Twin pad in jeopardy?

Members of city council are quietly pushing to have a twin-pad arena built on a larger property than originally planned, sparking fears that the project could be stalled. “If they do this, it is going to reopen the debate, and every councillor is going to want their pet project there,” Michael Fogarty said. “It is going to delay things further.” Just weeks after council agreed to build an arena on a 25-acre parcel of city-owned land by the fall of 2010, some are campaigning behind the scenes to move the project to a 45-acre property located nearby, Fogarty said. “This is being pushed quite heavily,” he added. The larger property was to be saved for industrial use, but according to Fogarty and others who spoke with Orillia Today, members are increasingly viewing it as the answer to the city’s recreation woes. “Some councillors want to move the whole MURF out there, some councillors want some options so they can expand out there,” he added. To date, these discussions have happened out of the public’s view, and included an informal chat at the conclusion of a closed-door meeting on Monday evening, he said. Fogarty said he felt the discussion was inappropriate and left the room, followed shortly after by Wayne Gardy. “When council starts discussing an item that would lead to a decision of council, it is a meeting,” Gardy told Orillia Today. “The clerk should be present and it should be recorded.” Gardy echoed concerns that the project could be delayed by a change of location. “It shouldn’t even be discussed,” he said. “Council made a decision that we need a twin pad now, as well as keeping the community centre in use until the twin pad is ready.” Ralph Cipolla concurred. “It would delay the construction of the twin pad until at least 2011, and that is not acceptable” he said. Cipolla, who continues to pursue a portion of the Huronia Regional Centre property for the MURF, is urging council to follow its original plan. “People are only asking for a twin pad,” he said. “Let’s build it, and that will give us time to assess what we are going to do about getting a premier recreation facility, rather than piece meal. If we go to the 45 acres, we are going to end up with a barn again, and that is unacceptable.” User groups who were left scrambling to secure ice time following the closure of the community centre were angered to learn of the discussions. “All we asked for was a simple, twin-pad facility – that is all we wanted,” said Bruce Goddard, a member of the Twin Lakes Oldtimers Hockey Club. Goddard spearheaded a petition for the new arena, gathering more than 3,000 names with the help of other groups, including minor hockey and figure skating. “It is a typical Orillia situation,” he added of the recent development. “You start something, then it’s ‘Change this and change that.’ “People should get on the blower and start calling their councillors,” he added. “They can get their numbers on the city’s web site, or call city hall.” Orillia Minor Hockey president Cathy O’Connor is concerned not with the site but the prospect of a delay.  “I’m more concerned about them getting that piece of property and all of sudden they want to put the MURF there, and that is where the delay would come from,” she said. “They’ll fight about the spot, and are they going to want to add the pool? They made a decision, stick with it.” Fogarty, who opposes a change in venue, said “there is a real concerted effort of trying to get this through. “I think councillors are slowly waking up to the fact that (a recreation complex on West Street) is not going to happen,” he said. Joe Fecht tried but failed to convince council to move the majority of the MURF project to the 45-acre site. He would “absolutely support” a proposal to move the twin pad to the larger property. “If we can’t proceed on West Street, we potentially have another opportunity to look at the other aspects of a recreational sports complex,” he said. Coun. Tim Lauer earlier argued in favor of building an arena on the larger property, saying it offered room for additional soccer fields and other outdoor amenities. “As we get closer to the actual design, if there are some compelling arguments to move it, I will certainly be championing them again,” he said. “Right now, the priority for me is that everything moves forward.” Lauer continues to support the West Street property for the MURF, but said that, were the site deemed unworkable, “you would at least have that option” with the 45-acre property. Lauer rejects the notion that building the arena on the larger property would delay the project. “It wouldn’t be a big deal,” he added. “It would just be a discussion about which side of the road you want to be on.” Both Lauer and Fecht downplayed the significance of the impromptu discussion held Monday. “We were just getting an update of information,” Fecht said.


EDHS vandalized: Police

Huronia West OPP say Elmvale District High School was vandalized. The incident happened around 12:30 a.m. on March 23. Police went to the school in response to an alarm that was triggered. "Upon arrival it was discovered that unknown individuals used a 20-pound propane tank to break the south window of the athletics department," Const. Mark Kinney said. "Fortunately the school did not lose any property in this crime." Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the detachment at 429-3575. Tips can also be left with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.


Don’t take clean water for granted

Never take the quality of your drinking water for granted. Cookstown town councillor Lynn Dollin, chairperson of the Southern Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region, delivered that message to an audience at the Greater Innisfil Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting April 8. In the aftermath of the Walkerton tragedy of 2001, where seven people died and countless more fell ill, some of whom are still sick from consuming contaminated municipal water, the provincial government has taken steps to reduce the chances of it happening again, Dollin said. The passing of the Clean Water Act in 2006 and the establishment of 19 Water Source Protection Regions across Ontario in 2007, was a direct result of the Walkerton disaster. Dollin was appointed chairperson of her region in August 2007. “Source water protection is simply about protecting, and preserving, drinking water,” Dollin said. “Quantity, as well as quality, is important. We build hospitals and hire doctors and specialists to combat heart disease, our number one killer. Wouldn’t it be better to have legislation to help people live better? Why not be proactive to prevent things from getting into our water?” The Walkerton clean up cost approximately $64 million. “It costs up to 40 times more to remediate contaminated water,” she said. Setting up the Southern Georgian Bay zone was quite a daunting task. “Our region contains four watersheds, we have 17 intake systems and 320 wells in our 32 member municipalities,” Dollin said. “Ours is the most complicated and diverse region in the province, combining rural, urban, the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Canadian Shield.” Dollin presides over a 22-person committee including several farmers, a sod producer, a golf course industry rep, an aggregate producer, a First Nations representative and seven municipal representatives. “We are required to map areas that may be considered vulnerable in our regions, where water may run into aquifers,” Dollin said. “Our committee examines what threats exist. Priority will be placed on any high risk, vulnerable areas identified.” An assessment report from each region is due in 2010 and every municipality must have a water source protection strategy in place by 2012, as part of their Official Plan. “This is where it gets interesting,” Dollin said. “Groups will decide what is allowed, and what isn’t. All of Innisfil is in the same source protection area, so we will have just one plan. Innisfil has already identified wellhead protection areas. We’re ahead of the game.” In the meantime, small to medium-sized business owners can request a no-charge pollution protection plan paid for by the province. For example, inspectors will visit companies to check chemical storage procedures and examine policies for dealing with spills. Recommendations for more eco-friendly internal systems may be suggested to business owners, too, Dollin said. Money is also available for well decommissioning and septic upgrades, including pump outs. For more information, call 1-800-465-0437, or visit www.ourwatershed.ca


Wind farm committee members appointed

More than four months after it was approved, Council has finally appointed members to its alternative energy ad hoc committee. “I have to say we are certainly a little behind the eight ball on this one,” Mayor Brian Jackson said Wednesday after council appointed six members to the committee. The committee will be made up of  Jackson, Coun. Rod Boynton, citizen members Gary Taylor and Rick Earhart, and industry members Tim Cane and Chris Olthuis. The committee will recommend local standards for alternative energy sites, such as wind farms. But the group won’t have long to study the issue before it makes its first submission. It plans to meet in about two weeks to come up with a proposal to make to the province’s standing committee April 27 for the new Green Act. Originally, the committee was to recommend standards for an Innisfil zoning bylaw. But since then the provincial government has introduced the Green Act, which is expected to take much of the local planning powers away from municipalities when it comes to alternative energy sites. There are two wind farm applications before council. Schneider Power wants the town to rezone 200 acres near Conc. 5 and Highway 400 to allow five turbines. Skypower, another alternative energy company, has applied to erect two wind-testing towers south of Fennels Corners near Highway 11. Several neighbours to the proposed wind farms, including the Cookstown Aerodome, are opposing the wind farms. Last November, Boynton suggested council strike its own committee to recommend made-in-Innisfil standards for wind farms. On Wednesday, Boynton called on the ad hoc committee to look at international standards since “there are no provincial nor national standards.” For instance, France now wants wind turbines to be set back 1.2 kilometres from the nearest home, while the current setback in Innisfil would be 300 metres.


School to make up for stolen money

Worsley Elementary School principal Lorna Howlett-Lowe said despite a recent robbery at the school, a year-end school trip the money was intended for will go as scheduled. Huronia West OPP reported last week that sometime between 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 and 6:45 a.m. on Feb. 25 the school was broken into and a quantity of cash was stolen. Police said the stolen items included cash, cheques and prepaid gift cards. Police continue to ask for assistance from the public in locating two suspects who may have left the scene of the crime on bicycles, heading south on 39th Street to Christopher Avenue. Howlett-Lowe said she could not reveal how much money was stolen because the investigation in ongoing. She said some of the money had been raised by the school to help pay for an intermediate year-end trip to Montreal. "As a school community, we are pulling together and seeing what we can do," said Howlett-Lowe. She said the school might be planning some community fundraisers to help take some of the financial burden off students’ families. "Fundraising is a big effort and any amount is hard to replace," said Howlett-Lowe. She said the school is hoping the community will pitch in and participate in fundraising events in the spring. Howlett-Lowe came to Worsley in January from Nottawasaga and Creemore Public School in Clearview Township. She replaced Heather Birchall as principal. Anyone with information regarding the theft is asked to call Huronia West OPP at 429-3575 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS.


Pressure on Liberal budget to deliver

Ontario’s Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, will deliver his government’s much-anticipated provincial budget on Thursday and area officials will be watching closely to see what goodies it contains. Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson told The Wasaga Sun he will be looking for the Liberals to deliver several key things for Ontarians, who are struggling to survive the economic downturn. For starters, Wilson said the government should implement a three-month sales tax holiday for the purchase of new cars. He said the move would help people wanting to buy a new vehicle and aid the automotive industry. Continuing on the vehicle theme, Wilson said the government should introduce an incentive to get old cars off the road. He suggested a $2,000 rebate towards the purchase or lease of a new car, when an older vehicle – say 10 years or more – is turned in. He said the move would stimulate the economy and help the environment. As well, the Conservative MPP said the government should "implement broad-based relief to Ontario businesses, including, but not limited to, moving the corporate tax rate down from 14 per cent to 10 per cent. Doing so means all provinces in Canada have the same rate, which would result in Canada having the lowest corporate taxes in the G8. Other provinces are doing it. We should too." The Liberals would also be wise to implement a retail sales tax holiday on hotels and attractions to promote Ontario tourism, a move that would benefit everywhere, Wilson said. Another smart move the government could make would be to introduce a "five per cent annual cap on property assessment increases and send MPAC assessors back into the field immediately to bring assessments inline with actual property values," Wilson said. In other areas, Wilson said he would like to see the government fast track the Highway 26 redevelopment and start planning for the highway to be redeveloped all the way to Barrie. He also wants to see the government "introduce an initiative to immediately begin [building] new long-term care beds throughout Simcoe and Grey counties to bring the exceptionally high waiting lists down." Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday that his government will spend $27.5-billion on roads, schools, hospitals and public transit over the next two years in an effort to create 300,000 new jobs. McGuinty said the huge infrastructure investment – which he said will be detailed in Thursday’s budget – will be topped up with another $5-bilion from the federal government. Finance Minister Duncan has indicated that this week’s budget will include a deficit of about $18-billion over two years. Debbie Kesheshian is the executive director of the United Way of South Georgian Bay, an agency that helps fund various social organizations and programs. She said the budget should include funding for an array of social programs, in particular the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy. "It’s fine to have these strategies but they need to be funded," she said. The strategy, announced in 2008, aims to reduce youth poverty by 25 per cent in five years, Kesheshian said. She said the Liberals should present a budget that does more to help the disabled and unemployed. And the budget should include stipulations that allow for more tax benefits for people and corporations that are donating to charities. The Liberals should also invest in proven charitable organizations. Kesheshian said charitable organizations can often deliver services and programs far more cost effectively than government. A budget that included more Ontario child benefits and an increased minimum wage would also be helpful, she said.


Spuds inserted in vehicle tailpipes

As recipes for mashed potatoes go, this one’s a real dud. Southern Georgian Bay OPP report someone shoved potatoes into the exhaust pipes of three vehicles in Tiny Township on March 29. The incident occurred at a home on Goldfinch Crescent. There are no known suspects in this matter. Anyone with information about this case of mischief can contact police at 526-3761 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted online at www.sdm-crimestoppers.com.


A dozen more properties protected in 2008

The Georgian Bay Land Trust (GBLT) announced last week that it made major strides in 2008 toward its goal of preserving the eastern shore of Georgian Bay as a public trust. “Thanks to successful fundraising efforts, we nearly doubled our holdings by the addition of 12 new properties,” Richard Stark, GBLT’s incoming president, stated in a press release. “This marks our most successful land protection year yet, as we now own more than 1,200 acres, 730 of which were acquired in 2008.” The newly protected properties are scattered throughout the trust’s target area, including Tiny Township, Port Severn, Go Home Bay and a 15-acre parcel on Giant’s Tomb Island. Through these properties, the GBLT has ensured the protection of acres of classic landscapes along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, and has also protected rare flora and fauna such as the eastern fox snake, eastern massasauga rattlesnake and stiff yellow flax. “This incredible accomplishment shows what can happen when you combine the selfless generosity of donors, the tireless efforts of volunteers, directors and advisers, and the unwavering determination of our highly competent and dedicated staff,” commented Wendy Cooper, executive director of the GBLT.


Honda Civic sales on the rise in March

While overall sales for Honda and Acura vehicles dropped in Canada in March, the company is reporting that Honda Civic sales doubled over February’s results. In March, Honda Canada Inc. reported its March sales were down 11,359 units, or 20 per cent, compared to last March. Acura’s sales in March were down 42 per cent over last year. Overall, the Honda and Acura divisions saw a year-to-year sales decrease of 23 per cent, or 12,570 units. While the overall sales are down, Honda Canada Inc. executive vice president Jerry Chenkin said the Alliston-made Honda Civic sales in March more than doubled over February’s results. "Our March results, although down from last year’s record results, are only off by 13 per cent over the last five-year sales average," said Chenkin. "We are encouraged to see that showroom traffic at our dealerships in March was up over the previous months, and that consumer confidence is showing a gradual upswing." About 91 per cent of all Honda and Acura vehicles sold in Canada during March were produced in North America, with nearly half of those made in Canada. Honda Canada is in its 40th year of operation in Canada. The Honda Civic sedan and coupe, and Acura CSX and MDX are manufactured in Alliston. Honda’s new engine plant also produces fuel-efficient, four-cylinder engines in Alliston. Yesterday, Honda Canada told workers at its two Alliston plants there were be a reduction of another 13 days of production between now and the end of the summer.


Flooding can impact well water

High water levels have prompted the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to caution residents with private wells to be aware that flooding conditions could make their water supply unsafe. Flooding caused by rain and snow melt could potentially contaminate water in drilled or dug wells, allowing harmful bacteria into the drinking supply. If your well has been flooded, it could have been contaminated. Until you can get your well water tested, use bottled water for drinking, making infant formula, juices, cooking, making ice, washing fruits and vegetables or brushing teeth, or boil your water rapidly for at least one minute before use. Once flooding has receded, the well should be disinfected and tested several times before the water can again be used for drinking. As well, homeowners should be aware that food items that have been in contact with flood water should be thrown out. Canned goods remain safe, but the outside of cans must be thoroughly washed and disinfected before being opened. Detailed instructions for disinfecting wells and information about food handling can be found on the health unit’s website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org, or by calling Your Health Connection at _721-7520, or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.