Thornhill is one of the oldest communities in Markham. Recent events have tested our current drainage system and power grids. What should this mean to you as residents?
1. STORMWATER MANAGEMENT
Flooding can have a devastating effect on families and their homes. Thornhill homeowners know this all too well. I remember August 19, 2005 very well, when upwards of 150 mm of rain fell in a three-hour afternoon deluge - an amount exceeded only by 1954's Hurricane Hazel. Like many in Thornhill, my basement filled with water. Others in our neighbourhood saw two metres or more in their homes, and in some cases, even into their cars.
Stormwater management involves storing and directing stormwater runoff to control flooding, erosion and water quality. Without it, runoff from urbanized areas would flood communities and roads, cause stream erosion and destroy aquatic habitat.
Thornhill’s pipes are old and small. The size of many storm sewers in Thornhill are designed to withstand theoretically the worst storm on an average of once every 2 to 5 years. In newer areas of Markham and elsewhere, the standard flood protection is for storm sewers which have a capacity of 100 year threshold. Increasing the size of our storm sewer pipes is an absolutely necessary investment to protect Thornhill homes from flooding. It will take time and money but is critically necessary work.
What have I done?
- As a Ratepayer President, I was among the first who attended a community meeting at Bayview Glen Public School in the months following the flooding.
- In February 2013, I was able to have a Resolution of Council passed which made the crucial funding of upgrading the stormwater system in Thornhill and throughout Markham a city-wide investment rather than a tax on just Thornhill residents. My Motion also guaranteed that $2 million will be set aside annually for the next 5 years, from Federal Gas Tax monies, to be dedicated to funding this crucial project to keep our homes in Thornhill safe from flooding.
- The first stage of construction to upgrade the storm sewer system here in Thornhill is finally beginning. This will be a multi-phase project spanning the next eight years. This is important and necessary work!
What this means to you.
- An average savings of $282 for each Thornhill home. Thornhill homeowners could have been faced with a roughly $330 per year cost over the next 30 years (had this been a Thornhill-only levy), rather than approximately $48 per year.
- A vitally important investment in upgrading the stormwater infrastructure to protect your home and valued possessions from flooding.
2. POWER GRIDS
As many residents of Thornhill, particularly those in Bayview Glen, noted during the devastating ice storm in December 2013, we have some of the oldest power utility grids in Markham. This includes more overhead power lines and backyard connections than elsewhere in the city.
The ice storm had significant impacts in Markham from a financial and environmental perspective. Over 11,000 trees were damaged and, of course, we had the responsibility of attending to a massive clean-up over many months.
While significant portions of streets will be open for the storm sewer work, it may make sense and be cost-efficient for PowerStream to lay the necessary underground wires for possible future use and connection when other roads and areas are worked on.
What have I done?
- On the 2nd full day of the ice storm, I asked Mayor Scarpitti to ensure that the Thornhill Community Centre was opened, in addition to the Milliken Mills community centre in the east end of Markham, to assist Thornhill residents who were without power.
- The storm was particularly devastating to many of our seniors who would have found it almost impossible to attend to the clean-up and removal of large tree limbs and branches from their front yards. I fought to ensure that our City crews attended not only to trees on City parts of the boulevard, but helped our seniors and disabled with their front yards.
- I repeatedly asked the Mayor early on during the storm to hold a Special Council Meeting to consider a Resolution asking the Province for emergency funding under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. The City of Markham is hoping to receive $9.8 million under the Province’s Ice Storm Assistance Program.
- I have asked Mayor Scarpitti to investigate the feasibility of burying power lines while large sections of roads were opened for the storm water upgrades. I have also written to PowerStream’s President, Brian Bentz, directly. This is efficient and cost-effective planning for the future.
Moving forward – areas of concern
As many residents know, I feel strongly that PowerStream as an organization failed in providing timely and accurate information. Their communications system did not function as we have every right to expect it to. It is their responsibility to prepare for worst-case scenarios, not just the run-of-the-mill localized outages.
If I am re-elected as your Councillor, I will continue leading the fight for updated infrastructure improvements for Thornhill residents. The questions I will want to have answered at Council will be:
- How do we better meet the needs of seniors and the vulnerable during disasters?
- How can PowerStream and the City of Markham work with others in the communications industry to ensure that we are still able to get information out to residents during an emergency?
- What could we do differently in the future?
The age and quality of our facilities here in Thornhill, including the amenities in our local parks is a serious concern. If we do not take care of these, Thornhill can quite easily become the ‘have not’ part of Markham.
Thornhill certainly has its share of facilities: the Village Library and the Community Centre - which includes ice rink, library, meeting rooms, seniors centre, etc. Despite a multi-million dollar renovation to the Community Centre over the last few years, many of our city-owned buildings in Thornhill are old and have a ‘tired’ feel. As opposed to other community centres in the city such as Angus Glen and Centennial, Thornhill’s pool is isolated, in an old building and unattached to any other community facility.
In newer areas of Markham where extensive development is occurring, projects such as new community centres or new parks with all the ‘bells and whistles’ are funded through Development Charges levied on developers. Only 10% of a brand new park, for instance, comes from taxpayer revenue.
The challenge facing Thornhill. If we put in a new splash pad in Cornell, for instance, the taxpayers (including you and I in Thornhill), only pay 10% of the cost of that splash pad. An identical piece of equipment at Bayview Glen Park or Huntington Park in Thornhill – the taxpayer pays the entire amount.
Whether one lives in Thornhill or Cornell, we pay the same tax rate. As your Councillor, I will fight to have this changed.
What have I done?
In Glencrest Park:
- Raised residents’ concerns about old and unsafe equipment with senior staff at Markham’s General Committee
- Held multiple meetings with residents to discuss private fundraising opportunities for the park
- Arranged for residents to meet with staff at the park. Equipment closed immediately thereafter for safety concerns and will be fixed and upgraded over the next few weeks.
- I am happy to announce that brand new equipment will be installed next year
In Duncan Park:
- Held extensive consultation to identify preferred new park feature following the removal of an old, structurally unsafe tennis clubhouse.
- Currently working at securing alternative funding for a new gazebo to replace the clubhouse
I believe we must be committed to providing the highest standards of community facilities in Markham– whether in Thornhill, Cornell or Unionville. This should be based upon the principles of social equity, environmental sustainability, financial affordability and transparency of process. Everyone should have equal access to community resources and opportunities. This will include:
- A Complete park ‘renaissance’ plan within 12 months;
- Establish a Community Amenities Fund to ensure that funds are set aside for annual improvements to all parks – regardless of where someone lives in Markham – in addition to annual improvements at all community centres and libraries. Not merely maintenance;
- Adopt innovative parks policy and look for new ways of operating and financing existing parks as well as look at abandoned spaces as opportunities to create new parks.