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Council notebook

Council invited to participate in Bowl for Kids’ Sake Campaign

The executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Niagara has issued a challenge to Fort Erie councillors to bring the Bowl for Kids’ Sake Mayor’s Trophy back to Fort Erie.

The trophy is awarded to the mayor whose community raises the most money, and the trophy currently sits in Pelham.

Barb Van Der Heyden spoke at Town Hall on Monday night, encouraging members of the council to either make a pledge or to participate in the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters’  Bowl for Kids’ Sake campaign, which runs from March 3 to March 23, with Carroll’s Bowling Lanes set to host games at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 23.

Van Der Heyden said Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Niagara has been providing individual and group mentoring services to children in Niagara since April 1964. Last year, the program served 607 children, of which 109 were from Fort Erie, with 28 children still waiting for their “forever Big.”

“I’m very excited to announce, thanks to a grant we’ve received recently, we are starting a new program through partnerships with Big Brothers Big Sisters Niagara Falls with Strive Niagara to offer a young mom’s program,” Van Der Heyden said.

The program will match young mothers with professional women to assist with challenges these mothers face, such as continuing with school or providing emotional support.

The organization relies on donors, sponsorships, grants and fundraising efforts to continue to provide serviced to the community.

Van Der Heyden said Bowl for Kids’ Sake is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser and this year’s goal is to raise $307,500.

Jessica Trapani, the fundraising and events coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Niagara said this year’s theme is ‘Fandemonium’ with prizes available for the best-dressed teams and incentives for team pledge levels achieved.

“We encourage you to come dressed in an outfit of whatever you’re a fan of.”

Trapani said in the past, Fort Erie’s council has made a significant contribution to the Big Brothers Big Sisters campaign and can continue to do so by registering a team of four to six bowlers, gathering a minimum of $200 or $50 per player.

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Council to consider a grant for Crystal Ridge Community Centre

Town Council will consider a $25,000 grant for the Crystal Ridge Community Centre in its budget deliberations.

Edward Feiertag, secretary for the Crystal Ridge Community Centre (CRCC), spoke at Town Hall on Monday night and asked Fort Erie’s councillors to consider the request.

Feiertag explained the facility is well used by community groups, including the Ridgeway Lioness, Therapy and Alternatives for Special Children and Adults with Disabilities (TASC), Down the Rabbit Hole Theatre Company, sports leagues and is often used for fundraisers, service club meetings, trivia nights, community dinners, flu shot clinics and so  much more.

He gave a brief history of the facility, which is now in its 22nd year of service.

“In 1993, the Ridgeway Lions had outgrown their hall on Prospect Point Road North and decided to pursue the construction of a new hall attached to the west end arena, now known as the Crystal Ridge Arena, which was also largely funded by the Ridgeway Lions,” Feiertag told councillors.

The Crystal Ridge Community Centre Corporation was formed and issued its first Registered Charity Information Return on March 19, 1997.

Feiertag said the CRCC is a not-for-profit charitable organization operated by community groups. The majority of the board is represented by the Ridgeway Lions and the remaining members consist of others from community groups who pay an annual membership.

According to Feiertag, the community centre operates as “close to break-even as possible.”

“(non-members) pay a rental charge that is set and reviewed annually by the board. The goal is to maximize the hall usage and to charge reasonable fees to cover operating costs,” he said.

In the past where there have been operating deficiencies, Feiertag said the Ridgeway Lions have covered those deficiencies by providing loans.

The reason for the request, Feiertag explained to councillors, is due to substantial rising costs, including office supplies, water, electricity, maintenance, insurance and advertising.

Following Feiertag’s presentation, Ward 5 Coun. Don Lubberts made a request that was supported by the rest of the council to include a grant for $25,000 for the Crystal Ridge Community Centre in the supplemental budget for consideration.

Council wants Region to have more say on NPCA budget

Fort Erie’s councillors agree the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), which is responsible for overseeing the region’s watershed areas, should be more transparent when it comes to its budget.

At a meeting at Town Hall on Monday night, the council supported a resolution brought forward by Ward 2 Coun. Nick Dubanow calling on the NPCA to shed some light on all its spending in 2018 and 2019, and to continue to provide updates about its budget every year after that.

The resolution also calls on the province to make changes to the Conservation Authorities Act to give all municipalities within the watershed of a conservation authority greater oversight into budgets, which would give Niagara’s regional government the power to approve the NPCA’s budget.

The NPCA receives funding from the Region, as well as the City of Hamilton and Haldimand. While the budget is presented to the Region, it doesn’t have power under provincial legislation to approve or deny funding requests from the NPCA.

The resolution also noted that when the NPCA’s budgets for 2018, and 2019 were presented, regional councillors didn’t receive a full accounting of all the agency’s spending.

In 2017, mounting concerns and criticism of the NPCA led the Province to ask the auditor general to conduct an audit of the agency.

The investigation revealed several areas of concern at the NPCA including $3.8 million in purchases between 2013 and 2017 that didn’t adhere to the agency’s own policies for the competitive acquisition of goods and services.

Dubanow told fellow councillors that there are a lot of questions regarding the NPCA’s finances.

“I think it goes without saying that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, I’m pleased with the direction things are moving now, but over the previous four years, there’s been a lot of concern within the community about how things have been conducted,” he said.

He described the NPCA as having “this cloud over their head,” and added that Niagara’s taxpayers who fund the agency have the right to transparency in terms of how the budget money is spent.

“We (as elected officials) all act on behalf of the taxpayers. We’re the stewards of the taxes they pay for us. It’s very important we have the ability to request that information and approve the budget that is paid for with tax dollars,” he said.

“If they come back and say, ‘No you don’t have that authority. Here’s the bill — pay it,’ then we can say (that) we’re holding off until we get those answers,” he said.

Ward 6 Coun. Ann-Marie Noyes asked how much oversight the Niagara Region has over the NPCA.

Mayor Wayne Redekop said the Region has “none.”

Ward 5 Coun. Don Lubberts said he had “no problem” supporting the motion but cautioned that there’s a possibility the provincial government could view the Town’s request as an attempt to act on behalf of the Region in its call for budget oversight.

“I just don’t know that we are here to request things on behalf of the region and that look’s like this is what we’re doing here,” he said.

Dubanow said his motion wasn’t asking the province to give Fort Erie the power to reject the NPCA budget. His motion is to give the Region that power.

Dubanow said he wanted his motion sent to the Region, the City of Hamilton and Haldimand County for their support.

“We’re asking on behalf of the Town of Fort Erie that they grant the Regional Municipality of Niagara that right because when it comes down to it, the taxpayers within the Town of Fort Erie that we represent are also taxpayers to the Regional Municipality of Niagara,” he said.

“We’ve got to do something about this on behalf of our taxpayers.”