Category: wveqda

OMHA calls for twin pad at rec centre

Without any changes to the city’s arena scene, one group worries it might have to look elsewhere for ice time.

Orillia Minor Hockey Association president Fior Tucci said questions surrounding Brian Orser Arena’s reliability means his organization can’t count on the rink going forward.

In a letter to council, Tucci addressed his concerns, noting, "We cannot start a program in September in the hopes that Brian Orser can facilitate our program. There are no other options and we would be forced to cancel programs."

Tucci said rather than spend more money trying to repair the arena, the city should invest in the inclusion of twin ice pads at the new recreation facility, with one pad built as part of Phase 1 construction.

"If we have a problem with Brian Orser, we’re behind the eight-ball," he said, adding there are other hockey and figure-skating groups also vying for ice time.

"The concern is the demand is growing for ice."

As it stands, Tucci’s organization requires about 75 hours of ice time to accommodate its weekly slate of games and practices, with 12 to 15 hours needed at Brian Orser Arena and the balance played at Rotary Place’s two sheets of ice.

Tucci said his group, which welcomed 670 registered players this season, was forced to cancel games and practices last fall after a forced shutdown of the arena.

As well, he noted games were moved to other rinks in Rama and Coldwater during their annual Jim Wilson tournament over concerns related to Brian Orser Arena’s reliability, which he also pointed out is severely limited in what it offers in terms of changing, lobby and spectator areas.

Tucci said the burgeoning tyke house-league program for children aged four to six had all of its games and practices at the Brian Orser Arena this past year, with some parents mentioning they should receive a prorated refund on their fees since their children have to play in an "inferior" facility.

"You can’t play the kids at noon on a Thursday," he said, noting that means Rotary Place isn’t an option since its prime schedule is already stretched to the limit.

Mayor Steve Clarke said while council would love to be able to follow through on Tucci’s hopes, it’s not economically feasible without another funding partner.

"If finances weren’t a concern, I would love to see that scenario, but we cannot afford it without other levels of government," said Clarke, who also sent Tucci a written response.

"Continuing with capital investments in Brian Orser Arena is prudent to ensure the ongoing operations," wrote Clarke, who noted the recreation facility’s design allows for future expansion as part of Phase 2.

"The decision can still be made in the future for a new arena facility while at that time examining the pros and cons of keeping (Brian Orser Arena) as an additional ice surface."

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Vacant buildings in Barrie to get facelifts

Vacant downtown buildings in Barrie may soon get makeovers to attract new businesses.

The Downtown Barrie BIA is partnering with Communities in Bloom to connect property owners with artists to gain attention and attract new leases, said Craig Stevens, the BIA’s managing director.

One property owner has so far agreed to the project, which was first discussed at a Communities in Bloom Committee meeting earlier this month.

“The idea of beautifying vacant windows has come up over the years,” Stevens said. “At one point in time … during the economic downfall … we had 24 vacancies along Dunlop. We’re now down to less than six.”

Along with dressing up the buildings, Stevens said there is also potential for pop-up shops or temporary artist spaces while the stores are vacant.

Beautifying the store windows also meets the criteria for Communities in Bloom for maintaining its status.

Tree services being kept busy following ice storm

ADJALA-TOSORONTIO TWP. – Large undamaged trees were few and far between on Monday after an ice storm wreaked havoc across Simcoe County.

The centimetre-thick ice that turned Central Ontario into a sparkly, winter wonderland Thursday overstayed its welcome. The ice melted too slowly from the branches and hydro equipment, leaving them little option but to simply cave under the weight of the storm’s frozen passage.

Power, cable and telephone communication lines simply snapped like old rope as branches split off trees with eerie regularity.

“You could hear the trees cracking and dropping all night Thursday,” said Dave Zanella of Everett, about 25 kilometres southwest of Barrie.

Standing in his backyard, Zanella said he’s never seen a storm like the past weekend’s in the 18 years he and his wife have lived in their home.

“This is about the longest we’ve been without power, too,” Zanella said, estimating the power cut out at about 7:40 p.m. Thursday night.

On Monday afternoon, a crew of four men from Pro Tree Service with chainsaws climbed down the embankment beside his home to clear away half-a-dozen trees that had snapped, taking the hydro lines down with them as they fell.

Although he’s had a generator running for the past four days, Zanella said he knows the first thing he’ll do when he has power restored.

“I’ll take a nice, hot shower,” he said, offering a tired smile.

Al Provencal, owner of Pro Tree Service, said his five men and one-woman crew have been going around the clock in 13-hour shifts since the storm damage reports started coming in.

In business 27 years, Provencal said his crews are working through their third ice storm. They cleaned downed trees in Eastern Ontario and Quebec during the ice storm of 1997, which he calls, “The biggest ice storm this country has ever seen.”

They worked through Toronto’s ice storm in 2014, and now two year’s later, he’s got a boom truck running from Barrie, through Essa Township down to Everett to cut trees off lines so power can be restored.

“It’s the stress of the people. They’re frightened and don’t know what to do next. That keeps us going,” he said.

Provencal said he refuses to charge extra during the larger storms and has cautioned people if they can wait – like the Zanella’s who have a generator – they should because he had to pay his crew double time on Easter Sunday and 1.5 times their salaries on Good Friday.

Hydro companies are responsible for the main lines. However, contractors must be called in to fix hydro lines that have fallen leading from a home to the street.

“The line from the house to the pole is the homeowner’s responsibility. Hydro (companies) cannot energize power to your house,” he said.

In Barrie, Landon Greaves, owner of DLG Tree Service, said his crew has been busy with smaller in-town properties, charging anywhere from $200 to $500 for tree-branch removal.

“It’s the worst storm I’ve seen in Barrie in awhile,” Greaves said.

While much of the branch debris now visible is on City of Barrie property – and will be removed by city staff – many homeowners simply can’t use a ladder to climb up to the trees to remove the dangerous branches themselves, he said.

“Ladders are not safe. Most of the time, we use the boom truck,” he said.

Branches that can be tied up into six-foot-length and one-foot diameter bundles can be left at the curb throughout April, May and June. Alternatively, yard waste can be taken to the Barrie landfill where the first 100 kilograms is accepted at no charge.

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Flooding closes Innisfil road

The 3rd Line east of Sideroad 20 is closed due to flooding.

Town operations workers are at the scene with a portable pump draining water from the area, which is near Gilford.

Heavy rains yesterday and today contributed to the flooding on the 3rd Line, which is historically one of the first areas in town to succumb to high water.

Ditches, streams and rivers were swelling today in many areas of Innisfil.

The Nottawasaga Conservation Authority and Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority both issued localized flood warnings today.

Barrie Colts stunned by third-period Game 2 loss

After holding a 3-0 lead for most of the game Monday night, the Barrie Colts were stunned by the Mississauga Steelheads.

The opening game of the first-round playoff series had been rescheduled due to Thursday night’s power outage. The wheels came off at the Barrie Molson Centre in the final 13 minutes of the game, with Mississauga winger Alexander Nylander — younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander —scored three goals and an assist.

Steelheads’ Everett Clark, Mason Marchment and Daniel Muzito-Bagenda also scored to put the lid on the game, winning 6-3.

Barrie had goals from Justin Scott, Rasmus Andersson and Anthony Stefano.

The series is tied at 1-1 as Barrie won what ended up being the opening game 5-2 in Mississauga.

Game 3 is tonight in Mississauga.

Awards honour ‘heart of community’

A city may be largely made up bricks and mortar, but its heart and soul lie in its artistic community.

That’s why the Orillia and District Arts Council (ODAC) honoured those artists Tuesday with its annual Arts Awards.

"It was very surprising," said Jeff Moellman, who won the award for Educating in the Arts. "I felt really privileged to be able to represent, because I know there are a lot of people who educate in the arts. I feel very blessed and privileged."

The organist and pianist is director of music at Guardian Angels Church and artistic director of Chamber Music Orillia. He also volunteers at recitals held at St. James’ Anglican Church in orillia and other events in Barrie.

"It’s really rewarding to see them come out of their shells and open their voices and use what they’ve been given themselves," Moellman said of his experience working with youth choirs. "They put it all together in that group, and they can present something to the audience which is something beautiful and memorable."

Coun. Mason Ainsworth was representing the city at the ceremony held at the Orillia Opera House.

"The arts are an important part of our community," he said. "It acts as the heart of our community and it sends out all this excitement and this creativity throughout our community, which in turn helps draw people and helps enrich their lives."

Mayumi Kumagai, winner of the Community Arts Award, believes it is crucial to contribute to the world to help enrich children’s lives.

"I do an outreach program for Orillia youth symphony at schools — so, teaching children in schools to play instruments," she said, adding she was "surprised" by her win. "I really did think that the Steampunk Festival should have won. They’re so great and they’re involved in all aspects of art. My focus has always been music."

The Coldwater Steampunk Festival and Orillia resident Ron Schell were the other nominees in the category with Kumagai.

"It was really difficult in the beginning to explain to people what Steampunk is and now, no problem," said Suzy Burtenshaw, co-founder of the festival. "Everybody in town gets it. They love it."

Over the past five years, the festival has grown by leaps and bounds, she said.

"The first year, we had less that 500 people, and last year, we had over 5,000 people."

Added festival co-founder Debra Ann Tice: "Everything is art, from the costumes to the makeup to the performances. Basically, our mandate as a youth festival is to give the youth living in the area a platform to showcase their art. So, on Steampunk day, we have costume contests and it’s unbelievable the costumes these young adults are creating on their own."

The two other artists honoured during the evening were Susan McTavish, who won the Artist Achievement award, and Deb Halbot, who won the Emerging Artist award.

Each winner received a basketful of goodies containing a year’s membership to the Orillia Museum of Art and History and a similar membership package for ODAC, books from the Canadian Authors’ Association, passes to this year’s Mariposa Folk Festival, copies of Mariposa Exposed, a book about local events over the past 150 years, and a cheque for $100.

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YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka holds second annual Move to Give

The second annual Move to Give event will be hosted by the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka on April 30.

The massive fundraising initiative will help local youth who require financial assistance to participate in YMCA programs.

The goal of the campaign is to raise more than $85,000 in an effort to promote better health and physical activity and to eliminate the financial barriers that many youth are facing.

The Move to Give event will take place simultaneously in eight YMCAs within our region: Barrie, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Gravenhurst, Innisfil, Midland, Orillia and Parry Sound, and at all YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka child care centres.

The fundraising initiative will bring participants together to be active while raising money to support the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka’s programs.

Events include walking five kilometers, running a half marathon, indoor cycling sessions, mini-triathlon, swimming challenges and more.

For more information and to register for the event, visit

Restoring power in the wake of the ice storm

INNISFIL – The storm that swept through southern Ontario on Thursday brought mixed precipitation, and hours of freezing rain in a broad swath across the GTA, north to Barrie and Orillia.

Reports of trees and power lines down began coming in on Thursday evening, March 24, with some roads blocked and traffic lights out in both Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil, and local utilities Hydro One, PowerStream and InnPower Services all reporting outages.

Outages continued on Friday, as winds gusting up to 50 km/h brought down more tree limbs, snapping under the weight of up to 20-25 mm of ice.

“At one point we were close to having all of our customers without service. We had a loss of supply,” said Shannon Brown, InnPower vice-president of Corporate Services. “The ice storm obviously caused a lot of damage. The crews have been working since Thursday, when the outage began.”

By Friday night, an estimated 70% of InnPower customers in Innisfil and south Barrie had had their power restored, with isolated pockets remaining where downed poles, wires, and damaged transformers were reported.

“We’re hopeful to have a large percentage repaired today,” Brown said on Saturday, but some of the damage will take days to repair, while homeowners who have experienced damage to their private lines and masts will have to call in private electricians before service can be restored.

InnPower worked closely with the Town of Innisfil, which opened  “warming centres”, at the Lakeshore Public Library and Cookstown Fire Station, where residents without heat or power could stay during the outage.

Brown also had a warning.

“We still have trees full of ice. There’s still a chance there will be more trees down resulting in more outages."

In Bradford West Gwillimbury, PowerStream reported widespread power outages within the urban area of Bradford.

On Thursday night, approximately 6,800 Bradford customers were without power – but service was entirely restored by 5:26 a.m. on Friday, with the exception of isolated equipment failures.

Hydro One reported 105,000 customers without power across the path of the storm, at the peak of the outage, and by Saturday morning had restored power to an estimated 62,000 customers.

“We have a huge restoration underway,” said spokesperson Ani Bekmezian, as 1,200 hydro workers were deployed, responding to nearly 1,000 reported incidents.

“We are working through, “ Bekmezian said, with mutual aid from utilities in centres that included Midland, and Newmarket.

Among the worst-hit areas were Alliston, Bolton, Guelph, Orangeville, and Barrie.

Hydro One provides distribution service to the rural portions of Bradford West Gwillimbury, and had crews working to restore power, especially in the Bond Head area, and the neighbouring Town of New Tecumseth – but Bekmezian was unable to provide an estimated time for restoration of service for all of its rural customers.

“It really depends, on where they live, the nature and extent of the damage,” she said, noting that milder weather is causing some of the overhanging tree limbs to bounce back, affecting the wires and causing new problems. “It’s basically a fight against Mother Nature.”

She assured customers that Hydro One was working as quickly as possible, keeping safety in mind. And by March 29, power was restored.


College residence fire

 Students readying for exams were sent scrambling Thursday morning when a fire broke out on the eighth floor of the student residence building at Georgian College.

Barrie Fire and Emergency Services responded to the call that came in at 10 a.m., that one of the students’ apartments was on fire, said Deputy Chief Jeff Weber.

“We’ve evacuated the eighth floor. I believe it’s mostly smoke in the hallways at this point,” Weber said mid-morning.

Standing in the ice rain half-an-hour after he was evacuated from his eighth floor-unit, Emerson Chambers, 19, said he couldn’t see the fire, but could feel the heat.

“The entire hallway was full of smoke,” said Chambers, an occupational therapy student at Georgian College.

“I made sure everyone was out and then I left,” he said.

Student Alex Hannivan said the smoke was thick as he left his fourth floor apartment.

Emergency crews on-scene at students residence at Georgian students residence

— Cheryl Browne (@cherylbrowne1) March 24, 2016

Smell of smoke but no obvious fire at 1 Georgian Drive -!students residence

— Cheryl Browne (@cherylbrowne1) March 24, 2016

“It smelled like burning wood. I was asleep and the alarms woke me up,” Hannivan said.

The fire was contained to a single unit and crews were working into the afternoon to determine the cause of the blaze, said Barrie fire department’s Samantha Hoffmann.

“One student couldn’t leave the eighth floor because of smoke conditions, so defended (stayed) in place and was evacuated by our crews after the fire was out and smoke was vented,” Hoffmann said.

Barrie firefighters use that student residential unit for highrise training, said Hoffmann, adding fire prevention officers perform annual training with residence floor-wardens.

Ice rain making things treacherous outside as fire crews ensure Georgian res fire extinguished

— Cheryl Browne (@cherylbrowne1) March 24, 2016

Fire on 8th floor of student res at Georgian College. 8th floor evacuated – fire crew on scene as ice rain falls

— Cheryl Browne (@cherylbrowne1) March 24, 2016

“It was the best possible conditions for a bad fire. We were prepared, staff was prepared and everyone knew exactly what to do,” she said.

First year photography students Nick Galloway and Amanda Haggart were upset they’d left the building without their camera equipment.

“I was actually doing my homework,” Galloway said. “You couldn’t even smell it from my floor but when I got outside I could really smell it.”

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