2009 budget adopted for The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains town council adopted its 2009 budget including a tax increase of 2.2 per cent. A staff report received by council at their March 9 meeting estimated that taxes collected in 2009 will amount to $9,527,545 compared to the $8,903,253 in 2008. Council discussed the budget at a series of seven public sessions starting December 4 with the most recent amendments made at last week’s meeting on March 2. The original draft budget suggested a tax increase of 5.3 per cent, but council directed staff to make further cuts to bring the number down. Staff made cuts to the training and travel budget, axed the clothing allowance for inside workers, reduced the amount of money transferred to reserves, pushed capital projects into future years, cut legal costs and adjusted the IT budget to more conservative levels. Councillor Bob Gamble, chair of the finance and administration committee, remained opposed to adopting and enacting the 2009 budget. During the previous sessions, he explained that the town needed to have a more frugal budget given the status of the global economy at the time. After council voted in favour of accepting the budget, Councillor Cameron Kennedy said he hoped they could start discussing the 2010 budget early this year, because he wished they had more time to look at the 2009 budget.


Visitor restrictions at SMH due to outbreak

Alliston’s Stevenson Memorial Hospital is restricting the entry of visitors to the Medical Surgical Unit effective today (Sat., April 11) due to a gastroenteritis outbreak. The hospital reported an increased number of patients with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea on the Medical Surgical Unit. After consultation with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, it declared a gastroenteritis outbreak. Investigations into the cause are ongoing. “For the protection of our patients, visitors, staff and the community, the hospital is implementing enhanced infection prevention and control measures,” stated hospital officials in a release. In additions to preventing visitor access to the Medical Surgical Unit, there will also be no admissions of patients to the unit until further notice, and all current patients in the unit have been put on contact precautions, staff are wearing gloves, masks and gowns as an added precaution and enhanced cleaning and disinfection has been implemented. Although visitor restrictions have been implemented, at the discretion of the team leader, visits to palliative and critically ill patients may be considered. The hospital has also advised that anyone using other services within the facility is asked to maintain a high level of hand hygiene, by cleaning their hands with alcohol-based rub on entering and exiting the hospital, as well as when moving from one area of the hospital to another. Family and friends of inpatients may contact the Medical Surgical Unit for information, but should be aware that patient care is the priority. When nurses are attending to patients, calls may have to be returned later in the day.


Skating carnival on this weekend

Samantha Stewart, Brittany Gill and Hannah Skelton from the Collingwood Skating Club are gearing up for the 2009 Carnival. The carnival – which has a theme of an Afternoon at the Movies – takes place this Sunday at the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena. Doors open at 12:15 p.m., with the show starting at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10 with children under five being free. Tickets are available at the door.


Chamber makes it through a tough year

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.


No plans to sell building: Legion

The president of Orillia’s Royal Canadian Legion is refuting rumours that members are contemplating a sale of the club’s waterfront building. Chuck Penny said he was unaware of any push to sell off the lakeside property and relocate the branch in the face of financial challenges. “That is certainly not on the executive’s mandate right now,” Penny told Orillia Today. “We are working away at things slowly, our bills are being paid.” The club will hold a regular general meeting on Wednesday evening, at which time members are free to broach issues related to the branch. “If somebody stands up and raises it, then you have to deal with it,” Penny said. “Certainly from the executive side, it is not an issue right now.” Despite maintaining a healthy membership, Orillia’s Legion is confronted with falling revenues, declining attendance and rising operating costs. A shortage of volunteers is also a concern. The club is taking steps to address funding problems and other challenges, but is not considering a sale of the property, Penny said. “We have not talked about selling the building and looking at alternatives,” he added. “I don’t think we would have trouble selling it. But what would you do, where would you go? “If we were to close that building, we would lose an awful lot of people,” he said.


City schools battle at OFSAA

Facing tough competition this week at the OFSAA (Ontario) Girls’ Secondary School Hockey Championships this week, the three Orillia schools had a tough time posting wins. But they still basked in the glow of participating in a provincial championship in their own hometown. Play began Monday with 32 teams from across Ontario taking part in A-AA and AAA-AAAA Division tournament games at the Rama MASK, Brian Orser Arena and the Coldwater and District Community Centre. “There have been no problems and we have received some very good feedback from the visiting teams,” said tournament chairman Murray Eckstein, speaking with Orillia Today on Wednesday morning. The Patrick Fogarty Flames, Twin Lakes Thunderbirds and Park Street Trojans all hit the ice for the opening three games of the tournament. In an all-Orillia battle Wednesday morning, Patrick Fogarty picked up three goals from Danielle Jeffreys in an 8-3 win over Park Street. Michelle Donoghue added two goals and two assists, as did Laura Kennedy. Cleo Duffy added a single goal. Brittany Yoisten, Adrienne Robinson and Carley Gill tallied single goals for the Trojans. During a jam-packed week, Eckstein said visiting teams have enjoyed the activities at the 2009 OFSAA finals. “Many of the teams said the opening ceremonies we had at the Rama MASK were the best they have ever attended,” he said. Eckstein said teams were especially excited about the skills competition and the addition of a consolation round to tournament action. “Those two items were received warmly. With teams like Windsor it wasn’t just a matter of driving all that way to Orillia to play three games and then go home. The players had a chance to participate in the Skills Competition and also maybe get in an extra game in the consolation round,” he said. In between looking after numerous tournament details, Eckstein said he has enjoyed watching the calibre of hockey on display this week. “There is a lot of great talent out there,” he said. In their opening game Park Street lost 7-0 to St. Clair Secondary School, while Patrick Fogarty lost 5-3 to Courtice Secondary School. Jeffreys collected two goals and one assist for the Flames, while Donoghue added a single goal. Kayla Lacroix, Lindsay Shoniker and Taylor Brown added assists in a losing cause. Patrick Fogarty also went down to defeat 3-2 to Dryden High School with Jessica Hierons and Donoghue collecting one goal each. Carly Heitzner and Brown added assists. Dryden held a 2-1 lead after one period and extended their margin to 3-1 after two periods. But the Fogarty Flames rebounded to post a narrow 2-1 win over Bishop MacDonell of Guelph, led by single goals from Donoghue and Jeffreys. Myriah Kay collected two assists, with singles to Kayla Lacroix and Krista Catania. The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie after the second period, before the Flames noted the winning marker in the final period. Park Street later ran into an potent College Notre-Dame squad and lost by a 9-1 score, Haylee Lawlor scored the lone Trojans goal, while Sarah Conway and Carley Gill added assists. Notre Dame led 3-1 after one period and extended their lead to 7-1 after the second period. The Trojans also lost to Lester B. Pearson of Burlington by a 4-2 score. Haylee Lawlor and Madison Finlay tallied single goals in a losing cause, while Gill added two assists. Janette Conway added a single assist. In AAA-AAAA Division action, the Twin Lakes Thunderbirds lost 2-0 to Birchmont Park Secondary School from Burlington, also losing later to Our Lady of Mount Carmal (Mississauga) by a 5-0 score. Action at the finals continues until March 27 at all three area arenas, with AAA-AAAA Division teams taking to the ice Thursday and Friday.