Council wants high-speed proposal to go faster

Grey Highlands council wants to see high speed internet service available in rural areas as soon as possible. Council, at its regular meeting last Wednesday morning, approved a recommendation from its planning department to fast track a project that is working to extend high-speed availability to rural residents across Grey County. At the meeting Grey Highlands Planner Lorelie Spencer brought forward a report recommending that Site Plan Control fees the municipality usually charges for planning projects be condensed for Everus Communications – the company facilitating the Rural Broadband Initiative in Grey County. Everus is currently in the middle of a process to locate up to 27 high-speed internet towers across Grey County. Everus requested that Site Plan Control fees be condensed into one fee for the various towers it would like to put up in Grey Highlands. High-speed internet service in rural areas depends on a direct line of site to a customer’s home. Everus plans to strategically place towers around the county allowing broadband service to be available to a maximum number of homes. Everus has received grants from the federal government under program designed to extend high-speed internet services to rural areas across the country. Spencer told council that a reduction in the Site Plan Control fees is warranted. She recommended that a single fee of $10,000 (to cover municipal planning department costs on the project) for the entire Everus project. Under standard planning practices each tower would be treated as a separate application and charged the same fees by the municipality. Council was supportive of Spencer’s recommendation. Members of council were anxious to see broadband service extended across their municipality. Deputy Mayor Dave Fawcett wondered if council could further speed up the process by allowing municipal planning staff the ability to grant approval for applications once all conditions have been met. "This is a project for the betterment of our community. Can we streamline the process? I’m willing to delegate the approval process to staff instead of (Everus) waiting 10 days for council’s approval," said Fawcett. "I know there are a lot of people that need high speed internet," he said. Mayor Brian Mullin and Spencer said final approval of all Site Plan Control proposals rests with council. The Mayor said council needed to hold onto that authority in case public concerns arise. "Council’s approval might be the only chance for public concerns to be aired," said the Mayor. The broadband towers do not require the public process of re-zoning to move forward. Spencer recommended that all Everus sites be included in one report and approved at a single council meeting in the future. Mayor Mullin agreed with Spencer’s assessment. "I think we need the luxury that if one site requires a higher level of scrutiny that the others can move forward," he said. Deputy Mayor Fawcett was also satisfied with the suggestion that all the sites could be dealt with at once. "I think this is a fair process. If there are 10 sites and nine of them are fine we can deal with the one with issues," he said. Council approved the recommendation from Spencer.


Ready, set … fish!

You can almost hear the boat engines warming up just over the horizon. A long and sometimes brutal winter has wetted the appetite of anglers this spring, and organizers of the Orillia Perch Festival hope this translates into big attendance numbers. “Spring fever is here and people want to get out and fish, so I think that will go a long way to bolstering our numbers,” said festival committee member Doug Bunker. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for this Friday at 7 p.m. at the ODAS Park Fairgrounds community hall. Children and adults alike will have an opportunity to win draw prizes at the ceremony, all donated by Orillia and area businesses, Fishing in the 28th edition of the festival will get underway Saturday at 7 a.m. One of the highlights of this year’s festival will be the Kids Day event on May 2 at Tudhope Park. In addition to having the opportunity to win prizes, visitors will have the opportunity to check out displays staffed by various groups, including the Ontario Provincial Police. Kids Day runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 2, with the rain date set for May 3. As part of the live release portion of the festival, anglers are encouraged to return their live perch to the Perch Festival office, located at Tudhope Park on Atherley Road. Bunker said preparations for the weekend opening are right on schedule and the response from the public has been strong. Despite a heavy April snowfall recently, wind and mild temperatures have cleared most of the ice off both Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. Prior to Saturday’s opening day, Bunker and a select group of fellow anglers will have released more than 60 specially tagged perch into the lake, worth $500 each to those who reel them in. Grand prize in the festival is a Mercury-Lund fishing package, including a boat, motor and trailer. A cash prize of $5,000 will be awarded to the lucky angler who reels in the perch with the Kings Buffet King Size Tag. The angler hooking into the Casino Rama Jackpot Tag will be awarded $2,500. Over the course of the past few months, Bunker and other members of the festival committee have attended sports and recreation trade shows in various parts of Ontario, drumming up interest in the 2009 festival. “One thing we noticed at the trade shows we were at was the response we got to the entry fee. People couldn’t believe it when they heard that kids could fish in the entire festival for only $6. They feel it is very affordable,” he said. Daily prizes will be awarded daily during the festival. Fishing during the 22-day event will take place daily between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., from April 18-May 9.


Ready, aim … bowl

Allen Kidd, 9, and Jason Hurdle participate in the Bowl for Kids Sake event Sunday at Knight Haven Lanes in Penetanguishene. The fundraiser, which kicked off the previous evening at Midland’s Bayshore Lanes, benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe. The annual campaign ends March 28.


Council concerns holding up animal shelter

Adjala-Tosorontio council might be backing off on some strong demands they have placed on plans for a humane society animal shelter. Monday, Deputy Mayor Doug Little said he thought council had originally supported his previous request for bars on the windows of the Alliston and District Humane Society’s proposed shelter. He said he is willing to waive the request, but he wants a clause in the site plan agreement making bars mandatory if thieves start targeting the building. "The first time that we have the police services there for a break-in, there (should) be a clause that they put bars on the windows," he said. Little made his comments after a deputation from the society that was supposed to clear up any misconceptions about the ADHS’s plans for the building, which will be built on its property on the 4th Line north of the 5th Sideroad. David Funston, an Alliston veterinarian and spokesperson for the ADHS, said the volunteer group is not expecting break-ins to be a problem. "We will not keep any drugs or money on the premises," he assured council. He also said the shelter will mainly house domestic cats and dogs, along with the occasional other small animal, such as rabbits, hamsters or birds. Once in a while, the humane society is also asked to care for farm animals. Funston said bars on the windows and chain link perimeter fencing (another request from council) will not only be uninviting, but also cost prohibitive. The non-profit society run by volunteers has been fundraising to build the shelter for more than 20 years, and is now poised to finally start construction. The ADHS executive is concerned the additional requests will slow construction because there isn’t enough money. Funston said the shelter would have signs posted advising any would-be thieves that there are no drugs in the building. Little said he thinks letting the building go up without bars isn’t a good idea. "Thieves and robbers don’t stop to read signs," he said. Little said he lives two concession lines over from the proposed building, and his house has been broken into a few times in the past few years. "I’m looking out for your benefit, or at least I’m trying to," he said. Council chambers and the parking lot of the municipal building were both full for the deputation. Many of the people in attendance were in support of the humane society, with more than half leaving when the deputation was over. Individual councillors are now beig invited to submit their comments to the planning department. They will then be added to the final site plan agreement before being returned to the humane society. E-mail reporter Kurtis Elsner at [email protected]


The Door has a home

Stayner Youth For Christ is getting is ready to open a drop-in centre called The Door. “It will be a safe place for kids age 13 to 18 to go. We’re very excited to finally have a spot,” said Rev. Gerry Hunt, a member of the Stayner Youth For Christ committee. The drop-in centre will be located in a space at the plaza across from Reinhart Foods on King Street North. “There will be adult supervision and games for the kids. We’ll have some snacks available, probably for a small fee – it will be a place where the youth in our community can hang out,” Hunt said. The centre will be open Fridays and Saturdays, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., starting sometime in May. Hunt said the exact date is still being finalized. Youth For Christ volunteers have been working for about two years to get The Door up and running, including fundraising to cover operational costs. “We looked at four different locations, three of which were on Main Street,” Hunt said. “We liked this one because it’s off the Main Street, there is better parking and the space is a little bigger.” He noted it will cost the organization approximately $950 each month to rent the 1,200-square-foot location. The focus now is on renovations to the space, he said. “We need to add a bathroom – there is one there now. A sink is needed, a fridge, some comfortable chairs. We’re working on pulling it all together,” Hunt said. People wanting to donate items to The Door can contact the organization at 428-3733, he said.   An official open house is set for Thurs., April 30, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. “It will be a chance for people to look around and check out the space,” Hunt said. He said Youth For Christ has operated in the community since 2000 – running various youth programs. He said officials with the organization made a decision two years ago to start a drop-in centre, adding the concept has proven successful in other communities. Stayner Youth For Christ is a satellite of Highlands Youth For Christ in Orangeville, which oversees Youth For Christ ministries and drop-in centres in several other communities, including Collingwood. To handle operations at The Door in Stayner, Hunt said Youth For Christ has hired local resident Jennifer Gerrior. Gerrior has worked with several community organizations over the years, including the Stayner Fall Fair, the Stayner Pumpkin Festival and the Stayner Heritage Society. “She is really passionate about kids and that’s something we obviously want,” Hunt said. Gerrior will be responsible for organizing fundraising efforts to support The Door, along with program development and outreach. In an e-mail interview, Gerrior said she is looking forward to her new role. “I love working with children and youth,” she said. “Their energy and passion for life is contagious. I love to watch as new ideas brew and questions form as they explore their community and their world.” Gerrior noted many people have asked why she’s taking on the position with The Door and said her answer is simple. “I am here because The Door drop-in centres are one of the most inspirational things I have ever witnessed,” she explained. “While visiting other centres I have seen the way the staff and volunteers can make a lasting difference in the lives of today’s youth. I knew I wanted to be a part of the positive difference The Door can make.” Hunt said Youth For Christ has about half a dozen volunteers to supervise The Door but added that more are welcome. He explained volunteers will be required to go through a training session handled by Highlands Youth For Christ. Working with youth can be a rewarding experience, he added. People can also help The Door by donating money to help offset costs. Donated snacks would be welcome as well, Hunt said. To help cover costs, Youth For Christ is hosting a dinner theatre on Fri., May 29 at Centennial United Church on William Street. The performance is called On The Streets and it will be presented by a traveling troupe from The Door in Orangeville, Hunt said. “It’s a play about youth and their needs,” he noted. Tickets to the fundraiser are $25 each and can be reserved by calling Ellen Craig at 428-2323 or Jessica Rawn at 428-3659.


Bylaw officers want exemption to law

A few local professionals are hoping to get the ear of the province when it comes to the new cellphone ban in cars. Police, fire, and ambulance personnel are exempt from the proposed law but municipal law enforcement is not. “We have the ability as officers to communicate with certain devices, like cellphone or two-way radio while driving,” said Brenda Russell, president of the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association of Ontario (MLEOA). “The fact that (Bill 118) doesn’t exempt us, it would mean we fall within the general prohibition.” While Russell agrees with the idea behind the bill and says it will make roads safer for all drivers, she believes municipal law enforcement officers need to be exempted so they can do their jobs. “A lot of time our officers are engaged in services to the community, through their enforcement duties, and they require a prompt response that require communications that are critical to getting there in a timely manner,” she said. Without an exemption, it means bylaw enforcement officers have to stop, pull over, and make a call, then get back on the road. Whether it’s a dog bite or a lost child at the waterfront, municipal law enforcement officers are called to help in emergencies. “In urban areas, like downtown Toronto, they might not have the immediate ability to pull over to receive communications that could be critical or time-sensitive.” Russell wants to ensure their jobs – or personal safety – aren’t hampered by the legislation. “If we had an officer in distress and we weren’t able to communicate that person’s whereabouts in a timely fashion because it wasn’t convenient to pull over, it would be critical for us.” Last month, the municipal law enforcement officials made a presentation to the government to plead their case. Russell said there were concerns with the wording of some other laws, such as the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, but changes were made to correct any problems. “We watch the legislation very carefully to ensure our ability to perform our job responsibilities.” The Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association of Ontario is a non-profit professional Association representing more than 1,300 municipal law enforcement officers throughout the province.


Property home to commercial building

A public meeting held last Monday night regarding a property immediately east of The Beer Store on Main Street in Stayner shed little clue as to what will be situated on the site if developers get the go-ahead from Clearview Township. Clinton Stredwick, a planner with D.C. Slade Consultants Inc., a Collingwood firm representing the applicant, said the plan is to construct a one-storey commercial building. The property is owned by a Savvas Koundouros. “We’re trying to build a commercial building that a tenant can rent or take over,” Stredwick told Clearview council last Monday night. According to township documents, the building would be roughly 2,800 square feet. The parking lot on the property would have space for 16 vehicles, including one handicap spot, Stredwick said. The public meeting was held under the province’s Planning Act because the property requires a zoning bylaw amendment for the project to go ahead. The amendment, if approved, would rezone the property to general commercial exception three from general commercial. The change would impact setbacks, allow parking to be located in front of the building, permit snow storage to be located in the landscaping buffer area and reduce the front yard landscaping requirement. Rossalyn Workman, a planner for Clearview, gave an overview of the property at the start of the public meeting last week. She noted the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) wants drainage and stormwater management issues on the site resolved before any approval is granted. Workman said the township is working on addressing the NVCA’s concerns. As well, she told council a neighbour has submitted a letter to the township, wanting a privacy fence built at the developer’s expense. Stredwick said he hasn’t spoken to the developer about the request for a fence but noted, “I can’t see it being a huge issue.” Michael Wynia, Clearview’s director of planning, was also at the meeting last week. He said that staff would do a thorough analysis of the application and bring a report back to council – one that recommends whether the zoning amendment should be approved or rejected.


Watch for scam: OPP

A scam targeting the Orillia area has police warning residents never to give out banking and other personal information over the phone. The OPP say a caller to a local home claimed to be working with police, telling the resident he was collecting money to keep children from committing crimes. The caller requested a donation of $25, $50 or $75. Police say residents should never give out personal information over the phone, including banking and credit card information. Anyone who receives a suspicious phone call can contact the Phone Busters National Call Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or [email protected].