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ICYMI: New year, new water rates

Increase would have been even higher were it not for reserve funds
Pelham Town Council meets on Wednesday, Feb. 7, with Councillor John Wink attending virtually.

In case you missed it, Pelham Town Council is looking to boost the cost of water for property owners.

Town staff proposed a 6.5 percent increase for 2024 water rates and 9.5 percent increase for wastewater rates at Wednesday’s Pelham Town Council meeting, saying the larger hike on the latter is to help offset needed infrastructure improvements at the Regional level.

The increases will cost the average Pelham household an extra $87.44 this year. The staff report did say that Pelham would still have some of the lowest rates in Niagara.

Mayor Marvin Junkin blamed past decisions to keep rates low on the higher hikes now.

“Two [Regional] councils before kept … rates down. And now at the Region, 45 percent of our infrastructure is in poor condition,” the Mayor said. “For at least next two or three years … we’re going to see increases like this from the Region just to get our infrastructure built back.”

While the Region has large items budgeted for water and wastewater improvements in 2024 and 2025, other councillors voiced concerns with Niagara’s population expected to keep growing.

“I foresee big issues coming,” Councillor Kevin Ker said. His fellow Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson added that, “at these rates our costs of water are going to double pretty fast.”

The report said that were reserve funds not used, the increase on wastewater rates would have been more than 14 percent.

The new increases are expected to pass at the next meeting Feb. 21.

Ward boundaries to be redrawn?
Council also heard a consultant report on the potential redefinition of Town ward boundaries, a standard operating procedure every 10 years. Retired University of Western Ontario political science professor Dr. Andrew Sancton told members that Pelham’s current three-ward system and boundaries are probably fine until about 2030, when expected population growth patterns may shift things.

Sancton’s potential options included expanding to a four, five, or even six-ward model, or conversely, leaving three in place while expanding the footprint of the lesser-populated Ward 1.

Population models for 2034 expect Ward 1 (Fenwick and the rural areas of Pelham) to have a population of just over 6,000, Ward 2 (central Fonthill) to have a population of almost 9,000, and Ward 3 (south Fonthill) to have more than 9,000.

There is also a possibility of eliminating wards and electing councillors at large, but some members had reservations about this.

Citing the fact that Pelham saw only a 33 percent voter turnout in the last election, Olson suggested such an arrangement could become less local and more of a popularity contest.

“It just looks to me like if you’re an incumbent, you’ve got a powerful force,” he said.

Two public consultations will be held on the matter — next Monday at Fire Hall No. 2 in Fenwick, and on Feb. 27 at the MCC. Interested residents are encouraged to attend. More information is available here.

While redrawing boundaries is likely a few years away, the matter could become a moot point in the next decade should the Town of Pelham cease to exist due to amalgamation at the hands of the province.

Dogs-in-cemeteries update
Fire Chief and Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Bob Lymburner told council that enforcement of dog bylaws in local cemeteries has commenced. Lymburner said only one individual has been warned so far about keeping their canine on a leash. With the new cemetery bylaw officially passing Wednesday, Public Works Manager Ryan Cook said enforcement signs can be expected to go up in the next few weeks.


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John Chick

About the Author: John Chick

John Chick has worked in and out of media for some 20 years, including stints with The Score, CBC, and the Toronto Sun. He covers Pelham Town Council and occasional other items for PelhamToday, and splits his time between Fonthill and Toronto
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