BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: At the eleventh hour, and after more than five years of dedicated fundraising, the Caesarea Skateboard Park (CSP) project came under fire during a public meeting, held on Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Caesarea Community Hall.
Over 35 local residents attended the meeting to offer their thoughts and comments on the location and design of the proposed recreational facility - which is slated for Putsey Park, at the corner of Pier St. and Cedar Grove Dr. in Caesarea.
Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten and Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett organized the public meeting at the request of their Caesarea constituents, in the hopes of updating members of council on the grievances and concerns which face some nearby homeowners, as well as the work of long-time supporters and fundraisers of the project.
Councillor Wotten opened the meeting by providing her constituents with some background on the current issues, stating “The process started in August of 2010, when former-mayor Marilyn Pearce received a request from Susie Bollon for the Township’s partnership and funding for a skateboard park in Putsey Park,”
A survey of Caesarea residents was carried out in 2011, which saw a majority of area-residents in support of the skateboard park and its proposed location. However, in January of 2015, an additional survey was presented to Council, detailing that more than 97 people did not agree with the placement of the 30 foot by 15 foot footprint.
More than 15 members of the general public offered their opinions, taking issue with the topics of noise, traffic concerns, parking spaces, the potential draw of illegal activity, and the close proximity of the children’s parkette to the skateboard ramps.
A major topic of concern for some neighbours adjacent to Putsey Park was that the development could attract vandalism, drug use, and noise during early morning hours.
One resident, Bill Sanderson, asked the Township delegates who he would call if there were troublemakers near his home at 4 a.m., and who would deal with the issues of liability, property damage and graffiti at the park.
Carla Frew, a supporter of the CSP and fellow volunteer, rebuttled her neighbours complaints about local youth - stating that much of the fundraising work has been carried out by local youth.
“When kids are bored and treated like children, they let loose and act out,” said Ms. Frew. “I’ve approached teenagers who littered, and I asked them politely to clean up - and they left the park cleaner than they found it. We’re just trying to give our children something positive and healthy to do - Caesarea doesn’t have many options.”
Several residents claimed that the CSP, as well as the multiple cars parked near it, would be an ‘eyesore’ in the main four corners of Caesarea - while supporters rebutted that a new recreation area would bring life to the quiet burg.
Melinda, a young woman who has spent time working towards the CSP’s fundraising goals explained that the space would provide teenagers with a place to spend time, and help to reduce their frustrations of boredom.
“Caesarea is very mini-mal as it is, and I was one of those bored teenagers,” said Melinda. “We would all like peace and quiet - but wouldn’t you rather the kids focus their time on something productive?”
Glen Smith, Director of Public Works and Parks for the Township, took the meeting as a chance to respond to the concerns presented by the residents.
“We could definitely place a moratorium on how late the skate park is open, and maintenance would be carried out by the Township - with, we hope, some support from the youth who use the ramps,” said Mr. Smith. “Some may call a skateboard park unsightly, but to a 15-year-old youth, it’s nirvana.”
Mr. Smith also detailed his methods of dealing with the graffiti and vandalism of skateboard parks in his previous line of work, in Fort McMurray, Alberta. “Many municipalities will hold a street art contest, and channel the vandalism into the creation of street art - I’ve seen some beautiful and detailed pieces created with spray paint, which have been left un-touched by other taggers.”
Alternate locations were proposed, such as in the field behind the Caesarea Fire Hall, and in Peace Park further west on Cedar Grove Dr. After being considered by township staff, the fire hall location was rejected as being too isolated and too close to the emergency equipment within the hall, as well as potentially blocking emergency drive-ways, and the Peace Park location was discovered to be protected by legislature and environmental considerations.
Mayor Rowett suggested that he has been in talks with a local farmer and land owner, considering that a portion of land could be sold or donated for the purpose of the CSP - but noted that it is all in preliminary stages.
Councillor Wotten ex-plained that the original surveys showed a majority support for the CSP, and that the Township wasn’t aware that the public did not support the project until just a couple of months ago.
“If the location is changed now, it could seriously upset the Trillium funding which the CSP and the Township has already received,” said Councillor Wotten. “As well, it could hurt Scugog Township’s chances of ever receiving money from the Trillium Foundation again.”
The Township of Scugog representatives at the meeting noted that construction crews are expected to break ground when the frost breaks this spring, with an estimated completion date of later this year.
It is expected that further consultation with the CSP and neighbouring residents will be carried out, and brought back to Council in the spring.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Councillors have taken the next step in securing a high-speed internet connection for residents of Scugog’s rural-reaches.
During a meeting on Thursday, March 5, Scugog Council directed staff to obtain an Option to Purchase order with local internet service provider Communicate Freely – which currently serves several downtown businesses and residences along Queen St.
The Option to Purchase, which will cost the Township $2,000, allows financial staff to look into the company’s books and records, hammer out the details of a business plan, and retain the ability to purchase the company within the next six months - pending the approval of the federal government’s Connecting Canadians grant.
Scugog’s Clerk, Chris Harris, told The Standard that “The Option and the money will essentially recognize that business with the company will be tied up over the next six months.”
Scugog applied for the grant in January, and Mayor Tom Rowett has since been in talks with the local telecommunications company – considering options of partnership, or becoming an outright municipally-owned company.
Scugog’s investment into the broadband network would follow one of three major models: shared infrastructure - where service providers can connect to and expand on the Township’s network, dark fibre - where the Township lays out their own network and accepts payment from service providers to connect their own equipment, and a third option where the Township purchases a local service provider and becomes the sole owner and operator of Scugog’s internet services.
In addition to connecting Scugog’s rural residents and businesses, Mayor Rowett previously expressed an interest in building a self-sustaining network. Once lines are put into the ground, they would be controlled by Scugog town hall, and rented to internet providers. The proceeds are expected to cover upkeep costs, with left-over money reinvested into expanding the network.
The potential target for the federally-funded fibre optic lines has yet to be named, as Scugog has many currently under serviced areas – potential candidates named by Council include Scugog Island, Seagrave, and Blackstock.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: With more than six months before the next federal election, parties are already lining up their candidates to contest for the right to represent the new Pickering-Uxbridge riding.
At Pickering’s Don Beer Arena on Wednesday, March 11, the Pickering-Uxbridge Federal NDP held their inaugural AGM.
Primary school teacher, labour organizer and yoga instructor Pamela Downward was acclaimed as the association's candidate for the expected 2015 federal election.
Corneliu Chisu, the incumbent Conservative MP for Pickering-Scarbrough East will seek to maintain his seat in the Oct. 19 election.
Chisu is currently a member of the National Defence Committee, the Standing Committee on Official Languages, as well as the Executive Committee of the Canada-Nato Parliamentary Group, Canada-Europe Parliamentary Friendship Group, and the Interparliamentary Union.
In January, Pickering Ward 1 Regional Councillor Jennifer O’Connell was the winner of the Liberal nomination for the riding.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
SCUGOG: Downtown Port Perry will be awash in a sea of colours on Monday, April 6, at the annual Tartan Day festivities, as Scugog celebrates its Scottish heritage.
Tartan Day celebrations began in Scugog in 2011, honouring Scotland’s independence from England following the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath on April 6, 1320.
Festivities in Scugog get underway at 2 p.m., with a parade through downtown Port Perry featuring pipers, Highland dancers, local dignitaries, including Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett and MP Erin O’Toole and a host of other revellers making their way from Reflection Park, heading east down Queen St., to Palmer Park.
“This will be the fifth year for the Tartan Day parade, and it’s grown every year, and is always a great time. Just like everyone is a little bit Irish on March 17, on April 6, everyone is at least a little Scottish,” Jan Bennett, an organizer of the Tartan Day celebrations told The Standard.
At 3 p.m., the festivities shift to the Port Perry Legion, at the corner of Old Simcoe Rd. and Bay St. for the official welcome, the Famous Scot look-a-like contest, and Highland Dancers.
The famous Scot look-a-like contest is a highlight of the event, with no limit on the era, allowing for entries ranging from William Wallace to Sean Connery to the Bay City Rollers.
“The winner last year was dressed as William Wallace, complete with the blue paint on his face like in ‘Braveheart.’ It was really something, and it’s always a lot of fun for everyone,” added Ms. Bennett.
A traditional Scottish supper is served at 4:30 p.m., at a cost of $20 per person. Entertainment from Ceildih and Scottish country dancing follows at 5:30 p.m., before the event closes with Auld Lang Syne at 7 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at The Wee Tartan Shop, located at 177 Queen St, in downtown Port Perry or at the Port Perry Legion. For more information, call 905-985-7573.
The congregation of Prince Albert United Church was just one of the many local faith groups who took part in the annual World Day of Prayer, on Friday, March 6. This year, the service was put together by a group of Christian women from the Bahamas - and focused on empowering women.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
BENAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Council is taking steps to ensure the safety of those near the Greenbank Airways fill site, by requesting numerous borehole soil tests be carried out under Township supervision.
During a special meeting on Thursday, March 12, Mayor Tom Rowett and councillors-present passed a motion to prepare tenders for a minimum of 10 borehole tests to be carried out at the site, with a maximum spending cap of $50,000 – funded from the environmental and legal protection contingency of the Township’s past fill revenue fund. In addition, the sample sites would be determined by Scugog’s Public Works Department, and carried out under the supervision of a qualified Township staff member.
Mayor Rowett told The Standard that the matter “is pressing and needs to be carried out as soon as possible, due to an outcry from the public, and the fact that the spring thaw is nearing.”
The Greenbank Airways site is located near the corner of Hwy. 12 and Hwy. 47, and is close to the headwaters of the environmentally sensitive Nonquon River, and Township staff have noticed a large run-off of melt water from the south end – making for a small window of opportunity, before the soil is too unstable for large machinery to traverse into the site. The borehole tests - which are carried out with machines similar to those used in well-digging - will drill as far as 80 feet into the soil and extract a tubular sample, which can then be analyzed for possible contaminants, like heavy metals.
Scugog’s Director of Public Works and Parks, Glen Smith, told Council that he plans on performing 10 to 20 tests of the site – ranging in depth and location – to ensure that environmental concerns are either found-out, or put to bed for the time being.
“I’ll put out at least two tenders, and get the most tests I can with the money I’ve been allowed,” said Mr. Smith. “Usually the process would take more than six weeks, but I’ve been in talks with Ontario One Call and the owners of the site – and we will expedite the work as much as possible.” Mr. Smith estimated that testing results could be returned is as little as four weeks.
“I hope there are no bad results, for the sake of the residents who live in this Township, but I’m also not too naïve to think there couldn’t be a problem – despite the level of testing done in the past and at the current time,” said Mayor Rowett.
The agreement between the proponents of the Greenbank Airways site and the Township will come up for renewal on March 31, and could see changes for the years ahead. At a Open House budget talk earlier this month, Mayor Rowett told the public that Council has been hard at work meeting with their legal team - creating a list of new demands and requirements – which he calls a ‘baseline’ for the future.
Among the ideas mentioned by the Mayor are a new policy for making testing results accessible to the public as-soon-as-possible, making random unannounced checks on the site possible for Township quality-control personnel, and increasing the required insurance for the project from $2.5 Million to $10 Million.
Mayor Rowett explained that, if a test comes back with negative results, the Township has the power to halt incoming fill trucks until the matter is resolved, but that the specifics of resolution would largely depend on the size and severity of a hypothetical issue.
The final draft of the new Greenbank Airways agreement is expected to appear before Council during their next scheduled meeting, on Monday, March 30.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: The Christian community of Scugog and Uxbridge will once again welcome the World Day of Prayer, on Friday, March 6 - and will host several gathering events, to join worshipers of all denominations.
Local women’s groups will be conducting a service, which was put together by similiar women’s groups in the Bahamas.
In Uxbridge, World Day of Prayer services will be held at Trinity United Church, located at 20 First Ave., at 1:30 p.m.
Further information is available by contacting MariAnne Jones by calling 647-882-1920. Members of all Uxbridge-area churches are invited to attend and participate. Refreshments will be provided.
In Scugog, Seagrave Church will hold a gathering at 12:30 p.m., Prince Albert United Church will play host at 1 p.m., and St. John’s Anglican Church in Blackstock, starting at 2 p.m.
For further information on the event, please contact the Port Perry Pastoral Charge at the Port Perry United Church, by phoning 905-985-2801.
Port Perry United Church Pastor John Benschop, along with the World Day of Prayer Intenational Committee, were able to provide The Standard with some historical background on the how the event came to grow in Canada.
The World Day of Prayer is a global ecumenical movement which brings Christians of many traditions together to observe a common day of prayer each year.
Through preparation and participation in the worship service, the participants hope to know how their sisters of other countries, languages and cultures understand the Biblical passages in their own context.
The motto of the World Day of Prayer movement is ‘Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action’. Through their participation in the World Day of Prayer, local groups hope to affirm that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence on the world - whether down the street, or across the ocean.
The World Day of Prayer began in the 19th century when Christian women of Canada and the United States started to be involved in missions at home and in other parts of the world. Since 1812, women have encouraged one another to engage in personal prayer and take leadership in communal prayer within their mission auxiliaries and associations.
On October 19, 1918, Presbyterian women in Canada called together representatives of five Women’s Missionary Boards - “to promote the spreading of Christ’s kingdom through united prayer and action.” This first inter-church meeting gave birth to the Interim Committee on the Federation of the Women’s Missionary Society Boards of Canada, which organized a national and inter denominational day of prayer on January 9, 1920.
In 1922, the Canadian committee agreed to use the same theme and day for the Day of Prayer as U.S. women. This annual event became the Women’s World Day of Prayer in 1927.
The Canadian committee changed its name to become the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada and now includes representatives from 11 church partners. This council continues to coordinate the World Day of Prayer in Canada and to speak to issues that concern women of faith across the country.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Redistribution of Regional Council representation, infrastructure improvements and further investments in economic development highlighted Regional Chair Roger Anderson’s annual address to councillors earlier this week.
Mr. Anderson presented his annual update to councillors at their meeting on the morning of Monday, March 2, looking back at highlights in Durham over the past year, as well as offering a look at what is in store in 2015.
“In 2015, an immediate priority is the restructuring of Regional Council,” said Mr. Anderson. “We must consider the distribution of our population, as well as the ‘right size’ for council. Changes should be made in time for the 2018 election to ensure effective representation for all of our communities.”
Later, Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet asked if Mr. Anderson had a ‘vision’ for the restructuring of Regional Council, and what it may look like in the future.
Mr. Anderson replied that he would “like to see it reduced by at least three.” As well, he opined that the council may need to look at being a “stand alone” body, with Regional Councillors solely focused on regional activities, and no longer sitting on the respective municipal councils.
“You don’t lose the local flavour, because all of the mayors would still sit on Regional Council, but it would allow the Regional Councillors to look at more of the big picture. One potential drawback for Regional Councillors would be that their pay would be cut in half,” commented Mr. Anderson.
Regardless of the potential make-up of Regional Council following restructuring, Mr. Anderson continued his pledge to ensure Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog maintain their current levels of representation at the Region.
Infrastructure improvements will continue in 2015, with Mr. Anderson noting that modifying the Regional Road network to manage traffic accessing Hwy. 407 will continue to be a key focus for the Region this year.
“In the next decade, we will invest more than $35 million to improve the affected Regional Roads and intersections,” added Mr. Anderson.
Improvements to Sandford Rd., as well as Hwy. 47 are expected to be carried out by the Region this year. The design for the Siloam bridge replacement is also expected to be completed this year, with the new bridge expected in 2016.
The 2015 Regional budget also includes $450,000 to complete a study of options to optimize operations at the water pollution control plant on Main St., along with $300,000 in local water and sewer upgrades.
With reviews of the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine plans expected in 2015, Mr. Anderson urged Uxbridge, as well as Scugog and Brock to ensure that they present strong cases to the province, to hopefully pave the way for more development in North Durham.
“This council has to be very strong at Queen’s Park and the government has to understand the negative impact this legislation has had,” Mr. Anderson said.
However, on the matter of lowering residential tax rates, Mr. Anderson noted that the best way to accomplish this is to attract more businesses to the area.
“The number-one way to reduce residential property taxes is to bring more companies to Durham, both new and established. Currently, 82 per cent of the tax bill in Durham is residential,” explained Mr. Anderson.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: In their latest round of budget meetings, councillors have worked to cut costs to the bone, and has moved to freeze salaries, in an effort to bring Scugog’s share of the estimated six per cent tax increase down to 4.3 percent.
The combined tax increase, which residents will see on their bills, also funds the Durham District School Board and Region of Durham - was 2.2 percent at the beginning of the Thursday, Feb. 26 meeting, and was reduced to 1.6 percent.
In a show of solidarity, Council decided to forgo a cost-of-living increase for the 2015 budget year, and to freeze their salaries at the 2014 rates.
In a message to The Standard, Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett said, “Don’t get me wrong, Council is not over-paid based on the extreme amount of hours that all of the councillors are committing to this role; however, we feel we must set an example.”
In the Township of Scugog, the position of Mayor pays a salary of $32,964 - the chair of Regional Councillor will earn $22,259 - and the five Ward Councillors will earn $20,156 this year.
As well, payroll savings of $50,000 from reduced and vacant positions within the Township will be used towards a one-time offset for the 2015 levy.
As the Township struggles to keep up with its constantly-increasing infrastructure improvement projects, one-percent of the tax increase will continue to go directly to maintenance of municipal roads - in keeping with minimum provincial requirements.
Scugog’s CAO, Ian Roger, explained to the councillors that “If the Province’s minimum maintenance plan isn’t followed, Scugog could stop seeing capital grants from the government, or any financial support for the Seagrave and Scugog Line 8 bridges.”
Mr. Roger continued to explain that the Province contributes roughly $90,000 per year for the maintenance of roads and bridges - and that, as painful as the one-percent tax increase is, Scugog could miss out on more money in the near future.
“Our roads, bridges, and maintenance budgets are sitting at a minimum,” said Mr. Roger. “These departments have been squeezed and squeezed for years - and I don’t think there are many pennies left to find.”
Next on the docket was the issue of the Old Mill, which was purchased by the Township in 2009 - using funds from the Scugog Hydro corporation sale. Since then, the Township has been paying off the total bill in installments, and compounding interest on top of their money owed to the reserve fund.
“My issue is with the amount of money set aside for the final repayment of the Old Mill - I would like to remove our debenture to the Scugog Hydro fund from the budget, and stop paying interest on our own money,” said Mayor Rowett. “The Township has paid over $200,000 in interest since the Old Mill was purchased - and we have just about brought our Hydro reserve funds back to the same level.”
Councillors also decided to remove $8,600 from the Community Services payroll budget, which was held due to a vacant position within the Township, and to instead place a $4,400 increase in the payroll in 2016 - which would facilitate the much-needed hiring of a Chief Building Official.
After learning that the Olympia ice-cleaning machine at Scugog Arena has reached the end of it’s service life, Council decided to use $80,000 in annual profits from the current ice rental surcharge, originally put in place for renovations to Pad 2, and $60,000 from government Community Enhancement Funds to purchase a new machine.
“This way we can keep our arena running smoothly, and off of the back of the taxpayers,” said Mayor Rowett.
Scugog’s Department of Works and Parks had budgeted for the purchase of a tractor and grass-mowing equipment for 2015, to help keep the Township’s boulevards tidy. Mayor Rowett and his Council decided to remove the tendered cost, $19,300, from the tax levy - and directed staff to seek out a pre-assembled piece of equipment, which would be purchased during this year, when a suitable tractor is located during the tender process.
“We need to save money, and if we don’t have the equipment by the time our grass needs to be cut for safety reasons, we can fund the operations from our contingency reserves,” explained Mayor Rowett.
After councillors expressed dissatisfaction with the tax levy increase, the reduction of which was a primary election platform for many of the councillors, Scugog Treasurer Trena DeBruijn explained that much of the increase is due to inflation, and an increased draw from the Region.
Scugog Township claims 26 cents per dollar from their resident’s residential tax bill - the remainder is taken by the Region of Durham and the Durham District School Board.
Ms. DeBruijn told The Standard that, “This means, no matter how many cuts we make, the biggest players will still determine the tax increase - we would have to make our tax levy go negative, in order to avoid an increase.”
The proposed increase will add approximately $71 onto the property tax bill of an average home in Scugog Township.
“I want the people of Scugog to know that their Council is trying to whittle this tax levy down as much as possible, and that it will be tough for the next two years, until we hit our growth period with the Nonquon Water Pollution Control Plant, and additional developments,” added Mayor Rowett. “We’re doing our best to keep the increase in-line with inflation, and we will continue working throughout this year to find efficiencies.”
As a closing note, Mayor Rowett and Council discussed turning Scugog into an incubator for commercial and industrial growth, by combining careful rezoning of land, as well as undertaking close discussions with potential developers.
“Our future developments may grow as soon as we have the capacity, and they may take a few years,” said Mayor Rowett. “With the Province pulling money away each year, I see this budget as a stepping stone to a greater Scugog. In the meantime, staff and Council will work together to find savings in our operating costs.”
A public meeting and official presentation of the full 2015 draft budget will be held on Wednesday, March 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. - at the Scugog Memorial Public Library, located at 231 Water St. in Port Perry.
Scugog councillors strongly encourage readers to attend this presentation, and offer their comments and suggestions on the 2015 budget.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: A pair of local women were honoured by the township recently for their efforts to ensure the safety of children in the wake of a recent stabbing.
At council’s meeting on the evening of Monday, Feb. 23, Rachel Imhoff and Kirstie Kernohan were recognized by Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor for the actions following the stabbing at the corner of Brock St. and Third Ave., on Wednesday, Feb. 11.
“It was bedlam, because kids were coming home from school, and there was police and an ambulance and blood on the ground. It was a pretty scary scene right where kids were supposed to cross the street,” explained Mayor O’Connor.
The actions of Ms. Imhoff, the crossing guard at Brock St. and Third Ave., and Ms. Kernohan, a local homeowner who dialed 911 before assisting Ms. Imhoff, ensured that all of the children were able to navigate the scene safely.
“Between these two ladies, there got kids across the road safely. Thank you on behalf of council and the residents of Uxbridge,” added Mayor O’Connor.
At a Library Board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 19, the staff at Uxbridge Public Library were also honoured for their part in the apprehension of the 17-year-old suspect in the stabbing, after he fled there following the incident before being taken into custody by police.