Sunday, March 29, 2015



Of course, we're talking about the Kinsmen Pool, the grab-onto-project that a couple of candidates think will propel them to the Ward 2 seat on Fort Erie town council. Stephen Passero tried unsuccessfully to use the issue in his run for mayor but he has managed to time events to his advantage in the by-election to fill the seat of the late Rick Shular. Too bad, one of his opponents, Larry Graber is president of the Kinsmen, for he too has jumped into the pool, taking credit for the ridiculous presumption that the pool could be open this summer to young swimmers. (That is, if you believe the badly written, research-challenged report in the Fort Erie Times.)

Alrighty then, let's fire up the Way Back Machine and take a look at the situation, complete with the facts. Pay attention, Sarah Ferguson. I am going to link an article from your own newspaper: Fort Erie Pravda (™George Jardine)

It was 17 October, 2011 when the long-awaited Feasibility study of the Kinsmen Pool was presented to council. It was charmingly called The Outdoor Aquatic Facility Feasibility Study, Phase 2.

It presented five options for the future of the Kinsmen Pool.

1A: DO NOTHING  44 year old facility; pool tank, deck, mechanical equipment, and change room facility in poor condition.  Lifespan optimistically 1 year before current physical state of repair will require remedial actions and capital investment.

1B: TEMPORARY FIX  - Capital cost: in the order of magnitude of $610,080 (2011$) • Annual operational financial performance: ∙ Estimated annual operational expenditures (2011$) = $65,700 ∙ Estimated annual operational revenue (2011$) = $10,000 to $12,600 ∙ Estimated net operational cost = $53,100 to $55,700

2. REPLACEMENT ALTERNATIVE Capital cost: in the order of between $2,460,000 and $2,680,000 (2011$) ∙ Not including potential costs related to site acquisition ∙ Some recently upgraded equipment at existing facility can be carried forward (filters, pumps, heater, etc.)

3A:REPLACEMENT ALTERNATIVE Financial Implications of 3A: • Capital cost: in the order of between $3,059,000 and $3,495,000 (2011$) ∙ + optional 1 metre diving board ($14,000) ∙ + optional in-pool underwater lighting ($20,000) ∙ Not including potential costs related to site acquisition.

3B REPLACEMENT ALTERNATIVE Financial Implications of 3B Capital cost: in the order of between $3,536,000 and $3,884,000 (2011$) ∙ + optional 1 metre diving board ($14,000) ∙ + optional in-pool underwater lighting ($20,000) ∙ Not including potential costs related to site acquisition

This is where we were at in 2011. The choice was clear. Spend almost three quarters of a million dollars for a band aid solution that may work for a couple of years; spend millions to completely replace the pool or DO NOTHING.

Here, Sarah Ferguson, is the article about the Kinsmen Pool as reported in the October 18, 2011 Times. Here is what Passero said back then:

Coun. Stephen Passero, who is the chairman of the pool's fundraising committee, asked his council colleagues to support the reconstruction option, which would cost about $2.5 million. However, he said residents shouldn't be on the hook to pay the entire price tag.
He asked staff to prepare a report explaining the budgetary impact should the town pitch in $1.5 million, leaving his fundraising committee to find the additional $1 million through grants, community sponsorships and fundraising.
"I think we should at least be looking to maintain what we've always had."
Coun. Rick Shular said spending that type of money isn't as easy as it was when the pool was built by the Kinsmen Club 44 years ago.
"This is not 1967, when we had $30 million to bank on," he said.
Shular suggested the town consider a splash pad as a temporary solution, and in three to five years take another look at a new pool.
Based on a staff report as well as the funded report,council eventually decided to do nothing and the pool was closed, 2011 being its last year of operation. Four years have passed and nothing has been done to the pool. It sits in an ugly state of disrepair - an eyesore. Yet Stephen Passero and the clubbies from the Underwater Recovery Unit (a complete misnomer as they do nothing of the sort) think they can have the pool open and running some time this summer. And their few loyal followers think they can get funding for the re-opening through grants and fundraising. 

Sure, we'd all like a public pool for the kids to learn to swim and enjoy the water in a safe environment, but the resurrection of the Kinsmen Pool will be a very costly one for the taxpayers. 

 It truly will be a money pit.

And that's the skinny on the big dip - into the taxpayers' already stressed out budget.

Further, there is a big problem with cement pools. Once the slime water is removed, volunteers are planning to scrub the pool clean - like in one of those commercials for scrubbing bubbles. Not so easy as referenced HERE.  Good luck with that. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


I'm tempted to sit back and watch the new council squander the taxpayers' money in one ill-conceived scheme after another, but I can't stay quiet.

I will not even feel good saying, "We told you so" when taxes go up over 7% and the infrastructure continues to crumble.

The voters of Fort Erie had their say, mainly because they blindly believed that the Four Councillors (Bob Steckley, John Hill, Don Lubberts and Paul Collard) were the cause of all of Fort Erie's woes. Now that all but one are gone from council, it is quite apparent to even the most casual observer that they were hard-working, honest men. They read their council package and openly discussed and questioned it, which is what elected councillors are supposed to do in these parts. From Day One they were under attack by certain vested interests.

  1. Marina Butler, who later defeated John Hill in Ward 4, requested a Compliance Audit of Hill's election financials.
  2. Larry Graber, who is running for Rick Shular's Ward 2 seat, requested one on Paul Collard, who beat him in Ward 6 in 2010.
  3. Martha Lockwood was defeated by Don Lubberts in Ward 5, requested a compliance audit on him in 2010.
That's just for starters. Under the guidance of Jim Thibert and Mayor-by-five-votes Doug Martin, former Ward 4 Councillor Tim Whitfield (beaten in a landslide by John Hill) filed a Conflict of Interest suit against the Four Councillors. A couple of years later, it will finally be heard in court in April. So far, the suit has cost the councillors thousands of dollars of their own money to defend themselves. It could cost the taxpayers a lot more if the court rules in favour of the four.

Then, just in time for the election, the former developer of the controversial Bay Beach Project, filed suit against The Four for $10 million. So far, nothing new on that suit, but it achieved its purpose: to scare voters away from The Four.

So, now the Rump Parliament of Fort Erie is sitting, deciding how your precious tax dollars are to be used. New/old mayor Redekop is powerless over these Chamber of Commerce lackeys who are spending taxpayer money on all their "pet" projects. District School Board of Niagara asks the town to pay for a "state of the art" theatre (is their any other kind and what does that mean anyway?) on the new high school site. Poor DSBN. Can't afford to build one themselves. But Fort Erie is willing to pledge $500 K for start-up and cough-cough "fund-raise" for the rest. And if you don't believe that, I have a race track that needs another $500 K to limp through another season with conflict-challenged Jim Thibert at the helm. And then there's the Middle East Speedway (A.K.A. Canadian Motor Speedway) complete with Sharia Law financial backing and a lot of promises and excuses why not much has been done in the past several years. Remember when they blamed the NIMBYs for the delays? Settled years ago. Now it's the government, both provincial and federal for not giving them a bunch of money and building an entire infrastructure to support the speedway. The speedway will never be built, IMHO.

God knows what other projects the Chamber Maids and Lads have in the works. And their loyal followers are still singing their praises as if they are the answer to all Fort Erie's problems. I guess a 7.3% tax hike is A-OK for them. I guess they will support the new theatre financially. I guess they'll all go to the track and spend lots of money in the two score racing dates this season. I guess they won't mind their tax dollars will be going into building a private speedway that will not save the local economy and may well ruin what's left of it.

I guess they enjoy their delusion. Those of us with critical thinking skills sure don't.

Friday, March 13, 2015


We're now entering the Season of the Pothole, a yearly event that occurs when the snow starts to melt, revealing crater-sized potholes in local roads. Every year, citizens complain and every year, the bigger holes get filled in and the cycle begins anew.

Meanwhile, our fledgling local council seems more concerned about spending taxpayer dollars to build a school's theatre and to subsidize Jim Thibert's hobby race track than to address the real concerns of its constituents.

The other day, I made a trip over to Buffalo (first time in months.)  We had to make a stop at Ted's on Sheridan Drive for lunch. (I still miss the Ted's at Front Park, long gone due to Peace Bridge "expansion.") As we were getting into the car, a friendly guy asked us how our shopping expedition was going. we laughed and said "fine" realizing he had seen the Canadian license plate. So we got talking and he told us his family had a place in Thunder Bay. (Which means that he also pays taxes to Fort Erie.) He also said he was worried about "all the building going on in the area." So, then we talked about THE BAY BEACH TOWER. He was so glad that it wasn't going to be built ("Of Course," you might say, "he's an American summer resident.") True. But he also has a long memory of the joys of living near the beach within a few miles of Buffalo. Me too. That's why I stayed here all those years ago.

And that's why I continue to speak out when greedy, foolish people attempt to destroy the beauty and uniqueness of Fort Erie.  Personally, I think the Speedway is a bad idea for Fort Erie. It is already obvious that there would need to be significant changes and improvements to the infrastructure in order to support the speedway. The added stress to the Peace Bridge has not even been mentioned in the discourse so far. Why would anyone want such a noisy attraction so close to the town? My friend in Brooklyn, Michigan (home of a NASCAR track) tells me that race days are a nightmare in her small town. Residents cannot even leave their homes because the traffic is so severe and the noise is deafening. If the speedway is built with minimum funding from the taxpayers, then so be it. I believe that the whole thing is a tax rip-off and the people will be paying for it for generations. And, it will never be built.

All one needs to do is look across the border at the renaissance of Buffalo to see what can be done. For years, Buffalo was part of the Rust Belt, stagnating in its own lack of vision. Things changed when people with ideas and solutions came forward. Now Buffalo ends up near the top of polls on best places to live.

Those of us who lived in Buffalo all know of its great features, including the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I'll tell you a story of one such treasure and how it went from near demolition to glory. It was a hard-fought, years long battle to save what my grandmother used to call "The Larkin Estate."  It was actually the Darwin Martin Home, built for and owned by the Martin Family, the wife, a daughter of the Larkin Soap Company's founder.

By the time I became aware of it, it was a run-down shell, slated for demolition. Three of its outer buildings had already been destroyed. An architect and his family bought the place and tried to restore it but the costs to do so were prohibitive. It was then sold a number of times until a group of people started a non-profit organization in 1992 to restore the complex to its former glory. It now stands as a shining example of the work of Wright and it is a major tourist draw as well.  The Martin Complex is a couple of blocks from my old stomping grounds, just steps from the Buffalo Zoo which rests in the Olmstead-designed Delaware Park. Such history, now preserved for future generations. By a city that was near extinction.

Fort Erie needs to go through its own renaissance in order to survive. Its greatest asset, its waterfront, has been exploited for personal gain by any number of people over the years. Its historic lighthouse on Point Abino was allowed to become a crumbling shell. Thanks to a dedicated group of people, the lighthouse is now restored. Access is easy? No. Is there easy access to any number of lighthouses, or for that matter, national historic treasures? No. Can anyone just walk into the Darwin Martin Complex whenever they feel like it? No. My friend and I are going to take a tour through it this spring. Costs $30.00 a person. I will give it gladly because I appreciate that this wonderful place was saved to give people the opportunity to see a genius' work.

Perhaps, along Dominion Road somewhere, a sign could be erected advising motorists that the road was voted one of the worst in all of Ontario. Could win this year as well. Well, it's something anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2015


It looks as though the Beatties (Howard and Valerie) are getting their pay-back for campaign donations and financial support of the lawsuit against The Four Councillors. Remember, it was the Beatties who were among those who funded the Conflict of Interest lawsuit currently winding its way slowly through the court system of Ontario.

Now they want to build a house on their property on Lakeshore Road just 3 metres from the water's edge in defiance of the 30 metre set-back as required by Section 6.47 of Comprehensive Zoning By-law No.129-90. Now, you're beginning to see why some on council wanted to make it easier to change the set-back. It's called pay-back and a lot of other names that we are all familiar with but I can't use due to the lawsuit against me that Jim Thibert filed using taxpayer money. (Not unlike his most recent lawsuit against Ward 5 Councillor Don Lubberts for Conflict of Interest.  All because Donnie called Jimmy out over his plan to get the town to buy a piece of property to sweeten a deal for the sale of the racetrack.)

So, the Beatties expect that their fellow conspirator/fianceer Ward 4 Councillor Marina Butler (owner of Employment Professionals Canada) who also contributed towards the lawsuit, will vote to allow them to build a house close to the water, thus setting a precedent for others to follow. Never mind that homes along the shore in that area already suffer from flooding and other problems due to the high water table and proximity to the lake, thanks to poor planning policies in the past. Valerie Beatty is trying to get clearance based on goals set for the Council's Corporate Strategic Plan (2011-2014), one of which is to "increase public access to our waterfronts."  Sure. Like a twelve story tower looming over the public beach, which severely limited public access will increase public access to our waterfronts. Been there; done than; even got the tee shirt.

Keep track of this one, folks. See if Marina Butler declares a conflict. Odds are she won't. She thinks she's above all that and knows better. I hear that there is a complaint filed with the Integrity Commissioner against her already.  Next, she'll be calling for the end to the integrity commissioner like they did at Regional Council.  So much for transparency and healing that was supposed to be the theme of this council.

Looks like business as usual (meaning back before 2010) for the Town of Fort Erie.