Monthly Archives: September 2019

John Crocco, Catholic School Board Director, Announces 2020 Retirement

John Crocco (Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association photo)

Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco has had many first days of school.

His first day of kindergarten.

His first day of high school.

His first day of university.

His first day as an elementary teacher in New Liskeard in 1983, and his first day as a classroom teacher at Saint Paul Catholic High School in Niagara Falls in 1986.

His first day as Program Chair, Vice-Principal, Principal, Superintendent, and his first day as Director of Education.

And this year’s first day of school; his last with Niagara Catholic.

Director Crocco informed the Board early this calendar year, as he had with the previous Board, that his plan has always been a commitment to seeing Vision 2020, and the accomplishments achieved as a system in realizing this vision, to its completion, and then to retire on August 31, 2020.

“It has always been my plan to see Vision 2020 through to its completion, before beginning the next opportunity on my life journey in September 2020,” Crocco said in his letter to staff. “I have always known that this would be the right time to move forward, as we move into a new decade and a new strategic plan to serve students, staff and the board through the 2020s.

“The start of this new school year traditionally has focused, as it should, on students and staff, and I wanted this year to be no different. My informing staff in advance provides the Board the time required to begin the search process for the next Director of Education, and for a transition period to ensure that Niagara Catholic’s mission, vision and values continue to provide the direction for our system. I am deeply grateful for the unconditional support of my family throughout my career. I am profoundly proud of the genuine collaboration, visionary thinking, risk-taking, support and commitment of the Boards of Trustees, staff, student leaders, bishops, religious, parents and community members. Together, we have created an innovative Catholic learning environment designed for all students to succeed, recognized locally, provincially, nationally and internationally as a leading educational community.

“My passion, excitement and dedication to the vocation of Catholic education shines even brighter today than it did when I began teaching in 1983. While education has evolved throughout my career, the core belief found in our call to be the hands and feet of Jesus remains at the foundation of Catholic education.

“The secondary students in the Class of 2020 were in Grade 1 when I began as Director of Education of Niagara Catholic in 2008. This year, I will proudly graduate from my role as Director of Education alongside these students and, like them, will look forward to the next chapter in my life and the adventures and opportunities it brings.”

Chair of the Board, Frank Fera, who has known Crocco for most of his career, commended him for his years of service.

“As our Director of Education, John has undeniably given generously of his time to promote and enhance the educational well-being of Niagara Catholic,” said Fera. “His endless energy, coupled with his enthusiasm to foster and support the social, academic and religious success of our students, speaks well of his commitment to Catholic Education. One of his top priorities has been to work closely with our Bishop to ensure that gospel values were embedded and maintained throughout our Catholic school system. On behalf of the Board, It is my privilege to wish John a retirement filled with peace, joy and good health for many years.”

Crocco’s advanced notice of his retirement provides the Board with the required time to select the next Director of Education, and for a suitable time of transition.

(Source: Niagara Catholic news release)

Welland’s New Industrial Park Open For Business

Sign marks the spot of city’s newest industrial park. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

WELLAND – The City of Welland has opened its fifth Industrial Park on the north end of the city. The new Industrial Park is located on River Road and Downs Drive and has quick and easy access to Highways 406 and 140. In 2018, Welland City Council declared the 38 acres of property as surplus land, had it rezoned to fall under the Gateway Economic Zone and Centre Community Improvement Plan, and began servicing the land to make it shovel-ready for investors.

City of Welland staff have created a very efficient development process by streamlining and expediting planning approvals. This process is building successful relationships between the city’s Economic Development team and current investors and developers, as highlighted several times in provincial and national media publications.

“Dan, Lina and the development team have done a great job over the past few years, which has resulted in a need to add more serviced industrial land to our inventory,” said Mayor Frank Campion. “Our new Industrial Park is now serviced and ready for the market. It is our fifth Industrial Park, and I anticipate that there will be a great deal of interest from prospective industries.”

“With the recent sale of our last lot in Enterprise Industrial Subdivision I’m pleased that our River Road and Downs Drive Industrial Park is open and ready for investment,” said Dan Degazio, Director of Economic Development. “The lots vary in size and can accommodate a variety of industrial sizes and uses and with the availability of the Gateway Economic Zone & Centre CIP this park makes for a very attractive location. The Economic Development team looks forward to working with anyone interested in expanding or locating to Welland.”

For more information on the City of Welland, visit or

(Source: City of Welland release)

Welland Announces Corporate Reorganization

WELLAND – The City of Welland is streamlining its leadership structure and implementing business process changes as part of an organizational realignment designed to better integrate corporate functions and deliver on Council priorities. The changes have been endorsed by Council and will be implemented over the next 2 weeks. The details are as follows:

* the GM of Human Resources and Legislative Services position will be eliminated
* Clerks, HR, Information Services/GIS, and Payroll Departments will be reassigned to Corporate Services to focus on integrating these key corporate functions
* a Manager of Human Resources position will be created
* the Managers of Information Services/GIS, HR, and the City Clerk will report to the GM of Corporate Services
* the Manager of Payroll will report to the Deputy Treasurer

City staff will also be implementing the recommendations of an internal review of Finance functions that will include the centralizing of Accounts Payable within the Finance Department and strengthening internal controls, increasing financial oversight, and improving work flows in Capital Project invoicing, Procurement and Inventory.

The objectives of this corporate restructuring plan, as well as the business process changes, are as follows:
*to streamline the City’s organizational structure to ensure optimal alignment of leadership oversight to deliver on Council priorities
*to enhance cross-functional co-ordination and integration of projects and priorities
*to strengthen internal controls and financial oversight of capital projects and operational expenditures
*to promote a culture of continuous improvement that involves an ongoing review of internal processes, service delivery, more effective and efficient ways to do business, and cost containment
*to support the City’s growth and development agenda, and continue to bring new residents, new jobs and economic prosperity to Welland

“The City’s Corporate Leadership Team, in partnership with our mid-level Managers, will continue to focus on leadership oversight, change management, strategy development, corporate initiatives, working collaboratively with Council to support their governance responsibilities, and ensuring organizational alignment with their priorities,” said Gary Long, Welland’s Chief Administrative Officer. “Welland is emerging as one of the fastest growing and most dynamic small cities in Canada. The strategic positioning of our City in a competitive global economy requires us to re-tool our organization and re-adjust our processes to help us not only manage change and day-to-day issues, but also lead change and prepare for the future.”

Council’s strategic priorities are: 1) Canal Redevelopment; 2) City Infrastructure 3) Financial Management and Sustainability; 4) Business Development and Job Creation; 5) Communications, Organizational Culture, and Public Engagement; and 6) Health and Well-being.

(Source: City of Welland website)

THE WEEK AHEAD: Meetings In Welland

Meeting Calendar
Meetings are open to the public unless otherwise noted. Information is obtained from the applicable agency, board, committee, or commission and downloaded to this calendar as it becomes available. Information is subject to change. Please check back often for the most up-to-date information, including cancellations.

Council Meeting in Committee-of-the-Whole in Camera (Closed to the Public) ≫
6:35 PM Tuesday Sep. 17 2019 –
Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees:
– Citizens appointment to the following: Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, Senior Citizens Advisory Committee.
Proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board:
– New tenant – Youngs Sportsplex.
– 300 Major Street.

Council Ante Room

Council Meeting in Open Session ≫
7:00 PM Tuesday Sep. 17 2019 –
Council Chambers

Senior Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting ≫
9:30 AM Wednesday Sep. 18 2019 –
LOCATION: Welland Community Wellness Complex, 145 Lincoln Street

Committee of Adjustment Hearing(s) ≫
5:00 PM Wednesday Sep. 18 2019 –
Council Chambers

Market Square Advisory Committee Meeting ≫
6:00 PM Wednesday Sep. 18 2019 –
Welland Community Wellness Complex, 145 Lincoln Street

Human Resources Committee Meeting ≫
10:00 AM Thursday Sep. 19 2019 –
Administrative Boardroom

Accessibility Advisory Committee Meeting ≫
3:00 PM Thursday Sep. 19 2019 –
Welland Community Wellness Complex, 145 Lincoln Street.

(Source: City of Welland website)

Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour Is Stopping In OUR Hometown!

WELLAND – Canada’s ultimate NHL fan experience is back for a sixth season as Sportsnet and Rogers Hometown Hockey criss-cross the country, making stops in 25 communities to celebrate the local hockey stories that connect the nation. The City of Welland is proud to be included in this hometown Canadian tradition, and is excited to welcome Rogers Hometown Hockey the weekend of Nov 9-10 for a celebration of Canada’s most cherished sport. The festival weekend will take place in the core of downtown Welland, is free for all to attend, and is smoke-free.

Rogers Hometown Hockey will bring an action-packed weekend festival that includes live entertainment, NHL alumni, and hockey-themed activities. The festival will wrap up with a live outdoor viewing party of an NHL broadcast from the Sportsnet Mobile Studio. The City of Welland is working in collaboration with local organizations to enhance the family-friendly weekend for everyone to enjoy.

“We’re excited to have Hometown Hockey stop in our city,” said Mayor Frank Campion. “Welland has always been, and always will be a hockey town. Some major players learned how to play hockey at our arenas.”

The Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour rolls into 25 communities across Canada this season with a weekend of free outdoor hockey festivities for all ages. The weekend culminates in an outdoor viewing party of an NHL game broadcast every Sunday on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW, with Ron MacLean and Tara Slone hosting live on-site from the Sportsnet Mobile Studio.

For more information on the tour, visit For more information on the Nov 9-10 festival highlights, visit

(Source: City of Welland news release)

Appreciation: He Gets Out And Does It!

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I write this out of admiration for my friend, Paul Turner.

He retired a few years ago from teaching after a 32-year career at Notre Dame, but it does not mean he retired from community involvement. To the contrary.

His latest project is just one example.

Turner is working on It’s All Welland Good (Part 4). He doesn’t know I’ve been working on this piece, I may have to forfeit my friendship card after he reads it.

The inaugural It’s All Welland Good, in October, 2014, was a celebration of so many good things happening in the community, from arts and wellness to business and youth, among others. It shone a light on Welland, it helped people see the positivity in their midst.

But it couldn’t be a one-shot deal, Turner would say, it had to be a continuing initiative, and so it is. Hence here we are at Part 4.

With the theme A Compassionate Community, it fits Welland and Wellanders like a glove.

Through his other involvements like Strategies to End Poverty Niagara (STEP Niagara), kNOw Poverty, Julia’s Hope Cup and Hope Centre, Turner knows that his hometown is a compassionate community.

The event he is working on involves a dinner on Thursday, October 3 and a connection to the federal election later that month, probably October 21.

Niagara Centre candidates have been invited to the dinner. Each will have 5-6 minutes to answer one question: “How will your party help the most vulnerable, those living on the margins in our community?”

Here’s what makes this event something special. People are being asked to buy a ticket for themselves and to “sponsor” one or two people living on the margins so they can have dinner, listen to the election candidates and have opportunity to meet them.

“Some people might not ever get a chance to do something like this,” said Turner. “This is where our compassion comes in, our commitment to caring for others.”

If ticket buyers don’t know who to sponsor, assistance will be provided through Turner’s contacts in community groups and social agencies.

Along with the dinner and political commentary, entertainment will be provided during dinner and for a short time afterward by local musicians.

My friend Turner has been brimming with confidence ever since he pitched the idea several weeks ago.

He said it is being warmly received when he speaks about it to myriad friends and contacts in the community.

This man’s alter ego is what I have fondly named the energizer Turner – he just keeps on giving and giving of himself! How can you not admire him?

There’s no end to this giving and giving. As a community we should count ourselves fortunate.

Over the years I became a sidekick because Turner is one of those people we are blessed to have in our midst, people who do more than just talk about doing good. He gets out and does it. That’s what makes him inspiring to others.

For more information about It’s All Welland Good (Part 4) and ticket availability, call Turner at 905-734-8203.

It’s your chance to do some good too.

Names On High

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – See what you missed if you walked with eyes looking down, not up!

We joked about that walking along King Street one sultry evening this summer.

An old saw from childhood days may have been reason peepers were kept locked on the sidewalk: “Step on a (sidewalk) crack, break your mother’s back!”


No one wanted to be culpable for that, hence kids walked with eyes looking down.

Light-hearted banter aside, the walk along parts of King Street, West Main, East Main and some others uncovered, in a sense, names well known and not so well known. And probably in the case of most, largely ignored.

Having grown up along King Street, I recall Croatian grocer John Husnik’s business being located at 575 King St. But I must admit the on-high inscription, M. Cooper Bldg., came as a revelation all these years later.

“Goes to show no one looked up when they walked,” said one of my companions on the trek.

Long-time Wellanders will remember that a famous furniture store business had its start on the King Street strip. But its name on that building is almost obliterated by the sign of the current occupant. The name is Ablan Leon Furniture, Established 1909. The address was 244-48 King St.

The outing became a trip down memory lane in more ways than one. For example, we talked about the fountain that had been in Merritt Park, and a Christmas Nativity scene that drew onlookers from far and wide.

Another well remembered by oldtimers was the Ross store, located in, of course, the Ross Building. Its inscription is on two sides: 8 King St. and 3 Main St. and on the Main Street side is the date: 1936. It looks as stately today as it must have looked way back then.

A guess was made about the inscription on the King St. side: “Maybe it was there so passing boats could see it,” was the theory. I suppose this holds water, well maybe.

What remains to be said is that the walk was a learning experience for the three of us.

“It’s amazing when you look at the buildings up close, the detail that still stands out,” was a still-remembered comment. That was a pleasant discovery we shared.

Several other buildings were on our route but are not part of the photo compilation.

Somewhere, there must be backgrounders about the business/property owners/developers, particularly names not well known, at least by me. If so, I would like to read them.

In closing, a word of thanks to my fellow walkers Paula Esposito, who plotted the course that evening, and Tom Higginbotham.

Workers’ Monument Will Feel At Home In City’s Merritt Park

Sculptor Neil Bilbe’s statues,at the former Lakeside Steel site on Dain Avenue, will be moving to Merritt Park. (Supplied photo)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – Statues linked to Welland’s industrial past will move from obscurity to high-profile prominence, thanks to the resolve of Claire Masswohl.

The Welland woman is the driving force behind re-location of a workers’ monument at the former Lakeside Steel site on Dain Avenue to King Street’s Merritt Park.

Masswohl has immersed herself in the initiative since June when she approached city staff with the suggestion of moving the statues, sculpted by Neil Bilbe, a former Lakeside employee and later an art instructor at Niagara College.

She also held meetings with Rankin Construction staff in order to bring them on-side as mover of the statues from one site to the other.

Her work received the support of Welland council Tuesday evening, when council approved a staff recommendation to relocate the statues to Merritt Park.

The canal-side park is held dear by Masswohl, the former executive director of Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre. It is the site of the Welland Canal Memorial Monument, a project spearheaded by the heritage council and multicultural centre under Masswohl’s direction.

It is also home to the Fallen Workers Monument, where annually a ceremony is held in recognition of workers killed or injured on the job.

A staff report prepared for city councillors acknowledged that the park location “complements” the Welland Canal Memorial Monument.

It informed councillors Masswohl met with city parks staff at the Dain Avenue site and also at the park, to take measurements and review where the statues will be positioned. It also said permission from the current property owner to move the statues was obtained and involvement by Rankin Construction was secured. The company will pour the concrete at the new site and move the statues. Rankin Construction will cover cost of the work, according to the report.

Masswohl spoke about sculptor Bilbe, who worked at Welland Tubes as a foreman and later at Lakeside. She said his life-like sculptures are a celebration of the “working man”.

The two statues were created for Lakeside’s tribute to the 100th anniversary of a steel mill in Welland, in 2009, and were unveiled for that historic event. That 100th anniversary celebrated mill construction at Dain Avenue by Page-Hersey Iron Tube and Lead Company in 1909. A plaque dedication took place and a time capsule, to be opened in 2109, was placed in pipe constructed at the mill.

The statues represent the factory workers, according to the staff report.

The project took about 460 hours over six weeks. Bilbe’s work was a “labour of love,” said Masswohl.

Bilbe, now 81, lives in Niagara Falls.

Answering questions from councillors, Masswohl said landscaping will be added to enhance the site once the statues are situated in the park and the statues will remain under their plexi-glass ”house”. Visitors will be able to read the story about the statues when background information is added in the layout.

Masswohl is thankful for the response to the initiative.

“I was elated so many people and in particular Mr. Rankin and his team of staff have come to help us, along with city parks staff and city council and other artists/sculptors have come through to get this completed,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Such a good feeling when all are working together to make something great happen for Welland. Thank you everyone for coming together to honour Mr. Bilbe’s work of art. His family is overjoyed this is happening. Another wonderful piece of Welland history.”

Date for having the statues in place was not finalized as of Friday afternoon but Masswohl hopes it will be by the end of September.