A mock stickup at a Tottenham gas station for a movie Sunday night sent a heavy police presence to the community after a member of the public witnessed the filming and thought it was rea At about 8:20 p.m. a resident called police and reported an armed robbery in progress at the gas station just north of the Tottenham Mall. The witness said they could see a suspect holding a man hostage with a gun to his head inside the station. Police from Nottawasaga, Caledon and Dufferin OPP detachments responded to the scene along with a tactical command post trailer. The first officers arriving reported seeing a gas station employee running from the building with his hands over his head. The suspect was seen in the building near the cash register. Officers pulled their weapons and demanded that the suspect surrender. Police then learned the gun was fake and there were Centennial College film students inside the building making a movie for a school project. After the situation was defused most of the police officers started leaving the scene, but OPP Const. Mel Tourigny said the incident was still a heavy drain on police resources. "It was treated like an armed robbery," said Tourigny. "You have practically every available unit start heading in that direction. It tied up officers from three detachments." A spokesperson for Centennial College, Mark Toljagic, said the school regrets the incident. "The college is very apologetic to local residents and the OPP for the mix-up," he said. He said the students had received permission from the gas station owner and that filming was done when the business was closed. He also said the windows were darkened for most of the shoot, but at one point the windows were opened, which is when the witness saw the incident. Police watched the film footage to confirm it matched up to what the witness reported. Tourigny said police are supposed to be notified well in advance of any film shooting to avoid confusion. Toljagic said up until now, the school has had a guideline that students approach local municipalities or police departments to notify them of all public shooting. He said that practice is now going to be stiffened to ensure another mix-up doesn’t happen in the future. "They’re going to make it an absolute policy now, and students will have to produce a document that shows that the local police office signed off on the (project)," he said. Officers told the students about the potential risk to both the film crew itself and the rest of the public. The actors were also warned about how the public and the police perceived the threat. Police notified the college about the incident. Toljagic said he isn’t aware if the school is planning on taking any further disciplinary action.
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 officials and members of the construction industry are predicting an upswing in development amidst growing optimism. At least some of the brightening mood is being driven by a flood of infrastructure funding aimed at giving local economies a lift in uncertain times. “There is no doubt it is going to have an impact,” Mayor Ron Stevens said of the federal stimulus package. “These are the things that are causing a level of positiveness.” Orillia benefited from a $4 million boost to its library project during the first round of an earlier federal/provincial fund created for communities of less than 100,000. A newly announced fund that promises billions more for infrastructure works will continue to bolster local economies, Stevens said. “It creates jobs, and that creates spending,” he added. In addition to recently approved municipal works – including a $6 million extension of West Ridge Boulevard – the city is enjoying a strong start to the year on the housing front. The value of building permits for the first three months of 2009 sat at $3.3 million, up from $2.8 million over the same period last year. “Which tells me there are dollars out there,” Stevens added. The return of larger-scale developments is coming, but will take time, Angelo Orsi said. Orsi plans to build about 40 homes this year – roughly half the number erected in 2008. However, he remains optimistic for the future. “We have not seen any rebound as of yet, and believe we should see some bump once the auto sector issues get resolved,” he said. Federal and provincial dollars earmarked for municipal infrastructure projects should help spur development, though “it will take awhile to feel the benefits, as it has to work its way through the system. “I believe we should feel a solid rebound by the third quarter of this year,” he said. Industry veteran Jim Storey reports a “slowing trend” at the moment, but is equally hopeful. “I’m looking at 2010 being a very strong year,” he said. “This year might be a little quiet, but there is all the indication in the world that 2010 is gearing up to be a stronger year.” Projects benefiting from the promised infrastructure dollars will take time to bear fruit, said Storey, president of Bradanick Construction Services. “They are talking about putting in these different plans to help the economy and create employment, but most of that work will be 2010 before that gets off the ground,” he added. Storey, who focuses mainly on commercial construction, noted that several large-scale projects are already on the horizon for Orillia. “We have a university starting, we have some major road construction happening, there’s (the reconstruction) of Westmount Drive,” he said. “I don’t see the future as bleak, I see it as prosperous,” he added. “It is just going to take some time to get there.” Wes Brennan, a builder of high-end custom homes, has no shortage of work to keep his crew of 15 busy. “We are all booked up for the year,” said Brennan. “We have got all kinds of work. We are always busy.” Brennan, who has several houses on the go, said the current economic climate hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of his moneyed clients. “The recession has not bothered them so much,” he said. Reliable companies that offer a quality product “will have the work,” he added. Brennan said a slowdown in the early 1990s amounted to no more than “a couple of days” without work. “I’m sure I have enough work to keep me busy for the rest of the year,” he added.
Two off-road enthusiasts were caught riding their ATVs where they didn’t belong on Saturday. A Southern Georgian Bay OPP officer spotted the men on an Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs trail in Tiny Township. The off-roaders were stopped and charged under the Trespass to Property Act after being told they could not operate their vehicles on snowmobile trails during the winter months. One of the men was also charged with driving with a blood-alcohol content over 80 milligrams.
Bigger isn’t always better. That was the message as a slim majority of council opted not to include an Olympic-size rink in Orillia’s twin-pad arena. The West Ridge Sports Complex will feature two NHL-sized rinks, as originally proposed. “The important thing is, the project is moving ahead,” Coun. Michael Fogarty, a supporter of the larger ice surface, said after a special meeting held Thursday. The meeting followed consultations with local user groups in late March. Orillia Minor Hockey president Cathy O’Connor had argued that an Olympic-size rink would allow the club to lure international competitions and expand participation in clinics and summer camps. “We gave it our best shot,” she said of the rejected proposal. “You don’t shoot, you don’t score.” An Olympic rink boasts an additional 3,000 square feet of space and would have boosted the project’s price by $550,000, according to staff. Maintenance costs are higher for the bigger rink, which would also require a larger ice plant, staff added. While disappointed by the decision, O’Connor applauded council for moving ahead with the project, which will include outdoor soccer fields and tennis courts. “I’m just appreciative they have given us a twin pad,” she added. “I never thought we’d even see that.” The amended plan includes the use of artificial turf on one of two soccer fields at an estimated cost of $500,000 and a separate building to house washrooms and change rooms serving users of the sports fields. The arena will include seating for 700 at one rink and 200 at the other, while the ceiling will be at least 30 feet from the rink to ensure lacrosse players have adequate room to play. Staff recommended council not include an all-weather running track in the design, arguing the property is too small to accommodate one without sacrificing other amenities. “Obviously, the selection of the 26 acres has severely hampered a lot of our options there,” Coun. Tim Lauer said. Neither did council support a call by some sports groups for an indoor soccer facility, with staff noting that a single inflated structure bears an estimated cost of $3.25 million. Lauer urged staff to ensure the property has ample tree coverage. “If you are at a soccer tournament in the middle of the summer and it is 80 degrees out, you have no better friend than a tree,” said Lauer. Orillia’s parks and recreation department “loves trees,” replied its director, Ray Merkley. EllisDon Construction will proceed with the project’s design and final costing for presentation to council in seven to eight weeks. Councillors Don Evans, Ralph Cipolla, Maurice McMillan and Michael Fogarty supported an Olympic-size rink.
High water levels have prompted the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to caution residents with private wells to be aware that flooding conditions could make their water supply unsafe. Flooding caused by rain and snow melt could potentially contaminate water in drilled or dug wells, allowing harmful bacteria into the drinking supply. If your well has been flooded, it could have been contaminated. Until you can get your well water tested, use bottled water for drinking, making infant formula, juices, cooking, making ice, washing fruits and vegetables or brushing teeth, or boil your water rapidly for at least one minute before use. Once flooding has receded, the well should be disinfected and tested several times before the water can again be used for drinking. As well, homeowners should be aware that food items that have been in contact with flood water 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 and information about food handling can be found on the health unit’s website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org, or by calling Your Health Connection at _721-7520, or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Veteran comic Cathy Jones will headline Orillia’s third-annual comedy festival (April 15 to 18) with a Saturday-evening show at the city’s venerable opera house. A founding member of the mock news program, “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” Jones spoke with Orillia Today in advance of her appearance, ruminating on character-driven comedy and the joy of finding humour in hardship. Jones, who turned 54 on Monday, began the phone interview from inside a Halifax, Nova Scotia car wash, where her Mini was enjoying a foam bath. Orillia Today: TV viewers know you for your role in This Hour Has 22 Minutes, where you work as part of an ensemble cast. What can you tell us about your upcoming performance at the opera house? Jones: “A lot of times, when I do a solo performance, I just talk and tell jokes, but I think I’m going to do a couple of character pieces, because the show is longer than usual. (At this point, the conversation turns to the car wash. “The dryer is so short – there’s only 20 seconds left,” Jones tells a reporter. “I’m going to back up and go through again.” She does just that, before returning to the subject of her solo performance.) “People do like to see a sprinkling of video, and I do have some fun things that I want to share. I’m hoping to bring a young actor that I have a lot of respect for, (who) plays scenes with me really well.” Orillia Today: Is there a sense of freedom with a solo act that you don’t have as part of a larger cast? Is there an intimidation factor there, arriving on the stage alone? Jones: “To me, if the show goes well, if I’m connecting with my audience, I am very happy to be there. Especially if I feel comfortable enough to explore things as I go, topics that I’m fascinated by. I have a history in my family of their being good at being MCs. My father had a very dry sense of humour, and a lot of times people didn’t know he was joking. If you didn’t have a good sense of humour, you might miss it. It is in my family, the show business thing.”’ Orillia Today: You’ve been described as a comic chameleon, able to slip into any number of characters with the help of a few props. Babe Bennett comes to mind. Can you give us some insight into the creative process required to develop these characters? Jones: “The truth is, I get inspired by stuff, but it’s been awhile. I’m kind of lazy. When I hear somebody speaking, I want to capture their accent. When I hear somebody talking, the voice comes back to me. Sometimes when I’m meditating I’ll be talking out loud and a character will come to me.” Orillia Today: Is it true that your female characters were modeled after your mother? Jones: “I think there was that broken hearted tenderness, even though I have my father’s aggression where I suddenly snap. I think my mom, she was incredibly generous – Newfoundlanders are incredibly generous – she was funny. She played the piano. She had a really deep voice.” Orillia Today: Much has been written about the East Coast having its own distinct brand of humour. Is that true, and if so, what sets it apart from other comedy? Jones: “It is harder to be funny when you are on top, because it is not as easy to fool around. When you are on the East Coast, you are almost the class clown of the country. We are like people who really know how to survive on a (expletive deleted) rock. Being the underdog and (yet) not being crushed is a great place for humour to come from.” Orillia Today: How do you choose your targets – I mean subjects – when you’re preparing for an episode of This Hour Has 22 Minutes? Jones: “What’s politically in the news, what are the hot topics. We have meetings Monday morning and there is a huge idea list generated and then people write and write. We basically have two days to write the show.” Orillia Today: Any favourite subjects come to mind? Jones: “I like stuff that’s smart. I like funny, funny stuff. I’m not a news junkie type of person. I’m more about people’s behaviour, how we treat each other, the changes in culture, like what we have done to life on Earth. What it is like to be my age, to be who I am. I am not a male standup comedian, I am character-driven.” Orillia Today: Carol Burnett was renowned for her characters. Jones: “She was very physical. It wasn’t about the snappy patter. It was the physical appearance. She was killer. Orillia Today: Within film and television, it’s often said comedy is perhaps the most difficult form to write well. What sets apart good humour writing from the mediocre stuff that seems in such ample supply these days? Jones: “Real comedy comes out of real situations. If you do something very unlikely, you get further away from good comedy. Something being true and genuine is way funnier than somebody trying to be funny. My favourite comedy comes out of real life situations. Real emotions can be very, very funny.” – Cathy Jones performs at the Orillia Opera House April 18 at 8 p.m., with tickets priced at $40, or $30 for seniors and students. For more information, call 326-8011.
Police said a 34-year-old Beeton woman was twice the legal alcohol limit when she drove a minivan into a creek east of Tottenham last week. At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, New Tecumseth firefighters driving along the 4th Line discovered a minivan that had gone through a guardrail and into a creek. No driver or passenger was visible anywhere near the vehicle. Police searched the area and eventually found the alleged driver, a 34-year-old Beeton woman, at the side of the road about one kilometre from the crash. She had apparently walked away from the collision. The crash took out over 20 metres of guardrail. The woman is facing several charges, including impaired driving, driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08, failure to remain on the scene, failure to report an accident and taking a vehicle without owner’s consent. She was released pending a court appearance.