Ward boundary meeting tonight

The public has another opportunity to have input on potential changes to New Tecumseth’s ward boundaries Wednesday. A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in council chambers, 10 Wellington St. E in Alliston, tonight (Wed., May 13.) At the meeting, people will have the chance to view and give input on the possible changes to the ward boundaries. Council approved a review of the ward system late last year. Potential changes are in an effort to have an equitable system of representation and to accommodate growth in the town over the next 12 years. The review and its options are available online at For more information call New Tecumseth clerk Gayla McDonald at 705-435-6219.


Dealing with disaster

When a home disaster strikes, families can have enough on their hands just dealing with a devastated child whose favourite stuffed animal has become contaminated. At the second-generation family business R & F Construction – Disaster Klean Up, experienced crews use proven processes and state-of-the-art equipment to make the process of dealing with fire, flood or wind-damage as easy as possible. And using the new Estorta Cleaning System (exclusive to Disaster Klean Up members), even a plush toy that’s been dragged through toxic waste can be washed and restored safely to its young owner. “It’s a win-win situation,” says general manager Trevor Walker, who also heads up the Barrie office. “It’s less expensive for the insurance companies, it’s a new revenue stream for us, and the home owner gets to keep their stuff.” The specialty washing machine uses pressure to force the non-toxic cleaning solution through the material without damaging it, he explains. “It even works on leather, so goalie pads can go through this process.” In lab tests, swabs have come back cleaner than when items were first purchased, Walker says. Regardless whether the items were contaminated with mould, sewage or soot, the system certifies them 100-per-cent free of bacteria afterward. “Everything that goes through the system is 100-per-cent safe to go right back down the drain,” he says. “These (contaminated) items used to be just thrown in the landfill site.” R & F Construction was established in 1961 in Orillia. Originally a home-based business, it soon demanded more space, and a shop was built next to owners Sharon and Jerry Rimkey’s Telford Line home. Jerry had been in the commercial-cleaning business when a local insurance adjuster asked him to take on the task of cleaning up furnace blow-backs. Then he was asked to put a crew together to re-construct the damage. “He got asked more and more and it became the main part of the company,” Walker recounts. “In the late ‘90s, they joined an organization called Disaster Klean Up Canada (DKC), an organization of long-standing companies in this industry that belong to, and own shares in, the DKC.” Today, the couple has taken a step back while their sons Rich and David, both licenced carpenters, take on the leadership role. Walker, the sons’ first cousin, came on board two years ago. “There has been a lot of growth over the last five years – from about 25 employees five years ago, to about 65 employees now,” Walker explains. “There has been a gradual change to the sons – they grew up working in the company and have been looking for growth.” To accommodate this expansion, the company’s Orillia division is moving into a new 54,000 square-foot shop this month. Located in Orillia’s Forest Home development, it will have an ozone room designed to successfully remove most smells from most materials. There is also a plan to bring in an ultrasonic cleaning tank that uses high-frequency sound waves to knock off the dirt (“like smoke off jewellery”, for example). For sensitive paperwork that has sustained water damage – like the files in a doctors’ or lawyers’ office, for example; the company uses a specialized company that employs liquid nitrogen to flash freeze the paper, which removes all traces of the water. If the sheets are torn or dirty before the process, they will remain so, but they’ll be dry, promises Walker. “We use a lot of new technology – like thermal-imaging cameras for finding moisture inside walls,” he says. “It lets us be less destructive of people’s lives. It lets us pinpoint the water in the walls.” Working primarily with insurance claims (about 90 per cent), the growing team is largely recession-proof. Management invests in its staff to continually develop an expertise in the field. In addition to ongoing professional development provided for the licenced carpenters, skilled labour and trained technicians on staff, employees enjoy a full benefits package (including a fully covered counselling if required), and healthy work environment. “We figure if they have a better home life, they’ll have a better work life as well,” says Walker. Together, R & F Construction “touches, on average, about 20 jobs per day,” he adds, noting their full roster last year listed approximately 900 claims. “The goal is to be a $1 million company by 2010, but it looks like we may achieve that by 2009. Claims can be anything from the results of an overflowed toilet to a full fire in the Simcoe County area – their territory also extends up to Huntsville and east to Beaverton and Keswick. Thanks to the answering service Encore TeleSolutions, “all our phones are answered 24/7 by a live person,” he says. He realizes his team sees people at their worst – and he doesn’t want them to have to wait to get the clean-up started. For more information, visit


Swine flu puts local response team on alert

The local medical community is keeping close tabs on influenza cases as fears that a strain detected in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, which has killed more than 100 people in Mexico, could turn into the next pandemic. “As a health unit we are actively monitoring the world situation and what’s happening in the country and the province as well as the reporting that’s coming up both through the media and our direct channels with the province and the Public Health Agency of Canada,” explained Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. He said the public health agency is also in close contact with local health-care providers, who have been asked to monitor and report on potential cases. To date there have been no confirmed cases in Ontario, but the medical community is being asked to remain vigilant and review its existing outbreak response plans. “We are encouraging other key partners to do the same. Ensuring that we are fully prepared for response is an essential piece,” said Gardner, who suggested that the general public stay informed on the progress of the virus and pay close attention to advisories issued by the health unit and health care providers. “At this point it’s really continue to monitor what’s happening and practise good infection control, as one always should anyway when it comes to respiratory infections,” he said. Precautions include washing one’s hands repeatedly through the day, eating well, resting and getting exercise to strengthen one’s immune system. “If you develop any symptoms of a respiratory infection such as a cough, fever, feeling unwell, reduced energy or body aches, you should isolate yourself from other people, stay home, and make a contact with your health-care provider for an assessment,” said Gardner. He also said that those experiencing these symptoms who have recently travelled to countries such as Mexico, where the virus is active, should make that known to the health-care provider when getting assessed. Bev MacFarlane, chief nursing officer for Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC), which looks after the Burk’s Falls clinic and Bracebridge and Huntsville hospitals, said the agency has been communicating with the area medical officer of health on an almost-daily basis. “We’re following all the screening directives and using the personal protective equipment that’s been recommended,” she said, adding that hospitals have set up screening areas at their entrances so that those seeking medical attention for flu-like symptoms can use hand sanitizer and wear a mask. District of Muskoka emergency response lead Don Currie said he is also keeping abreast of the situation. He said local municipalities and emergency response team members are on alert for any possible outbreak and currently reviewing their existing emergency response plans. For further information on the virus visit the health unit’s website at


Federal time for second home invader

Timothy Andrew Nightingale, 23, of Collingwood, pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice Apr. 14 to the indictable offences of breaking and entering a dwelling and using an imitation firearm in the commission of the crime. He was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars in a federal penitentiary, to be followed by three years on probation. Nightingale’s jointly accused – Grant Shuttleworth, also 23 and a Collingwood resident – pleaded guilty to similar charges plus a breach of probation last December. He received four years in a federal penitentiary. Prosecutor Paul Billington began by summarizing the evidence with a lengthy statement describing the case. He read that at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008, both accused went to a Matthew Way Co-op address, where they tried to buzz in but were denied entry. Driven by alcohol and seeking revenge for an uncle who was seriously assaulted 10 days before, Shuttleworth "went to the steel door and kicked it in," Billington said. Both men entered wearing cloth masks and brandishing air guns. A five-minute reign of terror by Nightingale and Shuttleworth ensued, during which the mother of two girls, age 11 and 13, was threatened with death if she did not reveal the whereabouts of the male occupant. According to earlier evidence, Nightingale was ordered upstairs to search in vain for the other man – who remained safely hidden in a closet throughout the invasion. Meanwhile the mother had dialed 911, leaving the line open for the dispatcher to hear as both perpetrators "walked around smashing a television and ripping off closet doors." A bedroom door was also broken in half, added the Crown. At one point Nightingale confronted the younger girl, after first kicking in her unlocked bedroom door. While the terrified victim watched from a corner, he told her: "I’m sorry, I don’t like doing this to kids." Shuttleworth then warned both girls and their mother that "there will be blood" if they could not locate the man they sought. When police arrived at approximately 4:45 a.m., Nightingale – who was still holding the weapon – attempted to flee, court heard. It was admitted in Tuesday’s court by both counsel that the first offender "doesn’t recall pointing a gun, but might have." Trial lawyer Cecile Applegate said on her client’s behalf: "They were playing around with air guns. Shuttleworth tied a bandana around Mr. Nightingale’s face and his own. He thinks it’s a joke. When Shuttleworth kicked in the door, Mr. Nightingale knows it’s no longer a joke. Unfortunately he could have turned around and walked out, but he didn’t." The accused stood before Mr. Justice Roland Harris: "I’d just like to say I’m very sorry," he said. The defendant will be bound by a weapons ban for life. A DNA order will be affected within days, and his probationary period will address issues of alcohol abuse and empathy. "Three hundred years ago," wrote Harris, "Sir Edward Coke came up with the phrase: ‘A man’s home is his castle.’ It’s usually the one place you can feel safe. Instead, in this case what was in store for a number of people not to mention the target, was stark horror. Woman guilty of phony sex assault claim A 38-year-old area woman pleaded guilty Apr. 14 to a charge of public mischief, after she misled police by reporting a sexual assault on herself. The Ontario Court of Justice heard that on Dec. 19, 2007, Huronia West officers were contacted by Lisa Szymanski about an alleged incident at her rural Clearview Township home. The accused told police that "Todd," whom she said was a Barrie City firefighter, had sexually assaulted her. As a result, a full investigation was launched, a sexual assault evidence kit was procured, and a myriad of documents were investigated in the case. Crown attorney Paul Billington said in the course of their investigation officers interviewed a male friend of Szymanski’s who stated the accused was with him in Oshawa on the date in question. As it happened, there was a Todd – who is also a Barrie fireman. He too was interviewed, providing an alibi and having no prior knowledge of Szymanski. On Jan. 26, 2008, the defendant was summoned to the Huronia West detachment for further questioning. This time she was cautioned and decided to confess. When asked about her motivation for lying, the accused said "her family was pressuring her." She was also asked how she could go through the kit. According to the Crown, she replied: "It was just one more step in the process." Defence counsel Gary Picard said Szymanski cancelled a medical appointment to spend the day in Oshawa instead. "She picked a name and a profession, and unfortunately there was a Todd," the lawyer added. Although Picard declined to give his position on sentencing, Billington said the Crown is seeking three to four months behind bars. The case will revisit a court on June 9 for pre-sentence report and for sentencing. Mr. Justice Roland Harris also ordered a transcript of the proceedings for the return date. Woman jailed six months for break-in Andrea Falls, 24, of Creemore, pleaded guilty Apr. 14 to breaking and entering a dwelling house, receiving six months behind bars to be followed by 12 months on probation. The prosecution stated that overnight on Dec. 11, 2008, Falls and three others went on foot to an unoccupied address on the 6/7 Sideroad in Clearview Township. Once there, they forced open the front door by breaking a window, taking food, liquor, and some clothing. The Crown added that in the same time frame the accused smashed a window of an attached garage and took liquor, tools, and a 20-gallon fuel container. Police were called soon after by the homeowner, later finding about $1,000 in damage attributable to Falls, with the remainder owed by her co-accused. All four had allegedly put their vehicle in the ditch that night, and being unable to extricate it, spent the night in the victim’s home. Falls will be subject to a DNA order and she can’t associate with any of her jointly accused. In addition she will obey a nightly curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., while staying away from the victim’s address. Treatment and counselling for crack cocaine, depression, and respect for other people’s property were all endorsed as terms of probation. Probation for wallet theft A 40-year-old Collingwood man entered a guilty plea Apr. 14 to the offence of theft under $5,000, receiving a suspended sentence as 12 months on probation. Craig Fawcett was also ordered to pay $200 restitution to the victim within seven days. Crown attorney Paul Billington told the court that on Dec. 22, 2008, Collingwood officers were called by the Meridian Credit Union on Ste. Marie Street about a customer’s stolen wallet. The complainant allegedly "set the wallet down while doing business" before Fawcett snatched and and concealed it . Examination of the bank’s video surveillance ultimately showed the accused wearing a blue ski jacket as he committed the crime. "Did he get away with the wallet?" asked Mr. Justice Roland Harris. "Yes", replied the Crown. "Did the victim get any of it back?" "Not yet," said the prosecutor. Fawcett can’t be near the Credit Union or the victim, and he was ordered to write a letter of apology to the latter within the week.


Speed monitor now on patrol

The Wasaga Beach Community Policing Committee has put its speed monitor into service to raise awareness about speeding. "We are trying to draw people’s attention to their speed," said committee chair Ric Hawley. "It may not make them slow down but it will make them aware." Hawley said the device is used to monitor what may be problem areas. The device will be in operation in random locations throughout town until the end of October. The monitor was purchased by the municipality in 2008 to replace an older unit. It has the ability to record speeds, showing the committee if there are problem areas. Hawley said when an area is identified the committee shares the information with the police and they may choose to send an officer out to monitor the area. He said that happens when about 10 per cent of vehicles are traveling over the speed limit. One vehicle was recorded doing 100 kilometres in a 50-kilometre per hour zone. Hawley said the monitor has also been used to show concerned residents that people are not speeding in a certain neighbourhood. Residents can request the presence of the speed monitor by call the Wasaga Beach Community Policing office at 429-7869 and leaving a message. All the data from 2008 is posted on the committee’s website. Visit


Swine flu alert continues locally

Alliston’s Stevenson Memorial Hospital continues to alert the community to be on the lookout for a virulent strain of an influenza-like illness that has been carried into the country from Mexico. The hospital was notified by the Ministry of Health that swine flu, a severe respiratory illness, has been identified in various regions of south and central Mexico. The cases elevated from flu-like symptoms to severe respiratory conditions in about five days with some patients even needing assisted ventilation. SMH infection control officer Mary Beth Henin said the Alliston hospital hasn’t had anyone attend the emergency department with swine flu, although the hospital is screening for it. Heightened surveillance for outpatient clinics was also started Monday as a precaution, she said. Anyone who has returned from a trip to Mexico within the last two weeks and is experiencing signs and symptoms of an influenza-like illness is being advised to go to their local emergency room for treatment immediately. Signs and symptoms include a cough, sore throat, fever and chills, muscle and joint aches, and shortness of breath. So far there have not been any confirmed cases of swine flu in Ontario, although there are about 12 potential cases being investigated. Health Minister David Caplan said nine cases in the province have been ruled out as swine flu. The six Canadian swine flu cases have been confirmed in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The Mexico government has reported 103 deaths from the swine flu, with more than 1,600 people being sickened by it since April 13. SMH reminds the community that the spread of infections can be largely prevented by following a few simple practices including good hand hygiene by washing your hands well and often, the use of an anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, sneezing coughing into your upper sleeve or elbow rather than your hands and staying at home when you are ill. – With files from TorStar