DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: A popular tri-annual event returns to Uxbridge this weekend, when the Quilter's Cupboard hosts a quilting marathon.
The event is set to begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, March 1, and runs until 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, with proceeds raised going towards cancer support.
Quilter's Cupboard owner Sue Carmichael noted that the event, which is returning for a third go-round, and runs every three years, has in its first two incarnations raised over $70,000.
This year, organizers hope to raise $40,000 to benefit Hearth Place, an Oshawa program that offers support to cancer patients and their families.
Once the quilters are done their weekend projects, according to Ms. Carmichael, two queen sized quilts will then be raffled off by local charities so that the event can raise even more money for local initiatives.
It was also noted by Ms. Carmichael that community members wishing to take part in the marathon are welcome and donations can be made at the Quilter's Cupboard, located at 202 Brock St. East.
And novice quilters need not worry as Ms. Carmichael added that "there will be a nice fresh box of band-aids on site."
As well, there will be a number of draws and prizes to be won over the course of the 30-hour event.
"We have more prizes and donations than you can shake a stick at," said Ms. Carmichael.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: The doors of Cartwright High School will be closed for the last time this June, following a vote by Durham District School Board trustees during an at-times emotional meeting at DDSB headquarters in Whitby.
Students, parents and neighbours of the Blackstock school attended the Feb. 19 meeting, where the fate of the small rural high school was ultimately decided. Trustees voted 10-1 in favour of a staff recommendation to close the school this June and amalgamate the student body with Port Perry High School in September. Scugog trustee Carolyn Morton was the lone holdout, submitting a motion (later defeated) to defer the decision for one year to allow trustees time to consider other options for the school's future, such as an agriculture-based curriculum with e-learning options, as proposed by representatives from Scugog Council earlier this month.
"Agriculture is an important industry in our province and it's always changing with new advances," said Trustee Morton in her motion. "It employs hundreds of thousands of people and generates $33 billion to economy. Government is willing to invest in the community, and local farmers are as well, but we need more time to research this approach."
The final motion was the culmination of more than a year's worth of Accommodation Review Committee meetings, including several heated public meetings in Port Perry and Blackstock. Once again, figures related to repair costs presented by school board staff were questioned by several attendees. A comment by superintendent David Visser, who said that $3.9 million in repairs (including improvements making the 100-year-old building fully accessible) would be required at a facility valued at $1.9 million, was met with laughter from several of the audience members in attendance.
According to Mr. Visser, the DDSB will determine what will happen to the building later this year, adding that it could be deemed surplus and sold to any number of purchasers, such as the Township of Scugog or other school boards.
DDSB Chair and Uxbridge/Brock trustee Joe Allin questioned the timing of the Scugog proposals so late in the ARC process. In his address to the board, he also denied being quoted as saying he has been "waiting for five years to close this school" as stated by supporters of CHS.
"Only lately, there's been an acceptance that the status quo is not sustainable, with a bunch of alternatives submitted that were already put forward, such as the notion of e-learning" said the trustee. "We've heard from the community about having a school within a school and an agri-science program at CHS. I would suggest that type of program is not innovative because it's already at one of our other schools. If you're going to explore an innovative idea, I would suggest you speak to those people, not the council chamber of Port Perry.... If there was a need for this type of program, what makes it something that could only be offered at CHS? The timing is suspect - why wasn't it talked about at the outset? The ARC moved away from those ideas. If the township saw a need for this program, they had other opportunities to propose it."
However, additional comments by Mr. Allin were seen as insulting by local residents.
"The library is an embarrassment," he said. "I can't imagine a CHS student going to the University of Toronto library and feeling comfortable.... I've also heard about the outstanding arts program at CHS - but when I attended the McLaughlin gallery last fall, I noted one school was not represented. Cartwright wasn't at the Sunderland Lions Club Musicfest, either."
Student Cullen Owtrim told The Standard that only a handful of CHS students currently drive, raising the issue of transportation to PPHS. He added that Mr. Allin's view of the school was somewhat hypocritical.
"They say our programs are good, but as soon as money's an issue, they say something else," he said.
Former Scugog DDSB trustee Joyce Kelly said she was "terribly disappointed" with the decision, after telling The Standard prior to the meeting that there was no indication from trustees which way the vote would go.
"I don't know if we're here for a wake or a hootenany," said Ms. Kelly prior to the decision.
Scugog councillor Wilma Wotten, who has been a vocal supporter of keeping the school open, shared Ms. Kelly's opinion, adding that "disrespectful" comments by Mr. Allin were not needed.
Supporter Melanie Wright added "they say the library is shameful, but it's not our fault - it's theirs (the DDSB)."
Blackstock resident Patti Alpe also expressed disillusionment with the ARC process.
"A year ago," she said, "everyone was asking if this was a done deal. The board said it wasn't, but there's been no change since day one."
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: The Federal Elections Boundaries Commission appears to have listened to the concerns of North Durham residents in the wake of sweeping changes to proposed federal ridings released on Monday, Feb. 25.
The Commission drew criticism in August when it released draft plans for revised federal electoral districts that saw Uxbridge Township cut in half, while the rest of North Durham, including Scugog Township, was grouped in a riding proposed as 'Haliburton-Uxbridge' that bordered Algonquin Park to the north.
The Commission's original proposal would have also seen Uxbridge Township split, with the portion of the municipality that contains the hamlets of Zephyr, Sandford, Leaskdale and Udora joining the riding of York-Simcoe. That riding was to stretch from Uxbridge Township in the east to Bradford/West Gwillimbury in the west and also contain East Gwillimbury and Georgina Township.
However, when the Commission's updated proposal was made public on Monday, drastic changes were made to several Durham Region ridings.
Uxbridge will now remain intact, with the municipality joining the City of Pickering in the new electoral district of Pickering-Uxbridge.
The new riding will have a population of 109,344 putting it 2.95 per cent above the provincial quota for riding population.
As well, Scugog Township has been removed from its original riding and now is proposed to become part of the riding of Oshawa-Durham.
The move will see Scugog joined with the part of the City of Oshawa lying north of Taunton Rd., as well as the portion of the Municipality of Clarington lying west of Regional Rd. 42, Darlington-Clarke Townline and Darlington-Manvers Townline. The riding, as it currently stands, will have a population of 115,395, putting it 8.64 per cent above the provincial quota.
Brock Township will continue to join its neighbours to the north in making up the riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
The Commission's latest report has the majority of Durham Region contained within five districts with the addition of ridings of Oshawa, Whitby and Ajax, which was a recurring theme of comments made during the public consultation portion of the process of redrawing boundary lines.
Several Uxbridge Council members were vocal opponents to the original plan, with Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy as well as Ward 4's Jacob Mantle making presentations before the Commission at public meetings last fall.
Following the Commission's revised plans, Councillor Molloy was overjoyed that the concerns of the municipality had been both heard and addressed.
"It shows that it does pay to speak up," commented Councillor Molloy. "It's a great lesson that David can approach Goliath and be heard."
It was also noted that the new Pickering-Uxbridge riding is a manageable area, unlike the proposed Haliburton-Uxbridge Riding.
Councillor Mantle gave the Commission's revised plan his support when speaking with The Standard shortly after news broke of the revised riding boundaries. Prior to making his presentation in Oshawa this past November, a Commission member informed those present that Uxbridge would, in fact, be kept intact, setting the stage for Monday's announcement.
"I'm very pleased that they kept their promise that they made to me, along with municipal leaders from across Durham Region, that they were going to keep Uxbridge whole" Councillor Mantle told The Standard. "It's a big victory for Uxbridge and its residents, since having representatives from different ridings could have been very complicated."
However, Councillor Mantle did express some concerns about Uxbridge being paired with a large urban centre like Pickering.
"I do have some concerns that Uxbridge will be the small fish in a big pond, and once again Uxbridge might get left out. But hopefully whoever ends up being elected will give us our just due. In my mind, that was one of the benefits of the former riding because it paired two smaller rural ridings (Uxbridge and Scugog) with a larger centre (Clarington)," said Councillor Mantle.
Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier was also pleased with the new proposal, noting that Scugog already boasts a strong relationship with both north Oshawa and Clarington from an agricultural perspective.
"I think it's a really good fit Simcoe St. has long been referred to as the Oshawa road, and it'll provide a great link between the communities in the riding. My only issue is that I would've liked to see it called Oshawa-Scugog to maybe give some more recognition to our township in Ottawa," Mayor Mercier told The Standard.
The new ridings are expected to take effect for the federal election scheduled to take place in the fall of 2015.
A full copy of the Commission's latest proposal, along with maps of the proposed ridings can be viewed at www.federal-redistribution.ca.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard SCUGOG: Police are investigating an assault incident at a minor hockey game in Port Perry last week, after an altercation took place between a Scugog man and a 17-year-old referee at the Scugog Arena.
The incident took place on Feb. 19, at a Port Perry Predators Novice AE playoff game against an Oshawa team at the local arena.
Police and witnesses allege that a verbal exchange between the referee and several parents, regarding calls made during the game, began inside the arena. According to police, one parent later threatened the ref and kicked his legs in the parking lot. The assault took place in front of several people, including children, said police.
One witness, who asked not to be identified, described the incident as "an inappropriate act by an adult.
"There were words exchanged by both sides," said the witness, "but then the adult started attacking this youth. Bullying like that is not acceptable, especially in front of kids. It was inappropriate for an adult to cross a line like that. We're supposed to be teaching our kids respect."
While similar incidents are sometimes reported elsewhere in Canada and the U.S. during hockey season, Port Perry Minor Hockey president Clair Cornish said that such an incident is "uncharted territory" for the local league.
"It's in the hands of the police and they'll deal with it as they see fit," said Mr. Cornish. "We have dealt with this as an association and supported the referee. We've never seen anything even remotely close to this at any of our games. In talking to arena staff, this incident is a first."
Police have charged Scugog resident Brad Fenney in connection with the incident. He was released on an undertaking with conditions, which includes a condition not to attend any organized youth sporting event.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Rural landowners in Scugog Township can expect a new mailbox if its knocked down by municipal snowplows - but only if its knocked down by the plow itself and not the snow pushed by the vehicle.
The new mailbox policy recently presented to councillors states that in such an event where a plow, but not the weight of snow pushed by the plow, pushes over a mailbox, the township will replace it with a standard metal mailbox.
The policy was developed following a request by Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten, after several mailboxes in the township's eastern communities were knocked down by municipal plows earlier this winter.
The report states that by replacing only those boxes knocked down by a plow itself, the township will not have to account for mailboxes on 'deteriorated' posts that could easily be pushed over by the weight of snow.
The associated cost to replace the boxes is estimated as 'a few hundred dollars' annually.
In addition, approximately 100 mailboxes identified by township staff that have concrete or steel posts will need to be replaced prior to Oct. 1.
"If you're going to put an immovable object in the roadway, you're going to pay the township a substantial amount of insurance (in the event of a collision)," said Public Works Director Ian Roger. "Larger objects are easier to see for plow operators. But if a new driver on a route doesn't know the boxes, he could easily strike them."
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: As progress on a proposed Toronto gaming facility moves on, representatives of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation continue to rally in support of the local Great Blue Heron Charity Casino.
The latest development in the proposal to create a Toronto casino came recently, after several large commercial developers, including RioCan, criticized the idea of locating the facility in the city's downtown. Such a facility would likely be built in one of three downtown Toronto sites - the Port Lands, Exhibition Place or Metro Toronto Convention Centre - the latter of which is close to a parcel of land purchased by the three developers critical of the proposed facility. Coincidentally, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) Chair Paul Godfrey also serves as board chair for RioCan.
For the Mississaugas, little has changed.
"Our casino is a huge success for our community, and for Ontario," said Missassaugas Councillor Kelly LaRocca. "We oppose anything that would make us less of a success.
In a previous interview with The Standard, Ms. LaRocca, who is also a member of the Baagwating Community Association (BCA), the charitable arm of the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino on Scugog Island, a Toronto casino will undoubtedly have an impact on local casino revenues and subsequently, the ability of the BCA to donate proceeds to local causes and organizations. Since the Great Blue Heron's doors opened in January 1997, millions of dollars have been donated to Scugog Township and various charities and non-profit organizations, according to the casino's web site.
In addition to any immediate impact felt by the local casino's operators, the announcement has delayed the Great Blue Heron's expansion plans currently under discussion, which would add 25 tables and 300 slot machines, as well as allow for increased betting limits on a number of existing games.
Those plans hit a roadblock in 2011, pending provincial approvals of certain conditions regarding the table and betting limit increases.
"It makes little sense to support the set up of something in Toronto or Markham that would hurt our community or the Durham Region," said Ms. LaRocca. "We have already communicated this sentiment to the government and the Opposition parties. We hope they are listening. We intend to continue our opposition to a casino in Toronto or Markham so as to protect the jobs, success, and goodwill that the GBH Casino has fostered to date."
The casino proposal was part of a March 2012 announcement by the OLG, which also saw the elimination of the slots at race tracks program. The elimination of that program has also resonated throughout the rural areas of the GTA and Durham Region, where numerous horse farmers are now facing an uncertain future in their industry.
The cuts are estimated to save the province more than $1.3 billion.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Councillors recently approved the purchase of three new humicon units as part of the ambitious renovation project at Uxbridge Arena.
At their meeting on the morning of Monday, Feb. 11, councillors voted to approve the purchase of the units which carry a total price tag of almost $67,000 as explained in a report from Township Facilities Manager Bob Ferguson.
"The humicons are essential in the building's functionality controlling the humidity on the ice pads," explained Mr. Ferguson in his report.
The humicons are just one part of a much larger renovation project planned for the 35-year-old facility, that will also see Pad 1 nearly completely remodelled in time for next season.
A condition of federal funding received for the project is that a percentage of the money is to be spent by the end of March, and according to Mr. Ferguson, the purchase of these new units allows the township to clear that particular hurdle.
As part of the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, Uxbridge will be receiving approximately $400,000 from the federal government for the renovations, with the township adding the remaining $800,000.
"Typically facilities like this have a 35-year lifespan, so we are right in line with that since the arena opened in 1978," Mr. Ferguson told The Standard. "It's exciting that we'll basically have brand new facility by the time the season starts up again in the fall."
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Bell Canada recently approached council with plans to add a new telecommunications tower to the town in the hopes of improving the area's cell phone and wireless internet service.
James Kennedy appeared before councillors at their meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, to outline the project, which would see the addition of a 35-metre tower at 20 Victoria St., home to Newmarket Pre-Cast Concrete Products.
Uxbridge residents have long sought improved coverage from telecommunications providers, and as Mr. Kennedy explained, the new tower will go a long way to improve coverage.
"Uxbridge, as a little known fact, is in the top 10 in coverage complaints in Canada," said Mr. Kennedy. "This site is meant to provide coverage inside of town, and compliment the existing towers east and west of Uxbridge. It's a lot like street lights. They're designed to cover a certain distance and when coverage from one spot ends, coverage from another facility needs to begin."
Mr. Kennedy went on to explain that the tower would look like a flagpole, as the company looks to reduce the size of towers and have them look as "stealth" as possible, and have them look like they are part of the existing landscape. According to Mr. Kennedy, in addition to Bell, the site would also provide coverage for Telus customers.
Construction of the tower is expected to take place closest to the train tracks on the site, and will sit approximately 96 metres away from the closest residence.
"We've tried to be at least three times the height of the tower away from residential, or as close as we can get without impacting the facility," added Mr. Kennedy.
Later, Mr. Kennedy responded positively to a request from Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger to have trees and shrubs planted near the base of the tower.
The next step in the process, as explained by Township CAO Ingrid Svelnis is to have documentation submitted to the township as well as consultation with the building department and nearby residents.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Residents across Durham can expect to pay an additional $54 on the Regional portion of their 2013 tax bill, after councillors approved a 2.35 per cent tax hike last week.
Durham's mayors and Regional councillors approved the Region's 2013 budget last Wednesday (Feb. 13), during a lengthy discussion of the document at that day's council meeting. The increase in taxes is the same hike passed in 2012.
Among this year's new budget items:
- $55 million dedicated to the expansion and improvement of the Region's road and bridge networks;
- Funding for several new solid waste management initiatives, including the implementation of #3 to #7 plastics recycling;
- Operational requirements for the launch of the new Durham Region Transit Pulse service, which will provide rapid transit options on Hwy. 2 through Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa.
However, the discussion was not without a few sticking points, namely the budget put forth by Durham Region Police as well as transit funding, specifically a 50 per cent cost increase for Durham Region Transit passes for students.
Several councillors criticized the police for submitting a $172 million budget that includes high-profile capital items, such as the new Clarington police complex, a building that will house such functions as a new Centre of Investigative Excellence, new facilities for the DRPS' K9 and Tactical units and new warehouse storage. The budget includes a $5.5 million charge for architectural design of the new facility. This year's police budget also does not include any money for new officers. According to Commissioner of Finance Jim Clapp, the new building means there will be approximately $20 million worth of debt for the DRPS in 2014.
Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor later made a motion requesting a report from police justifying the per-square-foot cost of $350 that will be spent on the building's warehouse. That motion was passed following the vote on the budget.
Councillors also discussed a proposed increase to DRT's student pass, increasing from approximately $49 to $74 this fall. The increase drew criticism from Durham Catholic District School Board representatives trustee Chris Lahey and Ryan Putnam, superintendent of business and chief financial officer, who appeared before councillors that morning to decry the increase. Although students within the Durham District School Board pay for their transit passes, Durham's Catholic students see their transit costs covered by the board, which also receives some provincial funding to cover transit costs. Mr. Lahey and Mr. Putnam said that the jump in price will impact the board's budget directly, by forcing trustees to choose between continuing their relationship with DRT or cutting classroom materials.
The price increase was later passed by council.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Although the event is still four months away, organizers for the local Relay For Life event are busy planning for the 2013 edition of the popular cancer fundraising initiative.
Local Relay organizer and cancer survivor Tammy Horvath appeared before Scugog Council recently, providing councillors with an update on plans for this year's event, scheduled for Friday, June 7, to the morning of June 8, at Elgin Park in Uxbridge.
Ms. Horvath, who battled and conquered the cancer that threatened to take her life nine years ago, outlined a new national campaign by the Canadian Cancer Society called the Fearless Project, aimed at changing the perception of the disease for patients and their families.
"This council and community has lead the fight against cancer in North Durham," said Ms. Horvath, noting that Feb. 4 - the date of her presentation - was World Cancer Day. "How do we change cancer forever? This is a question that we at the Canadian Cancer Society are asking. How do we change terror to triumph, fear to hope? The Fearless Project is a different way of relating to disease, by de-mystifying cancer."
Ms. Horvath also extended a challenge to Mayor Chuck Mercier, to join Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor and Brock Mayor Terry Clayton in donning their best clown suits to go with this year's Relay theme of 'North Durham's largest birthday party.' To date, the North Durham Relay event has raised more than $1 million in the fight against cancer.
More details will be announced on www.cancer.ca/relay as they become available in the coming months.