Ferguson family says don't be alone for Christmas dinner

By Cecilia Nasmith

For so many years, the Ferguson family has appreciated how the Colborne community has been there for them in good times and bad.

Starting in 2015, they resolved to show their appreciation by making sure nobody has to be alone for Christmas dinner.

Matriarch Gail Ferguson has often described how the family pitches in year-round, saving their pennies and coming up with innovative ideas to basically put on a feast for anyone who wants to enjoy it. And while people are welcome to come just to share in the festive fellowship, their deepest hope is that nobody will be alone for Christmas dinner.

Fergusons of all ages gather each Christmas in the kitchen at the Colborne Legion to handle all the tasks, from peeling the vegetables to perfecting the savoury gravy, while guests mingle in the beautifully decorated dining room at tables set up with lovely linens and attractive centrepieces. By the time they trot out the steaming bins to set up the buffet they will be dishing out, spirits are soaring.

Darryl Ferguson is the family member who deserves the credit for coming up with the idea in 2015.

“We had 28 members of the community come out and enjoy a great meal and fellowship with others,” he said.

“That number has been growing to over 50, and last year we almost had to set up more tables and chairs to accommodate the turnout.

“No one should have to eat alone on Christmas Day. And together, members of my family look forward to creating an inviting atmosphere for everyone to be together and enjoy a meal.”

Once again, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 187 has donated the use of their hall at 92 King St. E., Colborne, for the occasion, so anyone who wants to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner will be welcomed there at 4 p.m.

Again, there is no charge for the food – any donations received will be directed back to the Legion to further the good work they do in the community, but no donation is necessary.

All your hosts request is an RSVP to help them plan ahead. You can do this by giving Gail Ferguson a call at 905-375-7430.

Issue papers educate new council

By Cecilia Nasmith

Each year, Northumberland County councillors are presented with issue papers at budget time to spotlight concerns that will have an impact.

For the 2019 budget, the issue papers were also an educational opportunity for new councillors as they prepare to debate and vote early in the new year.

Each category was introduced with a Fast Facts page that describes the work of that department and some relevant numbers. For transportation, for example, the budget provides for road and bridge rehabilitation, winter control, road maintenance, tree and brush removal, fleet management, roadside safety and storm-water management.

The department has 70 vehicles and 45 pieces of large equipment (such as graders and loaders). On county roads, there are 5,000 traffic signs, 36 traffic signals and 63 street signs. There are 503 km. of county roads, with 12 to 15 km. paved each year. There are 175 km. of bike lanes (or at least paved shoulders), 45 bridges, 68 culverts in excess of three metres and four roads depots.

The two 2019 issues in this department are equipment replacements and a transportation funding strategy.

Four pieces of equipment should be replaced, treasurer Glenn Dees said – a tandem combination snow plow, a three-quarter-ton crew cab, a loader and a 10-ton trailer. The financial impact is estimated at $575,000.

The transportation funding strategy takes into account such plans as increasing the annual paving length to 20 km. and work on the Trent River bridge in Campbellford. Dees estimated the financial impact of these plans at $300,000.

The recycling-and-waste department provides for landfill and waste-transfer station operation, curbside collection of garbage, recycling and yard waste, recycling processing and disposal of e-waste and hazardous household waste.

It has one operational landfill site, six closed landfill sites that require perpetual care and environmental oversight, two waste-transfer stations, one material-recycling plant and 30 pieces of mobile equipment. It provides more than 39,000 curbside waste-collection stops each week. Of the waste collected in a year, 46,286 tonnes are managed, 27,383 tonnes are landfilled, 15,955 tonnes are processed at the Material Recovery Facility in Grafton, and 18,903 tonnes are diverted.

The two 2019 issues in this department are equipment replacements and changes to organizational structure.

Replacements or repair are contemplated for a skidsteer, a loader and the roof of the MRF. The estimated budget impact is $385,000.

The September shift to a two-stream recycling program plus green-bin collection of organic materials largely accounts for the second issue. Summer students will educate the public and distribute the green, gray and blue collection bins, while a three-month position for an administrative assistant will allow someone to manage the increased call-and-enquiry volumes the change will occasion. The budget impact is estimated at $55,000.

Port Hope Councillor Bob Sanderson pointed out that the budget impact of equipment replacements might well be offset – favourably – by trade-in allowances on equipment being replaced.

The facilities department provides for repairs and maintenance of county buildings, infrastructure and grounds maintenance, construction-project management and development of long-term capital plans.

It includes six paramedic bases, three replacement emergency bases to be constructed, one long-term-care facility redevelopment project, three corporate buildings, one material-recycling facility, four roads depots, one agrifood plant, 14 social-housing buildings and 344 housing units (300 apartments and 44 townhouse units). The department processes about 2,800 maintenance work orders each year.

The two 2019 issues in this department are equipment replacements and corporate-building work.

The equipment replacement is a half-ton pick-up truck, and the financial impact is estimated at $45,000.

The work needed is to the courthouse building at 860 William St., Cobourg. The financial impact of the accessibility and safety renovations is an estimated $46,000.

The community and social-services department provides for mandatory program delivery in employment, financial and homelessness supports, services for children, youth and seniors, social and affordable housing and food security,

The Golden Plough Lodge provides for resident care in accommodation, hospitality and health services in operating the municipal long-term-care facility. With 151 residents, more than 200 full- and part-time staffers in a typical year provide more than 165,000 dietary services, process 4,000 maintenance requests and do 70,000 lb. of laundry.

A major redevelopment of this facility is in the works, but this year's three challenges are all personnel-related – and all partially funded to lessen the budget impact (primarily by the Central East Local Health Integration Network).

Hours for an evening ward clerk are to be increased, providing enhanced evening reception to residents and families, with a $3,200 impact this year,

An additional full-time evening RN position is being created in recognition of existing resident-care needs, with a $14,000 impact this year. For the same reason, an additional part-time evening RN position is being created, with a $33,750 impact this year.

Northumberland Paramedics provide for land-ambulance deployment, emergency medical care, patient transportation, ambulance and equipment maintenance, medical supplies and inventory management, and patient documentation.

The 104 full- and part-time personnel in this department respond to about 12,200 annual emergency calls with patient transport, about 80% of which involve people aged 60 and older, with a fleet of 13 ambulances and four emergency-response vehicles at six bases. Their territory covers 2,000 sq. km. Of land mass and includes a significant stretch of Highway 401.

Five issues were identified in this department, starting with the lack of a generator at the Port Hope base – a $25,000 impact. As well, for the Cobourg base, a scissor lift is needed because it has an upper floor that is used for storage – a $28,815 impact, given provincial funding available.

Two personnel issue were identified, including changing from a 52-52 full-time-part-time split to 56 full-time and 48 part-time position. Initially, the budget impact is $3,400. As well, one full-time superintendent float position will be established, with an initial budget impact of $9,600.

An emergency-response vehicle trial is taking place to improve response times in the face of increasing rural-response requirements. The pilot project, running from May to October, creates a $47,220 (given government funding available).

Finance-and-procurement provides for finance, procurement, risk-management and court services, including financial reporting, budgeting asset management, investments, contract and legal-claims management, internal controls and reporting to the province.

Some $58-million in financial assets are managed, as well as more than 1,800 capital assets. The department processes more than 26,000 invoices for payment each year and issues about 50 tenders and requests-for-proposal. The department includes the provincial-offences court to handle matters not falling under the Criminal Code (like traffic tickets). About 12,000 such charges are administered each year, with 2,400 going to trial and 2,500 resolved in meetings with the county prosecutor.

Further provincial downloads to the provincial-offences system provide the department's one issue – the need for a paralegal to be hired as municipal prosecutor in addition to the one now on staff. This brings a $62,804 impact.

Economic development-planning-tourism provides for economic development, tourism, land-use planning and inspection services (including county Official Plan and plumbing and septic inspections), as well as business investment, attraction and retention through such programs as the Business and Entrepreneurship Centre and the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre.

The BECN alone helps more than 8,400 clients each year, provides more than 240 consultations, assists 80 business start-ups and 20 business expansions and creates 100 jobs. Its first entrepreneurship conference this year was attended by 116.

More than 2,500 on-site plumbing and septic inspections take place during a year, with permits accounting for more than $400,000 in revenue.

Their one issue this year is an employment-lands study that should take three years and, in 2019 alone, should have a $31,250 budget impact.

Corporate services provides for human-resources, emergency-planning, health-and-safety, accessibility, archives-and-records and forest-management services, including staff recruitment, payroll and benefits administration, training and development, contract negotiation, public meetings (along with minutes and records retention) and forest-and-trail management.

The forest responsibility covers 5,424 acres of multi-use forest with 113 km. of seasonal trails. As for personnel, they receive 1,500 resumes a year and handle 122 recruitments. Staffing to 586 full- and part-time county employees and 403 full-time-equivalent staff represented by six unions.

The department has seven issues to consider, including $10,000 to begin recording and streaming council meetings and $7,000 to begin a reserve to fund formal integrity-commissioner investigations. Other reserves they hope to start include one to fund extraordinary forestry-maintenance costs (a $10,000 impact) and one to fund an annual forestry-service public event ($8,000).

A summer student to help the customer-service representative staff would provide better coverage and present a $15,300 impact – the same impact as the additional summer student they would like for their forestry service.

Finally, an unsatisfactory status quo at the archives could be addressed with archival-collections software, a $15,000 impact.

Information technology provides strategic technology leadership, help-desk and technical support, tech innovation, plus IT security and infrastructure-management services.

Their eight staff (2.5 of whom are dedicated to shared-service support) administer four shared-service contracts for county IT support in 40 support locations for 650 support users. They pursued 76 IT projects last year and have 600 computing devices.

They report six issues, including plans for two technology-infrastructure reserves – one to address on-going replacement costs, and one to smooth annual budget requirements and create flexibility for future years – totaling a $70,500 impact.

Various infrastructure upgrades add up to a $105,000 impact, and a network capacity-redundancy upgrade is a $37,200 item.

Three personnel issues were reported, starting with the need for an IT service-desk analyst (a $38,343 impact), as well as two technical-support analysts – one in support of Cobourg Police Services and one in support of Port Hope services. With cost-recovery arrangements, these would create an impact of $28,564 and $15,841 respectively

County council hears 2019 budget outline

By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland County treasurer Glenn Dees took the floor at county council this week to paint the broad strokes of the 2019 budget, a final version of which they will pass in January or February.

Dees's presentation included special issues included in this budget, and a perennial one is asset management. It is estimated $27.4-million is needed annually in addition to maintaining reserves to allow for timeliness and flexibility in meeting maintenance and replacement issues associated with safeguarding the county's various assets, from roads to corporate buildings. Another way to attack the issue, which will be discussed this year, is the possibility of county-wide development charges.

One piece of positive news is that the county is well below the annual repayment limit set by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to guide the borrowing practices of municipalities. It is set to remain well below the limit even in his 10-year projections.

Projections from this year's budget provide fort a 2.8% levy increase, which works out to a 2.5% base-levy increase and a 0.3% dedicated infrastructure levy. Dedicated infrastructure levies became an annual occurrence in 2016 to address an infrastructure gap. Estimates are that the 2019 levy will produce $56.5-million in revenues (making up about half the county budget) and $536,248 for the dedicated infrastructure levy.

The five largest budget allocations make up 84% of the budget – 27% for community and social services, 20% for transportation, 13% each for the Golden Plough Lodge and asset management, and 11% for the paramedics.

In terms of allocated dollars, the top three items account for 80% of the total – 43% for salaries-wages-benefits, 22% for social-service programs and expenses, and 15% for contracted services (such as waste-collection contractors, fire-dispatch services and some legal services).

The top four items in the capital budget account for 95% of the whole – 59% for roads, 14% for waste, 12% for facilities and 10% for the Golden Plough Lodge.

The estimated increase in the county portion of a Northumberland tax bill should be only $23,89 higher than last year - $1,181.44, rising from $1,157.55.

Budget documentation is now posted on the county website, Dees said, for a public-review and -consultation period prior to this approval. The version posted includes input from stakeholders following a survey whose results were reported to council and a June open house attended by senior staff members who offered discussions and answered questions.

Logel is 2019 county-council warden

By Cecilia Nasmith

A show of pageantry kicked off the 2019-2022 term of Northumberland County Wednesday, complete with a bagpipe escort and a ceremonial singing of the national anthem.

It's a fresh start in more ways than one, with only two of the seven mayors (Bob Sanderson of the Municipality of Port Hope and John Logel of the Township of Alnwick-Haldimand) having a complete term behind them, Bob Crate of Trent Hills has been at the job little more than a year, having replaced the late Hector Macmillan. The other four mayors – John Henderson of the Town of Cobourg, Bill Cane of the Township of Hamilton, Mandy Martin of the Township of Cramahe and Brian Ostrander of the Municipality of Brighton – took their seats at county council for the first time.

Sanderson made a motion to nominate Logel as warden. With no other nominations forthcoming, Logel was acclaimed.

The new warden's inaugural address began with thanks to several people no longer present – Macmillan, former Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier, former Hamilton Township Mayor Mark Lovshin, former Cramahe Township Mayor Marc Coombs and former Brighton Mayor Mark Walas – who preceded him in that position.

“As we begin this new term, I am truly honoured my colleagues have put their confidence in me to take on the responsibility and position of Northumberland County warden for 2019,” he said.

“It is truly a privilege to step into this particular leadership role for the first time, and I thank the members of council for their support. I am confident that, with the support of staff, we will work together as a team to resolve difficulties and advance quality programs on which the community can rely.”

Much of Logel's address listed challenges they face, such as the 2019 budget, a new strategic plan for this term of council, various infrastructure and economic-development projects, homelessness-response initiatives, creation of a digital strategy and new waste-collection innovations that he believes will get the county closer to its long-term goal of 75% waste diversion from the landfill.

“We have many priorities to address in the year ahead and, as head of council, I commit to working closely with staff and members of council, listening closely to members of the public and community stakeholders, collaborating openly with other levels of government and partner agencies, and drawing on ideas that will positively impact our future and promote a strong and vibrant Northumberland.

A later order of business was approval of the 2019 county-council calendar.

While meetings typically take place the third Wednesday of the month, January will be an exception. A Jan. 23 council-orientation session is planned, with the January council meeting to take place one week later. Otherwise, county council will meet Feb. 20, March 20, April 17, May 15, June 19, July 17, Aug. 28, Sept. 18, Oct. 16, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18.

The ambulances were full at Pack The Back

By Cecilia Nasmith

Organizers of the Dec. 1 Pack The Back initiative thank the community for coming through in a big way.

St. John Ambulance branch administrator Amy Turcotte was inspired by the Cram The Cruiser events the Cobourg Police Service stage at holiday time that let people fill one of their police cars with donations of food and toys for those in need at Christmastime. With another kind of emergency-response vehicle, Turcotte hoped, people would pitch in again by packing donations into the back of their ambulances.

It was the first time they had tried such a thing, so she didn't know how it would work out – but she admitted she was very impressed and very happy with the results.

Even before the big day, Northumberland Paramedics came on board, adding one ambulance to the two that St. John Ambulance was allotting. In the end, with vehicles parked at Canadian Tire and David's No Frills, they collected an ambulance full of toys, two ambulances full of food, and donations totaling $2,800.

Paramedics and St. John Ambulance Medical First Responder volunteers took the bounty of the community to where it was needed – the toys to the Giving Tree program, the cash to the Salvation Army kettle-donation program and what she said looked like a couple thousand pounds of food to the Salvation Army Christmas-hamper headquarters.

The volunteers were all delighted, Turcotte reported, and they look forward to letting people Pack The Back again next year.

What to do when the holidays aren't happy

By Cecilia Nasmith

This is the time of year everyone wishes everyone else happy holidays, but not everyone finds it a festive season.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has issued a press release offering 10 ways to deal with the stress and depression that cloud the season for many local residents.

These feelings are commonplace for those juggling demands and oversized expectations amid hectic schedules.

Public health nurse Marisa Curran listed holiday parties, gift buying, family get-togethers, overexcited children, extra meal planning and financial concerns as some of the most common stresses.

“All of these added pressures can lead to frayed nerves, short fuses, damaged relationships and depression which has an impact on people’s health,” Curran said.

“Trying to reduce stress before it takes an emotional toll can pay off, and you might find you start to enjoy the holidays.”

The press releases included these suggestions to reduce stress.

• Show your feelings. If someone close to you has recently passed away or you’re unable to be with family over the holidays, it's okay to show and share your grief and emotions.

• Reach out to others, especially if you are feeling lonely or isolated. Seek out community or social events that can offer support and companionship. Volunteering to help others can also lift your spirits and make you feel more connected.

• Be realistic about the holidays. The festive season; it doesn’t have to be perfect – as family dynamics change, holiday traditions and rituals will too. Hold on to a few traditions, and be open to new ones.

• Set aside differences with family and friends. Accept others as they are and, if possible, set aside grievances until a more appropriate time. If necessary, limit time spent socializing with loved ones if these situations make you feel anxious or angry.

• Stick to a budget. Deciding how much you can afford to pay for gifts reduces the financial strain (and related stress and anxiety) on your family. Gifts don't buy happiness so show your love in creative ways – perhaps with a gift of time, such as spending a day with a loved one or teaching a child a new hobby or skill.

• Just as you budget your money, budget your time. Set aside specific days to shop, bake, decorate, visit or do other activities. Plan meals in advance and line up what you’ll need to buy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to prepare for or clean up from parties and meals.

• Learn to say no. Agreeing to take part in a project or activity for which you have no time can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Set realistic expectations for what you can do over the holidays. Seek balance and try not to overdo it.

• Make time for the people who matter most in your life. Rather than rushing around, arrange for quality-time pursuits like outdoor winter activities with the children or a date night with your partner.

• Don’t abandon your health. Eat healthy, with an occasional holiday treat and portion control on the radar. Get enough sleep, and try to be active every day. Make time for yourself to recharge from the holiday bustle by taking a walk, listening to music or reading a book.

• Seek professional help if required. Despite your best efforts, you may still feel sad, anxious, stressed or unable to cope. If these feelings persist, speak to your health-care provider or a mental-health professional. Locally, the Canadian Mental Health Association ( provides a free 24/7 professional crisis support line at 1-866-995-9933.

Claxon wins second Pitch To The Chief at Venture 13

By Cecilia Nasmith

Baltimore resident Amy Arthur has won the second Pitch To The Chief competition with her innovative product the Claxon, a hands-free personal-safety device.

Organized in partnership with the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation, the Nov. 28 competition offered technology entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their own products and services to Cobourg Police Chief Kai Liu.

The chief was joined in the Innovation Commons of Venture 13 by Cobourg Police Services Board Chair Dean Pepper, Inspector Jeff Sheils and NCFDC board members Pam Russell to hear the pitches.

Each 10-minute presentation included slides and demonstrations, followed by an interactive question-and-answer period. The products on display included IoT sensors, robotics, wearables, and connected and autonomous vehicle infrastructure.

Arthur’s prototype, which she demonstrated during her pitch, was developed in-house at the Venture 13 MakerLab with fellow VentureZone member Alex Papanicolaou of Campbellford, with design input from Northumberland Makers members. The MakerLab is a collaborative prototyping, engineering and microfactory space created in support of startups and makers.

A former Ontario Provincial Police summer intern, Arthur distinguished herself during her work on her bachelor-of-science degree at McMaster University by inventing a novel light-therapy device. She is currently finishing a forensic psychology degree at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

In the town's press release, Arthur called herself a problem solver.

“When I see a problem that I know I can solve, I have to face it head on,” she said.

“In the market of personal-safety devices, there is not one all-inclusive product that works for everyone and in all situations. I have taken on the task of solving this issue,” she stated.

“I feel truly honoured to have had the opportunity to present my product idea and prototype to the Chief and his panel. To gain their feedback and commitment for future collaboration will be instrumental to Claxon’s success.”

Chief Liu said they are pleased to have a second Pitch To The Chief session.

“Like the first, these startups were very impressive and came forward with innovative ideas and approaches relevant to policing in the twenty-first century,” he said.

“The Cobourg Police Service is committed to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, and is proud to bring and continue this event here at Venture13.”

A third Pitch To The Chief competition is planned for the first half of 2019.

Health unit asks residents to consider advocacy for Christmas

By Cecilia Nasmith

In the spirit of the season, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit asks local residents to consider a gift that can't be purchased on-line or elsewhere – advocacy on behalf of those most in need.

The health unit has issued a press release urging people to take a stand against poverty in Northumberland County, where 16% of local children live in poverty.

The health unit also cited a recent study indicating that a living wage in Northumberland – what a family of four with both parents working full-time would require to cover basic expenses in 2018 - would be $17.95 per hour. This amount falls almost $4 short of Ontario's current minimum wage.

The generous donations of time and money members of this community come through with at this time of year do help in the short term, said Krista Nairns, a Social Determinants of Health Nurse at the health unit. But for the long haul, supporting solutions that get to the root causes of poverty can make an even bigger difference.

In considering ways people can work toward keeping poverty under wraps, Nairns added, one of the most obvious is to be kind and non-judgmental in one's attitude toward low-income earners.

“Being poor isn't a choice,” she stated.

“There are many reasons why people live in poverty, much of it beyond their own control.”

Nairns listed a number of conditions that contribute to what has been called the poverty trap, including an inability to get reliable, secure work, lack of affordable housing options, and an inability to afford healthy food or good child care.

“All of these factors contribute to poverty, which in turn can hurt people's health,” she stated.

Nairns considers income-based solutions essential to address poverty successfully, and residents can show they care by acts of advocacy – getting behind increased social-assistance rates, calling for living wages for workers, supporting basic employment standards to reduce unstable work situations, and encouraging the construction of more affordable housing units.

“Raise awareness and lobby for change by talking to your family, friends, neighbours and elected officials about the importance of these income-based solutions,” she urged.

The benefits go beyond helping those in poverty, Nairns pointed out. The ripple effect goes out to everyone, boosting the local economy when everyone has stable jobs that pay living wages. Communities become healthier when everyone has a safe and affordable place to live, can afford nutritious food and is able to participate in recreational activities. Local families eventually face less stress, while children are better able to grow, thrive and succeed in school.