Dashing through the snow

Four-year-old Josh Gorecki, a junior kindergarten student at Monsignor Castex School, walks using snowshoes during Aboriginal Games Day on Feb. 26. The event, a partnership between the school and the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, was led by Grade 8 students as part of a larger initiative promoting awareness of the aboriginal community.


Split council passes 2009 budget

Collingwood council narrowly passed its $59 million budget on Tuesday. By a vote of 5-4, council passed a budget that will leave taxpayers with a 1.12 per cent increase on the town portion of their tax bills. This is equal to $8.75 for every $100,000 of assessed value. According to treasurer Marjory Leonard this is up from $52 million from 2008. Mayor Chris Carrier and Councillors Norman Sandberg, Ian Chadwick, Mike Edwards and Dave Labelle voted in favour of the budget, while Deputy Mayor Sandra Cooper and Councillors Tim McNabb, Kathy Jeffery and Sonny Foley voted against the budget. Cooper said she was against the current budget process and felt the budget meetings should be held as their own separate meetings. She said it concerned her that the public was not able to comment on the budget. She said the other reason she wasn’t voting in favour of the budget was the cost of legal fees. According to Cooper, the town is slated to spend about $700,000 on legal fees. "That is more than an increase in 2009," she said. "I remember when $250,000 was a lot." Chadwick said there was a lot in the budget he was against. Chadwick wanted to see more money for the Georgian Bay Animal Rescue and he wasn’t in favour of the Heritage Park revitalization but said politics are about comprise and voted in favour of the budget. "There are a whole lot of things I didn’t like in it," he said. McNabb, who last year said those who voted against the budget were "grandstanding," voted against the budget. He said the sticking point for him is not putting money aside to offset future spending. "I’m not happy we’re not putting away money to offset money we’re spending this year," he said. Foley said he wasn’t supporting the budget, because he was against the Heritage Park plan. "I will not support the budget because of Heritage Park," he said. Jeffery – who said she has never voted against the budget in the past – felt it was a bad decision to not put money away to offset debentures. "I honestly feel we have missed our mark," she said. "This is a stick your head in the sand budget." Sandberg also disagreed with the removal of the minimum 2.5 per cent increase but said he would be voting in favour of the budget. "We did go through a process and as much as I think we are being really shortsighted, it was a democratic process and for that reason and that reason only, I will be supporting the budget," he said. Edwards – who voted against the budget in 2008 – voted for it 2009. He questioned those councillors who voted against, saying people can’t "pick and choose," and should look at the budget as a whole. Edwards then asked CAO Gordon Norris for his opinion on the budget. Norris said he would like to see multi-year budgeting, but overall felt this was a good budget that he could work with. "I don’t see a lot of growth in our assessment," he said. "This is an acceptable rate on a one-off basis." Carrier had predicted the vote would be 6-3 and was surprised by Cooper’s position considering she voted in favour of the First Street project and the Heritage Park revitalization. Carrier said the idea that some councillors wanted to raise taxes to put money into reserves, "doesn’t make sense." "I think it’s silly to say what the tax increase will be next year," he said. "If you don’t want to spend reserves, don’t spend reserves." Carrier is pleased with the budget, and said the town is making some capital investments and he’s confident they will see some growth.


Wind farm committee members appointed

More than four months after it was approved, Council has finally appointed members to its alternative energy ad hoc committee. “I have to say we are certainly a little behind the eight ball on this one,” Mayor Brian Jackson said Wednesday after council appointed six members to the committee. The committee will be made up of  Jackson, Coun. Rod Boynton, citizen members Gary Taylor and Rick Earhart, and industry members Tim Cane and Chris Olthuis. The committee will recommend local standards for alternative energy sites, such as wind farms. But the group won’t have long to study the issue before it makes its first submission. It plans to meet in about two weeks to come up with a proposal to make to the province’s standing committee April 27 for the new Green Act. Originally, the committee was to recommend standards for an Innisfil zoning bylaw. But since then the provincial government has introduced the Green Act, which is expected to take much of the local planning powers away from municipalities when it comes to alternative energy sites. There are two wind farm applications before council. Schneider Power wants the town to rezone 200 acres near Conc. 5 and Highway 400 to allow five turbines. Skypower, another alternative energy company, has applied to erect two wind-testing towers south of Fennels Corners near Highway 11. Several neighbours to the proposed wind farms, including the Cookstown Aerodome, are opposing the wind farms. Last November, Boynton suggested council strike its own committee to recommend made-in-Innisfil standards for wind farms. On Wednesday, Boynton called on the ad hoc committee to look at international standards since “there are no provincial nor national standards.” For instance, France now wants wind turbines to be set back 1.2 kilometres from the nearest home, while the current setback in Innisfil would be 300 metres.


More than $15k stolen from store

About $15,000 worth of cigarettes and unknown quantity of cash was stolen from Mac’s Convenience Store in Tottenham after someone broke in through the roof of the building early Tuesday morning. The thieves cut the phone lines to the building, before cutting a hole in the roof and then disabling the alarm panel inside the store, said Sean Sportun, the director of loss prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores in central Canada. The culprits physically removed one small safe in the store, before moving on to crack open the big tobacco safe at the back of the store, Sportun said. The small safe had about $800 in cash. The tobacco safe also had an undisclosed amount of cash. Sportun said he suspects the strike was a professional job, given the expertise required to disable the alarm and crack the safe. He said there have been about six rooftop break-ins to Mac’s stores across Ontario this year, but he doesn’t know if they are related. The break-in happened between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. The culprits exited through the back door, police said. They were wearing black hoodie sweatshirts and masks. There were at least two culprits and perhaps a third, police said. They are believed to be male. Damage to the roof and the safes is expected to be several thousands of dollars.


Woman battling town over damage to car

A Victoria Harbour woman has found herself fighting an uphill battle after incurring more than $600 in damage to her car while driving on a Penetanguishene street late last year. April Herron, who works in Penetanguishene, was driving west on Robert Street near Georgian Manor when she hit a rough spot on the road. “There was no signage posted that there was a big dip in the road, so I didn’t adjust my speed,” she said. “The car bottomed out and (my) muffler and everything fell off.” Herron called the Town of Penetanguishene to inform officials about what had happened. “I told them there was no signage posted and that my car wasn’t drivable,” she said. “I wanted answers.” Herron said she was told to call a tow truck and to submit the bill for damages and the tow truck, both of which would be paid by either the town or the contractor. “It’s been since the end of October, and I have contacted the town several times. They have washed their hands clean of it and said it’s in the contractor’s care because they are the ones responsible for the signage.” Herron has also contacted the contractor, but said she isn’t getting any answers there, either. “I (want) the town to be culpable because they are the ones that hired the contractors. The fact that they told me this would get taken care of right away … this is not good business practice,” she said. “Nobody is taking responsibility for it. It’s going around in circles and I’m not getting my calls or e-mails returned.” Bryan Murray, manager of capital projects for the town, said because the accident was caused as part of a construction project, it would be the construction company’s responsibility. “It was out of the town’s hands because it’s not technically the town’s site. If she thought we were going to take care of it, she probably misunderstood us,” he said, adding he did get in touch with the company and forwarded all the documentation received from Herron. “When I said we’d take care of it, I meant (we would) get it to the right person to handle it, but not that we would pay it. From what I hear, (Corm Construction) is saying they’re not responsible, and I guess she’s looking for someone to take blame for this.” Penetanguishene CAO Eleanor Rath said Ontario is a no-fault province for insurance purposes, and all vehicles are covered by their owners’ insurance, so drivers are required to go through their own insurance when damage occurs. “In the event that someone is alleging damage to their vehicle as a result of a town road … they’re advised to notify their insurers. In the event their insurers feel there is a claim against the town, then it would flow through their insurers to our insurers,” she said, adding while she can’t comment on specific matters, in the event the town has a contractor on site, that company is required to carry insurance. “If someone alleges their vehicle is damaged, and it’s in an area of construction, they should have been referred to the insurance for that company,” she said, adding it is not the town’s policy to agree to cover such damages. “If anyone notifies us of any type of damage – particularly to vehicles – we notify them they should contact their own insurance company.” For Herron, having to cover the cost of the repairs has been a bit of a hardship. “It’s been very hard on us to make ends meet as it is, and then to have this unplanned thing pop up … it’s hard,” she said. “It’s anxiety-provoking.” Herron said she has learned an unexpected lesson, adding anyone in a similar situation should make sure to keep some important things in mind. “Bring a camera with you to take pictures of what’s happening, and get statements from everyone to submit at a later time,” she said. “I wish I hadn’t been so trusting at the time. I should have asked for something in writing.” Calls to Corm Construction were not returned. [email protected]


Barrie shows poor Earth Hour participation

Barrie residents continued to suck power from the grid Saturday during Earth Hour. Barrie had the lowest participation in the global event, compared to surrounding municipalities. Created by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007, Earth Hour encourages people around the world to turn their lights off for an hour to conserve energy and fight climate change. Barrie only produced a 4 per-cent-reduction in its energy use between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. During Earth Hour 2008, Barrie saw an 8 per-cent reduction, and the event was also on a Saturday. This year, Vaughan’s participation was also low, only marking a 5 per-cent reduction. Both Bradford West Gwillimbury and Penetanguishene marked a 13 per-cent reduction in power use, while Essa Township had an 11 per-cent-reduction. The statistics were reported by PowerStream, which saw an overall savings in Simcoe County and York Region of 88.3 megawatts, which is enough electricity to power 1,471 homes over a 24-hour period.  For more on the story, read Tuesday’s edition of The Barrie Advance.


City faces charges

The city faces charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following an investigation involving the Orillia Opera House. A summons issued by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour says the alleged offenses date back to April 22 of last year. According to the document, the city committed “the offence of failing, as an employer, to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at a workplace located at 20 Mississaga Street West …” contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The address given is that of the Orillia Opera House. In an appendix to the summons, the ministry describes one of two alleged offenses. “The defendant failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a hand-hold situated above a hatch way leading to a fixed ladder was securely attached to a wall.” The summons was delivered to culture and heritage director Craig Metcalf – the department responsible for the opera house – on March 19, close to a year after the alleged offenses occurred. Speaking recently with Orillia Today, Metcalf said only that the matter had been referred to the city’s solicitors. The city appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice in Orillia on April 14. “A part-time employee fell from a ladder at the opera house,” Lori Bolton, the city’s health and safety officer said of the reason for the initial investigation. “At the time, the employee sustained minor injuries.” Labour Ministry Crown counsel Shantanu Roy in a letter to the municipality said violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act by a corporation can result in a maximum fine of $500,000. “If the Crown obtains a conviction, we will be seeking a fine that is appropriate given this maximum amount,” Roy added. The ministry alleges the city failed to follow a portion of the act requiring that access ladders be equipped with side rails that “extend 90 centimetres above the landing.” Bolton had yet to hear back from the city’s legal counsel regarding Tuesday’s court appearance. The summons and accompanying letter from the labour ministry were included in a recent council agenda but were not discussed.


Reports snubs local tender policy

Innisfil would risk breaking provincial and federal laws if it gave local companies preferential treatment when awarding tenders, according to the town’s treasurer. Council quickly killed any notion of moving forward with a local preference policy last Wednesday after it read Ian Goodfellow’s sobering report. Councillors decided to consider giving local companies an edge when bidding on town contracts after Coun, Peter Kmet pushed for a report. A Stroud company, P&H Sweepline Services, had complained about losing out on a local bid by about $4,000. The tender was awarded to a Kitchener company. “We should support our local businesses within reason,” Kmet said last month. “P&H are local and they put money back into the community.” But the treasurer’s research found a local preference procurement policy could put the town in contravention of the province’s Discriminatory Business Practices Act, the Federal Competition Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights. “Allowing local preference to become a factor in determining the award of a contract has been legally regarded as a very restrictive trade practice,” Goodfellow states. The Discriminatory Business Practices Act prohibits discriminating against businesses for various reasons, including geographic location, Goodfellow’s report states. Municipalities that break the Act can be found liable for damages, which could lead to being sued for fined. Beyond the legal ramifications, local preference policies can also trigger other problems for local businesses by creating a type of trade war between municipalities, Goodfellow’s report shows. Other municipalities may create their own local policies if they discover companies in their municipality are being shut out of contracts elsewhere, Goodfellow states. The report adds that local companies should already have an advantage since their transportation costs should reduce the price of their bid. The companies would also have a greater knowledge of the Town and its needs, which give them an edge, according to Goodfellow.