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Fanning the flames of literacy

Mundy’s Bay Public School has been taking part in a reading challenge for the month of February. To conclude the month, a literacy celebration took place March 6. Students participated in a program delivered by author Michael Wade, while Midland police Chief Paul Hamelin, Mayor Jim Downer and representatives from the Midland Fire Department, including Geoff Caldwell, read to students.


Tips from public lead to 24 charges

Police made 14 arrests and laid 24 charges in February as a direct result of tips called in by the public to Crime Stoppers of Simcoe-Dufferin-Muskoka. “When the community and the police work together, results can be obtained,” the organization stated in a press release. A total of 186 calls last month helped police clear 12 cases involving weapons, narcotics, stolen property and other offences. People with information about criminal activity can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Since its inception in 1987, Crime Stoppers has received more than 42,000 calls, leading to 3,300 arrests, almost $9.9 million in stolen property recovered and $43 million in drugs seized.


Angus high school could house public library

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 protected]


Teens preparing for mission to Nicaragua

A group of local teens will be heading overseas this spring to help individuals in need. Trent and Erin Simons, family ministry pastors for Covenant Christian Community Church, will be leading the team of 13 high school students from the Midland-Penetanguishene area to San Francisco, Nicaragua, to help build a roof for a local church and run afternoon camps for children. The team has spent the past six months getting ready for the May trip. Members meet monthly for orientation meetings. They have been hard at work learning Spanish, working on teamwork, raising funds and learning about the country they will be visiting. Trent Simons said he is hoping the trip – which will be the first journey to a Third World country for the youths – will expand their horizons and increase their awareness of issues such as poverty that have such a huge impact in other parts of the world. “Raising awareness is a really big piece of it,” he said. “We’re also hoping to bring the love of God to this community and … work with the church and (hang) out with the kids down there.” Many of the youths going on the trip – who will range in age from 14 to 18 – have been participating for the last several years in smaller adventures to downtown Toronto and Montreal, where they have been working at homeless shelters. However, this will be the first time the church will be leading an international trip of this nature, noted Simons. “The kids have responded very positively to those (smaller) trips. They’ve talked about how they have learned a lot about the people and breaking down the stereotypes of homeless people and marginalized people,” he said. “Many of them that are going on this trip have been on these other trips, as well, so they keep coming back for more.” [email protected]


Blue Mountains, Collingwood to discuss affordable housing

The Collingwood and The Blue Mountains Affordable Housing Task Force will hold its first meeting this Friday. The session is open to the public and takes place at the Collingwood Town Hall at 1:30 p.m. Counc. Ian Chadwick said representatives from Collingwood’s task force have wanted to meet with The Blue Mountains for several years. "We’ve wanted to get together with TBM to discuss issues," he said. Chadwick said Intrawest is one of the largest employers in the area but there isn’t enough low-cost housing for the workers. "It puts them at a great disadvantage if housing prices continue to soar," he said. Chadwick said the problem of affordable housing is bigger than just Collingwood and it’s something both communities need to work on. The announcement of the meeting comes on the heels that the developer of an apartment complex on High Street – 18 units are affordable housing – is interested in making the entire building an affordable housing project. Town CAO Gordon Norris made the announcement on Monday and said the item would be up for discussion at the March 9 council meeting.


Downtown plan has some councillors nervous

If they build it, will they come? Innisfil’s politicians are hoping the answer is a resounding yes when it comes to the ambitious $17 to $20 million downtown Alcona plan. They’re betting the beautification plan, which will create an upscale streetscape, will attract businesses to Innisfil Beach Road between the 20th Sideroad and Lake Simcoe. But some councillors continue to express concerns over the project’s escalating costs. Last week, councillors Paul Wardlaw, Dan Davidson and Peter Kmet, opposed paying an additional $35,000 in consultant’s fees for the second phase of the project. Last December, those councillors were joined by Lynn Dollin when they voted against increasing the budget for the first phase between Jans Boulevard and the 25th Sideroad from $5.6 million to $6.1 million. “The numbers keep changing. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time,” Wardlaw said last week. “We haven’t even put a shovel in the ground yet.” The latest increase relates to the third “precinct” from 25th Sideroad to Lake Simcoe next to Innisfil Beach Park. Planning director Robert McAuley told council “there are some concerns” about how the architectural component will work on that section since it is closer to the lake. The streetscape should also mirror the high standards of the first phase, council has been told. “There is a risk the budget might go over,” McAuley said. “Until we really get into the project, we don’t know.” Much of the costs for the first portion, which will see construction this year, will be paid through development charges. But the section from the 25th Sideroad to the lake will have an impact on taxes, McAuley said. Mayor Brian Jackson, Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope and Coun. Rod Boynton continued their vigorous defense of the project last week. “If you are going to attract business you have to spend money,” Wauchope said. “You are not going to attract business the way the street is now. It’s an embarrassment.” Council has asked for a report breaking down the projects estimated costs, including how much will be paid through development charges.