Ready, aim … bowl

Allen Kidd, 9, and Jason Hurdle participate in the Bowl for Kids Sake event Sunday at Knight Haven Lanes in Penetanguishene. The fundraiser, which kicked off the previous evening at Midland’s Bayshore Lanes, benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe. The annual campaign ends March 28.


Everett residents want playground

A group of Everett residents is pushing for park equipment for their neighbourhood. Maureen Nixon has lived on Dekker Street for the past five years. During that time, she has stared a nearby seemingly empty field, wondering why the township hasn’t built any playground equipment. The area is designated as parkland and currently has water and waste treatment facilities underneath. Nixon, like many people on the street, has small children. Hers are ages three and five, but she said there are about 120 more children in the subdivision younger than 12. She said they need a place to play, and with the economy in a recession, affordable recreation needs to be accessible. "Now, more than ever, families need somewhere to go where it doesn’t cost money. We need to become more of a community," she said. Nixon said all of the existing playground equipment in Everett is found north of County Road 5, making it a long and dangerous walk for young children. At an Adjala-Tosorontio council meeting last week, the group of residents pitched a proposal to work with the township to get the equipment installed. Coun. Joy Webster said she was impressed with the initiative the group has shown. "They want to see a partnership. They didn’t come banging on the door looking for money," Webster said. The group, which is a subcommittee of the Everett Parks and Improvement Committee, is more interested in getting the ball rolling now, Nixon said. Nixon said the group is willing to look at fundraising and other necessary steps to make the park a reality. Council directed staff to meet with the group to determine how and where equipment could be placed on the land. The group has set up a Facebook page to keep the community advised as to how the project is progressing. It is called "Neighbours for a Park on Dekker Street" and can be found by typing the name into the search bar at the popular social networking site (


Store window smashed by thieves

The owners of a convenience store in Tiny Township were left cleaning up a bit of a mess when they arrived at work Saturday morning. Just after 4 a.m. on Feb. 28, Southern Georgian Bay OPP officers responded to a call of mischief at the Jug City store at 594 Champlain Rd. “Police met the operators of the store, who had arrived only to find that the large front window had been smashed,” said Const. Peter Leon in a news release. Damage to the window is estimated at $3,500. A quantity of merchandise was also stolen. Police are asking anyone with information to contact the OPP at 526-3761 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).


Students trapped on crashed bus for two hours

Students were trapped in a school bus for about two hours after it crashed into a hydro pole near Utopia this afternoon. The crash occurred on the 6th Line of Essa between the 25th and 30th Sideroads just after 3 p.m. when the bus entered the ditch and struck a hydro pole, downing power lines and preventing them from leaving the vehicle. Emergency crews had to wait until the hydro lines were shut down before they could remove the students. By about 5 p.m., the students were transferred to another school bus. The bus that crashed was from St. Joan of Arc High School in Barrie.  Police and Essa firefighters are currently on the scene. It is still unclear how many students were on the bus. One person was seen being taken off the bus on a stretcher, and will be taken to Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. There is no word yet on the extent of the injuries. Police blocked the 6th Line at both the 30th and 25th and are not allowing anyone in. Parents started arriving at the barricades while the children were still in the bus. One woman reported that her daughter was a passenger on the bus and that she called her on her cell phone. The girl reported the bus was “on its side” in the ditch and the students were being kept on the bus at the time.


Funds for daycare

A daycare being displaced from OPP Headquarters will own the new building that will serve as its home, thanks to a $1.4 million gift from the province. “No landlord will ever be able to shut us down again,” said Lucille Desjardins, director of Treasure Island Daycare. Desjardins has learned the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is committing $1.4 million toward the construction of a new facility in West Ridge. “They are putting up the bricks and mortar,” she said. The announcement followed months of uncertainty, as the non-profit daycare sought to secure funding based on a commitment of support from the Minister of Children and Youth Services. Desjardins persisted with regular e-mails to the government and the media, determined to keep the issue front and centre. This week she learned that another ministry would instead provide the all-important funding. “We are very, very happy,” she said. The $1.4 million grant will be administered through the County of Simcoe, but falls $300,000 short of the total building cost. As a result, the daycare will finish the basement on its own and cover a portion of the start-up costs, Desjardins added. Officials are now working with builder Angelo Orsi to determine a construction timeline, saying the funding delay will push the opening date to November or December. The daycare was to leave OPP Headquarters by the end of June. “We will need an extension, and the ministries are prepared to deal with that without my having to go to the (the province),” Desjardins added. “I am very happy about that.” The daycare serves more than 120 clients and has another 100 families on a waiting list. In September it was ordered to vacate OPP Headquarters by Jan. 31 following a security review, but won an extension after daycare officials made public their concerns. The new, 8,500 square foot facility will be named the West Ridge Early Education Centre. It will sit on a two-acre property west of Highway 11, along Harvie Settlement Road.


Council members raise concerns over special meeting

Two members of Collingwood council have raised concerns over the calling of a special meeting of council that is slated for this Monday. Mayor Chris Carrier has called a special meeting of council for Monday at 9 a.m., at the Royal Canadian Legion. The meeting is to hear a presentation from Brig-Gen. Denis Thompson and Chief Warrant Officer Christopher White about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. Deputy Mayor Sandra Cooper said the content of the meeting isn’t the issue but she is concerned that once again the mayor has scheduled a meeting and announced it to the public without the rest of council having any knowledge. "Council wasn’t aware of it until he sent out the press release," she said. Cooper said when special meetings are called, it would be nice if "we could see the agenda before it goes out to the media. You pick up the newspaper and you read it." This is the second time in the past several weeks that Cooper has raised concerns about not receiving information before it’s released to the public. Cooper voiced her displeasure with Carrier sending out a press release on Collingwood Ethanol before it was sent to council. She said the meeting on Monday should have been scheduled as an informal session, open to the public, but not a special meeting of council. "I would look at it a different way. I think I would have had it informal," she said. "It’s not questions of us being asked." Carrier said the representatives from the military contacted the municipality to do a deputation but were unable to make the regular 5 p.m. council meeting. He said this would allow them to make their presentation to council and the community. Carrier said he had only received concerns from Counc. Ian Chadwick. Chadwick was concerned with the timing of the meeting, saying he will be unable to attend because of work commitments. However, he said he thinks special meetings should only be called to deal with municipal business. "Special meetings should be held for matters of urgent municipal business," he said. "This is nothing against the military."


Proposed break for businesses rebuffed

MIDHURST – Simcoe County councillors opted not to give employers a tax break this year for fear of the impact on homeowners. Instead, county councillors will contemplate how to reduce the tax burden for business and industry at a strategic planning session Tuesday. And they’ll have a year to consider how to implement any ideas that may emerge as the county sets tax ratios – how to allocate the tax levy among the various property classes, such as residential, commercial, farm, pipeline and industrial. Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier had urged the mayors and deputy mayors of the county’s 16 member municipalities to give business extra care this year, as the recession stresses companies. He said the county has room to move to make its tax ratios more fair, as businesses bear not only a large share of the municipal tax, but also six to 10 times more than a residential taxpayer in education taxes. “We have significant employers looking toward all levels of government to offer stimulus and be more fair,” he said Tuesday. “We’re a long, long way from the (provincially recommended) range of fairness. What I’m asking is the moving forward of the bylaw (setting taxes) be held off until we collectively discuss this.” His motion, however, failed, and county councillors set the new taxes effective March 24. “I’m not opposed to what Coun. Carrier is suggesting, (but) we really need to see the actual effect on a number of municipalities. My community is 95 per cent residential,” said Tiny Township Mayor Peggy Breckenridge. “It’s probably not too bad, but without the numbers, how can we move forward?” Switching the ratio slightly would cost residents a few dollars more, while sparing companies with higher assessments much more. It would impact municipalities differently, depending on their makeup. Collingwood, with its diverse employment and industrial base, would benefit, while Tiny, which is largely residential, would see its support to the county rise. Two weeks ago, Essa Township Mayor David Guergis highlighted a Barrie company that was poised to build two plants in Essa, but went to the United States instead, where taxes were lower and municipal regulations fewer.


Four more doctors mulling Midland move

This is going to be a banner year for physician recruitment in Southern Georgian Bay, predicts David Gravelle. The physician recruitment officer told The Mirror he already has one family doctor scheduled to start July 1, and several other potential candidates who are currently scoping out the area. “We just sent him a contract this week, and he has confirmed he is coming,” Gravelle said, adding two other doctors will be coming for visits in May to look for homes. “They haven’t signed contracts yet, but I am optimistic the reason they’re coming to look at real estate is because they’re going to move here.” Gravelle noted he had a fourth visit scheduled for April 6, but it was cancelled due to the weather. “We’re very optimistic that this is probably going to be one of our best years for recruitment for our community. We didn’t have a great year last year – it’s a big decision for them to move, and it just didn’t line up – (but) people who were looking at coming last year are probably going to make it in 2009.” The Southern Georgian Bay Physician Recruitment program currently has four incentives to lure prospective doctors to the area: • a paid visit to the community; • a $20,000 financial incentive (spread out over two years); • relocation costs; • a welcome package from the community that includes gym and golf club memberships, boat slips, curling memberships and more. “Our toe is just in the water in terms of incentives,” he pointed out, noting some communities in the province offer no incentives, but have unique attractions like a teaching centre. However, he added, others – such as Brockville and Hastings County – offer a $150,000 cash incentive. “We’ve never contemplated that. We don’t have that kind of money. Those are major county-wide initiatives, and our community has said this is (just) a bit of a helping hand to pay off debt or buy furniture for your home.” Despite the money being spent on incentives, Gravelle said he doesn’t believe the Midland-Penetanguishene area is buying doctors. “We’re basically just helping them get their practice started,” he said. “When a doctor comes to our area, I don’t think the money plays a big role in it. I think it’s the lifestyle, being able to have a diverse career, to do family medicine and ER, or hospitalist…. It’s one of our unique selling points.” The other key selling feature, he said, is the opportunity to live where they would play. “A unique selling feature is the community that we have to offer – that Southern Georgian Bay lifestyle that we all live and love.” It’s because of that, he said, that he doesn’t get frustrated when he “loses” a doctor to another community. “All I try to do is put our best foot forward. If they come, they come,” he said. “If there’s a doctor that’s going just for the money, that’s probably a doctor that we don’t want in our community.” Gravelle said he doesn’t believe any of the doctors that have opted to come to the area did so solely because of a cash incentive. “I don’t think we’ve recruited anyone who is here for the money. The people who have come here have come because they were recruited by me, in conjunction with a colleague that was already here, or they had visited the community and (determined it) was a perfect fit.” As for the ethics behind offering cash incentives to bring a doctor to a community, Gravelle said he looks at the challenge the same as if he were a corporate headhunter. “I look at a physician as a large business owner who has staff, suppliers, etc. (It’s similar to) recruiting a vice-president.” Gravelle has researched what companies do to recruit executives, and he said it’s similar to physician recruitment. “In the corporate world … it’s all about the money, and money is status. We haven’t gotten to that point because, at the end of the day, doctors are civil servants,” he said. “(Offering incentives is) ethical (and) it’s proper, but there has to be a balance. I’ve never gotten into a bidding war with another community. We don’t negotiate it.” The goal for the 2009 fiscal year, he noted, is to recruit four to five doctors, a number he said the program is in line to meet. “We have the financial resources to recruit that many. If we did that, we would be in great shape,” he said, noting the program recruited one family doctor and three emergency room doctors last year. Gravelle will be heading to Halifax next week, where he will lead a session on incentives at the Canadian Association of Staff Physician Recruiters’ fifth annual conference. “It will foster discussion,” he said. “If we all work within (the) code, then what we’re doing in terms of recruitment, we (will be) doing it as ethically and morally as possible.”


Council approves Denmark development

Meaford council at its planning meeting on March 16 approved a small four-unit residential development on Denmark Street. Council held a public meeting to consider a re-zoning request for two vacant lots located on Denmark Street. The re-zoning implemented a consent severance on the two lots that added a small amount of property from one lot to the other in order to create more evenly sized lots. The re-zoning will allow four semi-detached residential units to be constructed on the properties, with two units on each property. On one side of the properties is a Rogers Cable control box and on the other side is a municipal waste treatment facility. Directly to the rear of the properties is the Georgian Trail and steep banks that lead to the Bighead River. There were no objections to the proposed re-zoning at the meeting. Both Grey County and Grey Sauble Conservation Authority planners were satisfied with the development proposal. Municipal planners said the proposal meets all Official Plan and provincial policies requirements and recommended its approval. Steve Doherty is the proponent for the development and he spoke briefly to council about his plans for the properties. "We want to put something in there that will complement the other buildings on that street," he said. "They will be attractive one-storey buildings that will appeal to seniors. We feel that the impact on the surrounding area will be negligible. They idea is to drive by in two years and you would think those buildings have always been there," he explained. Councillor Jim McPherson raised the only concern at the meeting on behalf of the Georgian Trail Board of Management. McPherson noted that the re-zoning is changing the rear setbacks from the Trail from nine metres to 8 metres. On one portion of one lot the rear set back will be as low as two metres due to the curvature of the Trail. As a result one of the units will have a smaller backyard than the others. McPherson – the Vice-Chair of the Board – said the Board is concerned that drainage from the property will flow onto the Trail. He said this has happened with other developments close to the Trail. Doherty said he understood the concern, but didn’t think the development would cause any drainage issues. "There’s not going to be anymore water draining than there is now. The lots already slope to the back (towards the trail)," said Doherty. Other members of council were pleased to approve the proposed development. "It’s an excellent proposal for this property that’s been sitting vacant for years growing up in brush," said councillor Gerald Shortt. Deputy Mayor Mike Traynor was particularly pleased to see efforts by the proponent of the development to fit into the community. "I like what the developer is doing here to take the time during the planning stage to create something that will compliment the area," said Traynor. The zoning bylaw amendment was passing unanimously by council.