May 2, 2013
Vandals strike again in Uxbridge
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Playground equipment was badly damaged during a weekend vandalism incident in the Testa Heights area of Uxbridge.
According to Township CAO Ingrid Svelnis, damage from the incident - which included a playground slide badly melted due to fire - is between $7,000 and $8,000.
Councillors were split on how to remedy the situation at their meeting on the morning of Monday, May 6.
Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor first motioned not to replace the damaged pieces of playground equipment this year, citing increased insurance costs.
"A substantial piece of the equipment is still there, and every time we make an insurance claim, our insurance goes up. Furthermore, our deductible is almost as much as the equipment costs to replace," explained Mayor O'Connor.
However, not all members of council agreed with the mayor's sentiments, as they thought not replacing the equipment would be unfairly penalizing the community at large.
"We need to be proactive and get after the culprits, not penalize the residents who regularly use this equipment," added Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle sided with Councillor Highet, and proposed that funding to replace the equipment come from the municipality's Future Capital Reserve as a way of circumventing a possibly costly insurance claim.
Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger also spoke up in favour of replacing the
"We have to replace that. Just like with graffiti, if you leave it there, it goes
up all over," said Councillor Ballinger. "It looks bad for the town, and I don't
want kids to see something that's been burned. I also don't want those responsible
to be able to walk by and look at it and get satisfaction from it."
Public Works Director Ben Kester later clarified that the damaged equipment had been removed by township staff over the weekend.
After Mayor O'Connor's motion not to replace the equipment in 2013 was defeated, she closed the discussion by taking aim at those ultimately responsible for the vandals.
"I don't blame the kids as much as I blame the parents," added Mayor O'Connor. "Where are the parents in all of this? These incidents are not happening at 10 p.m. after all, they are happening much later in the night."
O'Toole talks 2013 budget's local impact
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: More action must be taken by the province in combating issues such as youth unemployment and looming job losses from changes to Ontario's gaming industry, said Durham MPP John O'Toole following a recent discussion of the 2013 Ontario budget.
The veteran MPP hosted a pair of post-budget discussions - one in Bowmanville and another in Port Perry - in his riding last Friday (May 3), dissecting the various proposals and potential impacts contained within the document. This was the first budget under Premier Kathleen Wynne, presented at Queen's Park by Finance Minister Charles Sousa on May 2, amidst the controversy of the growing costs in the cancellation of two gas power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
The budget, deemed a "non-event" by local financial advisor Brian Callery (who accompanied Mr. O'Toole at the presentation) contained a number of measures which, like many in the province, Mr. O'Toole chalked up to being aimed squarely at the NDP to garner support for the minority government and avoid an election, including a guarantee of five days of homecare for house-bound Ontarians, a proposed 15 per cent reduction to car insurance rates, and $295 million toward the creation of a youth job strategy, the latter two criticized by Mr. O'Toole as "lacking framework" in terms of when and how the programs would be implemented.
"There's no plan in the youth job initiative," said Mr. O'Toole. "We need to look beyond and toward what the jobs of the future are."
For Mr. O'Toole, the main issues in the province stem from a continued move "from taxing income to taxing consumption" through programs such as the HST, as well as continued spending that exceeds provincial revenues.
"We've reached a point where we are going to have to ask some serious questions (about the province's spending programs)," said Mr. O'Toole. "We're going to need more accountability before taking in more revenue."
While the budget contains provisions aimed at small municipalities such as a ‘dedicated fund' toward the expansion of rural infrastructure, Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier assessed the budget from the municipal perspective as containing "lots of unknowns," with more attention needed toward decreasing Ontario's deficit, currently assessed at $11.7 billion.
"I was hoping to see longer-term restraint," said the mayor. "The deficit is not helping any of us. We have huge issues in this province and it should be about trying to think beyond the budget and tackling the deficit."
Locally, Mr. O'Toole said that keeping jobs in the riding is his top concern, through programs like the youth employment strategy and also through retaining existing
positions. In regards to the last point, he said that the province must look at keeping the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino viable in light of changes at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG), including proposals to build a new casino in Toronto.
"For this community," he said, "any job losses at this casino would be devastating and we need to demand a solution."
CHS community prepares for celebration
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: As Cartwright High School prepares to close its doors for the last time at the end of this schoolyear, the school community will mark the many decades of
academics with a ceremony on May 24.
With the facility's closure pending for June, the event will serve to celebrate the many years that the school has served local families.
The open house event begins at 1:15 p.m. that day, with visits to the schools various classrooms while students continue their work.
Decade rooms, commemorating the many eras of CHS, will open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. with various displays and school memorabilia. Lunch will be provided.
The event is being organized by several members of the CHS community, including former music teacher John Beirness.
Mr. Beirness and several other organizers recently opened the building's attic to pull out some of the memorabilia to be displayed on May 24, including photos, uniforms and even notebooks of former students preserved in the building, some dating back to the 1930s.
"There's everything from thousands of photos to yearbooks and everything in between," said Mr. Beirness of the items, many of which bear familiar names and faces of former students. "We have 88 years of memories here to display while we catch up and reminisce."
The event is an informal open house, and will allow guests to "take in as much as they want," said Mr. Beirness.
Like many who attended or taught at the school, many of Mr. Beirness' fond memories of Cartwright are tied to the sense of close-knit community that came with a small student body.
"It was all about being a part of the community," said Mr. Beirness, who taught at the school from 1989 to 2007. "You weren't just a teacher or a student, you were part of a bigger family and you got to know everyone else. We worked together to make the school a success. It was a very unique experience."
The community is also being asked to get involved with the celebration.
Photos and memories of the school are being compiled by former student Lindsay Evanoff, who will then arrange those elements into a series of digital slide shows for guests to watch during the celebration. Anyone wishing to contribute photos
and memories can e-mail email@example.com (please include name and decade attending CHS in the e-mail subject line).
Photos can be scans or originals, which will be returned afterward.
"We want to make this as personal as possible for visitors," said Mr. Beirness. "It's sad to see the school closing, but we'll go out on a high note."
For more information, call the school at 905-986-4241.
Scugog puts rescue bill review on ice
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog Council will not revisit the matter of billing for ice rescues before the cold weather returns, after a motion to re-examine the issue was turned down by a narrow margin.
The hot-button issue briefly returned to council chambers this week, after councillors received another letter from Oshawa angler Neil Robbescheuten, in which he requested the township to reconsider the practice. This past January, Mr. Robbescheuten was rescued from Lake Scugog by local firefighters and was subsequently presented an invoice for more than $5,400, as per a recent council direction for Scugog firefighters to request personal information, whenever possible, for billing purposes in ice and water rescues.
Council voted in early March to uphold the bill, citing what several councillors described as a 'lack of personal responsibility' exercised by the angler, who ventured out onto the thinning ice of the lake as temperatures climbed that week.
To date, Mr. Robbescheuten has neither paid the bill nor donated $500 to the Scugog Fire Department in lieu of the fine, as was previously offered by Mayor Chuck Mercier.
In the recent letter, Mr. Robbescheuten outlined several reasons for why he believes the practice should be discontinued, citing 'extenuating circumstances' such as poor weather conditions that arose after he ventured onto the ice, as well as the lack of notice given regarding the billing practice, in which he was the first and to date, only, individual to be invoiced.
Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew, while stating that she would not be in favour of re-examining Mr. Robbescheuten's situation or ice rescue invoicing in general, nonetheless opted to table the motion.
While Mayor Mercier, Ward 2 Councillor John Hancock and Ward 5 Councillor Howard Danson voted to discuss the matter again this week, Councillor Drew, Ward 1 Councillor Larry Corrigan, Ward 3 Councillor Jim Howard and Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten opposed reopening the discussion.
According to council procedure, Mr. Robbescheuten will be informed by letter that the matter will not be discussed for at least six months from the date of this latest council decision, pushing the earliest return of the issue to a mid-November meeting.
During a February council meeting, Scugog Fire Chief Richard Miller outlined the response that took place at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13, which saw three trucks (with one on standby) and 29 firefighters respond to Mr. Robbecheuten's call.
Firefighters pulled the angler from the mud off of the island's northern shore, after Mr. Robbescheuten, who maintained at the March 4 meeting that ice conditions were "perfect" that day, became disoriented in the incoming fog and wandered toward land, falling through a weak patch of ice and became stuck in the process.
After his rescue, the chief said that Mr. Robbescheuten complied with a request from firefighters for his name and address for billing purposes.
Three days later, he was sent a bill for $5,392.78, covering the costs of trucks and firefighters.
Fill required to level Uxbridge lands
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: A new residential development could become a reality in the near-future pending an agreement to bring 1,000 truckloads of fill onto the site.
Prominent local real estate developer Fabio Furlan appeared before council on the morning of Monday, May 13 to outline his plans for the development at the corner of Reach St. and Coral Creek Dr., also known as phase five of the Estates of Avonlea.
"The land is like a soup bowl, and needs 9,000 to 10,000 metres of fill, about 1,000 truckloads to level it out," Mr. Furlan told the members of council.
Tentative plans call for the one-month program to start this summer, and Mr. Furlan has already been in contact with Uxbridge's Brook Acton about supplying clean fill for the project.
Mr. Acton added that details of the project, including the source of the fill, monitoring as well as traffic and truck routing will hopefully be taken care of shortly, adding that they expect between six or seven deliveries per hour, for a total of between 60 and 70 trucks per day.
"We're going to do everything we can to limit the amount of truck traffic," said Mr. Acton.
Wishing to avoid the stagnant state of other developments around Uxbridge, Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet inquired as to how quickly fill will be dealt with once it is brought onto the site.
"It'll be dealt with right away. I want to get started on building infrastructure and getting a draft plan of approval so I can start selling to the public," explained Mr. Furlan.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle then asked the pair if they would be paid for fill coming onto the site, and if that meant the project fell into the category of commercial fill operation.
"Yes, we will be paid, but only to cover trucking costs," said Mr. Acton. "We could be bringing gravel from a pit, and it'd be the exact same thing, but this presents a more economical option."
Councillor Mantle and Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger later expressed concern over the amount of trucks considering that there is a school crossing in close proximity to the site.
"I have some concerns about the school crossing. We dealt with similar issues with the co-op project (the since stalled construction of the First Leaside building in downtown Uxbridge) and they didn't go through when the crossings were used in the morning and the afternoon," said Councillor Ballinger.
According to Township Clerk Debbie Leroux, the next step in the development will be a meeting between the township and the developer to finalize the details of an agreement on the project.
What's in a name for Kennedy House complex?
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: The process to rename the Kennedy House property will now be turned over to the public, following council's meeting on the morning of Monday, May 13.
Despite initial misgivings from councillors regarding the four potential names for the site put forward by the Kennedy House Renaming Committee - Uxbridge Activity Park, Uxbridge Commons, The Fields of Uxbridge and Uxbridge Activity and Recreation Commons (or short form 'The ARC') - councillors voted by a slim margin to adopt the recommendation in a report by Recreation, Tourism and Culture Manager Amanda Ferraro, and turn the matter over to public voting via the township's web site.
Prior to any discussion on the matter, Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet voiced the opinion that since Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor was absent, discussion on the matter should be tabled for the second consecutive meeting in order to have all council members present.
"This is going to be a council decision so all of council should be here," proposed Councillor Highet.
Ultimately, councillors would decide to proceed with discussion, and the possible names were met with criticism from Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy and Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse, who argued that the submissions lacked any historical references to Uxbridge.
"I don't think that we've looked at historical value, and haven't seen any submissions that speak to that," said Councillor Mikuse.
Councillor Molloy also expressed concern that only 19 possible names were submitted. However, Ms. Ferraro clarified that while the committee only received 19 submissions initially, a second round of submissions pushed the total to between 40 and 50 possible choices.
"Quaker was looked at, but the committee thought it would be confusing," added Ms. Ferraro, who noted that the western portion of Uxbridge is already home to Quaker Hill as well as Quaker Village and Quaker Commons.
Later, Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger asked about the inclusion of 'Uxbridge' in every potential name, as it appeared to limit the scope of the choices.
"Why do we have to have to have Uxbridge in there? It makes it tough, why did it come about this way?" inquired Councillor Ballinger.
Ms. Ferraro noted potential corporate sponsorship of facilities at the site as part of the rationale for including 'Uxbridge' in the possible names for the site.
"The committee had a long discussion about that. If you have Uxbridge in the name, it could be confusing," said Ms. Ferraro. "We already have the Rotary Skate Park, and could have the Canadian Tire Aquatic Centre, for instance. And we thought it'd be good to have Uxbridge in the proper name because the facilities might have sponsored names."
However, once the matter of Uxbridge's inclusion in the name was clarified, new reservations were voiced by councillors after it appeared that the guidelines for the naming process had changed without council being notified.
"After we had the first 19 submissions, the CAO (Ingrid Svelnis) joined us and we were directed that the library may end up there so we thought about having culture in the name," explained committee member Brock Clark. "We were guided to have Uxbridge in there and not have a person's name."
Mr. Clark later added that he did suggest using a person's name, but that idea was met with little enthusiasm from other committee members.
Ward 4 Jacob Mantle then proposed widening the pool of possible choices.
"Council set guidelines initially and if those guidelines changed, it should've come back to council," said Councillor Mantle. "Let's see some other names. I like the idea of putting it to a vote, but maybe we can have ten instead of four."
Councillor Molloy would go one step further, and proposed that the public be allowed another opportunity to submit names for the site, which is located at the corner of Main St. North and Ball Rd.
"The names seem clichéd, and I know our community can do better," opined Councillor Molloy. "It's not something that has to be done today, and needs to go back to the public and we need a push to get more submissions with no strings or criteria. This is going to be there for a long time and we need to get it right."
In response, Councillor Highet defended the committee, and the submissions it produced.
"Why have a committee if we're going to override the submissions they came back with? It should be the committee choosing the name, not members of council," said Councillor Highet. "We need to create a name that will be timeless and goes in a new direction. There are a lot of people that have moved to town recently, and have no idea what Kennedy House or former St. John's lands even means."
After a motion from Councillor Molloy to go back to the public for more input was defeated, a motion to approve the four submitted names and post them on the township's web site for public voting was passed with Councillors Ballinger, Highet and Mikuse voting in favour.
Traffic concerns on Old Simcoe
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog staff will consult Durham police in their review of a Port Perry resident's request for traffic calming measures along Old Simcoe Rd., which he said is warranted due to an increasing number of pedestrians living in the Chimney Hill Way neighbourhood, along with an increased amount of vehicles traveling the roadway.
Matthew Schurter appeared before council during a May 13 meeting, with a proposal for the township to investigate possible measures to reduce speeds along the road. He explained that while walking from the subdivision on the west side of Old Simcoe Rd., he and his family, along with other neighbours, often wait for numerous cars to pass before attempting to cross the busy roadway, adding that many of the vehicles appear to be travelling in excess of the posted 50 kilometre speed limit. Currently, there are no traffic controls along Old Simcoe Rd. at any of the intersections between Reach St. and Queen St., where Chimney Hill Way is located.
"Crossing the intersection on foot is important to us to be able to enjoy all of the things that Port Perry has to offer pedestrians," said Mr. Schurter, adding that while "for each barrier to pedestrians, it's one more reason that will prevent people from walking," his main issue is for the safety of those living in the neighbourhood, which includes several younger children, including his own.
The matter had not been taken to Durham police prior to his appearance at council, said Mr. Schurter.
Public Works and Parks Director Ian Roger said that the last study on traffic controls at the intersection was conducted approximately seven years ago, explaining that a stop sign was not warranted then and that little has changed to justify one now. Mr. Roger added that as traffic counts have not increased significantly along Old Simcoe Rd. over recent years, the intersection would possibly be a candidate for a small traffic circle, "balancing the matters of traffic volume and safety," as opposed to measures such as speed bumps or speed humps, found in some neighbourhoods where their purpose is to slow speeds along the length of the entire road as opposed to a single intersection.
While councillors and staff did not make a decision regarding the intersection during the recent meeting, municipal staff have been directed to further investigate the matter and to consult with Durham police in their review of the issue.
Out-of-this-world concert in Uxbridge
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: The students at Uxbridge Public School had an out-of-this-world experience last week as they joined in a national sing-a-long with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.
The school was celebrating Music Monday on May 6 when they joined with other schools across the country to participate in an on-line sing-a-long broadcast via the internet from the International Space Station.
An avid amateur musician, Hadfield co-wrote the song 'Is Somebody Singing?' with Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies.
The entire student body at UPS gathered in the gymnasium to take part in the event, which was streamed live over the internet.
"It was a wonderful experience, and really turned out well with all of our students, from kindergarten to Grade 8 taking part," UPS Vice Principal Marg Snider-McGrath told The Standard.
"We were thrilled that he was singing from space, and we were singing right along in our gym."
In the lead up to the event, UPS music teachers Lisa West and Carol White had the task of teaching the song to the students, which became infectious amongst the students leading up to Music Monday.
"Every time you walked down the hall, everyone was singing the song, trying to learn it for the big day. Everyone was really into it," added Mrs. Snider-McGrath.
The school's art department also got into the spirit, as Wanda Dickson helped with students as they created a large rocket ship that was displayed in the gym during the event.
Following the intergalactic sing-a-long, an assembly was held at UPS as they celebrated the richness of musical talent within the school.
The school's bands, choirs and drummers all took part in the celebration of music.