Saturday, November 29, 2008

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Three vehicle crash on Highway 101 in Porcupine

Traffic was halted for more than an hour on Highway 101 in Porcupine Friday after a three-vehicle crash. Ontario provincial police say the crash occurred just before 8:00 a.m. The crash involved a compact car, a van and a pickup truck which was flipped over on its roof. Few details are available, but police say three persons were removed from the vehicles and brought to Timmins and District Hospita

Friday, October 17, 2008

CAW Local 599 slows down Xstrata traffic

Local 599 CAW in Timmins held a secondary picket line at the Xstrata parking lot at Highway 655 and Laforest Road early this morning, to slow down the effort where management workers and relief workers gather at the parking lot each morning and board buses that take them across the picket line at the Xstrata Met Site. The slow down began at about 4:30 a.m. and continued for two hours. After that, the picketers staged a motorized picket by driving nearly 200 vehicles along highway 655 to the Xstrata Kidd Mine Site where traffic was slowed to a crawl for more than an hour.

"Sylvia" will leave your ears buzzing!

Rehearsals are in full swing for the bizarre dinner-theatre comedy treat “Sylvia” to be presented by Take Two Theatre of Timmins on October 23, 24 and 25 at the Porcupine Dante Club. The play is about a stray dog, Sylvia, portrayed by Natalie Geddes who comes between a middle-aged couple portrayed by Graham Reid and Liliane Lachance. The cast is rounded out by players Rick Lemieux, Lindley Morrison and Jessica Bonhomme. This is no Disneyesque-type production featuring the soft-eyed pooches from Lady and The Tramp. Once you've heard the gnashing, growling and panting from Syvlia, your ears will be buzzing and your jaw muscles will be sore from laughter. Tickets are available only the Dante Club. Incidentally, this is an adult comedy that includes adult language.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Charlie Angus Wins Again

New Democrat Charlie Angus is once again the MP for Timmins-James Bay. Voters across the riding returned Angus with a strong mandate as he handily defeated Liberal challenger Paul Taillefer, Conservative Bill Greenberg and Green Party hopeful Larry Vernier. Speaking at the Porcupine Dante Club Wednesday night, shortly after being declared the winner, Angus told reporters he had a good feeling about the campaign from the beginning.
“We were confident going into this because we built a great team across Timmins-Bay and we represented all the little communities,” said Angus.
“When the writ was called I did a tour right through the riding and it felt strong right then,” he added.
By winning a third consecutive term Angus moves to an unofficial new status as a Member of Parliament who will enjoy some sense of seniority over many other MPs and caucus members.
The 46-year old writer and musician was first elected in 2004 and then re-elected in 2006.
Angus told reporters he believes his record as a hard-working MP has paid off.
“People in the north want someone who stands up, and shows up and fights for them. That’s what we’ve been doing in Timmins-James Bay. We won over more and more people in each election,” he said.
“I mean, in my first election, I won by six hundred votes,” Angus recalled. Two years later, Angus won by more than six thousand votes.
The numbers for Tuesday’s vote were not yet available, but by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, it was clear that Angus was ahead by several thousand ballots.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday morning gun call in Schumacher

Traffic was blocked for several hours on Croatia Avenue this morning as Timmins Police responded to a domestic dispute involving a man with a weapon. Police were told by a witness that the weapon was a pellet gun, but police took no chances and responded with a negotiator and the Emergency Response Team. A woman was escorted from the scene. The man remained inside the home at the back of 92 Croatia Ave. No further details were available at noon. Police will be issuing a formal statement later today.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A great moment in sport... for these guys!

It may not go down as one of the great moments in sports, but it was certainly a special time for a handful of amateur hockey players who like to kick the puck around on their lunch hour at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins. They didn't know that on this Friday, Canadian hockey great and goaltending legend Ken Dryden was right next door having lunch at the McIntyre Coffee Shop. Dryden was happy to drop by and watch the guys in action and then stepped on the ice to shake hands with the players and pose for an impromptu team photo. It will be a game to remember for this group.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Museum consultants announce short list

Consultants for the Diamond and Schmitt architectural firm have come up with a short list for five locations for a new $12 million Timmins Arts and Heritage Centre, which is the building being suggested as the replacement for the old Timmins Museum and National Exhibition Centre.
The old museum building on Legion Drive in South Porcupine had to be closed in 2006 due to water and mould problems in the 25 year old building.
The locations on the short list for a new building include: 1 - Highway 101 by snow dump beside the Whitney Arena, 2 - on Highway 101 between the Whitney Arena and Northern College, 3 - Bruce Avenue across from the Spruce Hill Lodge, 4 - on highway 101 beside the McIntyre Arena and 5 - on Algonquin Boulevard at the old Doran’s Brewery site.
In terms of scoring the best site location by the consulting team, the McIntyre site topped the list with 36 out of a total of 40 points. Next on the list was the Doran’s site with 35 points, the Whitney snow dump with 30 points, the Whitney arena site near the college at 30 points and the Bruce Avenue site, near Spruce Hill Lodge at 25 points.
The architects have laid out plans for a 28,000 square foot building that will include room for the museum and exhibition centre, room the Timmins Symphony Orchestra as well as community spaces for numerous other arts and culture groups.
Regardless of what site council eventually chooses, the final decision on the project will be whether enough money can be raised to pay for it. As a publicly funded city-owned building, the new Timmins Arts and Heritage Centre at $12 million will likely be the most expensive City project ever undertaken.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The strike is on.

Members of CAW Local 599 begin passing out the picket signs at about 20 seconds after midnight, early Wednesday morning, upon getting confirmation that no new agreement was reached between the union and Xstrata Copper Canada. Despite reaching an impasse in talks on Monday, both sides worked with a conciliator all day Tuesday, but were not able to come to an agreement.
"There wasn’t one final thing." said bargaining committee chair Ben Lefebvre when he arrived at the picket line around 1:00 a.m. (see photo below, centre-right, wearing blue jacket).
"It’s wages, benefits and basically contract language – seniority rights, skilled trades issues. They didn’t want to come very close to what our membership needs.
It’s as simple as that." he said.
"They’re adamant," Lefebvre suggested of Xstrata's corporate position.
"They want to attack the union. That’s what they’re all about," he accused.
"We hung in there right to the bitter end. We were hoping they were going to change their position, but obviously here we are," he told fellow union members.
“Three out of four, gentlemen. Three strikes out of four contracts. A very reasonable company we’re working for here,” Lefebvre said with a hint of sarcasm.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Strike at Xstrata looking likely

Xstrata Copper Canada says contract talks have broken down with the bargaining committee for CAW Local 599, the union that represents workers at the Xstrata Kidd Metallurgical Site in Timmins.
"We are very disappointed that the Union Executives have turned down the company's contract offer. We truly believe that we presented a fair, competitive and responsible offer and in fact we were able to agree on many of the demands tabled by the union," stated Thompson Hickey, General Manager of the Kidd Metallurgical site.
The company gave the union a deadline of 10:00 p.m. Monday Sept. 29 to accept a new three-year contract that includes the following:
-- Year 1: 3.5% salary increase
-- Year 2: 3.25%
-- Year 3: 1% plus COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment)
-- Signing bonus $2,000
If the bargaining committee chooses not to accept that offer, it changes by dropping the percentage increases in year-one and year-two, as follows, but it must be signed before 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday Sept. 30, the moment the current contract expires :
-- Year 1: 3% salary increase
-- Year 2: 3%
-- Year 3: 1% plus COLA
-- Signing bonus $2,000
The Canadian Auto Workers say the latest offer did make some movement toward union demands but not near enough to be considered a serious offer. It was late last week that some three-quarters of the union members voted 96 per cent in favour of taking strike action.
The unionized workers will be in a legal strike position at midnight on Tuesday. The company says it is "is finalizing contingency plans in the event the Union decides not to accept the offer."

Goldcorp reveals mining plans

Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines has revealed that it intends to create three new open pit mining operations at the old Hollinger Gold Mine property. Goldcorp PGM's strategic project manager Dave Bucar told Timmins city council this evening(in photo at left) that his company intends to create the new mining operation entirely within the existing property and fenceline of the known Hollinger property. Bucar says this will allay any fears in the community that may exist about the creation of a super-sized open pit that would take in parts of Schumacher, the McIntyre Arena and the Shania Twain Centre.
Bucar's revelations follow the news that was released by Goldcorp in 2007 that more than four-million ounces of gold have been identified through exploration drilling in and around the former Hollinger gold mine, one of the most lucrative gold mines in the history of Timmins.
"We are now moving into a permitting phase." said Bucar "We dont have any exact timing on construction or when the mine will begin." He says the timetable will be determined according to how quickly the various branches of government give the company permission to carry out mining operations.Bucar also revealed that in order to address concerns about dust, vibrations and noise that are part of an open pit mine, the company would be creating a rock wall, or a berm, twenty metres high along the entire perimeter of the project.

Goldcorp worried that ATVers destroying tailings

Goldcorp is trying to finish up the job in rejuvenating the old Delnite tailings. But there is a concern there are people in the community who are just as determined to ruin that work.
Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project but avid ATV riders may see its demise, according to PGM environmental engineer László Götz.
Much of the success of PGM’s rejuvenation effort is based on the plan of adding bio-solids to the tailings, thus creating a suitable base of nutrients where grasses, shrubs and trees can flourish. The company has also begun hydro-seeding the land in a high-priced effort to regreen the area.
The work has been applauded by many residents living in and around the old Delnite townsite, who complained for years about dust blowing off the top of the tailings. Controlling the dust is one of the reasons why PGM is working to rejuvenate the land.
The problem is that ATV riders and dirt-bikers are tearing up the reseeded areas by riding all over PGM’s private property.
PGM project assistant Bev Taylor says signs and barriers are being installed at all known access points to the various tailings areas, aimed at ATV and dirt-bike riders. “They don’t always pay attention,” she admits.
She says it’s not only to stop the riders from destroying new vegetation, but also for the protection of the trespassers so they don’t get in the way of the large machines.
“There’s heavy trucks everywhere out here,” she explains as one of the mammoth rock hauling machines roars along the back roads bringing another load of crushed rock that is used to stabilize the slopes of the tailings dams.
She adds that PGM is going to the expense to adding large boulders, weighing many thousands of kilograms, all along the perimeter at the top of the tailings. The idea is to keep trespassers from destroying the fragile re-vegetation area. PGM is hoping the boulders will discourage the ATV riders from trespassing.
The continued presence of the riders is frustrating for Götz, who has watched as his efforts get destroyed.
“Not only millions of dollars worth of repair work is at stake, but also the health of the nearby residents, who in the past endured dusting coming from the barred tailings surfaces, and who oh-so-loudly complained about it to the media last fall,” he said.
PGM is also in the process of cleaning up the old Aunor tailings located nearby and because of the trespassers at the Delnite, extra money, materials and manpower will be spent on those tailings as well, in an effort to keep ATVers away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CAW calling for a strike vote at Xstrata Met Site

The bargaining committee for Local 599 of the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents the unionized employees at the Xstrata Kidd Met Site in Timmins is calling for a strike vote.
Ben Lefebvre, the chair of the bargaining committee, said in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that the latest company offer “falls short of our members’ expectations.”
Lefebvre says he is calling on the membership to hold meetings on Thursday to decide on a course of action.
“On Wednesday September 24th the Company presented your Bargaining Committee with an offer of settlement that falls short of our members’ expectations. The Committee had no choice but to reject the offer and will be asking members for a strong strike mandate to back your demands.
“As a result we have scheduled membership meetings for Thursday, September 25th at 3:00 and 7:30 PM at the McIntyre Community Center.
The current contract between Xstrata and Local 599 expires at midnight on September 30. If there is no contract by then, the union will be in a strike position on Wednesday October 1.
The relationship between the company and the union has been a rocky one in the past nine years. There have been three contracts and two strikes.
The current contract came into effect at the end of October 2005, when Local 599 went on strike for 29 days to back demands for their third contract.
The Met Site workers also went on strike for 26 days back in 1999 to back demands for their first ever contract.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Boot Drive on Saturday

Fill yer boots! Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus and communications director Dale Tonelli were among the first to make donations to the annual Muscular Dystrophy campaign, which firefighters across Canada have been promoting for decades. The donations were accepted by Timmins Professional Firefighter Association president Peter Osterberg. The firefighters will conduct a “boot drive” in several areas of the city on Saturday where residents can make a donation in support of medical research and Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Timmins Professional Firefighters and 600 other fire departments and associations across Canada have raised more than $61 million since the boot drive campaigns began in 1954. Firefighters will be on location at McDonald’s, Your Independent Grocers, A&P Superfresh, Wal Mart and Canadian Tire beginning at 9:00 a.m. Saturday to collect donations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Timmins police make arrests after gas bar robbery

Timmins Police Service says several arrests have been made as the result of an armed robbery that occurred at the Canadian Tire Gas Bar early Tuesday morning.
At approximately 6:19 a.m. a lone male suspect entered the gas bar brandishing a knife. The suspect punched an innocent customer and then reached over the counter removing an undisclosed amount of cash from the till, says a police news release.
Police say the suspect was seen running away northbound through the parking lot. The customer who was punched was able to identify a suspect for police, who then proceeded to a home on Fifth Avenue.
Within minutes, police knocked on the door of a Fifth Avenue home. The residents inside refused to come out, so police waited at the door until a search warrant was processed. Eventually four suspects came out of the house and were arrested by police. Police say the suspect involved in the robbery and weapons offence is being held in custody pending a bail hearing.
In the meantime, police have launched a thorough search of the Fifth Avenue home to gather more evidence.
Police say no names are being released until their investigation is completed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Timmins car fire - dramatic photos

Heavy black smoke billowed over the southern side of Timmins this afternoon, just before four oclock, when a van caught fire on Cody Avenue at Mountjoy Street. Firefighters arrived on the scene in minutes to find the vehicle enveloped in flames. It only took a few more minutes to knock down the fire. Firefighters left the scene just before 4:30 p.m. There were no reports of any injuries. The incident is under investigation.

Thanks to Timmins Firefighters

Northern College said Thank You in a special way recently when it presented a handcrafted and framed copy of the Fireman’s Prayer to the Timmins Professional Firefighters Association. Local president Peter Osterberg, left, accepted the framed prayer from Judy Rantala, who runs Northern College’s School of Health Science and Emergency Services, which includes the pre-firefighter program. Rantala explained that the gesture of thanks was directed to the professional firefighters in Timmins who have gone above and beyond in working with the college and contributing to the success of the firefighter’s training program and, said Rantala, “do an excellent job of mentoring” with the students. The current class of students attended the firehall and hosted a barbecue lunch for the firefighters.

Timmins Terry Fox Run

Timmins Runner Joel Picard was the first to finish the 6K road running event in the city’s annual Terry Fox Fun this year. Picard crossed the finish line with a time of 24:45.50. He was one of scores of running enthusiasts who ran the course despite the cooler temperatures and brisk winds on Sunday afternoon. The Terry Fox Run in Timmins this year had nearly one hundred participants who walked and ran the course, from Gillies Lake through the north end of the city and back.

Timmins traffic tied up

Timmins Police Constable Chris Litt had to direct traffic early Monday afternoon when a logging truck knocked down the traffic light post at Burnette Road and Algonquin Boulevard. Traffic was backed up for nearly an hour as workers cleared the debris and then worked the get all the traffic signals working again. The incident is under police investigation.

Timmins students challenged for African missions

Father Marco Bagnarol is challenging Catholic students in Timmins and throughout the Northeast district to help him raise money for missions in Mozambique, in south eastern Africa. Bagnarol, originally from Toronto, is now with the Consolata Missionaries who have been working in Mozambique since 1925 to children build better lives for themselves. The challenge is to all students of the Northeastern Catholic District School Board (NCDRB) students and teachers to take action to help raise $30,000 this year. The board says the call to assist others in need fits in with the current theme of Catholic education which reminds students “You are the Light of the World” and gives students the opportunity to experience and appreciate the value of helping others.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Goldcorp "suspending operations" at Pamour

Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines announced today it is suspending operations indefinitely at the Pamour Open Pit mining operation, because of the dropping price of gold and rising price of fuel and other supplies needed to run the mine. The company says the work suspension will come in early 2009, once the current mining stage is completed.
The Pamour Open Pit was brought online two years ago, after Goldcorp spent hundreds of millions of dollars to move the move part of Three Nations Lake to access part of the historic Pamour orebody that was below the lake and under the old section of Highway 101.
In a news release, the company said “Porcupine Gold Mines operating margins have been eroded by significant commodity inflation at its open pit operation due in part to the large volumes of fuel, steel and tires it consumes. Gold prices have dropped more than 30 per cent since earlier highs, cash costs in the open pit have almost doubled in less than two years and planned ore grades have not been achieved.”
The company has not indicated anything about layoffs, but the news release indicates that Goldcorp will try to relocate the Pamour workers into other Goldcorp operations in Timmins, which includes the Hoyle Pond Mine, the Dome Mine and the Hollinger project. The company says existing ore stockpiles will continue to be sent to the Porcupine mill, also known as the Dome mill.
“There are roughly 160 employees working in conjunction with the open pit, maintenance, engineering and geology; over 80 of whom will be retained for mill maintenance and to mine ore from stockpiles. At this time we anticipate that existing openings at the Porcupine and other Goldcorp operations will allow re-deployment of an additional 30 people,” the news release stated.
“As Pamour mining activities slow down in the first half of 2009 we will continue to look for positions to re-deploy the remainder of the workforce for whom we currently do not have opportunities,” the company news release continued.
“The Porcupine mill will continue at full production by replacing Pamour open pit ore with significant ore stockpiles that have been generated over the past 14 years of open pit mining. Following the completion of mining operations the workforce will be reduced to a size commensurate with re-handling stockpiles,” the company said.
“We wanted to ensure our employees had as much notice as possible and we will take the transition time we have to look for new opportunities to retain our people. Porcupine’s other operations and projects require people and we need to focus our efforts on those operations to ensure they continue to be competitive under any market conditions.” The release was signed by Chris Cormier, Mine General Manager Porcupine Gold Mines.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pépère Gilles!

Gilles Bisson has become a pépère. The Timmins-James Bay MPP announced at the Porcupine Fall Fair Friday that his daughter Julie and her husband Chris Gardner are the proud parents of a baby boy, young Nathaniel Gilles, who was born on Wednesday. Bisson told the fair audience that he, and his wife Murielle, were both pleased and trying to outdo the other in seeing who could hold the baby the most.

Porcupine Fall Fair Fun!

Nice Donkey! It’s something Shrek might say, but visiting the donkey was one of the many attractions for sight seers at the annual Porcupine Fall on the weekend. Among those who visited the live animal displays were Marissa Baril, left, and Kayla Mason. Which way is up? Jillian Nemis of Timmins might have trying to figure that out as she enjoyed a “spin” on the Gyro Scope at the Porcupine Fall Fair on the weekend. The gyro device was one of the popular ‘hair raising’ attractions at the fair set up by Climb ‘N’ Fun, a Timmins based entertainment venture. Just hanging around! Seven-year-old Bailey Whissel of the McKinnon novice hockey club was one of many youngsters who tried the endurance “hang-on” device at the Porcupine Fall Fair on the weekend. The device was set up for youngsters to try to out-do each other in how long they could simply hang onto a bar while suspended above the ground. The event was a fundraiser for the McKinnon hockey club. Cutting it close. Perry Gauthier of Sudbury showed off his model flying skills at the Porcupine Fall Fair on the weekend. Gauthier was on hand as part of the Science Timmins display at the fall fair and delighted many youngsters by flying robotic model aircraft inside the Mountjoy Arena.

Cops continue crackdown on speeders

The Timmins Times
Timmins Police Service says the Aggressive Driver Hotline is working. Aggressive drivers are being reported on by alert citizens and the number of automobile accidents in Timmins is being reduced. Details released at a news conference Thursday show that from May until September, Timmins Police had 60 calls on the hotline. “The Timmins Police Service was able to investigate and send out 31 letters to registered owners regarding aggressive drivers of these vehicles,” said traffic sergeant Bill Aird(at right). He added that the remaining 29 complaints did not have enough information for police to conduct any follow up. But even though the hotline appears to be a successful enforcement tool, Timmins Police Chief Richard Laperriere says he is “alarmed” that too many drivers continue to drive too fast in Timmins. The chief says he is sending a clear message to aggressive drivers.
“Our message today is ‘yes we will continue to be aggressive in regards to enforcement. Yes, we will be out there’,” he said
“Our goal is clear. We want to reduce motor vehicle accidents, fatalities and personal injuries,” said the chief.
He says the priority for police at the moment is local school zones.
“As you all know, kids are back in school and I want to make it very clear today we are going to be very aggressive in regards to the speed limits in our school zones,” said the chief, adding that the speed limit in those zones is 40 kilometres per hour.
He adds however, that enforcement will occur in all parts of the city, day and night.
As an example of stepping up enforcement, the chief stated that at one point last week, police checked out the area of Connaught Hill and the Langmuir Road. He says police radar was on the scene for only 90 minutes and 22 vehicles were speeding. “The officer was there for an hour-and-a-half, and twenty-two vehicles speeding… that’s alarming to me,” said the chief(at right).
“I just don’t understand that. What’s the rush?” asked the chief.
He says driving over the speed limit is likely the number one concern in Timmins.
Laperriere says the news was not all bad.
“The good news is that our motor vehicle accidents are down by nine per cent,” said the chief, referring to local traffic accident numbers compared from July 2007 to July 2008.
“The hotline played a role in that. Our increased enforcement played a role in that,” he added.
Aird urges motorists to continue calling the hotline since he says it will help make Timmins a safer place to be for all drivers.
The aggressive driver hotline number is 360-8717.

Council approves paving Kamiskotia Highway

Timmins city council wasted no time this week dipping into the new $4 million bag of money handed over by the province for local infrastructure improvements.
Council met for a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to approve the spending of $1.7 million to do a once-and-for-all paving job on the Kamiskotia Highway.
And even though the vote was unanimous, some city councillors were alarmed and angry at how high the cost of asphalt has risen over the summer, allegedly in response to the higher cost of oil.
Council’s decision on the roadwork followed a presentation by city engineer Luc Duval who outlined that with savings from the current road program and adding money from the new provincial grant, the city can finally do a decent paving job on the full stretch of the Kamiskotia highway all the way to Leclair Avenue.
Part of the savings will come from canceling the $100,000 paving job for Legion Drive, since a review of that job indicates it will cost far more than $100,000. At the urging of John Curley, council committed to making that a priority job for next year.
The breakdown for the Kamiskotia highway job is as follows. There was $700,000 budgeted for work on it this year. The city has $400,000 it can re-assign from savings in other roadwork this year. The city adds $600,000 to the Kamiskotia project from the provincial grant received last week. Total cost = $1.7 million. Duval explained that he wanted to get the work done while the city is able to take advantage of a five-year price deal it had with Miller Paving, to buy asphalt at $89 per tonne, but he said the city also has to pay a new surcharge.
Council was told that due to the higher price of oil, Miller Paving instituted a surcharge of roughly $26 per tonne to push the price of asphalt up to $115 per tonne.
This angered council’s financial watchdog, councillor Denis Saudino, since the invoice for the extra surcharge arrived in August, long after the asphalt had been laid down on other road jobs. The extra cost was several thousands of dollars.
Both Duval and city administrator Joe Torlone explained that even with the surcharge, the Miller price was still a bargain, since the price was negotiated five years ago. Torlone said the city was aware that a surcharge might be applied since it was part of the original contract.
Saudino said he was upset that asphalt was supplied, and roadwork was done without Miller giving any up-front notice of the price change. He said it was unfair.
He said he was also upset that city staff seemed unaware of the price change until the bill arrived and it was too late to argue the point or at least negotiate.
“I think the supplier should have given us a heads-up. They knew the price when they were laying it down. Or they should have known the price.” Saudino told The Timmins Times.
“They buy their stuff in advance, right, so they know the cost of their stuff on hand,” he said. “So I mean if there’s a difference in the cost, they should warn their customers and the city of Timmins is one of their customers,” Saudino added.
“And for us not to know the price before we receive it, I think that’s not good business,” he said.
City councillor Bill Gvozdanovic suggested the Kamiskotia paving job at the bargain price, was “a no brainer”. He also suggested that council refrain from negative comments about Miller Paving lest the price of asphalt get any higher.

Bisson fears bus cuts will continue

Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson put Northern Development minister in the hot-seat this week, over the proposed cuts to Ontario Northland’s bus service. Bisson grilled MNDM Minister Michael Gravelle during the Standing Committee on Estimates meeting at Queen’s Park.
“Reducing services will result in a reduction in ridership. That is going to lead to a downward spiral on more reductions,” Bisson told the minister.
As the NDP Critic for Transportation, Bisson said he called on Gravelle to delay service cuts. “The Union is asking for the government and the ONTC to take another look at the situation. The Union has options but needs the Minister to consult with them, communities and riders.”
Bisson even offered his support for such a process. “I am in favour of making the ONTC more productive. But reducing services doesn’t equal productivity. Improving service will mean more riders, which in turn improves productivity and the bottom line.”
Bisson says the ONTC bus service is the ‘Go Transit’ of Northern Ontario.
“It is a crown agency that operates rail, bus and train service throughout the north. Go Transit is subsidized properly so why wouldn’t the ONTC receive similar treatment?” he asked.
Bisson says savings from the proposed cuts are not that costly and he asks why not have the Province offset any extra costs with adjustments to the provincial subsidy.
He says the ONTC can then re-examine the operation to find other areas for savings. Talking with the Union and communities is the first step, he said.

Wilson Avenue crashes

Paramedics, Firefighters and Timmins Police responded to two separate auto crashes on Wilson Avenue, near Preston Street, on Friday. Timmins city council has approved spending $15,000 on a traffic study to determine traffic patterns, and problems, on Wilson and nearby Cameron Street. One of the concerns voiced at a recent city council meeting is that motorists on Wilson Avenue drive at a high rate of speed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kidd Met Site union to begin talks with Xstrata

The Timmins Times
Bargaining begins on Monday as unionized members of the Xstrata Kidd Metallurgical Site approach the end of their current three-year contract. That contract expires at the end of this month.
The current contract came after more than 600 members of Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) local 599 went on strike on October 1, 2005. The strike ended after 29 days, when there was agreement on the new contract with the help of a government-appointed mediator.
The unionized Met Site workers also went on strike for 26 days, during July of 1999 to back demands for their first ever contract. CAW Local 599 bargaining committee chair Ben Lefebvre told The Timmins Times this week that he was happy to get the bargaining dates from the company.
“I am encouraged at the fact we have dates pre-set to the end of September, which is something that’s never happened in the last three rounds of bargaining,” said Lefebvre.
“I am hoping this is an indication that they truly want an agreement this time around as opposed to what’s happened in the last three rounds of bargaining.”
When asked by The Times if bargaining with Xstrata represents any sort of a significant change, Lefebvre replied, “only time will tell.”
“I mean locally the people who are running the show are still basically the same people that used to operate the place for Noranda, or are certainly ‘Noranda’ people that haven’t really moved away y’know after the Xstrata takeover two years ago,” said Lefebvre.
“Xstrata claims they are going to allow the local management team to make the decisions. Like I said, time will tell how true that is.” It was just last week that the company and the union exchanged documents containing each side’s formal proposals for a new contract.
Although Lefebvre says the setting of meeting dates is encouraging, he adds it was a long process to get to that point.
“We were hoping it was going to happen this spring, and hoping we could have the majority of it done even by now, but they kept stonewalling us up to the point where we finally got some dates … well actually these dates just came last week,” said Lefebvre.
“That’s when we got some firm commitments.”
The Times asked if anyone has mentioned the possibility of a strike.
“No, but let’s face it we’ve been through three rounds of bargaining so far and we’ve had two strikes,” said Lefebvre.
“Are people assuming the worst? Certainly some people are. Some people still have a bad taste in their mouth from the last couple of strikes that, from the bargaining unit perspective, were totally unnecessary,” he added.
“We’ve never gone overboard expecting more than what’s fair and equitable and affordable to the company. And so at this point in time, it’s a waiting game.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labour Day March in Timmins

Karla Habla of Timmins, centre with the flag, led dozens of Timmins residents on the 10th annual Labour Day march around Gillies Lake this morning. Habla says the walk is a non-political and peaceful way to mark the day to honour workers rights. The march was attended by representatives of Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Auto Workers, as well as Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, MPP Gilles Bisson and mayor Tom Laughren.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"If you're not feeling well, you might see a doctor'

The elderly woman who died recently at the Timmins and District Hospital (TDH) had the listeria bacteria in her body, but as yet no one can say if that was indeed the cause of death. She is the one and only known case of listeria infection, connected to the Maple Leaf Foods listeria, who was brought to TDH.
That was the crux of the news conference held in Timmins Wednesday afternoon, that essentially confirmed the front-page story published in The Timmins Times on Wednesday and in The Times news blog ( on Tuesday.
Hospital and health officials in Timmins have confirmed what The Timmins Times revealed on Wednesday, that the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) is investigating three cases of listeria within its jurisdiction including the case of the woman who died.
“Test results on an elderly female patient that died here at the hospital have been confirmed positive for listeria monocytongenes bacterium. Further testing by the Toronto Public Health lab has identified that his strain is the one that is linked to the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak,” said Esko Vainio, the chief executive officer of the Timmins and District Hospital.
Vainio says the patient did not develop listeria at TDH, but was sent to the hospital from a nearby community.
“As usual, our hospital’s health care team provided professional and compassionate care for this patient who was referred here from another community in our service area,” said Vainio. Neither he nor officials of the health unit would identify the patient, or what community she was from, for privacy reasons.
He added that the hospital could not say for certain that listeria was the cause of death.
“The patient had multiple health problems and obviously it’s really a clinical judgment as to what exactly caused the unfortunate demise of this elderly lady and we do not have that formal confirmation,” said Vainio
“We understand that the coroner’s office may become involved in cases such as this,” Vainio continued, “therefore we cannot comment further about this patient or where this patient is from.”
Jodie Russell, the hospital’s Coordinator of Infection Control explained that blood samples are taken at the hospital and all unusual findings are reported to the Ontario Ministry of Health and the health unit as a matter of record.
“There are designated communicable diseases that must be reported,” said Russell. All such information is entered into a provincial database.
The listeria sample from the deceased woman is the only listeria sample discovered this year at TDH. The two other listeria cases being investigated by the health unit do not involve the hospital Russell said.
Vainio also revealed that hospitals and old age homes were notified early about the concern over tainted meats.
“Our food service staff disposed of all suspected meat products a week before the public recall, so we do not expect any problems for anything that was served here,” said Vainio.
Vainio said he had no explanation about the early warning except that it involved public health agencies and Maple Leaf Foods.
“I can’t speak to that. We’re glad that we had advance notice. I wish everybody had advance notice, but it’s not in our hands.”
In the meantime, Bob Bell the health unit’s manager of public health inspection says his team will continue to ensure that tainted meat products are removed from the public domain.
With respect to concerns about individual health, Bell said it’s a matter a personal choice.
“We do normally get calls from people regarding symptoms and our direction is to seek medical attention if somebody is not feeling well,” said Bell.(photo at right)
“As public health inspectors, we are not medical practitioners and if a person is not feeling well, they are the best judge and they should be seeking medical attention and get in contact with their family physician,” he added.
“One of the problems with food-borne illness is that the symptoms are very similar to flu-like symptoms and food-borne illnesses are truly under reported; not just in Canada, it’s a world wide thing,” said Bell.
The TDH emergency department is prepared to handle any personal health concerns according to Vainio.
“And our expectation as a hospital is that probably we already have people presenting here and will have people presenting here who are concerned about their symptoms. In our emergency department, it’s a fact of life,” said Vainio.
“The hospital and the health unit jointly wish to express our sincere condolences to the family of this unfortunate lady who passed here in July,” Vainio added.

Bisson launches NDP leadership bid

Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson made it official Thursday as he launched his bid to become the next leader of Ontario’s New Democratic Party by saying it’s time the party adopted a culture of success that will put it on the path to forming government.
The well-known and outspoken 51-year-old Timmins native made the announcement to a news conference in Toronto, before moving on to make the same announcement in Sudbury.
Bisson is vying to replace the outgoing NDP leader Howard Hampton, who had led the Ontario new democrats for a dozen years, but was not able to win enough seats to form a government or become the official opposition. Hampton announced earlier this year he would be resigning the leadership in favour of spending more time with his family.
“Under my leadership we’ll adopt a positive attitude by cultivating a winning spirit and laying the foundation for a culture of success,” Bisson told gathered reporters representing all the major news organizations in Toronto Thursday morning. He said it was important to make his announcement in southern Ontario and Northern Ontario on the same day. “I am running to be the voice for all Ontarians – urban and rural, north and south – because the social, environmental and economic challenges we face together do not distinguish between where you live in our province.”
Bisson pointed out that the NDP has always been viewed as the party people trust most when it comes to protecting social programs. However, voters have been reluctant to vote for the party in great numbers as they worry the NDP does not take fiscal policy as seriously.
“You can’t build social programs without a strong economy”, said Bisson. ”Wealth creation is absolutely necessary to help create jobs and provides the funding to strengthen social programs.”
“Inside the party it’s time to debate economic issues such as how we grow a strong economy, taxation and budget management. It’s time we show Ontarians that New Democrats can manage your money, as we have successfully done in other provinces under NDP administrations.”
Building a culture of success begins with nurturing the grassroots of the party, Bisson said.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, we’ve go a lot of tough work ahead. Under my leadership I am prepared to take a fresh look at how we conduct ourselves as a party and that begins by granting more autonomy to our riding associations in terms of fundraising, candidate recruitment and developing new policy ideas.”
Should Bisson be elected leader of the NDP, he would be the first Franco-Ontarian to lead a major political party in this province.
Bisson was first elected as the provincial representative for this area on October 1 of 1990. He had held the seat successfully in every provincial election since then.

Timmins chamber continues advocacy role

Timmins businessman, Rob Galloway, is looking forward to his year as the new president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce so that the organization can continue its advocacy role, especially in the case of proposed changes to the Ontario Mining Act.
“Right now we’re working with the TEDC (Timmins Economic Development Corporation) and the city, to put together our comments on paper to the review process and we have until October 15 when that closes,” Galloway told Timmins reporters this week.
Galloway is referring to the plan by the Ontario government to overhaul the Mining Act insofar as it affects the exploration process for things such as prospecting, staking claims and carrying out diamond drill exploration work.
He added that the chamber is canvassing larger corporate members such as local mining companies to be sure their comments and concerns are included. “It’s critical for Timmins,” he said. “It’s the biggest industry we have obviously. Things are going very well at the moment and that’s good news. But we want to make sure that continues,” said Galloway.
He added that the chamber wants to be certain that any changes to the act work for the mining industry and the mining exploration industry.
“We also want it to work the for First Nations communities that we have close links with,” said Galloway.
He added that the mining concern will be more than apparent at the Chamber’s annual meeting on October 1, when Chris Hodgson, the president of the Ontario Mining Association will be a guest speaker.
That dinner will also be the final official function for outgoing chamber president Marilyn Wood, who says she is pleased with what has been accomplished in the past year. Business advocacy and information sharing are the two issues that Wood believes were the best part of her tenure as chamber president. She also conceded that the work of the chamber has raised its profile in the city.
“I think that we have definitely raised the profile because we have been able to supply very high quality information and have done a lot of research and background work,” said Wood.
“I think our businesses at the very least look to us for an opinion and that opinion always takes into account how the businesses will be impacted by various decisions at various government levels,” she added.
“Often they are opinions on political issues and so it may appear that its political but I think its more it is a response to the politics.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cause of death may never be known

Although the woman who died at Timmins and District Hospital tested positive for the strain of listeria tied to the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak, it is possible it may never be known if that listeria was the cause of her death.
Timmins and District Hospital chief executive officer Esko Vainio told Timmins reporters Wednesday that any formal determination as to the patient’s cause of death would have to come from the coroner’s office. It was an indication that no autopsy has been performed on the deceased patient.
Ontario regional coroner Dr. David Eden told The Timmins Time he could not comment on whether an autopsy was performed because no name has been released.
“What I can tell you is, if we had received a request, we would act on it,” Eden said.
“There is a protocol for investigating infectious disease deaths. It is in the nature of infectious disease deaths that most of the diagnosis is made before death and generally when we do an autopsy in an infectious disease death, it’s because we’re not sure,” he added.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Vainio told reporters “the patient had multiple health problems” adding that no formal finding was made whether the Maple Leaf Foods strain of listeria contributed to that death.
Eden says if an autopsy is to be done, the request will have to come from a public health agency, such as the Porcupine Health Unit. “The lead role is with public health,” he said.
“To give you an example, with SARS, public health has the authority to order an autopsy, but they don’t have the authority to order it over the family’s objections.”
Eden explained that a coroner does have the right to order an autopsy over the family’s objections, but the coroner also has to weigh whether the medical knowledge learned would be beneficial.
Eden added that an autopsy that occurs after embalming and burial is not likely to reveal any new or startling information with respect to an infectious disease.
“I would think that the best information for diagnosing listeriosis is the information that was collected prior to death,” said Eden.
“Listeriosis is a condition that can be, and is, reliably diagnosed before death, so an autopsy would add very little useful information to that,” he said.
“If the most accurate test is a blood culture done during life, and you have that, why would you do a blood culture after death, which is less reliable?” he asked.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Listeria Update - Timmins and Porcupine Health Unit

An elderly woman who died recently at the Timmins and District Hospital (TDH) had the listeria bacteria in her body, but as yet no one can say if that was indeed the cause of death.
That was the crux of the news conference held in Timmins Wednesday afternoon, that essentially confirmed the front-page story published in The Timmins Times on Wednesday and here, on The Times newsblog on Tuesday. (see story below)
In that story, The Times revealed the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) was investigating three cases of listeria within its jurisdiction including the case of the woman who died.
“Test results on an elderly female patient that died here at the hospital have been confirmed positive for listeria monocytongenes bacterium. Further testing by the Toronto Public Health lab has identified that his strain is the one that is linked to the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak,” said Esko Vainio, the hospitals’ executive director. (photo at right) Vainio says the patient did not develop listeria at TDH, but was sent to the hospital from a nearby community.
“As usual, our hospital’s health care team provided professional and compassionate care for this patient who was referred here from another community in our service area,” said Vainio. Neither he nor officials of the health unit would identify the patient or what community she was from.
He added that the hospital could not say for certain that listeria was the cause of death.
“The patient had multiple health problems and obviously it’s really a clinical judgment as to what exactly caused the unfortunate demise of this elderly lady and we do not have that formal confirmation,” said Vainio
Vainio says a formal post-mortem examination would be required.
“We understand that the coroner’s office may become involved in cases such as this,” Vainio continued, “therefore we cannot comment further about this patient or where this patient is from.”
Jodie Russell, the hospital’s Coordinator of Infection Control explained that blood samples are taken at the hospital and all unusual findings are reported to the Ontario Ministry of Health and the health unit as a matter of record.
“There are designated communicable diseases that must be reported,” said Russell. All such information is entered into a provincial database.
The listeria sample from the deceased woman is the only listeria sample discovered this year at TDH. The two other listeria cases being investigated by the health unit do not involve the hospital Russell said.
“The hospital and the health unit jointly wish to express our sincere condolences to the family of this unfortunate lady who passed here in July,” said Vainio.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Three local listeria cases, one death confirmed

At least one person within the jurisdiction of the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) has died and the death is linked to the current outbreak of listeria, The Timmins Times learned exclusively on Tuesday.
Bob Bell, the manager of public health inspection for the PHU, says the official cause of death has not been determined.
“We have three cases of listeria,” Bell confirmed on Tuesday. He says information is passed to the health unit from the Ontario ministry of health. The health unit then investigates all the details surrounding the disease.
The first local case, Bell says, was indeed listeria, but it was not linked to the outbreak, because it is a different “strain” of listeria than the one linked the current outbreak involving the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.
In the second case, Bell says the health unit is waiting for more test results.
“The initial test was positive for listeria. It’s going through the additional testing to determine what family grouping or strain that it falls into,” he said.
“The third is the same strain linked to the outbreak, with that third strain, that was the strain that was linked to a death in our region,” Bell told The Times.
“There was a death. It is linked to the outbreak. But we cannot say it is the cause of death,” said Bell.
He said the final word on that will have to come from a medical examiner or the coroner.
It was not revealed at press time Tuesday whether a post-mortem examination was to be carried out.
There is no official information on the identity of the deceased person. The Times has learned that she was an older woman who was brought to Timmins and District Hospital, where she died. The Timmins and District Hospital said Tuesday a formal statement will likely be issued today (Wednesday) outlining details of the next steps in the case.
Bell says inspectors from the health unit do a follow up in every case where listeria was identified, to try to find out what foods where eaten, where the food was purchased and whether the patient is involved in a job where food-handling is part of the work.
Bell admits that it is a long and tedious process, considering that the incubation period for listeria can be as long as 70 days. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a persistent fever according to information on the Health Canada website.
He says health unit inspectors are also working hand in hand with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and other health agencies to ensure they remove any and all samples of tainted meats identified with the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak that was revealed one week ago.
Bell says the health unit has joined with other agencies in urging consumers not to consume any meats that they’re not sure of. “If you’re in doubt, you throw it out,” he said.
He says an easy way to determine the safety of the meat is to look for the batch number involved in the Maple Leaf Foods case. There will be a meat inspection stamp with a crown on the package, with a number. The number is 97B. Bell says consumers can also check the “best before” date, which will also have a batch indicator.
“There will be the best before date and the word ‘Est’, short for establishment and there will be a number there. And 97B is the identifying number for the plant where that product was produced,” said Bell.
Bell says consumers may choose to bring any meats back to the store where they bought it or simply toss the meat in the garbage. Bell admitted in some cases, it may mean losing a few dollars worth of groceries but it is nowhere near the value of one’s continued good health.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fire call on Feldman Road

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene of the Verville Enterprises lumber yard on Feldman Road just after six oclock this evening after numerous 9-1-1 reports of smoke and flames. Firefighters from Timmins and Mountjoy halls arrived to find a garage-type structure fully involved with smoke and flames. No other buildings were nearby. The cause of the fire is as yet not revealed. There does not appear to be any injuries.

City's mistakes cost millions says developer

Timmins development consultant Lionel Bonhomme told city council this week he is concerned the city is spending millions of dollars for “remedial work” on the sewer system in the west end.
In a 10-minute presentation before council, Bonhomme said the West-End sewer system was only supposed to be applied to the Canadian Tire – Home Depot development.
Since that time, several other developments have occurred along Riverside Drive that are overloading the sewer system and Bonhomme says the city is struggling to find a solution. He says Timmins taxpayers will pay dearly for it.
Bonhomme asked several tough questions. But he doesn’t yet have the answers he wants. Mayor Tom Laughren committed to having answers for the Sept. 8 council meeting, but Laughren had to back out of that when he learned there could be legal issues.
Bonhomme says he wants answers on how and why the city has allowed extra development to occur in the West-End when there is every indication that there is not enough sewage capacity, and he’s asking who is responsible for the spending millions of tax dollars to correct a problem that could have been prevented.
“As a taxpayer, I am concerned about the source of funding for this remedial work, particularly given the history of this development, and the concerns raised by the city’s engineering department, since at least January of 2006, that appear to have fallen on deaf ears.”
Bonhomme says there are several crucial questions:
-When did the city know that there was a capacity problem with sewers in the West-End?
-Was this before or after the city issued building permits for Home Depot and Canadian Tire?
-How accurate were the two engineering studies the city paid for in 2006, that were supposed to outline sewage capacity requirements?
-Did the city administration ignore the engineering reports in favour of pushing ahead with development in the West End?
-Why won’t city administrator Joe Torlone release those reports if the Ministry of The Environment says the reports are public documents?
-Why are Timmins taxpayers paying for remedial work on the overloaded sewage system when the responsibility may lie with others?
-Will the city go ahead and take over the “private” sewage system on the Canadian Tire – Home Depot property, knowing that it is not up to standard?
Bonhomme says he is further concerned that the city budgeted roughly $2 million for the remedial work, but the tenders for that work came back at more than $7 million.
To back up his claims, Bonhomme referred to city hall minutes of the city’s Community Development Committee over the past two years.
“In July of 2008, last month, tenders sent out for remedial work on the west end, closed, Bids came in over the budget approved the by city” Bonhomme said.
Mayor Laughren alluded to the sewer line project Monday night, saying: “That project will be going back out for re-tender because it did come in high and they’re going to change the scope of the work so that will probably not be available until some time in September.”
Bonhomme says the 2006 engineering reports must be made public to see who is responsible for the high costs.
“I have requested that the city provide me with a copy of the engineering studies prepared by Martin (B.H. Martin) and Richards (J.L.Richards) and have been advised by the Ministry of the Environment that these studies are considered to be public documents. The CAO has indicated he has no obligation to provide these studies,” said Bonhomme.
City councillor Denis Saudino said he hoped that Bonhomme would get answers. He said the city has to be open and transparent.
“I think it has to be accountable to the public, that’s our duty, that’s our responsibility as councillors and that’s our responsibility as a city,” said Saudino. “I don’t want any innuendos out there.”
“I want to clear it up. I want the public to be assured their water bill and the sewer bill that they’re paying is to pay for the services and not for something that’s inappropriate, shall we say, and I’ll leave it that because we don’t know anything else at this point,” Saudino continued.
Bonhomme told council he hopes to get answers about the engineering report and suggested he would be willing to have his lawyer accept the reports “in confidence”
At that point, city administrator Joe Torlone interrupted.
“My advice to council would be not to commit to that,” said Torlone. “This is a legal matter,” he said to Bonhomme. “You’ve drawn in aspects that involve a legal action . Before we even submit the report to council, I will have it vetted by our lawyer,” said Torlone.
Bonhomme told The Timmins Times he is worried that serious errors in judgement may have been made at city hall.
“I don’t know the answers until I see the (engineering) reports and the administration answers me.”
Asked by The Times if he had “axes to grind” with city hall, Bonhomme said:
“I am doing this as a taxpayer. Yes, I do have axes to grind with the city, but this deputation was strictly related to the west end development and I went there as a taxpayer. Should we, the taxpayers, be subsidizing development?”

Timmins wants a break on fuel costs

Timmins city councillor Pat Bamford is going on the premise that you’ll never know unless you ask.
City council has endorsed Bamford’s idea of approaching the higher levels of government for some financial assistance on the price of fuel. The city is expected to pass a formal resolution on September 8.
Bamford mentioned the idea this week as city council was discussing how the price of fuel is affecting all city operations that use fuel, such as public works and the city transit system.
“The cost of gas at the pumps has probably gone up somewhere by 30 or 40 per cent in this budget year,” Bamford told council.
“The senior governments are reaping a windfall and the municipalities are hurting, and it’s patently unfair,” he added.
“I’m just wondering if its worth our while to request other municipalities to support a resolution from us to these senior governments to ask for one-time relief. I suspect gas will continue going up. I can’t imagine it going up at that rapid rate. This is a unique situation and it think it calls for a request for one-time assistance to offset some of the costs,” said Bamford.
Mayor Tom Laughren endorsed the idea and suggested that Timmins council pass a resolution and distribute it to all other Ontario municipalities in a bid to seek united support.
Laughren noted that in a discussion with the city treasurer on Monday it was revealed the city had been paying 82-cents a litre for gasoline back in January of 2007. The mayor admitted the city is struggling with the higher cost of fuel and pleading the case to higher government is certainly worth the try.
“It’s a huge challenge for sure,” said the mayor.

Timmins approves $15,000 for traffic study

City council has approved putting out a $15,000 RFP (request for proposal) to have a formal traffic study done for the area of the Wilson Avenue and Cameron Street intersection in Timmins.
Council’s action follows a report this week from city engineer Luc Duval, who said a preliminary informal study of the intersection shows there is indeed a traffic congestion problem.
His report comes after a suggestion made earlier this summer by city councillor Mike Doody who said the Cameron-Wilson intersection presented a serious problem.
Duval says more and more motorists are using Wilson Avenue because it has no traffic lights or stop signs.
Westbound motorists then use Cameron Street to move over to Algonquin Boulevard if they want to go farther west along Algonquin, or north along Theriault Boulevard.
Duval told council that the study could explore several options for the intersection including a four-way stop, which he admitted was a cheap and easy solution.
The downside to that, said his report, was that it would severely disrupt the traffic flow and volume of traffic moving west and north as peak times. Duval also indicated that a four-way stop would create excessively long line-ups on Wilson, “depending on driver reaction times.”
The study will also consider making Cameron Street a one-way street northbound, which would also be low-cost and have the advantage of moving a larger volume of cars off Wilson and onto Algonquin. The downside to that would be a severe restriction for Algonquin traffic wanting to move south or east along Wilson.
Duval told council he had money within his budget for consultants’ work that had not yet been tapped into and he would be able to absorb the cost of the study.
Councillor Bill Gvozdanovic was against the idea of hiring a consultant.
“I really don’t agree with paying somebody $15,000 to come here and all they’re gonna do is go stand down there….” said Gvozdanovic, adding that traffic counts and experimenting with traffic light times is something that could be done by the city’s engineering staff.
Councillor Mike Doody spoke in favour of the study idea saying he had received several reactions from the coffee-shop crowd
“You have no idea how many ‘traffic consultants’ have talked to me since the last council meeting,” councillor Mike Doody joked, adding that the overall reaction has been positive that council is taking a serious look at the traffic situation.
Doody suggested the city might also look at the length of times of the various traffic lights and advanced-turning lights on Algonquin Boulevard.
Council voted in favour of spending the money to hire a consultant for $15,000. Gvozdanovic was alone in voting against the move.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hazardous waste event in the fall

Timmins residents will be able to get rid of their hazardous household waste products, likely in September or October. A firm date has not yet been determined.
City council this week authorized its waste management department to set up a one-day hazardous waste collection event in the fall.
The Municipal Hazardous Special Waste (MSHW) program will accept such things as paint, pesticides, household solvents, waste oil and gasoline, old oil filters, auto batteries, household batteries, prescription medicines, pool chemicals, wood preservatives, oven cleaners and aerosal containers.
“We currently have no diversion program in place,” public works supervisor Chris Bazinet told city council this week.
He admitted that many hazardous wastes are being illegally dumped at the Deloro landfill or poured down toilets and drains.
Bazinet explained that a waste disposal company, specially equipped and licensed to handle hazardous wastes would come into the city and set up at a central location, such as a large arena or parking lot.
“Residents will be able to bring their MSHW at no charge,” said Bazinet, who added that similar events are held in towns and cities across the province.
“We are one of the last remaining communities in Ontario not hosting this event,” he said.
The cost of the program is roughly $70,000 to bring in a licenced hazardous waste company to accept the products. The cost of the program will be offset by the province by 60 percent through a program called Stewardship Ontario, said Bazinet. That means the city’s contribution is $28,000.
“Should the event prove to be successful we would like to review the possibility of a year-round program at the Deloro landfill,” he added.
Bazinet said the program is well-worth the money is the sense that it will keep hazardous wastes out of the landfill and raise awareness among the public about the need to dispose of hazardous wastes in a proper manner.
Mayor Tom Laughren noted that disposal of hazardous waste is something he is approached about by city residents on a regular basis. “This program is long overdue.”

Parking Rates Changing Downtown

The city and the Downtown Timmins BIA are working together on a new plan to improve parking in the downtown core and in the perimeter area that surrounds the downtown.
The city has passed changes to the parking bylaw to allow for an increase in the time people can park at downtown on-street meters, along with an increase in the cost of parking at the downtown on-street meters.
The new rate for most downtown on-street meters will go from 50-cents per hour to 75-cents per hour. The meters will allow the user to buy time in 15-minute increments.
Downtown meters will have a new two-hour time limit.
In cases were meters are not located in the immediate downtown core, the price of parking will remain the same at 50-cents per hour.
For those who like to purchase monthly passes, there is something of a bargain for the city parking lot at Knox Street and Kirby Avenue, just south of the TeleTech parking lot.
The monthly parking fee of $40 per month at that lot only, has been reduced to $10 per month. Monthly parking passes are other lots, which may be purchased on a lot by lot basis, are still at $40.
Changes to the parking bylaw also allow that those wth proper handicapped parking permits may park for two hours free at all meters and municipal parking lots.

City coping with rising fuel costs

Spending at Timmins City hall is on track at the halfway point through the year, but city treasurer Bernie Christian told city council this week that fuel prices could be $300,000 to $400,000 over budget -- but that the cost overruns could be absorbed. That news didn’t go over as well as it might.
City councillor Bill Gvozdanovic said he found the treasurer’s report surprising and confusing.
“I can’t understand how we can say we can be in line with the budget when we anticipate our fuel costs are going to be three to four hundred thousand dollars over… that’s a one per cent tax increase.”
He then asked Christian how it could be possible to find room to have that increase absorbed into various city budgets.
“All departments are cutting back,” Christian explained. “ Some items, maybe they can do without until next year…they’re going to make do.”
Gvozdanovic said he was concerned that so much money was being cut by administration without input from members of city council.
“If there’s items being cut by administration then that has to come back to council,” Gvozdanovic declared.
“We approved the budget for 2008 and we spent all that time in budget meetings, okay, and then all of a sudden we’re talking about a three or four hundred thousand dollar increase in fuel, and you guys turn around and say ‘we’ll be okay’,” he said.
“To me it sends a message that there’s three or four hundred thousand dollars that’s either been cut somewhere that we don’t know about,” Gvozdanovic added.
Mayor Tom Laughren suggested that the city’s administration was merely letting council there was a problem with fuel costs and was taking steps to adjust for it.
“And I would think that’s the prudent thing to do,” the mayor said.
“Well you know what your worship, I disagree 100 per cent with that,” said Gvozdanovic.
City administrator Joe Torlone told council that the savings of $300,000 to $400,000 is not coming from one or two major projects.
“We shave a little bit here, we shave a little be there,” Torlone told the councillors.
“It could be the sum of a hundred different initiatives,” Torlone explained, adding that if council wishes, he can bring in every last dollar-saving document.
He added that each department was looking at savings, but no important items or programs were being cut. “It might be one less trip for training, or something like that,” Torlone said.
City engineer Luc Duval explained that the city’s road paving budget will allow his department to save upwards of $200,000 because the roads budget was big enough it had a bit of “cushion” in it to absorb extra costs.
Duval said the intention of his department was to apply any leftover funds to major road patching work such as the Kamiskotia Highway. He added that public works employees have contributed to many costs savings. As an example, Duval said city workers who go to work in the Kamiskotia area can now take advantage of portable toilets, so they don’t have to come back to the shop for lunch.
That statement surprised some city councillors.
“I can’t understand that if you’re working at Kamiskotia and you have to go to the washroom, or for lunch, that people would drive all the way back to the shop… is that because there’s no washroom facility out there?” asked Gvozdanovic.
Public works supervisor Chris Bazinet admitted that was the situation “at one time”.
“Okay, so at one point in time when they started the job and they were working at Kamiskotia, all the trucks would come back for lunch?,” asked Gvozdanovic.
“Yes,” said Bazinet.
“That’s like a half an hour drive here, half an hour for lunch…you’re losing two hours of production…”
“That was past practice, yes,” said Bazinet.
Bazinet said once the issue was identified as a problem, the issue was resolved.
“The employees at public works know when they’re wasting money… and they don’t necessarily like it,” said Bazinet adding that when changes are brought in to make things better, “you really get a positive response.”
City councillor Denis Saudino was also surprised at the information about Kamiskotia…
“My one question is on this thing about coming back for lunch from Kamiskotia, can you believe, what… what took so long?” asked Saudino.
“Sorry, if I may interject, I don’t believe that was standard practice all the time,” said city administrator Joe Torlone.
“I think we’re carrying this a bit too far, I don’t think it’s an everyday occurrence,” said Torlone.
City Engineer Luc Duval suggested that of the hundreds of activities carried out by public works, most are done well, and that the Kamiskotia lunch break was mentioned only to show that things are being improved on.
Among other spending considerations at the halfway point in the city’s budget, hydro costs are at 56.5 per cent. This is a drop from the same time last year, when hydro costs were at 59.8 per cent.
Natural gas costs at the halfway mark were at 60.1 per cent, which compares with 68.2 per cent at the same time last year.
Wages and benefits for city workers were pegged at 48.7 per cent of the budget, even though 50 per cent of the payroll had been processed.