Simcoe County to build affordable seniors residence in Victoria Harbour

A 41-unit affordable senior’s residence will be built in Victoria Harbour.

Simcoe County council has approved a $12.8-million rental development to be built on a 3.2-acre lot behind the rink at the back of the Oakwood Community Centre.

“I’m excited. It’s going to be an incredible building,” said Tay Township Mayor Scott Warnock. “I’m glad I was around long enough to see this come to fruition.”

A single three-storey building will house all 41-units, which will be targeted toward seniors and persons with disabilities. The project will exhibit Victorian architecture, historic colour schemes, include a common area, outdoor seating and gathering areas and provide a connection to the Tay Shore Trail.

Many residents in Tay Township have been voicing concerns over the lack of seniors housing in the community for years. The topic came up during the 2014 election and quickly became a major priority for Township council.

“The constituents wanted to see something built that would be affordable that was tailored toward seniors,” said Warnock. “And the municipality just doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to do it ourselves.”

When Simcoe County began rolling out a program for affordable housing, it initially only favoured towns and cities with access to hospitals and transit. Warnock was part of a group of politicians advocating for a rural housing program. The county obliged and changed the rules for smaller communities.

“We created a special program at the County for rural communities,” said Warden Gerry Marshall. “We tucked away $2 million in 2018 and $2 million in 2019 to create affordable housing in non-urban locations such as Victoria Harbour.”

The township did everything they possible could to help make the project a reality. Various studies were paid for with township funds and they offered up the land to the county for just $1.

“We have an aging community. If people can’t age at home, they want to be able to age in their community,” said Warnock. “My kids and my grandchildren are here. This is the community my wife grew up in. We would love to stay here, if we possibly could. This (building) will give us an opportunity.”

The county has just completed phase one of a ten-year plan to address affordable housing needs in the region. The strategy has created more than 1,000 new units since 2014.

Tay Township had a 10-year goal of 48 affordable units.

“To get 41 units in one fell swoop is great,” said Warnock. “It gets us very close to the target for affordable housing units to be built in Tay Township.”

On June 12, staff were given the green light by county council to move forward with designs, tendering, site preparation and construction.

“The council, citizens and the staff has all been energized about this project,” said Marshall. “A lot of people are going to be happy when we break ground.”

A site plan will be submitted to the Township in early fall for approval, with an agreement expected to be in place by December. The project should go to tender in February with construction beginning as early as March.

Wasaga Beach bar will be hosting this hair-raising event

About a dozen folks will be lopping off their locks for a good cause.

A Gift of Hair Because We Care will be held at the on July 19 from 6 until 9 p.m.

Organizer Leslie Farkas said six hair donations have come through the mail, and another six people — children and adults — have lined up to get their hair cut at the event by stylists from Transformation Hair Studio. The hair will be donated to Angel Hair for Kids Foundation.

Local magician Jayden Vanderburg and musical duo the Strange Potatoes will be the entertainment, along with giant bubbles, face painting, and hair braiding.

This will be fifth time Farkas has donated his hair.

South Simcoe police launch new rescue boat in Innisfil

Lieutenant-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell popped the top to a bottle of champagne as she christened a new South Simcoe police marine vessel June 22.

The boat, christened the John Graves Simcoe, replaces the John Wardrop and includes a heater, two outboard motors and a bow thruster, a davit for removing patients from the water and adequate space for patients inside the closed cabin.

“People spend so much time on the water here, we put so much stress on police services. They need the best equipment for the job and I’m told this is overdue,” Dowdeswell said.

South Simcoe police board chairperson Rod Hicks is proud of the new $320,000 vessel and watched some of the training.

“I’m a boater and know that when the rest of us are rushing to shore to avoid bad weather, our officers are heading out into those dangerous situations,” he said. “Now they’ve got a boat that’s designed to handle the large waves and the power and unpredictability of Lake Simcoe.”

South Simcoe police Chief Andrew Fletcher said officers take about 200 calls on Lake Simcoe, which will only increase as Friday Harbour continues to grow.

The former police boat, the John Wardrop, was sold to someone in North Bay who will refurbish it.


Collingwood mother believes daughter overdosed on purple heroin

A Collingwood woman wants answers into her daughter’s death, which she believes was from purple heroin.

Darlene Loucks said her daughter, Priscilla Rowbotham, died after an overdose at a Collingwood hotel in March.

However, that’s about all she knows. She has sent letters to the coroner’s office asking for the toxicology and autopsy reports, but has been told the death is still under investigation.

Loucks told Simcoe.com she believes Rowbotham had heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil in her system; those drugs are also in what’s known as purple heroin. She said this was told to her during conference calls with the coroner.

“I’m thinking it’s that purple heroin,” she said. “All those things were mentioned to me verbally.”

Collingwood OPP announced on July 31 they had found purple heroin in Collingwood and said a small grain was powerful enough to kill someone. OPP Const. Martin Hachey said police were not releasing details surrounding discovery of the drugs.

Loucks said it was “disheartening” to read that report, and that she is frustrated with the lack of answers.

She has filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) regarding her interactions with investigating officer.

She has also made a complaint to the Death Investigation Oversight Council for Ontario and is also hoping for an inquest.

A June 8 response from the oversight council said the investigation is ongoing and her request would be considered once the investigation had been completed.

Cheryl Mahyr from the Office of the Chief Coroner said they are unable to release information but the investigation is ongoing.

The issues of opioid use is on the rise in the community.

According to Collingwood Deputy Fire Chief Dan Thurman, the department has responded to 40 overdose cases since June.

“We had five in a 24-hour span a few weeks ago,” he said.

All of the fire trucks are equipped with naloxone kits, which are also available at drug stores and can temporarily reverse and opioid overdose.

“It takes two to three minutes to go through their system and it’s only good for about 30 minutes,” Thurman said. “Because you’re brain is telling you not to breath, it goes into the system and allows you to breath again.”

Chief Ross Parr said using them is the last resort.

He said firefighters, who respond to all medical calls, have received training from the County of Simcoe paramedics and have a series of procedures they are required to follow when dealing with an overdose.

“We follow medical directives,” Parr said. “The first thing isn’t to do that (naloxone) … Oxygen administration is No. 1. “

Parr said all full-time firefighters in Collingwood have received training, as they were previously going to medical calls without that knowledge.

“I’ve got to take every reasonable precaution to protect our workers,” Parr said. “We want to make sure we’re on the same page with the paramedics.”

Parr said firefighters from Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township have received the same training.

Over the last 18 months, Collingwood General & Marine Hospital has seen 43 visits to its emergency department related to opioid use. The hospital said there has been very little change in these numbers from the first six months of 2018 and the same period in 2017.

Hachey told Simcoe.com that the Collingwood OPP has laid 10 charges for opioid possession so far in 2018.

Thurman said the issue continues to grow. In speaking with fire department colleagues and doctors from across Ontario, it’s an issue in a lot of communities.

“It’s heading this way,” he said.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit released its opioid strategy last month.

The strategy would roll out on a short and long-term basis, with short-term projects being rolled out in 2018 and long-term activities implemented by 2020.

Some of the programs include improved needle exchange programs, the implementation of a rapid access addictions medicine program, and greater collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

“We have seen there was a slow worsening of the opioid impact in our region and in Ontario as a whole through the 2000s,” Dr. Lisa Simon, co-chair of the steering committee, said. “It’s really the 2017 data over the 2016 data where we’ve seen this grow exponentially.”

Loucks said her daughter was seeking counselling for bipolar disorder in Collingwood.

Loucks wants to know what happened inside the hotel room, how the investigation was handled by police, and circumstances surrounding her death. She feels the coroner considers her daughter’s death “another statistic,” and she’s not satisfied.

“I am a grieving mother and have grieving family,” she said in a letter to the death oversight council. “I ask for justice, I ask for answers.”

Loucks has started a go fund me page to help with legal fees. You can find more information

More information about the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy is available at .

Editor’s note: A correction was made to this story on Aug. 10. Priscilla Rowbotham, was receiving counseling for her bipolar disorder not her addictions. Simcoe.com regrets the error.