Meaford council the third cheapest in the county

Meaford council cost the taxpayers less than $150,000 in 2008. The municipality recently released the annual Council Remuneration report that details how much council cost the taxpayers in 2008. Council’s total cost in 2008 was $149,092.67. Significant cutbacks to the travel and conferences budget led to savings in the report. Total travel claimed by the nine members of council that served in 2008 (two members of council resigned early in the year and were replaced by two new appointments) was just $659.61. Conference spending was also down significantly from previous years. Members of council spent just $1,603.99 on conferences in 2008. Total remuneration for council came to $146,829.07. The break down for remuneration is as follows (which includes total remuneration, travel and conference spending): Mayor/Deputy Mayor Francis Richardson – $25,569.42 Deputy Mayor/councillor Mike Traynor – $22,019.08 Councillor Jim McPherson – $21,533.17 Councillor Cynthia Lemon – $20,000 Councillor Lynda Stephens – $20,000 Councillor Gerald Shortt (appointed part way through the year) – $15,376.26 Councillor Harley Greenfield (appointed part way through the year) – $14,197.46. Mayor Wally Reif (resigned) – $6,387.09 Councillor Gunter Neumann (resigned) – $4,010.19 Across the county Meaford was the third least expensive council in Grey (not including Owen Sound, or Grey County council). Other total council costs in Grey County were as follows: The Blue Mountains – $235,361.79 West Grey – $198,643.08 Grey Highlands – $195,336.24 Georgian Bluffs – $180,305.05 Meaford – $149,092.67 Southgate – $128,825.74 Chatsworth – $98,492.20


Fun foodies

Victoria Beaudoin of Burkevale School, Megan Corsini of Monsignor Castex, Cooking School Assistant from The Real Canadian Super Store Candra Delong and Amber Stacey-Orchard from James Keating joined together with six other public school students during March break to prepare and sample various dishes. The "Stuffed Full of Fun" March Break camp offered the students a chance to prepare Stuffed Loaded Potatoes, Taco stuffed Pasta shells, Devilled eggs and stuffed apple dumplings. The children had a chance to meet new friends and the best part – they got to eat what they made!


Jones headlines comedy fest

Orillia’s comedy festival is broadening its horizons as it aims to tickle the funny bones of audiences young and old. Running April 15 to 18, the third annual festival promises a range of talent that runs the gamut from local columnist Jim Foster to nationally renowned comedic superstar Cathy Jones. “We have expanded the festival this year to target a wider variety of age groups,” said Donna Hewitt, chair of the festival committee. “In 2009, we have something for everyone.” Jones will bring her best-known characters to the Orillia Opera House for an April 18 performance. The Gemini-winning actor and writer is a founding member of the East Coast comedy troupe CODCO, and a regular on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a long-running television news spoof. “We wanted to bring someone in who was well known, who is recognizable,” said Kathryn Stephenson, marketing manager for the city’s culture and heritage department. “She is very, very funny.” Performing Wednesday through Friday at the Leacock Museum is local humour columnist Jim Foster and friends Harvey Atkin, Nicholas Pashley, Paul Quarrington, and Dan Needles. Foster and Co. host a “happy hour” from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with tickets priced at $12. The Orillia Opera House welcomes Run With Kittens on the Friday evening. Armed with a repertoire “ranging from darkly witty Dylan-esque tunes to stompers worthy of Motorhead,” the Kittens perform a gut-busting ode to the Sunshine City in “The Orillia Song.” Tickets are $15 or $10 for students. Saturday brings Colonel Quackhorn’s Extraordinary Medicine Show to the opera house for performances at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tickets are $6. “We are trying to appeal to all different age groups,” Stephenson added. “(Colonel Quackhorn) is really funny.” Cathy Jones takes to the stage on the Saturday evening at 8 p.m., with tickets priced at $40, or $30 for seniors and students. Organizers are again hoping to lure visitors to the city during the so-called “shoulder” season, when tourism tends to be at a lull. Tickets for all shows can be purchased through the opera house box office or online at www.operahouse.orillia.on.ca.


Compassion always in stock at grocery store

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 protected]


School Board looks at issues from past 5 years

The Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) reviewed a list of inquiries from the provincial and federal representatives dating as far back as 2004 according to a recent announcement. The board was also given information related to three presentations by parent delegations made at the March 21 board meeting. The board looked at background information for 21 issues from MPP Bill Murdoch, four issues from MPP Carol Mitchell and six issues from MP Larry Miller, according to the release. Some cases presented had already been discussed by the entire board, others were only discussed at staff level. This preliminary review comes after MP Larry Miller publicly criticized the board for not dealing with issues properly. Later, the chair and trustee for Meaford and The Blue Mountains quit. Jennifer Yenssen was then acclaimed as chair. Miller said a simple review of existing, logged complaints is not enough. "If that’s the way they’re going to do it, then they might as well not even do it," he said. "They need to consult with a much wider range of people." Miller suggested the review be turned into an independent investigation, adding that the board must consult, in confidence, with 20 to 25 parents from each school, at least 10 teachers from each school and each trustee must be provided with the opportunity to speak freely and in confidence. "I don’t want to be cynical about it," said Miller. "I want something to happen." Both MPPs Murdoch and Mitchell wrote a letter to Education Minister Kathleen Wynne requesting the ministries involvement in the board while they dealt with the long list of issues. Later, Chair Jennifer Yenssen and Director of Education Mary Anne Alton also wrote a letter to Wynne requesting support. Yenssen has spoken with Wynne, and, according to the release by the BWDSB, will continue to work through the minister’s office to "confirm the support plan." MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, Bill Murdoch, said the board’s actions were positive. "It doesn’t hurt to go back and review decisions made," he said. "It’s good that they’re doing it and that the ministry is working with them … who knows what will happen. We’ll have to wait and see."


Coldwater trail plan has its fans

Turning a former rail bed into a trail for walkers, cyclists and others would prove a financial boon to the Coldwater area while promoting healthy living, proponents of the plan say. “We want to have people visit the community,” said Marvin Wright, owner of an antiques shop in nearby Fesserton. A six-kilometre stretch between Coldwater and Waubaushene is one of a few unfinished sections of the Trans-Canada Trail. “It has been a gap for quite some time,” said Frieda Baldwin, a member of Huronia Trails and Greenways. Local trail advocates are hoping Severn Township can tap into a $25-million federal fund earmarked for improvements and expansions to the country’s trail system. Funding will go to projects that are set to break ground in 2009-10, said Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton. “Certainly, the projects that are ready to go now are going to be favoured,” Stanton told an audience in Coldwater. While supportive of the call for the trail’s development, Mayor Phil Sled said the local project is far from shovel-ready. He said his municipality is working to ensure the former CN rail line does not pose environmental hazards before agreeing to assume ownership of the line, which extends to Orillia. The rail bed, currently under the control of the Trans-Canada Trail System, was once bordered by railway stations, Sled added. “We want it, but we want our concerns resolved,” he said. Provincial and municipal governments will contribute funds to individual projects in partnership with the National Trails Coalition. “Canada’s trails network helps us get to the heart of our amazing outdoors,” Stanton said. “It enriches the health and enjoyment of countless Canadians.” Coldwater resident Jane Dunlop said other trails in the area regularly draw scores of visitors. “It used to be that people would look for a golf course; now they look for trails,” she noted. “Everybody is on them.” Sled said the township is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Trans-Canada Trail System later this month. [email protected]


Proposed break for businesses rebuffed

MIDHURST – Simcoe County councillors opted not to give employers a tax break this year for fear of the impact on homeowners. Instead, county councillors will contemplate how to reduce the tax burden for business and industry at a strategic planning session Tuesday. And they’ll have a year to consider how to implement any ideas that may emerge as the county sets tax ratios – how to allocate the tax levy among the various property classes, such as residential, commercial, farm, pipeline and industrial. Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier had urged the mayors and deputy mayors of the county’s 16 member municipalities to give business extra care this year, as the recession stresses companies. He said the county has room to move to make its tax ratios more fair, as businesses bear not only a large share of the municipal tax, but also six to 10 times more than a residential taxpayer in education taxes. “We have significant employers looking toward all levels of government to offer stimulus and be more fair,” he said Tuesday. “We’re a long, long way from the (provincially recommended) range of fairness. What I’m asking is the moving forward of the bylaw (setting taxes) be held off until we collectively discuss this.” His motion, however, failed, and county councillors set the new taxes effective March 24. “I’m not opposed to what Coun. Carrier is suggesting, (but) we really need to see the actual effect on a number of municipalities. My community is 95 per cent residential,” said Tiny Township Mayor Peggy Breckenridge. “It’s probably not too bad, but without the numbers, how can we move forward?” Switching the ratio slightly would cost residents a few dollars more, while sparing companies with higher assessments much more. It would impact municipalities differently, depending on their makeup. Collingwood, with its diverse employment and industrial base, would benefit, while Tiny, which is largely residential, would see its support to the county rise. Two weeks ago, Essa Township Mayor David Guergis highlighted a Barrie company that was poised to build two plants in Essa, but went to the United States instead, where taxes were lower and municipal regulations fewer. [email protected]


Another breakthrough in cold murders

Police have made another breakthrough in a 41-year-old murder investigation with local ties. Using facial reconstruction technology police in 2006 released busts of the remains of two men found naked and bound in rural areas in the late 1960s. One of the bodies was found in a farmer’s field on the 17th Sideroad near the 3rd Line of New Tecumseth. Relatives of a young man, who had been missing since the late 1960s, recognized the bust and called police. Now relatives of the second victim have come forward and that body too has been positively identified. The first breakthrough came late in 2006, shortly after the release of the busts. Family members of a teen, who had been missing since 1967 provided DNA samples, and the remains found near Schomberg were positively identified as belonging to Richard Hovey. Police believed Hovey’s murder was connected to another unsolved homocide near Coboconk, Ontario. The identity of the second victim was  announced yesterday. It belongs to Eric Jones, who was also reported missing from Toronto in 1967. The body was discovered by a hunter in Balsam Lake Provincial Park later that year. "It’s huge. Now that we have the victim (Jones) we can now start filling in the blanks," said OPP Sgt. Pierre Chamberland. Police originally linked the two murders because of the similarities of the crime scenes. Both bodies were found naked, with bound wrists. Hovey’s body was found with his wrists tied together by a shoelace. When Jones’ body was found, there was a three-metre length of twine tied in a noose near his wrists. Along with the similar nature of the deaths, Hovey and Jones are also connected by similar circumstances – both were living in downtown Toronto at the times of their disappearances. Hovey, who was about 17 at the time of his disappearance, had moved to Toronto from Fredericton, N.B. to pursue a music career, police said. He was last seen getting into a Chevrolet Corvair with a muscular black man. Police are now hopeful that people who knew Jones will come forward with more information about him. Police also say the murders could be linked to a similar one in Markham in the late 1970s. The bones of a man were found in a wooded area there in 1980. The body, which was found with clothes nearby, was believed to have been there for a couple of years. The remains of that man are still unidentified. Police say the three murders are similar to two solved cases from 1967. That summer, two young men were picked up in downtown Toronto, and taken to rural areas where they were attacked, police said. One man was found dead, while another was still alive when he was found in a field near Barrie. James Henry Greenidge was convicted for manslaughter and attempted murder in those cases. After serving about 10 years in prison, he was released. He moved to western Canada, where he was later convicted in the rape and murder of a woman there. He is currently serving a life-sentence for those crimes, but is now eligible for parole. Police have called Greenidge "a person of interest," in the Hovey-Jones murders. "He was an active sexual predator in 1967 that lived in downtown Toronto," said Chamberland. Anyone who has any information about the victims or the case is asked to call police at 1-888-310-1122. -With files from Metroland North Media and Torstar