A growing community means a growing demand for police services. That’s the basic rationale behind Innisfil Council’s approval of a $4.75 million renovation and addition to the South Simcoe Police headquarters on Innisfil Beach Road. After months of sometimes acrimonious debate, council finally accepted a proposal by Innisfil-Bradford West Gwillimbury Police Services Board for a much larger, and modern facility. A second floor addition of approximately 7,000 square feet will be built, bringing the total area of the building to 14,000 square feet – for a cost of $4.5 million. A last minute modification was to add another $250,000 for an exterior elevator and stairwell to give more interior space. Originally, the police board had requested $6.6 million for a brand new building to replace the 30-year-old structure. In a presentation to council, director of community services Kerry Columbus reminded council of the controversy surrounding the proposed $6.6 million cost. “Actually, council had a conniption fit,” replied Coun. Lynn Dollin. An adhoc committee composed of council, South Simcoe Police, and members of the police board met frequently in the ensuing months to come up with the compromise solution. Last December, council received a $2.3 million provincial grant, which will be used to offset the cost of the police station as well as new sewers in Big Cedar. Police Chief Bruce Davis said every inch of the new station will be well-utilized by South Simcoe Police units such as criminal investigation, traffic, community services and court services. Both Coun. Dollin and Rod Boynton questioned the need for a separate chief’s office, with private washroom facilities, as part of the plan. Chief Davis has an office at the new headquarters in Bradford, which opened last year. Coun. Dan Davidson said he would be watching diligently for any cost overruns on the project. Boynton also wanted assurances the station would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Davis replied he would do his best to meet Boynton’s request, but occasionally, illness and staff pressures may force the station to be closed to the public. “The police station we have now is basically useless,” Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope added. “There are poor working conditions. I think the modified (option) is workable.” “This committee has looked diligently at the many options,” said Mayor Brian Jackson. “We have to move forward to support our police services.” It’s expected the new building would be able to serve police needs for the next 10 years. The architectural firm of McKnight, Charron, Laurin Inc. will continue to develop the project. Only Dollin and Davidson opposed the recommended design for the new police station.
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
Firefighters from Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay and Tiny Township Fire Departments fought this fully involved fire, which started around 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 15 in a home on Fuller Avenue near Penetanguishene. No one was injured in the fire but the home was destroyed – Fire Chief Paul Ryan is estimating damage to be approximately $175,000. A quick thinking neighbour made the 911 call and firefighters responded immediately to begin battling the blaze. Ryan said the fire, which took several hours to bring under control, likely started in the kitchen, however no cause has been determined. Here, firefighters try to quench the remnants of the blaze in the roof section.
Individuals, businesses and groups that make this community a better place to live will be honoured May 30 by the Huronia Communities Foundation (HCF). The annual Circle of Honour philanthropic awards will be handed out during a gala at the Brooklea Golf and Country Club. The 2009 honorees are: • Individual: David and Michelle Mink • Business: Franke Kindred Canada Ltd. • Groups: Port McNicoll Lions Club, Friends of the Penetanguishene Youth • Youth or Youth Group: Penetanguishene Secondary School Positive Students for Students. For the third year in a row, the event is a sellout, with every last $85 ticket snatched up two months in advance. Thirty dollars from each ticket goes to an HCF fund to be distributed to local charities. One goal of the Circle of Honour program is to inspire leadership in giving and service to the community.
This past year certainly was the best of times and the worst of times for the Meaford and District Chamber of Commerce. On the best of times side of the ledger, 2008 saw the Chamber continue to remain financially healthy, its total membership continues to exceed 200 and it continued to have a very active, visible and dedicated board of directors and staff involved in multi-faceted projects to improve the business atmosphere in the community. On the worst of times side of the ledger, the Chamber had to experience a severe budget cutback in its contract with the Municipality of Meaford half way through its fiscal year. The cutback resulted in the Chamber reducing its staff complement by one position. The Chamber of Commerce held its annual general meeting at Meaford Hall last Wednesday evening. The evening featured a number of changes for the Chamber of Commerce. Long-time Meaford businessman Geoff Solomon assumed the Presidency of the Chamber’s Board of Directors from President Rod MacAlpine at the meeting. Dairy Queen owner Shirley Keaveney became Vice-President of the Board. In addition, long-time Board of Directors member and Past-President Barb Cooper-Clumpus retired from active duty on the Board of Directors. Solomon said he is looking forward to his term in the President’s chair. "I’m quite excited about the future. I’m looking forward to the future," said Solomon. "We have an amazing Board and I know we can do great things," he said. Cooper-Clumpus said her time with the Chamber has been an incredible journey. She said just over 10 years ago the Chamber was virtually inactive with only 18 members. "I’m very proud to have been part of all of this," she said. "I wish the Chamber every success as it moves forward," she said. The meeting also featured an inspiring presentation from guest speaker Anna Bradford – the Director of Culture with the City of Hamilton. Bradford spoke about the important role culture will play in municipal economic development as Ontario’s municipalities move forward during these times of economic change. Bradford detailed the extensive "cultural mapping" project the City of Hamilton is currently undergoing and she stressed the importance of cultural planning for any community’s future economic growth. Bradford noted that Meaford is well on its way in terms of culture pointing to the presence of Meaford Hall as a huge plus for the community. "This building is just amazing," she said. Outgoing President MacAlpine gave a detailed report about his three years in the President’s chair. "The first two years were a lot of fun," MacAlpine joked, in reference to the budget cutbacks mandated by the municipality in 2008. "The financial picture was not pretty and we knew we had to do our share for cost savings," said MacAlpine. As a result of negotiations with the municipality the Chamber experienced a 27% reduction in the amount it received through its contract for tourism services with the town. MacAlpine said as a result the Chamber needed to reduce its staff total by one position. The timing worked in favour of the Chamber as long-time tourism coordinator Danielle Mulasmajic accepted a position with South Bruce Peninsula. As a result of this change Jamie Petit moved up from his position at the Chamber to become Manager. "Jamie does everything. He’s a great asset to the community. Jamie you have earned a lot of respect and you’ve made us look good," MacAlpine said Wednesday night. MacAlpine said the Chamber received $135,000 from the municipality for 2008, with a $15,000 contingency to recognize that the budget cut occurred half way through the year. "We worked very diligently to stay within that $135,000. At the end of the year we were over by $3,300. We decided not to ask the municipality for that amount," he said. "In the final analysis it’s all about helping our municipal succeed. I believe we have turned a corner in our municipality over the past year," he added. Despite the budget cutback the Chamber of Commerce actually increased its accumulated operating surplus by $7,000 in 2008. The Chamber now has a surplus of $27,692 available for future budgets.
Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is unlikely to drag itself into the black before the end of this fiscal year, Orillia Today has learned. “It is looking like a slim chance that we could end up with a balanced position by the end of the year, at this point,” said president and CEO Elisabeth Riley. The local facility had hoped a fresh influx of cash for its regional dialysis program would be enough to dodge a projected operating deficit of $1.7 million. But according to Riley, rising expenses largely offset the funds awarded by the province for the widely used program. “The bottom line is, we are now projecting a $1.6 million deficit,” she added. Riley noted that a portion of the funds recently earmarked for dialysis services were directed to satellite clinics in the region. Whether Soldiers’ scores additional dollars by the end of this fiscal year will depend on patient volumes at the local dialysis unit. The fiscal year ends March 31. “There is still the possibility for more money if the volumes justify it by the end of the (fiscal) year,” she said. The hospital will continue to seek savings wherever possible as it works to grind down this year’s shortfall and plans for the future. For example, positions left vacant when staff members retire or otherwise depart the hospital could be eliminated, so long as services were not impacted. Those same positions might also be made part-time, Riley added. Layoffs are not being contemplated at this point in time, she said. “Our hospital is really built on expertise, on the people we work very hard to recruit, and we wish to retain our talent,” Riley said. “It would be a last ditch effort to have layoffs.” Rising costs are the result of several factors, including a fully operational patient tower and a busier than anticipated emergency department. Patient visits to the ER rose from 45,000 in 2005/2006 to more than 50,000 this year, Riley said. According to a report by the Ontario Health Coalition, at least half of the province’s hospitals are or have been running deficits this year.
A 90-year-old woman is in hospital following a serious collision in the intersection of Sideroad 20 and Conc. 10 in Innisfil Thursday afternoon. The woman, who was travelling east on Conc. 10 at about 2:30 p.m., made a left hand turn onto Sideroad 20 in front of an oncoming westbound vehicle, according to police on the scene. The westbound vehicle tried to avoid the collision but still struck the car as it turned left, South Simcoe Police say. The elderly woman was taken to Royal Victoria Hospital by ambulance. The condition of the second driver is unknown. Police closed the intersection to reconstruct the collision.
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 [email protected] or (519) 599-3131 ext. 282. To review the provincial standards already in place and pending visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca.