DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Akin to the playing surface, councillors voted to freeze the current ice rental rates at Uxbridge Arena during municipal budget deliberations last week.
Throughout the session on Friday, Jan. 23, councillors were able to subtract more than $148,000 from the current municipal budget, which comes on the heels of more than $600,000 in spending reductions earlier in the process.
Councillors chose to freeze rates at their current level through May 2016 made on the heels of a recent presentation from Uxbridge Minor Hockey Association (UMHA) board members, who argued that the association has seen a decline in enrollment in recent years, and is saddled with the highest ice costs in their league.
However, Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor was startled to discover that gate fees are no longer charged for minor hockey games, instead the fee is simply added to the cost of registration.
“I sat there for many years in the ticket booth with Dorothy Pollard, and there was always a charge that helped to offset the cost of hockey and helped pay for the referees,” commented Mayor O’Connor.
Facilities Manager Bob Ferguson added that the ice will be out at the arena almost two weeks earlier than in the past, with the recent rescheduling of the annual Bonner Boys Tournament.
As well, councillors directed Mr. Ferguson to investigate the possibility of selling naming rights to the ice pads at the arena as a way to further boost annual revenue at the facility.
Councillors also reacted positively to a suggestion that township staff look at implementing an ‘adopt a trail’ program as a means of increasing municipal revenue.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: In light of recent construction projects drawing concern from the community, Scugog Township decided to review its planning process, with a push towards greater transparency.
With a total of nine projects requiring public input on the docket, and many more, potentially on the way, Township staff asked for more time to discuss projects with the public, at a meeting on Monday, Jan. 26.
The current process for the planning of new properties or developments lacks a critical step, according to Scugog’s Director of Community Services Don Gordon. “While we hold public meetings to receive the people’s input and thoughts, it may be helpful to follow up with those residents who submitted information or suggestions - giving us an opportunity to work towards solutions,” said Mr. Gordon.
Lately, proposed subdivisions in the south of Prince Albert and on King St. near Simcoe St., have provoked numerous environmental and quality of life concerns from neighbouring residents.
“These additional meetings would mean more time committed for all involved, but I do think it is warranted in most of these nine coming cases,” said Mr. Gordon.
Despite the possible friction which may be created, Mr. Gordon suggested that the proponents of these projects be present to hear from their neighbouring residents and to speak to their concerns.
Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett supported the motion, citing the importance of his constituents voicing their concerns.
“The Township will continue to send out information packages to all residents within 120 metres of a new development, and schedule a public meeting,” said Mr. Gordon. “Moving forward, we will try to include the most recent information we have available - so that people can understand what the Township can and can’t do.”
According to Mr. Gordon, the new meeting policy will be implemented on major projects within Scugog Township, on a case-by-case basis, since some topics will require more discussion than others.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
SCUGOG: Doubt has been cast on the future of Epsom Public School following a recent decision by Durham District School Board Trustees to begin investigating possibly closing the school.
Epsom Public School is the oldest school currently in use in Durham, with the original school built in 1876, followed by construction of the current school in 1964, and an addition in 1995.
Citing low enrollment numbers - as of October 2013, just 36 students were attending the school - on Monday, Jan. 19, School Board Trustees voted to approve an accommodation review, which would cover four schools in Scugog Township: Epsom, Greenbank, Prince Albert and S.A. Cawker.
With enrollment at Epsom not expected to exceed 46 students over the next decade, staff from the board has proposed closing Epsom Public School in September 2016, and relocating its students to Prince Albert and Greenbank. Additionally, Prince Albert would accommodate a portion of Grade 7 and 8 students within Epsom’s boundary currently attending S.A. Cawker.
Due to low enrollment numbers at the school, Epsom currently offers classes for kindergarten and Grade 1, as well as Grades 4 through 6. Among the issues stated in the report from the board was a lack of a gymnasium at the school, which requires students to be bussed to nearby schools for some classes.
The review is scheduled to begin in April, which will follow the upcoming creation of an accommodation review committee made up of stakeholders in the school including: community members, trustees, teachers, parents, as well as the principals of the four schools.
The first of four public meetings on the matter to be held at Greenbank P.S., at 7 p.m., on Thursday, May 28. A final decision on consolidation is expected by the board in March 2016.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: After wading through more than 130 nominations from across the province, Josh Morrison and Hayden Prince were selected to be among the final 12 recipients of the 2014 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award.
Mr. Morrison and Mr. Prince, currently Grade 8 schoolmates at Joseph Gould P.S., were both nominated by The Standard for their work within the community, which has been regularly featured within the newspaper.
Josh has been collecting pennies for roughly two years in an effort to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. To date he has raised more than $15,000 and regularly speaks at different events to encourage people of all ages to make a difference.
“It’s really exciting to be one of 12 to receive the award from all over Ontario,” Josh told The Standard. “When this started I just wanted to help the ReStore with their penny drive. I had no idea it would be as many pennies as it actually was, and it’s all been very rewarding, especially being able to share this award with Hayden. I couldn’t believe that out of all of Ontario that two of us in the same grade at the same school were chosen.”
Hayden is the founder of Shooting4Food, a fundraising event for the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank, which celebrated its second year in 2014. The event, which is held at Uxbridge Shooting Sports sees participants shooting airsoft guns in a battle between zombies and survivors. Since its inception roughly two years ago, it has raised $6,300 and collected more than 1,600 non-perishable food items. Hayden, who is also a member of the Roxy Kids, also has plans for a Shooting4MentalHealth event to collect donations for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
“I thought that winning this award was even cooler since Josh got nominated too, since we go to the same school in the same town and there’s people entering from all over Ontario,” Hayden said.
The Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Awards are promoted through the 300-plus member newspapers of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) with the support of corporate sponsors TD Bank Group and Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“These young people represent a diverse group ranging in age, interests and backgrounds – but one thing they all share is their desire to make a difference, both locally and globally,” said Gordon Cameron, President of Ontario Community Newspapers Association.
The Junior Citizens and their families will be invited to a special ceremony in Toronto in the spring to celebrate their achievements.
UXBRIDGE: The building is still more than a year away from being completed, but the new Uxbridge fire hall took another step forward this week.
At their meeting on the morning of Monday, Jan. 19, councillors approved a recommendation from Public Works Director Ben Kester, and awarded a contract worth $352,560 to Capital Contracting for a pre-fabricated steel building for the new fire hall. Capital Contracting also supplied the building for the new fire hall in Listowel, which was toured by local councillors in 2011, when they began the process of replacing the current Bascom St. fire hall.
Mr. Kester added that the current contract is for the supplying of the building only, and a future contract will be awarded for construction.
Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse questioned when the project is expected to be completed.
“Hopefully, the building will be closed in by next winter and we’ll be finishing up the interior,” replied Mr. Kester. “If all things go according to plan, hopefully we’ll have it open by spring 2016.”
NORTH DURHAM: Later this week, a pair of local young people will learn is they have been selected as one of 12 finalists in the Ontario Junior Citizens of the Year competition.
Presented by the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA), these annual awards highlight significant achievements by youth in communities across the province. North Durham is home to many remarkable young people, and The Standard is pleased to be able to recognize them regularly within our newspaper.
This year, The Standard nominated a pair of Uxbridge residents, Joshua Morrison and Hayden Prince. The classmates at Joseph Gould P.S. will learn if they have been selected as finalists for the award on Friday, Jan. 29.
Mr. Morrison has been highlighted numerous times in local media as the driving force behind a campaign to raise pennies in support of Habitat for Humanity, and has addressed many community leaders and served as a positive role model for local residents of all ages through his generosity.
“Joshua is an aspiration to us all to do more to help make the lives of others more comfortable,” said Standard General Manager Colleen Green. “I’m proud that The Standard has been able to help give Joshua a voice in his campaign and would love to see such a well-deserving young person win this award.”
The other local nominee for the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year, Hayden Prince held the second annual edition of his Shooting4Food AirSoft tournament this past fall in support of the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank in Uxbridge.
A member of the Roxy Kids, Hayden is a tireless supporter of community activities, and making a difference in the lives of local residents through his charitable endeavours.
“Hayden’s commitment to the less fortunate in the community, his volunteering at school, his work with the Roxy Kids, all done with a great sense of humour, have impressed me greatly. He is an admirable young person fully deserving of the award,” said Uxbridge Cosmos reporter Roger Varley.
Nominations for the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year are collected by OCNA members every fall, so keep an eye out for local young people making a difference in the community. You likely won’t have much trouble spotting several.
UXBRIDGE: Deliberations continued on this year’s municipal operating and capital budget last week, although Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor was displeased with continued low attendance from the community at recent budget meetings.
Unlike in past years, councillors have scheduled budget meetings in the afternoon as well as in the evening, in the hopes of attracting more public participation in the process in the wake of great debate over tax rates during the municipal election last fall. However, despite these measures, attendance has remained low at budget meetings, with the audience limited to a small handful of regular attendees.
“We’ve done our best to encourage input and only a select few have taken the time to do anything to be involved,” commented Mayor O’Connor. “It’s easy to criticize, point fingers and send e-mails saying ‘council’s stupid’ and ‘you people don’t know what you’re doing.’ But, they’re not here to understand the process and see what we’re going through with the budget.”
Budget meetings will resume on Friday, Jan. 23, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., after councillors opted to cancel a meeting slated for Thursday, Jan. 22.
Finance Committee Chair Pat Molloy urged his fellow councillors to take time this week to meet with municipal department heads in the hopes of further whittling down the budget.
“We’re getting down to nickels and diems here,” said Ward 2 Councillor Molloy. “It’d be great if you can meet with your department heads and look at where you can find some additional savings.”
A municipal budget open house has been scheduled at Town Hall (51 Toronto St. South) from 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, prior to that evening council meeting.
The municipal budget is expected to receive final approval from councillors in early February.
SCUGOG: Seagrave residents will be given an opportunity to re-form their Park Board, and highlight their opinions on the Coryell St. greenspace, during an up-coming meeting this weekend.
Ward 1 Councillor Betty Somerville has heard the call for improvements on the park, and will hold a meeting to decide the members of the new Seagrave Park Board, and any initiatives they may undertake - on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 10:30 a.m., inside the basement of the Seagrave Church.
Councillor Somerville, as well as Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett and the Township’s new Director of Public Works and Parks, Glen Smith, will be in attendance to receive input, and answer the questions of residents.
According to Councillor Somerville, the most important question on the agenda is whether or not residents would like to re-instate a Seagrave Park Board at all, and who from the community might step-up to be a voice.
“Three years ago, the Park Board was dissolved, but we’ve heard some talk of interest lately. This meeting will hopefully tell us where the people stand,” Councillor Somerville told The Standard.
Other pertinent topics will include the upkeep and maintenance in the park, the Township’s role in the park, any future fund raisers or events, and improvement projects which could be slated.
“The park is well-used for baseball and sports, but the grounds have been deteriorating for some time - our park needs to be taken care of and utilized by different community groups,” said Councillor Somerville.
Councillor Somerville told The Standard that the meeting was open to all, and that all opinions and interests would be welcomed.
To get in-touch with Councillor Somerville, learn more information, or offer your opinion, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 905-985-8066.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Councillors are considering the price of winter maintenance upkeep, after local business owners lead a charge to keep a Water St. parking lot open and maintained throughout the winter months.
On Monday, Jan. 12, Ward 3 Councillor Don Kett expressed frustration with the length of time that had elapsed since a December petition was presented to Council, and motioned for Fowler Park parking lot #2 to be immediately opened and plowed by Township staff.
The motion was met with approval from five of the seven members of Council, with Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew and Ward 1 Councillor Betty Somerville deciding against the proposition.
“There are more businesses at the Fowler Park lot than the Palmer Park lot, so I don’t see why the Fowler lot would be closed when the other one is open,” said Councillor Kett.
Earlier in December, 2014, Councillors received a petition from The Standard Newspaper, which included signatures from numerous business owners and residents from along Port Perry’s Water St. The group called for the municipality to fund the clearing of their parking lot over the winter season.
Many of the businesses’ employees, who typically use the lots during the warmer seasons, are forced to use spots along the side of Water St., which they say stops potential customers from finding a spot.
Councillor Kett asked Scugog CAO Ian Roger if the cost saving was a large enough amount to make a dent in the winter maintenance budget.
“Staff have obtained a quote for maintenance,” said Mr. Roger. “For a normal winter, the costs to plow, sand, and salt the space is roughly $2,500 - or up to $5,000 in a harsh winter, like last year.”
After noticing a strong notion of support for keeping the parking lot open, Mayor Tom Rowett and Council asked staff to speak with the proponents, and reach a conclusion to the icy ordeal.
“The closure of the parking lot is obviously affecting business owners – I know that parking is necessary for clients, and I have concerns about closing any available parking we do have,” said Mayor Rowett.
Later, Mayor Rowett asked if data is kept on the year-round use of the parking lot, stating that he has seen cars, trucks and trailers make use of the ice-covered asphalt.
“We don’t typically count the use of our parking lots during the winter, as we do in the summer. We have a play area at Palmer Park that can be used, so we have to keep it open,” said Mr. Roger. “The Fowler parking lot has been historically unmaintained each winter - but is occasionally plowed if we have available staff.”
With a passed motion, the plowing, salting and sanding of the lot is expected to begin as soon as possible - but the lot will remain ranked below municipal sidewalks and the Scugog Arena parking lot, in order of priority.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Darwin, ‘The IKEA Monkey’, has grown out of his sheepskin coat - as his current home has grown out of their tiny Sunderland location. Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary is seeking a new home, and has turned to crowdfunding to purchase it - with their ‘Darwin’s Dream’ IndieGoGo page.
The group hopes to purchase the former Northwood Exotic Animal Zoo in Seagrave, as the site will be able to provide larger living spaces and accommodate more rescues - as compared to their current Sunderland location.
The Story Book Farm organization rescues and shelters primates from the illegal exotic animal trade, giving their tales of neglect and abuse a ‘Story Book’ ending.
Darwin, an infant Japanese Macaque, was discovered wandering a Toronto IKEA parking lot in December of 2012.
After a lengthy court trial involving his former owner, Darwin was placed in the care of Story Book. Over the past months, Darwin has matured into a larger, more energetic, and rambunctious juvenile.
Story Book, with 22 primates in its care, is already operating at capacity. Founded in 2000, the tiny facility is divided into pens where hollering monkeys of all sizes swing on ropes and old fire hoses, and play with kids’ toys.
“We now have an exciting opportunity to acquire a new larger home with wide open spaces and forested enclosures for Darwin and the twenty-one other monkeys,” said Kim Meehan of Story Book Farm.
Most of the new pens have sliding doors that would allow the primates to slip into outdoor enclosures to frolic in the sunshine and fresh air. There are also two houses on site for staff, as well as a finished building - perfect for an on-site vet clinic. The new property has a steep evaluation price of almost one million dollars.
Story Book is entirely volunteer-run, and funded solely by private donations, with the occasional grant for specific projects.
“The new property will also allow us to expand our education and advocacy programs in the surrounding communities, create a primate internship program, and hire our first permanent staff to manage our expanded facility,” said Ms. Meehan. “We are also developing a business plan, allowing us to be self-sustainable.”
Far from just an animal sanctuary, Story Book is a group of over 30 volunteers’ mission to change the world, one primate at a time.
Readers can learn more about the crowdfunding campaign on-line at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/darwin-s-dream.
The web page states that $250,000 is needed for a down payment on the North Wood Zoo property, $100,000 is needed to upgrade primate enclosures and building structure, $100,000 is needed for the development of future sustainability programs, and that $40,000 will be put towards the hiring of full-time care staff for one year.
As of press-time, the Darwin’s Dream campaign has yet to reach its fundraising goals, but will continue to collect donations and offer rewards through their webpage until Jan. 24. Further updates are expected and will be published as soon as they become available.