Town implements strict street naming policy

The Blue Mountains council has voted to approve a revised street naming policy for the town. According to the new policy, accepted at the March 2 planning meeting, the town will hold the responsibility for approving the names and renaming of all public and private streets. Until now, the town was not involved in naming private streets, and only had to approve names for public streets provided they were not duplicates. The new policy requires The Blue Mountains planning and building services department to compile and keep a list of proposed street names, which will each be approved by council based on suitability. They will all fall under six categories including names honouring those who have served their county, those who have given their life in public service, local history, national or international, community service and names that reflect the municipality’s agricultural and or recreational heritage or nature. The last category is miscellaneous, but not included in the six priority groups. In order for a street name to be added to this list, a written request must be submitted to the planning and building services department. The names will be checked for duplication and similarity in The Blue Mountains and Grey County, and accepted or refused by staff. If accepted, the names will be put to council for approval, then added to the list. To assign a street name, the proponent must review the list of approved names and chose a minimum of one street name from the six priority categories. At least half of the streets to be named must be assigned a name from these categories. Names up for approval must follow specific rules. The policy states that street names should be easily pronounced, recognized and use conventional spelling. Streets named after individuals must be a posthumous honour and must have the consent of living relatives. Names should not be longer than ten characters, Names should not be in conflict with others in The Blue Mountains or Grey County, they can’t be advertising, cumbersome, corrupted, discriminatory or derogatory. Names with sexual overtones, inappropriate humour, parody, slang or double meaning will be refused. Names with punctuation are discouraged. Currently, there is no list, but planning staff members are working to draft one to bring before council soon. A copy of the entire street naming policy is available at thebluemountains.ca.


Neighbouring towns talk affordable accommodation

Representatives from Collingwood and The Blue Mountains met to discuss affordable housing solutions and plan joint projects for increasing the amount of units available in each town. The Blue Mountains mayor Ellen Anderson and Collingwod Mayor Chris Carrier both attended the meeting on Friday, March 6, which was chaired by Dawn Myers and Mayor Anderson. The Blue Mountains representatives included Rotarian Steve Schofield, BVO executive director, Carolyn Letourneau, Betty Langford of the centre for business and economic development and councilor John McGee. The Collingwood taskforce includes councilors Ian Chadwick and Norman Sandberg, Matthew Way resident Tom Schaefer, Mayor Carrier, Ralph Sneid, Garry Reid and Keith Hull, who was hired by the town to work on solutions for affordable housing. A majority of the discussion centered on the issue of NIMBYS. (Not In My Back Yard). Referring to residents of both towns who object to affordable housing units in the area saying they would be detrimental to the community. "How do we teach people that it just is not cool to not support affordable housing?" asked Mayor Anderson. "How do we shame them?" Schaefer, a resident of Matthew Way, a housing co-op in Collingwood, said it was important to change people’s perspective of affordable housing, which does not mean socially assisted housing. Keith Hull made a presentation to explain how affordable housing units, with the involvement of a developer and a unit shares program would be feasible in either town. Some discussion also focused on options for development charge (DC) bylaws specific for affordable housing development. Suggestions included waving DC’s, putting them off until the building is sold and offering extra stimulus with programs encouraging environmentally friendly building to counteract the DC costs. Both Carrier and Anderson agreed to keep meeting with their individual taskforces in their own communities, and have joint meetings once in a while to discuss any options for joint projects or Municipal Services Board issues.


Trustees spare SCI

Simcoe County District School Board trustees have voted to keep Stayner Collegiate Institute open. During a year-long process, an accommodation review committee (ARC) found that Stayner Collegiate Institute (SCI) is a growing school but needs improvements to properly accommodate that growth. Onlookers spilled into the atrium at the school board’s administration centre in Midhurst Tuesday as members of the facility standing committee, comprised of trustees, voted at a special meeting called to deal with nine staff recommendations about how to resolve high school enrolment issues. "Before us there are nine recommendations that are basically going to tear our communities apart," said Peter Beacock, trustee for Springwater Township and Oro-Medonte. Trustees poured over the recommendations during a four-and-a-half hour period Tuesday, in the end, defeating a motion to close high schools in Stayner and Penetanguishene. A motion to recommend improvements to Collingwood Collegiate Institute was also defeated. They did approve the closure of Elmvale District High School and the construction of a new secondary school to serve Wasaga Beach and Elmvale. Caroline Smith, the trustee representing Collingwood and Clearview Township, spoke in favour of following the recommendations made by the ARC last month. "There was never a direction from the ARC that they wanted a mega school," said Smith. "This was as close to a consensus as any of the ARCs ever got." She said the board is not allowed to close one school to get growth to build another school, speaking in defense of SCI. Members of the school community have throughout the process made the case that SCI has among the highest graduation rates and test scores in the county. The ARC recommended the board keep its small schools open for that reason. Lou Brandes, the school board’s associate director and superintendent of facility services, said staff does not consider schools of 1,200 students to be large schools and that small schools do not necessarily produce better results. Brad Saunders, trustee for Midland, Penetanguishene, Wasaga Beach and Tiny Township, spoke highly of SCI. He said although it would have been easier for him to have found SCI was in disrepair, instead he found a very nice school with great staff and students. "I think it’s a sustainable school," said Saunders. He said he found it difficult to go along with the recommendations made by staff. "It troubles me that we have a different set of recommendations from administration than from the ARC," said Saunders. "If we go with staff we will have trouble finding people to sit on an ARC… That is a situation, as a trustee, I am very, very uncomfortable with." Saunders tabled two recommendations with regard to high schools in Midland and Penetanguishene derived directly from the ARC and both passed. The decisions made by trustees Tuesday are far from final. Jodi Lloyd, trustee for Severn, Tay and Ramara, chairs the facility standing committee. She said by approving some recommendations and not others, the three-school solution recommended by staff has been altered and there are now holes that need to be filled. Redirecting the 450 Wasaga Beach secondary school students to a new high school will result in capacity issues at Collingwood Collegiate Institute. Lloyd said that problem has yet to be dealt with. She said things are sure to change as trustees go through another wave of public delegations in May before they make their final decision at a board meeting on June 17. She said although all school trustees sit on the facility standing committee, there will certainly be changes in opinion as they go through the process. The board embarked on the review one year ago to seek solutions to declining enrolment in the area, creating a surplus of so-called pupil places. Staff recommendations, contained in a report dated April 14, differ from the recommendations made by the ARC last month. High schools in Stayner, Collingwood, Elmvale, Penetanguishene and Midland are included in the review. Wasaga Beach was also included as a possible school site. The ARC, a committee made up of school and community representatives, recommended a five-school solution, to keep all five schools open and fund necessary improvements and upgrades to solve capacity issues. Board staff recommended a three-school solution, which would result in the closure of Penetanguishene Secondary School, Stayner Collegiate Institute and Elmvale District High School and the construction of a central school for Wasaga Beach and Elmvale.


McKay drops in for some training

National Defense Minister Peter McKay flew into town Saturday morning to do some training at Land Force Central Area training Centre (LFCATC) Meaford. McKay arrived via a Griffin helicopter on Saturday morning for an impromptu visit at the Meaford military training centre. McKay was looking forward to getting out in the field with the troops training in Meaford. “I understand they have a rigorous program planned for me today,” said McKay after he exited his helicopter and met with top brass from the base and MP Larry Miller. “It’s all part of a process I have undertaken to visit as many bases as possible and spend time with the troops and their families to express our appreciation,” he said. It was a very busy morning for McKay at LFCATC Meaford. Staff at the training centre planned to show McKay as much of the facility as possible during his four-hour stay. Capt. Jason Geroux said the timing of the Minister’s visit was perfect. “There are a lot of troops here right now and lots of vehicles. He will see the range and do some rappelling. There’s all kinds of training going on out there right now,” said Geroux, noting that the training centre had eight units consisting of more than 250 primary reserve troops from all over Ontario at the centre on Saturday. “We’ll show him the facilities. He will fire some weapons and have lunch with the troops,” said Capt. Geroux. McKay said the current government has made it a priority to modernize and update the Canadian military. He said as Defense Minister it’s very important to get out and visit Canadian forces to see the affects of the changes the government has introduced. “It’s important to demonstrate in tangible ways the value we place on the work our troops do,” said McKay. MP Larry Miller said he invited McKay to LFCATC Meaford immediately after he became defense minister in 2007. “It was a surprise when I got the phone call. It’s good to have him here to see our young men and women training in Meaford,” said Miller. “It’s very important for him to visit like this. He’s going to do some training. He will enjoy that, he’s a heck of a rugby player,” Miller added.


Jumbo paper shredder coming to Penetang

A briefcase-sized paper shredder will do the job, but it can be time-consuming. For people with a whole lot of paper to dispose of, a truck-sized shredder will pay a visit to Penetanguishene on May 2. The community shredding day is also a fundraiser for the Midland Area Reading Council and Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe. The truck holds 4.6 tonnes of shredded paper, all of which will be recycled, which organizers say will save about 55 trees. The truck will be at the Village Square Mall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donations for the two community organizations will be accepted.


A vision in red

A young woman models a bright and beautiful gown before a packed audience at the Spring Extravaganza, held April 5 at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre. The show featured fashions and ideas for weddings, graduations and other special events.


Run With the Kittens at opera house

Nate Mills had his tongue planted firmly in cheek when he penned the now infamous “Orillia Song,” a backhanded homage to his quirky hometown. The tune would serve as the soundtrack to an accompanying film-short produced in collaboration with childhood friend Tyler Grace. Set to rollicking country music, the song highlights a variety of local landmarks, among them the Stephen Leacock Museum, the Champlain Monument and the Atherley Arms – all of it seen through the eyes of two visiting hillbillies. Over the past two years, the piece garnered 135,000 hits on the video-sharing site YouTube. “People are self deprecating,” Mills, 27, said of the local response. “People like to be made fun of, to an extent, and laugh at themselves. No one had really done anything about Orillia, aside from Stephen Leacock a long time ago.” No surprise, then, that when Mills hits the opera house stage on the Friday of this weekend’s comedy festival with his Toronto-based band Run With the Kittens, the satirical song will be on the set list. “I’ll have to,” says Mills, the group’s vocalist and songwriter. For the past five years the band has enjoyed a regular Tuesday evening gig at Toronto’s Cameron House, a corner bar brimming with character. And characters. It was there that Mills and company honed their chops before small but discerning audiences with a thirst for fresh material and new approaches. “There is no greater way to tighten a band,” he says. “Every process, it speeds it up tenfold.” Their music ranges from folk and funk to hard-driving punk and even strays into the oh-so-soothing sounds of “lounge.” “It’s all over the place,” he adds. Mills inevitably injected his well-known wit into much of the writing, further broadening the band’s appeal.  “I enjoy comedy, and have a sense of humour about things, so that spilled into the band,” he adds. You don’t want to get written off as a novelty band or a joke, but at the same time, that is the spot where I am most comfortable.” In 2007, the energetic foursome produced two records under the guidance of Blue Rodeo and Rush producer Terry Brown, and a year later released Cad Gold Jr. The band has toured Canada twice in an old school bus, and last November brought its wide-ranging repertoire to Holland. “It was fantastic,” Mills says. “We went for 10 days and we played every other night. European audiences are a lot more enthusiastic and open minded, from my short time there.” Other venues included biker festivals and a stint at the Huronia Regional Centre. “My uncle was in charge of entertainment,” he recalls. “He said (the residents) were really into Ghostbusters, so if you could learn the Ghostbusters song they would love it.” The band did just that. “Everyone went crazy,” he adds. “It was really well received.” In between gigs and recording, Mills supplements his income writing jingles for television commercials. “The majority of the stuff is background for a Swiss Chalet commercial or something when the food is being shown,” he says. He looks forward to his band’s first appearance at the local opera house with more than a touch of awe. “I remember being very little and going to see Mr. Dressup there and thinking ‘This place is huge,’” he adds. “It is kind of surreal. I feel really privileged.” Run With the Kittens plays the Orillia Opera House on April 17 at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call 326-8011.


Local reservists train in Arctic

The protection of Canada’s north and the assertion of its sovereignty are becoming major issues on the political and military agenda. The Canadian Forces is creating quick-response units to deal with any emergency that may arise, and to defend remote communities and resources. Reservists with the Grey and Simcoe Foresters have been given this mission in Ontario, and the nascent Arctic Response Company recently returned from its first weeklong training exercise 650 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The company commander is Capt. Perry Rittershofer of Penetanguishene. A mechanical engineering technician in civilian life, he said working with the Rangers was an outstanding experience for his troops. “It was excellent for me to lead soldiers in such a harsh environment, and to see them develop over the course of the week. When I watched them, with all their kit on and pulling those laden toboggans, I was really impressed on how well they learned and adapted.” Corp. Grant Kempster said there are tremendous challenges presented by living and working in such an environment. “It’s not just the weather, but also the scarcity of material and resources,” he explained. “Everything has to be flown in and, although we can bring what we need, for the local people, this means that bread costs $5.50 a loaf.” Kempster, a Barrie resident and part-time soldier, said he found himself humbled by the skills and strengths of native people in the North. “We have to be aware not only of their impact on us, but of our impact on them. The village elders stressed to us their young people need to know there is more to Canada than just the North. And we certainly need to know that there is more to Canada than just our own region.” Angus resident Capt. Craig Bawden is the regiment’s operations officer, responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the training, which included such skills as rescuing someone from icy water, cooking traditional foods, and re-supplying the camps by snowmobile. “Everyone had to build survival shelters using natural materials, and they had to spend a night in them,” he said. “It gave them a real sense of accomplishment.” The Kitchenumaykoob-Inninuwug First Nation is a community of about 1,200 people on the shore of Big Trout Lake. Many inhabitants of the region, and throughout Canada’s remote areas, are members of the Canadian Rangers. These largely aboriginal reservists acted as instructors and mentors for the Foresters and other troops on the exercise, teaching them the intricacies and subtleties of living off the land in a hostile, yet fragile, environment. “The exercise tested our ability to survive, move and communicate under extreme conditions,” Bawden added. “Some days, it was as cold as -36 (C).” The Foresters’ commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Wayne Bruce, was also on the exercise. “I was most impressed by the welcome the community gave us,” he said. “The last day, they prepared a feast for us, including caribou, beaver, moose, trout and whitefish.” Foresters form one platoon of the company, as well as the company headquarters. The other platoons are made up of soldiers from throughout 32 Canadian Brigade Group, including such historic regiments as the 48th Highlanders, Toronto Scottish, and Queen’s Own Rifles.


Close SCI: Board staff

Simcoe County District School Board staff is recommending the closure of Stayner Collegiate Institute, Elmvale District High School and Penetanguishene Secondary School. The recommendation is in a report by associate director Lou Brandes, the board’s superintendent of facility services. The report was released Thursday and presented to the board’s facility standing committee yesterday (Tuesday). The board reviewed three recommendations made by an accommodation review committee (ARC) struck to consider enrolment and facility issues relating to five area high schools over the past year. It reviewed high schools in Collingwood, Stayner, Elmvale, Midland and Penetanguishene. Wasaga Beach was also considered in the review as a possible school site. The ARC recommended maintaining all five schools and making improvements to each. It also recommended a six-school solution, in which a high school would also be built in Wasaga Beach and a four-school scenario, in which Penetanguishene and Midland secondary schools merge. "The ARC recommended scenarios, while addressing accommodation, program and building condition pressures in the short term will not address long term pressures," reported Brandes. "Staff recommend a three-school solution that will retain Collingwood Collegiate Institute in the west area, Midland Secondary School in the east area and a new Elmvale/Wasaga Beach secondary school in the central area of the ARC." The decision is based on enrolment projections that will see the area’s student population of 4,290 decline to 3,794 in 2018. Those students would be dispersed between the new school, built to accommodate 1,000 people and the two existing schools, which would be expanded to accommodate 1,400 each. The report recommends a review be undertaken to finalize attendance boundaries, which would determine which schools students attend depending on where they live. The report contains a total of nine recommendations to the facility standing committee. It recommends Elmvale District High School and Stayner Collegiate Institute close when the new secondary school is formed and that Penetanguishene Secondary School close on June 30, 2010. It also recommends improvement be made to Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Midland Secondary School. Staff is also advised to look for possible community partnerships when looking for a new school site. Brandes reports that top up grants for school operations and renewal are dwindling so the board must address excess capacity in a timely fashion. Officials estimate it will cost $23-million over the next 10 years to renew Stayner Collegiate Institute, Elmvale District High School and Penetanguishene Secondary School. It is estimated it will cost $16,502,448 to renew Collingwood Collegiate Institute and $20,145,117 to renew Midland Secondary School over the next 10 years. Shawn Davidson, a Clearview Township councillor and member of the ARC, said he is disappointed with the recommendation to close Stayner, Elmvale and Penetanguishene high schools. "I think the report is disturbing," he told The Stayner Sun on Monday. "The ARC put together recommendations based on a year’s worth of consultation and there isn’t a single person involved in this process that asked for this solution. Not a teacher, not a student, not a community. Nobody asked for three large schools. This (recommendation) is strictly based on a financial benefit to the board." Davidson said the fight to keep the three high schools open will continue. "We’re certainly not going to play dead over this," he said. "As a municipality – and hopefully parents and other residents – we’ll voice our concern over the prospect of losing our school. Clearview as a community is slated to grow. This doesn’t make sense." Caroline Smith, Clearview’s trustee, also wasn’t happy with the staff recommendation. "The Minister of Education recently spoke at a conference for school board trustees. She was very clear that the direction the government wants to take is partnerships between different ministries such as agriculture, health and education…to create community hubs that include schools, clinics, public libraries, etc. She supported rural hub schools and in fact encouraged trustees to look at options in this direction," Smith said. "These two key pieces…do not support the regional recommendation in the…staff report, nor the school closures."


Building a ‘greener’ greenhouse

A Wyevale business is being infested with bugs in an attempt to go green. Robert and Laura Moon, owners of Wye Nursery, are reducing their greenhouse practice of pesticide spraying, instead choosing to use a biological approach that introduces one insect into the greenhouse that will prey on other insects known for eating or destroying plants. Robert Moon said the alternative to this “green” way of ridding plants of pests includes sprays, chemicals and pesticides. “It’s bad for us and it’s bad for the customer,” he said. “The pesticides are left on the leaf, and (most) people don’t know that.” Added Laura Moon: “With all the recalls of fruits and vegetables, you don’t know if a tomato is from Mexico, what they’re spraying on them, where they’re growing them or how they’re growing them.” The nursery started using the new method last year with its fall mums, noted Robert Moon. He added the bugs – which come as both mature bugs and eggs – live in sacks providing them with enough food for a number of weeks. “The more you use a spray, the more a plant becomes immune to it. They weren’t being effective,” he said. With 90 per cent of the plants sold at the nursery being grown there from seed, using this new process can also be a bit time-consuming, they noted. “We’re still at the early stages, and you definitely have to keep on top of it,” said Laura Moon. “You’ve got to get it managed,” added her husband. “(If) you find a few, you’ve got to get right on top of it because, if you just let it go and they’re everywhere, then these (bugs) aren’t going to work. You have to bring these in early.” The couple said even though the bugs cost about 50 per cent more than chemical sprays, the benefits are priceless. “It’s just a better way of doing things,” Laura Moon said. “For us, doing what we’re doing and moving to the next level, it just seems like the logical thing to do … like it’s the right next step.” [email protected]