise!

Then Covid-19 hit. Fundraising events were not going to happen, Summerfest was cancelled for two summers, and Bill Sheldon passed away. In the summer of 2021 Frank and I did a recalculation of costs for the arches. With the hugely rising costs of materials, we determined that we could not proceed with the four arch sets, and reduced the project to three arch sets.

Last December, I retired from Summerfest and my Chairmanship of the Festival and the Raise the Arches Committee—mostly because I has passed 27,393 days since my birth, and I was growing tired of pushing snow balls up the hill. Thankfully, Frank Adamson still had momentum, and in January 2022 he received council approval to proceed (plus a Town bridging loan) and, as last week’s article identifies, the arches have risen.

We gratefully acknowledge Bill Sheldon’s role and founding vision in this endeavour, and that the arches will be known as the Summerfest/Rotary Arches.

Bill Gibson Fonthill


Ten-story monolith may be coming to Fonthill

We recently received a Town of Pelham Notice of Public meeting to be held Monday, August 15, 2022.

As we found out the hard way, only a few residents are privileged to receive such information, as municipal regulations only require homes within a few hundred yards be notified. This time, however, other residents have actually read the yellow posted signs and are outraged by the information.

This particular request for amendment must be viewed in the context of other recent amendment requests, as it is, in our humble opinion, a sign of poor urban planning.

We truly hope we are wrong but here are the facts that we have compiled.

This latest amendment is asking for an increase in height and density for a proposed five-story apartment building on Port Robinson Road. There is also a rezoning request for site specific R2, RM1, RM2 zones in this same parcel. What that means is that anything designated RM2 would allow up to a ten-story apartment/condo building (with commercial allowed). That is exactly the same zoning that was requested for the parcel of land at the southwest corner of Port Robinson Road and Station Street (alongside the Steve Bauer Trail). This was part of the single request for the Kunda Park and Forest Park subdivision request of November, 2020, as it is owned by one developer.

Okay, folks, you remember that one! The one where it appears the developer, some of Town Council and the Planning Department cleverly diverted everyone’s attention after the fact by focusing on the concerns of the Pelham Tree Conservation Society. They had concerns with cutting a road across the Steve Bauer Trail to connect Kunda Park with Forest Park. This was proposed so traffic could outlet towards Rice Road. Council quickly passed a motion to stop any road from crossing any trail.

Prediction here: once Kunda Park is complete, all residents on Stella, Beechwood, John, and Vera will be beyond enraged. All the new residents will only be able to exit via those streets, which are underserved for pedestrians. But let us leave that for another discussion.

If you think any of the trees and wetland will survive a ten-story tower, then at least think about the impact of such a structure would have overlooking the back of Glynn A Green Elementary School. Do any of the potential purchasers of homes in Kunda Park and Forest Park (as well as existing residents of the entire downtown core) understand that they will be in the shadow of this potential monolith?

The most interesting part of this saga is that some former Town Council members were under impression that land was only to be R1 and R2—never any RM2 designation. How this passed appears to be a mystery worthy of a Netflix series.

For the regular folks, as far as we have learned, R1 and R2 seems to mean single family, townhouse, and multi-unit up to five storys. It’s that RM2 that gives the leverage to go up to ten storys. We know that municipal guidelines can be changed but we think everyone has a stake in how our town looks, and that process should easier for all to participate and to understand.

Craig and Carla Edwards Fonthill


MUNICIPAL MATTERS | Niagara Central Airport

It's time for a new airport scenario

BY WAYNE OLSON Councillor, Ward 1 Town of Pelham

First of all, by way of explaining my understanding of the role of a commissioner, I am a commissioner on the new Niagara Transit System. As a commissioner, I have a fiduciary duty to build and operate the best possible transit system for Niagara. As a Pelham Town Councillor, I have a similar fiduciary duty to the best of my abilities to make the best possible decisions for the Town of Pelham.

That is my understanding of the role of a commissioner and the ethical risk involved in serving two masters. The same, I believe, applies to a commissioner for the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport. It is inevitable that these duties will come in conflict at times. The solution to this dilemma, I believe, is wrapped up in finding more ways and means of disclosure.

The Airport Act has a huge absurdity. Pelham is the host municipality. We are the only municipality with direct land use concerns, direct service provision concerns, and direct climate change concerns. None of the other municipalities have these concerns except, perhaps, in a peripheral, indirect way.

And yet a majority of the commissioners come from Welland with three, Port Colborne with two, and Wainfleet and Pelham with one each. I can’t imagine how our very different needs are going to be met. The content of the in-camera meeting recently subject to scrutiny by the Ombudsman of Ontario should be proof enough that our needs as the host municipality are not being met by the Airport Commission.

There is a common misconception that the four municipalities have an equity interest because of the money already paid to the Commission. I would argue that the monies paid are sunk costs and probably unrecoverable. I think there are more likely to be liabilities, but this needs an independent legal and accounting study included in a business plan.

The Niagara Transit Commission operates under similar rules, except that it has the resources of the Region behind it. It would be unfair of us to expect similar performance from the Airport Commission. As I have said before, the airport has been “bread and water” for years. As a deteriorating asset, the costs can only pile up, and there is most certainly a “bow wave” of expense building on the horizon.

We desperately need a business plan. Not a business plan that reports demand as a fixed value like, “If we build it, they will come.” We need a plan that considers the elasticity of demand based upon the rising costs of owning and operating an aircraft. The business plans need to focus on the impact on Pelham, including land use patterns and climate change.

I have also said that I come from an aviation family. My dad was a proud RCAF vet. I can recall going to the hangar and looking at the planes with Dad and soaking up the atmosphere. I remember going for flights with Dad in a plane he called a “Tigerschmidt.” I have to imagine the aircraft type but I know he owned a Cessna 172.

My dad taught meteorology at the local flight school and tried to attend all solo flights of his students. He did that from a wheelchair on the runway right up to three months before his passing. So I know something about the precision, the safety preoccupations, and the comradeship of the flying community.

If our airport is to thrive in a rapidly changing environment, we will need a new mindset. I’m looking for a planning process that is a unifying activity rather than an activity that emphasizes municipal boundaries and disregards the rights of the minority. We need to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the current and previous commissions. Every act on our behalf deserves to be valued but we need to know the contradictions.

There are comprehensive published reports on the Niagara Region website. Things have changed dramatically since they were written, but they contain valuable estimates about asset conditions and rehabilitation costs. I’m sure both should and can be easily updated and upgraded. They indicate to me that millions of dollars are required but I will leave that to the experts and hope that I am wrong.

I understand that there are numerous plans and directions that were created by previous commissions and consultants. These plans should not be ignored. They contain the best of the thinking of the time. They can tell us what works and what doesn’t. They are a gold mine.

In the fall, the Airport Commission should request additional budget funding to undertake a fact-driven business plan study with longer term impacts and demand management options. The focus needs to be on the core competencies required to manage our airport and meet our responsibilities under the Act.

I don’t think there is any other way around it. Everything in business starts with an inventory. We need proper asset management and estimates. We need to plan the work because planned work is a lot cheaper than unplanned work. Then we will have something to talk about. In the end analysis, money finally flows, common sense or not.

We must know the status of the $600,000 loaned to the airport to build T-hangars. Pelham’s portion of that loan is $108,000. We heard that there were to be luxury fly-in residences and now the Commission is contemplating an industrial park. I say put the alternatives in front of the residents of Pelham.

The numbers will not lie. Let the chips fall where they may.



Healthcare in jeopardy—a close-to-home example

Over the last number of years there were signs that our healthcare system appeared to be experiencing stress. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back and grievously overwhelmed the system was the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. There simply wasn’t the capacity to treat both the existing medical care demands and this newest onslaught on healthcare facilities already struggling to keep up.

These extraordinary demands negatively impacted all components of the healthcare system and its ability to deliver the qualities the population had come to expect. Doctors, nurses, ambulance attendants, and other medical professionals were exhausted, and in spite of heroic efforts on their part, the cracks in the system widened and worsened. Many medical professionals were overworked, and unfortunately some sought relief from their exhaustion by leaving their callings. While these leavings exacerbated an already dire situation, no one can blame them for having to cope with nearly impossible conditions that were ever-worsening.

In my writings I normally look for pleasant, informative and amusing topics. To be certain, there are many heroic people and events taking place daily in the healthcare system. I look forward to discovering such heroics and presenting them to Voice readers in the future.

However, I recently came upon an email that shook me to the core. It illustrates that the cracks in the system affect people in a very personal way. What follows is the essence of that email, which has been redacted to preserve privacy.

Hey, just to let you know that I moved out to (new town) about a year ago. I sure miss Niagara and all the friends I made there. Also, for your info, I went into (a Niagara Region hospital emergency room) with severe abdominal pain. I got there at 7 PM. A CT scan was not done till after midnight, which determined appendicitis. If you can believe it, there was no surgeon on duty and they had to call in one from (a different Niagara hospital). He did not arrive until 5 PM the next afternoon. Needless to say, by that time my appendix had burst and poison got into my heart, causing cardiac arrest. After they brought me back from the dead using the paddles three times, I was told that I suffered severe heart damage. I really have not been the same since. Also, I started dialysis last month, which is three times a week, an hour and a half drive each way. I hope things have been better for you. Please say hi to all the guys out there and tell them I miss them.

I want to thank the author of this email for allowing me to quote it. This piece is not intended to be critical of any person or place, but to highlight the real and present shortcomings of our healthcare system generally. Hopefully, it adds to the need to resolve factors that contribute to lessening the quality of our care in Ontario. We live in the hope that an email such as the one quoted above will never be written again.