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Youth earn $5,000 for Haliburton Heat Bank

Joseph Quigley

Two Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) students earned $5,000 for Heat Bank Haliburton County through the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Canada June 4.  

Bence Suranyi and Stefan Salaris beat out their Grade 10 civics classmates with their presentation on the Heat Bank.

The school-wide competition is part of the YPI program, which runs similar charitable contests in schools around the world.  

Suranyi said their presentation highlighted the success stories of the charity.

“The Haliburton Heat Bank is a less-known charity than the other ones that were competing,” Suranyi said. “I think that helped shed light on the Heat Bank.”  

“The stories that (Heat Bank co-ordinator) Tina (Jackson) gave were probably really moving because sometimes they were really tragic,” Salaris added. 

 The YPI initiative has run at HHSS for 12 years. The program goes into the curriculum as a graded project for the school’s civics class. The project requires students to engage with charities in their community and share what they have learned in a presentation. The top-five projects compete in front of the school, with the winning group earning $5,000 for their charity.

The group has donated more than $50,000 to local charities since it started running in Haliburton.  Teacher Paul Longo, who co-ordinates YPI at HHSS, said the program remains successful. 

“It gets Grade 10 students out in the community, visiting charities, asking questions, learning about what we do in this community that’s so important as far as volunteer work,” Longo said. 

Jackson said the charity, which provides firewood and heat to vulnerable people, has participated in projects for YPI before. But this is the first time the charity has won.  

“I am just so proud of the work that both of these youth did, in pouring everything into the presentation that won us the money,” Jackson said. “This is one of the largest donations we’ll likely receive this year.“

They were absolutely passionate. They believed in what we were doing,” she added.  

Salaris said to succeed in the competition, it is vital to choose a charity you care about.  “Pick a charity you believe in, like and would stand for,” he said.


Shutout leads Storm to victory

A Saturday morning tilt between the Highland Storm U11 Cottage Country Building Supplies and Almaguin Ice Devils featured two top teams vying for the right to crown themselves first in the league.

Both teams brought their A-game – a busy opening period saw the two teams cancel one another out. Heading into the second, James Hamilton gave the Storm the lead, potting after a net front scramble to get the home side on the board. The score remained 1-0 heading into the final frame.

The Ice Devils continued to push hard during the third period, creating several scoring opportunities after pinning the Storm back. They maintained continued offensive zone pressure, but stellar goaltending from Mason Bishop, and a concentrated team defensive effort, halted the comeback attempt.

It was a gutsy effort for the Storm en route to a 1-0 win.


Huskies put together three straight wins

Haliburton County Huskies head coach Ryan Ramsay believes his team has turned a corner after three wins in four days last week, keeping the hometown team in contention for a playoff spot.

The blue and white recorded a 6-1 win over the Brantford 99ers on the road Nov. 30, before a herculean effort Dec. 1 saw them topple the second-place Wellington Dukes 3-1. They rounded out their perfect weekend with a 2-1 win on home ice Dec. 3 against the Stouffville Spirit.

“I was really impressed with the effort, and the maturity we displayed, especially against Wellington. That’s the first time we’ve ever won there, so that was a big one for us,” Ramsay said.

Logan Kennedy backstopped the Huskies to a comfortable victory in Brantford. Nicholas Lamont opened the scoring with a powerplay marker 4:48 into the first period, set up by Ty Petrou and Patrick Saini. Lucas Marshall doubled the lead 2:50 into the second, unassisted.

Evin Kojokaro potted one for the home side at 5:26 of the middle frame, scoring his 17th goal of the season on the powerplay.

Isaac Larmand scored a shorthanded goal at 8:49, assisted by Lucas Vacca and Noah Lodoen, with Saini adding a fourth five minutes before the second whistle after being set up by Petrou and Lucas Stevenson. Alex Bradshaw, from Stevenson and Charlie Fink, and Gavin McGahey-Smith, from Ethan Wright and Lodoen, rounded out the scoring in the third.

Friday night in Wellington will go down in history due to visiting netminder, Brett Fullerton’s, goalie goal in the closing seconds. It was a spirited come-from-behind effort for the Huskies, who went a goal down in the first period but rebounded in the third with tallies from Stevenson, assisted by Jack Staniland and Petrou, and Antonio Cerqua, assisted by Stevenson and Bradshaw. Fullerton’s marker, at 19:40 was unassisted.

Sunday’s tilt in Minden against the Spirit was a rollercoaster. The Huskies were largely outplayed in the opening period, with Fullerton in fine form to keep Stouffville’s dynamic attack at bay. Stevenson grabbed the game’s first goal 11:39 into the second, unassisted. That held up until 15:51 of the final frame, when Andoni Fimis thought his effort was sending the game to overtime. But Bradshaw stepped up with the game-winner 45 seconds later to send the fans home happy.

The team sits in eighth in the OJHL East Conference with 32 points, 15 wins, 13 losses and two ties. They are back in action Dec. 8 on the road against the Aurora Tigers before hosting the Pickering Panthers in Minden Dec. 9. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m.


Fullerton makes history with rare goalie goal

With less than 30 seconds left on the clock, and a competitive game in a hostile barn on a knife’s edge, Haliburton County Huskies netminder Brett Fullerton shut out all the noise, vacated his crease, brought a bouncing puck under control by the boards, gazed down the ice and let fly.

Time seemed to stand still at Lehigh Arena, home of the rival Wellington Dukes, Dec. 1 after Fullerton recorded an uber-rare goalie goal. Not only was it the first in Huskies franchise history, it’s believed to be the first league-wide in more than 11 years.

Officially timed at 19:40, the late tally was the icing on the cake for a Huskies outfit chasing its first-ever win at the venue. It secured a 3-1 result for the blue and white.

The Highlander caught up with Fullerton and several other Huskies players and staff members this week to reflect on the goal. The 19-year-old Ancaster, ON native said it wasn’t planned, noting his instincts kicked in once he realized there was a chance.

“All I remember is them dumping it in and so I skate out to meet the puck, look up and I notice their goalie was gone, so I just shot it. I didn’t even think about it, it kinda just happened,” Fullerton said. “The rest, after that, is a bit of a blur.”

The Huskies social media manager, Noah Giordano, spotted the opportunity before Fullerton had reached the puck. The teams were all square on the ice, five-on-five, after Dukes blueliner Dimitri-Alexander Tzaferis took a tripping call at 18:59. Chasing the game, home coach Kent Lewis brought his netminder, Jack Lisson, to the bench.

“I just said ‘shoot Fully, go for it’, and he did,” Giordano said. “It was insane.”

Captain Patrick Saini was skating back into his own zone when he saw Fullerton leave the net.

“I know he likes to play the puck, so I wasn’t thinking anything of it. Then I notice him look up and I just remember thinking ‘there’s no way he’s trying this right now’,” Saini said. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen playing hockey. You see goalie goals on clips on Instagram and it’s cool, but to see one in-person is nuts.”

Huskies forward Lucas Stevenson had a front row seat.

“I was on the ice and he ended up shooting it up my side – the puck just flew up into the air. It almost hit the scoreboard they have coming down from the roof at centre ice,” Stevenson said. “It looked like it was going to miss just to the right initially, but then it swung left, bounced, and trickled in. We all went nuts.”

Isaac Larmand was watching from the bench with bated breath. He was following the play when one of the coaches called out, “wow, he’s trying it boys.” From his angle, it didn’t look like it was going to go in. Then it did.

“It was just an explosion, none of us could believe it,” Larmand said. “We were all just in awe, coaches included. For him to do that, with a couple of Wellington forwards hounding him, it was a one-in-a-million moment, for sure.”

As those on the ice celebrated, Stevenson told Fullerton to “run the train” and mark the occasion with the rest of the team. He skated by the bench, receiving high-fives from everyone.

After the game, he was presented with the puck, which he has since taped and added the result, date and opponent.

“That’ll be a nice keepsake probably for the rest of my life,” Fullerton said. “It’s definitely something really cool. Not something you ever think you’re going to experience as a goalie. I’m glad I did it… I think this is top of the list now as far as career accomplishments go.”

The teen noted it wasn’t his first attempt – he tried for one last season while playing Jr. B with the Chatham Maroons, and again a couple years back with the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit.

It was a special moment for head coach Ryan Ramsay, who has enjoyed a near 20-year career playing professionally and coaching junior without ever seeing a goalie goal in-person. He said he was delivering some final messages to some guys preparing to hit the ice when he saw the puck fly up into the air.

“I didn’t know who had shot it until it went in and everyone started going crazy,” Ramsay said. “His shot is unbelievable – it’s the hardest goalie shot I’ve seen, and he’s probably the best goalie for coming out and playing the puck [that I’ve worked with]. The kid has got a cannon. Good for him, it was a great moment.”

Fullerton’s family were able to share in the moment while watching the game live online. The goalie credits his heavy shot to his dad, Greg, who set up a shooting room in the family home for he and his brother while growing up.

“It definitely makes it more special knowing they were watching – I owe everything I have in hockey to them. They called me right after the game and said they had a bunch of family friends over at the house for the game, and everyone went crazy when I scored,” Fullerton said.

“This is something that will stick with me forever.”


Sailing snorkelling and sleeping out

Fancy spending an hour on a sailing adventure in the Philippines?

While the Haliburton County Community Cooperative can’t transport you there Dec. 13, you can hear all about Andrea Hagarty and Johnny Waite’s tale of their February 2023 trip at the Speaker Series at the fish hatchery Dec. 13.

The two travelled on a 74’ wooden Paraw through the Palawan Islands.

The Cooperative’s Barrie Martin said that in addition to sharing their experiences of sailing, snorkeling and sleeping in traditional bamboo huts on remote islands, Hagarty and Waite “will be telling the incredible story of how the provider, Tao Adventures, has become an integral part of the local economy, providing hundreds of jobs for the wonderful people from this extraordinary corner of the world.”

He said the two have promised to share images of spectacular scenery, stormy seas, and endless adventures.

Hagarty is the long-time proprietor of Bonnie View Inn on Lake Kashagawigamog. Waite is a coach, speaker and international event organizer, having created various adventure races in dozens of countries.

They started dating in February 2015 and, after agreeing to “keep it casual” ended up traveling the world together instead – and got married in December 2015 in Mendoza, Argentina after climbing Mount Aconcagua (the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas).

Since then, they have never looked back and, now retired, have founded The Golden Age of Adventure – a company devoted to creating travel experiences for others.

This is the second time they have been speaker series guest presenters.

“When we spoke about our Aconcagua climb, it took us right back to the mountain ourselves, so we are very much looking forward to revisiting this awesome sailing experience,” the two said.

Martin added, “the season is off to a great start with three very entertaining and informative presentations behind us. We are very excited for the months ahead. Maryam Monsef, Ian Tamblyn, Charlie Angus, Ted Barris, Ruth Walker, Jane Selbie, Wendy Wood and Sandi Luck will be our featured speakers.”

The series happens on the second Wednesday of the month, at 7-9 p.m. at the HHOA Fish Hatchery. Admission is $15 per person payable, at the door. If you would like to receive more information or have a story you would like to tell, please email or call 705-457-7557.


Man jailed for sexual assault

An Algonquin Highlands man has been sentenced to 90 days in jail, to be served on weekends, and nine months of house arrest after being found guilty of sexual assault and unlawfully entering a dwelling following an incident in the community in February 2021.

Paul Gregory Watson confronted an elderly neighbour in her home without her permission late at night Feb. 17, 2021, making several sexual advances. When rebuffed, Watson persisted, exposing himself while expressing his fondness for the victim, an Oshawa courtroom heard Nov. 30.

The sentence was handed down by Justice Russell Wood, who had earlier found Watson guilty on both counts on July 19. Crown prosecutor, Rebecca Griffin, had sought an 18-month jail sentence.

Wood noted how Watson’s act was a clear betrayal of trust, given his familiarity with the victim. He and his wife, Michelle, had temporarily lived with her while their home was being renovated, while Watson would regularly assist with chores on the property.

The judge added Watson’s actions have had a “profound impact” on the victim’s life. The woman, in her late 70s, sold her home and moved away from the community, something she was not previously planning to do. Wood said the victim impact statement was “quite harrowing.

“Her experience over the last couple of years has been very difficult, to put it mildly. Mr. Watson’s conduct turned her world upside down… she has always felt capable and safe. Mr. Watson shattered the confidence in her,” Wood said. “She has relocated and changed her daily routines and leisure activities. She has been attending counselling sessions to cope with what took place.”

He added, “obviously, this was not how she had hoped to spend her golden years.” In landing at what he deemed to be an appropriate sentence, Wood said he considered the impact this had on the victim.

“It cannot be understated that sexual assault is inherently invasive and violent. Although the degree of intrusion here is not at the more aggravating end of the spectrum… it is clear Mr. Watson’s conduct has had a very profound impact… in my view, jail time is necessary,” Wood said.

He suggested an intermittent sentence based on Watson being a first-time offender and the testimony of his wife, who said she relied on her husband to run their shared business, Watson General Contracting, and to assist her with medical-related issues.

It was noted Watson works long hours with his waste management company, which, it was noted, manages several municipal landfill sites, including in Minden Hills and Algonquin Highlands.

Minden mayor, Bob Carter, said he did not know all the facts and refrained from commenting when approached by The Highlander. He noted while municipal employees have to provide a criminal record check prior to their employment, the same conditions aren’t extended to contractors. He was unsure if the issue would be addressed by council at its next meeting Dec. 14.

Algonquin Highlands mayor, Liz Danielsen, said the township is investigating what approach to take.

Wood noted a letter submitted to the court by Watson, expressing remorse for his actions, was “quite heartfelt.

“This is a situation where a carefully crafted blended sentence… will effectively meet the objectives and principals of sentencing. It sends the appropriate message to Mr. Watson that his conduct was serious and will not be condoned by the community. Further, it will allow Mr. Watson to explore rehabilitation, continue with his employment, and assist his spouse,” Wood said.

The sexual assault charge carries an eight-month probation, as well as 90-day incarceration, with the unlawful entry of a dwelling carrying two years of probation, on top of nine months of house arrest. Watson is prohibited from possessing any firearms for five years and will be placed on the Ontario Sex Offender Registry for 10 years.

He is to serve his sentence at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, presenting himself on Friday evenings and being released Monday morning. He is ordered to remain in Ontario for the entirety of his sentence, and, when on house arrest, seek permission for attending medical appointments and religious services.

Wood noted Watson is to present himself at the request of his supervisor at all times during the period of house arrest, or risk facing further jail time.


Minden dissolves committee of adjustment

A Minden Hills council decision to disband its committee of adjustment has been criticized by existing members, although the town’s mayor says they are within their rights to make a change.

Committee members have received a phone call and follow-up letter, and the township is advertising for new committee members.

Two of five publicly-appointed committee members – Bill Blakes and Dick Schell – spoke with The Highlander on Dec. 1, as did mayor Bob Carter.

Blakes said he had been on the committee seven or eight years, and dealt with hundreds of applications, with no problems. He added while he suspects the move is because the committee went against the town planner on a couple of recent files, he claims the committee members were not given a reason for the decision.

However, he said his interpretation of bylaw 2084 s. 623 is that there has to be supporting rationale for the disbanding of a committee. “There was no reason given at all.”

Carter said, “I think it’s important that we didn’t fire them. We disbanded the committee with the intention of appointing a new committee. Anybody who was on the old committee could apply to go on the new committee. We can restart the committee at any time. It’ll come down to seeing who else in the community is interested and qualified.”

Carter added when they set up the committee following the last election, they wanted to be able to review its work. “This is sort of like a one-year review, and so, we’re going to reappoint for the upcoming year type of thing.”

Asked if they would reapply, Schell, who said he has been a township volunteer for 43 years and a member of the committee for 27, replied, “no, once bitten, twice shy.”

The committee – for which council chooses members – is looking for people to serve from 2024-2026. The deadline to apply is Dec. 8. The committee considers applications for minor variances from the township’s zoning bylaw as set out in the Planning Act. A minor variance may allow property owners to use their land in a way that does not comply exactly with the requirements of the bylaw. The committee comprises the town planner and five community members.

Carter added the committee is quasi-judicial and its decisions are final unless appealed.

“I’m not saying that everything has to be copasetic and there’s never going to be a disagreement… but they just seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so we want to see if there is a possibility of doing something different. Having said that, in a small community, you can’t make this just business, it’s taken as personal.”

Blakes and Schell said they are taking it personal as word spreads.

Blakes said during meetings, the members look at information from the town planner but also from consultants representing the applicant. He said they had recently voted in favour of the applicants on a couple of cases.

Blakes, who worked for the City of Toronto for 28 years and believes he is highly qualified, said, “they (council) may have authority to do it (disband the committee) but it’s questionable. There is something wrong with this.”


Nelson wants to see HHHS ‘grow and thrive’

Despite only serving as acting Haliburton Highlands Health Services president and CEO for a matter of months, Veronica Nelson’s fingerprints can be found throughout the County hospital.

Nelson’s interim title was made permanent Dec. 4. It’s something of a homecoming for the administrator, who, in the early stages of her career, spent time working in imaging and diagnostics at the old Minden site.

After transitioning to a director role at Lindsay’s Ross Memorial Hospital, Nelson stayed true to her Highlands’ roots. She worked with former administrator, Varouj Eskedjian, to bring ultrasound and echo services to the County, and later assisted his successor, Carolyn Plummer, on the proposal to bring a CT scanner and mammography unit to the area.

Nelson noted plans are moving ahead for that enhancement, with the organization putting out a tender for construction for the $4.3 million project on Dec. 4. She said the goal is to have everything in place for a summer 2024 launch.

In an interview with The Highlander, she said her main priority moving forward was to rebuild the community’s trust in HHHS. Discussing the closure of the Minden ER site, the new president and CEO admitted the organization had faltered by not engaging with the public.

“We do have to acknowledge that [the closure] wasn’t handled the best way. To me, we did go wrong by not communicating with the community before making the announcement, 100 per cent,” Nelson said.

She stood behind the “difficult decision” the board made to close the site, noting it was necessary to ensure the County had one solid, operational emergency department.

Since June 1, HHHS has drastically scaled back its spend on agency nurses. While she couldn’t provide specific numbers, Nelson said the organizational deficit, pegged at around $4.2 million at the end of the 2022/23 fiscal year in April, had shrunk to around $1.7 million as of Sept. 30. She attributed much of that to a decreased reliance on agency staff.

Financial pressures do remain – Nelson noted the repealing of Bill 124 and subsequent renegotiation of nurse contracts was expected to cost HHHS an additional $3.5 million this fiscal year, while inflation and increases to other costs is set to add another $1.5 million to $2 million.

“We still have an underlying structural base funding problem. The board and I have been doing significant advocacy work to try and address that,” she noted.

After taking comments from the public “very seriously” regarding rumours of people applying for jobs at HHHS and not hearing back, Nelson said she oversaw “drastic changes” to the hospital’s HR department through the summer. Since then, around 30 new staff members have been brought on board.

That hiring push will continue, with Nelson working closely with County physician recruitment coordinator, Wendy Welch, to attract new doctors to the Highlands. She said the organization has some leads on overseas-trained doctors currently living and working in the UK.

She believes HHHS will be a much more attractive proposition once the CT scanner and mammography unit is online.

County council recently donated $1 million to that project on the premise they’re granted a seat on the HHHS board. Nelson said it’s her understanding the board is open to that.

She said she has big plans for HHHS.

“I have a dream. We’re working on our master program master plan right now… we’re getting our stage 1 pre-capital submissions into the ministry. What that does is it puts us on the list to say ‘hey, we have our hand up, we want to start doing something’,” Nelson said. “So, services like CT, mammography, endoscopy, MRI. We’re never going to be able to do neurology here, we don’t have the capacity, but we can look at things that make sense for our rural hospital.

“I never want to stand still. I want to see this place grow and thrive,” she added.


Danielsen, Carter running for warden

Algonquin Highlands mayor Liz Danielsen is seeking a sixth consecutive year as County warden, but Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter, in running against her Dec. 12, said the position was supposed to be rotated on an annual basis and it is time for change.

Danielsen, who claimed the warden’s chair in 2019, at the outset of COVID-19, has not had to relinquish it, although she has been challenged, winning by having her name pulled out of a box last time around.

She has long said she thinks “consistency” is key.

“Our staff are our biggest resource, our strongest resource. We are about to recruit a new planning director, a new director of public works, we have a brand-new CAO,” Danielsen said. “The staff are a really strong, tightly-knit, group and I know they were nervous about (former CAO Mike Rutter) leaving and who was going to be in place. They know me. They work well with me. Continuity is important now. Having a new warden, who could very well take things in a different direction, is probably not the best thing for everybody concerned.”

The sitting warden added during her tenure, councils had tackled the shoreline preservation bylaw and short-term rental bylaw. She conceded they’d struggled with the services delivery review but, “if given another year, we can really pin down where we see some areas with success.”

Danielsen also argued that having a warden from Algonquin Highlands or Highlands East ensures more County-wide neutrality, as opposed to Dysart et al and Minden Hills.

“We’re more neutral when it comes to things like EMS bases, housing funding, and transportation. We pay into it but we don’t get anything out of it. Minden Hills and Haliburton, with greater tax bases and larger populations, they’re the ones who get those sorts of things and, consequently, there’s more conflict between the two of them, which creates more challenges within the County. That Haliburton versus Minden thing is not there for me.”

Carter focused on housing

Carter said it’s true the County is in a changing environment, but not just staff. He said they are dealing with major provincial government policy shifts that are greatly affecting all of Ontario’s 444 municipalities but fiscally impacting rural and regional communities.

“Our cost of doing business is now not significantly less than it is in bigger centres, when our situation is we have pretty much a service-based economy. We don’t have any industries or large commercial enterprises that can help us with the tax base. Any money we have to spend, we have to get from the taxpayers, so I’m really conscious of that situation and see our costs continuing to go up.”

Carter sits on the boards of the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton Housing Corporation and Habitat for Humanity. He said there’s “still so much to be done” on the file but it is difficult to build affordable housing.

“How do we subsidize the numbers we need right now? We would have to take the money out of our tax base and with no large industry or commercial establishments, I’m very concerned about the financial impact on the County on a go-forward basis.”

Carter said there is some movement, including the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) 7-in-7 initiative. “I’d like to sit at that (EOWC) table for a while to try to see if I can contribute and make things better for Haliburton County.”

The Minden Hills mayor added that, for him, it is not about “being warden for life or anything. The whole idea of the warden was supposed to be some sort of rotation. It was not something where wardens were put in permanently, which is why we do it once a year. I spent a year learning things at the County level and I’d like to try to make things better here in Haliburton County.

“The world is changing. Sometimes you need to not necessarily have that same thinking and that same continuity. I would say we’re in a dynamic environment with a new CEO and so on.”

He acknowledged Danielsen’s work in leading the shoreline preservation bylaw and short-term rental bylaw but said, “now we have to concentrate on some other things. It’s not a continuity thing. It’s new things. That’s where I’m at.”


Ministry probes Wigamog Inn demolition

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) is investigating the ongoing demolition of the Wigamog Inn property in Haliburton.

Shannon Simpkins, MECP spokesperson, told The Highlander the ministry received a complaint in August and has followed up, with site assessment ongoing.

“The ministry was made aware of demolition activities occurring at the Wigamog Inn through public concerns related to waste disposal activities and potential impacts to species at-risk. We are currently assessing site activities to ensure compliance with the applicable environmental legislation,” Simpkins said.

Asked for specifics on the legislation, what the ministry was investigating, protocols used to determine if rules had been broken, and the potential punishments, Simpkins said, “it would not be appropriate to speculate” until the investigation is complete.

Hailey Cole, Dysart et al bylaw officer, has been assisting with the investigation. She said all remaining demolition and removal of debris is on hold until the MECP wraps up, with the municipality aiming for a tentative completion date sometime in spring 2024.

The Wigamog has been in a state of disrepair for years. Aurora Group purchased the property in March 2016, announcing big plans for the site. A proposal posted to the company’s website included reopening the inn and the Moose Bar and Grill. There was also talk of a new residential development, featuring 180 condos, townhouses, and detached homes.

Years went by without any action. Dysart’s previous bylaw officer, Robert Mascia, reported carrying out multiple inspections of the property between 2019 and May 2022, when he issued a remedial action notice to Aurora Group outlining 47 infractions of the township’s property standards bylaw. Issues varied from downed power lines to smashed windows, damaged doors, and collapsed decks.

At a property standards committee meeting in fall 2022, Aurora Group said they intended to demolish the 37 buildings that make up the Wigamog site. They then missed a deadline to submit a demolition permit, which led to the committee, in October 2022, directing Dysart’s chief building official, Karl Korpela, to issue an RFP to have the site torn down.

Staff were still working on the RFP in March when Aurora Group started the demolition process. To date, around a dozen buildings have been taken down.

The Wigamog was discussed briefly among Dysart’s elected officials Nov. 28, with coun. Barry Boice saying he’s heard there are squatters living inside the building.

“People are telling me there are lights going off throughout the night… someone found canisters in there that look like [they store] propane, canned food,” he said.

Cole said this was the first she had heard of people illegally residing on the property, telling council she would follow up.

Deputy mayor, Walt McKechnie, told The Highlander he was pleased the MECP had gotten involved, believing it will force Aurora Group into action.

“When you bring the ministry into the playing field, the game kind of changes a bit. You’ve got to start playing by their rules,” McKechnie said. “This is a really big concern. Every week we’re getting calls, all of council. I’m running into people in the street, in the store, and they all want to know what’s going on with the Wigamog… I think a lot of people will still not be happy, because they wanted action yesterday, but they’re going to see action soon.”

Aurora Group did not respond to The Highlander’s request for comment.


Repair Café bringing December cheer

With Christmas just around the corner – and many feeling the need to tighten their budget this year – SIRCH is bringing back its repair café Dec. 3.

The event takes place at the SIRCH Bistro this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This event is free and welcomes young and old to enjoy a day of tinkering, fun and an opportunity to learn new skills,” said Repair Café coordinator, Dianne Woodcock.

Repair Café helps people repair broken items, such as small household appliances, toys, electronics, pottery and more. A team of volunteers with expertise in making things work will be on hand to assess items and get them working again.

This will mark the fourth Repair Café SIRCH has held this year. All have contributed to keeping reusable items out of landfills and helping the environment, Woodcock said. It also benefits the community by connecting individuals with their neighbours, teaching them new skills and saving people money.

“SIRCH Repair Café wants to help reduce the mountains of waste that our landfills experience. We have gotten used to saying ‘oh, it’s broken, I’ll have to buy a new one’ when what we’d like is for people to say ‘oh it’s broken – I hope it can be repaired’,” said Woodcock. “Many of us have forgotten that so many things can be repaired and SIRCH Repair Café wants to change that”

If you have children, Woodcock said you won’t want to miss out on the tinker table. In partnership with the Haliburton County Public Library, the tinker table allows kids to use their imaginations and try their hand at fixing things. This week, the tinker table will feature maker toys including Snap Circuits and 3D pens.

The SIRCH Bistro is located at 49 Maple Ave., Haliburton, next to Emmerson Lumber. For more information call 705-457-1742 or email