Saturday, August 31, 2013

C, B-G & O.S. Sunset and Risetimes August 2013

The Sunset and Risetimes of Municipality Chatsworth Township, the Counties of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound City

Reprinted compilation of selected articles from the Owen Sound Sun Times

For the month of August 2013 (13)

Friday, August 30, 2013 10:23:49 EDT PM

Man found guilty of harassing Amish NEWS LOCAL

By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound

A 71-year-old Owen Sound man who believes God wanted him to have an Amish wife was convicted Friday of criminal harassment of a local Amish community.

After his trial in Ontario Court of Justice, Justice Julia Morneau found that Keith Miller repeatedly watched or beset members of the Amish community south of Owen Sound, making them feel harassed and causing them to fear for their safety, particularly for their women and children.

Miller knew he was frightening them but continued in his actions anyway, she said.

But Morneau, who observed mental health issues must be at play, delayed sentencing Miller until Oct. 11, saying she wants a report about his background to help her come up with a sentence which addresses community safety.

"I'm very much concerned about how I would craft a sentence" without information about Miller's circumstances, she said. She wasn't comfortable releasing Miller, given his ongoing attempts to find an Amish wife, and ordered him back to jail until sentencing.

Miller has "no insight into how wrong, criminally wrong, this is," she said.

Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin had asked for a presentence report and urged Morneau not to release Miller before his sentencing, despite him being in custody for 69 days since his arrest June 23.

Martin said Miller has few if any community supports, was unable to get bail, has little or no insight into his behaviour and is "basically on a mission from God to find an Amish woman."

He also noted Miller's comments to an Owen Sound police officer in January in an unrelated investigation that he was going to shoot up a farm, though without referring to the Amish or where.

Martin said until a "strong probation plan" with support from probation and mental health workers is in place, Miller shouldn't be released. Martin said Miller had no criminal record.

Defence lawyer Mary Hewitt called for sentencing immediately, citing Miller's time in custody before trial and her doubts the probation office would be able to gather the background information Morneau wants. Hewitt called for a sentence of time served and probation.

Thursday, with the Crown's consent, Morneau acquitted Miller on the other harassment charge.

That charge concerned the school bus driver who drove the Amish around Owen Sound on their shopping days. No evidence was presented Miller followed the driver within the six-month limitation period for the summary conviction offence, only that it happened in the past.

But in her reasons Friday, Morneau said she found Miller did watch or beset the Amish in the six months prior to the June 18 charge date, particularly last spring and in June.

She also found there "was a pattern of watching the Amish," which was "ongoing since at least October 2008."

Seven Amish testified during three days of testimony and she generally found them to be credible, while Miller's testimony was not reliable, she said.

She found Miller watched and followed the Amish at the National Grocers store in Owen Sound, where they regularly shopped. The store manager in June 2012 had police bar Miller from her store for a year for following Amish women around there and arguing with their men.

Miller admitted he drove to the Amish community to watch them to ensure they followed the Sabbath and to post Scriptures by the schools. Morneau called it "conduct designed to watch for Amish women and girls."

One 19-year-old woman said Miller stopped at the end of her lane in June, waving and smiling at her as she sat in her horse-drawn buggy. A 13-year-old Amish girl testified she was inside her house on three or four occasions in May when he drove by and waved.

Another 19-year-old woman said she saw Miller three times in June when she was in the garden and on June 18 at the National Grocers store in Owen Sound.

Miller had binoculars and a note containing times Amish women would be freely about when police arrested him June 18 near Desboro, where the Amish live.

Miller testified he had a religious experience and believes God wanted him to have an Amish wife. He sold his house and gave the proceeds away in the 1990s after he believed God told him to so. He believes Amish women are held against their will and was upset the sect wouldn't let him join.

Owen Sound Police Service and the OPP warned Miller against harassing the Amish twice in 2008, once 2010 and again in 2012.

Martin in an interview praised Grey County OPP Const. Melissa Barfoot, who in casual conversation with some Amish in June learned that Miller was bothering them again.

"This became a tipping point and all of the prior occurrences were brought to light, summarized and the case put together."

Martin also praised OPP Const. Robert Sewell for meeting with Amish bishops and obtaining their support to enable police to get statements from community members.

"This is a case which brought together the Amish community and the Ontario Provincial Police in a joint effort to protect the more vulnerable members of that community," Martin said.

Despite the number of police contacts with Miller, Martin found no fault with police for not charging him sooner, partly because its traditionally tough to get statements from the Amish. And police exercised "proper discretion" in the earlier contacts "given what appears to be mental health issues with Mr. Miller."

"As the instances of watching and besetting became more severe, the balance tipped."

Thursday, August 29, 2013 4:37:19 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Meaford, neighbours to talk shared services

By Rob Gowan, Sun Times, Owen Sound

The Municipality of Meaford wants to discus the services it shares with its neighbours.

The municipality will hold an information meeting on shared services on Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. at Woodford Hall.

Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson said the meeting will gather information only, similar to what Grey County did when it brought the county's municipal leaders together to discuss corporate structure.

"We need to discover if it is already being done by the county, because the county does a huge amount of this sharing and coordinating of sharing, or are there some things that are specific to us and our local area here that we need to work on ourselves," Richardson said Thursday.

Four municipalities have been invited by Meaford to attend the meeting -- Owen Sound, Georgian Bluffs, Chatsworth and The Blue Mountains.

Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs have both indicated plans to attend, while The Blue Mountains has declined the invitation. Owen Sound council has yet to decide.

One service expected to be discussed at the meeting is the agreement Meaford has with Owen Sound for residents of the former Sydenham Township to use the Owen Soundmeasures such as cost base of infrastructure assets or total population served by that infrastructure," accounting manager Kate Allan said in a report to council earlier this month.

AMO and the provincial government estimated in 2008 that municipalities face an infrastructure gap of about $60 billion.

"Property taxes alone cannot fund the level of infrastructure investment and maintenance that's needed to keep our residents and the economy moving," says an AMO news release.

It has been calling for a permanent infrastructure funding program for years.

Grey County Warden Duncan McKinlay said he spoke with other municipal leaders about the provincial proposal at the AMO conference and "The mood among many here is they support a program in which everyone gets some and it's consistent year after year."

Owen Sound has long criticized the formula that determines funding under the provincial OMPF program. The city stands to lose all of its transfer payments from the province over the next few years, as it does not qualify for small, rural or northern communities funding components. The city's OMPF payment was $2.034 million in 2009. It will be $1.13 million this year, down from $1.25 million in 2012.

"We don't want to fall through the cracks again," Wright said.

Thursday, August 15, 2013 4:19:16 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Owen Sound to discuss Sydenham deamalgamation plan

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

City council will discuss whether it should join in or stay out of the separation talks happening in the neighbouring former Sydenham Township area of Meaford.

"Are we going to welcome these people into our community? Do we want to get involved in anything right now?," City/County Coun. Arlene Wright asked during a recent council meeting.

The group that is looking into having Sydenham deamalgamate from the Municipality of Meaford has not formally approached the city. Council passed a motion, put forward by Wright, to debate whether the city should make the first move.

So far, organizers of the movement have received a cool reception from two of Meaford's municipal neighbours.

Chatsworth council voted Wednesday to not proceed with the group's request for the municipality to discuss a possible annexation of Sydenham.

"We're not interested in pursuing it at this time," Mayor Bob Pringle said.

Georgian Bluffs council, which received a similar letter from the group, decided Wednesday to inform them of an upcoming meeting Sept. 26 with Meaford and its municipal neighbours. Clerk Bruce Hoffman said the township will ask Meaford council at the meeting for its position on the separation plan. The answer will determine Georgian Bluffs' next steps, he said.

A small group of Sydenham residents decided to pursue separation in May when Meaford council approved the first step toward equalizing police costs in the municipality. Other concerns have been a lack of services for residents in the rural areas of the municipality, a disconnect from the Meaford urban area, ballooning property taxes and too many staff at the municipality.

Meaford is in the fourth year of a five-year plan to repay debt acquired from infrastructure programs combined with several years of no tax increases. Property tax increases in recent years have been close to 10% annually.

About 700 people in total showed up for meetings organized by the group, with the majority of those in attendance calling for change, spokeswoman Peggy Richardson has told The Sun Times.

The core group, which is looking into the process of deamalgamation, has suggested Sydenham Township could stand on its own or join a neighbouring municipality such as Chatsworth or Georgian Bluffs.

Richardson has said joining Owen Sound is not an option for her.

She could not be reached for further comment Thursday.

Wright said members of city council have received many telephone calls and e-mails from Sydenham residents who are interested in Owen Sound's position on a possible annexation.

"Personally, I would open the door and say 'We would love to have you come to Owen Sound.' The cost of us doing business out there is very minimal," she said.

"I don't want to step on any other municipality's toes but . . . I think it may be worth us having a look at Sydenham."

Council is expected to have the discussion before the end of summer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:30:13 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

City bracing for emerald ash borer destruction

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

John Howard, Owen Sound's manager of parks and open spaces, holds up a vial containing an emerald ash borer beetle and larvae.

Owen Sound officials believe the emerald ash borer is already covertly killing trees in the city.

"We haven't found it here yet, but if it's in Meaford, I'm pretty sure it's already here," said John Howard, the city's manager of parks and open spaces.

City council has directed its recreation and parks advisory committee to develop a response plan in time for budget deliberations this autumn. Council heard Monday that dealing with an infestation and its aftermath will be costly.

The destructive borer, which the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed was responsible for the death of ash trees this summer just south of the former town of Meaford, has killed more than 100 million trees in North America since 2002.

Howard estimates there are upwards of hundreds of thousands of the ash trees in and near the city.

"You just have to look around Owen Sound on the escarpment and through Harrison Park and our parklands to see that it's a prevalent species," he said.

The response plan will likely recommend completing an inventory and condition check of ash trees on city property as well as lay out options for inoculating certain trees to protect them against the invasive bug.

Coun. David Adair said council will have to take a serious look at the issue at budget time. The top concern for the city, he said, is the ash trees on city property next to streets and sidewalks.

"If we don't put the money in to inoculate the trees, then we will absolutely, for insurance reasons, have to put the money in the budget in a year or two to take these trees down. It's probably better to spend the money and try to maintain our urban forest than put money into a reserve to chainsaw a bunch of dead trees," he said.

Inoculating a tree against emerald ash borer costs about $100 to $500 depending on the size of the tree. It can protect the tree for up to two years.

Trees infested with the insect take three to five years to die. The larvae destroys the layer under the bark that is responsible for transporting nutrients and water throughout the tree, according to the CFIA.

Adair said the destruction of ash trees will be quite distressing to many landowners in Owen Sound.

"If this was a human infestation, this would qualify as a horror movie," he said.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:08:55 EDT AM NEWS LOCAL

Southgate mayor to run for Grey County warden

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Southgate Mayor Brian Milne wants to be warden of Grey County for 2014.

"It's been an ambition of mine for some time now," the 53-year-old Dromore politician said in a recent interview.

So far, Milne is the only Grey County council member to declare their desire to seek the warden's job.

A new warden is to be elected Dec. 3.

Current second-term Warden Duncan McKinlay has said he will not seek another term.

Milne said he believes Southgate has an "excellent staff and council," which would afford him the opportunity to spend more time on Grey County business.

First elected as a councillor in Southgate in 2003, Milne won the deputy mayor's position in 2006 and became mayor of the township in 2010.

He lost to Owen Sound city/county Coun. Arlene Wright in a race for warden in 2009. Two years later, he turned down a nomination and decided not to run against McKinlay.

Milne, a married father of three who runs a cattle/cash crop farming operation, said he anticipates land use issues, such as those related to wind turbines, industry and large farming operations, will "continue to be a hot potato, so to speak" over the next term of Grey County council.

Council members will have an opportunity at the county's inaugural meeting in December to nominate candidates for warden. Nominees also need someone to second the nod.

The next warden will lead council into the 2014 municipal election

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 12:20:29 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Public health making inroads into Amish communities

By Tracey Richardson, Sun Times, Owen Sound

It's taken years for public health to make inroads into the reclusive local Amish and Mennonite communities, but progress has been made in the last year and a half, according to health officials.

"It just takes time for a community to become trusting and to really take stock of the information we're trying to share with them," said Grey Bruce Health Unit program manager Susan Shular.

Most Amish and Mennonites, particularly the old orders, eschew modern technology like electricity and internal combustion engines. They do seek medical help, but their children are rarely born in hospitals. There's a certain suspicion about outsiders and "a strong loyalty to their values and beliefs, and I think they're very protective, as we all are, of the things that we hold dear," said public health nurse Karen Loney. "So just working with them consistently and giving them the sense that we do respect where they're coming from, and yet we want to see them optimize their health and safety in the community."

Loney and her colleagues have been establishing relationships within the Amish and Mennonite communities over the last year or two. "We're making good inroads, and I have a lot on my plate as far as future plans with this group," she said in a recent interview.

Public health's earliest and pretty much only contact with the Amish and Mennonite communities was through immunization clinics. Immunizing school-aged children is a legal requirement in Ontario, and the health unit has held regular immunization clinics for years in communities such as Holyrood as well as in peoples' homes.

"We began with a group of rather reluctant folks who were coming to get their mandatory immunizations, and the last year-and-a-half has really been focused on building relationships within the community, and certainly with the leadership of the community," said Loney.

The clinics have been attracting anywhere from 25 to 50 people, and they're growing, thanks to word of mouth. But the clinics are also a chance to open dialogue about other health issues.

"Tracking those things (immunization) down within this community gives us lots of opportunity to meet them face to face either at the clinic or in their home," said Loney.

Immunization can lead to an exchange of information about infant health and development, for instance. And home visits give public health nurses a chance to see how the rest of the family is doing.

"The more they see us, the more they seem to understand it and want to be part of what we're offering," said the health unit's Shular.

Public health's role in the communities is expanding to include infant hearing tests. Dental service may come as well at some point, and possibly even a nurse practitioner.

"It's a matter of moving at the speed that the community's moving and just take it slow and easy, and realize it's going to be consistency and very much driven by what the community's needs are," said Loney.

She's had to do a lot of networking and trust building, she said, and the communities have come to realize "we're not pushing an agenda . . . People seem much more relaxed. My interactions with the leadership seem to be much more unforced. I'm just really enjoying working with them. I see them as friends and I hope that is reciprocated."

There are old order Amish in the Tiverton-Kincardine areas, old order Mennonite in the Chesley area, and old order Amish in the Chesley-Williamsford area as well. "There's lots of communities and they're growing all the time," Loney said.

Medical officer of health Dr. Hazel Lynn said more public health involvement can help prevent childhood illnesses in those communities.

"If we can pick up a child with hearing deficiencies early on, if you put in the appropriate intervention, that child can learn to talk and do what they want to do," she said.

And while the efforts take time, the rewards are worth it, she added.

"You have to be very open and slow moving, but they want to be healthy and they want to have healthy kids and healthy families, and that's what I want too."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 5:55:55 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Bees dying by the millions in Grey-Bruce

By Patrick Bales, Sun Times, Owen Sound

"I've got another million dead bees here."

Dave Schuit said the words so matter-of-factly that one might think he was being blasabout the whole situation.

That couldn't be further from the truth. Schuit, owner of Saugeen Country Honey in Elmwood is beside himself. For the second summer in the row, the vast majority of his bees are dead.

Tuesday, Schuit was at an organic farm in Brant Township, approximately six kilometres southwest of Hanover. Potentially more than 2.5 million bees were in the 32 hives Schuit had at this location.

"In one hive, if it's a good hive, and these hives were good this spring, we would have 80,000 -90,000 bees," he said. "Now, half are gone. They're in free fall now; they're still dying."

And it's is not as if the bees are suddenly dropping from the sky. As this farm, the ground near the hives are covered with the carcasses of thousands of bees. They have escaped the hive, either miraculously on their own volition, or by being removed by the few bees who remained healthy.

Their deaths have not been painless; in fact, what they've gone through is akin to torture.

"This bee here died with its tongue sticking out," he explained as he examined three bees from the pile. "This one here, you can see how the wings are turned out because the muscles collapsed. The abdomen has turned inside because of the pain."

Schuit believes the cause behind the colonies collapsing is neonicotinoid pesticides. Representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) were on site Tuesday taking samples from the hives. The government workers were conducting tests to determine the health of the hives, particularly to see if there was any trekamite or voramite present. They also removed samples of the dead bees.

Recently, neonicotinoids have been linked to colony collapse disorder, a blight which has impacted beekeepers since at least 2006.

"I believe our soil is being saturated with the neonicotinoids," Schuit said. "It's in the ground, it's in the water, it's in the plants."

When corn, soy beans or canola are planted, neonicotinoids are on the seed, Schuit continued. When the plant grows, it sucks up water with the chemical.

The hypothesis is that bees are collecting pollen from the corn and bringing that back into the hive. Without pollen, a hive will not survive; however, the infected pollen is proving to be a death sentence.

"The whole plant has become toxic," Schuit said. "Any insect that bites it dies."

The half life of neonicotinoids is 120 days and can stay in the soil and water for years after.

Schuit is one of many who are calling for a halt to the insecticide's use until its impact on bees is more well known.

"(Government agencies) keep saying we gotta keep doing more testing and more testing and more testing," he explained. "We say put the chemical on hold and then do your testing. Why put us out of business?

And it will eventually put him out of business, if left unchecked. He very bluntly admitted a "bee holocaust," a term his wife used at recent open forum in Grey County, would bankrupt him.

However, Schuit is looking at a much larger picture than his own financial stability. He is afraid of what the death of bees means for society as a whole.

"This is the calm before the storm. I think when the bees are blowing the whistle by their death, it's going to bring the nations to their knees," he said. "This is our food supply; bees do over 80 per cent of the world's pollination. And if we think we don't need bees, we better wake up."

That said, Schuit argued more agencies than just OMAFRA should have been at the Brant Township farm Tuesday. He wondered why the Pest Management Regulatory Agency or Ministry of the Environment weren't taking greater steps to solve this problem.

He also wondered if other members of the agricultural industry would have to suffer through such a catastrophe.

"Of all the testing they did last year, 70 per cent of the bees had this chemical on them," he said. "How would a farmer (react to) saying '70 per cent of my cattle are dead, but we're going to do more research and more studies on something we know is on them'?"

In the meantime, Schuit's operation has done its best to limit its bees access to the insecticides, but that is often easier said than done.

"Basically, bees can travel up to nine kilometeres, but we do everything we can to keep our hives from farming where they use these neonicotinoids," he explained. "But it's hard; we don't know what to do. "

Two hours later after our conversation in Brant Township, Schuit called with his second update of the afternoon. There was more trouble found at another collection of his hives, just three kilometres from where OMAFRA was testing.

"Half the yard is gone," he said. His voice cracked as he tried to collect himself.

"This hurts me," he had said earlier in the afternoon." Seeing my livestock dying in the millions, before my eyes."

With files from QMI Agency

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:08:34 EDT AM NEWS LOCAL

G-B home sales up, prices down

Local news briefs


The numbers of homes that sold in Grey-Bruce during the month of July was up from a year ago, though the average price was down from July 2012, when an all-time record was set.

Home sales numbered 215 units in July, up 4% from the same month a year earlier, while the average price for homes sold last month was $217,853, down 7% from July 2012, according to a news release from the REALTORS Association of Grey Bruce Owen Sound.

Sales of all property types for July numbered 261 units, up just one sale from the same month in 2012.

New residential listings with the association numbered 467 units in July, an increase of 8% from July 2012.

The overall number of homes for sale on the market continues to run at elevated levels as active residential listings totalled 2,528 units at the end of July, up 8% from the same time last year, the news release said.

The number of months of inventory -- the time it would take to sell current inventories at the current rate of sales activity -- stood at 11.8 at the end of July, up slightly from 11.3 months at the end of July 2012 and well above the long-run average for the month, the news release said.

The dollar value of the homes sold in July was $46.8 million, down 4% from a year earlier, while the total value of all properties sold in the month was $56.5 million, down 5%.

Friday, August 9, 2013 5:22:49 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Grey County aiming for 1% tax hike for 2014

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Grey County administration building.

Grey County council has asked staff to prepare a budget for 2014 that will require a property tax hike of about 1%.

The direction came after council rejected an earlier motion that would have staff aim to not raise taxes at all.

Southgate Mayor Brian Milne said a flat-line budget, without service cuts, is an unrealistic target.

"To go to a 0%, something's going to have to give," he said Friday.

"Your payroll is going to increase if nothing else. So, in my mind, a 0% is unrealistic."

He said the county already runs a "pretty tight ship, relatively."

Kevin Weppler, the county's director of finance, said staff prefers that council set a target before it begins drafting the following year's budget.

The draft document will be presented to council this autumn, he said, with the goal to have it approved in November.

It's too early to say if a 1% property tax hike can be achieved without reducing any county services, he said.

"I think we're going to have to work at it, to be honest," he said.

"A lot of our budget is made up of wages and benefits and some of those are contracts that have already been approved."

Grey County council approved the 2013 budget last November with a tax hike of 0.74%.

The county levy is only one portion of a property owner's tax bill.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 3:01:24 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Duncan McKinlay not seeking third term as warden

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Like the three wardens before him, Blue Mountains Deputy-mayor Duncan McKinlay has decided not to seek a third term as head of Grey County council.

"It's been a great opportunity and I've accomplished a lot. And I want to give someone else a chance," he said Wednesday in an interview.

McKinlay's term as warden ends Nov. 30. A new head of county council will be chosen Dec. 3.

McKinlay invited members of council to declare their intention to seek the warden's chair during Tuesday's county council meeting.

Only Southgate Mayor Brian Milne confirmed his desire to let his name stand.

Members of Grey County council will have an opportunity Dec. 3 to nominate candidates for the job. Nominees also need someone to second the nod.

McKinlay was acclaimed to one-year terms as warden for both 2012 and 2013.

Chatsworth Mayor Bob Pringle served back-to-back terms as warden in 2006 and 2007. West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles (2008-2009) and Owen Sound city/county Coun. Arlene Wright (2010-2011) also served two terms apiece.

Before 2006, with a few exceptions, wardens typically opted to serve only one term.

McKinlay said he will continue to participate in the Western Ontario Warden's Caucus after his term is over. He is currently serving as chairman.

Friday, August 2, 2013 4:36:34 EDT PM NEWS LOCAL

Sydenham separatists encouraged by response

By Rob Gowan, Sun Times, Owen Sound

The organizers of the movement to have the former Sydenham Township separate from the rest of the Municipality of Meaford have been encouraged to move forward after the large turnout at a pair of public meetings this week.

Peggy Richardson said an estimated 700 people in total showed up at the meetings in Woodford on Monday and Bognor on Tuesday with the majority of those in attendance calling for change.

"If 30 people had turned up at the meetings I would have said, OK it is just my issue and nobody elses," Richardson said Friday. "When you have 700 people it probably represents three times that number of people who are interested. The statistics show that people are really upset and people are genuinely suffering."

A small group of Sydenham residents decided to pursue separation in May when Meaford council approved the first step toward equalizing police costs in the municipality. Other concerns have been a lack of services available to residents in the rural areas of the municipality, a disconnect from the Meaford urban area, ballooning property taxes and too many staff at the municipality.

Meaford is presently in the fourth year of a five-year plan to repay debt acquired from infrastructure programs combined with several years of no tax increases. Tax increases in recent years have been close to 10% annually. Richardson said her taxes are up about $530 this year.

"People are absolutely astounded with the tax increases," said Richardson. "And there is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration with trying to get their message to them about the roads."

The group has suggested the former Sydenham Township could stand on its own or join a neighbouring municipality such as Chatsworth or Georgian Bluffs.

"I still don't know what direction we want to go in. Are we going to amalgamate with someone else? We have to explore all the options," said Richardson, who added joining Owen Sound is not an option for her.

"The natural direction is rural to rural," said Richardson. "If you combine urban with rural, which we are almost all in Sydenham, you get the same tug-of-war we have going on now with Meaford."

The group is circulating a petition in favour of separation, which can also be signed online at

Richardson said they have about 500 or 600 names on the petition.

She said the next month will be spent circulating the petition and getting more names added to it before it is submitted to the province.

A working group has also been formed to look into the process of de-amalgamation. The group will meet at 1:30 p.m. at the old Leith Church on Sept. 7.

Richardson is planning to get in contact with people who have been involved in the de-amalgamation process.

At that meeting the group will discuss directions to take and will discuss a letter received from Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey.

Richardson sent a letter to Linda Jeffrey, Ontario's minister of municipal affairs and housing, asking for guidance on how to proceed with a separation.

In a reply to Richardson, Jeffrey wrote that "the decision to change municipal structures is an extremely complex and important undertaking."

"Any proposed changes would need to clearly demonstrate a detailed level of analysis, supported by substantive evidence and consultation that such an issue warrants," Jeffrey wrote in the letter.

Jeffrey writes that restructuring had not been a priority of the government, "however, I would consider proposals for municipal restructuring, which are supported by local councils and which demonstrate fiscal self-sustainability, along with property-tax fairness for all residents."

Richardson said the working group will go through the letter and decide how they can fill the requirements of a restructuring proposal.

Richardson said she also wants to crunch the numbers to find out the true costs to both separate and to run a municipality.

"We want to know that we can tax people less and still cover our four basic needs -- roads and garbage and police and fire coverage," said Richardson. "There will be other things too like library service."
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