This past year certainly was the best of times and the worst of times for the Meaford and District Chamber of Commerce. On the best of times side of the ledger, 2008 saw the Chamber continue to remain financially healthy, its total membership continues to exceed 200 and it continued to have a very active, visible and dedicated board of directors and staff involved in multi-faceted projects to improve the business atmosphere in the community. On the worst of times side of the ledger, the Chamber had to experience a severe budget cutback in its contract with the Municipality of Meaford half way through its fiscal year. The cutback resulted in the Chamber reducing its staff complement by one position. The Chamber of Commerce held its annual general meeting at Meaford Hall last Wednesday evening. The evening featured a number of changes for the Chamber of Commerce. Long-time Meaford businessman Geoff Solomon assumed the Presidency of the Chamber’s Board of Directors from President Rod MacAlpine at the meeting. Dairy Queen owner Shirley Keaveney became Vice-President of the Board. In addition, long-time Board of Directors member and Past-President Barb Cooper-Clumpus retired from active duty on the Board of Directors. Solomon said he is looking forward to his term in the President’s chair. "I’m quite excited about the future. I’m looking forward to the future," said Solomon. "We have an amazing Board and I know we can do great things," he said. Cooper-Clumpus said her time with the Chamber has been an incredible journey. She said just over 10 years ago the Chamber was virtually inactive with only 18 members. "I’m very proud to have been part of all of this," she said. "I wish the Chamber every success as it moves forward," she said. The meeting also featured an inspiring presentation from guest speaker Anna Bradford – the Director of Culture with the City of Hamilton. Bradford spoke about the important role culture will play in municipal economic development as Ontario’s municipalities move forward during these times of economic change. Bradford detailed the extensive "cultural mapping" project the City of Hamilton is currently undergoing and she stressed the importance of cultural planning for any community’s future economic growth. Bradford noted that Meaford is well on its way in terms of culture pointing to the presence of Meaford Hall as a huge plus for the community. "This building is just amazing," she said. Outgoing President MacAlpine gave a detailed report about his three years in the President’s chair. "The first two years were a lot of fun," MacAlpine joked, in reference to the budget cutbacks mandated by the municipality in 2008. "The financial picture was not pretty and we knew we had to do our share for cost savings," said MacAlpine. As a result of negotiations with the municipality the Chamber experienced a 27% reduction in the amount it received through its contract for tourism services with the town. MacAlpine said as a result the Chamber needed to reduce its staff total by one position. The timing worked in favour of the Chamber as long-time tourism coordinator Danielle Mulasmajic accepted a position with South Bruce Peninsula. As a result of this change Jamie Petit moved up from his position at the Chamber to become Manager. "Jamie does everything. He’s a great asset to the community. Jamie you have earned a lot of respect and you’ve made us look good," MacAlpine said Wednesday night. MacAlpine said the Chamber received $135,000 from the municipality for 2008, with a $15,000 contingency to recognize that the budget cut occurred half way through the year. "We worked very diligently to stay within that $135,000. At the end of the year we were over by $3,300. We decided not to ask the municipality for that amount," he said. "In the final analysis it’s all about helping our municipal succeed. I believe we have turned a corner in our municipality over the past year," he added. Despite the budget cutback the Chamber of Commerce actually increased its accumulated operating surplus by $7,000 in 2008. The Chamber now has a surplus of $27,692 available for future budgets.
A motion that could help the Midland Area Reading Council (MARC) keep its doors open past the end of this month received unanimous support in the Ontario legislature last week. Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop introduced a motion Feb. 26 seeking cash for community-based literacy programs. “The Government of Ontario should provide adequate funding to community-based literacy and basic skills programs so that the agencies can properly address the growing enrolment,” Dunlop told fellow MPPs at Queen’s Park. He explained such programs are in greater demand due to higher unemployment, adding more Ontarians are looking to upgrade their skills. “With tens of thousands of Ontarians losing their jobs each and every month, the demands on community agencies are increasing rapidly,” said Dunlop. Sue Bannon, MARC’s executive director, watched from the gallery as Dunlop introduced his motion. She described its all-party support as “really good news,” but added she wants immediate action, not promises or a phased-in funding increase. “We’ve been waiting for money … and listening to their promises for years, but this is the first time we’ve actually made it to Queen’s Park and it was approved unanimously, so we’re really optimistic,” she said. The next step, said Bannon, is for literacy organizations to contact MPPs and put pressure on Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to incorporate this motion in the next provincial budget, due to be presented March 26. Bannon said Dunlop, a Progressive Conservative, vowed he would not hold his tongue if the Liberals’ next budget fails to address these concerns. “He’s not going away, and we’re going to keep pounding on them until they do deal with this,” she said. “They now need to put their words and their promises in action.” MARC’s fiscal year starts April 1. Without an increase of at least $40,000 in the base amount it receives annually from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Bannon said, staff and programs would have to be cut. Despite her stake in the matter being discussed, witnessing the process from the public gallery above the legislative chamber was “fascinating,” said Bannon. “It was a really good learning experience watching them in action, and it was really heartening to see them all on line with the literacy issue,” she said. “I was really proud that they had finally stepped up to the plate and recognized the issue.” Dunlop, in particular, impressed her with his knowledge and passion about literacy, said Bannon. “He knew what he was talking about, he had done his research and he supported us 150 per cent,” she said. “He made our point and he made it in a very good fashion.” MARC, in existence since 1982, is the only organization in Midland that offers one-on-one or small-group literacy instruction all year round. The non-profit organization’s volunteer tutors work with people 16 and older. With two full-time employees and one part-timer, its student intake has doubled in the last year, jumping to 400-500 learning hours per month from just 200-250. email@example.com
A drug raid by police in Alliston last night (Thurs., April 16) netted more than $100,000 in illegal drugs and two arrests. Nottawasaga OPP’s Street Crime Unit teamed up with the OPP’s Central Drug Unit and executed a search warrant on the apartment located on Church Street North in Alliston at 8:45 p.m. last night. Police seized just over two hundred marijuana plants in various stages of growth with a potential street value of $500 dollars per plant; 16 grams of cocaine with a street value of $1,600 along with a small amount of cash and growing equipment. Arrested and charged are two Alliston men, a 24-year-old and a 23-year-old. Charges include production of marijuana, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of cocaine. Both accused were released on promise to appear’s for court in June in Bradford. Police ask anyone with information relating to any crime to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Build it and they will come. In the case of the YMCA, that’s one half of the new Innisfil Recreational Complex, that adage is certainly true, and then some. As of March 12, the newest ‘Y’ has signed up 3,700-plus members who are enjoying the two pools, indoor track, fully equipped exercise room and gymnasium, says general manager Chris Roos. “It’s great,” says Roos, “and has certainly exceeded expectations. We have a five-year plan. I’d say we’re halfway there already.” While the bulk of the clientele is from Innisfil, Roos says anyone living within a 10 to 15 minute drive is a potential client. That means many people are driving down from south Barrie and even north from Bradford West Gwillimbury. All ages are represented in the membership but “I would say I have a very strong family component,” Roos says. “As of this past Monday, we’ve been registering for the spring session. It was very busy.” One area Roos is concentrating on is building the volunteer base, a vital aspect of the YMCA’s community objectives. “Part of our mission is philanthropic, including volunteering and giving back,” he says. “It takes time to get volunteers involved. I have a partnership with about 40 people already. I’d like to get that up to 80. Another area that will continue to grow is membership assistance. We won’t turn anyone away. It can take time to get that message out. The Y is for people of all ages, abilities and financial backgrounds. Soon, we will be launching our ‘Strong Kids’ campaign to raise funds to help people get involved at the centre.” With a staff of 50 full-time and part-time employees, Roos says Mondays and Wednesdays tend to be busy days. “We try to highlight programs for people who like to start their week at the Y on a Monday. They take a day off and then come back on Wednesday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the trend is towards kids and family programs. 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays are very busy, too. “People find their niche. There’s a 5:30 a.m. crowd, a weekend crowd, until the doors close at night crowd and an afternoon crowd.” Being responsible for a brand new facility actually isn’t a first for Roos. He also helped the YMCA open its building in Wasaga Beach a few years back. He feels privileged to have had the opportunity twice to be the first general manager. “New is great,” he says. “When you start, it’s the best there is with the latest technology and it is the culmination of the last 30 years of development of swimming pools. Innisfil has done an outstanding job with this facility. We want to run all of our centres in a similar manner and we want our members to know their membership is transferable and they can visit any other YMCA.” A slate of special March Break programs were developed and Spring programs start up the week of March 23. “Things have rolled out pretty much as expected,” Roos says. For more information on the Innisfil YMCA and upcoming programs, call 431-YMCA (9622) or visit www.ymcaofsimcoemuskoka.ca
People looking to head out of the country this year are going to need a passport. That’s why Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton will be hosting a passport clinic in Penetanguishene on April 4. The clinic, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Royal Canadian Legion branch 68, will offer people assistance in filling out a passport application, give them the opportunity to get their picture taken (a $20 fee applies), and have their completed applications reviewed to ensure all required materials and documentation are included. There is a fee for the passport itself: $87 for adults and $22 to $37 for children under 16. Applicants need to bring a birth certificate or Canadian citizenship certificate or card, as well as other documents to support their identity, such as a driver’s licence, health card or seniors card. Contact information for two references and one emergency contact must also be provided For more information call 1-800-265-6228.
The Blue Mountains fears a 40 per cent future tax hike based on recent information and assessments related to just one of the new provincial standards being drafted for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), according to a report presented to council. The Accessibility Act was passed in 2005 with the goal of creating standards to improve accessibility across the Province. In 2008, the province began revealing proposed standards to be added to the act in the areas of customer service, transportation, information and communications, built environment and employment. The new standards require quick and costly upgrades for all municipalities. Lisa Kidd, communications and economic development coordinator for The Blue Mountains, brought her report on the information and communications standards to council to explain the progress of the changes to the Act and deliver a copy of the town’s letter to the province responding to the proposed standards. The letter stated the town’s concern with the extreme cost of compliance. "While the Information and Communication Standard is an admirable component of the AODA, it is cost prohibitive … downloading this kind of cost to the taxpayer is not conceivable." The 40 per cent hike is to cover the $1.3 to $3.8 million cost estimated for just the information and communications standard. Each of the other standards will come with their on price tags. The town has established an AODA committee of staff to look at the proposed standards, draft responses to the province, review implementation processes, consider financial impacts and communicate to the rest of town staff and council. For information on the town’s progress related to the AODA, contact Lisa Kidd at firstname.lastname@example.org or (519) 599-3131 ext. 282. To review the provincial standards already in place and pending visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca.