Towns prepare to go dark for Earth Hour

The towns of Midland and Penetanguishene will be powering down Saturday to take part in Earth Hour. Earth Hour is a global event to promote energy conservation and send a message about co-operating to tackle climate change. Launched by the World Wildlife Fund in Australia in 2007, it has since grown into an international campaign. Millions of people are expected to participate by turning off their lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. on March 28. Andrea Rabbitts, planner for the Town of Midland, said while the municipality is not hosting any events related to the occasion, staff have been busy promoting Earth Hour to schools, businesses and organizations. She noted the town will be doing its part by asking all departments to power down for the hour if possible. “The (North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre) can’t, for obvious reasons. Same with the fire department and police, due to safety,” she said. “But we have asked (departments) to conserve where they can (by) shutting off lights, computers, printers in offices, etc.” The Midland Power Utility Corporation, meanwhile, will be scrutinizing consumption rates to see whether or not the town was able to decrease its usage, she noted. “It’s important for the town to participate because of the effects being seen on climate change,” she said. “This event is growing so enormous – and there is so much interest in taking action in something as simple as turning off the lights – that the town, by leading this, can put forward an example to its residents and hopefully make the change.” The Town of Penetanguishene will also be going dark for Earth Hour, said Pat Harwood, manager of recreation services. “The town is, where it can, shutting down all our lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.,” she said. “We’ve had it on our website (and) had posters in all our facilities.” She added it’s important to show that the town is doing its part in conserving energy. “We’ve taken steps here,” Harwood said, noting the town has turned off some parking lot lights at night, and evaluated buildings for energy efficiency. “(That) means savings back to the taxpayer.” For more information on Earth Hour, visit www.wwf.ca/earthhour. nmillion@simcoe.com


New technology in Byng classrooms

New equipment at Byng Public School in Stayner is changing the way students learn in the classroom. The electronic devices, called Smart Boards, are essentially modern day, interactive chalkboards. Grade 1 teacher Shannon Gulley said the boards – Byng has three – are a wonderful addition to the classroom. She said she can load interactive exercises into a computer and then with an LCD projector transmit the material to the Smart Board for the whole class to see. The screen, when connected to a computer, can also be used to access educational sites, complete with movies, on the Internet. Students can also use the boards on their own or in small groups to complete tasks. The Smart Board’s screen is touch sensitive, meaning various applications can be operated by tapping the screen with a finger or a pointer. “Your finger basically acts as a mouse,” Gulley said. The interactive exercises and educational websites are colourful and sometimes feature cartoon characters that talk, making the process of learning more engaging, she said. Along with being interactive, the boards have an environmental benefit because they reduce the amount of paper used for lesson plans and worksheets, Gulley said. Smart Boards have been around for a few years but only arrived at Byng Public School about a month ago. The items were purchased with funds raised by the school’s parent council. Gulley said each screen is worth about $2,000. “We hope to get more so we can mount one in each room,” she said, adding the parent council plans to fundraise over the long-term so it can purchase additional screens. Right now the classes are sharing the three Smart Boards. “They are really spreading in popularity – it’s really nice to have them in the school,” Gulley said.


Rattlers disqualified from playoffs for roster violations

The Bradford Rattlers are out of the Greater Metro Junior Hockey League playoffs, but it’s not because they lost. After the Rattlers tied their second-round series with the Deseronto Storm at two with a 5-1 win Tuesday night, the Storm filed a protest. Deseronto management pointed out the Rattlers had nine 20-year-old players on their roster, when league rules state the maximum is eight. As a result, league president Bob Russell disqualified the Rattlers from the playoffs. Bradford and Deseronto were scheduled to face off last night in Bradford. The Rattlers had the illegal roster since the league’s Jan. 10 signing deadline, but nobody pointed it out until this week, Mr. Russell said in a statement on the league’s website. Mr. Russell is also the owner of the Rattlers. Watch www.thetopic.ca for updates on this story


Burglary at local charity

The Beaver Valley Outreach was robbed last week, and The Blue Mountains OPP are asking anyone with information to help them in their investigation. Sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning a thief or thieves broke into the Outreach building on Bruce St. in Thornbury and made off with cash, according to OPP. The Beaver Valley Outreach is a non-profit organization that currently orchestrates more than 20 programs in the community including homework club, kids club, youth music lessons, breakfast, lunch and snack programs at the local elementary school and a "treasure shop". Anyone with information about this crime may call The Blue Mountains OPP at (705) 445-4321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.


ATV crashes send three to hospital

Three ATV riders were sent to hospital on the weekend in two separate accidents. Just after 10 p.m. on April 17, Southern Georgian Bay OPP responded to a report that an ATV had struck a tree on Ron Jones Road, near Elliott Sideroad, in Tay Township. Two people on the ATV, a 48-year-old male and a 38-year-old female, were transported to hospital in Midland. “The female, who reportedly sustained serious injuries, was then airlifted to Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto,” Const. Peter Leon stated in a news release. About two hours later, police attended a second collision in which a four-wheeler left a trail between the 11th and 12th concessions and struck a tree. A 44-year-old Penetanguishene man was airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto with leg and chest injuries. Police are reminding ATV enthusiasts always to wear proper safety equipment and to be cautious when riding at night.


Feds help local seniors groups

The federal government has earmarked $45,000 to improve the facilities and equipment of three local seniors organizations. “The Government of Canada is proud to support seniors in building and strengthening communities,” Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton stated in a press release. “These projects will enable the continuation of programs and activities … that allow seniors to stay involved in their communities.” Le Club de l’age d’or de Lafontaine and the Askennonia Senior Centre in Midland will each receive $10,000, while La Clé d’la Baie in Penetanguishene will get $25,000. The funding comes from the capital assistance component of the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which helps organizations that support seniors to replace outdated equipment or undertake needed renovations. Since its beginning, the program has funded more than 5,000 projects in hundreds of communities across Canada. For more information, visit www.hrsdc.gc.ca/seniors.


New accessibility standards cost an arm and a leg

The Blue Mountains fears a 40 per cent future tax hike based on recent information and assessments related to just one of the new provincial standards being drafted for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), according to a report presented to council. The Accessibility Act was passed in 2005 with the goal of creating standards to improve accessibility across the Province. In 2008, the province began revealing proposed standards to be added to the act in the areas of customer service, transportation, information and communications, built environment and employment. The new standards require quick and costly upgrades for all municipalities. Lisa Kidd, communications and economic development coordinator for The Blue Mountains, brought her report on the information and communications standards to council to explain the progress of the changes to the Act and deliver a copy of the town’s letter to the province responding to the proposed standards. The letter stated the town’s concern with the extreme cost of compliance. "While the Information and Communication Standard is an admirable component of the AODA, it is cost prohibitive … downloading this kind of cost to the taxpayer is not conceivable." The 40 per cent hike is to cover the $1.3 to $3.8 million cost estimated for just the information and communications standard. Each of the other standards will come with their on price tags. The town has established an AODA committee of staff to look at the proposed standards, draft responses to the province, review implementation processes, consider financial impacts and communicate to the rest of town staff and council. For information on the town’s progress related to the AODA, contact Lisa Kidd at lkidd@thebluemountains.ca or (519) 599-3131 ext. 282.   To review the provincial standards already in place and pending visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca.