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.


Frosty the Snow… Bunny?

Alliston’s Reyes family made the best of this week’s weather when they made a snow Easter bunny on their front lawn. The family took advantage of the cancelled school buses, and built the six-foot-tall snow sculpture in about two-and-a-half hours Monday afternoon. The snow is expected to taper off this week, but the cold temperatures will remain with us through the Easter long weekend, meaning the Reyes’ bunny likely will too. The lows through to Easter Monday will drop to -3 to -5 C each night and the highest temperature we can expect is on Friday at 9 C with an average of about 5 C the rest of the weekend. Tomorrow (Wednesday) temperatures are only expected to climb to about 2 C and more light snow is on the way.


Robbery suspect suffered hypothermia

A man alleged to have robbed a convenience store clerk with a knife suffered hypothermia while hiding from police in a wooded area, the OPP has reported. Police say a lone male armed with a knife entered the Cumberland Beach store on Highway 11 near Bayou Road on Tuesday, at about 9:30 p.m. His face was hidden behind a black mask and he was wearing a hoodie. After demanding money from the clerk, a struggle ensued and the clerk suffered a small cut to one hand. The suspect took an undisclosed quantity of cash before fleeing the store, only to be located by an emergency response team and a K-9 unit two hours later in a wooded area. He was taken to Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and treated for hypothermia before being transported to the Orillia OPP detachment. A 19-year-old Cumberland Beach man is charged with robbery with a weapon and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He was to attend a bail hearing in Barrie court on Thursday.


Group advocates for Midland seniors

The Midland Seniors Council has spent months collecting information on how to accommodate the town’s growing population of older people. Elizabeth O’Connor, a spokesperson for the group, addressed Midland council Monday night outlining the results of a needs assessment of vulnerable seniors in town. Several key needs surfaced, she pointed out. They included transportation, a seniors facility and recreational opportunities, safety, opportunities to interact with children and youths, and accessibility. “We feel very fortunate to have this type of representation in our community,” O’Connor said of the seniors council. “Since we are an arm of council, we are your people on the ground.” O’Connor said there are two categories of seniors residing in the area: recently retired individuals in good health, and a more frail and needy group that cannot speak for itself. It’s the second group the seniors council would like to focus on, she said. “Seniors have said they would like to have a facility,” she said. “We have Askennonia (Senior Centre), which is great … but (many) don’t feel it offers a space where they can just go and have coffee.” O’Connor said the assessment pinpointed a number of desires, but the seniors council has selected four to focus on: transit, a seniors facility, safety and information. The organization recommended: • expanding Midland Transit to key community locations, such as the malls, big-box stores and the hospital; • creating a drop-in facility for seniors where they could gather informally; • improving pedestrian safety by increasing the number of crossings and slowing traffic in senior facility areas. O’Connor also requested council support the efforts of the seniors council to find and establish an ongoing method to communicate with area seniors. “We want to put the message out there that we are working with (town) council,” she said. Coun. Gord McKay said, “Many of us (know what it’s like) to deal with aged parents. You see the isolation they have to deal with…. (The seniors council) gives us an arm to be able to reach out to that population.” [email protected]


Francophone group says ‘merci’ for funding

A Penetanguishene organization will use $17,000 in federal funding to stage a series of performances called La Vague francophone avec Franco-Simcoe. “La Clé d’la Baie en Huronie is pleased with the support of the Government of Canada, which allows us to offer Simcoe’s francophone community a variety of cultural performances,” Peter Hominuk, director general of La Clé d’la Baie, stated in a press release. “This funding will provide francophones in our community with access to quality French-language performances that they would not otherwise have a chance to experience.” Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton announced the funding Tuesday on behalf of James Moore, minister of Canadian heritage and official languages. “I am very pleased that our government is working with La Clé d’la Baie en Huronie to ensure that our francophone communities are able to share and express their rich cultural heritage,” said Stanton. La Clé d’la Baie is a francophone cultural association devoted to promoting the French language and culture, and enhancing the cultural life of the minority francophone community in Simcoe County. The funding was made through the Arts Presentation Canada Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. This program gives Canadians increased access to the nation’s culture through arts festivals, live performances and other artistic experiences.


Lotto winner beats the odds… twice

Dave Simmons is a rare bird. The Belle Ewart resident has won Lotto 6/49 not once, but twice in 2009. The 64-year-old design engineer won $224,639 in the Jan. 24 draw. He then followed up with a $19,055 win in the Feb. 21 draw. The first ticket was purchased at Sobey’s in Alcona. Simmons purchased his second ticket at Shopper’s Drug Mart on Innisfil Beach Road. “I checked my (second) ticket at the store,” Simmons said. “I feel fantastic and I am very pleased.” Married, Simmons said he planned to use part of his double windfall to help out his church and take a trip. Ontario Lottery and Gaming commission media spokesperson Teresa Roncon said winning in back-to-back months “is a fairly rare occurrence. I can’t recall the last time that’s happened. It’s just random chance. Congratulations to Dave.”


Watch for scam: OPP

A scam targeting the Orillia area has police warning residents never to give out banking and other personal information over the phone. The OPP say a caller to a local home claimed to be working with police, telling the resident he was collecting money to keep children from committing crimes. The caller requested a donation of $25, $50 or $75. Police say residents should never give out personal information over the phone, including banking and credit card information. Anyone who receives a suspicious phone call can contact the Phone Busters National Call Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or [email protected]


Wells susceptible to contamination from flooding, says health unit

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is cautioning residents with private wells to be aware of high water levels that could make their water supply unsafe. Flooding caused by rain and melting snow could contaminate water in drilled or dug wells, allowing harmful bacteria into the drinking supply. Officials are advising residents whose wells were flooded to get their water tested and to use bottled water for drinking, making juice or infant formula, cooking, making ice, washing fruits and vegetables, or teeth brushing. Residents can also boil their water rapidly for at least one minute before use. Once flooding has receded, officials recommend disinfecting and testing the well several times before drinking the water. Homeowners are also advised food items that have been in contact with floodwater should be thrown out. Canned goods remain safe, but the outside of cans must be thoroughly washed and disinfected before being opened. Detailed instructions for disinfecting wells, plus information about food handling, can be found on the health unit’s website at or by calling 721-7520.