YDHR on track for season despite CEO derailment
by Roger Varley
Just months after being hired, and only a couple of weeks after he made his first appearance before Uxbridge council, Randy Bird has been ousted as the York Durham Heritage Railway’s (YDHR) chief executive officer.
That came after an annual general meeting in late April at which there were rumblings of discontent among the membership over Bird’s handling of his new job.
New president Ron Layton said Bird was hired a few months ago “at a fairly steep rate. He tried to make it (YDHR) his own, not our vision.”
Much of Bird’s vision for YDHR was contained in his presentation to council on April 15, and included growing YDHR’s payroll to “exceed $500,000” this year, creating a “Disney-style” look for the rail yard, erecting a large work shed, putting in parking for up to 300 cars and fencing in all of the Uxbridge rail site, with the exception of the train station itself.
In an interview with the Cosmos last week, Layton said Bird was running the operation in an authoritarian manner, noting that Bird would not show his proposed presentation to council to any YDHR officers beforehand.
In his April council presentation, Bird said he had joined Waterloo Central Railway about three years ago when it was “near bankruptcy” and increased sales to $4 million from under $200,000. However, Norm Etheridge, an official with that railway, told the Cosmos that the bankruptcy claim was exaggerated, and although Bird did increase sales, his $4 million figure was also an exaggeration.
Although Bird is gone, YDHR will continue to work on some of the ideas he presented to council.
On the payroll issue, Layton said the new chief operating officer, John Perks of Oshawa, two office workers and a contract worker are the only paid positions on YDHR, but added that payments are also made to special events workers such as entertainers. He said upcoming events like the planned Polar Express require trained performers.
“Polar Express is basically a Broadway show on the train,” he said.
Perks, who was also at the interview, said the entertainers have to be paid at union rates. He added, however, that 90 per cent of YDHR workers are volunteers and the payroll likely would be under $500,000.
Layton said YDHR is still looking at the fencing proposal, noting there are laws against trespassing on railway property. When Bird proposed fencing off the site, a couple of councillors noted that Uxbridge residents have long crossed the railway tracks at the station as a short-cut from downtown to King Street and beyond. But Layton said the fencing is aimed at making the site safe for people in town and increasing security.
“We’re being pro-active,” he said. “We’ve been lax on security over the years. Cameras won’t stop vandalism.”
Ward 1 councillor Pam Beach said “doing it the way we’ve always done it doesn’t cut it anymore.”
Among special runs planned for this year are two in July: Winnie’s Train Festival on July 6 and the Teddy Bear Train on July 7. Later in the year will be the Polar Express and the Santa Train.
“It’s a new day at YDHR,” Perks said. “We needed a shake-up, but we could have done without the drama.”
by Roger Varley
Notes from the June 17 Council Meeting
Possible new look for lower Brock?: In a report to council regarding the federal government’s one-time top-up of its gas tax funding, treasurer Donna Condon indicated township staff would like to see a new look for lower Brock Street.
In March, Uxbridge received a payment equal to the $650,000-plus it had received from the fund in 2018 in addition to the 2019 payment of $642,000. The township has five years to spend the money, but it must go to infrastructure.
Condon’s report said township staff has proposed that some of the money – $350,000 – be spent on improving the lower end of Brock Street, with changes to the sidewalks, accessibility improvements, new street lighting to provide better illumination, surveillance cameras and more over the next two years.
Her report recommended that council approve the Brock Street improvements.
Mayor Dave Barton said there have not yet been any specific reports or recommendations on what the proposed improvements would involve or look like, especially on changes to sidewalks.
Rec rates going up: Parks and recreation manager Amanda Ferraro, now known as director of community services, provided council with a report on rates for municipal recreational facilities and programs that will see an average increase of three per cent on fees charged.
Ferraro said the rates are reviewed every two years.
Her report said fees for “pay as you go” services such as public skating sessions and public swimming will remain unchanged while the rest of the increases are in line with neighbouring municipalities.
A note from Dave’s desk column by Mayor Dave Barton
Feeling community pride
As mayor, I get to participate in a lot of great events, but two recent events made me incredibly proud of our community and I felt humbled to live amongst such wonderful people.
The first was the amazing D-Day tribute to Uxbridge veteran Fred Barnard. Our community is second-to-none in terms of remembering our veterans, and the June 6 D-Day ceremony was no exception. Special thanks to Tish MacDonald for inspiring the community to come together to honour Fred and his fellow veterans.
The second event was our impromptu Toronto Raptor’s Game 5 viewing party. It was gratifying to see how many businesses and individuals came together to make Jurassic Park North happen on June 10. It was a great night and it wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing cooperation and “Raptor’s Spirit” in our community. Thank you to everyone who participated in either of these events.
Another event of which I am proud is our annual Canada Day celebration, which is on July 1 at Elgin Park, starting at 5:30 p.m. We will name the 2019 Citizen of the Year, and we are grateful to the York Durham Heritage Railway for partnering with us to present this wonderful family celebration. Leah Daniels is headlining a great line-up of live music, and she is organizing the “Rock the ‘Bridge” competition, where the next generation of famous Uxbridge musicians will perform.
Regional Councillor Highet and I are both very engaged at the Region and we have been working on several files to ensure that Uxbridge receives its fair share of value for our tax dollars. I have heard from many of you that you are disappointed with my support for the Regional vote for Airport Development in North Pickering. This was a difficult decision for me as I am not necessarily pro-airport, and I certainly don’t want to see our greenspace compromised. This land was expropriated nearly 50 years ago in anticipation of building a future airport and I support having an airport provided there is demand for additional capacity in the GTA. I believe that, with or without my support (the vote was 20 for and six against), an airport will be built there at some point in future decades. The Township of Uxbridge needs a strong voice at the table when those airport lands are planned because it will give us the opportunity to ensure the impacts of that airport are taken into account and Uxbridge is not adversely affected. I am working very hard to make sure that we will have representation on that file moving forward. A vote against the airport would have helped my reputation short-term in Uxbridge, but it would have weakened our township’s ability to shape how an airport affects our residents in the future. So I made the difficult choice to support it in order to be able to influence it.
I am happy to report that all councillors have been providing input to our local Durham Regional Police detachment and we have seen an increase in the enforcement of traffic offenses in our various communities. Please drive respectfully on our streets and highways. You can call DRPS at 905-579-1520 to report road safety concerns. If you see an incident in progress, call 911.
Zephyr Road summer road closures
The Regional Municipality of Durham Works Department is advising residents of road closures and lane restrictions on Zephyr Road (Regional Road 13), from Concession 5 to 750 metres east of Concession 5.
These restrictions/closures will occur starting Monday, June 24 through to Monday, July 22. Some lane restrictions will occur intermittently from Monday, June 17 to Friday, August 30. Please be advised that unfavourable weather conditions may influence the work schedule.
Work being done includes road excavation, laying of a new road base and asphalt, culvert replacements, ditching, new storm sewer, concrete curb and gutter, and installation of a steel beam guide rail.
The Region realizes that the work is disruptive, and will make every effort to complete the work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Drivers are asked to exercise caution for the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and the work crews.
For more information about Regional construction, design and environmental assessment projects, visit durham.ca/WorksProjects
Smaller jackpot is still a big community win
The jackpot may not yet be huge, but purchasing a Catch the Ace progressive lottery ticket is still a win for both the ticket holder and three local charitable organizations.
Many Uxbridge residents and families already purchase Catch the Ace tickets on a weekly basis because they know the money supports Uxbridge. And as was evidenced earlier this year, many, more jump in as the jackpot grows and the $5 ticket starts to look more attractive.
For those not “in the know,” 50 per cent of a $5 contribution goes toward the weekly prize payout and building of the progressive jackpot. The other 50 per cent – $56,000 from the first draw alone – was shared by Jumpstart Uxbridge, Uxbridge Legion Branch #170 and the Rotary Club of Uxbridge.
The Legion is not just a meeting place for Veterans and their families. It’s also the home of many wartime artifacts, to remind visitors of the horrors of war. Uxbridge’s Legion is a very important institution to the community. It also provides a meeting and training facility for various community organizations at little or no charge, such as the Pipe band, Uxbridge Swim Club, uxperience, the Uxbridge Cottage Hospital, North Durham Community Services and the Uxbridge Cadet Corp #76.
Jumpstart Uxbridge, a local initiative sponsored by Pat Higgins/Canadian Tire Uxbridge, provides access to organized sport for those who would not normally be able to afford it. In addition, it runs school programs that are designed for all children, to assist them in overall development and focus. Last year Jumpstart Uxbridge supported over 1,600 local youth in various programs and with funding assistance for registration.
Finally, just a partial list of what the Rotary Club of Uxbridge supports locally: Uxbridge Youth Centre, Blue Heron Literacy Festival, Uxbridge Music Scholarship Trust, UOIT Scholarship, Precious Minds, Grandview Children’s Centre, Durham Farm and Rural Family Resources, Durham College Centre for Collaborative Education, uxperience, Brushamania and Uxbridge Blood Donor Clinics. The list goes on.
Your $5 “Catch the Ace” ticket is not only a chance to win the weekly progressive lottery, but an investment in the many programs and services available to all ages in Uxbridge.
New coalition to probe poverty in Uxbridge
A new initiative is taking shape to address the needs of those living on the margins in poverty. The “Uxbridge Poverty Coalition” hosted a community information forum on Wednesday, June 19, at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, in Uxbridge.
According to Rev. Mark Kinghan of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the idea stemmed from conversations between Bev Northeast of the Salvation Army, Mona Emond of North House, and himself about how “to do something that can make a difference for the poor of our community.”
“We see two primary functions for the coalition: (1) to educate ourselves and the community about what poverty looks like in Uxbridge; and (2) to develop ways to engage in conversations with those living in poverty to hear firsthand from them their experience and their greatest needs. From this, we hope to develop an action plan to address what we learn and implement partnerships that build on existing social agencies and their work.”
Although the initial meeting had already occurred by press time, Kinghan says organizers hope this becomes a community initiative involving anyone who is interested, including other faith communities of Uxbridge, politicians, landlords, and social service agencies.
For more information, email email@example.com or telephone 905-852-7016.
Summertime is tea time with LMMSO
Any time is a good time for a good cup of tea. Some of the best summer teas are hosted by the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario, and on July 10, the LMMSO begins its season with the first of six summer teas.
These teas are one of the LMMSO’s main fundraising events of the year, drawing patrons from a wide area. Tea includes a five-course meal, tea, a speaker and a tour of the Historic Leaskdale Church and Montgomery’s home, all for $25.
The first tea features well-known speaker Koidu Sulev from Richter’s Herbs. Sulev has many years of experience and knowledge of herbs and will share her expertise on creating container gardens with the most useful and popular herbs.
Other summer tea topics include: an exploration of sea buckthorn; how to make an artisanal flute; the history of photography and how it transformed the world; and seeing the beauty of flowers through the eye of an accomplished artist or through garden design. For more information visit lucymaudmontgomery.ca