Essa veggies served to Barack Obama

While Canada’s eyes were directed at Barack Obama’s trip to Ottawa last week, an Essa farmer’s gaze was directed a little further – to the president’s lunch plate. Cookstown Greens has been providing vegetables for the meals of visiting dignitaries for about two decades, and it was no different for Obama. "Almost every time they (dignitaries) come to Canada, we get chosen to feed them," said farm owner David Cohlmeyer. Cookstown Greens supplies vegetables to both the prime minister’s chef and the Governor General’s chef. Since most visiting foreign dignitaries will have a meal with one or the other, it’s just a matter of time before they feast on produce plucked from Essa’s soil. Cookstown Greens has provided vegetables for visits from Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and both Bushes. Produce from Cohlmeyer’s farm has also been on the table for visiting monarchy, including Queen Elizabeth II. As might be expected, it’s no run of the mill meal when dignitaries come to town. With the prime minister’s chef cooking up a special meal for Obama’s visit, the recipe called for some very unique ingredients. Cohlmeyer said he isn’t yet sure exactly which vegetables made it to Obama’s plate, but said there were several woven throughout the chef’s planned meal. There were red and green flesh radishes that were part of a Pacific Coast tuna appetizer. Red, white and black carrots, as well as amber and red turnips, were part of a warm root-vegetable salad that was served with Arctic char. Three different varieties of beets were used for a relish. The main course of bison had a side of fingerling potatoes, titan leeks and crosnes. But as colourful and unique as vegetables may sound, they really deliver when it comes to taste, said Cohlmeyer. "Everything we do we choose for exceptional flavour," he said. When it comes to determining taste, Cohlmeyer has the right background. He was originally a chef in Toronto, before deciding on a career change. In 1988 he opened Cookstown Greens, in Egbert, and he hasn’t looked back since. His background gave him the knowledge, and also the connections, and it wasn’t long before Cookstown Greens was providing produce for many of Toronto and the surrounding area’s high-end restaurants and hotels. Part of Cohlmeyer’s success has been carving out a niche. He has selected different vegetables that aren’t found in the average garden or on grocery store shelves. In doing so, he’s discovered that newer isn’t always better. By looking into the past, Cohlmeyer has discovered some forgotten flavours. "People think the reds, the whites, and the black (carrots) are new, but they’ve been around the longest," said Cohlmeyer. It has only been in the past few centuries that orange carrots have come into prominence, and that is mostly because of their suitability to certain soils, he said. "So everybody is up with the latest when they’re eating the orange carrots," said Cohlmeyer. While Cohlmeyer has list of consistent customers, he still does have produce available for those that want to make presidential meals out of their own kitchen. He sells out of the Brick Works Farmers’ Market in Toronto, but vegetables are also available directly from the farm. For more information, call 705-458-9077 or go to .


Town selling off properties

New Tecumseth is declaring land in Beeton and Tottenham surplus to allow for it to be sold. In Beeton the property is at 195 Centre St. N. The parcel of land is landlocked and abuts several properties. Beeton Coun. Richard Norcross said one of the residents abutting the land would like to purchase it. The land is an easement and is not suitable for buildings, which Norcross said the owner is aware of. Norcross said the owner already enjoys the use of the property and would like to legally own it. "He just wants to enjoy the property and pay us to do that," said Norcross. The former youth centre in Tottenham is also being declared surplus. The property is located at 34 Queen St. N. At last week’s committee of the whole meeting, Greg Perantinos pitched a business deal to council to buy the property and operate his ice cream shop at the location. Last summer Perantinos’ ice cream shop was located just south of the Queen and Mill Street intersection in downtown Tottenham, next to the Royal Bank. "It would just really allow me to bring the community together," said Perantinos. Coun. Jim Stone said allowing Perantinos to expand his business at the new location would enhance Tottenham’s downtown. "Tottenham’s downtown has been going backwards, we’ve had businesses leave and we’re getting a lot of holes there," said Stone. "He’s a great entrepreneur and a great asset for Tottenham." Earlier this year Coun. Jess Prothero asked council to approve demolishing the former youth centre building. He said when he brought that up before it was because of the way the building looks. Prothero said he supports Perantinos’ vision for the building and is looking forward to see how it would appear.


Drug-trafficking charges laid

A Midland man caught with cocaine and ecstasy in his vehicle will appear in court next month on drug-trafficking charges. Plainclothes officers with the Midland Police Service stopped a vehicle near Queen and Colborne streets on the evening of April 8. Investigation of an occupant of the vehicle turned up the illegal drugs. Officers arrested a 20-year-old male, charging him with two counts each of drug possession, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and trafficking. He was released with a May 21 court date.


Legion in financial trouble

Orillia’s chronically cash-strapped Royal Canadian Legion branch requires fresh thinking and greater membership involvement to survive, says a member of its executive. “There comes a point where you have to say it is time to deal with this,” said first vice-president Colin Wackett. “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, he said. Declining attendance, a fall in bar sales and rising operating costs are contributing to the annual deficits. “This is not isolated to Orillia, believe me,” said Wackett. “It is everywhere.” A meeting held Sunday to discuss the Legion’s future drew record attendance, with more than 250 members 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. “The younger generation doesn’t have the same history with the Legion as (elderly veterans) do,” Wackett 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.” The Legion 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, for example, 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.” A portion of members’ annual fees goes to the local branch, and the provincial and Dominion commands take the remainder. The Legion relies largely on fundraising events, as well as fees from the rental of its upstairs hall, to operate. 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. While acknowledging the 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. A potential sale would require the approval of the Legion’s Dominion Command, which would retain any funds not used to construct a new building, he said. “It is not really a viable option for us,” he said. The Legion’s executive will examine the recommendations offered Sunday, which will be put to the membership for a decision during a general meeting. Along with the recommendations was a commitment from “a lot of people” to volunteer when needed, he said. “Even though a lot of members are aging, it is not physical volunteering we need, it is organizational,” he said. 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 financial hurdles 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.” A memorial patio underway on the waterfront side of the building will allow members and guests to enjoy a drink outdoors in warmer weather, and, in one designated area, a cigarette. “It’s not going to hurt,” he said.


Visiting restrictions at G&M

Collingwood General and Marine Hospital is not allowing visitors due to the outbreak of a contagious virus on the first floor of the Hume Street facility. The hospital, in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, implemented the ban on Wednesday. In a news release, the hospital said that so far 10 patients are suffering symptoms of gastroenteritis, “including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.” While visitors are not being allowed at G&M, the hospital said “exceptions are made for partners and labour coaches of obstetrical patients, critically ill or dying patients and for emergency room patients as approved by the physician or nurse.” As well, outpatient services – including diagnostic imaging and day surgery – remain open. However, the hospital said if anyone accessing those services is ill they should refrain from coming in. The hospital says the gastrointestinal outbreak is “easily transmitted” so people visiting the facility should be diligent about washing their hands when arriving and leaving. Linda Davis, the hospital’s chief executive officer, echoed the hand washing sentiment. “Our best defense against spread of any type of contagious illness is to isolate those patients affected and to ensure everyone washes their hands thoroughly,” she said in a news release. “We have also implemented increased housekeeping measures to guard against the spread of the virus to other inpatient units.”


Man charged with sexual assault

The Huronia West OPP say they received a report around 5 p.m. last Thursday that a young female in Stayner was sexually assaulted. Const. Mark Kinney says an investigation revealed that a man grabbed the female in the schoolyard at Byng Public School. “Fortunately, this female got away and notified a member of the Clearview Fire Department who immediately called police,” Kinney said. “Members of the Clearview Fire Department located the above male and followed him through several streets, updating police until they arrived and arrested him.” Police have charged Wesley Robinson, 51, of Wasaga Beach with sexual assault.


Merging the sales tax could get costly

Harmonizing the federal and provincial sales tax that was proposed by the Ontario government in its budget Thursday could cost the average family $3,000 per year, according to Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson. The proposed budget gives Ontario a $3.9 billion deficit for 2008-2009 and a $14.1 billion in 2009-2010. It also projects the next balanced budget in Ontario will be 2015-2016. Wilson said it’s not the right time to be merging the provincial and federal sales tax, which would create on 13 per cent sales tax. There are some exemptions from the new tax, such as children’s clothing and car seats, and new homes under $400,000. But fast food under meals under $4, haircuts and gasoline are among the items and services that will cost more with a harmonized tax. To help people adjust to the taxes, a tax relief will be handed out over three years to low and middle-income people. Families with an income less than $160,000 would get three payments of $1,000. Single people with an income less than $80,000 would get three payments of $300. The payments would be made in June 2010, December 2010 and June 2011. Wilson noted that the final payment comes right before the next provincial election. "People will see through the fact that he’s trying to bribe us with our own money," said Wilson. The sales tax isn’t the only thing not sitting well with Wilson. Aside from a corporate tax cut, which has the rates going from 14 per cent to 10 per cent by 2013, there is little that satisfies Wilson in the budget. For Simcoe-Grey, Wilson said there is no commitment to create more long-term care beds, nor is there help for hospital expansions. The budget allows for some tax relief in manufacturing industry as a whole, but a provincial tax holiday Wilson and the Progressive Conservative caucus are pushing for on new car sales is absent. Wilson told The Sun before the budget that a tax holiday on new vehicles could help get cars off the dealerships lots and make room for more, which would help workers on the manufacturing factories. Wilson said a similar provincial tax holiday on accommodations would help promote tourism destinations like the Nottawasaga Inn Resort in Alliston or Blue Mountain in the north end of the riding. The budget does include infrastructure money, with $32.5 billion set aside for projects in the next two years. Wilson said there is no proof that anything has been done to remove the provincial red tape that holds up the infrastructure projects when municipalities try to get the work done. Other highlights of the budget include: • $32.5 billion for infrastructure projects over the next two years. • $1.2 billion to renovate 50,000 social housing units and build 4,500 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. • $400 million more in children’s benefits over the next three years. Low and middle-income families will receive up to $1,100 annually per child in Ontario Child Benefit payments starting in July. • $700 million over the next two years for new skills training and literacy initiatives, including enhancements to existing programs. • $4.5 billion in business tax cuts over three years.


Signs of trauma to body found in park

Barrie Police officers say trauma to a man’s body found in Sunnidale Park Monday morning was  self inflicted. After cordoning off the area and remaining at the scene throughout the day, Barrie Police reported a 27-year-old man died from self-inflicted wounds during a press conference at 5 p.m. A dog walker found him at approximately 9:30 a.m., with obvious signs of trauma to his body. The body was found on the south side of the park, past a playground and down a hill. “We can’t say how he met his demise,” said Sgt. Robert Allan. “We are examining the scene for more information, but it’s suspicious.” Close to a dozen officers set up a perimeter around the park, asking joggers, dog walkers and parents with children to stay out for the day. Recreational users should head to the waterfront, said Allan. He wasn’t sure how long the body had been there, but said officers are looking for tips within the last day. “It’s a well-travelled area and this is the largest park in Barrie, there are many community events here. We’re asking people who were here within the last 24 hours to call us with any information, even if they think they didn’t see anything suspicious.”


Twin pad size finalized

Bigger isn’t always better. That was the message as a slim majority of council opted not to include an Olympic-size rink in Orillia’s twin-pad arena. The West Ridge Sports Complex will feature two NHL-sized rinks, as originally proposed. “The important thing is, the project is moving ahead,” Coun. Michael Fogarty, a supporter of the larger ice surface, said after a special meeting held Thursday. The meeting followed consultations with local user groups in late March. Orillia Minor Hockey president Cathy O’Connor had argued that an Olympic-size rink would allow the club to lure international competitions and expand participation in clinics and summer camps. “We gave it our best shot,” she said of the rejected proposal. “You don’t shoot, you don’t score.” An Olympic rink boasts an additional 3,000 square feet of space and would have boosted the project’s price by $550,000, according to staff. Maintenance costs are higher for the bigger rink, which would also require a larger ice plant, staff added. While disappointed by the decision, O’Connor applauded council for moving ahead with the project, which will include outdoor soccer fields and tennis courts.   “I’m just appreciative they have given us a twin pad,” she added. “I never thought we’d even see that.” The amended plan includes the use of artificial turf on one of two soccer fields at an estimated cost of $500,000 and a separate building to house washrooms and change rooms serving users of the sports fields. The arena will include seating for 700 at one rink and 200 at the other, while the ceiling will be at least 30 feet from the rink to ensure lacrosse players have adequate room to play. Staff recommended council not include an all-weather running track in the design, arguing the property is too small to accommodate one without sacrificing other amenities. “Obviously, the selection of the 26 acres has severely hampered a lot of our options there,” Coun. Tim Lauer said. Neither did council support a call by some sports groups for an indoor soccer facility, with staff noting that a single inflated structure bears an estimated cost of $3.25 million. Lauer urged staff to ensure the property has ample tree coverage. “If you are at a soccer tournament in the middle of the summer and it is 80 degrees out, you have no better friend than a tree,” said Lauer. Orillia’s parks and recreation department “loves trees,” replied its director, Ray Merkley. EllisDon Construction will proceed with the project’s design and final costing for presentation to council in seven to eight weeks. Councillors Don Evans, Ralph Cipolla, Maurice McMillan and Michael Fogarty supported an Olympic-size rink.