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Meeting fails to impress residents

In Innisfil
Dec 19th, 2009

Thanks for nothing.
That was the feeling many Innisfil (soon to be Barrie) residents left with after last night’s city boundary open house.
Cathy and John Adriaanse hate the thought of Barrie life, but they at least wanted some straight answers about what being swallowed by the city would mean.
“We don’t want to live in Barrie. We love our property in Innisfil, and that’s why we moved there,” said Adriaanse, a 13-year Innisfil resident who lives on the 20th Sideroad. “We didn’t get much information from this (event) and I can’t say I’m surprised. I don’t think they (city staff) even really know what’s going to happen, yet. So, why even have this meeting?”
An open house was held last night at the Southshore Community Centre for residents to learn more about the new Barrie-Innisfil boundaries, which takes effect Jan. 1.
“This was a waste of time,” Martina Winstone said. “I want to know how much our taxes will go up, but all they could tell us is the city’s going to phase taxes in over five years.
“Barrie talks about intensification, but, by annexing Innisfil’s lands, it creates even more urban sprawl.”
Representatives from various city departments, city council, fire and police departments, and the County of Simcoe were on-hand to fill residents in.
A common worry was about tax increases.
“So far, we’re hearing that our taxes might go up 17%, and we’re not getting anything for our money but hassle,” John Adriaanse said.
Pam Cook said that figure wasn’t exactly correct.
“The taxes they’ll have will be higher in Barrie,” she said. “The rates are going to go up, that’s certain. But you won’t see any changes for at least six months, and we can’t tell them yet exactly what they’ll be paying.”
What was certain was residents will see better services in Barrie.
“We just hired two new plow operators and got two more plows, so we’ll be fine to service the new areas,” said Dave Friary, the city’s interim director of operations. “In fact, their level of winter maintenance will be improving.”
Barrie’s fire department will respond just as fast to new resident homes.
“The advantage for them is Barrie has a full-time fire service to serve them 24/7,” said Fire Chief John Lynn. “And we’re looking at creating more fire stations in the future to accommodate growth.”
Representatives from Innisfil council were unable to attend the event as it was scheduled the same night as the regular Innisfil council meeting.
“It would have been nice to have members of council there, but we can’t make it if it’s on a regular council meeting night,” Innisfil Mayor Brian Jackson said earlier in the day. “It’s too bad it was planned on our council night. I had called the City of Barrie to ask if we could change the date, but, apparently, that wasn’t possible.”
He said although he’s still opposed to Bill 196, which gave more than 5,000 hectares of Innisfil land to Barrie, the city is trying to smooth the wrinkles out.
“The city has been trying to make the transition as easy as possible on Innisfil residents,” Jackson said.
One positive aspect residents found about being adopted by Barrie is more transportation opportunities.
“The only thing Innisfil doesn’t have that Barrie does is a transit system,” Winstone said.
That’s something Jeanette Palmer hopes to see expand to her home on Lockhart Road sometime soon.
“I don’t drive much now, and there’s no bus service out our way,” said the Innisfil senior. “I’m hoping that maybe they’ll have a bus come out to us finally since we’ll be in Barrie.”

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