BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Renovations at the Blackstock Recreation Centre will move ahead as scheduled, albeit with a different construction firm as originally planned.
During a recent discussion of the project, Scugog councillors approved a recommendation last week from Parks Director Craig Belfry that the township reject a winning bid from contractor Gay Company Ltd. which was deemed incomplete by the director, after it was determined by the company that its bid of $399,000 for the project - the lowest of four received by the township - would in fact be higher.
Scugog has currently budgeted $415,000 for the project, which will involve extensive interior renovations at the Church St. facility.
The contract will now be awarded to the next closest bid by Kawartha Capital.
Despite a bid of $440,984 by Kawartha Capital, Mr. Belfry told The Standard that staff will work with the company to bring the project in line with the township’s budget limit. Due to a time limit imposed by Ontario Trillium Grant funding the township has received for the project, the renovations must be completed by March 31.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Denise Jones-Spencer didn’t expect that an encounter with a tiny mammal would end with a hospital visit and lingering medical effects.
The Scugog Island resident was recently treated at Lakeridge Health Port Perry after being bit by what she later identified as a shrew - a tiny mouse-like animal related to the mole and often mistaken for a rodent - which had been discovered running through her home by her dog.
With the arrival of colder temperatures, many wild animals look to the interior of people’s homes for shelter and food, and picking up what she thought was a mouse and transporting the animal outside, it bit her baby finger in the process.
"The mice come in this time of year," she said, "so I went to move him outdoors. I thought my dog had found a mole at first."
However, certain species of shrew are among the very few venomous mammals known to exist and while not immediately apparent, Ms. Jones-Spencer said that she later felt sick and her arm began to swell. She recalled that she went to the hospital with what she described as a "mole bite," adding that hospital staff who treated her were shocked by the reaction.
Ms. Jones-Spencer said that three weeks after the incident, that she still felt cramping in her hands from the bite.
Several shrew species are capable of delivering a venomous bite to prey, which is known to cause painful reactions in humans. The venom of the northern short-tailed shrew (one of several shrew species found through southern Ontario) is chemically similar to the poisonous Mexican beaded lizard and has been studied in Canada for its potential use in cancer medications.
Since the bite, Ms. Jones-Spencer discovered a second shrew in her house, this one caught in a trap. This one, she said, was handled with extreme care.
"I’m not going to touch them again," said Ms. Jones-Spencer. "I’m a grown woman - what if a child was bit?"
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Manchester resident Tony D’Antimo is hoping to draw attention to - and potentially change - Scugog’s legislation governing where chickens can be kept by review of a related local bylaw, a request that seems to have resonated with local councillors and staff.
Mr. D’Antimo appeared before councillors last week. Earlier this year, he said that he was presented with a notice of non-compliance from a bylaw officer, the result of a complaint about the birds from another local resident. He said that he began keeping four chickens as a way of providing fresh eggs and to help naturalize his property near Hwy. 12. Prior to receiving the bylaw notice, he told councillors that he was under the impression it was legal to own chickens on his property.
"I bought the chickens as a method of providing nutritious and delicious eggs to my family, from a food source we control," said Mr. D’Antimo at the recent meeting.
"The highway is loud and dirty, but that’s progress - to combat the negative impact, I sought to plant a natural habitat on my property and I chose to add a few chickens. I thought it was legal to keep the birds here. Law abiding citizens shouldn’t live in fear of a potential $25,000 fine."
In addition to a stay on any potential charges he may face, he’s hoping to see council consider a change to the bylaw allowing hamlet residents to own up to five hens, adding that any such change must also take into account a neighbour’s right to be free of any noise and nuisance that the birds may create. The concept is not a new one, he pointed out, with cities such as Vancouver and Chicago allowing for the birds to be kept in certain residential areas within their municipal boundaries.
"This is happening in urban areas, not just municipalities with hamlets," said Community Services Director Don Gordon.
The matter of where chickens can be kept in the township falls under Scugog’s Zoning bylaw, which prevents the animals from inhabiting urban and hamlet areas in the township by defining their keeping for food purposes as a form of farming, which is limited to rural zoning. Mr. D’Antimo acknowledged that his property, which is located in a hamlet area, does not fit the description in the bylaw of where chickens can be kept.
However, that doesn’t mean the existing notion should not be challenged, he said, citing the potential health and environmental benefits from raising one’s own food.
Councillors cited a number of issues to be considered in any potential re-writing of the bylaw pertaining to chicken keeping, including the potential economic impact on local farmers as well as public health issues related to the keeping of the birds.
"My great fear is the potential impacts on the agricultural community," said Mayor Chuck Mercier. "It’s like dog owners - there are both good and bad ones. There’s also issues stemming from the threat of H1N1 - I just don’t know what the answers are yet."
Despite receiving a warning from Scugog’s bylaw department earlier this year, staff and councillors appeared reluctant to pursue any formal charges against Mr. D’Antimo during the recent discussion. While a bylaw spokesperson confirmed that charges are required to be pursued within 90 days of a resident being informed of their non-compliance, Mr. Gordon said that a review of the bylaw will likely be returned to councillors in the near future, possibly within the discussion of the township’s zoning bylaw update schedule to take place Feb. 10.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: It’s time again to strap on the skates and head outdoors for a good cause.
Now in its fifth year, the Lake Scugog Pond Hockey Tournament returns to the Port Perry shoreline on Feb. 1. The tournament will once again feature dozens of teams going head-to-head on the ice of Lake Scugog (near the Port Perry Marina), all in the name of fundraising.
Organizer Marianne Tracey said that this year, the tournament will benefit two Durham organizations - Precious Minds Learning Resource Centre, which assists special needs children and their families, as well as the Ontario Volunteer Emergency Response Team (OVERT), which teams up with police and emergency services during extensive operations.
In previous years, the tournament has helped raise money for other local causes, including more than $27,000 for a new neonatal heart monitor for Lakeridge Health, as well as $15,000 for the Durham Dragons Special Hockey League.
According to Ms. Tracey, many of the same teams and sponsors will return to this year’s tournament.
Coffee and other refreshments will also be provided to participants and spectators from Tim Hortons.
As of Jan. 20, there were still spaces available for players to sign up.
To register for the tournament or to volunteer as a referee or to help with maintaining the ice surface, e-mail email@example.com to receive a registration and information package.
In an interesting twist, the tournament has also drawn the attention of a Canadian board game manufacturer.
Earlier this spring, Ms. Tracey said that she received an e-mail from Outset Media, a Vancouver, B.C.-based games manufacturer, stating that the Port Perry tournament had been included in the company’s Pond Hockey-opoly, a new twist on the classic real estate purchasing game.
The game includes several lakes and their associated tournaments from across North America, which appear as properties to be purchased by players.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Fees collected from commercial fill operations in Scugog Township will be directed toward a new reserve fund, which will, in part, go toward the municipality’s management of such sites as well as community projects.
In December, councillors concurred with a staff recommendation that such a reserve fund be established, which would collect fees from fill site operators as established under the township’s Site Alteration bylaw. Currently, sites importing soil in excess of 500 cubic metres are subject to a $1 fee per cubic metre. According to the report, the township has already collected more than $220,000 in fees from the Greenbank Airport fill project.
Although the report recommended using those fees, should the township decide in favour, to help fund a major financial request from the Port Perry Hospital Foundation, councillors opted to prioritize costs associated with hosting such sites (such as staff and potential legal expenses) over one project.
As worded in a new motion put forth by Councillor Wilma Wotten, any money over and above such expenses should be considered for community projects. Earlier this fall, the Foundation approached councillors with a $350,000 funding request for the ‘Your Hospital, Your Future’ campaign, which aims to raise $2.5 million to be put toward renovations in the patient wing of Lakeridge Health Port Perry.
A recommendation to also use such funds to finance a ‘streetlighting initiative’ in Scugog was also turned down by councillors. However, the matter of using the funds for new LED streetlights returned this week during discussion of the 2014 budget, after Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew indicated that it may be worth re-investigating the expenditure due to potential energy savings. Public Works Director Ian Roger indicated that LED lights save, on average, 50 per cent compared to traditional streetlights.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: While talk of the second phase of Port Perry’s SmartCentres development returned to Scugog Council chambers recently, no firm timeline exists for the development of the property along Hwy. 7A’s south side.
Councillors recently discussed a reduction in the letter of credit for the two properties along Hwy. 7A.
According to Public Works Director Ian Roger, a stormwater management pond on the southern property is "substantially complete," while additional paving and servicing on the northern property has also been completed to date.
Ornella Richichi, SmartCentres’ senior vice president of land development, said that the company will "continue to focus on the north side of the property" before looking south.
She added that with the latest tenant, the Bulk Barn, moving into the recently-constructed building on the property, there is less than 10,000 sq. ft. available to develop on the north side under the zoning bylaw.
During a budget discussion this week, Community Services Director Don Gordon commented that he has seen "no indication that the remaining buildings" on the north side of Hwy. 7A would be filled in the near future.
The Port Perry SmartCentres development finally opened in 2011 following several years of discussion at council and in the community, including a 2007 Ontario Municipal Board hearing regarding community concerns over the potential impact of the development on smaller businesses in the community, which was ultimately decided in favour of the township.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Local residents are invited to walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate this February, during a unique event in Uxbridge which aims to raise both funds and awareness for homelessness in North Durham.
On Feb. 22, North House Transitional Housing is taking part in the ‘Coldest Night’ event, inviting residents to walk one of three routes - two, five or 10 km - during one of the coldest months of the year. The events, which take place across Canada each year, aim to raise funds and awareness for the issue of homelessness.
The three routes all begin in downtown Uxbridge that evening.
According to North House Chair Anne Kewley, the fundraiser’s goal is to raise $2.5 million to be put toward affordable housing in North Durham. As of Jan. 13, more than $110,514 had been raised.
"We have a very big problem in Scugog and Uxbridge with young people and the possibility of homelessness," said Ms. Kewley, during a recent presentation to Scugog Council. "In many of these cases, there’s nowhere to live except someone else’s couch... It’s not just people on ODSP, it’s people from the median income and down.
We don’t have enough rental units in North Durham - they don’t have to be palatial, just clean and affordable."
Ms. Kewley added that plans for the 2015 walk, to take place in Scugog, are already being discussed.
Walkers can register a team by visiting www.coldestnightoftheyear.org/partner/northhouse.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Since its opening in 1914, Port Perry’s Post Office has stood as a landmark on the south side of Queen St. for one-hundred years this month, and a celebration is in order.
On Jan. 28, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m., the local Canada Post clerks and staff will be throwing their beloved building a birthday bash to celebrate its centennial year.
"We will be serving coffee and cake, Canada Post will be sending some representatives, displays of some old photos and documents, and offering customers the chance to have their mail marked with a commemorative stamp specially made for our branch", said 12-year-veteran Post Master Alana Murphy. "We’re inviting townspeople to come and celebrate this piece of Port Perry’s history with us!"
The Scugog Township and Scugog Heritage Committee will be erecting a plaque commemorating the anniversary and preparing a presentation for the afternoon as well.
The Post Office building we know today was planned in 1909, to replace a system of letter carriers between the many smaller post offices based in Reach, Greenbank, Prince Albert, Scugog Island, Manchester and Epsom.
The towering structure, which required 300,000 bricks to build, features a lobby and mailroom on the ground floor, with a series of bedrooms, bathrooms and offices on the upper floors. The upstairs suite, now used by modern staff as lunchroom and break room, used to be the home of the building’s live-in caretaker.
To give Port Perry’s Post Office the final touch, Public Works Canada ordered a turret clock with four-foot faces from J. Smith and Sons of the Midland Clock Works in Derby, England, and an 800-pound iron bell from John Taylor Bellfounders in Loughborough, England. The clock, which is known to be temperamental at best, requires weekly tuning and upkeep.
Due to the cost of the maintenance, the cast iron bell no longer tolls from its perch 50 feet over downtown Port Perry, though the mechanism still ticks away as it has for over 100 years.
Over the last century, the Port Perry Post Office has proved instrumental to the shopkeepers, business owners, and townspeople it serves. With the rise of e-mail, it is no secret that physical mail letters are becoming a thing of the past.
However, citizens can rest assured that the their iconic post office will be around and in use for many years to come, due to the rising tide of local small businesses and online shoppers who rely on their invoices and parcels to arrive - sleet, snow or shine.
"Alongside less frequent letters, Canada Post will always have an increasing number of addresses to keep us busy", said Ms. Murphy.
"The post industry in Canada is transforming and moving forward to a new direction, but we will continue to become even more essential to small businesses and local people."
The Port Perry Canada Post staff would like to invite readers to learn about Port Perry’s history, check out the commemorative clock tower stamp, and enjoy birthday cake with the friendly staff and clerks, on Jan. 28.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog councillors will spend the next two weeks looking for ways to trim a sizable proposed tax increase of 6.9 per cent from the township’s 2014 budget, the largest proposed tax increase in recent years.
During a lengthy discussion of the document this week, councillors were presented with the initial round of department requests as well as the current tax increase required to fund such programs. More than $262,000 in new spending has been proposed for 2014.
While the levy increase will likely be reduced, Scugog CAO Bev Hendry said that a 6.9 per cent increase would equate to approximately $68 extra on the tax bill for the average Scugog home assessed at $300,000. Last year, a tax increase of 3.51 per cent was approved by council.
Among the large items currently proposed for 2014 are:
- the first phase of the restoration of the Scugog Community Centre’s parking lot, to be funded with $300,000 from the Community Enhancement Fund (CEF);
- replacement of a snowplow ($280,000) and one-ton truck ($105,000) in the Public Works department;
- purchase of the Fire Department’s next generation radio system ($225,000 from the CEF);
In addition, a number of other items are yet to be included in the budget, many of those related to funding requests for various projects.
Those include $70,000 toward the Port Perry Hospital Foundation’s ‘Your Hospital, Your Future’ campaign for renovations at Lakeridge Health Port Perry, $125,000 for culvert replacement and $500,000 each for repairs to Spring Blvd. and St. Christopher’s Beach Rd., both of which were requested by delegations of local residents. An entry for $2 million toward reconstruction of Ashburn Rd. will not be included this year, after a provincial funding request to assist with the project was turned down.
Adding to the size of the proposed levy increase is an annual one per cent tax increase to fund the township’s infrastructure projects, a new aspect of the budget introduced this year designed to ease the cost of repairs and replacement of local roads and bridges.
According to the draft budget, the $105,000 generated by that increase would be divided between hardtop resurfacing ($40,000), loosetop/gravel ($40,000) and bridges and culverts ($25,000).
According to a report by treasurer Trena DeBrujin, the remainder of the proposed increase would cover the base budget (3.4 per cent) and program changes (2.5 per cent).
An additional $180,000 from the municipal rate stabilization reserve, plus $505,700 in Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund money, has already been applied against the 2014 levy increase, said the report.
Additional pressures remain the same as in previous years, said Ms. DeBrujin, citing costs such as fuel, utilities and insurance, the cost of which is set to increase by ten per cent this year. The treasurer also told councillors that a number of MPAC appeals of local property valuations are due this coming year, an item for which an additional $35,000 has been budgeted (above $60,000 in the township’s base budget).
Among the largest ongoing pressures, however, is staff salaries, ringing in at 3.76 per cent of the 2014 base increase and accounting for more than 70 per cent of the township’s annual operating budget, said the treasurer.
She added that the recent arbitration award to Scugog’s full time firefighters resulted in a retroactive pay increase equal to 1.3 per cent of the base increase.
When questioned by councillors regarding average staffing for similar municipalities, Ms. Hendry said that Scugog is currently working with 60 per cent of the total staff body of a comparitor municipality, although she didn’t cite a specific community.
While the document awaits final approval, councillors pitched a number of ideas to reduce the levy, from using funds in the Greenbank Airport agreement generated by tipping fees, to borrowing from reserves.
"We’ve gone through this and been very moderate with our requests," said Ms. Hendry. "At a per-household level, it’s definitely an increase, but how does it compare to other municipalities?"
The budget returns to council chambers for the next round of discussion on Jan. 27, followed by an open house on Feb. 12, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Scugog Memorial Public Library.
Final approval on the document is anticipated on March 3.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Work on two major water projects in Scugog Township are moving ahead.
According to Rich Tindall, Manager of Engineering Planning and Studies with the Durham Region Public Works department, test wells drilled in anticipation of a new municipal well, planned for a tract of land along Shirley Rd. in the township’s southern end, have been installed and samples collected to assess the viability of the water source. Analysis of the samples will take place over the winter, he added.
"The Region has completed the installation of the exploratory wells in the Shirley Rd. area," said Mr. Tindall, "and we are currently undertaking field testing that will allow us to determine the local water quality and the available quantity. We will need to assess the test results over the winter to better clarify whether the Shirley Rd. area is suitable for the development of a municipal well supply."
In addition to the new well, plans for the Port Perry wastewater plant upgrade are progressing, after an environmental assessment for the project was approved by the Ministry of the Environment in November.
At a meeting of the Port Perry Secondary Plan Steering Committee held in early November, Mr. Tindall provided the committee with an update on the project, which will be tendered for construction in mid-2014 and completed in 2016, according to the minutes of the presentation.
Mr. Tindall’s presentation also outlined the requirement for new pumping stations to service the Castle Harbour neighbourhood as well as the employment lands in Port Perry’s west end.
A pumping station on Water St. will be included in an asset evaluation study, he noted, as the station lies on lands that may be redeveloped as part of the ongoing waterfront revitalization.