Grey Highlands council wants to see high speed internet service available in rural areas as soon as possible. Council, at its regular meeting last Wednesday morning, approved a recommendation from its planning department to fast track a project that is working to extend high-speed availability to rural residents across Grey County. At the meeting Grey Highlands Planner Lorelie Spencer brought forward a report recommending that Site Plan Control fees the municipality usually charges for planning projects be condensed for Everus Communications – the company facilitating the Rural Broadband Initiative in Grey County. Everus is currently in the middle of a process to locate up to 27 high-speed internet towers across Grey County. Everus requested that Site Plan Control fees be condensed into one fee for the various towers it would like to put up in Grey Highlands. High-speed internet service in rural areas depends on a direct line of site to a customer’s home. Everus plans to strategically place towers around the county allowing broadband service to be available to a maximum number of homes. Everus has received grants from the federal government under program designed to extend high-speed internet services to rural areas across the country. Spencer told council that a reduction in the Site Plan Control fees is warranted. She recommended that a single fee of $10,000 (to cover municipal planning department costs on the project) for the entire Everus project. Under standard planning practices each tower would be treated as a separate application and charged the same fees by the municipality. Council was supportive of Spencer’s recommendation. Members of council were anxious to see broadband service extended across their municipality. Deputy Mayor Dave Fawcett wondered if council could further speed up the process by allowing municipal planning staff the ability to grant approval for applications once all conditions have been met. "This is a project for the betterment of our community. Can we streamline the process? I’m willing to delegate the approval process to staff instead of (Everus) waiting 10 days for council’s approval," said Fawcett. "I know there are a lot of people that need high speed internet," he said. Mayor Brian Mullin and Spencer said final approval of all Site Plan Control proposals rests with council. The Mayor said council needed to hold onto that authority in case public concerns arise. "Council’s approval might be the only chance for public concerns to be aired," said the Mayor. The broadband towers do not require the public process of re-zoning to move forward. Spencer recommended that all Everus sites be included in one report and approved at a single council meeting in the future. Mayor Mullin agreed with Spencer’s assessment. "I think we need the luxury that if one site requires a higher level of scrutiny that the others can move forward," he said. Deputy Mayor Fawcett was also satisfied with the suggestion that all the sites could be dealt with at once. "I think this is a fair process. If there are 10 sites and nine of them are fine we can deal with the one with issues," he said. Council approved the recommendation from Spencer.
The Blue Mountains town council adopted its 2009 budget including a tax increase of 2.2 per cent. A staff report received by council at their March 9 meeting estimated that taxes collected in 2009 will amount to $9,527,545 compared to the $8,903,253 in 2008. Council discussed the budget at a series of seven public sessions starting December 4 with the most recent amendments made at last week’s meeting on March 2. The original draft budget suggested a tax increase of 5.3 per cent, but council directed staff to make further cuts to bring the number down. Staff made cuts to the training and travel budget, axed the clothing allowance for inside workers, reduced the amount of money transferred to reserves, pushed capital projects into future years, cut legal costs and adjusted the IT budget to more conservative levels. Councillor Bob Gamble, chair of the finance and administration committee, remained opposed to adopting and enacting the 2009 budget. During the previous sessions, he explained that the town needed to have a more frugal budget given the status of the global economy at the time. After council voted in favour of accepting the budget, Councillor Cameron Kennedy said he hoped they could start discussing the 2010 budget early this year, because he wished they had more time to look at the 2009 budget.
The Grey Sauble Conservation Authority Board of Directors received good news and bad news about its dams in Clarksburg at its regular meeting last Wednesday. The Haines Dam in Clarksburg is in very poor shape and may have to be removed by the Conservation Authority in the near future. On the other hand the Clendenan Dam is in strong shape and has no immediate major repairs required. The Grey Sauble Conservation Authority Board of Directors received a full report about all of the Dams it owns and operates throughout the watershed at last Wednesday’s regular meeting. Water Management Director of Operations Doug Hill delivered the report at the meeting. The report detailed purpose and current state of repair of each dam the Authority owns and operates. The Board of Directors discussed the report in significant detail at the meeting (see related story in this issue). The Haines Dam in Clarksburg warranted particular attention in the report because it is in very poor condition and serves very little purpose. Hill said the Haines Dam is in excess of 100 years old. In the 1980s the Authority considered removing the Dam, but significant local opposition to that idea prevented that from happening. At the time a significant investment was made into the structure using provincial funds. "There are still some issues with this dam," Hill told the Board at the meeting. He said the dam in reality serves no useful purpose. The structure is approximately three metres in height and the reservoir behind it is completely filled with sediment. "This is a significant liability for us. The dam has no current purpose or use and if it breaks we will have a serious environmental issue on our hands," said Hill. He said water is currently seeping through the north embankment of the dam resulting in erosion and the risk of the bank eventually failing and releasing the built up sediment behind the dam. Hill said the Authority faces a significant cost with the Haines Dam regardless of how it chooses to proceed in the future. "The dam has no recreational benefit, no wildlife habitat benefit and no flood control benefit. It’s more of a liability," said Hill. In order to remove the dam the Authority would have to incur significant costs to remove the built up sediment in the reservoir. "There’s a significant cost to maintain this dam and there’s significant costs to take it out. Either way, down the road it will require significant costs," he said. The authority built the Clendenan Dam in 1975 immediately upstream of Clarksburg. It cost approximately $1 million and estimated to be worth $5 million now. It is the largest dam the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority owns. Hill said Clendenan Dam is in generally good condition and doesn’t require major repairs. The Authority is monitoring a slight problem with settlement of the earthen berm over the fish way. "The dam has functioned very well in terms of capturing ice during break ups," said Hill. Authority Chair Dick Hibma said eventually the Board of Directors would have to make a decision about the Haines Dam and begin preparing for the financial implications of what will need to be done. He said he leaned towards supporting the removal of the Dam and said that decision will have to be made upfront in order to communicate to member municipalities the financial requirements the maintenance of all the Authority’s dams will require.
Police say a woman driving a late-model gold coloured van offered to give a Wasaga Beach child a ride to school on Thurs., April 30. The child did not know the woman, police say. Const. Mark Kinney of the Huronia West OPP detachment says the incident happened around 9 a.m. "This gold van stopped beside the youth who at the time was in the area of the pathway that connects Caribou Trail with Birchview Dunes Elementary School," Kinney said. He said that thankfully the youth ran away and once at school, reported the incident. "The members of the Huronia West detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police remind all parents to speak to your children about being safe while walking along our roadways," Kinney said. He said that under no circumstances should youth ever enter someone’s home or vehicle if they don’t have parental permission to do so. He added that youth should also travel with a buddy and avoid isolated routes. Parents should also make sure they know the route their child is taking, Kinney said. Anyone with information about the above incident is asked to call the detachment at 429-3575.
A 48-year-old Innisfil man is facing several charges after officers of the Barrie Police Drug Enforcement Unit, accompanied by members of the Street Crime Unit, entered a business at 166 Saunders Rd., Unit 2, with a search warrant on Thursday, Mar. 19. Police found a sizable marijuana grow operation on the main floor, and a second one hidden on the upper level of the unit. In all, 900 plants at various stages of maturity were removed from the premises, valued at $500,000. Police also dismantled a considerable amount of equipment used in the operation. The man was charged with the production of marijuana, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of marijuana. He’s been given a May court date. In other police news: Child bitten by a dog Barrie Police officers are investigating after a dog bit a 12-year-old boy Saturday. He was in the Harvie and Essa road area around 3 p.m. He was taken to RVH for rabies shots and police are still trying to figure out the type of dog that bit him, and who its owner is. Man charged after bar fight A 23-year-old Barrie man is in trouble after talking to police Saturday morning. He was in a fight at The Bank bar on Dunlop Street, and didn’t give the officer his real name at first. It turns out he was wanted for a previous offence, and the officer also found a small bag of marijuana on him after a search. He was charged with possession of drugs and obstructing police. Argument heats up between couple Barrie Police officers went to a local home after a separated couple had a fight Sunday. Police said they were together for 10 years and have been apart for two, and the man went to pick up a few things. They started screaming, and he left after the woman threatened to call police. He then called the home and left a voicemail threatening to kill her. She called officers and he was arrested for uttering death threats. Empty kegs stolen Barrie Police officers have charged a second person after five empty beer kegs were stolen from a Bayfield Street restaurant earlier last week. An investigation led police to a teen March 17, who returned the kegs to the Beer Store for a refund. On Sunday, a man was also arrested for break and enter. Four kegs were found and returned to the owner. Second charge for local man Barrie Police officers were called to the LCBO store on Mary Street Saturday after security stopped a man trying to take liquor without paying. Police said the 52 year old was drunk and was charged with theft and being intoxicated in a public place. He had just spent the previous night in jail for being drunk in public. Looking for driver Barrie Police officers are looking for a driver who didn’t stick around after a fender bender Saturday morning. Officers went to a crash at Bayfield and Simcoe streets at 2 a.m., after a sliver GMC truck hit a parked car. Witnesses had to run to avoid being hit first, and they managed to get a licence plate number. The truck took off down Lakeshore Drive. Fished out A 36-year-old Toronto man was fined $3,000 for catching too many whitefish in Lake Simcoe in February. A conservation officer caught Luigi Pompili with eight fish, and the limit is two. Six of the fish were hidden in a knapsack. He was fined by a Barrie judge March 11. RIDE stop Barrie OPP officers stopped an Orillia man early Saturday morning at a RIDE check on County Road 93. The 25 year old was charged with drunk driving and driving while suspended. He has an April 4 court date. Sunday night, officers stopped a different vehicle on County Road 93 near Crown Hill for a minor driving offence. His car was searched and the 19-year-old Penetanguishene man was charged for possession of marijuana.
If a head office needs to educate 500 of their dealers across the country, sending out trainers might not be the best strategy available, says Mark Lang, president of Digital Video Productions (DVP). “If you produce a DVD, it’s more cost effective (and more efficient than going in person),” he adds. “There are various ways of making the communication effective. It just depends on the needs of the client.” DVP has produced interactive safety-training modules for use by fire departments and by organizations wanting to teach young people how to recognize hazards in the home. It has also has worked on municipal transit and national railway public-education initiatives, and has developed corporate health and safety tools, as well as videos detailing how to use a product or piece of equipment. The format is irrelevant, explains Lang, regardless of whether the presentation shows up on a video business card or online; or if the project requires print collateral or on-location event management. “There are all kinds of executions,” he says. “Communication is the number one thing we’re doing.” The relationship with a client starts with a needs analysis and then a suggestion from DVP detailing how to achieve those goals. Budget also plays a part, but there are “many ways to get something done,” he says “Each project is customized to each need. There really is no template.” The extensive experience of the founding partners Lang and Martin Convery allows for maximum flexibility in approach Prior to establishing DVP, television producer Lang and award-winning director of photography Convery had worked at the same company, but never together. Starting his career at the then-named CKVR, Convery later moved onto a successful freelance career working in broadcast video that took him around the world. He filmed Bosnia and at soccer’s World Cup in his travels. Along the way, he won two Gemini awards for his documentary work. The Sudbury-born Lang, on the other hand, started his career as a freelance production assistant in Toronto. He recalls compiling portfolios for stunt performers and having to work fast to get the required action shots while people leapt from motorcycle to car, or jumped from a silo or ran by engulfed in flames. “It was pretty hectic in those days,” he recalls with a chuckle. Eventually his career brought him to CKVR and his family to Barrie. While overseeing a project for the station, he hired Convery and brought him back to the area. The two have been working together ever since. “We had an opportunity to create a new television series with Snowmobiler TV,” Lang says. He took on the business side of the responsibilities while Conery agreed to oversee production. “The basis of our collaboration was the television series.” But soon the duo was exposed to new opportunities that developed through their joint venture. “It opened some doors to the corporate world,” says Lang. Premiering in 1992, Snowmobiler Television is now syndicated across Canada on 17 different networks. It runs locally on A. Twenty-six magazine-style episodes are shot every year. “When the snow falls, we’re busy people,” he acknowledges. The DVP team is not so busy that they stop developing new projects, however. GoRiding TV, a new motorsport show, premieres on OLG Sunday, April 5 at 9:30 a.m. But their action-packed television shows, accompanying magazines, and other productions, like their full-length documentary “Adventures in Breathing” about Karen Murray, the recipient of a double lung transplant; comprise only about 50 per cent of the company’s business. “We have corporate clients all over Canada and many in the U.S.,” says Lang, who works with a staff of 10 to become a key component of a client’s marketing team. “A brochure is no longer acceptable by itself,” he explains. “Not in the sales, marketing and training world anyway.” Lang says people are often surprised at finding a turnkey production operation in Barrie that has production gear, editing equipment and graphics studio all in house. Specialty items can be easily outsourced for clients by tapping into the company’s extensive network. “When they see our portfolio of clients, it’s pretty impressive,” he concludes. “Typically companies would have to go to Toronto, go the agency route to get all it.” For more information about all the DVP products and services, call Lang at 705-734-9932, extension 238.
The federal and provincial government will each provide up to $181,333 to Clearview Township – money that will go towards upgrades at the Creemore sewage treatment plant. Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis made the funding announcement on Wednesday. “The government of Canada is committed to rebuilding infrastructure and stimulating the economy,” Guergis said in a statement. “I know how important this project is to Clearview Township and the residents of Creemore.” Ken Ferguson, the township’s mayor, said he was pleased with the funding news. “This funding will offset capital costs which will benefit all taxpayers,” Ferguson said. “I can only hope the commitment from both upper tier governments to invest in our economy and our municipal infrastructure will continue.” The upgrades at the plant are estimated to cost $543,999, with Clearview contributing the balance. An exact amount won’t be known until the project is tendered and a contract awarded, something that won’t happen until after the township’s budget is approved in March. Richard Spraggs, the township’s director of public works, said Clearview applied for the money in November through the Building Canada Fund. He said the cash will help pay for what’s called an equalization tank at the sewage treatment plant. “What it does is take in high flows and store them and later puts them into the system when the level flowing into the plant slows down. So basically it’s a big storage tank,” Spraggs said. In total, the tank will be able to hold about 1,000 cubic metres of water, he added. The township estimates the tank will cost roughly $500,000. High flows have been a problem at the plant, particularly in the spring. The suspicion among municipal officials is that people are using their sump pumps to transfer water into the system – a practice that’s illegal. They also suspect water could be infiltrating the system along the lines to the plant. Last spring, the high volume of water coming into the plant resulted in officials having to truck sewage water to Stayner’s plant, where it was subsequently processed. The funds from Ottawa will also help pay for what’s called a programmable logic controller – what Spraggs described as a computer system to operate the plant. “There’s one there now – this is a back up,” he said. “The main one we had became inoperable in the summer last year and we had to switch to the back-up. It was just wear-and-tear.” The township estimates the system will cost $43,000. “All in all though we’re pretty happy to have this money,” Spraggs said. He said the work at the 10-year-old plant will begin in September.
Orillia’s long-running Royal Canadian Legion branch has much in common with veterans’ clubs across the country – an uncertain future in the face of dwindling finances and attendance. The executive is determined to turn the situation around with fresh thinking and a call for greater membership involvement. “There comes a point where you have to say it is time to deal with this,” first vice-president Colin Wackett said. “We cannot afford to carry on this way. Otherwise the roof literally comes crashing down.” The local branch has reported deficits for the past five years, closing out 2008 with a $30,000 shortfall. Declining attendance, a fall in bar sales and rising operating costs are contributing factors. “This is not isolated to Orillia, believe me,” said Wackett. “It is everywhere.” Members are concerned. A recent meeting to discuss the Legion’s future drew record attendance, with more than 250 people turning out for the brainstorming session. Many said programs catering to younger adults were crucial to ensuring the organization’s success, as the number of veterans declines each year. A monthly jam session was suggested as a potential draw, as was the introduction of mid-day programs for those less inclined to visit at night. According to Wackett, this is just the kind of thinking that is crucial to the branch’s success. “The younger generation doesn’t have the same history with the Legion as (elderly veterans) do,” he added. “How do we bring those people in? We do so much in the community that we don’t want to let go. We have got to change the methods of the past.” Orillia’s branch boasts a membership of more than 1,700, but too few regularly visit the building or become involved on a volunteer basis, he said. “If everyone who came to that meeting came into the Legion once a week, we wouldn’t be having that meeting,” Wackett added. “If ever there was a time to step forward, it’s now.” Adding to the Legion’s money problems is the rising cost of maintaining and operating its aging waterfront building. The heating bill rose to $4,200 this winter, up from $2,200 the previous year. “Sure it was a cold winter, but doubling your heating costs is pretty startling,” he said. “It means you have to raise the extra money to cover it.” The Legion relies largely on fundraising events, as well as fees from the rental of its upstairs hall to operate. While acknowledging the branch’s lakeside building could net a hefty sum – were it sold and the Legion relocated to a smaller facility – Wackett said the idea has been roundly rejected. “There is a sense of pride and ownership in that spot,” he added of the building, which was bought and paid for by the membership. Wackett was under the impression that the Legion’s Dominion Command would retain some of the proceeds from the building’s sale. As Orillia Today learned, that isn’t accurate. Individual branches reap all proceeds from the sale of their properties so long as they retain their charter, said Bob Butt, spokesperson for the Legion’s Dominion Command. A sale is subject to the approval of provincial command, he added. “They could sell their building, build the new building and they keep that extra (money),” he said in a phone interview, adding that, “If they are not dissolving, they are not losing anything.” Even so, a sale of the historic building appears to hold little appeal for the membership, regardless of their financial woes. “They have a very close attachment to that building, it is a legacy,” said Wackett. “(A proposed sale) would be rejected out of hand. “That is our pride and joy,” he added. “It has the best views of the waterfront in the city.” Whether it makes financial sense to hang on to the building out of nostalgia remains to be seen, given the hurdles facing the club. According to Butt, Orillia is not alone as it works to overcome its challenges. Legions across Canada are struggling with the realities of an aging membership, weak bar sales and falling attendance. “But we’ve still got 1,540 branches,” Butt added. “Some branches have amalgamated and some branches have closed.” The Orillia Legion’s executive will examine recommendations offered at the recent gathering, and put them to the membership during a general meeting. Along with the recommendations was a commitment from “a lot of people” to volunteer when needed, Wackett said. “Even though a lot of members are aging, it is not physical volunteering we need, it is organizational,” he said. Despite its financial woes, Wackett said the Legion would continue to support local youth programs, including baseball, air cadets and track and field. “We are determined they are going to continue,” he added. Asked whether the Legion would consider partnering with other branches in the region, Wackett said such discussions are traditionally directed by provincial or district command. “If we were approached, we would certainly listen,” he added. “We certainly would not reject any request that way.” Local members intend to meet with other branches to discuss what measures they are taking to address the challenges facing Legions. “It is time for the members to step forward and say, ‘I am willing to help,’” Wackett added of the Orillia situation. “The solution is there. It is a matter of people.” And money.
The lengthy process to review Grey County’s Official Plan came to an end at last Tuesday’s regular meeting of county council. County council passed a by-law officially adopting the reviewed plan at the meeting. Council’s approval of the new Official Plan means the local county review process has now been passed over to the provincial government for final approval. The time consuming process to review the Official Plan has been ongoing for several years and Tuesday’s formal adoption of the results of that process did not come without some controversy. Owen Sound county councillors Ruth Lovell-Stanners and Arlene Wright voted against the reviewed Official Plan due to Owen Sound’s objections over the plan’s approval of an expanded development area in Springmount – a highly developed, but unserviced area of the Township of Georgian Bluffs that is situated on the city’s border. "Owen Sound has consistently not approved the expansion of Springmount because of a lack of services there," Wright said. "We’re very concerned about the water table and the problems that could ensue," said Wright, who objected to Springmount being given a "secondary" settlement designation in the Official Plan. In responses to the comments from the Owen Sound councillors Georgian Bluffs Mayor Al Barfoot released an engineer’s report that he claimed proves development in Springmount is not hurting water resources in that area. "The report says there is no contamination of the bay," said Barfoot. Owen Sound Mayor Ruth Lovell-Stanners said the Springmount issue came up very late in the Official Plan process and needs more time to be studied. "This came up very late in the game. We need more time. We have a legitimate concern about the watershed," said Lovell-Stanners. The City of Owen Sound has always expressed concerns about development without full municipal services on its border. The Owen Sound representatives found little support for their position. Only Hanover Deputy Mayor Gerald Rogers voted with Lovell-Stanners and Wright in their quest to delay the approval of the Official Plan until the Springmount issue is decided. Grey County Planning Director Jan McDonald expressed a common sentiment in the county council chambers about the Official Plan when she gave an overview of the final product. "We’re tired. We’ve been at this a long time," said McDonald. The review process officially kicked off in 2005, with the bulk of the public meetings and open houses being held over the past couple years. "It has been a real team effort that I’m proud of," said McDonald. Planning was once a major hot button issue in Grey County. The provincial government of Premier Bob Rae ordered Grey County to develop an Official Plan in the early 1990s due to concerns about the county’s wide spread approval of severances in rural and agricultural areas. That provincial mandate resulted in the completion of the first County Official Plan at the end of the 1990s. The Plan received provincial approval – and became the planning document of record for the county – in 2000. The Official Plan is meant to have an approximate shelf life of 20 years with reviews mandated by provincial legislation every five years. McDonald said the new version of the Official Plan balances policies to help economic development and diversification, environmental protection and the preservation of local heritage and culture. "We believe we have found a balance," she said at the meeting. McDonald said the new version of the Official Plan contains 296 modifications to the original document. "Some are minor wording changes and others are entire sub-sections," she said. McDonald the Official Plan will now be forwarded to the province for approval. She said that process could take up to a year. The Blue Mountains Deputy Mayor and Planning and Community Development committee Chair Duncan McKinlay was pleased that the review process is complete. "I’m hoping this draft is fairly acceptable to the Ministry. There are lots of people across Grey that still want to invest and develop and they depend on certainty in our planning process," said McKinlay, who noted that the provincial approval process will still allow time for Owen Sound’s concerns to be considered. "The process ahead will give the opportunity to resolve long standing differences of opinion on settlement areas," he said.
Riverdale Park Watermain Replacement Tectonic Infrastructure Inc. has won a bid for replacing the Riverdale Park and Fletcher Crescent watermain. The total cost for the project is over $263,000 and will be paid for with money from the gas tax reserve fund. If council approves Tectonic Infrastructure to do the work, construction would start as early as May 25, according to a town report. Most of the work should be done by June 25. Royal Bank Coming to Alliston New Tecumseth council is set to approve a new Royal Bank in Alliston. The Royal Bank and commercial development will be at the northwest corner of King Street and Reserve Lane in Alliston opposite the Dairy Queen. It is made up of two separate properties that have been merged to form one parcel of land. It would include a drive-through bank machine. Alliston Library Revamp On Hold Plans to revitalize the exterior of the Alliston Memorial branch of the New Tecumseth Public Library are on hold. After two rounds of tenders, the bids have all been well over the $50,000 the Alliston Business Improvement Association (ABIA) approved for the project. Coun. Dennis Egan said he’s disappointed the project isn’t moving forward and would still like to see work be done on the library’s sign and the plants in the courtyard. "The exterior of the building and the courtyard is in need of some tender loving care," said Egan. The ABIA has a meeting scheduled for May 7 and will be discussing other options for the project. After the meeting the ABIA will let the town know if it’s moving forward with the re-development of the courtyard in any capacity, according to a town report. Centre Street Closures In order to complete the reconstruction of Centre Street in Alliston, there will be temporary closures for three months. Centre Street will be closed from Albert Street to Wellington Street between 1 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to Friday starting May 19. The closures will continue until July 31. John Bravakis Enterprises Ltd. has been hired for the project. Work includes installing a storm sewer, sanitary sewer and watermain installation. The road surface will also be re-done, complete with a curb, gutter and sidewalks from Albert to Wellington streets.