Never take the quality of your drinking water for granted. Cookstown town councillor Lynn Dollin, chairperson of the Southern Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region, delivered that message to an audience at the Greater Innisfil Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting April 8. In the aftermath of the Walkerton tragedy of 2001, where seven people died and countless more fell ill, some of whom are still sick from consuming contaminated municipal water, the provincial government has taken steps to reduce the chances of it happening again, Dollin said. The passing of the Clean Water Act in 2006 and the establishment of 19 Water Source Protection Regions across Ontario in 2007, was a direct result of the Walkerton disaster. Dollin was appointed chairperson of her region in August 2007. “Source water protection is simply about protecting, and preserving, drinking water,” Dollin said. “Quantity, as well as quality, is important. We build hospitals and hire doctors and specialists to combat heart disease, our number one killer. Wouldn’t it be better to have legislation to help people live better? Why not be proactive to prevent things from getting into our water?” The Walkerton clean up cost approximately $64 million. “It costs up to 40 times more to remediate contaminated water,” she said. Setting up the Southern Georgian Bay zone was quite a daunting task. “Our region contains four watersheds, we have 17 intake systems and 320 wells in our 32 member municipalities,” Dollin said. “Ours is the most complicated and diverse region in the province, combining rural, urban, the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Canadian Shield.” Dollin presides over a 22-person committee including several farmers, a sod producer, a golf course industry rep, an aggregate producer, a First Nations representative and seven municipal representatives. “We are required to map areas that may be considered vulnerable in our regions, where water may run into aquifers,” Dollin said. “Our committee examines what threats exist. Priority will be placed on any high risk, vulnerable areas identified.” An assessment report from each region is due in 2010 and every municipality must have a water source protection strategy in place by 2012, as part of their Official Plan. “This is where it gets interesting,” Dollin said. “Groups will decide what is allowed, and what isn’t. All of Innisfil is in the same source protection area, so we will have just one plan. Innisfil has already identified wellhead protection areas. We’re ahead of the game.” In the meantime, small to medium-sized business owners can request a no-charge pollution protection plan paid for by the province. For example, inspectors will visit companies to check chemical storage procedures and examine policies for dealing with spills. Recommendations for more eco-friendly internal systems may be suggested to business owners, too, Dollin said. Money is also available for well decommissioning and septic upgrades, including pump outs. For more information, call 1-800-465-0437, or visit www.ourwatershed.ca
Parents, teachers, students and concerned community members filled the gym at Penetanguishene Secondary School (PSS) on March 11 to discuss the future of the school. The Simcoe County District School Board hosted the public meeting to offer an update on the activities of the accommodation review committee (ARC), struck by the board to review area high schools. High schools in Midland, Penetanguishene, Elmvale, Stayner, and Collingwood are part of an area review that also includes Wasaga Beach as a possible school site. School superintendent Janice Medysky told The Mirror the ARC’s purpose is to come up with a recommendation to present to trustees about secondary school capacity issues in this area. The recommendation could follow one of three different scenarios, she noted. “At this time, the ARC is considering three different scenarios: a four-school scenario, a five-school and a six-school, but we haven’t named any of the schools yet or located them,” she said. The public was given the opportunity last week to make delegations to the committee, as well as make comments and ask questions of board members. PSS teacher Janice Evans verbalized what many in attendance may have been thinking. “Small schools work,” she proclaimed to cheers and applause. “It’s a community school, and to lose it would be unimaginable to me. It’s a great place to live, work and educate our kids.” Laurie Buttineau lives in Penetanguishene and has two children – one graduating from PSS this year, and another who will start at the school in two years. She said she attended the meeting to hear reasons for closing PSS and for keeping it open, but said she left believing the school should stay open. “We’re a small town and we have lots to offer the direct community of Penetanguishene, as well as surrounding areas,” she said. “We have students who’ve graduated and who have returned to live and work in this area. It’s proven to be a great school.” The Town of Penetanguishene, represented by Mayor Anita Dubeau and CAO Eleanor Rath, also spoke at the meeting, as did PSS student Jade Huguenin and Norman Mason, supervisory officer for the Protestant Separate School Board of Penetanguishene – which is responsible for Burkevale school. They outlined many reasons for keeping the school open, including it’s tri-cultural heritage, bilingual character, unique curriculum, the town’s projected population growth and its proximity to many area feeder schools. The March 11 meeting was the fifth public meeting the ARC has held to date, said Medysky, who noted they have had very similar reactions at all the schools they’ve attended. “The communities are very supportive of their schools, which is really heartwarming,” she said. Another meeting, a working session, took place in Elmvale on March 12. The ARC is expected to make a recommendation to the facility standing committee on April 14. Protestant board pitches alternative The Protestant Separate School Board of Penetanguishene says it will do everything it can to preserve the town’s sole English-language secondary school. Supervisory officer Norman Mason told The Mirror the board has a mandate to educate and, although it has only provided elementary education, that could change. He said the board would be open to a partnership if that becomes the only way to keep PSS open. This could mean closing Burkevale’s current school and sharing the high school facility. If the public board decided to put PSS up for sale, Mason said, the Protestant board could buy the facility and run secondary and elementary schools out of it. “Keeping (PSS) open is important to the board because of the fact they feel that their graduates from Burkevale come to this school and it has been an excellent facility,” he said. “(The board) feels it should be contributing in the positive in helping to keep the school open for a better education system and a better community.” firstname.lastname@example.org
The new Angus high school could be a place of learning for more than just students. The Simcoe County District School Board and Essa Township are having ongoing discussions to build a new branch of the town’s public library in the school. Nothing has been finalized yet, but if the project does move forward it would be accessible to students and members of the public, said Lou Brandes, associate director and superintendent of facility services for the school board. "We’re really pleased to have the collaboration," Brandes said. "It would be full-time use by both populations. We’ve seen examples of how it works in other communities." Essa trustee Rob North said the Essa school will be a new format for the SCDSB, but the idea of integrating community services into schools is becoming increasingly popular in other areas. He said sharing of the library would allow the township and the school board to supply the better resources for students and the community at a lower price, by avoiding duplication of resources and overhead costs. "It’s a change for Simcoe County somewhat, but there are other municipalities out there that have done this very successfully. You do what you can with the money you have allotted, and you try to maximize it for the taxpayer," said North. The resource sharing will allow both sides to save money, something that has been holding up construction of new Angus library branch for a few years. For the past two years, the new library has been left out of township’s budget, and it has been turned down for federal grant money. It was recently turned down in a grant application that would have allowed the township to build a stand-alone building with a price tag of over $3 million. With the lack of funding for a stand-alone building, the option of putting the library in the school is a good one, said Essa Mayor David Guergis. "We think it is a tremendous opportunity. For governments at different levels to work together, it’s a tremendous way to save money." School planners aren’t stopping with just the library though. They’re also looking at incorporating a Nottawasaga OPP satellite office in the school. There is already an extended services office in Angus, but school board, OPP, and township officials are discussing possible options, which could include moving that office. Many Ontario high schools, including Banting Memorial High School in Alliston, have liaison police officers that work closely with students and school staff. North said this is an opportunity to expand that relationship. "I think it’s a great idea. We already have community officers in our schools, so having a small touchdown station for them makes perfect sense," said North. School board officials are still finalizing plans for the building, including choosing a site. Brandes said a public meeting is planned for later this spring. The school is scheduled to open by 2012. E-mail reporter Kurtis Elsner at email@example.com
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."
Georgian College is counting on a share of newly announced provincial funding to erase a multimillion-dollar operating deficit. College president Brian Tamblyn this week confirmed the multi-campus school was closing out the year with a projected shortfall of $2.8 million. Government funding has failed to keep pace with rising enrolment in the college’s diploma and degree programs, he said. “We have been growing very quickly for the last four years,” Tamblyn said. “It kind of catches up to you operationally.” The province, in its latest budget, announced $150 million in immediate, one-time support for colleges and universities. Georgian will learn in the next couple of weeks whether its share of the fund will cover the sizable deficit, Tamblyn said. “It is quite possible our share could cover our projected deficit this year.” The college’s fiscal year ended March 31. Tamblyn stressed Georgian is not alone as it works to overcome financial challenges. “Pretty well all the colleges and universities are looking at serious financial situations,” he pointed out. Overall enrolment rose 9.5 per cent in March compared to the same period last year, while applications for the fall semester are already up by almost seven per cent, Tamblyn said. “It’s possible we will have a similar increase in the fall as we did in the winter,” he said. Tamblyn said the province is dedicating another $200 million to colleges and universities next year through its “Reaching Higher” plan. “The concern is whether the enrolment growth will outstrip the money provided,” he said. In the meantime, the college will draw from a $6-million reserve. “At the point where you are out of reserves, you have to work with the ministry and come up with a plan on how you get out of (deficit),” he said. “But we are not there yet.” Tamblyn said colleges have been encouraged to maintain growth or risk losing funding. Georgian is experiencing growth in its college and degree programs in Barrie and Orillia, and apprenticeship programs at its Midland campus. firstname.lastname@example.org
Meaford council at its planning meeting on March 16 approved a small four-unit residential development on Denmark Street. Council held a public meeting to consider a re-zoning request for two vacant lots located on Denmark Street. The re-zoning implemented a consent severance on the two lots that added a small amount of property from one lot to the other in order to create more evenly sized lots. The re-zoning will allow four semi-detached residential units to be constructed on the properties, with two units on each property. On one side of the properties is a Rogers Cable control box and on the other side is a municipal waste treatment facility. Directly to the rear of the properties is the Georgian Trail and steep banks that lead to the Bighead River. There were no objections to the proposed re-zoning at the meeting. Both Grey County and Grey Sauble Conservation Authority planners were satisfied with the development proposal. Municipal planners said the proposal meets all Official Plan and provincial policies requirements and recommended its approval. Steve Doherty is the proponent for the development and he spoke briefly to council about his plans for the properties. "We want to put something in there that will complement the other buildings on that street," he said. "They will be attractive one-storey buildings that will appeal to seniors. We feel that the impact on the surrounding area will be negligible. They idea is to drive by in two years and you would think those buildings have always been there," he explained. Councillor Jim McPherson raised the only concern at the meeting on behalf of the Georgian Trail Board of Management. McPherson noted that the re-zoning is changing the rear setbacks from the Trail from nine metres to 8 metres. On one portion of one lot the rear set back will be as low as two metres due to the curvature of the Trail. As a result one of the units will have a smaller backyard than the others. McPherson – the Vice-Chair of the Board – said the Board is concerned that drainage from the property will flow onto the Trail. He said this has happened with other developments close to the Trail. Doherty said he understood the concern, but didn’t think the development would cause any drainage issues. "There’s not going to be anymore water draining than there is now. The lots already slope to the back (towards the trail)," said Doherty. Other members of council were pleased to approve the proposed development. "It’s an excellent proposal for this property that’s been sitting vacant for years growing up in brush," said councillor Gerald Shortt. Deputy Mayor Mike Traynor was particularly pleased to see efforts by the proponent of the development to fit into the community. "I like what the developer is doing here to take the time during the planning stage to create something that will compliment the area," said Traynor. The zoning bylaw amendment was passing unanimously by council.
A driver fled the scene of a serious vehicle collision last night in Bradford. A Chevrolet Equinox travelling north on Simcoe Road pulled to the east shoulder to let a passenger out. A fast-travelling Chevrolet Impala drove into the back of the Equinox. The Impala then skidded off the road, struck a house on the east side and caught fire. The driver and four passengers got out of the Impala and the driver fled on foot. Emergency services were called to the scene at about 11:15 p.m. The driver of the Equinox was taken to hospital with serious injuries to her head, leg and hips. She is expected to survive. Two of the Impala’s passengers were also taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police closed Simcoe Road for most of the night to investigate the collision. Police identified the driver who fled the scene and urge him to speak to a lawyer and turn himself in. Anyone with information on the collision is asked to call Const. Maxwell Brown at 905-775-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
A collision between a dump truck and a car south of Alliston Tuesday morning sent two people to hospital. The crash happened at Church Street South and Industrial Parkway. A silver car was southbound on Church. The driver had a green light and turned left onto Industrial. A westbound dump truck went through a red light, hitting the car, police said. The driver and passenger in the car were taken to Stevenson Memorial Hospital with undisclosed injuries. They have since been released. The driver of the dump truck, a 56-year-old Essa man, is facing Highway Traffic Act charges for failing to stop at a red light.