Norfolk council has “hit the re-set button” on the community hub recreation concept in Simcoe.Jan. 14, Norfolk’s Recreation Facilities Advisory Board agreed to a game plan for renewing aging infrastructure in Simcoe. Norfolk council approved the board’s findings Wednesday.“This is a great leap forward on transparency,” Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts said. “This allows us to hit the re-set button and start from Ground Zero.”The resolution erases all previous direction from the previous council.The new council has given the advisory board a mandate to establish a community fundraising program, engage major facility users and local businesses to determine needs now and into the future, and advise county staff on a business case for infrastructure renewal.The latter will be critical when the county prepares grant applications to the Ontario government and the federal government.The chair of the advisory board is Paul Anderson of Walsingham, an engineer attached to the Department of National Defense.Anderson said the board will work “quickly and efficiently,” adding an undertaking of this magnitude will require a large commitment of time and energy.“We’re trying to establish a better battle rhythm for our meetings,” Anderson said. “When you’re talking about design requirements, once-a-month meetings aren’t going to do it.”If the financial stars align, the plan is to build a recreation complex in Simcoe to replace Talbot Gardens, the Simcoe Recreation Centre, and the Adult Community Centre on Pond Street.Bill Cridland, Norfolk’s general manager of community services, added there is an opportunity here to address crowding issues at community services’ head office on Culver Street in Simcoe.The point of departure for Tuesday’s discussion was a report compiled by former Norfolk CAO David Cribbs.The report contains the findings of an engineering firm which said Talbot Gardens and the Simcoe Recreation Centre are in reasonably good shape and should be serviceable for another 20 years.Regarding the report, Cridland said several important details were missing. For one, Cridland said the refrigerated floor and boards at Talbot Gardens are at the point where they should be replaced. That could cost $1 million.Cridland added the deteriorating concrete beneath the seating area at Talbot Gardens has been stabilized but this is a short-term solution. A permanent, long-term repair will also be costly.As for the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre at the Rec Centre, Cridland said replacing the 50-year-old swimming pool could cost as much as $13 million if the county includes a separate therapy pool for seniors and users undergoing physiotherapy.All told, Cridland said the cost of renewal is in the range of $45 million. If Norfolk can persuade both Queen’s Park and Ottawa to match a county commitment of $15 million, Norfolk will be close to realizing its vision.Anderson says the project is worth pursuing on a number of counts. Not only is there a need to renew aging infrastructure, modern facilities can be a “social catalyst” for attracting young families and job-creating industries for which worker retention is a priority.Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman, a member of the advisory board, agrees. She said more is at stake than money and state-of-the-art facilities.“It’s not just dollars and cents,” Huffman said. “It’s engagement; it’s retaining youth in our community. It’s about bringing people to our community.”Norfolk staff have been scouting potential locations for a hub for over a year. Anderson would prefer if Norfolk agreed on the new infrastructure it needs before proceeding to site selection. He worries that pre-determining a site might limit what the county can put there.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com
The head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), James Morris, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in front of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Durban, South Africa, where all three officials are attending the launch of the African Union.“I think this partnership emphasizes the determination of the two agencies to implement their operations effectively,” Mr. Annan told reporters at the signing ceremony. “I hope and trust that the donors will also continue to support us and enhance their support in material and financial terms.”The MOU updates one originally signed in 1985 and reflects the changes in refugee programmes around the world, such as attention to the needs of refugee women and children to guarantee their protection against abuse, the two agencies said in a statement.In addition, protracted refugee programmes have led the two agencies to refocus their strategies in order to make refugees more self-sufficient by establishing income-generating activities and negotiating with host countries to incorporate refugees’ specific needs into national development plans.According to the agreement, WFP, which traditionally has procured and transported food aid for refugee caseloads over 5,000 people, will also now assume on a temporary basis responsibility from UNHCR for distributing the supplies. If the new division of labour proves more effective, the UN food agency will take over the task worldwide.