It's one thing to have a concept of a new industry for the recreational canal and describe various patentable products for use and retail sales, it's another to have small ideas, small increments, to improve everyones' life in Welland. This includes small budget items that make sense for all taxpayers and residents,
and small steps that can grow into huge investments and create dynamic social change.
Let's have a look at a list that can only grow as I continue to talk with Welland people.
Bus Stops: River Road is now a major bus route for local and regional buses. When buses leave the bus station and turn to start going down the descending slope of River Road, they have to stop for a stop sign that really shouldn't be there. It's right beside the old filter station for the Atlas Steel factory. That's where workers had to clean the grates for the river water intakes. That's been closed for a long time and there is no bus stop there. Saving energy for braking and accelerating for all bus traffic can only be a good thing for neighbours, reducing exhaust and noise.
When you are going down Niagara from Main Street and cross the river, you can turn left to reach the end of Fitch Street. There's a stop sign where the road first turns right, for a dead-end side road that has only four houses. One of those houses was owned by a friend of Welland City Council, and he got it as a favour. Fitch Street and the road it abuts are popular roads and are busy, when the side street isn't.
High-Rise Condominium Developments: When telling the truth, a few minutes of honest conversation can influence big money investors. Welland City Council is known around the province for conducting business as a criminal organization. When I'm walking around the city or bike-hiking around the peninsula, I have many opportunities to go up to people standing around wearing suits and dresses, hard-hats and industrial safety clothing. They are usually standing beside a business van or chauffered limosines, looking at some property.
The Tribune printed a two-thirds of a page architectural pictorial that presented a new investment,
a high-rise apartment building for the property where the old Welland Iron and Brass was, on Niagara Street.
City Council was telling the developers that this property was the most valuable river-side and canal-side property in Welland. The developers were told if they paid a city hall architect $100,000 for the blue-prints,
it would be easy for them to proceed. I was taking a short-cut through the property from Church Street, and saw a bunch of hard-hats standing beside a business van and went over to see. Sure enough, it was the new owners. They were very friendly, so I told them I used to date the daughter of the factory manager and was an old Crowland boy, knowing the original property and what the City of Welland did to it.
I described how Continental Motors had a garage with sales for M.G.s', Austin Healeys, Mini-Coopers and other used British sports cars. The road descended from Niagara Street to almost river level, their parking lot, sales room and repair facilities being a flat plain that went back into the property. I said that was all filled in with loose fill, and wasn't appropriate as a foundation for a river-front high-rise. That took a minute.
I described how the river got polluted in the spring when debris and Chippawa River algae and dead water plants would create a rotting mass that went across the front of the aquaduct. I said it wasn't as bad as the past, when winter was winter, because dead farm animals, cows, pigs and the odd horse, that fell through the ice, could be floating amongst the debris. I said this is the worst river-front property along Chippawa Creek for this gathering of pollution and for the smell on hot days. Another minute.
As they started to look amongst themselves, I asked if they were told what Welland Iron and Brass did when they were vacating the property, before Welland City Council started calling it brownfield reclamation.
As I told them I could see and feel their anger rising. As you can see, this high-rise was never built.
I was coming back from a long distance bike-hike, leaving the recreational trail and crossing the bridge at Lincoln Street. I saw a man and a woman in hard hats and safety clothing, starting to pull stuff out of a business van from Toronto that had lettering about being an industrial property assessment service. I was feeling a little tired after being out there for almost two days, and was huffy and scruffy from beating my way through forests and walking along Lake Erie, so I almost kept going. But, being the curious person I am,
and having worked for ten weeks at Welmet, the old factory property they were looking at, I went over.
After making some small talk about the times I lived in Toronto, I asked them if I could tell them about Welmet and give them a free tour. I told them about the chemicals this very old factory used, how they dumped slag inside the property, what they did when they closed down, and showed them open sewage and industrial chemical pits that you can find behind the original concrete wall that runs along the recreational path beside the canal. They were very surprised, because none of this was on the site plans they were given. The fact that a hole in the fence let men and women in to use the area as a sex trade location, with piles of pharmaceutical bottles and pieces of clothing all around, only made it look worse. Those signs for the new high-rise apartment building were left behind, and for the developers, so was Welland. Twenty minutes.
New Sidewalks: If there is one pathway that is heavily used without being paved, it's the land along the train tracks that goes from the old Cotton Mill to No Frills. Not only every kind of shopper who is going to the Lincoln Street Mall, but people in electric chairs, baby buggies, bicycles and shopping carts use that path.
When it rains, of course the mud is muddy, but what could be a six inch pond happens where the path meets the end corner of the No Frills parking lot. When water accumulates, it also gathers in the grass along the tracks, so there isn't an easy way to get around it. People put stones and wood down as a way to get over it, but that's never safe. Users can break through the ice in the winter, and that's never nice.
During one mayoral debate I was describing First Avenue as needing a sidewalk after Niagara College was built, saying students who were walking or riding bikes with books needed a safer way to get there. One of our elected politicians asked me if that was true, saying he took it for granted that First Avenue had a sidewalk. I could only say I'm not lying. After that winter, First Avenue got a sidewalk.
Welland Farmers' Market: When I think of City of Welland investment in the Farmers' Market, I think about the commercial property the city bought, tearing down the old Kentucky Fried Chicken, Davey Jones Fish and Chips, the Division Street business beside it, and other commercial property around the edge of the Market Square Property. The city was quick to buy up property former Mayor Eugene Stranges had first bid on for sale, and pave that big parking lot. But after Mayor Stranges was arrested with a Notre Dame priest in Buffalo, his proposed real estate development never happened. That huge parking lot is under-used.
That why, when I say the Farmers' Market should be allowed to stay open after twelve noon, when the city closes them down, other vendors and portable businesses should be allowed to use designated market square parking lot space. I can see this important agricultural business being open until sunset. All the city would have to do is put up some new signs.
The new roofing that extends along both buildings could be joined as a further protection against rain,
using Welland Water Way panels, increasing sheltered space to attract more farmers and vendors. If the city was conducting honest and beneficial business, more farmers and vendors should mean a lower cost for all.
How's this for a new all-day market slogan? Welland Farmers Market: Have a Rural Good Time!
The Welland Public Library: Our librarians are being forced to take too many orders from City Council.
It takes a lot of education and intellectual interest to become a librarian, what is a very ancient profession.
They have been ordered not to accept donations of books if they are older than four years. That really doesn't make sense. What if someone wanted to donate an ancient book, a very valuable book? Oh yeah,
that's right, a mayor or city councillor could take it, like donations I made to the previous Welland Museum.
When librarians sell donated books, or old stock, they sell them for $1 each. They could get more for most books. Sometimes I buy books from the library and resell them in St. Catharines.
The library is ordered to only buy movies from one source, paying full retail price, mostly 30 to $40 per movie. They don't get to order what Welland people want, they just have to take what they get. They get a lot of bad movies, for both the quality and deceptive packaging, as well as blatant American propaganda.
All librarians know they can buy as new movies for $2 from local charity benefit stores and buy and sells.
That would give the library twenty times as many movies for the same price.
Movies aren't books, being a totally different entertainment and product. When I saw TV episodes or a movie I thought was senselessly pornographic or sickly violent, and mentioned it to staff, I never saw them again. That's a waste of library movie money. Some movies are returned so damaged they are unplayable,
but that's something librarians can't monitor, movies dropped off in the drop-box or left on the counter.
I can see a movie specialist being a new job, having the ability to monitor movie use, clean movies, write up movie reviews, and look around the city to buy more movies. That's putting your tax dollars back into our economy. I know many seniors with movie collections in the hundreds and thousands, keeping every movie they ever bought. They would be happy to donate them, unable to sell or trade them, if library policy would allow that. Even if the library paid $1 each, making local seniors feel rich, that would be incredible savings compared to what's going on now.
A movie is a movie because people used to see them on the big screen in movie theaters. It was hearing the reactions of others, sharing the same reactions, laughing, crying, shouting out in anger, that really made it a movie experience. I can see the library having a movie night, something they've done already, but really bumping it up with everything movie, including the sales of pop and popcorn and other treats that sell,
as part of library fund-raising. And that's not the job of librarians, but part-time movie specialists. Writing reviews for the newspaper, listing new movies, publicizing show-times, could be what the movie person does.
The Park Theater used to show Italian movies for a Sunday afternoon matinee. I can see the library having a foreign movie night, especially for students and residents from India. I'd want to see "Bahubali" again.
The former Barclay Hotel: In the Evening Tribune, there was a series of articles about the Barclay Hotel,
now Canalview, apartments for people collecting disability. These articles talked about a real estate developer from Toronto who offered to buy the former Barclay Hotel for $1,500,000, saying he had another $1,000,000 to invest, converting them to downtown apartments. This was a major investment for the city.
I had already moved back to Welland from Toronto, not playing guitar full time any more, when I received a telephone call from a band-leader, saying his guitarist didn't want to come to Welland and wanted the week off. He asked if I could fill in and I said sure. I was trying not to inhale the fumes from "poppers", drug capsules with gas you could break and sniff under your nose, or toss on the floor and step on them, making a gassy atmosphere. The lead singer of "The Village People", a professional vocalist they hired as their front man, said he quit the band because there were so many poppers thrown onstage it was like singing in a fog. Yes, that's the disco era for some people, especially Welland.
I was sitting at the end of the bar where the air conditioner was, when an older man came up to me and said "what's a Toronto player like you doing here". I said I was a Crowland boy and just finished a couple of years playing full time in Toronto showbands. He said he was the developer I was reading about in the Tribune. I said "I've got a lot to say about the Barclay and the people you are doing business with, reading the newspaper articles. But look at me, sitting here with my guitar, red velvet pants and a yellow satin shirt.
I wouldn't take me seriously as a businessman. You should call a friendly police officer and ask him about the people who want to take your money". We kept talking until I had to go back up onstage. The lead singer of this band later won a Juno award for best r'n'b original song.
Three days later the Tribune printed an article saying this developer left Welland without telling anyone, and reporters couldn't find him for an interview. I'm sure they wouldn't want to print what he would say.
Six months later the Barclay was sold for $30,000 and torn down. N.D.P. Cindy Forster got office space.
Look what a ten minute conversation can do, when all you say is just speaking to the truth of reality.
Do you remember the architectural rendering of the new high-rise apartment building that the Tribune printed in full colour, soon to be erected on the property where the Welland Club used to be? The mayor and city councilors are so high on themselves they can party in the penthouse even though the building isn't there.
Maybe you've got your two feet on the ground, and can imagine Watt happened there.