Major concert gets tentative go-ahead

Clearview Township council has agreed to issue a special event licence that will allow a large-scale music concert to take place at the Great Northern Exhibition Fairgrounds in August, once organizers have met certain provisions in the municipality’s special events bylaw. “I’m very impressed with the process and very happy with the result,” said producer George Roche of Lucid Productions, the Innisfil-based company presenting the concert. The decision to issue the licence once conditions are met was made by council – but not supported by all members – last Monday after bylaw officer Phil Snape recommended the course of action. Snape has been working with Lucid since February to facilitate the company’s request for a licence. Council also agreed – again not unanimously – to exempt the Aug. 8 event, dubbed Clear-Fest, from Clearview’s noise bylaw. The exemption will be in place from noon to 11:30 p.m. the day of the event. Members of council also accepted – but again not unanimously – a recommendation from Snape that Lucid Productions be exempt from having to fulfill certain financial obligations required by the special events bylaw. The concessions were recommended by Snape and agreed to by council in order to help get the fledgling event – which organizers will use to help raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society – off the ground. Those against granting the concessions were Ward 4 councillor Thom Paterson and Ward 5 councillor Robert Walker. The two men raised concerns about removing conditions for a group the municipality really knows nothing about. “There is a lot that could go wrong,” Paterson said. Still others, such as Ward 7 councillor Shawn Davidson and Ward 1 councillor Doug Measures, defended removing the provisions. Davidson said the township has to take some comfort in the preliminary dealings that staff have had with the event organizers. “If we have a comfort level from our staff…let’s move forward,” he said. Measures pointed out the township should find some comfort in the event and the intentions of organizers because the fairgrounds board is prepared to lease its site for the event.   Roche said after the meeting Monday that he understands the point of the well-intentioned scrutiny that events receive from the municipality and pledged to present an event that everyone will respect. As a result of the leniency that council granted, Lucid Productions will not need to submit a $10,000 letter of credit, normally required to ensure compliance with the requirements of all approval agencies. The Collingwood Agricultural Society, which owns the fairgrounds, also won’t have to provide a $10,000 letter of credit, normally required for the same reason as noted above. Lucid will also only have to give the township a $2,500 deposit – instead of $5,000 – to cover any direct costs incurred by the Clearview Fire Department, bylaw enforcement or public works, should these departments need to aid the event site. As well, Lucid Productions won’t be required to provide a $10,000 letter of credit to cover any additional emergency services costs that might come about because of the event. Conditions that Lucid must meet to be granted the special event permit involve submitting detailed information about the event to the bylaw office – something company officials have been doing over the last couple months. Information about how event facilities will be set up on the site is required, along with proof the event is properly insured. There must also be proof that all public health and safety requirements have been met. Snape said he expects the township will be able to issue a special event permit to Lucid Productions about a month before the event. Roche said he aims to make the concert an annual signature event in Clearview Township. This year several area artists and bands have agreed to perform at the event, including Dave Whitey Somers, Chuck Baker, Random Robbery, The Lucid – Roche’s group – and Michael Beauclerc. As well, Roche is promising two Juno Award-winning groups but said he’s not ready yet to release their identity. Roche said some production details need to be worked out first. He anticipates the concert will draw between 4,000 and 5,000 people to the fairgrounds, located northwest of Stayner. To ensure the safety of everyone, he said private security will be on the scene throughout the event. “I believe the event is beyond safe,” he told council last week, reiterating comments he’d made the week before when giving an overview of the event. A report from the bylaw department notes the Ontario Provincial Police requires seven officers at the event and possibly auxiliary officers as well. The report also states that Simcoe County Paramedic Services requires one ambulance and crew at the site. In terms of food safety, the report notes the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit requires food preparation permits from vendors – permits that must be issued about one month before the event. Roche said that once expenses are covered, Lucid will make a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society. Joyce Mayne, the fundraising coordinator at the society’s Barrie and district office, was at council two weeks ago to indicate the society is aware of Lucid’s intentions to donate money. “These activities or events are run independently from our society-led initiatives and provide a great way for people to fulfill their philanthropic goals, make a difference in their communities as well as promote awareness about the programs and services we offer,” she added in a letter to the fairgrounds board that was included in Snape’s report. Roche said that tickets to the summer concert would be available in the next two weeks, along with details about where they can be purchased. They will sell for $25 each for adults and $15 for youth age 12 and under.


Bluewater school board promises public consultation

The Bluewater District School Board announced it would reach out to parents, staff and students in order to improve the board’s accountability and transparency, according to a press release. At the regular board meeting on Tuesday, April 21, trustees voted to review board policies and processes according to an outline they had drafted earlier that week. The document lists several plan highlights including public consultation, which included a proposal for annual consultations, union and federation leader meetings, customer satisfaction surveys, focus groups and a formal review of the complaints process. The board also voted to send the final review report to the Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne. This review effort comes after Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller publicly criticized the board for mishandling his constituent’s complaints. Following this criticism, BWDSB chair and trustee for Meaford and The Blue Mountains, Rick Galbraith, resigned suddenly. At the March board meeting, several parents attended to speak to the board about their specific situation and voice their disappointment in the way their complaints or issues were handled by the staff and board of the Bluewater district. Jennifer Yenssen was acclaimed chair and promised she would review the issues presented as well as those recently brought to her attention. MPPs Bill Murdoch and Carol Mitchell wrote a letter to the Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne asking for ministry support in the review process. Yenssen and BWDSB Director of Education, Mary Anne Alton then wrote their own letter to Minister Wynne also asking for support. Wynne’s response was positive and the ministry is involved in the process now, with a formal request to receive the final review report once completed according to the plan adopted by the board on Tuesday. Yenssen said in a press release that the board must "embrace and demonstrate its commitment to partnershops, accountability, transparency and effective communication." "When its commitment to these core values is challenged, whether real or perceived, steps must be taken to re-establish public confidence," said Yenssen in a press release. Trustee John Chapman said the board’s action to develop and adopt this plan showed the public’s comments have "not fallen on deaf ears." "This is not a knee jerk reaction," said Chapman at the board meeting. "We took care and time … we heard the community, and we have a responsibility." The board committed to holding two public consultations by the end of June, one located in the north of the district and one in the south.


Wasaga Beach extends bus service on trial basis

Wasaga Beach is putting a second bus on the road for a six-month trial period. Council supported adding the bus on a temporary basis to see if shortening people’s travel time and expanding the service will result in an increase in riders. Georgian Coach Lines began operating a bus service along Wasaga Beach’s main corridor in July. During the first month it had 556 passengers. Georgian Coach Lines president Doug Harrison provided statistics that show ridership has steadily increased to 1,904 in March but said ridership fell by 400 in April. The bus currently runs along River Road West and Mosley Street, traveling between Wasaga Stars Arena and 45th Street. "Ninety percent of riders go to Wal-Mart and the [Real Canadian] Superstore," said Harrison. The loop from one end of Wasaga Beach to the other takes one hour. The town is hoping to put the second bus into service by June 1. CAO George Vadeboncoeur said as of June two buses will travel two loops and meet in the middle where people will transfer to continue on their journey. In the east end service will extend to the east as far as Deerbrooke and River Road East. At a committee of the whole of council meeting last Tuesday council did not support purchasing a new bus at a cost of $120,000 or adding dial-a-bus for special pick-ups off the main route. Georgian Coach Lines will use its existing passenger van as the second bus during the trial period. The municipality received $19,950 in gas tax revenue from the Ministry of Transportation in 2008 and based on last year’s budget it is expected to receive $79,800 this year. Vadeboncoeur said gas tax revenue is based on a complex formula taking into account ridership, population and the previous year’s operating costs. The municipality is eligible for up to 75 per cent of its costs. Increasing the service will cost the municipality $84,000 plus additional capital costs over the six-month trial period. "We are incurring a lot of expense to improve the existing system," said Councillor Stan Wells. "I’m like Stan, we have got to know the net cost – the return on our investment but I think we need an expanded service," said Councillor Rick Archdekin. "Correct me if I am wrong but there isn’t a transit system in Ontario that makes money but there is another return," said Councillor George Watson. "It’s a service, it’s just, what level of deficit do we want to run?" Wells said he is prepared to see two routes in a trial basis noting it is very hard to take the service away once it is offered. "But we may have to bite the bullet if it is not cost worthy," he said. Councillors were expected to pass the expansion at last night’s regular council meeting but Vadeboncoeur said he has yet to meet with Harrison to iron out some of the details.


Controlled forest burn put off to mid-week

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, but for anyone travelling through or in and around the Mansfield area this week  it’s nothing to be concerned about. The County of Dufferin, in co-operation with Lands & Forests Consulting, is planning to carry out a 25-hectare prescribed burn in the 604-hectare Main Tract of the Dufferin County Forest. The burn was originally slated to take place Saturday (April 25) but rain forced organizers to reschedule for sometime this week.  The Main Tract is located off Airport Road, about 10 kilometres north of Highway 89. This same twenty-five hectare area underwent prescribed burns in 1994 and 1999 to reduce competition for red oak seedlings and improve the seedbed for the germination of red oak. The prescribed burn will release red oak seedlings that have germinated as a result of the first two burns and once again improve the seedbed for further germination of red oak. "I am very pleased that Mulmur is hosting this important project to regenerate red oak, which was designated as Dufferin County’s official tree in 2005," commented Warden Gord Montgomery. The burn will be conducted by staff of Lands & Forests Consulting who have many years of experience in conducting similar prescribed burns. The science of prescribed burning is well established and the burn will only be conducted under strictly defined weather and safety conditions. Residents with questions regarding the planned prescribed burn should contact Caroline Mach, County Forest Manager at 705-435-1881 or 877-941-7787 or by e-mail at [email protected].


County councillors approve new per diem

Grey county councillors have approved an increase in the per diem they receive for driving and reading. In a very narrow vote at last Tuesday morning’s regular meeting, county council approved a resolution from its Finance and Personnel committee giving themselves a new per diem for the time they spend driving to meetings held outside of Grey County. The committee approved a resolution at its April 28 meeting recommending that county councillors be paid an additional half day per diem for travel and preparation time when councillors attend out-of-town meetings. The vote narrowly passed through the county’s weighted voting system by the slimmest of margins – 40-39. Councillors Dave Fawcett and Howard Greig were on their feet immediately saying the new per diem was ridiculous. Greig and Fawcett combined to bring forward a resolution to delete the committee’s recommendation. In a recorded vote their resolution was defeated 40-39. Councillor Fawcett, the Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Grey Highlands, said he couldn’t support the new per diem because he felt driving to a meeting in Toronto and a reading background papers was part of the job. Fawcett also pointed out that county councillors already received a hefty salary increase in 2009. Councillor Howard Greig, the Mayor of Chatsworth, said county councillors receive mileage for their travel and their accommodation is paid for when they attend out-of-town meetings that require them to travel to Toronto the night before. Greig said he served on the Association of Municipalities executive for a number of years and often had to travel to Toronto the night before an official breakfast meeting. "There’s not a whole lot going on the night before the meeting – I would read my package. This is part of our duties as county councillors," said Greig. "I don’t know how we can justify this," he said, noting that he couldn’t support such a change without having an idea of the overall cost to county taxpayers. The minutes from the committee meeting did not indicate an anticipated cost of the new per diem. The issue spurred a colourful debate around the county council table. "I find it perplexing that councillor Greig doesn’t believe his time is worth a half day per diem," said Southgate Mayor Don Lewis. Owen Sound councillor Arlene Wright said the committee felt county councillors deserve compensation when they are driving long distances through bad weather to attend meetings on behalf of the county. "We’re taking a person away from their family. They should be compensated a half day," said Wright. During the debate Warden Kevin Eccles pointed out that the county does have a policy to compensate councillors when they have to travel more than 500 kilometres to out-of-town meetings.