Update to Fire at Jack Burger Complex

By Brian Coggins

At around 5:30 pm on Tuesday, a fire broke out in the Family Change Room in the pool area of the Jack Burger Sports Complex in Port Hope.

There were no reported injuries but there was extensive damage to the dressing room and surrounding area.  The Complex will be closed to the public pending completion of an investigation by the Port Hope Fire and Emergency Services.

For further updates, go to the Municipal website at

Council shares fire-safety tips

By Cecilia Nasmith

During the co-ordinator-reports segment of this week's Cobourg council meeting, councillors put forth some important fire-safety tips to share with the public.

Protection Services Co-ordinator Aaron Burchat brought the tips forward in the form of reminders from the Cobourg Fire Department.

For one, Burchat said, everyone should remember to test smoke detectors on a regular basis.

“It's something a lot of people forget to do,” he said.

As well, anyone with fire hydrants on his or her property is urged to clear the snow away from them in order to ensure the best possible response time in case of emergency.

Mayor John Henderson offered his own tip on checking the smoke alarm based on his discussions with Capt. Aaron Blair - choose the birthday of someone in the family and, each year on that date, make the check.

“Throughout the winter season in Ontario, we seem to have more fires. Hopefully this is something you can agree to in your family that will work for you,” Henderson said.

Cobourg Mayor congratulates Red Nose volunteers

By Cecilia Nasmith

Cobourg Mayor John Henderson took a moment at this week's council meeting to congratulate the volunteers behind the Operation Red Nose program that ran over the holiday season.

Offered through YMCA Northumberland, its volunteers provided free transportation home (for both the partier and for his or her vehicle) solely in the interests of public safety. And in those cases where someone received such assistance and wanted to show some appreciation, they could make a donation to the YMCA Strong Kids Fund, which ensures that no child misses out on the programming at the Y because of economic barriers.

“Probably among the most important statistics is that there were zero impaired charges in the Cobourg-Port Hope-Northumberland County area through that entire period, which is a telling story,” Henderson stated.

Another amazing statistic is that the program raised $35,000 for the Strong Kids Fund.

It's entirely volunteer-run, Henderson reiterated, so he hopes members of the community will come forward to help.

It's a late night for the volunteers, he allowed, but even to sign up for one night here and there would be a big help.

Councillor and husband are in total agreement

By Cecilia Nasmith

Not long after Simon Chorley made a presentation to Cobourg council about changes he'd like to see incorporated into the town's proposed bylaw to establish rules of order and procedure for council and committees, his wife – Councillor Emily Chorley – put them on the floor for debate.

Chorley's appearance was in the nature of an appeal to council to take into account public comment made (both on-line and at last week's public meeting) about changes they would like to see made.

“I urge you not to pass the bylaw as it is currently presented, but introduce some amendments that reflect the input from the public,” he said.

Chorley went on to specify four such changes, including an adjustment to the start of council meetings, which is currently set at 4 p.m.

“I work full-time. Many other Cobourg residents work full-time jobs and cannot attend or participate,” he said.

“To me, this is inherently anti-democratic.”

Chorley also urged staff assigned by council to report on issues be required to expand beyond the specifics at hand to offer alternative solutions that might be preferable.

He suggested incorporating a deadline by which requested actions should be completed. Otherwise, he said, the people involved are left hanging.

Finally, he urged the two-thirds majority required for changes to this bylaw be instead a simple majority.

When Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin read the bylaw, Emily Chorley did make all those amendments and more.

The suggested change of majority (from two-thirds to a simple majority) was defeated, but the time change was approved – a 6 p.m. start to council. As council normally adjourns at 6 p.m. for public meetings, Chorley suggested a 5 p.m. start on evenings when public meetings are scheduled. This too was passed.

The incorporation of a deadline for staff action was approved, but the requirement of investigating alternatives for staff reports was defeated.

Other amendments Chorley suggested that were approved included a change of terms allowed for appointments to advisory committees. She argued for a six-year term instead of eight years.

“I would like to encourage fresh thinking and a healthy turnover,” she said.

Councillors also approved her suggestion to change the name of the Environmental and Climate Change Advisory Committee to Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory Committee in order to include the three pillars of sustainability – environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic resilience.

Two-dog limit remains, Cobourg council decides

By Cecilia Nasmith

Cobourg council did review the heart-felt plea of Linda MacDonald on behalf of her four dogs, but this week decided that the two-dog limit per household should stand.

MacDonald was fully aware of the limit, but asked to be allowed to let her domestic dog population decrease naturally. Her two older dogs were far from well, she said, and they only acquired their two younger dogs in anticipation of losing the older ones.

Cobourg resident Mary Perron addressed council this week to argue in favour of the limit.

“More than two would likely make a great deal of noise, disturbing the peace and quiet of the neighbours,” Perron said.

“The potential for overcrowding of dogs would increase, and I wonder where it would end. More than two dogs could potentially increase some of the dogs' aggressiveness as well.”

Frankly, she said, she felt sorry for the dogs in such situations and urged council not to set a precedent with MacDonald.

Council supported the motion put forth by Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin to respectfully deny MacDonald's request for an exemption to Section 2.9 of the town's animal-control bylaw.

Council also agreed to an amendment set out by Councillor Emily Chorley – a May 31 deadline by which MacDonald is expected to be in compliance.

Cobourg Council hears economic-development update

By Cecilia Nasmith

Cobourg economic-development officer Wendy Gibson and manufacturing and attraction specialist TJ Flynn gave council good news Monday as they presented an update on that particular portfolio.

Gibson categorized the presentation under the headings that are their primary areas of focus, such as the new Venture 13 innovation-and-entrepreneurship centre.

Since opening in May, she said, it's been a continuing success story, accounting for 21 new businesses, 66 new jobs, $2.7-million in wages generated, and 171 special events and activities that have drawn more than 4,100 visitors.

“I could not be prouder of the accomplishments I have seen in my short months at Venture 13,” said Gibson, whose office was relocated to the facility at 750 D'Arcy St.

Downtown revitalization initiatives include the Community Improvement Program, which has made 25 restoration projects possible (most of them on the main street). For every $1 spent in this program, Gibson said, the private sector spends $4.

Manufacturing attraction has caught fire recently, with three companies buying land in the Lucas Point Industrial Park, representing businesses that will be hiring as many as 50 people. As a bonus, she said, 2018 saw the town retaining all its existing industries (and some of them increasing their staffing).

Gibson credits proactive outreach as one of the keys to attraction and retention, and the numbers are promising. For instance, for the period covering 2015 to 2018, manufacturing jobs increased from 1,872 to 2,078. As many as 50% of local industries are hiring, but this brought her to such future challenges as workforce development.

There's also a shortage of shovel-ready greenfield sites (of the 49 acres at Lucas Point, only 14 are shovel-ready), and only four industrial buildings.

“I have never seen such a shortage of industrial space in Cobourg,” Gibson stated.

“It shows a healthy industrial activity but, at the same time, leaves us with few options for growth.”

On the other hand, she is optimistic about the young entrepreneurs she is seeing at Venture 13.

“My vision is to see a cluster of them in the downtown. My goal is seeing those second storeys fill up,” she said.

“They are looking for cool, different spaces. They don't just operate in your typical office space.”

Gibson urged council not to forget that existing businesses account for fully 76% of new investment and that 82% of Cobourg businesses have 10 or fewer employees.

“Small businesses are our bread and butter here in Cobourg, and we should respond to these small businesses.”

James Cockburn celebrates bicentennial year

By Cecilia Nasmith

As a Father of Confederation who practiced law in Cobourg, James Cockburn – or rather, manager of planning services Rob Franklin in character as James Cockburn – played a significant role in the town's celebrations of the country's sesquicentennial.

Two years later, Franklin told council Monday night, it's the bicentennial year for the statesman who was born Feb. 13, 1819.

Franklin said that his appearance as Cockburn, complete to formal coat and top hat, was to make council aware of the milestone - and the fact that, for the seventh year, his birthday is being celebrated with educational activities at Victoria Hall in partnership with the Cobourg Public Library. This year, he said, they would be welcoming 130 students from Notre Dame Elementary School and Burnham Public School.

And of course, the other annual Cockburn celebrations are on over the August holiday weekend (named James Cockburn Day by the town some years back) – Franklin's one-man biographical play in front of Victoria Hall on Saturday and a James Cockburn talk at the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre on Monday.

As far as his schedule allows, Franklin said he would also be glad to be part of any other commemorative activity being planned for this particular bicentennial.

Franklin was making an appearance as a representative of the James Cockburn Society

“Partnerships are the only way for our heritage to actually be here,” he said,

“We have a goal to preserve our history, promote our history and present our cultural history.”

Franklin offered thanks to staff and councillors for allowing him to undertake these activities – he has even been known to show up at Victoria Hall when other special events are planned in order to sit in the ground floor west room that has been restored to resemble the law office where Cockburn practiced. At such times, he said, “he would be glad to talk to you about what life might have been like in the 1860s in Victoria Hall.”

Mayor John Henderson noted that not many towns have this kind of heritage resource, “and I know we benefit because of it.”

Saplings available through Northumberland County Emerald Ash Borer Replacement Tree Program

By Cecilia Nasmith

Spring may be weeks away, but the County of Northumberland reminds residents that now is the time to apply to obtain free tree saplings from the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority as part of the county's Emerald Ash Borer Replacement Tree Program.

All 2019 orders are due by March 31, the press release said, with pick-up in the spring at the GRCA's Port Hope location.

The county is subsidizing this five-year program, which is available to all Northumberland residents. Each resident may order between 10 and 500 trees to plant on private property.

“Through this program, we will subsidize 12,000 trees annually, for a total of 60,000 trees throughout the duration of the program,” county forest manager Todd Farrell said in the bulletin.

“This program will help us increase our community's natural diversity through the planting of native species that will thrive in our local ecosystem.”

This program is designed to replace trees that are being removed a part of the county's 10-year plan to remove and replace hazardous trees – a response to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive boring insect that attacks and kills ash trees.

To prevent injury or damage from falling trees, the county is removing ash trees that are more than 10 cm. in diameter from county rights-of-way until 2028. For each ash tree removed under the program, the county will subsidize approximately 10 native trees for residents to plant on private property.

GRCA stewardship technician Pam Lancaster said that this program is a great opportunity for Northumberland residents to access native tree saplings.

“Planting a tree sapling is a great way to enhance your property, while supporting the ecological vitality of our community,” Lancaster commented.

For more information about the program and to apply to receive free saplings, visit

For more information about the Emerald Ash Borer and our EAB Management Plan, please visit