GUELPH – Wellington County’s library system will benefit from a posthumous donation of more than a quarter-million dollars.
At the Nov. 30 county council meeting, Wellington County library board chair councillor Mary Lloyd announced the library is one of the beneficiaries of the estate of Jon Gregg Murray, who bequeathed the county library system $257,640.
“On behalf of Wellington County council and our residents, I would like to thank Mr. Murray for his generosity in supporting the Wellington County Library,” stated Warden Andy Lennox in a press release issued by the county.
“Mr. Murray’s incredible donation recognizes the important role the library system plays in our communities. Through services, programming and collections, libraries educate, engage, and enrich the lives of our residents.”
Murray was a resident of Caressant Care retirement home in Fergus and was an avid user of library outreach services provided at the home, which in turn inspired him to leave a portion of his estate to the library, the release states.
Lloyd told county councillors the board was notified of the bequest a few months ago.
“When he was in Caressant Care, he was a beneficiary of our outreach program that takes library materials into long-term care facilities for an opportunity to borrow. And because of that contact with our outreach librarians, we have touched his life so that he chose us as one of his beneficiaries,” she explained.
“The Wellington County library board would like to publicly acknowledge this incredibly generous donation to our library system.”
Lloyd added, “Libraries offer free access to educational resources, entertainment materials and special programming for all ages.
“Mr. Murray’s donation will help to ensure that special outreach will continue bringing the services to our residents where they live in care facilities. Thank you, Mr. Murray.”
The release states the library board looks forward to having the additional funds available “to further enhance its library system.”
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GUELPH – Wellington County’s tax levy for 2024 would increase by 4.8 per cent under the latest budget proposal before county council.
The levy increase is down from the 5.3% hike projected in an earlier version of the budget, thanks largely to the proposed closure of a $1.6 million rural broadband capital project.
At its Nov. 21 meeting, the county’s economic development committee agreed to take the project out of its draft budget, with $600,000 to be used to reduce the tax levy in 2024 and the remaining $1 million to be transferred to a contingency and stabilization reserve for possible use towards the Ride Well program if it continues beyond the current March 31, 2025 end date.
Councillor Jeff Duncan, chair of the economic development committee, noted the broadband funds were designated for some work that is “not going to be required.”
The draft 2024 budget projects total expenditures of $293.3 million and a levy (amount supported by local taxation, as opposed to grants, user fees or other revenue) of $129 million, up 4.8% from 2023.
That would mean a tax increase of $31 per $100,000 of residential assessment.
The county’s 10 year plan shows a projected levy increase of 4.7% in 2025, before dropping progressively to between 3.6% and 3.3% from 2026 to 2028 and to under 3% between 2029 and 2033, when the projected levy increase is estimated at 2.5%.
“The inflation factor for 2024 represents the current non-residential building construction price index,” states a report from county treasurer Ken DeHart.
“It is anticipated that inflation will return to historical levels and the future forecast reflects this expectation.”
The projected levies through the first half of the upcoming 10-year budget cycle are higher than projected in last year’s 10-year plan.
The report notes inflation and economic conditions, combined with provincial policy changes on development charges, as major factors in the need for more local tax dollars.
“After many years of low tax rate increases and a stable economy with low inflation (county tax rates increased by an average of 2.4% annually for 14 years between 2009 and 2022), the post-pandemic recovery has brought upon many new economic challenges,” the report states.
“Geo-political tensions, global supply chain disruptions, an aging population, record levels of immigration, a shortage of skilled labour and an inability for new housing builds to keep up with demand have all had negative effects on the global, domestic and local economies.
“The result of all these factors is a rampant increase in inflation – including labour, construction costs, service contracts and insurance rates.”
The report continues, “At the same time, demands on public services are increasing and the county’s population is growing. There has been a significant drop in housing affordability, an increase in homelessness, and more demands on health care that comes with a growing and aging population – such as paramedic services and long-term care.
“At the same time, in order to combat inflation and housing affordability concerns, the Bank of Canada has been increasing interest rates and the provincial government has been providing additional exemptions on municipal development charges.
“The change in interest rates will increase the county’s cost to borrow, while the drop in the county’s ability to collect development charges – during a period of high growth and increasing capital costs – means that costs will shift from new development onto existing property taxpayers.”
County staff are estimating a drop in anticipated development charge revenue of anywhere between $11.8 million and $19.7 million over the next decade.
“This impacts the county’s ability to pay for growth and, as a result, has delayed the construction of some of the new garages that were included in last year’s capital forecast and shifted some costs away from growth and onto the county tax levy,” the report notes.Related Articles
- Budget pressure expected to push up county tax increases
The report points out the draft budget includes use of reserve funds to keep the levy increase from going even higher.
“Without the strategic use of the county’s reserves and dedicating resources to correcting the gravel assessments, the (2024) county levy would have been at least 2% higher (6.8%).”
The draft 10-year capital forecast projects a total capital investment of $562.9 million over the next 10 years, including $262.8 million for roads, bridges and culverts, and $109.9 million in roads facilities and equipment, representing 66.2% of total capital spending.
Other key initiatives include:
- continued construction of a library branch in Erin;
- development of the county’s only active landfill site at Riverstown;
- construction of new garages in Arthur, Erin, Brucedale and Harriston;
- construction of new ambulance facilities throughout the county; and
- construction of three new affordable housing buildings and an ongoing investment in county-owned existing social and affordable housing units.
The 2024 capital budget is funded through a mix of sources including:
- 4% from reserves;
- 2% from federal and provincial funding;
- 9% municipal recoveries (predominantly for social housing and roads related projects);
- 9% development charges and growth-related debentures; and
- 6% debentures.
“In an effort to minimize the effect on the tax levy,” the report states the 10-year forecast relies on $81.8 million in debt funding for the upgrading or replacing six ambulance stations and six roads garages, as well as work at the Elora waste facility, the Erin library and several roads projects.
County councillors will meet in early January for a special budget session, after which possible budget revisions will be considered at committee meetings that month, before the budget and 10-year plan are presented for passage at the Jan. 25 county council meeting.
One project likely to be discussed is a $1.3 million pavilion proposed for the County of Wellington Museum grounds in Aboyne. The project escaped a preemptive axing at the Nov. 30 meeting after councillor Steve O’Neill questioned the need for it.
O’Neil noted the pavilion was originally estimated to cost $750,000, but the latest projections show an added $600,000 for the project.
“That’s an excessive amount for a project that we do not have to do. We are in a spot where our budget is going up about $1.3 million for a service that is not essential … it’s not necessary,” O’Neill stated.
“I will agree with councillor O’Neill that this project has morphed and almost doubled in price and it’s that ‘need versus want,’” said councillor Earl Campbell.
“I think the need for pavilion stands on its own, but I think the design of (the pavilion) and the expense of that could be reconsidered, possibly almost so far as to suggest that another architect be used to come up with a secondary plan, then you’ve got something to compare it to.”
Wellington Place director Jana Burns explained the additional cost for the pavilion stems from increased costs for labour and construction materials and efforts have been made to reduce expenses, including limiting paving around the facility in favour of more grass area.
“The pavilion is a three-seasons structure. It’s enclosed on three sides. It serves as a public space for gatherings, for Indigenous events,” she said.
“It was discussed in mind with the creation of the Indigenous Gathering Circle.”
Burns noted the facility would also be rented out for celebrations and used for events such as the county’s multicultural festival or other programming at the museum.
“When it comes what this building actually is and whether it’s a nice-to-have, or whether it’s a need, you can make that argument for almost anything short of maybe a road or a bridge,” said councillor Doug Breen.
“So the question for me is really will it be used, because we could build something that costs half as much, but if no one uses it then that’s a bigger waste of money than spending on something that will actually be used.”
Breen continued, “I actually think that what’s proposed there will be used and will be used heavily by the public … I mean, you could say that New York Central Park was a waste of money too, right?”
Information, heritage and seniors committee chair Mary Lloyd noted the intent of the facility is to provide a sheltered area for outdoor activities.
She pointed out the county’s day care and retirement living facilities, also located at the Aboyne campus, would be among the users of the pavilion.
“Having activities under a shelter where children and seniors can be protected from the elements, as far as I’m concerned, is far more reasonable than expecting them to sit out in a very fully-exposed area,” said Lloyd.
At O’Neill’s request, the museum and archives 10-year capital forecast and operating budget was voted on separately from the rest of the committee’s November meeting minutes.
A motion to endorse the forecast, including the pavilion structure, for continued budget deliberations was approved in a recorded vote, with only O’Neill objecting.
Lennox told council he is expecting robust discussion on broad terms and specific items as the budget process moves forward.
“These decisions need to be ours,” he stated.
“We have a number of issues you raised … I think we’re going to have to vote on those things and decide that we, as collective, these are the direction we’re going to support, or not …
“Maybe that’s different than the process we’ve had in the past, but I absolutely think that we’ve got to get this stuff out on the table to vote on so that everybody feels that they have a chance to have input into this process.”
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PUSLINCH – What could be more environmentally sustainable than getting a real Christmas tree as opposed to an artificial one?
Getting a real tree that’s wrapped in biodegradable netting and not the usual plastic netting, Alison McCrindle says.
McCrindle and her husband Joe Wareham have owned Chickadee Christmas Tree Farm, located in Puslinch, since 1997 and have been selling trees since 2002.
But using single-use plastic has weighed heavily on their minds and they started exploring biodegradable netting instead.
“The netting around the trees is plastic, and everyone knows that’s not good for the environment,” McCrindle said.
“We started looking for cotton netting, but it was nowhere to be found, so we’re having it made. So now on our farm, there is only biodegradable netting.”
McCrindle said the couple started exploring cotton netting last year and their journey led them to netting distributors in Washington, who make nets for fishing.
They finally connected with a manufacturer in Europe and have been working on a prototype for about a year. Several prototypes, in fact.
“They kept sending them until we were happy, so this is our second year at it. What we had last year was red; this year we get the nets undyed,” she said.
McCrindle said they’ve let other tree farms know about it and a few are trying it out this year, including Madeira Farms in Rockwood.
“We want to be as sustainable as possible,” said Karen Medeira in a phone interview.
“I’m excited about it. It costs a little more but it’s the right thing to do.”
“We hope to get the word out,” McCrindle added. “We mainly want less plastic in the environment and now something is available.”
McCrindle said she and her husband did a test in the spring, burying a piece of the biodegradable netting, some plastic netting and a green garbage bag.
They left them for three and a half months and dug them up again.
“The plastic was exactly as buried but the bio net was absolutely gone,” she said.
“We knew it would break down quicker than plastic but that was a surprise. It’s exciting.”
The bio net costs a little more than plastic netting but not prohibitively so. It works out to about $1.50 more per tree.
“A lot of people are interested in products that are better for the planet. We growers have to shift our thinking,” said McCrindle.
For more information, visit chickadeechristmastrees.ca.
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FERGUS – A new Centre Wellington Elementary School is slated to open in Fergus in September 2025.
The school will be located in north Fergus, at Kirvan Street and Elliot Avenue East in the Storybrook subdivision.
Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) senior facilities manager Dilip Parmar said the board is “working very well” with the municipality “on our site plan approval process.
“We’re getting closer to tendering the project and we’re targeting a spring construction date.”
UGDSB communications manager Heather Loney said the board expects the school to have 308 pupil spaces.
In January 2022, the provincial government approved the board’s proposal for the new school and then-Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece announced the province would provide $8.5 million in funding.
The board received approval to proceed, the next stage in the province’s review process, this September.Related Articles
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The UGDSB will also be constructing a new school in south Guelph.
The board is “working with the City of Guelph on first the zoning and now site plan approval,” Loney said.
And it is working towards getting approval to proceed from the Ministry of Education.
In 2018, the Ministry of Education approved the board’s request for a new high school in south Guelph, and then-MPP Liz Sandals announced the province would provide $25.5 million in funding.
There could be an increase to this funding amount – to be confirmed as part of the ministry’s approval to proceed.
The planned location for the school is Victoria Road and Arkell Road in Guelph.
It will have space for about 900 pupils and is expected to open in September 2026.
The boundary review process has not been completed yet, but other Guelph high school boundaries extend into Wellington County.
UGDSB students living in Puslinch currently attend Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute.
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Green Party candidate Aislinn Clancy has won yesterday’s Kitchener Centre byelection. Clancy held onto a large lead as votes came in yesterday evening, with Elections Ontario numbers being reported just before 10:30 p.m.
Clancy previously worked as a social worker and as a Kitchener City Councillor from 2022 until November of this year, when her campaign with the Green Party began.
She will now join current Green Party MPP Mike Schreiner at Queen’s Park, increasing the current seats held by the party to two. Schreiner appeared with Clancy last night as the polls closed, saying he is “incredibly proud” of the work she has already done.
“I am so incredibly grateful to the Kitchener community for putting their trust in me,” Clancy told supporters at her election night party. “Now, it’s time to take our fight for better housing, childcare, transit and more to Queen’s Park as we continue to stand against Doug Ford and his destructive agenda.”
NDP candidate Debbie Chapman came in second with 26.73 per cent of the vote. This marks a change for Kitchener Centre, which has been an NDP riding since 2018. Yesterday’s election was also unique for the number of candidates that were on the ballot — a record-breaking number of 18 people ran for office, which is the largest number ever seen in an Ontario election.
In third place was Progressive Conservative candidate Rob Elliott, and the Liberal’s Kelly Steiss came in fourth.
After last night’s victory, Clancy will be required to step down from her previously held position as city councillor. Council will declare her seat vacant, and will either hold a byelection or appoint someone to fill the position.
Cover photo courtesy of Rob Schreiner on X (formerly Twitter)
A UW math professor, David Wagner, recently appeared to retaliate after being warned that his introduction of an assignment not listed on the original syllabus could be deemed as “grounds for a grievance.”
Logan Batson, the MathSociety vice president academic, explained via email that according to students in the class, Wagner had added a “last-minute” additional assignment that was not on the syllabus. He posted on Piazza about the release of one assignment, and announced the new assignment at the same time with no indication he was going to do so.
Batson emailed Wagner on November 20 informing him that the action was grounds for a grievance due to its violation of the university’s policy 70 section 4 b. iii, which states that a student is able to submit a grievance based on “an error or injustice on grounds other than the academic judgement of work,” including an instructor “[deviating] substantially from the course outline without reasonable notice.”
Wagner responded to Batson’s email stating that there would be no additional assignment, but that the material would be included on the final exam.
Several hours later, Wagner posted on Piazza confirming that material from the last week of the course would be included on the exam, but that students would not receive feedback on solutions to similar problems, saying that students can “thank some anonymous whining slacker for that.” Wagner continued by saying that the additional assignment would not be counted towards course requirements and would not be graded.
The Piazza post is visible on the r/uwaterloo subreddit with nearly 350 upvotes.
Batson stated that Wagner’s reaction was “quite baffling,” citing the fact that he had Wagner previously as a professor and that he seemed to be “nice about the structure of the courses.”
“Reacting to the fact that they were breaking policy by name calling students is a little upsetting to see,” Batson wrote.
In response to request for comment, Wagner said via email that he wanted an additional assignment to give students practice with the material from the last week, and that after receiving the complaint that it “contravened some regulation,” he cancelled the assignment. “That’s all there is to it, from my point of view,” he wrote.
Cecilia Dean, Associate Dean for the Faculty of Mathematics, told Imprint via email that “[n]o formal grievance was filed in response to the posting of the new assignment. After this issue was brought to our attention, Prof. Wagner was reminded about policy and the importance of being professional in all forms of communication.”
FERGUS – Wellington OPP have identified six youths allegedly responsible for a spree of graffiti in Fergus over the weekend of Nov. 24 to 26 and are looking for more suspects.
“Police received multiple reports of damages to buildings and municipal signs across town that could exceed $20,000,” media relations constable Joshua Cunningham stated in a Nov. 30 press release.
Randy Ashley, owner of Sparkle Brite Carwash at 655 St. David St. North (Highway 6), said his building was among those tagged along that stretch of road.
“The other day kids wrote on our back wall, at the laundromat, on the vacuums and on the back door,” he told the Advertiser.
He added the washroom at the KFC restaurant next door and the back wall of the LCBO store just up the street were also tagged.
Ashley had security camera footage of a number of youths cutting through the car wash parking lot that he posted on Facebook believing they are the people responsible.
“I got so many replies on Facebook, then I got a call from OPP,” he said, adding that between attempted break-ins, acts of vandalism and graffiti, “I get it non-stop. Almost weekly something happens here.”
Ashley said he believes his business was tagged around 7:30 or 8pm on Friday, “so it’s not even that late at night.
“It’s all minor stuff – nobody died or anything. But it’s frustrating and expensive and you just can’t leave it on the walls. And it makes our town look crappy.”
Ben Marais lives nearby on Parkside Drive West and walks his dog and his daughter to school through the area.
“It seems every day there’s a new one,” he said, adding he regularly sees graffiti on electrical boxes, mailboxes, fire hydrants, garage doors and the walls of businesses.
Marais said while he appreciates graffiti when it’s art and when artists have permission to paint a wall, “this is not art. You don’t express yourself like that.
“Fergus and Elora are such unique, beautiful towns. This is just so sad.”
Cunningham said six youth have entered youth diversionary programs and police continue to look for other suspects.
Anyone with information can call police at 1-888-310-1122. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or submit a tip online at www.csgw.tips.
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A new Bollywood film, Tiger 3, directed by Maneesh Sharma, was released on Nov. 11, 2023, on the auspicious Indian festival of lights, Diwali. This film is a sequel to the famous movie Ek Tha Tiger. The film stars globally renowned and some of the wealthiest celebrities in the world, Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, and Emraan Hashmi.
The film discusses India’s conflicts with neighboring nations and the clash between two armies. Khan portrays the movie’s main character, Tiger, who operates as an agent of the Indian army. Kaif is playing his wife’s role in the film, who used to be formerly associated with the enemy organization. Hashmi plays the main villain, operating on the sidelines with connections to corrupt individuals in Pakistan’s army.
A notable scene in the film involves Shah Rukh Khan rescuing Salman Khan from prison after he gets caught. The scene was almost ten minutes long, an eyegasm for people who love watching Bollywood movies.
For those unfamiliar, Tiger assisted Shah on a mission in the film Pathan, so he had to return the favor and save his friend. “My favourite scene from the film was when Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan were fighting together; I really loved the film,” said Abhishek Beria, expressing his enthusiasm while standing outside the Cineplex Cinemas in Kitchener.
I saw the movie on its opening day, and the Cineplex theater was fully booked. I ended up getting B-row tickets and left with a sore neck. However, the movie was worth it, and I chose to see it on the first day since I’m a big fan of Khan and watched almost all his films on the first day.
My favorite scene was when Khan and Kaif were in disguise fighting each other in a scene for the sake of their son’s life, without knowing that they were fighting each other.
At the end of the movie, Khan saves both his son and Pakistan’s prime minister from Hashmi’s plan to kill her while also defeating Hashmi. The film portrays the political conflicts between nations while highlighting that we are all human beings who bleed the same. It sends a positive message of peaceful coexistence and emphasizes the need for mutual understanding and acceptance between nations. I highly recommend the film to those who love Bollywood or want to see an action-packed movie.
Tim Hortons restaurants across the Kitchener-Waterloo Region have been selling Holiday Smile Cookies in support of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
Through a Tim Hortons application process, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region got selected to partner up for the first Holiday Smile Cookie fundraiser.
The campaign kick-off event occurred on Nov. 13 where locals could meet staff and volunteers, grab some coffee, and be the first people to try the new cookie.
Six meals will be provided to families and individuals within the community experiencing food insecurity for every four cookies sold and for every box bought, the food bank will provide 18 meals.
The food bank has been providing emergency food assistance and support throughout the region since the 1980s.
Distributing fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food to the Community Food Assistance Network, which is a system of more than 120 community programs and agency partners working together to provide food, support, and services to people in need.
“With food insecurity on the rise here, there is one in 10 households in Waterloo Region that are accessing a food assistance program so the need is definitely there,” said Michelle Rickard, Manager, Marketing and Communications of Waterloo Region Food Bank.
They are seeing the highest need for food assistance in our almost 40-year history. A few partners the food bank works with: House of Friendship, A Better Tent City, Salvation Army (Kitchener), Conestoga College, and many more important organizations.
With the Holiday Smile Cookies being sold, people not only will be helping kids go to camp through the Tim Hortons Foundation Camps but also individuals and families struggling to access the food they need.
The food bank will receive 50 per cent of the proceeds from the cookies sold at participating Tim Hortons restaurants in Kitchener-Waterloo.
“It’s the first time we’ve donated to a charity where they were so hands-on and so eager to help,” said the manager of a Waterloo-area Tim Hortons, who didn’t want her name used in the media for authorization purposes.
“They came into my store, decorated cookies, put up banners, and did a portion of the work that is involved with making the cookies too which is really nice to see.”
The campaign ended on Nov. 19, running for a week total. The sales for the campaign so far have beaten the original projected estimate and customers can look forward to the new Holiday Smile Cookies being around next year.
Ontario lawmakers will soon pass a new proposal that provides transparency between employers and job seekers in terms of salary disclosures. Job applicants will see a specific salary range when they apply for job positions. How will the job market in Kitchener-Waterloo be affected by this proposal?