In addition to the larger stories, other items go through Thorold City Council and General Committee. Some may be important to someone affected and others are just a little interesting. The following are some of those items:
- In his Mayor’s remarks, Ted Luciani started off by apologizing if he was belabouring the issue, but he wished to address his remarks to the St. Catharines
Standard. He explained that they echoed a statement by the President of AMO at last August’s AMO Conference concerning the cost of Fire Services among member municipalities. He said he wasn’t attacking anybody but that it wasn’t affair for Thorold to have been compared at arbitration with the industrial tax base of much larger cities, a pattern reflected across Ontario. With Fire Services costs now topping 1/3 of the budget, he said that Thorold is now what AMO calls part of a “broken interest arbitration system”, neither sustainable nor affordable. He also pointed out that Thorold’s $17.1 million Hydro fund is not available for payment of wages, as per the 2000 sales agreement.
- Regional Councillor Henry D’Angela was there to present an overview of the Region’s 2015 budget, which was recently adopted. The overall budget came in at over $1 billion and was offset by approximately $416,000 in revenues, leaving just under $600,000 to be funded from the levy (property taxes). The impact will be an increase of about 2%, or $27.50/year on an average home assessed at $226,000.
- Marty Mako, a member of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, made a presentation to call attention to his organization. He brought up some disturbing numbers, including the fact that 67,525 shelter beds were used in Niagara in 2013, with 13% of those children and that one in three users of food banks is a child. In Thorold alone there are 484 caseloads, while the wait times in this municipality for affordable houses are 3.7 years for one bedroom and 5 years for two bedrooms. There are over 30 agencies in the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, which works with Niagara municipalities to try to reduce the effects of poverty.
- Liz Palmieri, Executive Director of the Niagara Community Foundation was also there to outline the work her organization does. The Foundation sets up endowment funds for specific works or types of works from donations. They then issue grants based upon criteria and need.
- Councillor Ugulini raised the issue of parking on both sides of the street on cul-de-sacs, especially in winter. Following complaints from residents, he went down some of these streets and says he was barely able to get his car through the space. Snow ploughs and emergency vehicles, he maintained, would never be able to get through. Staff will report on the issue.
- Councillor Paone wanted to know if the City issues notices every year concerning parking on streets in winter. He said he’d had complaints that, after giving out no tickets for several years, some residents were now being ticketed, and wanted to know how they were issued: by complaint or patrol. He was
told that notices would be issued next winter.
- Council Handley thanked the Mayor for his remarks about the Firefighters’ contract. He then addressed the now very public discussion concerning the contract awarded to the Thorold Professional Firefighters Association (TPFFA) Local 1182. The increase in wages and benefits amounts to greater than 9%. He accused them of fear-mongering when they tell you that changes will result in longer wait times, listing a number of instances where that isn’t so: that is, where fire services have been reduced without detrimental effect. While maintaining that he wasn’t in favour of eliminating the full-time firefights, he went on to point out all of the municipalities that have all-volunteer fire services and suggested that if they can do it, Thorold can too.