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Orillia Ward 4 profiles

In Orillia
Oct 8th, 2010

Orillia Packet and Times October 7 2010
ORILLIA – Andrew Hill’s wife was pregnant with the couple’s first child when the council of the day began pondering the need for a multi-use recreation facility.
“(Our son) is now in his 13th year,” said the Ward 4 candidate.
Frustrated by the chronic delays that have dogged the project since its inception, residents reject the contaminated West Street site as a place to build recreation facilities, Hill said.
“I feel the same way,” he said. “It is shocking to realize the amount of money currently spent on that property.”
Four school sites now owned by the city should be investigated for recreational uses, including a pool, Hill said.
“We do need an aquatics centre badly,” he added.
The West Street property could accommodate outdoor ice rinks, soccer fields and other facilities that “don’t require a big heavy building with a huge footprint where the toxic hotspot is,” he said.
Attracting and maintaining knowledge-based business and industry will require “the collective, determined energy of council and some imagination.
“We need to have effective ways to encourage job initiatives,” he said. “Most communities wrestle with the question of industry and job creation. I’m confident there are ways to improve such an initiative.”
Hill would urge council to explore gasification technology – in which garbage burned inside a sealed unit is converted to energy – as an alternative to the lakeside landfill, possibly in cooperation with neighbouring municipalities.
“It is an energy-producing solution that I believe is the solution for the future,” he said. “No matter where you look for a landfill site, you are going to have opposition.”
Hill supports the city’s action plan for affordable housing and hopes to see it brought to bear in the near future.
“There are some really good suggestions in there,” he said.
Protecting and enhancing Orillia’s historic downtown is a priority.
Waterfront development must not encroach on parkland and should reflect the wishes of area residents, he said.
“You have to ensure there is a favourable opinion within the surrounding neighbourhood,” he added.
Investments in staffing at Orillia’s fire department and the OPP detachment are a priority, he said.
A former newspaper reporter whose satiric style and pointed prose rankled more than a few politicians, Colin McKim now wants to become one.
The Ward 4 candidate says it was his passion for the public good that guided his writing, and now has him seeking a council seat.
“There are parallels between being a good reporter and being a good councilor,” he said. “It requires critical thinking, objectivity and the ability to look at proposals and analyze their impacts on the community.”
McKim has “huge misgivings” about a risk management plan for the city’s polluted West Street property.
“You are covering up contamination with a patch of tarmac,” he said. “You are ventilating toxins constantly. You are putting clean fill over dirty soil.”
Indoor recreation facilities must be located elsewhere, and options for remediation of the West Street property explored, possibly in partnership with Lakehead University.
Knowledge gained from that experience could be used to rehabilitate other brownfields.
“We could become a leader in true remediation, where health and safety is paramount on lands that would otherwise be dormant,” he said.
The West Street site is ideally situated and could be used for outdoor recreation.
“The key is the health and safety of the community, and I think it hasn’t been taken seriously enough to this point,” he added.
McKim views Lakehead University’s new Orillia campus as a catalyst for growth, with potential to attract “knowledge-based” and “green” enterprises.
“The city really has to make the most of that opportunity and create the environment for job growth,” he added.
Orillia’s environmental advisory committee should provide comment on development proposals to ensure protection of wetlands and other natural features.
The waterfront must be protected from high-rise development, said McKim, who favours “low-profile” buildings for the area.
Likewise, high-density projects must be carefully considered to ensure towering buildings don’t overpower the city’s historic core.
Development proposals that involve demolition of houses to make way for parking should be discouraged, McKim said.
“You cannot raise a family in a parking lot,” he added.
Establishing safe pedestrian links for walkers and cyclists heading to and from the university is essential, he said.
Ward 4 candidate Kelly Clune has a vision for those notoriously dirty lands at the south end of West Street.
A solar park erected on the troubled property “could generate energy and revenue for Orillia,” says Clune, a sales merchandiser for a large nursery.
Elsewhere on the site, open space would be available “for trails, tennis, baseball or other outdoor activities, while still allowing the necessary management of the chemicals.”
City-owned school properties can be utilized for a variety of recreational opportunities, she added.
“I have no intention of supporting a $60 million MURF on a toxic site,” she added. “We have the twin pad. We have to learn to live within our means.”
Council must protect and revitalize natural areas and invest in infrastructure that improves the health and well-being of residents and the ecosystem, she said.
Improved waste diversion is a priority, as is a need to address leachate contamination from the dump and a former landfill nearby, she said.
“The city is doing a great job (diverting waste), but there is more that needs to be done,” she said.
Improved transit service with smaller buses, convenient routes and reduced rates would encourage ridership, she said.
Opportunities for rail and rapid-transit connections are worth exploring, as is a need for improved parking areas for cars, bikes and other vehicles.
“We need to improve public transportation,” she said.
Marketing Orillia on the strength of its natural environment, and as a destination for local food, arts and business would boost tourism and position the city as “a great place to live, work and play,” she said.
Clune supports a return to at-large voting, “so residents can vote for eight of the best representatives for Orillia to ensure that councilors will be accountable to all residents.”
Job creation is a priority.
“We need to be creative, innovative, imaginative,” she said.
Clune recommends the creation of a “think tank, so residents can share ideas for improving Orillia.”
“We have people in this community who have great ideas but they stay at the kitchen table,” she said, suggesting that proposals could be fielded by city staff and relayed to appropriate departments or committees.
Ward 4 candidate Jeffrey Olimer promises to bring transparency, accountability and fresh thinking to the council chamber if elected in October.
“Orillia needs exposure to new ideas and ways of looking at our community, since very few citizens are happy with what has been happening at city hall during the past three or four councils,” said Olimer, who owns a marketing/consulting company.
A member of the waste management advisory committee for the past five years, Olimer says Orillia must shut its lakeside landfill.
“The time to close down the dump site on the shores of the lake should have been 50 years ago,” he said, citing concerns over the flow of leachate into the water.
Orillia and Barrie must partner with the County of Simcoe to “create the critical mass to allow a more viable disposal of what is truly garbage,” he said.
Together these communities can work to reduce the volume of garbage landfilled through enhanced diversion.
“Without Orillia and Barrie as participants, Simcoe County is left not being able to be effective,” he added. “That is why they had the Site 41 fiasco.”
Orillia is long overdue to join the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, he added.
“How is it we have gone this long and we are not participants in the stewardship of Lake Simcoe?” he said. “It is time for Orillia to be accountable for what we are doing to Lake Simcoe. You can’t crap in your own nest and not expect to have some effects.”
A contaminated West Street site should be left undisturbed and its former owner made to pay for its remediation.
Molson Canada should be “held accountable for the cleanup, regardless of the fact that we bought it,” he added.
The site could be developed as parkland with outdoor recreation facilities, “as long as they are not enclosed. As soon as they are enclosed, you need venting.”
Attracting business is a priority, he said.
“There is a need for an attitude change at city hall that will attract businesses to our community,” he said.
“This will strengthen the tax base while reducing the burden on residents.”
Orillia council must do what it can to build on the successes of Lakehead University and Georgian College, says Ward 4 candidate Pat Reid. 
“If there are other avenues to make the university or college bigger in any way, that is a fantastic investment,” said Reid, who was employed as a lab technician with Parker Hannifin prior to its move from Orillia.
The city should work with the OPP and social agencies to address what Reid says is, at times, a “disconcerting” downtown environment, citing homelessness and drug addiction as concerns.
“We need to actively start a dialogue on how to stop the trend before it affects the security of the businesses downtown and creates an unwelcome and unsightly atmosphere in an important part of our city,” he added.
Orillia’s polluted brownfield site on West Street must be remediated, but a recreation facility proposed for the property should be built elsewhere, “unless it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be safe.”
Once cleaned, the brownfield lands could be used for outdoor recreational activities, he suggested.
A decision to relocate the bus terminal “was a mistake and needs to be corrected,” he said.
“Return it to Peter Street or another more suitable site, but West Street was not a practical choice.”
Reid supports a proposal to develop a neighbourhood park at the Hillcrest school site property.
“A park as enjoyable for the youngsters as the Clayt French park on the west side of the city would be a great feature in an area that really needs it,” he added.
Concerns over increased speed and traffic volumes along Peter and Matchedash streets should be addressed with four-way stops at all intersections between Neywash and North streets, save for Borland and Peter due to winter driving considerations, he said.
Reid favours a return to at-large voting in municipal elections, saying the ward system deprives voters of the ability to support candidates in wards other than their own.
“More importantly, it does not allow them the opportunity to vote against those they don’t feel represent them properly,” he added.
Recycling and transforming unwanted materials into useful products could generate revenue and jobs for Orillia, says Ward 4 candidate Janifer Tissington.
“I would like to recycle a whole lot more,” Tissington said, suggesting the city build a facility to manufacture glass bricks. “There is too much glass around. Glass brick are beautiful. It would give approximately 1,500 to 2,000 jobs and we need the jobs.”
Pursuing an advanced recycling facility would help “get people off of welfare,” she added.
In the same vein, Tissington, a retired nurse, recommends the city dig up contaminated soil at the troubled West Street site and combine it with shredded tires.
The resulting mixture could be used to form a durable road base for local streets, she said.
“Those (types of) roads do not crack open because of the elasticity of the tires,” she added.
Properly remediated, the West Street property would be suitable for a recreation facility outfitted with an Olympic-sized ice surface, swimming pool and club house/restaurant perched atop a parking garage.
The building could be designed to resemble a giant hockey puck, she said.
“You would have at least four elevators for speedy delivery,” she added.
Orillia’s landfill should be moved from its current waterfront location, she said.
“I don’t see why we couldn’t take (garbage) up to the gravel pit at the end of West Street,” she said.
Affordable housing is a priority and must be addressed through continued investments in residential projects catering to individuals and families with limited means.
“We really need it,” said Tissington. “If we don’t (support affordable housing initiatives) we are going to have real problems.”
The city-owned Orillia Central School site, with its historic red-brick building, could house a school of arts and trades.
“Have art, cooking and apprenticeships for all the construction fields,” she added. “Also, you could have vegetable gardens outside, a real community garden. Half (of the produce) could go to the food bank and the other half is theirs. It would be for the betterment of everybody.”
Ward 4 candidate Glenda Kruska is calling for a return to “common-sense spending” at city hall.
“My motivation is to make sure the taxpayers are getting value for their dollars,” said Kruska.
The civil engineering technologist spent 15 years with the municipality, and counts herself well versed in municipal infrastructure and the cost of maintaining it.
Kruska, who is no longer employed by the city, recommends council rethink its frequent use of outside experts.
“Maybe use a few less consultants than what we use,” she suggested. “We need to do a better review of some of the projects.”
The proposed location for a multi-use recreation facility must be reviewed and the cost of the project scaled back.
“A smaller version, with no arena because we’ve got the twin pad,” she said.
The city-owned David H. Church school property would prove the ideal site for
a combined pool/aquatics facility, she suggests.
Kruska supports a proposal to establish a neighbourhood park at the Hillcrest school site.
“I’d like to keep the gym part at Hillcrest and have it as a community gym for the kids in winter,” she added.
Kruska supports so-called smart growth, which favours intensification over sprawl.
“In the waterfront area I’d like to see some condos back onto the CNR right-of-way, off the waterfront,” she said. “That would attract people and bring things downtown.”
A controversial decision to relocate the bus terminal to West Street deserves another look, she said.
“It is a mess,” she said. “It is ridiculous. It is the worse place for it. It should have stayed on Peter Street until something else could be done.”
Council must revisit wages for unionized municipal workers to avoid losing staff to other communities where wages are higher, she said.
“We have a lot who go down to Barrie because, with the union staff, their bottom is pretty much always higher than our top,” she added.
Addressing traffic concerns, safety and maintenance of city trails and efforts to promote “active” transportation are also priorities.
Kruska said she supports initiatives that encourage wise water use.
Building a recreation facility on former industrial lands will revitalize the area and position Orillia as a leader in brownfield development, says Ward 4 candidate Tony Madden.
“I’m a big proponent of the downtown,” said Madden, who works in sales for the construction industry. “A lot of candidates will say that, but I actually mean it.”
Madden, who prescribes to the precautionary principle, wants to ensure environmental concerns at the West Street property are addressed through the city’s risk management plan.
The final decision on the property’s use “boils down to whether we collectively choose to trust the science of our day,” he said.
Madden suggests the city hold a public forum, where Environment Ministry representatives could “detail how they have come about their endorsement and accepted the viability of the risk assessment.”
Orillia’s environmental advisory committee must be consulted as well.
“The environmental science has got to be there,” he added.
Council could consider phasing-in the ice-surface component of the project to save costs, he suggested.
“Location wise, there is no better spot for (the MURF),” he added.
To education, Madden said council must support Georgian College and Lakehead University and encourage expanded programming at both institutions.
“That is the future of Orillia, bottom line,” he added.
Investments in culture and heritage initiatives would help attract “knowledge-based” business and baby boomers seeking an escape from the Greater Toronto Area, he said.
“We need to be an attractive community for them to become engaged,” he added.
Madden is “appalled” by the disconnect that exists between Orillia’s historic downtown and the waterfront, saying investments in both areas are needed to make the most of them.
Affordable housing initiatives must offer long-term strategies to improve living standards for the city’s disadvantaged and working poor.
Madden will encourage initiatives that promote “active transportation,” such as pedestrian and bicycle-friendly infrastructure.
Funds raised through an annual tax levy, and earmarked for capital projects, should be used to finance recreation needs and waterfront development.
Such expenditures are investments that would benefit residents and help attract new business, he said.

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