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Barrie police are looking for meat thief. Police say the man grabbed more than $200 worth of steaks in 2014 from the former Bayfield Street Zehrs store and became aggressive with a security guard who tried to stop him. Police say the suspect fought the guard and fled with the steaks. Police have a released a security camera image of the suspect, who is described as a white male, between 40 to 45 years of age, about six feet tall, with a medium build. He was wearing a camouflage bandana, jean jacket and a green t-shirt. Anyone with information is asked to contact Const. Keers at 705-725-7025, et. 2565, or email skeers@barriepolice.ca, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or leave an anonymous tip at www.tipsubmit.com.

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Fame and centre stage are on the horizon for some local residents with special needs. They will put their creativity to the test as they piece together an ensemble performance for the community. "Going in front of people will be a new thing for me, and change can be good," said Ryan Smyth, who will perform on stage with his friends. "I did it at school a lot and wanted to do it as a little kid." Stephen Pinney received a $10,000 grant through the Ontario Arts Council for an artist partnership with a community organization, and that’s how the Able Project came about. "In terms of the community, we realized there are certain things for individuals for special needs to do in town," said Pinney. "There isn’t generally an opportunity to be creative this way, to be a performer, and this project is going to allow that opportunity." A number of years ago, Pinney wrote a play featuring characters with special needs, but the it was performed by professional actors who didn’t have special needs. The positive reception to the play laid the foundation for the idea of individuals with intellectual disabilities starring in their own play. "It’s great for them because it’s skills in communication and performance and being in front of people," said Tom Carson, a theatre director helping Pinney put together the project. "Sometimes, people with disabilities become invisible and go in the background, but with this, they will come forward and people will relate with them in a way separate from their disability." Depending on the amount of interest expressed by Christian Horizons residents in Orillia and area, he expects there to be at least a dozen performers. Their input will be considered equally when organizing the show. "Instead of having a set script to work with, we’re meeting and putting a show together over time," said Pinney. "Right now, there is no title for the show. We’re investigating possibilities and trying to work from the interest of the participants and performers and allowing them to express what they want to." But one of performances will have something to do with music, he said. "I will play Johnny Cash, The Beatles and all sorts of things," said Fraser Collins, who is excited to take to the stage. "To me, in my heart, I want to be on stage." The 10-week project began March 31, when, after a couple of weather-related delays, the group of interested performers were able to begin their weekly meetings at the Orillia Community Church. "I think what it’s going to do specifically is offer an opportunity that might not have been offered before," said Pinney. One a schedule is finalized, the Able Project hopes to put on two performances: one at the Gravenhurst Opera House May 26 and one at the Orillia Opera House June 2. Tickets will be available at the respective locations by the end of May. For more information or to volunteer, call Pinney at 705-325-8272. mshahid@postmedia.com twitter.com/chromartblog 

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Giving municipalities more options for how to elect their councils is being applauded by many in the province, including Simcoe North MPP Patrick Brown. But the leader of the opposition feels electoral reform belongs to constituents and something as simple as a ballot question needs to be in place to ensure they have the final say in how their elected officials are returned to office. "No government should rush through electoral reform without first putting it to the citizens to decide," Brown said. "The government of the of the day doesn’t get to change the electoral system, given that they, themselves, are are an interested party. I believe if you’re going to change how we have elections … a referendum is necessary." Last year, the province consulted Ontarians on potential changes to the Municipal Elections Act and received more than 3,400 submissions. The ranked-ballot option — an initiative popular with respondents — was one of the proposed changes to the Municipal Elections Act outlined by the government earlier this week. In an election using ranked ballots, voters can rank candidates running for a position in order of preference. The option to use ranked ballots would begin for the 2018 municipal elections. Ranked ballots have had a supporter in Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke for many years, going beyond his election to city council. He called the idea "progressive." "I think it gives ballots more meaning," he said. "I think it increases interest and gives people more reason to get out and vote." The idea of ranked ballots is bound to come up for discussion at the Orillia council table in the near future, and Clarke would be comfortable being the person to move the discussion. Staff is already investigating options for potential changes to the way councillors are elected, including the removal of the ward system altogether. Also being applauded are changes to campaign finance rules. A proposal by the province would regulate third-party advertising, including contributions and spending limits, as well as give municipalities the option to ban corporate and union donations. The City of Toronto has had this availability since 2006, and Campaign Fairness, a special-interest group that has focused on eliminating such donations since it was founded in 2010, argues it is time the rest of the municipalities had the same power. "Now Ontario is on its way to catching up with modern election practices," David Donnelly, co-founder of Campaign Fairness, said in a news release. "Four provinces, the City of Toronto and Canadian federal elections all prohibit corporate and union contributions." Campaign Fairness recently released a report on the 2014 municipal elections in the Lake Simcoe watershed. It found candidates taking contributions from the development industry were twice as likely to be elected as those who didn’t. The development industry contributed 54% of the corporate contributions in the area during the 2014 election. In 2014, about two-thirds of the funds use to run in the municipal election in Orillia came from the candidates themselves. However, $18,371, or 27.2% of the total funding, was from corporate sponsorship, just below the average of the 14 municipalities in the watershed. Clake took donations from some corporate interests but was careful not to accept money from developers. "Any time you can take away any influence or perceived influence in the election system, it makes it more open, more transparent," he said. "I certainly had donations from people who own small companies in town. I took no donations from contractors, even though some were offered." Brown said the changes regarding fundraising are long overdue, as having developers’ money as major sources of candidates’ revenue creates "the wrong conditions." "It’s important to take big money out of politics," Brown said. "I believe we should end corporate and union donations in the municipal election process." He was quick to draw a parallel between concerns with corporate funding at the municipal level and what he called a "scandal" at Queen’s Park, with sitting members of the government having fundraising quotas from companies that could later become government contractors. "I’m in a wholehearted campaign to expose the abuses of on a provincial level," Brown said. "It creates an untenable situation when those who are seeking to do business with the government are also the ones donating." pbales@postmedia.com twitter.com/patrickbales 

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NORTH SIMCOE – The number of municipal employees in north Simcoe making more than $100,000 rose by seven in 2015, according to numbers released last week by the provincial government. The Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, also known as the , was released March 24. The list provides salary and benefit information for all public-sector employees who were paid $100,000 or more in 2015. The Town of Midland had 35 names on the list, up from 31 in 2014. Former CAO , who left her position in January for reasons that have not been publicly revealed, was the highest earner in the municipality at $147,672.85. Tiny Township had eight people earning more than $100,000, up from six in 2014. CAO Doug Luker topped the municipality’s employees with $167,987.06. Tay Township had three names, the same as in 2014, with CAO Robert Lamb the highest earner at $129,754.17. The Town of Penetanguishene had the fewest number of employees on the list with two, up from one in 2014. Paul Ryan, who serves as fire chief for both Penetanguishene and Midland, earned $107,321.66 to make him the town’s top earner. Among the region’s health-care providers, Georgian Bay General Hospital had 23 employees topping the $100,000 threshold. The hospital’s president and CEO, Karen McGrath, who is currently grappling with an that raised hackles in the community, was the highest-paid employee at $208,528.52. Waypoint Centre for Mental Health has 100 names on the list, with medical director Dr. Brant Bergstrome topping the institution’s earners with a $369,639.76 salary. Tony Vipond, CEO of Community Living Huronia, was also on the list at $143,832.36.

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The Beeton Trinity United Church is holding a Talent Auction Saturday, April 9 at 7 p.m. At the auction, people can place bids on services offered by individuals. The services include car cleanings, baking a pie once a month for up to a year, going on a fishing trip, driving a person to their appointments and more. The auction will also feature items donated by businesses and individuals, including a hockey sweater donated by the Pittsburgh Penguins and signed by Phil Kessel. The church is located at 37 Centre St. N., Beeton.

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Ardtrea-Cumberland Beach Public School will celebrate its history Saturday. The school will close June 30. Saturday’s event is an opportunity for the school community, including current staff and students, alumni and community members, to gather to share memories. The celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Formal remarks at 12 p.m. will be followed by light refreshments. The school is located at 3797 Telford Line in Severn Township. Cumberland Beach Public School closed last year. The Cumberland Beach site is the home of the new Severn Shores Public School. All staff and students from Ardtrea-Cumberland will make the move to Severn Shores in September. 

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Guy Chrartrand, CEO of Collingwood General and Marine Hospital makes a splash as the Blues Brothers tribute diver joins in at the Meridian Polar Dip at Collingwood Harbour Sunday. The absence of icy conditions was met with a pool from the fire department filled with cold water and ice cubes.

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The second person wanted for the mid-March theft of a purse and use of stolen credit cards in Barrie was arrested by Toronto police Tuesday. A 44-year-old Barrie man will remain in Toronto police custody because he is wanted on several outstanding warrants in the Greater Toronto Area, said city police. A Barrie woman wanted in connection with the same purse theft and using stolen credit cards turned herself in to city police March 22. She was arrested and charged with theft under $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime and 11 counts of unauthorized use of credit cards. The 39-year-old was later released, with numerous conditions, and has an April court date in Barrie. City police say a man and woman smashed the window of a vehicle parked at the Holly Recreation Centre on March 16 and took off with a purse from its inside. The pair then used credits cards in the purse at a Mac’s Convenience store near Dunlop Street East and Mulcaster Street, police said. Later that day, around 9:30 p.m., police say another purchase using the same cards was made at the Stag Shop on Bayfield Street. The purchase was declined since the cards had already been cancelled.  Smash & Grab Suspects have been arrested. https://t.co/svUYdujDiO@CrimeSDM https://t.co/Dm7IIkrMdL — Barrie Police (@BarriePolice) March 31, 2016

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ESSA TWP. – A Barrie man faces a dangerous driving charge after his car was found by police on its roof in a ditch Wednesday evening. Nottawasaga OPP spotted the black Ford Focus off County Rd. 27, south of Essa’s 10 Sideroad, just before 7:15 p.m. A 50-year-old man was taken to hospital by ambulance with minor injuries. He was later charged with dangerous driving and given a May court date. 

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TAY TOWNSHIP – The $1.6-billion Skyline project in Port McNicoll has all its approvals in place – but very little has been done over the past several years. Toronto-based development firm Skyline International purchased the property in 2006. The former Canadian Pacific holding covers 334 hectares sprawling along 11 kilometres of Georgian Bay shoreline. The plan was to build a massive project including more than 1,400 homes, a yacht club and marina, retail shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities. The , which Skyline purchased in 2011, was intended to be an anchor of the community. With a 10- to 15-year timeline for the development, ground was broken at the site of the in November 2011. Despite all the big dreams, however, little work has been carried out on the property, which today boasts a mix of half-constructed homes, empty lots and undeveloped land. Robert Lamb, CAO for the Township of Tay, said all the approvals for the project have been in place since last June. “It’s in their hands,” he said. “The question is when does Skyline plan to do anything?” The municipality has had minimal contact with Skyline over the past few months, according to Lamb. “Other than a bunch of studies and projects, there has been no shovel in the ground for years,” he said, pointing out the only construction at the site has been two housing developments that remain unfinished. The development has dealt with controversy in the past. In January 2014, Skyline chairman Gil Blutrich said he was prepared to after township staff made several recommendations that he said put up “unacceptable roadblocks” to the project. Tay council eventually on these recommendations, which dealt with a walking path and a turtle habitat. Mayor Scott Warnock said, “The ball is in Skyline’s court.” “There’s nothing that is being held up from the township’s perspective,” he said. “We’re just waiting for them to get started.” Representatives of Skyline did not return repeated calls from The Mirror. A call to a local number advertising housing sales was out of service.

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