BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
UXBRIDGE: News of progress on the Pickering Airport was a topic of discussion around the Uxbridge Council bench this week, with another meeting on the matter taking place in Pickering tonight (June 27).
The development returned to the spotlight earlier this month, after Finance Minister and Whitby MP Jim Flaherty made the surprise announcement that the plan would be moving ahead during a speaking engagement.
A meeting by community organization Land Over Landings was held last week in response to the minister's announcement. Ward 1 Councillor Bev Northeast told councillors that another meeting on the airport will take place tonight at Cedarglen
Golf Course in Pickering, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
While the development has drawn criticism from Uxbridge residents regarding the potential impacts on the township from increased local air traffic, Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor expressed caution toward picking a side at this point, adding that she wants to see excess rural property set aside for the project be used for farmland.
"There's nothing to talk about at this point because nothing has been said," said the mayor. "Hopefully there will be another meeting when there is something to talk about. This will go through whether anyone wants it or not. But as a council, we have to make sure the remaining excess lands go to agricultural uses."
BLAKE WOLFE AND BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard SCUGOG: An organizational/operational review of the Scugog Fire Department will get underway this year - albeit for $10,000 above the initial cost estimate, after councillors awarded the contract earlier this week.
Councillors awarded the contract for the $50,000 review to Dillon Consulting Limited at a meeting this week, a significant cost increase from the $40,000 that Fire Chief Richard Miller quoted to councillors earlier this spring. In his report, the chief stated that although the cost was above the approved limit, Dillon would provide 'the best value and the least risk' to the township due to their previous experience.
An additional $5,000 from DCA and $5,000 from the contingency fund, will finance the new price.
In addition to the increased cost, the review's likely deadline has now been pushed back. Previously, Chief Miller had said he was aiming for the review to be completed in December.
According to the chief, the review will encompass the department's service delivery, including areas such as fire response and prevention, administration and training and mutual aid agreements.
Chief Miller previously told council that a scoring system was used to weigh the various firms that bid on the contract will focus on their experience working with other fire departments in similar projects.
The chief acknowledged in his latest report that while Dillon - which has completed master fire plans for both Uxbridge and Oshawa - scored lowest for cost, they scored highest for the non-financial aspects and was rated highest overall in the three bids.
According to the system, experience was weighed at 25 per cent while cost was weighed at 10 per cent.
"We want to make sure we have consultants experienced in dealing with fire departments," he said at the previous meeting.
Added Mayor Mercier:
"This is a big financial item and a huge concern for safety. I was concerned about both cost and time, but through our review we have decided to go with the higher quality consultant."
The item garnered significant discussion from councillors, particularly regarding the price increase.
During the discussion, Ward 1 Councillor Larry Corrigan made a friendly amendment that council reduce the cost to the original $40,000, to save money and to prevent other bidders from coming forward with an appeal. Subsequently, Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten motioned to make a friendly amendment to Councillor Corrigan's amendment, to maintain the deadline of the operational review for December. Both amendments were voted down.
Ward 2 Councillor John Hancock had questions about the fairness of this decision.
"Obviously Dillon chose to ignore the $40,000 figure and come up with a figure of $50,000," said Councillor Hancock. "What would the other groups do if they had an extra $10,000 to play with?"
Ward 5 Councillor Howard Danson raised concerns that increased time and money do not mean an increase in quality.
"Powell did the last couple reviews, and in the report it indicates that Powell and Dillon are not very far apart," said Councillor Danson. "In my years doing operational reviews, if I was told I was to spend six months with a fire service that had six full time staff and 55 volunteers and two stations, I couldn't figure out what to do.... I have serious concerns over this decision, I think that the time line is way too long, and $50,000 is far too much money."
Chief Miller announced the review shortly after the township received notice in February of a provincial arbitrator's award to local full-time firefighters, following months of negotiation.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: The need for youth engagement, an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong small-town character are among the findings of the North Durham Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan, recently approved by all three North Durham Councils.
The plan, presented to Uxbridge and Brock councillors this week, seven days after its discussion in Scugog Council chambers, outlines the profiles of North Durham's three municipalities, their respective challenges to economic expansion and plans to overcome those obstacles. As of Monday evening (June 24), all three councils have endorsed the plan.
The four pillars of the plan include being open for business, inspiring and supporting entrepreneurship, building a future for young adults and creating a strong rural and small-town identity.
Nancy Rutherford, Durham's manager of economic development and planning in agriculture and rural affairs, conducted the recent presentations to local councils. The latest draft of the plan, said Ms. Rutherford, follows a draft presented to councils in March.
"We delved into the details," said Ms. Rutherford, adding the plan would take place over five years, "and came up with a good economic action plan for each municipality…. You want to see action if you want to see results."
While the latest version of the plan generated some brief discussion at Scugog Council last week, in Uxbridge it received the same criticisms as did the draft earlier this spring, in particular the emphasis on the creation of future government agencies to aid businesses. Ms. Rutherford explained that such programs would be funded at the provincial level.
"I have a mixed review of the plan," said Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle. "A lot of work has gone into it and there are some good tangibles, but a lot of government speak in some of these action plans. I don't know what they mean or would entail. Who pays for these programs and what evidence is there that these programs will meet goals in plan? We need to make the system easier rather than give them another map."
Other criticisms were leveled at just what accomplishments the plan will achieve in terms of business creation. While she did not provide specific responses to those queries, Ms. Rutherford stressed that the plan is a "living document," explaining that actions will be tweaked as the strategy progresses and that the four main directives will interlock with each other.
The plan will now be implemented at the municipal and Regional level, with quarterly updates on its annual progress.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: The wait is finally over, and this week Uxbridge will take a collective stroll down memory lane as Uxbridge Secondary School hosts its 90th reuinion with several great events planned throughout the town.
A committee made up of former staff and students, as well as current staff has been meeting monthlysince October 2011 in preparation for the celebration in the hopes of providing a memorable experience to all former students at USS in attendance.
The festivities kick off on Friday night with registration at the school, located at 127 Planks Ln. between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Everyone who wishes to purchase a ticket to an event must register for the reunion. Registrants will receive registration (admittance) to the events they have purchased, a commemorative bag with the Reunion logo, a commemorative pin, and a Reunion program. Cost of registration is $15.
The official kick-off for the event occurs with opening ceremonies, which will be held in the USS gym on Saturday, June 22 at 10:30 a.m.
"We are planning to showcase current student talent at the opening ceremonies," Peter Morris, a former teacher and principal at USS, currently serving as Chair of the Reunion Committee told The Standard. "We plan to have dance, drama and bands perform as well as unveiling our athletes of the decade and our Athletic Wall of Fame."
Events continue during the day on Saturday with a staff luncheon and golf tournament.
On Saturday night, there will be a pub night at Uxbridge Arena, with organizers expecting almost 2,000 people to attend. Those interested in attending the Pub Night as well as other 90th anniversary events will have to pre-register at www.USS90.com and purchase tickets in advance in order to avoid disappointment.
The dance will be split into two areas - the vacant ice pad and the Arena Hall - in order to provide a comfortable experience for all in attendance.
"The committee has learned from past experiences, and the reason for the two rooms, is that the Arena can be very loud with the music playing. So, the other side will be more of a quiet room where people can catch up with former acquaintances without having to raise their voice," explained Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger.
Sunday will see many more events around town to commemorate USS' 90th anniversary, including a pancake breakfast at the Legion, family events at Elgin Park and sports in the school's gym.
The Committee has crafted a web site, www.USS90.com, which to date has been visited by nearly 30,000 users.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Port Perry's Lake Scugog shoreline got a makeover last week, courtesy of some local volunteers looking to give back to the community.
The project, which included a clean-up of the shoreline area and restoration of the gravel walkway along the water's edge in Joe Fowler Park and Baagwating Park, was coordinated by the Scugog Lake Stewards and carried out by employees of AC Nielsen Company Ltd. in Markham, who were participating in the business' annual Global Impact Day. The event, now in its second year, involves Nielsen employees taking part in 40 different community initiatives chosen by coordinators.
After the limestone was dropped off by township staff, volunteers from Nielsen helped rake the stones along the pathways as well as prune some of the vegetation lining the path's sides. Another group of volunteers took to the waters of Lake Scugog and picked up garbage strewn along the shore.
Lake Stewards president Barb Karthein said that the new limestone will help make the pathways more water-resistant and more inviting to pedestrians.
"The Stewards have been requesting the township top-up the limestone fines surface on those paths to prevent low spots which hold water and make walking impossible for many days of the year," she said.
According to Christine Goble, a Port Perry resident and supervisor at Nielsen, the Lake Stewards project was chosen due to several employees wanting to give back to the community in which they live, with many of those workers calling Scugog and Uxbridge home.
"We wanted to do something meaningful in our home community, so we identified the Lake Stewards' project," Ms. Goble told The Standard. "Many of our employees use this park and go fishing on the lake."
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Uxbridge Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger paid a visit to his Scugog counterparts this week, pitching a unique fundraising idea for the future home of the animal shelter shared by both municipalities.
Councillor Ballinger announced plans for a joint walkathon for the Uxbridge-Scugog Animal Shelter's new building, slated for construction in the coming years at a Lakeridge Rd. property. The walkathon, envisioned Councillor Ballinger, would involve residents of both townships walking seven kilometres along Reach St. to Epsom, with Scugog walkers departing from the Scugog Arena and Uxbridge participants beginning at the Uxbridge Seniors Centre.
While no formal plan has yet taken shape, the walkathon would likely take place on the morning of September 28, said Councillor Ballinger, adding that he projects such an undertaking could raise upwards of $200,000, citing money raised in other initiatives such a Relay For Life.
"In Epsom you see an old schoolhouse that looks like a doghouse, so it's perfect," said Councillor Ballinger, explaining that the walk would culminate at Epsom Public School with a barbecue and petting zoo. "The group raising funds are doing a great job, but we need a major project to raise major money."
While the Durham Region Police Service and Durham District School Board are "on board" said Councillor Ballinger, discussions have yet to begin with other stakeholders, including his own council, Durham Region Transit (to bus walkers back to their vehicles) and the community of Epsom. One local resident attending the meeting voiced his opposition to the plan.
While Scugog councillors were generally supportive of the plan, a formal resolution is yet to come forward. Discussion of the walkathon by both councils will continue.
"Councils have to be the bridge," said Councillor Ballinger. "This is a chance for both communities to come together for a common cause and be the biggest walkathon Durham has ever seen."
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: More development is in store for Port Perry's south end in the future, as Scugog Township and the property's owner discuss what shape such a project will take.
A sign for Stockworth Developments recently went up at the property northeast of the Simcoe
St. and Oyler Rd./King St. intersection, which formerly housed the Johnson Controls plant. The property has remained vacant since Johnson Controls closed and demolished the plant in the early 1990s.
According to Community Services director Don Gordon, discussions have only recently begun with the developer, which also owns the property to the north containing Canadian Tire and Crabby Joes. Mr. Gordon explained that since a formal application for development has yet to come forward, the exact type of development is still in discussion. However, he added that both commercial and residential uses for the property have been considered by the developer.
The future of the property has occasionally been a topic of discussion around the Scugog Council bench in recent years, particularly during talks regarding the township's Official Plan update in 2009, a document which will guide planning and growth in the township over the next few decades.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: The proponents behind an ambitious fill project in Coppins Corner claim that the endeavour could prove to be a model for other such projects around the province.
Rene de Vries of Tetra Tech and Al Durand of RCCAO/Soiil appeared before council at their meeting on the morning of Monday, June 17, on behalf of Green Soils Inc. to provide details of the project. The endeavour would see 500,000 cubic metres of fill brought in to rehabilitate a gravel pit near the corner of Brock Rd. and Durham Rd. 21.
According to Mr. de Vries, the project, which would require 20,000 tri-axle loads to be dumped on the site, would have strict monitoring protocols in place.
"In addition to third party testing of the soil, there would also be auditing of the data done by a consultant hired by Uxbridge Township, with the costs carried by the site operator," explained Mr. de Vries. "As well, there would be an added level of transparency with a GPS tracking system for trucks delivering to the site."
The issue of commercial fill operations has been a hot button issue in North Durham for several years, and was a major issue during the 2010 municipal election in the wake of some controversial projects in the area.
"Uxbridge and Scugog are ground zero for fill coming out of the GTA and both are on the leading edge of soil by-laws," added Ms. Durand. "This is an opportunity to be progressive and manage the future."
Responding to questions from Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger and Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet regarding a timeline for the project, Mr. de Vries noted that the quick turnaround of Metrolinx transit projects (where the fill would presumably be coming from) make putting a firm figure a difficult task.
"Metrolinx projects seem to move very fast, be it 6,12 or 18 months. So, it can be a sort of moving target," said Mr. de Vries. "There have been no discussions to date, and details would have to be worked out by all parties involved."
Mr. Highet was tepid about the possibility of a lengthy time frame to complete the project, and the effect it may have on nearby residents in Coppins Corners.
"I have concerns with how long this project could drag on for," explained Councillor Highet. "If local residents were inconvenienced for 12 months, they could probably live with it, but not something that drags on for 10 years. I would hate to see this become a real mess with dirt and noise. There should be a comprehensive plan in place before work begins."
Meanwhile, Councillor Ballinger noted that the township already hears complaints from local residents regarding truck traffic, and expressed concern over the possibility of a further 20,000 truckloads making their way to Coppins Corners.
"It's not just the quality of materials going in, it's traffic that concerns me," said Councillor Ballinger. "We already have complaints in that area about the amount of truck traffic and I can't imagine an additional 20,000 trucks going in and out of that area."
Potential issues regarding the monitoring of the site, and the quality of materials potentially being dumped on the site were raised by Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy, who was left under whelmed when he visited the site in the past.
"I would hate to see dumping on a whole bunch of garbage. I visited that site in the past and it didn't seem to be very carefully monitored," said Councillor Molloy.
Although Mr. Durand and Mr. de Vries noted many times that the project would serve to rehabilitate the former gravel pit to a state that could one day be home to future development, Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle argued that pit rehab seemed to be an auxiliary benefit to site operators.
"This is not about rehabilitation, that may be a secondary function, but it seems to be more about a commercial project," stated Councillor Mantle.
Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor added that council would not be making any decision on the matter until the township's fill committee had made a presentation to council regarding the project.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
PORT PERRY: Port Perry's Palmer Park splash pad is undergoing yet another round of repairs before opening to the public this summer.
Earlier this month, Public Works crews returned to the park for yet more repairs. According to Public Works director Ian Roger, crews discovered more cracked pipes around the pad's two palm tree features while performing routine spring maintenance in recent weeks. New concrete was scheduled to be poured this week, following repairs to the pipes, he said.
Mr. Roger said the township is planning to re-open the pad in time for Canada Day celebrations in Palmer Park, adding that it could open earlier depending on construction schedules and weather.
The problem with the pipes cracking, said Mr. Roger, is likely due to frost settling in over the winter months in the ground underneath and surrounding the pad.
In 2012, work was performed to remedy cracked water pipes inside the three arches at the centre of the pad, requiring crews to dig below the concrete surface. In 2011, more than $35,000 was poured into the pad for the installation of a catch basin in the Palmer Park parking lot, as well as a concrete tank for water storage. In 2010, the pad was shut down for the application of a non-slip surface coating that was not included in the original plan.
A staff report to the former Scugog Council in December 2009 from former Parks head John Sellars stated that the splash pad and playground component of the Port Perry waterfront project incurred additional costs of $70,000, bringing its then-total to approximately $276,125, exceeding the approved budget of $256,500.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: While a provincial review of the Cartwright High School closure may not reverse the decision of the Durham District School Board, insights from the process may improve future decisions, says the facilitator reviewing the matter.
In late May, provincial facilitator Joan Green met with all sides in the CHS Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) process, culminating in a public meeting on May 29. Several speakers, including those from the CHS community and the Township of Scugog, once again spoke to the matter of the small school's looming closure later this month.
Ms. Green was assigned to review the CHS closure after several members of the
school community successfully petitioned the provincial Ministry of Education to look into the process that preceded the DDSB's February decision to close the school. Reports from both the community and the DDSB, concerning figures and statistics used in the closure decision, were then sent to the province and reviewed for 30 days.
Ms. Green clarified that her role is not to reverse the decision, but to provide the
ministry with an objective review of the process.
"My mandate is not to alter the decision," Ms. Green told The Standard, "but to ensure that the school board followed its own processes in the decision and where possible, indicate recommendations." Ms. Green said that over the course of four days, a "healthy discussion" of the matter took place with all sides involved. Ms. Green, who was the founding CEO of the province's Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), said that an analysis of her findings will be sent to the Ministry of Education later this summer, with a final report from the province expected in the fall. The report will be available to the public.
"Each community is unique," said Ms. Green of her role as facilitator, "but at the core, it always comes down to what each side feels is best for the students."