Blackhawks win OMHA title

The Collingwood Hanna Motors Atom AE Blackhawks were crowned OMHA Champions last week by defeating New Hamburg in the finals. The members of the team are: Tyler Atkinson, Hazen Mercer, Ethan Parent, Morgan Lewis, Joesph Sammon, Justin Mills, Brandon Piroli, Jarryd Ling, Nicholas Sammons, Adam Leal, Jaden Dankevy Jacob Kranjec, William Hanna, David Evans and Dylan Demers. The coaching staff is Peter Sammon, Steve Sammons, Adam Parent, Peter Atkinson and Steve Lewis. Contributed Photo/Tempo Photography


Pets perish in fire

Two dogs and two cats died in a house fire close to the base of Blue Mountain last weekend. The Blue Mountains Fire Department responded to a fire at 128 Brooker Blvd. on Friday at 10:37 a.m. on Friday, March 6. When fire crews arrived, the entire back wall and roof of the two-storey home was on fire. No one was home at the time of the fire and a neighbour placed the emergency call. Fire Prevention Officer A.J. Lake said crews gained access to the roof space and were able to quell the flames quickly enough to reduce structural damage and content loss. Fire fighters tried to revive the pets, but were unsuccessful. A rabbit did survive the blaze. Lake estimated the loss from the fire at $180,000. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Men ‘jumped’ me, boy tells court

A teenager was punched, held underwater and had his earrings ripped out during a tussle over a controversial Balm Beach fence, a Midland court heard Tuesday. The boy, now 15, was the first witness called in the trial of John Marion and his son Greg. The boy cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The two Tiny Township men were charged with assault causing bodily harm after allegedly roughing up the then-14-year-old when he twice scaled a six-foot-high wooden fence to cross the Marion property. The youth shared his version of the events of July 24, 2008. “I saw a man charging out of the back door and screaming,” said the boy, referring to Greg Marion. “When he said, ‘Get the f*** off my property,’ I stepped in the water and said, ‘I’m not on your property.’” At that point, the Mississauga teen said before Judge Jon-Jo Douglas, Greg Marion “jumped” him and pushed him in the water, ripping out his diamond-stud earrings and pushing him under the surface. The boy also injured his right hand in the scuffle. “I was trying to keep my head above water because he was on top of me,” he said. “Then the older Marion came running out and struck me in the back of the head.” The boy’s account aligned with that of his father, who told Crown attorney Jennifer Armenise he saw Greg Marion speaking with his son, who was standing ankle-deep in the water at the time. “The gentleman in question lunged at my son,” said the man, pointing at Greg Marion in the courtroom when asked to identify the person he saw that day. Dressed casually in faded jeans and an untucked, striped dress shirt, Greg Marion had no visible reaction to the testimony. The alleged victim’s father said when another man entered the fray, taking a swing at his son, he was already sprinting to the scene to help. He pointed to John Marion, dressed for court in a grey sports coat and black slacks, as the second assailant. Defence attorney David Wilcox challenged the testimony, suggesting the younger boy threw the first punch when John Marion pushed him toward the water. “I didn’t punch him,” said the boy, shaking his head. In his cross-examination of the father, Wilcox offered up the theory that he was the aggressor, actually punching John Marion twice in the head after the initial fracas ended. “I never punched either one of them,” said the man, a self-employed contractor. Three witnesses to the altercation gave testimony that in some ways contradicted that version of events. Freda O’Brien, a Toronto resident vacationing at Balm Beach last July, said it was John Marion, not Greg, who first confronted the boy and “struck him with a closed fist.” Mike and Michelle Davis also pointed to John Marion as the initiator of the melee, although they differed as to whether he pushed or punched the boy. Michelle Davis told police at the time that it was a shove, but said Tuesday it was a punch. In addition, O’Brien and Mike Davis each stated the teen’s father threw punches during the incident, contradicting what he had stated earlier. “They were all punching,” said O’Brien. “It was a huge ball – just like you’d see in a cartoon – all arms and feet.” John Marion’s wife, Elisabeth, said it was her son Greg who first approached the boy as he crossed their property for the second time. As the pair spoke, she told the court, her husband walked toward the boy and pushed him toward the water. “All of a sudden, the boy took a swing,” she said. “Then he grabbed my husband by the shirt and swung him around.” She said the boy’s father quickly arrived and began hitting her husband and forcing his head underwater. “(John) got out from under him and crawled on his hands and knees up to the beach, and (the man) kept punching him in the back of the head,” she said. Elisabeth Marion testified she never saw her husband or son strike either the boy or his father. Armenise questioned Elisabeth Marion about the impact the long-running fence dispute has had on her life. Acrimony over public access to the beach in front of the Marions’ waterfront home has led to name calling and vandalism. “Living hell,” the longtime Balm Beach resident said of the last few years. The disagreement has seen a chainsaw used on a portion of the fence and a pellet gun fired at the Marions’ car, as well as a section of fence being set ablaze just 12 hours before the July 24 confrontation. The Crown has called all the witnesses on its list, while the defence will continue to present its case when the trial resumes May 28. tmealing@simcoe.com


Principals dismiss school rankings

The majority of Midland-area schools fared poorly in a Report Card on Ontario Schools, released earlier this week by the Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank. The report rated 2,778 elementary schools based on tests of reading, writing and mathematics administered by the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). Midland’s Monsignor Castex School received the highest local marks with an 8.1 overall rating out of 10 – up from 7.7 last year – while Penetanguishene’s James Keating Elementary School received the lowest. Its overall rating went down from 3.5 in 2007 to 2.5 in 2008. Janice McMurdo, principal at Huron Park Public School in Midland, did not want to comment on the Fraser Institute’s ranking of schools. She said she bases her evaluation of student progress on the school’s regular assessment program, report cards and the EQAO data. “From that,” she explained, “we build a school improvement plan and we work as professional teams to create programs designed to improve student achievement.” Debra Slingerland, principal at Canadian Martyrs School in Penetanguishene, said neither the school, the board, the provincial government nor EQAO supports the Fraser Institute’s use of the EQAO results to rank schools. “While the EQAO data is important to us and assists us in identifying areas of strength, as well as areas where we can improve, these numbers do not represent the whole story about our school community,” she told The Mirror. “Student learning is much more than just a numbers game,” she added. “We take great care and concern at Canadian Martyrs that we look at each individual student’s needs so that we can determine how we can work with our teachers and parents to ensure their ongoing success in school.” Tim Mallon, principal at Burkevale Protestant Separate School in Penetanguishene, said while he believes his school can do better on this assessment, he is pleased that scores have improved steadily since 2006. “One of my goals when I became Burkevale’s principal this year was to improve our results on the provincial literacy and math tests,” he said, adding EQAO results “are only a small snapshot of how effective a school is at educating the whole child.” David Clegg, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, described the report as a “flawed document” that should be given a failing grade by schools and parents. “Multiple-choice tests don’t accurately assess student knowledge,” he stated in a press release. Clegg added the best way for parents to find out how their children are doing is to talk to their teachers. Peter Cowley, the Fraser Institute’s director of school performance studies, said critics of the report too often excuse a school’s poor results by blaming them on socio-economic factors. By doing so, he noted, these critics are essentially writing off a student’s chances of success based on a family’s economic standing. “Every school should ensure that all its students meet the provincial standard in reading, writing and mathematics, no matter where the student lives or how much their parents earn,” he said. “Our report card allows parents to quickly and easily determine if their child’s school is improving or worsening academically.” Cowley pointed out that one purpose of the report card is to encourage schools to improve. – With files from Torstar News Services


Architects hired for new town hall

The Blue Mountains has hired Chamberlain Architects to design the new town hall.   At a regular meeting on Monday, March 23, council approved hiring Chamberlain as was recommended by staff. The Architectural firm based out of Burlington, Ontario, was one of 29 firms who responded to the request for proposals sent out by the town. They were added to a short list then selected to participate in a design competition with one other firm. Chamberlain,  according to the steering committee, had the best entry. Council approved a fee of $420,000 for Chamberlain to do the design consultation for the new town hall. The construction budget for the project, which was adopted in the 2009 budget, is $5.7 million. The total budget adopted for the 21,000 square foot building including design services, moving costs, LEED consulting, landscaping, demolition, furniture, fixtures and equipment is $7.9 million. The building will meet the standard for silver designation, according to the Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) green building rating system. Councillor Bob Gamble was opposed to hiring the architects, and Councillor Michael Martin was absent from the council meeting. David Finbow, director of planning and building services, presented a report to council on Monday including the progress of new town hall steering committee, established last year. Part of the report included an extensive history of the town hall site, prepared and presented by Rob Potter. The steering committee decided the new town hall should have a "Victorian industrial" theme and drew inspiration from Toronto’s brewery district. Chamberlain Vice President, John Knox, presented the preliminary designs to council. The architect’s idea for the new town hall was a two storey building with a large atrium or indoor street in the centre connecting the two halves and giving an open space from the front of the building to the rear, park-like public gathering space.


Hospital reaches out to community for help

Collingwood General & Marine Hospital could be in real trouble and has gone to the community for help. At a media focus group last week, Collingwood G&M Hospital president and CEO Linda Davis said the hospital is expecting a $600,000 deficit next year. This was originally expected to be a $1.2 million shortfall but the hospital managed to cut some costs. Davis said the hospital has a $40 million budget, 85 per cent of which is funded by the province, with the balance being covered by parking revenue. Davis said the province is expected to increase the hospital funding by 2.1 per cent this year. "If we don’t get it, we will be in significant trouble," Davis said. She said the 2.1 per cent isn’t a big help to the hospital, as nurses signed a new contract last year that included a three per cent raise. She said the hospital has few outlets to raise money to offset its operating costs as the Collingwood G&M Hospital Foundation can only fund capital projects that aren’t funded by the province. In an effort to generate some ideas, the hospital has held a series of focus groups over the past several weeks, including local residents, politicians and business people. The sessions were not only designed to gather ideas from the community, but to also offer some insight into the hospital’s financial picture. Davis said one of the problems the hospital has is that its funding doesn’t equal the number of people it serves. She said being a tourist area, the emergency room sees hundreds of visitors a year. "Twenty per cent of individuals who come through our ER aren’t from our catchment area," she said. Davis said the after-hours clinic and family health team has helped improve the situation in the ER as the number of non-urgent patients dropped over the past year. Another challenge G&M struggles with is space. It currently has 72 beds and is often running over capacity. Recently it had 83 people at the hospital with many of them lying on stretchers in the hallway. "That is not a good way to care for patients," she said. Davis said the hospital currently has four portables and could be expanding to five in the near future. She said another challenge is the lack of long-term care beds in the community. She said there are a lot of people in the hospital who don’t need to be in the hospital but have no place else to go. She said because of the population growth and the aging population in the area, this is expected to get worse. "We’re also aging faster," she said. In the focus groups there were nine priorities discussed including developing a communication plan for the hospital, educating the public about the costs of running the hospital, further improvement of services, expanding the amount of revenue generated by the hospital, seek ways to access more government funding, seek funding from other sources, attempt to decrease patient volumes, evaluate current services and divert some, and don’t stop major services. Davis said the groups had a number of ideas including a mobile clinic that would be stationed at Blue Mountain in the winter and Wasaga Beach in the summer, in an effort to divert some people from the ER. Another idea was to move some non-essential services such doing away with some non-essential services such as diagnostic testing to create more space. "Would you be able to travel for some of those services?" she said.


Minivan crash mystery solved

Police said a 34-year-old Beeton woman was twice the legal alcohol limit when she drove a minivan into a creek east of Tottenham last week. At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, New Tecumseth firefighters driving along the 4th Line discovered a minivan that had gone through a guardrail and into a creek. No driver or passenger was visible anywhere near the vehicle. Police searched the area and eventually found the alleged driver, a 34-year-old Beeton woman, at the side of the road about one kilometre from the crash. She had apparently walked away from the collision. The crash took out over 20 metres of guardrail. The woman is facing several charges, including impaired driving, driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08, failure to remain on the scene, failure to report an accident and taking a vehicle without owner’s consent. She was released pending a court appearance.


Community comes to aid of medical mission

Local physicians and health-care providers have proved a slowing economy is no impediment to generosity. Kim Buckley, an intensive-care nurse and nurse educator at the North Simcoe Hospital Alliance’s Huronia District Hospital site, will be heading to the Dominican Republic later this month on a medical mission with Dr. Marty McNamara. The pair wrote to local physicians and approached various hospital departments asking for assistance in collecting medical supplies for the trip. The outpouring, said Buckley, left her in awe. “It’s just been completely outstanding, and I am in awe of the people that work at the hospital,” she said. “There are good things going on (at the hospital) and good things going on in our community. “People are coming up and offering supplies,” she continued. “All I had to do was mention it and people bent over backwards…. Every department in our facility has dug into their pockets.” The pharmacy donated medications; the central dispatch department pulled together a variety of old surgical instruments no longer being used in the hospital; linen supply offered old bed sheets and patient gowns. Local pharmacies and physician offices have also stepped up to provide boxes of materials and medications. “It’s a great community outpouring,” Buckley said. “We’re able to see beyond what’s going on in our own town.” Buckley and McNamara, along with other volunteers, were at Georgian College in Barrie on April 5 packing up donated supplies. They leave for the trip April 28. nmillion@simcoe.com


Search warrants turn up stolen boats

Police arrested two men in connection with seven stolen boats found in Alliston and Adjala-Tosorontio in March. Police executed search warrants at properties in Alliston and Adjala-Tosorontio March 19, and found seven boats and three trailers, all of which are suspected stolen. Information from that search led to another property in Oro-Medonte, where April 1 police found another seven boats, a car hauler, a flatbed trailer and three outboard motors, all of which police suspect are stolen. The investigation was conducted by members of the Nottawasaga Street Crime Unit, the Provincial Auto Theft Team and the Central Region Rural Agriculture Crime Team.  Two men are facing charges of possession of stolen property over $5,000. Charged are a 30-year-old Mark Sweeney of Innisfil and a 53-year-old Raymond Arsic of Oro. They have court dates in May and June respectively to answer the charges.


Soldiers’ addresses safety charges

Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital appeared in provincial court Tuesday to face two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Officials said the charges stem from a Labour Ministry inspection last April, and relate to the storage of two oxygen cylinders and the disposal of one needle and a syringe. The hospital’s legal counsel is reviewing the charges, Orillia Today was told. “Our board and administration want the community to know that we take workplace safety very seriously and are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy environment for everyone who comes through our doors,” said Elisabeth Riley, the hospital’s president and CEO. Hospital spokesperson Terry Dyni said the two sides were setting a court date, and that the case could be months away from being heard. “We are of the understanding that it will be a matter of minutes that it will be spoken to today,” he added. “There will be no testimony or evidence provided today.” Hospital policy dictates that used needles and syringes are deposited in so-called “sharps” containers, plastic bins mounted on walls throughout the building. The lidded containers are made available as a safety measure, Dyni said. “It is to avoid people sticking themselves with needles,” he added. “You would never throw one in a garbage can or anything like that.” In the case investigated by the provincial labour inspector, a needle and syringe – the plunger-like device – were not stored in one of the protective containers, Dyni said. Oxygen tanks are frequently used in the hospital, and are subject to policies governing their handling and storage, he added. “In this instance, the inspector noticed that two of them were out of place,” he added. Officials in a statement issued Tuesday said staff receives ongoing safety education, and that the hospital supports “a culture of safety throughout the organization.” Achieving a healthy workplace and becoming a hospital known for patient safety are two of five priorities identified in Soldiers’ strategic planning process, officials noted. The hospital has a joint occupational health and safety committee, and the board has a quality and safety committee.