Simcoe County politicians are defending the distribution of a full-colour report, For the Greater Good, to every household in the region. At a cost of $192,641, the publication highlights services the county provides, not only for its ratepayers, but also the social and children’s programs and land ambulance services for Barrie and Orillia. At 24 pages, it cost the county 91 cents per copy to create and mail. Literally weeks after the county unveiled the report, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing urged municipalities to rely on non-print advertising. "As a recipient of public funds, your organization has an obligation to ensure that these funds provide value and are spent prudently," said Municipal Affairs and Housing deputy minister Fareed Amin. Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier, who didn’t support sending out the guide that he called a "sales pitch for a region," called the province irresponsible. "What a condescending, paternalistic letter from the province," he said. "For a letter like that to come from the province to elected officials is irresponsible. We are the most responsible level of government." Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes was also "taken aback" and defended the booklet. "I’d say the value for money exceeds other ways (of getting the message out)," Hughes said. "Some ratepayers seem to think we’re extravagant. I really think it’s the most cost-effective way to go." Carrier said For The Greater Good does meet a critical need by raising awareness of what the county does. "When (mayors and deputy mayors) go out and campaign, we’re not asked questions about the county," he said, acknowledging there’s a low level of public awareness about the children’s services, the long-term care housing, land ambulance, and Ontario Works programs, as well as the transportation and environmental services. However, Carrier suggested the county could get better value by distributing smaller reports on specific topics – such as garbage collection, road improvements or long-term care – or by adding more content into the waste management calendar it produces, which people keep and use all year. "I have that at home. We keep that, because it’s informative," he said. "(For The Greater Good) is a one-time thing. It would be interesting to see how many are in the recycling bin."
Employees at Midland’s Valu-Mart were busy the past two months raising money to help physically and developmentally challenged children. From Feb. 19 to March 10, the King Street grocery store sold paper icons to customers, with the proceeds going to the President’s Choice Children’s Charity. They also raised money through direct employee contributions. The store sold 1,244 icons totalling $2,488 for the charity. “You hear the stories (within) the company about the good the charity does,” said store owner Steve Maurice. “We manage to keep the money local. Every dollar donated goes to the families that need it. Nothing is held back.” The focus of the charity is to remove some of the obstacles that can make everyday living difficult, and to provide young people with a renewed sense of dignity, independence and freedom by providing funding for adaptive equipment, environmental modifications, therapy and more. The charity also funds Breakfast for Learning, helping ensure every child in Canada attends school well-nourished and ready to learn. “It’s amazing to be able to help children and their family who really need help,” Maurice said. “We at Valu-Mart are so proud to be able to help and to be a part of a wonderful organization … which helps kids right in our community.” email@example.com
Should local companies receive preferential treatment when bidding on tenders for municipal work? Harold and Patricia Huestis, owners of P&H Sweepline Services Inc., think so. The couple, who run a company that provides power sweeping, line marking and sign installation, are miffed because they recently lost a two year contract to supply durable pavement markings for the Town of Innisfil. Six companies bid on the tender, with submissions ranging from the lowest bid of $62,782.80 to $96,337.50. P&H quoted $66,888.65 and was the second lowest bid. The Huestis’ complained to their councillor, Peter Kmet, after the tender was awarded on March 25 to a Kitchener company. As a result, Innisfil council has been asked to consider a motion by Kmet, who has requested staff prepare a report to study the “feasibility of including a ‘local preference’ provision in the Town’s purchasing policy.” If Innisfil had a local preference clause, local companies would have a better chance of getting the job, even if they didn’t submit the lowest bid. The Stroud couple has operated their business for 12 years. Their client list is lengthy and large construction contractors from across southern Ontario often seek the firm out. “Every time I bid on stuff here and I’m really close, I never get it,” Harold Huestis says. “I’ve spoken to other business people in Innisfil who feel the same way. I employ a dozen local people, we all shop here and I get my trucks fixed in Innisfil. We all joined the new YMCA, too.” His wife and business partner, Patricia says, “We’re outraged. They’re not doing the right thing.” She’s upset that references supplied to the Town weren’t called. “They didn’t go to next level,” she says. “It’s like they blew us off like we’re nobodies.” When it comes to awarding tenders, “it’s generally been the rule of thumb to go with the lowest bid,” Mayor Brian Jackson says. But Jackson is open to giving local companies an edge, especially in a recession. “With the motion to look at local preference, in today’s economy, it’s something we’d like to accomplish,” he says. “It’s worthy of investigating if we have local taxpayers who are competitive and meet all other criteria to give them consideration.” The town already has a policy of not necessarily accepting the lowest bid on every project. Other criteria come into play, such as a company’s past performance. On the Town of Innisfil’s request for tender form, a clause states, “the Corporation of the Town of Innisfil … reserves the right to accept other than the lowest bid.” “We should support our local businesses within reason,” Kmet says. “P&H are local and they put money back into the community. If it was me, I would have looked at (the tender) a little closer, but it’s not for me to do (town staff’s) job, but to respect their decision.” The Huestis’ also have a supporter in Elmer Spring, owner of Spring Tree Farms on Innisfil Beach Road. “Work should be kept in house. When I was chasing work at the new rec complex and Town Hall, we couldn’t get the work,” Spring says. “I sent an e-mail to all of council and the Chamber of Commerce. I asked what happened. I thought our Town’s motto was ‘Live together, Work together, Play together’. It appears that they’re only following the ‘Live together’ part. We’re passing our competitors all the time on the road – they are coming into town and we’re heading out.” Ironically, P&H had the lowest bid on a job not long ago in another municipality about a half hour away from Innisfil. “We lost the job to a local firm,” Harold Huestis says. “I didn’t mind. I thought that was good the local guy got the work. I think they have the option to do that here.”
The Beaver Valley Outreach was robbed last week, and The Blue Mountains OPP are asking anyone with information to help them in their investigation. Sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning a thief or thieves broke into the Outreach building on Bruce St. in Thornbury and made off with cash, according to OPP. The Beaver Valley Outreach is a non-profit organization that currently orchestrates more than 20 programs in the community including homework club, kids club, youth music lessons, breakfast, lunch and snack programs at the local elementary school and a "treasure shop". Anyone with information about this crime may call The Blue Mountains OPP at (705) 445-4321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
Two private investigators based in Ramara Township are themselves under investigation and facing fraud charges, the OPP are reporting. Police in a statement Monday said two private investigation companies were hired by clients to delve into the backgrounds of unnamed individuals “for potential financial wrongdoings.” Police allege the owners of the two companies provided their clients with bogus financial account information about the people whom they were hired to investigate. The clients then acted on that information, police added. As a result of an investigation by the OPP Anti-Rackets branch, a 60-year-old Ramara Township man is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000. A 64-year-old township woman is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000. They are to appear in a Newmarket court on May 20.
MIDHURST – Simcoe County ended 2008 with a $5-million surplus, some of which will go to help the region’s growing poor, Warden Tony Guergis suggested. The initial plan was to evenly split that surplus, which resulted from unexpected provincial grants, between reserves and this year’s operating budget. But, with the tough economic times and increasing demand on social services, the county will likely use the unexpected cash to help struggling families. “There’s been a 20 per cent increase in demand on the social assistance programs the county provides,” said Guergis. “We’ve got a real crunch, and we have to prepare and try to adequately provide the level of service country residents expect, even in these tough economic times.” How the surplus will be spent this year is up to county council, which has its next regular meeting April 28. The county, bracing for an increase in its Ontario Works caseload, is planning to hire four temporary caseworkers, as well as help struggling families who don’t qualify for social assistance with unanticipated medical expenses. In January, the caseload reached 5,418, almost 700 more than a year before. In February, the caseload increased to 5,733, 18 per cent higher than the February 2008 level of 4,843. “Current numbers indicate that the present economic downturn is having a greater impact on social services than was originally anticipated so early on in the recession,” said Ontario Works director Jamie Moran. “Simcoe County has experienced an economic downturn much faster than was anticipated.” According to the 2009 Simcoe County Training Board’s Trends and Opportunities and Priorities report, the county has sustained a significant hit due to numerous business closures, job losses and layoffs, particularly in the manufacturing and auto sectors. Traditionally, these have been higher-paying jobs, meaning laid-off workers are finding themselves in a difficult financial situation, Moran added. They are turning to Ontario Works, only to find it does not meet their financial needs, he continued, and they must also look into upgrading and retraining programs. County council is also expected to bolster some health-related benefits for low-income individuals not receiving social assistance, including emergency dental coverage, dentures and eyeglasses. Requests for help from families not qualified for social assistance are up. “Often, these callers have no other resources and are calling our office as a last resort,” said Greg Bishop, the county’s children’s and community services manager. “Unfortunately, we must advise these people in need the county has no funding available, unless they are a recipient of social assistance. Furthermore, staff is at a loss as to where these residents can go to access assistance.” Bishop proposed using $100,000 from a provincial child-benefit restructuring fund to help low-income families who do not qualify for Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. Some families in need are low-income earners, while others receive employment insurance or disability. firstname.lastname@example.org
Simcoe County District School Board staff is recommending the closure of Stayner Collegiate Institute, Elmvale District High School and Penetanguishene Secondary School. The recommendation is in a report by associate director Lou Brandes, the board’s superintendent of facility services. The report was released Thursday and presented to the board’s facility standing committee yesterday (Tuesday). The board reviewed three recommendations made by an accommodation review committee (ARC) struck to consider enrolment and facility issues relating to five area high schools over the past year. It reviewed high schools in Collingwood, Stayner, Elmvale, Midland and Penetanguishene. Wasaga Beach was also considered in the review as a possible school site. The ARC recommended maintaining all five schools and making improvements to each. It also recommended a six-school solution, in which a high school would also be built in Wasaga Beach and a four-school scenario, in which Penetanguishene and Midland secondary schools merge. "The ARC recommended scenarios, while addressing accommodation, program and building condition pressures in the short term will not address long term pressures," reported Brandes. "Staff recommend a three-school solution that will retain Collingwood Collegiate Institute in the west area, Midland Secondary School in the east area and a new Elmvale/Wasaga Beach secondary school in the central area of the ARC." The decision is based on enrolment projections that will see the area’s student population of 4,290 decline to 3,794 in 2018. Those students would be dispersed between the new school, built to accommodate 1,000 people and the two existing schools, which would be expanded to accommodate 1,400 each. The report recommends a review be undertaken to finalize attendance boundaries, which would determine which schools students attend depending on where they live. The report contains a total of nine recommendations to the facility standing committee. It recommends Elmvale District High School and Stayner Collegiate Institute close when the new secondary school is formed and that Penetanguishene Secondary School close on June 30, 2010. It also recommends improvement be made to Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Midland Secondary School. Staff is also advised to look for possible community partnerships when looking for a new school site. Brandes reports that top up grants for school operations and renewal are dwindling so the board must address excess capacity in a timely fashion. Officials estimate it will cost $23-million over the next 10 years to renew Stayner Collegiate Institute, Elmvale District High School and Penetanguishene Secondary School. It is estimated it will cost $16,502,448 to renew Collingwood Collegiate Institute and $20,145,117 to renew Midland Secondary School over the next 10 years. Shawn Davidson, a Clearview Township councillor and member of the ARC, said he is disappointed with the recommendation to close Stayner, Elmvale and Penetanguishene high schools. "I think the report is disturbing," he told The Stayner Sun on Monday. "The ARC put together recommendations based on a year’s worth of consultation and there isn’t a single person involved in this process that asked for this solution. Not a teacher, not a student, not a community. Nobody asked for three large schools. This (recommendation) is strictly based on a financial benefit to the board." Davidson said the fight to keep the three high schools open will continue. "We’re certainly not going to play dead over this," he said. "As a municipality – and hopefully parents and other residents – we’ll voice our concern over the prospect of losing our school. Clearview as a community is slated to grow. This doesn’t make sense." Caroline Smith, Clearview’s trustee, also wasn’t happy with the staff recommendation. "The Minister of Education recently spoke at a conference for school board trustees. She was very clear that the direction the government wants to take is partnerships between different ministries such as agriculture, health and education…to create community hubs that include schools, clinics, public libraries, etc. She supported rural hub schools and in fact encouraged trustees to look at options in this direction," Smith said. "These two key pieces…do not support the regional recommendation in the…staff report, nor the school closures."
The learning process isn’t engaged when a non-specific presentation is “pulled of a shelf and delivered,” says Lisa MacKenzie, president and founder of Canadian Business Health Management (CBHM). “We’ve all sat through canned training and we all know how that goes.” Instead, MacKenzie looks for certified specialists who are dynamic personalities capable of developing and delivering programs specifically designed to meet client needs. “These are very much workshops,” she says of the corporate training she brings to her clients. “We model in the training what they need to be doing when they go back.” Company trainers, including Jean Sinden who specializes in performance training, work in collaboration with participants through facilitation rather than opting for a more instructional approach. “Workshops can be challenging, fun, productive and, from time to time, tense,” she acknowledges. “It’s really the synergy of the group that brings out the real challenges and how they can solve issues.” As a result, participants take ownership of the process and “can really walk away with some great tools,” MacKenzie adds. In 1997, MacKenzie (a registered nurse by trade) started providing first-aid training. From there it evolved into health and safety training, and then into wellness. While 95 per cent of the training is done at the client’s premises, when CBHM moved into new facilities in downtown Orillia two years ago, they gained their own training room allowing in-house monthly courses as well. MacKenzie’s husband Ian, who has a business-consulting background, joined the team in a later expansion. In addition to sales and marketing duties, Ian has developed a first-aid program that has been approved by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and by the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB), which has also approved his two-day Part One Certification program – a must for joint health and safety committees. Performance training was added to the mix when Sinden joined the team seven years ago. This goes hand in hand with health and safety, MacKenzie explains. Rarely does a corporation choose only one component to focus on, she adds. Instead, the interconnections between several programs tend to be used together in a continuous process of learning. With a background in leadership development and strategic planning, Sinden has spent about 90 per cent of her career speaking and training. Although she spent much of her earlier career in the financial-services industry, she has delivered CBHM’s performance training across sectors. Acknowledging a changing workplace and the changing demographics of the workforce, she starts by providing an overall briefing of why the changes are necessary to mesh with the overall corporate vision. “I see the lights go on,” Sinden says. “Helping them understand the context and what it means to them is important.” She works with employees, supervisors and team leaders, and corporate leaders to strengthen targeted competencies. She does this by leveraging existing performance to build skills and knowledge to meet the changing demands of the client. “Knowledge is what you know,” she explains. “Skills are what you do with what you know.” While companies usually seek solutions to problems that have already arisen, Lisa MacKenzie says there’s value in being proactive. “They already have an idea of where they were before, and where they want to go,” agrees Ian. “We’ll set out a path that can help guide them.” In a conference setting, CBHM is available to kick off the event and set the tone. For details, visit www.YourSafetyExperts.com or call Lisa directly at 705-325-0006, extension 223.
The Ministry of Transportation has finished repairs to the traffic lights at Highway 89 and County Road 10. An investigation into the malfunctioning lights was launched in February after complaints from the public and enquiries from the Alliston Herald. "Based on our findings, staff worked with the design consultant to modify the signal timing by allocating more green time to Highway 89 through traffic," said Will MacKenzie, from the MTO. In February, MacKenzie said MTO had received complaints about the lights at the intersection. At the time, the green light for east- and westbound traffic on Highway 89 would only last about 10 seconds, which was long enough for only a few cars to get through from a stand still. MTO admitted it was not an adequate time for a green light. The new light timing pattern was installed in late February, and MTO said they are not aware of any new complaints. Another traffic study has been conducted to determine if the changes were adequate. The data is currently being studied, MacKenzie said.
A call to an all-girls boarding school on the evening of March 19 in Grey Highlands, south of Meaford, has led to criminal charges against an unruly student. Grey County O.P.P. responded to the call just after 6 pm. A 15-year old female had run away into a nearby wooded area. Concern grew as darkness approached and temperatures dropped because it was known she was not dressed in winter clothing. As the investigator made arrangements for the deployment of an O.P.P. Canine Unit the runaway returned. After returning she became defiant and threatened to leave again. She then physically assaulted her mother and the officer in attendance. Charged with the Criminal Code offenses of Assault and Assault Police is a 15 year-old female with an out of province address. She was held in custody over night but has now been released and is scheduled for first appearance in the Youth Justice Court-Owen Sound on April 21.