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BREAKING: Pelham slashes speed limit to 20 kph, dozens of enforcement cameras coming

Shock move will add $1200 to average property tax bill through 2027
Not the return of measles but rather the planned locations of automated speed cameras in Pelham, as the Town lowers the speed limit to 20 kph. Or actually doesn't, because this was an April Fools story.

The following April Fools story ran on April 1 2024, because it was April Fools Day and that's when April Fools stories run...on April Fools Day.

FONTHILL, ON. APRIL 1 — In a surprise manoeuvre not seen on Pelham Town Council since the notorious Gang of Four era, Councillors Shellee Niznik and Brian Eckhardt have pushed through a bylaw to slash Pelham’s speed limit to 20 kph. In addition, some 50 automated speed cameras will be installed on town roadways to enforce the measure. Nearly 8 in 10 streets will see their limits fall to 20 kph effective next week.

The cameras, sourced from a company in the Netherlands, will cost the Town approximately $2.8 million dollars in annual rent and are set to be installed by the end of April.

The new limit will also apply to the urban portion of Highway 20, from Haist Street east to Merrittville Highway. This means that, for example, travelling from Mossimo’s Pizza in Fonthill to the Highway 406 interchange will now take approximately 35 minutes. (PelhamToday estimates that a pizza delivery from the same restaurant to River Road, at Pelham’s southern border, will take 78 minutes, one-way.)

“Lower traffic speed has always been something close to my heart,” said Councillor Eckhardt, a retired Niagara police inspector, “and although I thought that 40 kph would be sufficient, Councillor Niznik convinced me that 20 kph would be twice as effective.”

Speaking afterward to PelhamToday, Niznik said that at first she doubted the vote would go their way during the special council meeting held last evening.

“But, as you may know, Councillor Hildebrandt is an engineer, so I thought that if we provided some research to back our motion he would come onside, being an engineer, who does engineering, as an engineer.”

The research cited by Eckhardt and Niznik was conducted in Uzbekistan, specifically its capital Tashkent, where the government’s fleet consists entirely of electric vehicles (EVs). The study concluded that EVs are most efficient and safest when operated at speeds no greater than 20 kph.

When presented the data before the vote, Hildebrandt said, “As an engineer, I must vote based on the facts, no matter how irrelevant, distorted, or implausible they may be.”

Eckhardt told PelhamToday that he had been “carrying this motion in my back pocket for months, and when I saw that we had just four councillors present—the minimum required for quorum—I knew it was time to strike. Also, as we know, Acting Clerk Bill Taggert is not a stickler for protocol, so he gladly put the motion on the agenda in return for a muffin.”

As to why council was down to four members, PelhamToday has learned that Councillor Wayne Olson overslept, a late Nova Scotia blizzard kept Councillor Kevin Ker trapped in Tatamagouche, while Councillor John Wink was attending a seminar on country club management in Boca Raton.

During debate, CAO David Cribbs was blunt in his assessment of the proposed bylaw and its likely consequences.

“There will be, even if one takes the lowest number statistically speaking, a fair few humans who will find this speed limit onerous, and may very well, after much contemplation, decide that they shall forego being law-abiding citizens and simply not obey it, likely, even, as humans are wont to do, deliberately violating it, thus potentially turning our streets into racetracks such as we have not heretofore seen.”

Cribbs continued, touching on the constitutional rights of the individual, the ethics of 21st century public policy, and Enlightenment principles as articulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, concluding with the arguable assertion that “my bosses rarely make mistakes of this magnitude.”

Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin was the only no vote, later telling PelhamToday that the new bylaw was an example of why he should be granted the “strong-mayor” powers recently introduced by the Ford government.

“This is why I have campaigned for strong-mayor status,” said Junkin. “With it I could have shut that motion down faster than green grass goes through a goose. Although, on the bright side, all the dogs running off-leash in town will now be considerably safer.”

Cameras, signs, and fines

A hastily prepared budget estimate by Town staff pegs the cost of automated speed camera rental at $2.8 million dollars annually, and the purchase and installation of 326 new speed limit signs at a one-time cost of $120,000. The Dutch contractor handles all administrative tasks for no additional fee beyond a 75 percent cut of the citation billings.

Town Treasurer Teresa Cillian-Murphy told councillors that while ticket revenue generated by the cameras is expected to bring the program to break-even by year three, between now and 2027 the average residential property tax bill will see an increase of just under $1200 annually to pay for the cameras’ installation.

Speeding fines will start at $300 triggered at 10 percent over the limit, and increase $50 per kilometer thereafter.

This means that speeding at 22 kph will result in a $300 fine, while speeding at 40 kph will result in a $1200 fine. Camera images are processed in the Netherlands, with a projected citation turnaround time of between 90 and 120 days by international mail.

Councillor Bob Hildebrandt told PelhamToday that certain tweaks will be required to ensure that joggers, power walkers, and more sprightly seniors with mobility devices aren’t inadvertently fined for “speeding” on sidewalks.

“As an engineer, as I assure you that we can narrow the beam to just the roadway,” said Hildebrandt.

“Believe me, the citizens are going to love this.”

April Fuelles is a freelance reporter whose stories appear only on the first day of the fourth month of the year, and should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. See her previous stories below.