Urgent – hockey equipment needed
by Roger Varley
For the fifth year in a row, members of the Uxbridge Secondary School Tigers hockey team will travel later this month to a remote region of northwestern Ontario to spread some holiday cheer – and hope – to the First Nations community of Weagamow.
With their “Hope Through Hockey” project, the USS Varsity Tigers hockey alumni and friends will take equipment and teach hockey to bring hope to the community. Located north of Thunder Bay and reached by a 1.5 hour flight, the community has suffered from poverty, addiction and suicide.
The friendship between Uxbridge and Weagamow began when a group of Uxbridge women visited the community on Mother’s Day weekend in 2012 after learning of five mothers who had tragically taken their own lives in a six-week period, orphaning 12 children.
The Tigers are looking for donations of hockey equipment and cash to give to the young people in Weagamow. In the first year, the First Nations community estimated that about 40 young people would be interested in learning hockey that first year. Within two hours of registration, over 120 young people had signed up for the program. Since then, the community has been in love with the game and sends a boys and girls team to the First Nations youth tournament, held each February in Dryden or Sioux Lookout. Last year they came back with a win in the consolation division, a first for them.
In the past, every child was equipped, along with an inventory established to enable an ongoing exchange program. But the Tigers haven’t left much time for Uxbridge to respond. Donations started being received on Monday and the drive ends this Saturday, December 9.
The Tigers are looking for new or gently used helmets, skates of all sizes, especially larger sizes, full sets of goalie equipment, gloves, shin pads, shoulder pads and all the other accoutrements. Cash is also needed to help transport the team and the equipment to Weagamow, which is estimated to cost $18,000.
Equipment can be delivered to 282 Main Street N., Unit 1 and cash can be dropped off at the Uxbridge Baptist Church at 231 Brock Street W.
Music-making senior receives top honour from province
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
“Barbara deserves to be acknowledged by the Province of Ontario because her actions frequently benefit numerous individuals in diverse ways.”
That’s the last sentence on the nomination form that was submitted to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration by Barbara Hughes’ friend, Betty Bignell. The page-and-a-half long nomination obviously made an impression, because Barbara Hughes was one of 15 Ontario seniors who received the 2017 Ontario Senior Achievement Award last Wednesday at a ceremony in the Lieutenant Governor’s suite at Queen’s Park in Toronto.
The list of Barbara Hughes’ contributions to the community of Uxbridge is long and varied, but most notable is her accordion playing. She entertains members of the Community Care Adult Day program, and also plays two times a month for the residents at Reachview Long Term Care Home on Reach St., where residents eagerly anticipate her performances. She takes requests and plays their favourite tunes.
“Many participants have dementia, and Barbara’s accordion music helps bring back positive memories for some, and enjoyment for all of them,” writes Bignell in her nomination. She also explained that Hughes was a volunteer driver for Uxbridge Community Care for more than 20 years, and has been the secretary for the Uxbridge Legion Branch 170 for the same length of time.
As noted in the citation that was read out right before Hughes received her award: “She prepares food for Legion events, and participates every year in the Legion’s poppy drive and at Remembrance Day services. She also serves as the Legion’s Bursary Chair, and every year she helps select students to receive the award.”
According to Dipika Damerla, the Minister of Seniors Affairs, and who was also at the ceremony, “Recognizing the exceptional contributions of seniors is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change.”
Since 1986, the Ontario Senior Achievement Awards have recognized outstanding seniors who have made significant contributions to their communities after the age of 65.
Some parks to go, some to change?
by Roger Varley
A final report on the future of Uxbridge’s parks and open spaces will not be presented to council until later this month or in January, but indications are that Sierra Planning and Management will recommend some parks should be closed, while some should remain and some should be re-purposed. Sierra was hired to develop a parks master plan for the next 10 to 20 years.
At a public meeting held at the Seniors’ Centre a week ago, consultant Lindsay Cudmore said ball diamonds such as those at Elgin Park and Uxpool could be re-purposed as the township moves away from stand-alone ball parks in the urban area. Ms. Cudmore said options could include relocating lawn bowling and tennis to the Uxpool park, turning tennis courts into multi-purpose courts for tennis, basketball and pickleball, and consolidating all soccer activity at the Fields of Uxbridge.
She said a priority would be to focus on community parks rather than local parks or parkettes, adding that playgrounds in the parks should take into consideration current trends such as natural playgrounds. Ms. Cudmore said the report to council will not recommend disposing of parks in rural areas of the township, but some parks in the urban area, such as the King Street parkette, are still being considered for disposal. There are seven parkettes in the urban area. Among the areas that could possibly see decommissioning or re-purposing are Uxpool, the King Street parkette, the Toronto Street North parkette, the arena ball diamond, Herrema Fields and Bonner Fields.
Consultant Jonathan Hack said the management team would only recommend disposing of, or decommissioning, park space based on need and usage and only if alternative facilities are available. But he added that repurposing any parks would have to have public consultation and rural ball diamonds should be saved and not decommissioned. At a public meeting in June, almost all of those in attendance called for the preservation and maintenance of the parks and green spaces that currently exist in the township.
Soccer and baseball received most of the attention, with the consultants suggesting there probably should be two baseball diamonds at the Fields of Uxbridge instead of the one currently planned. On the soccer front, the consultants said concentrating soccer at the Field of Uxbridge should include adding lighting and artificial turf to some of the soccer pitches.
As for the township’s trail system, the consultants recommended the township consider more connections between trails to develop a linked network.
Most members of council were on hand for the beginning of the meeting, but Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor led a withdrawal after the opening remarks by Ms. Cudmore. The mayor explained she did not want the councillors’ presence to influence questions or comments from the public. However, before leaving, she said the township is not likely to see any “big moves” in 2018 based on Sierra’s recommendations, since it is an election year.
One surprise in the evening came when Ms. Cudmore showed an aerial photo of Elgin Park with a small area in the northwest corner of the park outlined in yellow. She explained that the small parcel of land could be disposed of, a possibility that has not yet come before council.
Sierra’s report and recommendations to council come after several months of consulting with the public and sports organizations. She said an online survey received over 600 responses from the public.
Major projects feature in 2018 budget
by Roger Varley
Uxbridge council began the 2018 budget process Tuesday morning by tackling the numbers put forward by the biggest spender of tax dollars – the public works department.
The preliminary overall budget figures project operating expenditures of $15.85 million, a 3.1 per cent increase over the 2017 budget, while revenues are expected to total $18.27 million, an increase of 3.7 per cent. On the capital side, expenditures are expected to top out at just over $19 million, compared with $7.2 million in 2017.
The difference in capital spending between this year and next is due largely to the replacement of the Brock Street culvert, which is estimated at $10.5 million, and the new animal shelter, which will cost $1.2 million.
Other less costly projects include replacing all the floor chairs at the Music Hall for $9,500.
There was little in the way of bombshells or fireworks as council went through the public works budget, although Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor did bristle slightly at the projected cost of snow removal on municipal parking lots. Director Ben Kester’s preliminary figures allocated $22,500 for the snow removal, a jump of $13,300 from 2017.
“That’s a huge increase,” the mayor said, opining that the township would be better off hiring somebody rather than contracting out the work. In response to the mayor and a question from the lone member of the public in attendance, Mr. Kester said timely removal of snow from parking lots is a matter of liability.
On the same topic, Mr. Kester showed that sidewalk maintenance in the winter – snow removal and salting – is expected to cost $92,000 in 2018. Asked how many kilometres of sidewalk the township has to maintain, Mr. Kester said “it’s more complicated than just the number of kilometres. We have to jump from location to location.”
Councillor Pat Molloy, chair of the finance committee, said $136,000 has already been cut from the budget in meetings with department heads prior to the start of the discussions. But he also noted that the province’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act of 2017, which, in part, calls for employers to pay a minimum of three hours’ pay for shifts that are under three hours and to pay employees for being on call, has added $63,000 to the township’s budget overall.
The budget discussions are scheduled to continue today (Thursday) at 1 p.m. and again on Tuesday at 1 p.m. Other meetings will be held as needed.
by Roger Varley
Notes from the December 4 Council Meeting
Council divided on heritage issue: After hearing from a heritage consultant and receiving reports from clerk Debbie Leroux and Councillor Dave Barton, Uxbridge council found itself divided over the question of whether or not to designate the former home of Col. Sam Sharpe as a heritage property.
The consultant, Peter Wokral, said if council is satisfied that the property meets at least one of the criteria of Design or Physical Value, Historical or Associative Value or Contextual Value, it is warranted in designating the property as a heritage site.
Ms. Leroux’ report noted that Heritage Uxbridge has recommended that the property at 50 First Ave. be designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act for historical and architectural reasons and that the owners, Robert Bishop and Jennifer Durkin, are opposed to such a move. She recommended that council move forward with the designation.
Mr. Barton’s report suggested council create a Heritage bylaw that, among other things, protects all buildings over 100 years old from demolition without council approval, creates a tax break for owners of heritage properties and sets criteria for new construction within the Heritage sign zone.
Council received both reports but did not act on Ms. Leroux’ or Mr. Barton’s recommendations.
Council adds to Fantasy of Lights: Council adopted a suggestion by Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger that the township add a feature to extend the Optimist Club’s annual Fantasy of Lights from Elgin Park down Main St.
Mr. Ballinger suggested that lights be strung along the pathway through Veterans Memorial Park, across the Main St. pedestrian bridge and up the sidewalk to the Elgin Park entrance. He said the lights along the pathway and the sidewalk would be white, while the lights on both sides of the pedestrian bridge would be blue.
The councillor told the Cosmos that he already has volunteers in place to begin stringing the lights tomorrow (Friday) morning, and they will be lit up at the same time as the Fantasy of Lights. Mr. Ballinger said in future years he would like to see a lighted Christmas tree – or trees – floating in Elgin Pond as another added feature.
Stouffville woman killed in Uxbridge crash
A 23-year-old woman has died as a result of a motor vehicle collision in Uxbridge Township.
On Saturday, December 2, at approximately 1:35 a.m., members of North Division were called to the intersection of Durham Road 30 and Aurora Road, for the report of a serious motor vehicle collision that involved a single vehicle.
Witnesses reported that an eastbound vehicle on Aurora Road was travelling at a high rate of speed when it travelled through the intersection at Durham Road 30 and ran off road into the side of a hill. The vehicle caught fire upon impact. The 23-year-old Stouffville woman was pronounced at the scene.
Members of Traffic Services attended the scene to conduct an investigation. The road was closed for several hours while evidence was collected.
Anyone with information about this incident or witnessed this collision is asked to call Traffic Services Branch at 905-579-1520 (toll free 1-888-579-1520) ext. 5227.
Anonymous information can be sent to Durham Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 and tipsters may be eligible for a $2,000 cash reward.