Firefighters battle Baxter house fire

Heavy smoke was pouring from a house on Denney Drive in the tiny hamlet of Baxter last night (Wed., March 25) Essa firefighters responded to the report of a house fire just before 7 p.m. at the residence located at the northwest corner of Denney Drive and Murphy Road (Baxter Road). Fire crews spent some time trying to locate the source of the blaze, which may have been in the walls or ceiling of the home. No word on the cause or damage at this post.


OPP Auxiliary welcomes 16 new recruits

ORILLIA – The Ontario Provincial Police welcomed more than a dozen recruits into its auxiliary program during a graduation ceremony held at OPP General Headquarters on Feb. 27. Formed in 1969, the OPP Auxiliary consists of unpaid volunteers who perform duties ranging from traffic control and seatbelt clinics to helping with road patrols and victim assistance. Among the new recruits is Andrew Dubbin of Midland, who became an auxiliary member of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP. Members hail from a variety of backgrounds, and have included lawyers, farmers, paramedics, pilots, bus drivers and homemakers, among others. Of the 16 recruits who graduated last week, three will serve the aboriginal community of Lac Seul First Nation, northwest of Sioux Lookout.


Thief makes cop’s job easy

A Midland police officer investigating a theft from a downtown hardware store had an easy time finding the culprit – he was strolling down King Street carrying stolen merchandise. The incident happened around 5 p.m. on March 26. The officer was driving to the scene of the crime when he spotted the thief. A 26-year-old Midland man has been charged with theft under $5,000, possession of stolen property and breach of probation. He was held for a bail hearing in Barrie the following day.


I Hear That Train a Comin’

Hayden Burkitt, three, takes charge of Thomas the Tank Engine under the watchful eye of conductor David Janelle at the Thomas Depot at the Queen Street station in Tottenham. The depot offered playday for youngsters Saturday to come in and try out the selection of toy trains. Some of the proceeds from sales are going to help the local Tottenham Food Bank.


New leaf/yard waste program for seniors

The town of New Tecumseth is making it easier for seniors and disabled to have their leaves, yard waste and brush picked up. Rather than having to bag leaves like all residents currently have to do for the county pick-up days, disabled people and seniors in New Tecumseth can now apply for a special new town pick-up  program. If approved, they can simply rake the leaves to the boulevard in front of their homes for pickup. The program is for seniors and people with a disability. This is the first time the town assistance program is being offered. This year’s collections will be during the weeks of May 11, Nov. 2 and Nov. 23. There may have been some confusion from a previous article published in the Herald. The town will not rake up the leaves. The leaves and yard waste must be raked up or collected and left on the boulevard. People wanting to sign onto the town’s assistance program must fill out an application before May 4. It is open to people over 65 years with no able bodied person living in the residence. People under 65 are also eligible with a doctor’s note. Note, you must apply and be approved for the program before pick up will take place. Applications are available online at or by calling 905-729-1260.


Standoff in New Lowell

A standoff between members of the OPP and a man inside a Lamers Road home in New Lowell took place on Friday. Const. Mark Kinney of the Huronia West OPP detachment in Wasaga Beach says police went to the home mid-afternoon. One male was apprehended leaving the home shortly after authorities arrived and another spoke to police and turned himself in just after 10 p.m., Kinney said. Police closed County Road 9 for a period of time on Friday. No further details were available.


Meaford residents face hefty tax hike

Taxpayers of the Municipality of Meaford are staring at another large property tax increase in 2009. Meaford council held a special all-day budget meeting at Meaford Hall last Thursday and received its first glimpse at the proposed 2009 budget. Financial consultant David Kennedy gave a detailed operating budget presentation about each municipal department at the meeting for members of council. The capital budget for 2009 and the budgets for the water and sewage departments were not available at Thursday’s meeting. The proposed 2009 budget presented by Kennedy would increase municipal expenses to more than $10.1 million in 2009. As a result, Kennedy has forecasted that the amount the municipality collects in local property taxes must increase by $1,537,400. He said that amount represents an increase of approximately 18%. Kennedy said when school board and Grey County taxes are factored into the equation Meaford ratepayers face an overall tax increase of between 8-9%. At the end of the meeting council declared that an 18% local tax increase is unacceptable and mandated municipal staff to prepare a budget that reduces that number to 8%. "We want them to reduce on non-essential services," said Mayor Francis Richardson after the meeting. "We also asked (staff) to take a look at a couple scenarios with different percentages, but the key point is the affect on services," said the Mayor. In 2008 local taxes increased more than 20% – with the overall increase being approximately 11%. Operating expenses for all municipal departments are increasing in the proposed 2009 budget. The only department showing an overall decrease in expenses is the municipality’s Cultural department (Meaford Hall and the Meaford Museum). The decrease in that department is attributed to revenue growth at Meaford Hall. Kennedy explained to council that there are many reasons for the large increase. He said the 2008 budget ended up with a deficit of approximately $150,000. The deficit was caused by two primary factors: increased snow removal costs (a situation all municipalities have encountered) and less revenue anticipated from the federal government as a grant in lieu of taxes for the military base. The 2008 deficit is not final because the municipality has not yet received its rebate from the OPP. Other costs pressures in 2009 included: the budgeting of benefit costs relating to employees from the former municipal police force in Meaford. Kennedy noted that this has always been a cost for Meaford, but has not been included in the past few budgets. The proposed 2009 budget also includes the costs of a full-time CAO and an overall pay increase for municipal staff of more than 4%. The staff pay increase represents just over $200,000 in additional costs for the municipality in the budget. Kennedy told council the situation is daunting. "Are we going to bite the bullet on (18%)? Or are we going to eliminate or reduce services going forward?" said Kennedy. Councillor Gerald Shortt pointed out repeatedly that the municipality is proposing another large tax increase and the tax budget still does not contain any funding for capital infrastructure improvements in the municipality or funding to pay down the 2007 deficit. Mayor Francis Richardson called the presentation "eye opening." "There is so little that we have any control over, but we can’t leave the figures as they have been presented. We have to do something about this," said the Mayor. Deputy Mayor Mike Traynor said if council moves forward at 18% they will face an angry public. "I think the community will go ballistic if they see a double digit increase this year," said Traynor. The question facing council at Thursday meeting was: "What can be cut from the budget?" After breaking for lunch council met in the afternoon to discuss potential cuts. Many members of council favoured a broader discussion about services levels and if cuts are possible, but specific suggestions for cuts did not emerge. Only councillor Jim McPherson was willing to make a straightforward proposal. McPherson called for an immediate 25% cut to all non-essential services. He did not specify which services he considered non-essential. "I totally disagree with the direction this council is taking. We have not differentiated between essential and non-essential services and you’re looking at double digit increases again next year and probably the year after," said McPherson. "I can’t support this," he said. Councillor Gerald Shortt said he wanted to have the discussion McPherson proposed, but he wanted to see specific suggestions. "Tell me where you want to cut," Shortt told McPherson. "I might not agree with you, but I want to know where these proposed cuts are," he said. Both Kennedy and CAO Frank Miele said cuts to the budget would have to come in the form of reduced or eliminated services. Kennedy told council it makes no sense to order a mandatory 10% reduction in the budget. "How do you reduce staff salaries by 10%?" Kennedy questioned. "Tell me the level of service to reduce or tell me the service you’re going to eliminate – then you will have an impact on this budget," said Kennedy. "Which service do you want to minimize or eliminate? That’s the issue," Miele told council. "I haven’t heard anybody say this service isn’t essential and I’m prepared to eliminate it," said the CAO. Council will meet again to discuss the budget on Thursday evening at 4:30 p.m. at the council chambers.


Ontario dancers dazzle crowds at Blue Mountain

Young dancers from across Ontario visited Blue Mountain last weekend for the eighth annual Bedazzled Dance Championship competition. Seven hundred and three dancers performed 777 numbers at the Blue Mountain Inn from April 16 to 19. Dancers came from 17 clubs including the Collingwood School of Dance and two clubs in Barrie. This is the fifth year the competition was held at Blue Mountain, and the National championships will return to the same place in July. Bedazzled is one of Canada’s largest Dance competitions, according to director Tracy Covelli. "We are all about fun, healthy dance experience that all dancers will treasure for years to come," said Covelli. For more information about Bedazzled, visit their website at www.bedazzleddance.com.