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A touch of Italy in Barrie

When in Rome, one can do as the Romans, but Barrie now offers the opportunity to experience a touch of Italy as well. The new Monte Carlo Inn Barrie Suites will bring the growing chain’s unique Mediterranean flavour to Simcoe County for the first time. “A lot of hotels in North America are standard square boxes and all look alike,” says Monte Carlo Inns founder and president Dominic Meffe, who opened his first hotel in Mississauga in the mid-1980s. “I figured we needed a chain of hotels that has a different flair to it. Not just to give our customers wallpaper and a bed, but to give them more value for their money.” Among its 80 or so rooms, the new Hart Drive property features theme suites with whirlpools as a prominent feature. “These rooms have a huge whirlpool in the middle of the room with steps and four pillars,” says Meffe, who immigrated to Canada in 1965 and immediately got to work shovelling driveways and then delivering pizzas to hotels and motels. In his own travels, he noticed the luxury tubs were traditionally tucked away in a washroom. In his hotels, he brings them onto centre stage allowing bathers to enjoy natural light, the ambiance of a nearby fireplace, or a great view of their big-screen television. “It’s where you want to be,” he states. Although there are rooms that are more simply appointed for the corporate or leisure traveller, individual theme suites are elaborate European-style sets inviting guests to relax and immerse themselves in the whimsical romance of the interlude. The Romeo and Juliet suite, for example, wouldn’t be the same without a balcony. The suite, popular with newlyweds, features an iron railing leading up to the mezzanine-level bedroom. The Roman, Renaissance, Louis XIV and other suites all offer their own particular characteristics. “I strongly believe people in North America not only enjoy travelling to Europe, but also like to have a European flavour here – in their food, clothing and cars,” Meffe explains. “If it works in everything else, why wouldn’t it work with hotel rooms?” All guest rooms offer marble vanities and a morning newspaper. A microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board are also included. With the Botticelli Ristorante Bar & Grill on site (which local residents are also invited to frequent), room-service is available until late in the evening so the Italian and international cuisine can be enjoyed in private as well. In the morning, all guests are provided with a complimentary breakfast buffet they can take to the dining room or onto the patio. For business travellers, in-room work stations with high-speed wireless internet are widely available. The hotel’s business centre also supports corporate guests with on-site computers, printers, phone and fax services. Local calls are complimentary. Several meeting rooms can accommodate groups who require a main conference space that can seat up to 140 in a classroom configuration, with a couple of break-out areas for smaller groups of 25 to 35. Like the other gathering rooms, the large board room, with a fixed table, has French doors to a patio where a catered lunch can be served, and access to state-of-the-art presentation equipment. The in-house event planner can help function organizers, corporate visitors and leisure travellers with all their requirements, including visits to area attractions like golf courses and ski resorts. When not working, guests can head to the exercise room which offers a choice of equipment and a television with cable. The salt-water pool is nestled in a solarium to maximize sunshine all year round – even when the outdoor sundeck is covered in snow. “People are smart,” observes Meffe. “If they’re paying the same price for a standard box, why wouldn’t they go for it? People really appreciate the value.” Since its premiere, the privately owned Monte Carlo Inns has opened six additional hotels across the Greater Toronto Area. A new Markham location is scheduled to open a year after the Barrie property. “Barrie is a popular city – a good, lovely city,” says Meffe. “It made sense.” For more information, visit www.MonteCarloInns.com.


CRM offers plumbing services

Used to heading out of the house to work, plumber Che MacInnis was curious when his own toilet refused to flush a couple of years ago. “Cow,” said his three-year-old son Colbin. “Cow.” Indeed, further investigation revealed the plastic toy farm animal. During his 25-year career, the president of CRM Mechanical has fished a variety of toy cars and stuffed animals out of drains, but spends more time constructing new plumbing systems than maintaining existing ones. “I work throughout Simcoe County and down into the northern GTA (Greater Toronto Area),” MacInnis says about his Innisfil-based company. Although he does service and renovation projects for the residential and light-commercial markets, the Newfoundland native works mostly on new custom-home sites. That’s where he gets to source out and install interesting products you usually only see in magazines, he says, recalling a $3,000 faucet for one such home. Other specialty items have included hydronic heating systems (like radiant floor or towel rack heaters), showers with built-in vertical spas, multiple shower heads and body sprays, and dog washes which incorporate a shower base and hand-held faucet into the garage. Having grown up with a father in the construction industry, he spent most summers on site as a labourer. “I always had an interest in the trades,” he recalls. “I had the opportunity for plumbing, stuck with it and didn’t look back.” When he and wife Michelle, who is currently finishing up her accounting designation, first came to Ontario, they landed in a basement apartment in Toronto. Between jobs, he asked his neighbour (a plumber) for work. To test him out, he gave him a shovel and told him to spend the day backfilling a trench.  The next day, when he showed up sore but willing to work, he was hired. Soon thereafter his five-year apprenticeship began. MacInnis opted for the additional two years required to obtain his Masters designation, which authorizes him to do additional design and consultation. That big-picture outlook would come in handy to home owners, he says, when they’re in the planning stage of a renovation project. “Unfortunately, plumbing often goes last, after the walls are finished,” he says. “If the plumber was consulted earlier in the process, some design catastrophes could be avoided.” He remembers, for example, coming into a project where the home-owner had no choice but to put the tub up against the vanity – an untraditional choice. “But without ripping something out, they’re stuck,” he adds. Originally working for another plumber, he saw an opportunity about six years ago to begin his own business full time, so he took it. With a college education in business, he went forward with expertise in both sides of the company. Having been working on some job sites in the Innisfil area, MacInnis and his wife, who hadn’t yet had their son or Regan, their daughter (now seven), moved up here as quickly as they could. “I like the slower pace and the outdoors,” he says of his adopted home. “It also feels a little bit closer to where I grew up.” Now well established (he gets so many referrals he doesn’t need to advertise), MacInnis works hard to further his reputation by infusing integrity and quality workmanship in every project. For more information, call MacInnis at 705-720-0747.


Onley praises rec centre’s accessibility

It was a homecoming of sorts for Lt.-Gov. David Onley. Born in Midland, the Queen’s provincial representative was the guest of honour at a gala Accessibility Day event held at the Innisfil Recreational Complex Tuesday. Onley, who uses a motorized scooter as result of a childhood illness, was led into the packed gymnasium by an honour guard of South Simcoe Police officers. “It’s a real pleasure to be here,” Onley said to an audience composed of hundreds of both able bodied, and individuals living with a disability. “What a spectacular complex this is,” he said. “You can be proud of this facility that sets a standard across the province for accessibility. I’ve defined accessibility as one that allows people to reach their full potential. One of the things that makes Ontario great is we can help people reach their full potential.” Onley stated, “We now have 1.8 million people, 15 per cent of the population of Ontario, with some type of disability. If you take into account their families, more than 50 per cent of our population is affected.” Providing accessibility means more than “curb cuts and wheelchair parking spots,” Onley added. “Physical activity is a vital part of any lifestyle. For people with disabilities, this can be a real challenge. By ensuring this complex is fully accessible, you have given disabled the opportunity. I applaud everyone in Innisfil for living in such an inclusive community.” Onley’s words resonated with people such as Margaretta Papp-Belayneh, chairperson of the Innisfil Accessibility Advisory Committee, who helped organize the event. “As we are all getting older, we are facing the grey tsunami,” Papp-Belayneh, who is legally blind, said. “We started planning this program seven months ago with our partners including the Barrie, Simcoe Advisory Committees, Simcoe County Accessibility Network, Simcoe County Association for the Physically Disabled, Simcoe County Museum and the YMCA and it blossomed into Accessibility Day. We’re taking baby steps every day to promote accessibility.” Onley’s visit was inspirational for Rick Winson of Innisfil, who lives a very active life in a wheelchair. “Having the Lieutenant Governor join us today is wonderful,” Winson said. “We tried to get him here for the (November 2008) opening of the rec centre, but he wasn’t available. This was our plan number 2. It’s an honour to have him here.” Visitors to the complex could also obtain information and product displays from a variety of social service agencies that work with the disabled, and participate in several physical activities conducted by the YMCA. “It’s my fourth time meeting the Lieutenant Governor this year,” Papp-Belayneh said. “He always makes us aware of the larger world and how people with disabilities can fit in.”


Student volunteers wrap week of fun Sunday

A week of fun for a group of students to celebrate National Volunteer Week will wrap up this Sun., April 26 with a special event at the Gibson Centre in Alliston. The Gibson Centre for Community Arts and Culture and CONTACT’s Volunteer South Simcoe are hosting the second annual Community-Wide Volunteer Appreciation Event to celebrate and recognize the contribution of South Simcoe volunteers. The highlight of the week for a group of students was likely a “Survivor” type challenge last Sunday out back of the Alliston Fire Station as firefighters provided some equipment and set up challenges for a group of young high school volunteers taking part in the week’s festivities. Sunday, some of those same kids, who are participating in the ChangeTheWorld Ontario Youth Volunteer Challenge in South Simcoe, take to the stage in the Honda Performance Hall at the Gibson Centre for a special performance of dance, art, music and theatre. The event starts with a dessert and wine reception at 6 p.m. while the performance begins at 7:15 p.m. Earlier in the day, the students will be taking part in a “Day of Art” at the Gibson Centre. ChangeTheWorld Ontario Youth Volunteer Challenge is a way for teens to make a difference in their lives and in their communities by volunteering. The Day of Art Sunday is one of several events participating students have taken part in to mark National Volunteer Week.


Managing change an art

A change-or-else directive to employees doesn’t work, says in-demand keynote speaker Nancy Sova, who heads Imagine Success Consulting. “In order for someone to change, people have to know the reasons why,” Sova explains. “How it benefits them and how it aligns with their personal values, and how it adds value to the organization.” Using fear and intimidation is counterproductive. “They’re the lifeblood,” she adds, describing the people in an organization. “If they don’t see how they make a difference, then they’re not going to be able to take pride in their work and take ownership for the quality of work – that’s what it boils down to.” After a career developing training programs and change-management strategies in-house for an Ontario school board, Sova’s reputation began circulating in corporate circles as well. “I’ve had requests over the last six or seven years to speak at conferences,” recalls Sova, who finally set up her own corporate training company a year ago. “Back in the ‘80s, no government agency, including schools boards, was service oriented.” Later, when the paradigm shifted, she realized a “huge piece was missing” and began to introduce leadership and development training focused on soft skills. Over the years, she has become certified in many aspects of adult education, including Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Cognitive Coaching. “I love to learn how adults learn,” she says. “I have a thirst and curiosity about it.” With her extensive facilitation and presentation skills, she provides empowering and inspiring talks about navigating change, personal success strategies, building collaborative cultures, effective communication strategies and process improvement (among other topics). Her corporate-training initiatives are customized programs that track change. “It doesn’t happen overnight,” she warns. “I don’t give band-aid solutions. It takes at least a year or two to reach business goals.” In a large organization, she says it can take up to a decade to really see a culture change because of the large group of people involved. “At six months, we measure the change in behaviours, skills, knowledge and attitudes that the program was designed to do,” she explains, saying the data can be gathered by surveys, one-on-one conversations or through focus groups. “It depends on the culture, size and availability.” Throughout the process, she follows up with coaching. “And then at a year, I measure the effect on the organization as a whole.” If the company wanted to increase productivity by 10 per cent, for example, that’s what she examines. The process can be scalable for smaller companies, she says, which tends to produce much quicker results. Regardless, it’s important all levels of corporate responsibility support the programming. “It’s very much a partnership,” Sova says. “If the senior management isn’t walking the talk, it’s not going to work. When I go into a business, I’m really straight with them.” Working throughout the province, Sova has scheduled programs at the Gibson Centre in Alliston, and presents regularly in Barrie. For more information, visit www.imaginesuccess.ca.


Kevin Lord fundraiser Saturday

The annual Kevin Lord Memorial Beeton Ball Hockey League fundraiser is being held this Saturday night. This year’s fundraiser is at the Beeton Arena May 2. Proceeds from the event benefit the Beeton Ball Hockey League and the Simcoe-Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. The event is held annually in memory of Kevin Lord, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2006. In addition to supporting cancer research and treatment, the concert also raise money for local ball hockey players. Tickets are $20 and include a buffet meal, silent auction, and entertainment by the Wheat Kings, Nicole Scott and teenage band, Lights of the Deep. To attend the dance, people must be over 19 years of age, but minors can attend until 9 p.m. The event starts at 7 p.m., with a buffet meal at 8 p.m. Tickets are available in Beeton at Second Chances/Sears, the Muddy Water Tavern, and Simcoe-York Printing and Publishing, In Alliston tickets are available at the Hornet’s Nest Bar in the New Tecumseth Recreation Complex. They can also be bought by calling 905-729-2204 or 905-729-3111.


Essex wins Schmalz Cup with 7-0 win

The Essex 73’s  hammered the Alliston Hornets 7-0 in game four of the Schmalz Cup Championship series to claim the provincial title. Essex led the series three games to none headed into tonight’s contest. 1st Period Essex once again got on the board early  in this one with a goal by Tanner Gallant as he tipped in a shot from the point. Then 5:49 into the first, Mike Roach made it 2-0 for the 73’s with a backhanded shot to the left side of the Alliston net.  2nd Period Early in the second, Wes Tan made it 3-0 for Essex on a strange shot he made from the point that just sort of crawled into the net past Hornet goaltender Troy Dowswell. Then 9:09 into the frame, the 73’s Mick Mariani scored  to advance Essex to a 4-0 lead as the game continues to play out similar to the last 6-0 pounding the 73’s handed the Hornets in game three. A slapshot from the point resulted in the 73’s fifth goal before the period ended. Although Dowswell started in net for the Hornets, Breton MacKinnon is now between the pipes to finish it. At the other end of the rink, Essex goaltender Branden Robitaille has now played seven periods of straight hockey against the Hornets without a goal being scored on him. 3rd Period Essex scored their sixth goal with about eight minutes left in the game.  The seventh Essex marker came with about three minutes left in the game. The 73’s were hungry for the win which gave them the Jr. C Schmalz Cup Championsip title after losing it last year by a single goal in overtime in game seven of the series against the same Alliston Hornets squad. The victory gave the 73’s an historic record sixth provincial Junior C title, two more than Belle River, Collingwood and Newmarket who all sit with four. Collingwood and Newmarket no longer have Jr. C teams. It’s also Essex’s third provincial title since 2002. Watch for a full seriees wrap up with comments from coaching staff and players by Brian Lockhart in your Tuesday edition of the Alliston Herald.


Rock used to smash school window

A rock was used to smash a window in a portable classroom at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Alcona over the weekend, South Simcoe Police say. Police are still trying to determine if anything was stolen from the school portable. Video surveillance footage of the school grounds on Anna Maria Avenue will be viewed by police and school officials in an effort to identify suspects. Anyone with information should call police at 436-2141 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Impaired bike rider charged A 45-year-old Innisfil man out for a joy ride on a dirt bike ran afoul of police when they spotted him riding without a helmet, with no lights, and on the wrong side of Innisfil Beach Road Monday just before 11 p.m. The man was riding a 1982 Suzuki dirt bike approaching St. John’s Road. When officers questioned the man, they noticed he had a blank stare in his eyes and was slow to answer questions. He was arrested and taken back to South Division headquarters where a breath test was given. His alcohol content was in excess of 80 mgs and a charge of impaired operation of a motor vehicle was laid. He’s due to appear in Bradford court on June 11. Marine equipment stolen About $18,000 in marine equipment was stolen from a Commerce Park Drive business early Saturday morning. Suspects broke into a secured compound and carted the equipment away, South Simcoe Police say. However, most of the stolen goods were recovered a short distance away. Police believe security officers in the area may have disrupted the getaway. Driver ditches vehicle Police were dispatched to help a driver whose vehicle ended up in a ditch along the 20th Sideroad at approximately 2:40 a.m. on Friday, Apr. 24. It turned out the male driver had been drinking and a roadside breath test was ordered. The man failed. He was taken back to the police station where a second breath test confirmed he had a reading of more than 80 mgs. of alcohol in his bloodstream. The man was charged and released from custody with a promise to appear in court.


Residents ask why water table is so high?

Property owners experiencing water damage in the Bay Colony subdivision of Wasaga Beach prompted a last-minute meeting Monday night where they asked experts for answers. At the meeting, organized by the Town of Wasaga Beach, victims of flooding had the chance to voice their concerns to council and ask questions of engineers and other experts, including representatives of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA). Residents in the Bay Colony subdivision, located off 45th Street, began experiencing water problems in February. Problems worsened and last month, as more and more houses were experiencing flooding, the Bay Colony Ratepayers Association was resurrected. President Ed Pratt said there are eight homes in the area that have flooded septic systems and two that have severe structural damage. Dozens more have flooded basements. Some of the residents have lived in their homes for almost 40 years and say they have never experienced any flooding. Many do not even have sump pumps, as it was not required when the homes were built, and have discovered their insurance companies will not cover the damage. Paul Kusznirewicz lives on Wildwood Drive. "I’ve lived here 20 years and never had a problem," he said. The footings at Kusznirewicz’s home are now giving way, causing structural damage. Many of the residents in the area have hired Greg Nikolopoulos of Canadian Wet Basement Solutions. "It’s very unusual to see it like this, one by one by one," said Nikolopoulos. "It doesn’t make any sense. He said his crews are working overtime to keep up with demand and not just in Wasaga Beach. In Clearview Township, one of his clients is pumping almost 1,200 gallons of water per hour from a house. Experts say the problems are caused by a high water table. "It’s not an exact science," said NVCA engineering and technical services director Glenn Switzer. He said he doesn’t know what is causing the high water table but theorizes that three heavy snowfalls followed by warm cycles causing large melts could have something to do with it. "The rate of the event allowed more water to go into the groundwater table," he said adding that a cool summer with above average rainfall didn’t help. He said Wasaga Beach is not in this alone and he is fielding calls from people all over the NVCA’s territory. Pratt and many others attending the meeting said they believe construction in the area is a factor. Residents said water is not flowing through Trillium Creek as it should and they question the installation of the culvert at 45th Street, where Ramblewood Drive and Knox Rd. W. meet. "There were two thunderstorms last week and I bet you one bucket of water didn’t make it to Trillium Creek. The water is not leaving Bay Colony," said Pratt. He said his main concern is for the people in the neighbourhood who cannot flush their toilets and who have been advised to boil their water because of the flooded septic systems. Bryan and Susan McKenzie have had their lives affected by flooding. Their home is wheelchair accessible to meet the needs of their disabled child and they have a special shower in the basement. Bryan said he did all he could to stop the water from coming into his basement. He installed a back-up generator and got a back-up sump pump but his home still flooded.   "We can talk about it but we’ve got to do something immediately," said Pratt. Mayor Cal Patterson said he will wait for staff to compile a report based on Monday night’s meeting and hopes to have something back by Tuesday when council will meet next.