Mayor Marvin Junkin will be providing weekly messages to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. His letters will also be included weekly in the Voice of Pelham.

 

May 25, 2020

The Audit Committee… Paying Dividends

One of the major planks in my platform when I was running for mayor was the creation of an Audit Committee, which I envisioned complementing the Town’s finance department. After the election, I was gratified to learn that Town Treasurer Teresa Quinlin was all for this idea.  Her former employer had one, and she saw firsthand the benefit of working hand-in-hand with that group.

Other staff on the Audit Committee are Charlotte Tunikaitis and CAO David Cribbs. Cribbs has stated that having a finance and audit committee has allowed the Town to have a dedicated focus group with business and accounting expertise take an independent, systemic look at the Town’s financial position and financial operations.

Cribbs states that the committee is now looking at a risk framework for the Town and specific issues such as interest costs, debt management, and asset management.  The bottom line is that the Town continues to have problems around high levels of debt and low reserves, but the finance department is operating in an efficient, forthright and diligent fashion.

Councillor John Wink is chair, an obvious choice with his banking background.  Also on the committee are Councillors Stewart and Kore. Councillor Wink sees the committee providing an additional layer of oversight to the Town’s finances.  Over the last year and a half the committee has also made numerous suggestions to improve the financial reports made to council, and has recently revised the terms of reference for the committee, which have been approved by council.  

Also on the committee are two residents of the town, both being chartered accountants.  Bill Crumm and Michael Cottenden were both looking to give back to their community, and jumped at the chance to serve on the committee.  After a year and a half, they both say that the work has been interesting, and both are in agreement that the Town’s finances are heading in the right direction. 

Chairperson Wink is quick to concur with this assessment. Finance department staff and senior management have been working diligently at replenishing reserves and reducing the overall debt of the Town.  The quality of their work was evident when the Town’s external auditors gave the report a clean bill of health, with no notes or comments attached.  As the Treasurer has stated, the Town had an operating profit of $962,338 in 2019, which will be applied to the Town’s reserves. 

Until next week.

Mayor Marvin Junkin

May 19, 2020

Just as last week’s column visited the not too distant past, this column, while also dealing in the past, deals with events which have occurred in the last eight weeks.  The residents of this town can be justifiably proud of the performance of its municipal staff and council.  In these difficult times, Pelham achieved numerous firsts on several fronts.  

We were the first municipality to pass its delegation-during-an -emergency bylaw; the first municipality to consider playground closure; the first to adopt standard operating procedures for landscapers, which allowed them to do basic yard work; and the first municipality to publish a set of criteria for those wishing to hold a yard sale.

As stated in an earlier column, the Town’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) met five times a week at the outset of this pandemic, but has recently scaled back to three times a week.  The members of the EOC are the members of the Town’s Senior Leadership Team plus other staff members, as follows:  Operations Commander, Fire Chief Bob Lymburner, CAO David Cribbs, Planning Director Barb Wiens, Clerk Nancy Bozzato, Treasurer Teresa Quinlin, Recreation Director Vickie vanRavenswaay, Public Works Director Jason Marr, Manager of Public Works Ryan Cook, Communications Specialist Marc MacDonald, and acting Library CEO Amy Guilmette.  I have made it a priority to sit in on these meetings, missing perhaps three because of other commitments. Let me assure you that this group has kept this community as safe as any other community in Canada, with all decisions being based on one criterion—the safety of the town’s residents. Another fact that I am proud of is that our bylaw enforcement team has not handed out one ticket related to the pandemic, instead relying on educating and communicating with any offenders, and receiving compliance through these avenues.

Now, with the provincial government allowing more businesses to open up on a weekly basis, the main focus of this team will be the orderly and efficient opening of the Town’s buildings, parks, playgrounds, tennis courts, all in compliance with government and health department regulations. To find out what is opening when, please visit the Town’s website at townofpelham.ca

Please remember, as we return to the great outdoors, maintaining a social distance of six feet from our fellow residents has still got to be a priority, as also frequent hand- washing, and wearing a mask, at the very least when shopping indoors, is a habit worth beginning if you haven’t started already.

Until next week. 

Mayor Marvin Junkin

May 11, 2020

One of the many things I miss since leaving the dairy industry is not having a supply of unpasteurized milk to drink. The only legal way to obtain unpasteurized milk in Ontario is to have your own cow to milk—you cannot buy “raw” milk in stores, and dairy farmers are not allowed to sell their milk to anyone but the Ontario Milk Marketing Board. The health professionals, especially the younger ones, think that anyone who drinks unpasteurized milk is taking their lives in their own hands. I suppose there is a higher than normal risk, as it is the pasteurization that kills unwanted bacteria in the milk.  Proponents of raw milk (milk straight from the cow) think that the pasteurization process also kills the good bacteria. These same people swear that by drinking raw milk, it improves one’s immune system. We drank it because we had an abundant supply 200 ft. away.

It must be noted that raw milk is readily available in stores in most of Europe, and in most states south of the border. However, that being said, in some states the raw milk must be sold in containers that proclaim that the ingredients within are for pet consumption only. A good friend of mine that is currently living in the American midwest, buys his raw milk at a farmer’s market, in such a container.  He swears that it is the best tasting milk he has tasted. 

Ah, for the good ol’ days!

Retail hardware stores have now resumed inside shopping, as long as stores are set up with social distancing protocol. This is a step that will be greatly welcomed by all of us that have had to follow the steps that have been in place the last several weeks, shop online, wait in line and curb pickup.

Part of the new normal, I imagine, will be the end of the “guy thing” of browsing the aisles, just walking around dreaming and looking at the power tools, or whatever. It will now be, have a list, make a purchase, get out, and then explain to your better half why you’re home so early.

In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the many residents who through phone messages, emails, or Facebook comments have expressed their continued support for having myself as their spokesperson. 

To all residents, rest assured that I will continue to work on your behalf, to the best of my abilities.

Until next week. 

Mayor Marvin Junkin

May 4, 2020

Back to normalcy-slowly

On Friday, May 1, the Premier of Ontario announced that on Monday, May 4, the first steps back to our “new normal” will take place.  On this day, certain businesses and workplaces will be allowed to open, as long as they comply with the strict public health measures set out during the course of the pandemic.

Although large greenhouse owners in the area were hoping that garden centres would be allowed to be completely open, they can open but only for curbside pickup and delivery. Perhaps, when step two arrives, these businesses will be given the green light to be completely open.

Some other notable businesses on the list are childcare centres, automatic and self-serve car washes, and certain municipal projects that can start up.  Golf courses can do course maintenance, obviously with an eye to allowing them to open soon to their patrons.

These businesses, along with all other businesses on the list will have to sort out which of the site-specific regulations apply to them.  There are more than 60 guidelines released by the government designed to ensure the safety of workers, customers, and the general public.

As of Friday, Ontario had 16,608 cases of Covid-19 infections and 1,121 deaths since the start of this pandemic.

It must be remembered that the lockdown we have endured for the last month or so was never meant to eradicate the virus, it was only to slow the infection rate, so that our hospitals would not become overwhelmed with cases.  To that end, this lockdown was very successful.

The government has made it clear that going forward it will continue to heed the advice of our medical advisors, but even so, deaths will continue on a limited scale. Again the height of the second wave will depend on the actions of all of us.  To keep it low we must continue practicing social distancing and frequent hand washing along with the use of hand and surface sanitizers. 

Until next time...

Mayor Marvin Junkin

April 27, 2020

Last week I mentioned that the 12 mayors of Niagara met on a weekly basis.  There are other groups that meet on a regular schedule that directly influence the goings-on in the Town.  The 12 CAOs of the Region meet every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. Items on their agendas include staff layoffs, tax/interest deferrals, and discussing the possibility of moving property tax payment deadlines that occur later in the year.

Generally speaking, compared to our neighbours, Pelham receives a relatively small amount of our tax money from the business community, owing to the fact that compared to the number of residences in the Town, our business numbers are small.  

When discussing staffing layoffs, it is nearly impossible to draw a side-by-side comparison. Our neighbour to the south, Welland, has 83 people employed in their Public Works Department, while Pelham has 13.  One of the reasons for this huge discrepancy in numbers is that Welland does most of their infrastructure work “in house,” while here in Pelham we hire area companies to work on ours.

The number of Pelham staff currently on layoff is 32, which includes those who have chosen voluntary layoff.

Pelham’s administrative staff are constantly monitoring the employment situation, with the length of the imposed shut-down as the deciding factor—will we need more layoffs or can we start to call our staff back to work?

Although it’s a private business, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the Sobeys situation.  Myself and Regional Councillor Diana Huson have approached Niagara Public Health, asking that they suspend their usual rules for testing for COVID-19 and to test all Sobeys’ employees that feel the need to be tested.  

Their response is that they have complete faith in their testing procedures that are in place, and so will continue with this protocol for this event.  Therefore any Sobeys employee who feels they may have been exposed to the virus should phone the health unit and talk to a registered nurse.  After this discussion the nurse will determine if indeed the employee should be tested or should self-isolate at home.

Mayor Marvin Junkin

       

April 20, 2020

Since about mid-March, which is about when this pandemic event really started to get serious for most Canadians, the 12 mayors of the Region’s 12 municipalities have been having weekly teleconference calls.  Agenda items for these meetings have ranged from when to declare a state of emergency—which 11 of the 12 municipalities did simultaneously—transit, property tax deferral, interest deferral, and how each town/city was handling the finer points of the social lock-down, for example, who among us had closed parks and trails, or just parks, and who was doing what with their playground equipment.  It is a great forum to bounce ideas off of each other, to hear what is working or not working in an area.

During last week’s call, it came to light that each town/city had unanimously, chosen to keep our planning and engineering departments staffed to the extent that these two departments would continue to process building applications so that when present-day restrictions are loosened, area construction projects will be ready to go. This would give our local economies an instant boost.  It was great to hear that though this particular action was done individually, it showed that collectively all 12 towns’ politicians were on the same wavelength. 

One area in which Pelham was ahead of the pack was in establishing rules that allowed our landscaping companies to proceed with their spring work.  In Pelham, this is essential, as we have a large segment of homeowners that are in their senior years and therefore they depend on outside help to do the heavy lifting part of their yard work.  The Town’s bylaw department met with these companies and established a set of standard operating procedures.  Two of these are:  they must practice social distancing at all times, which, when you are cutting grass, is a relatively easy thing to do; and no new landscaping construction projects may begin at this time.  This is a great example of cooperation between one governmental department and the business community to get ’er done. Other municipalities are following our blueprint in this regard. 

This week’s shout-out goes to the Pelham Support Group.  Managed by resident Steve Schilstra, this group of 20-25 volunteer drivers services mostly seniors living in the town.  With a pool of ten local businesses to choose from, consisting mostly of pharmacy and grocery stores, this support group of volunteers is making over 70 deliveries a week, ensuring that our senior citizens can stay home and stay safe. If you require this service, you can reach out to the Town at 905-892-2607 ext. 372. 

I would like to end this week’s column by paying tribute to our recently deceased councillor, Mike Ciolfi. Like the majority of the town’s residents, I did not know Mike before he became a councillor, so I have known him for just a year and a half. What an absolute pleasure it was to get to know this man and to work with him on council.  Every meeting, Mike would make sure to greet everyone around the horseshoe with a, “Hi, how are ya?” He came to each meeting prepared, and took a copious amount of notes during each meeting, to be referenced if needed at a some later date.  His common sense, and sense of humour, will both be greatly missed at future meetings. 

His willingness to go that extra mile to solve a resident’s problem, endured him to all who met him. 

I would like to thank Mike’s wife, Michele, and daughters Alexis and Jessica, for sharing Mike with us.  Your generosity made us a better community. Thank you.

Mayor Marvin Junkin

April 13, 2020

This sucks!  Staying at home, and when you do go out, it is all about social distancing. I am usually a hands on kind of guy, always ready to give a complete stranger a hearty handshake and a friendly slap on the back. Those days have been gone for some weeks now and no one is willing to venture a guess as to when they will return.  Shoot, maybe I’ll be telling my eight month old grandson, in a few years time, “Yes, you’re right Wes, it does seem like a strange habit now, but years ago, the clasping of another human’s hand was just a sociable thing to do. Also, when two individuals “shook” on a deal, that deal was, from then on, written in stone. To go back on a handshake, to any people of high moral character, was inconceivable.”

Will we as a society find some other form of touching to replace the handshake? When hand shaking was banned, some people replaced it with touching elbows. With social distancing, that is no longer acceptable. Now it is a shout and a smile.

Of course the one thing that does make this new life style worthwhile is it is unquestionably saving lives, I won’t get into each country’s numbers because that becomes downright horrifying, but we as a country, do have remarkably low fatality numbers. The experts tell us, that they will remain low only if we as a nation, as a community ,continue to remain diligent in our separation from one another, and in our hand washing. And if your over seventy, please stay in your house, and have your groceries delivered in by family members, or volunteers. 

As is usually the case in our community, hard times are bringing out the good in our residents, either through deeds or donations.

Fonthill Legion, always ready and willing to fill any community need, has been cooking and delivering meals for the Town’s seniors since the beginning of this crisis. As of Easter Sunday evening, they had cooked over 1,200 meals with 350 being cooked on Easter Sunday alone. These meals have been delivered by an outstanding group of volunteers to the far reaches of the Town. A spokesperson for the Legion stated that they will continue on with this service “as long as we can.” If anyone reading this can spare a few bucks, I know they sure would appreciate the donation at the Legion. 

Area businesses have also stepped up to the plate. Pelham Cannabis producer Canntrust, has made significant financial contributions to the Fonthill Legion, Pelham Cares and to Community Living in Grimsby along with donating thousands of gloves and masks divided up, not only to these organizations but also to Shorthill’s Villa Retirement Community, Look out Ridge, and Niagara Falls Hospital.  The Town offers our sincere thanks to Canntrust for lending a helping hand to our community! 

If you need information on Covid-19,please go to the Town's website!!

More next week-keep safe, and keep smiling!

Mayor Marvin Junkin

 April 8, 2020
 

Friday morning, at 11am., as head of council, I declared a State of Emergency in the Town of Pelham.  I took this action after consulting with the Town’s Fire Chief, Bob Lymburner, the Town’s CAO David Cribbs, and listening to Public health officials, both at the Regional and Provincial levels.

The main focus of this action is symbolic. We as a Town, do not get any further financial help from any of the higher forms of government it is all about sending a stronger message to the residents about self-isolating.

Just as Pelham declared an emergency, so did all remaining municipalities- N.O.T.L. declared a week earlier- as did the Regional Government.  By stating all at once, it was hoped, that all residents of Niagara would hear the health messages that we are so desperately trying to convey.

Although it seems longer, we are just two weeks into these health edicts from the Provincial government of self-isolation and social distancing, to name a few. It was a concern at all levels of government, that with the arrival of spring-like weather and significant religious holidays, that resident’s resolve would begin to falter.

We cannot let this happen!

If one compares Canada’s COVID-19 numbers to other infected countries our numbers can be said to be quite low. Yes, it is true they will trend higher for two or three more weeks before starting to fall, but it is very obvious that our actions are indeed making a difference.

Mayor Marvin Junkin

April 3, 2020 - Declaration of State of Emergency

Residents of Pelham,

Today, in coordination with the Region of Niagara and all Niagara municipalities – save for Niagara-on-the-Lake who has previously declared – I have declared a State of Emergency in Pelham. 

Taking the step to declare an emergency is not made without thoughtful consideration and productive conversation with trusted advisors and health experts. This step symbolizes the very real situation we are in and the absolute necessity of adhering to guidance and orders issued by all levels of government and health units. 

Each municipality in Niagara is unique, with its own challenges, demographics, and services. A declaration of a state of emergency, though equally important regardless of community, is done with its residents in mind. 

The Town of Pelham has a high population of seniors, a demographic that has been strongly urged by the provincial government to stay at home and self-isolate regardless of health. I, too, encourage those who are 70 years old and older to stay home. We want to keep this group, and everyone, safe. 

The Town also has many residents who work in the health care industry and travel outside of Pelham to perform critical and essential service. Keeping these front-line workers healthy and offering support is paramount. If these people become ill, who will we depend on to keep us healthy? 

Many of you understand the gravity of this pandemic and are complying with requests to self-isolate, stay home, and physically distance. Thank you. There are some, however, who have still not fully appreciated these messages, and I call on you now to re-evaluate your decisions to gather in groups or to go out for non-essential reasons. It is not too late to change your behaviour. Your friends, family, and community depend on you. 

It is more critical now than ever to obey mandatory directives:

  • Stop all gatherings of more than five people (this includes private gatherings of extended family) 
  • Avoid all outdoor recreational amenities, including parks, playgrounds and sports fields
  • Close all non-essential businesses
  • Stay home as much as possible and only leave the house once a week if required
  • Self-isolate for 14 days if you have symptoms or have returned to Canada from being outside the country 
  • Practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently  

We can and will get through this, but we can’t do it alone, we have to do it together. 

If you need or want to learn more, visit the Town of Pelham website at www.pelham.ca/covid19 for updates, information, and more about this pandemic. 

Sincerely,

Mayor Marvin Junkin

 March 27, 2020

 It’s Friday night, and like everyone else I feel like I’m stuck in a bad dream.  Past experience tells me this can’t be happening, but the 10 o’clock news confirms it is.

In hindsight, we should’ve watched China’s unusually strong reaction to this virus and taken action immediately.  However, the past is behind us, and right now we need to be moving forward.

As a Canadian, I’m proud of how we’ve allowed our scientists and doctors take the lead on this issue, unlike our counterpart to the South.  It’s disheartening to see so many local businesses, public spaces and private gatherings closed.  And at first, isolation and social distancing seem overwhelming, but it’s the only way we’re going to beat this thing.  And right now, our numbers remain relatively low.  Italy has lost over 8000 people, Spain, over 4000, the U.S., 1400 and counting.  Canada has 60 deaths.  While this is still too high, it shows that everyday Canadians like you or I can make a difference.  By meeting this challenge head on, we’ll beat this thing and come out the other side stronger than ever.

Mayor Marvin Junkin

 

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