Twin pad in jeopardy?

Members of city council are quietly pushing to have a twin-pad arena built on a larger property than originally planned, sparking fears that the project could be stalled. “If they do this, it is going to reopen the debate, and every councillor is going to want their pet project there,” Michael Fogarty said. “It is going to delay things further.” Just weeks after council agreed to build an arena on a 25-acre parcel of city-owned land by the fall of 2010, some are campaigning behind the scenes to move the project to a 45-acre property located nearby, Fogarty said. “This is being pushed quite heavily,” he added. The larger property was to be saved for industrial use, but according to Fogarty and others who spoke with Orillia Today, members are increasingly viewing it as the answer to the city’s recreation woes. “Some councillors want to move the whole MURF out there, some councillors want some options so they can expand out there,” he added. To date, these discussions have happened out of the public’s view, and included an informal chat at the conclusion of a closed-door meeting on Monday evening, he said. Fogarty said he felt the discussion was inappropriate and left the room, followed shortly after by Wayne Gardy. “When council starts discussing an item that would lead to a decision of council, it is a meeting,” Gardy told Orillia Today. “The clerk should be present and it should be recorded.” Gardy echoed concerns that the project could be delayed by a change of location. “It shouldn’t even be discussed,” he said. “Council made a decision that we need a twin pad now, as well as keeping the community centre in use until the twin pad is ready.” Ralph Cipolla concurred. “It would delay the construction of the twin pad until at least 2011, and that is not acceptable” he said. Cipolla, who continues to pursue a portion of the Huronia Regional Centre property for the MURF, is urging council to follow its original plan. “People are only asking for a twin pad,” he said. “Let’s build it, and that will give us time to assess what we are going to do about getting a premier recreation facility, rather than piece meal. If we go to the 45 acres, we are going to end up with a barn again, and that is unacceptable.” User groups who were left scrambling to secure ice time following the closure of the community centre were angered to learn of the discussions. “All we asked for was a simple, twin-pad facility – that is all we wanted,” said Bruce Goddard, a member of the Twin Lakes Oldtimers Hockey Club. Goddard spearheaded a petition for the new arena, gathering more than 3,000 names with the help of other groups, including minor hockey and figure skating. “It is a typical Orillia situation,” he added of the recent development. “You start something, then it’s ‘Change this and change that.’ “People should get on the blower and start calling their councillors,” he added. “They can get their numbers on the city’s web site, or call city hall.” Orillia Minor Hockey president Cathy O’Connor is concerned not with the site but the prospect of a delay.  “I’m more concerned about them getting that piece of property and all of sudden they want to put the MURF there, and that is where the delay would come from,” she said. “They’ll fight about the spot, and are they going to want to add the pool? They made a decision, stick with it.” Fogarty, who opposes a change in venue, said “there is a real concerted effort of trying to get this through. “I think councillors are slowly waking up to the fact that (a recreation complex on West Street) is not going to happen,” he said. Joe Fecht tried but failed to convince council to move the majority of the MURF project to the 45-acre site. He would “absolutely support” a proposal to move the twin pad to the larger property. “If we can’t proceed on West Street, we potentially have another opportunity to look at the other aspects of a recreational sports complex,” he said. Coun. Tim Lauer earlier argued in favor of building an arena on the larger property, saying it offered room for additional soccer fields and other outdoor amenities. “As we get closer to the actual design, if there are some compelling arguments to move it, I will certainly be championing them again,” he said. “Right now, the priority for me is that everything moves forward.” Lauer continues to support the West Street property for the MURF, but said that, were the site deemed unworkable, “you would at least have that option” with the 45-acre property. Lauer rejects the notion that building the arena on the larger property would delay the project. “It wouldn’t be a big deal,” he added. “It would just be a discussion about which side of the road you want to be on.” Both Lauer and Fecht downplayed the significance of the impromptu discussion held Monday. “We were just getting an update of information,” Fecht said.


Library design moves forward

Limestone sills, terracotta columns and expansive windows will greet visitors to a new library planned for the downtown. Representatives of Shore Tilbe Irwin and Partners this week outlined the firm’s progress in designing the two-storey facility that will replace Orillia’s cramped and outdated library. Alternating bands of glass along the south and east sides of the building will feature etchings inspired by the elaborate designs that adorned book bindings in the age of Stephen Leacock. “That would also be cutting heat gain and glare,” said Andrew Frontini, a partner in the firm. Skylights, a fireplace, and an “Orilliana” room stocked with rare books are among the features planned for the interior, while outdoor components include a terraced garden, trees, a water feature, and public art. “We want people to come to this place as a destination,” said Pat Bollenberghe, landscape architect. The firm, which is working to an estimated cost of $18.6 million, is aiming to submit a site plan for approval in early June. “They could be having the shovel in the ground by fall,” Frontini added. A reconfigured farmers’ market would include 96 stalls for vendors – as is now the case – as well as 27 water and power hookups. Also planned is a 900 square foot market hall inside the library, and 2,800 square feet of indoor space for use on market days. While applauded by many in the community, the plan has its detractors, with some objecting to the modern design and the loss of parking spaces. On-site parking would be reduced from 145 spots to 86 spots under the proposed design. In a deputation, resident John Connor urged council to consider locating the library in the former Orillia Central School. The historic building, which was recently declared surplus by the public board, currently houses a preschool on the ground floor. Connor envisions adding a single storey library to the rear of the building, while using the ground floor of the existing structure as a heritage display. The upper level could house reading or meeting rooms, he added. “You gentleman have the opportunity to make this happen,” said Connor, a mechanical engineer. “It won’t be there five years from now.” Coun. Maurice McMillan said the proposal was worth exploring. “I think it’s got merit and should at least be looked at,” said McMillan.


Avoid the credit trap

When someone’s credit-card bill arrives with a higher number than his or her bank balance, it can be a daunting moment. But, just when it looks like they’ve reached their max, the bank sends a notice to say it has increased their credit. It may feel like winning the jackpot, but it’s a slippery place to be, as people find themselves sliding more into debt with no way of climbing out. Kelly Hechler, a spokesperson for TD Canada Trust, said adding to people’s credit limit isn’t a trick used to get people spending. She said her bank has strict guidelines that must be met before handing over credit. “We have to look at each individual customer,” said Hechler. Before lending money, a bank looks at a person’s income, history of paying bills on time, any collateral items and current debts. Those figures are used to make a debt-service ratio to determine if they can access more cash. It’s not the bank’s job to monitor a person’s spending habits, said Hechler. “You have to demonstrate your ability to pay, and if you’re using one credit card to pay for another, maybe using credit isn’t the healthiest way for you to spend.” If a person is using debt for the wrong reasons, or spending is out of control, all banks have someone to sit down and talk to, she said. “Ultimately, each person is responsible for their financial situation. Think about consolidating your credit cards for a lower rate, or talk with a credit counselling resource. If you don’t take control, it can be stressful and frustrating when you need more credit, but can’t get it.” Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of television’s “Til Debt Do Us Part,” has seen many families drowning in debt. And it’s her old-fashioned cash-in-jars approach that finally gets the message across to her clients. She makes participants withdraw money and put the bills into jars for transportation, rent, food and entertainment. As they write down their spending, they actually see the cash disappearing. Her catch phrase is that people have to get to the end of the month before they get to the end of the money. She has a good explanation for how society got into this spending pattern. “Many years ago, you couldn’t get a line of credit if you weren’t credit-worthy,” said Vaz-Oxlade. “It was only the triple-A client who was investing in renovations to their house, for those with a huge net worth, that could get a revolving line of credit.” But then banks started selling credit, and the public bought into the idea. “We started to think of credit as disposable income, and how we could work the minimum payment into our income.” People don’t think about how long it could take to pay back $30,000 before jumping at the chance to use it, she said. “As a society, we’re determined to have everything we want right now. We don’t want to have to choose or prioritize and deny ourselves anything.” Vaz-Oxlade makes people own up to their spending habits, but said it’s not entirely their fault. In order to get a credit card, the bank uses that debt-service ratio, and Vaz-Oxlade said that system has “gone out the window.” “I had one man on the show who had 17 credit cards and only earned $35,000 a year. He had access to $100,000.” With most people no longer using printed bankbooks, many people don’t bother to look at their monthly spending. And, after 15 years writing financial columns with little fanfare, Vaz-Oxlade said it’s her basic money-in-jars approach on television that hits home with viewers. Her first tip – aside from sitting down and planning a sensible budget to pay bills – is to make a wish list of future purchases like shoes or tools. “You can’t shop blindly and get things just because they’re on sale. The whole philosophy that it’s a deal isn’t true if you don’t need it. If you don’t make a list, you’re a fool putting yourself at the whim of marketing.” One piece of advice from a local financial adviser is to simply put away the plastic if you want to stay out of debt. Julie Larsen, a financial planner with Investors Group, said if people are serious about surviving the cash crunch, it’s time to go back to basics and save up for purchases. The first mistake is that people spend money as soon as they earn it – on things as small as coffee. “People wonder why they have no money left. If they’re spending $10 a day on coffee and lunch, then going out on the weekends, that could be the reason,” said Larsen. Another problem is that people get lured into buy-now-pay-later offers from local stores. “If you pay for it later, that money is going out the door in the future, and there’s no room to put money into savings or a retirement savings plan.” As a rule of thumb, people shouldn’t have more than 40 per cent of a debt load compared to income. Larsen said people should take a quarter of their salary and put it into savings. The rest can go to mortgage or rent payments, food and paying bills. To protect themselves in case of an emergency, people should also set aside three to six months’ salary, or have access to it through a line of credit, said Larsen. [email protected]


Teens preparing for mission to Nicaragua

A group of local teens will be heading overseas this spring to help individuals in need. Trent and Erin Simons, family ministry pastors for Covenant Christian Community Church, will be leading the team of 13 high school students from the Midland-Penetanguishene area to San Francisco, Nicaragua, to help build a roof for a local church and run afternoon camps for children. The team has spent the past six months getting ready for the May trip. Members meet monthly for orientation meetings. They have been hard at work learning Spanish, working on teamwork, raising funds and learning about the country they will be visiting. Trent Simons said he is hoping the trip – which will be the first journey to a Third World country for the youths – will expand their horizons and increase their awareness of issues such as poverty that have such a huge impact in other parts of the world. “Raising awareness is a really big piece of it,” he said. “We’re also hoping to bring the love of God to this community and … work with the church and (hang) out with the kids down there.” Many of the youths going on the trip – who will range in age from 14 to 18 – have been participating for the last several years in smaller adventures to downtown Toronto and Montreal, where they have been working at homeless shelters. However, this will be the first time the church will be leading an international trip of this nature, noted Simons. “The kids have responded very positively to those (smaller) trips. They’ve talked about how they have learned a lot about the people and breaking down the stereotypes of homeless people and marginalized people,” he said. “Many of them that are going on this trip have been on these other trips, as well, so they keep coming back for more.” [email protected]


Merging the sales tax could get costly

Harmonizing the federal and provincial sales tax that was proposed by the Ontario government in its budget Thursday could cost the average family $3,000 per year, according to Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson. The proposed budget gives Ontario a $3.9 billion deficit for 2008-2009 and a $14.1 billion in 2009-2010. It also projects the next balanced budget in Ontario will be 2015-2016. Wilson said it’s not the right time to be merging the provincial and federal sales tax, which would create on 13 per cent sales tax. There are some exemptions from the new tax, such as children’s clothing and car seats, and new homes under $400,000. But fast food under meals under $4, haircuts and gasoline are among the items and services that will cost more with a harmonized tax. To help people adjust to the taxes, a tax relief will be handed out over three years to low and middle-income people. Families with an income less than $160,000 would get three payments of $1,000. Single people with an income less than $80,000 would get three payments of $300. The payments would be made in June 2010, December 2010 and June 2011. Wilson noted that the final payment comes right before the next provincial election. "People will see through the fact that he’s trying to bribe us with our own money," said Wilson. The sales tax isn’t the only thing not sitting well with Wilson. Aside from a corporate tax cut, which has the rates going from 14 per cent to 10 per cent by 2013, there is little that satisfies Wilson in the budget. For Simcoe-Grey, Wilson said there is no commitment to create more long-term care beds, nor is there help for hospital expansions. The budget allows for some tax relief in manufacturing industry as a whole, but a provincial tax holiday Wilson and the Progressive Conservative caucus are pushing for on new car sales is absent. Wilson told The Connection before the budget that a tax holiday on new vehicles could help get cars off the dealerships lots and make room for more, which would help workers on the manufacturing factories. Wilson said a similar provincial tax holiday on accommodations would help promote tourism destinations like the Nottawasaga Inn Resort in Alliston or Blue Mountain in the north end of the riding. The budget does include infrastructure money, with $32.5 billion set aside for projects in the next two years. Wilson said there is no proof that anything has been done to remove the provincial red tape that holds up the infrastructure projects when municipalities try to get the work done. Other highlights of the budget include: • $32.5 billion for infrastructure projects over the next two years. • $1.2 billion to renovate 50,000 social housing units and build 4,500 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. • $400 million more in children’s benefits over the next three years. Low and middle-income families will receive up to $1,100 annually per child in Ontario Child Benefit payments starting in July. • $700 million over the next two years for new skills training and literacy initiatives, including enhancements to existing programs. • $4.5 billion in business tax cuts over three years.


No more flouride in Tottenham taps

Flouride Turned Off Tottenham’s drinking water could soon flow without fluoride if a motion by Coun. Jim Stone gains momentum. Stone first brought the hazards of fluoride in drinking water to New Tecumseth council’s attention last week. He said fluoride has been linked to some cancers and that there is no proof of people having less cavities in areas where fluoride is added to the water. Tottenham is currently the only community in Simcoe County that adds fluoride to its water. It’s a practice that started in the 1973 when the Walkem Drive Well was constructed, according to a town report. Although the fluorination system was moved to the Mill Street Reservoir at one point, the primary system was moved back to Walkem Drive Well. Currently Walkem Drive Well houses the main fluoride treatment system, with the Coventry Park Well housing a backup system. Removing fluoride from the water can be done without approval from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. The only process for the town to end the treatment would be amending a certificate of approval for the fluoride practice from the Ministry of Environment. Public Works promotion Chad Horan has been appointed to manager of public works, effective March 31. Horan was promoted from his position of superintendent of utilities.


Lefroy pair charged in nudist camp assaults

A Lefroy area man and woman have been charged with several serious criminal acts following an investigation by the York Regional Police Crimes Against Children unit. The 53-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman are alleged to have committed a series of indecent acts against the victim at a nudist park located in King Township between 11 and 17 years ago. The man and woman were involved in a relationship at the time. The incidents took place between 1992 and 1998, when the victim was between six and 12 years old and was known to the accused. The man is a former martial arts instructor in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury and in other parts of the Greater Toronto area. He has also been a member of several nudist parks in Ontario and Quebec. On Thursday, Apr. 9, the man was arrested at his residence without incident. Police also seized a quantity of child pornography. The woman was arrested later that day in the Town of Innisfil. Charges against the pair include sexual assault, sexual interference, two counts of invitation to sexual touching, possession of child pornography, sexual assault and sexual interference. The man is being held in police custody and has appeared before a judge by video remand. The woman was released from custody, but placed on strict conditions and will appear in court on May 5. The Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket has issued a publication ban to protect the identity of the complainant.


BAT launches this weekend at home show

New Tecumseth is looking for people to step up to BAT for its buy local campaign. Buy Around Town in Beeton, Alliston, Tottenham is being launched this weekend at the New Tecumseth Home, Health and Leisure Show at the New Tecumseth Recreation Complex. It’s a town-organized initiative to promote shopping locally. A wallet-sized BAT passport will be given away at the home show and is also available in today’s Herald. People will get a sticker for their passport for every $10 spent at participating businesses in the three communities. Once a passport has 10 stickers it is put in a ballot box and the person is eligible to win one of three cash prizes, which will be drawn at the end of the 10-week campaign, July 4. The three prizes are for $2,000, $1,000 and $500 in BAT bucks that can be used at any of the participating businesses. When getting a passport, New Tecumseth business improvement association co-ordinator Sarah Toth said people will also get a pin. "People will be out looking for shoppers wearing a BAT pin," she said. When people are caught with the pin on, the pin-wearer gets $25 BAT bucks and will get their photo taken for the newspaper. Toth said participating stores will have a BAT poster in the window so people know they are a part of the campaign. An updated list of businesses will also be available online at www.allistonbia.com New Tecumseth’s economic development division is facilitating the initiative with the Alliston and District Chamber of Commerce, the Tottenham and District Chamber of Commerce, the Alliston Business Improvement Association, and the Beeton-Tottenham Business Improvement Association. For more information, contact Toth at 705-435-6219 ext. 256.