Council wants high-speed proposal to go faster

Grey Highlands council wants to see high speed internet service available in rural areas as soon as possible. Council, at its regular meeting last Wednesday morning, approved a recommendation from its planning department to fast track a project that is working to extend high-speed availability to rural residents across Grey County. At the meeting Grey Highlands Planner Lorelie Spencer brought forward a report recommending that Site Plan Control fees the municipality usually charges for planning projects be condensed for Everus Communications – the company facilitating the Rural Broadband Initiative in Grey County. Everus is currently in the middle of a process to locate up to 27 high-speed internet towers across Grey County. Everus requested that Site Plan Control fees be condensed into one fee for the various towers it would like to put up in Grey Highlands. High-speed internet service in rural areas depends on a direct line of site to a customer’s home. Everus plans to strategically place towers around the county allowing broadband service to be available to a maximum number of homes. Everus has received grants from the federal government under program designed to extend high-speed internet services to rural areas across the country. Spencer told council that a reduction in the Site Plan Control fees is warranted. She recommended that a single fee of $10,000 (to cover municipal planning department costs on the project) for the entire Everus project. Under standard planning practices each tower would be treated as a separate application and charged the same fees by the municipality. Council was supportive of Spencer’s recommendation. Members of council were anxious to see broadband service extended across their municipality. Deputy Mayor Dave Fawcett wondered if council could further speed up the process by allowing municipal planning staff the ability to grant approval for applications once all conditions have been met. "This is a project for the betterment of our community. Can we streamline the process? I’m willing to delegate the approval process to staff instead of (Everus) waiting 10 days for council’s approval," said Fawcett. "I know there are a lot of people that need high speed internet," he said. Mayor Brian Mullin and Spencer said final approval of all Site Plan Control proposals rests with council. The Mayor said council needed to hold onto that authority in case public concerns arise. "Council’s approval might be the only chance for public concerns to be aired," said the Mayor. The broadband towers do not require the public process of re-zoning to move forward. Spencer recommended that all Everus sites be included in one report and approved at a single council meeting in the future. Mayor Mullin agreed with Spencer’s assessment. "I think we need the luxury that if one site requires a higher level of scrutiny that the others can move forward," he said. Deputy Mayor Fawcett was also satisfied with the suggestion that all the sites could be dealt with at once. "I think this is a fair process. If there are 10 sites and nine of them are fine we can deal with the one with issues," he said. Council approved the recommendation from Spencer.


Pickup almost hits officer

A South Simcoe Police officer had a tense moment last Friday night after he had stopped a vehicle at the corner of the 10th Sideroad and 10th Line. While speaking to the driver, the officer observed a black GMC pickup turning the corner onto the 10th Line, spinning his wheels and rapidly accelerating towards the two parked vehicles. The police car had its emergency signals activated. The officer attempted to flag the truck over and the driver almost rear-ended the vehicle the officer had already pulled over. The GMC swerved to miss the other vehicle and came close to hitting the officer. The truck finally came to a stop farther down the road. After speaking to the truck driver, the officer realized he was impaired. He was taken back to the police station where he blew at twice the legal limit for alcohol. A 38-year-old Innisfil man was charged with impaired operation of a vehicle and given a May court date. Man ditches his wheels Police were called to an area near the 4th Line east of the 10th Sideroad at approximately 1 a.m. on Saturday, March 21 in response to a car off the road. Officers arrived to find a man standing on the side of the road wearing only one shoe. He told police he was the driver and owner of the vehicle. Police noticed the man was unsteady on his feet and took him back to the police for a breath test. The man blew at twice the legal limit and was charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle. House fight nets firearms South Simcoe Police removed 21 legal firearms from a Innisfil house after a fight broke out early in the morning on Sunday, Mar. 22. Police learned two men, a 43-year-old and a 27-year-old, started a brawl after one of their vehicles had been damaged. The younger man’s girlfriend was also assaulted when she tried to get involved. Both men are now facing assault charges. One was also hit with an additional charge of mischief, the other with a charge of assault causing bodily harm. No one was seriously hurt. The pair will appear in Bradford court in April. Four times over limit After receiving a tip about a vehicle being driven erratically, police pulled over a 43-year-old Innisfil man who was speeding along the 4th Line early last Sunday afternoon. He was clocked doing 90 km-h  in a 50 km-h zone – in the wrong lane. The driver was immediately taken back to the police station where he blew four times over the legal limit for alcohol. He remained in custody until sober and will make a court appearance in Bradford in April to face charges of impaired driving and driving with over 80 mgs. of alcohol in his blood system. Man threatens wife, guns seized A man who threatened to kill his wife is up on charges after she called police on March 23. Police arrested the man at his workplace and later returned to the couple’s house where 14 legal firearms were removed. The man was held in custody for a bail hearing Tuesday morning. More firearms found The new owner of a home called South Simcoe Police on Saturday, March 21 after finding a quantity of firearms and ammunition while cleaning out his garage. Police questioned the previous owner of the house to learn he had inherited the items and did not know what to do with them. The man got off with a caution regarding the careless storage of a firearm. Police removed the firearms and ammunition. They will be destroyed.


Ease tax burden to save jobs, politicians say

Simcoe County should ease the burden on companies to keep jobs as well as attract new ones as it sets taxes this year, some county politicians say. With a $437-million budget that requires a 3.4 per cent tax hike, the county must now set tax ratios — that is, how to spread the bill among the classes of properties, such as residential, commercial and farm. Based on last year’s practices, a home assessed at $200,000 would see an increase of $19.59. But the county has the option of using certain tax tools to protect — and even stimulate — business. Shifting more of the tax burden to residential from industrial is one method. “Most folks in economic development recognize job growth comes from existing, not new, businesses,” said Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier, who urged the county’s strategic Performance Management Committee to recommend the change. “We can take a leadership role. We have a diverse base in Collingwood and I do realize it would mean shifting (taxes) onto residents, but it could mean stronger employment for Collingwood and our neighbours as well.” In these tough times, giving business a break could mean the difference between being profitable and being unprofitable or locating here or going elsewhere, added Essa Mayor David Guergis. “We had a company looking to build two plants. We thought they were coming. But they went to the United States,” Guergis said. “Now the taxes are zero and the jobs are zero, and they’re gone to the U.S. The development charge loss is huge. “(A break on taxes) could make a difference on your bottom line on whether you’re profitable or not. It’s not a big burden for the ratepayers to hold jobs. It might mean $15 more and being able to keep and attract factories.” County councillors have until April 30 to set the tax-ratio policy, and are expected to discuss the issue at a strategic planning session March 31


Glenn Howard wins battle of brothers

Sometimes it’s hard to separate family from curling. Such was the case Tuesday morning in Calgary, when the Midland born and raised Howard brothers, Russ and Glenn, faced each other in a historic meeting at the Tim Hortons Brier. In the end, it wasn’t the titanic battle the fans at the Penngrowth Saddledome had been hoping for, but it was one for the history books. "I got a big kick playing against Glenn and I know he enjoyed it," said Russ, speaking with TSN following the game. It marked only the second time in the long history of the Brier that two brothers had skipped against each other in a national men’s curling final. Glenn Howard’s Coldwater and District Curling Club rink scored three points in each of the first and fifth ends, en route to a 7-2 win over the New Brunswick rink, skipped by Russ. "It was pretty cool to play against my brother and it’s too bad we had that bad shot on that angle raise in the fifth end, or else it might have been a closer game," said Russ. The win helped the Team Ontario rink, skipped by Glenn and consisting of Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill ,maintain an unbeaten record at the Brier, improving to 6-0. Kevin Martin’s Alberta rink kept pace with Howard, posting a decisive win over British Columbia on Tuesday morning to also improve to 6-0. To add to the Howard threesome, Steven Howard played with his dad Russ on Tuesday morning. "It’s just an awesome experience playing in my first Brier with my dad and playing against my Uncle Glenn," said Steven, 24. Russ said playing with his son will be a moment he’ll remember for the rest of his life. "When your son is born, you count his fingers and toes and you hope he is healthy. When he is three or four then you start thinking about how cool it will be when he starts kicking a baseball or soccer ball around. Like me ,you hope he plays golf. But for him to play in my sport (curling) is totally unbelieveable. Steven is soaking it up and living the dream. To play against Glenn is such a bonus," said Russ. In providing an exclamation mark to the brother battle, Glenn helped the New Brunswick rink sweep the final shot by Russ into the house, before the two teams shook hands. The Howard family was well represented at the rink on Tuesday, with Glenn receiving cheering support from wife Judy and son Scott. In Calgary, Russ was cheered on by his wife Wendy and daughter Ashley, who earlier this year skipped her own team to an appearance at a Canadian finals in the junior division. Meanwhile, Barbara Howard spent Tuesday morning at the Midland Curling Club watching her two sons battle on ice in the company of friends and fellow curling fans. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first, the Ontario rink later increased its lead to 4-1 in the fourth end. In the fifth end, Russ attempted an angle raise to score one, but instead rolled his own shot stone to far and surrendered three to Glenn, increasing the Ontario lead to 7-1. Visibly angered by missing the shot, Russ Howard displayed a rare burst of anger in front of the thousands in attendance, slamming his curling broom against the ice. "I played an angle raise and tried to punch it (the rock) through a hole that wasn’t even there," said Russ later. Given the dominance of the Glenn Howard team within the curling world this year, Russ knew he had a tough test going into the game. "They have such a great team. We didn’t really expect to post a win when we woke up this morning," said Russ, who is making a record 14th appearance at the Brier. With the loss to Team Ontario, New Brunswick dropped to 2-4 in the standings. Russ Howard and his rink went on to play the Jeff Stoughton rink from Manitoba on Tuesday afternoon, with Glenn Howard scheduled to face the same Manitoba rink in the evening draw.


City faces charges

The city faces charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following an investigation involving the Orillia Opera House. A summons issued by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour says the alleged offenses date back to April 22 of last year. According to the document, the city committed “the offence of failing, as an employer, to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at a workplace located at 20 Mississaga Street West …” contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The address given is that of the Orillia Opera House. In an appendix to the summons, the ministry describes one of two alleged offenses. “The defendant failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a hand-hold situated above a hatch way leading to a fixed ladder was securely attached to a wall.” The summons was delivered to culture and heritage director Craig Metcalf – the department responsible for the opera house – on March 19, close to a year after the alleged offenses occurred. Speaking recently with Orillia Today, Metcalf said only that the matter had been referred to the city’s solicitors. The city appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice in Orillia on April 14. “A part-time employee fell from a ladder at the opera house,” Lori Bolton, the city’s health and safety officer said of the reason for the initial investigation. “At the time, the employee sustained minor injuries.” Labour Ministry Crown counsel Shantanu Roy in a letter to the municipality said violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act by a corporation can result in a maximum fine of $500,000. “If the Crown obtains a conviction, we will be seeking a fine that is appropriate given this maximum amount,” Roy added. The ministry alleges the city failed to follow a portion of the act requiring that access ladders be equipped with side rails that “extend 90 centimetres above the landing.” Bolton had yet to hear back from the city’s legal counsel regarding Tuesday’s court appearance. The summons and accompanying letter from the labour ministry were included in a recent council agenda but were not discussed.


Reports snubs local tender policy

Innisfil would risk breaking provincial and federal laws if it gave local companies preferential treatment when awarding tenders, according to the town’s treasurer. Council quickly killed any notion of moving forward with a local preference policy last Wednesday after it read Ian Goodfellow’s sobering report. Councillors decided to consider giving local companies an edge when bidding on town contracts after Coun, Peter Kmet pushed for a report. A Stroud company, P&H Sweepline Services, had complained about losing out on a local bid by about $4,000. The tender was awarded to a Kitchener company. “We should support our local businesses within reason,” Kmet said last month. “P&H are local and they put money back into the community.” But the treasurer’s research found a local preference procurement policy could put the town in contravention of the province’s Discriminatory Business Practices Act, the Federal Competition Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights. “Allowing local preference to become a factor in determining the award of a contract has been legally regarded as a very restrictive trade practice,” Goodfellow states. The Discriminatory Business Practices Act prohibits discriminating against businesses for various reasons, including geographic location, Goodfellow’s report states. Municipalities that break the Act can be found liable for damages, which could lead to being sued for fined. Beyond the legal ramifications, local preference policies can also trigger other problems for local businesses by creating a type of trade war between municipalities, Goodfellow’s report shows. Other municipalities may create their own local policies if they discover companies in their municipality are being shut out of contracts elsewhere, Goodfellow states. The report adds that local companies should already have an advantage since their transportation costs should reduce the price of their bid. The companies would also have a greater knowledge of the Town and its needs, which give them an edge, according to Goodfellow.


Woman jailed six months for break-in

Andrea Falls, 24, of Creemore, pleaded guilty Apr. 14 to breaking and entering a dwelling house, receiving six months behind bars to be followed by 12 months on probation. The prosecution stated that overnight on Dec. 11, 2008, Falls and three others went on foot to an unoccupied address on the 6/7 Sideroad in Clearview Township. Once there, they forced open the front door by breaking a window, taking food, liquor, and some clothing. The Crown added that in the same time frame the accused smashed a window of an attached garage and took liquor, tools, and a 20-gallon fuel container. Police were called soon after by the homeowner, later finding about $1,000 in damage attributable to Falls, with the remainder owed by her co-accused. All four had allegedly put their vehicle in the ditch that night, and being unable to extricate it, spent the night in the victim’s home. Falls will be subject to a DNA order and she can’t associate with any of her jointly accused. In addition she will obey a nightly curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., while staying away from the victim’s address. Treatment and counselling for crack cocaine, depression, and respect for other people’s property were all endorsed as terms of probation.