| Feb 26, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - February 26, 2009 North Frontenac Council - By Jeff Green

Gunsinger for Order of Ontario

North Frontenac Councillor Elaine Gunsinger was feeling a bit sheepish about putting a particular individual forward to answer a call from Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor David Onley for nominations to the Order of Ontario. But other members of North Frontenac staff and council assured her she was not contravening any conflict of interest guidelines by proposing that the township nominate Bernice Gunsinger, Elaine’s mother-in-law.

In fact, according to Clerk-Planning co-ordinator Brenda DeFosse, Bernice had been nominated in a previous year, but had not been named to the order at that time.

“There is nothing stopping us from nominating her again,” said Mayor Maguire, “she is certainly a top candidate.”

In the call for nominations, David Onley asked a question, “Do you know someone who deserves recognition for extraordinary achievements, whose superlative contributions have had an impact on their local community, the province, our country or beyond?

Bernice Gunsinger's “impact on the local community” can be measured in many ways after about 70 years of community volunteer efforts. Council is now holding their meetings in a modern, spacious room overlooking a gleaming fire hall, for which over $100,000 was raised by the Ladies Fire Auxiliary, or the “Fire Ladies” as they were known.

Bernice Gunsinger was the first fire lady. She called the first meeting, and got the ball rolling. Just as a building is built one brick at a time, the Fire Ladies raised $100,000 one square at a time, or one cup of coffee at a time. They raised $50 here, $100 there, at community breakfasts and teas over years, banking money slowly over time.

“She started a long, long time before the fire ladies,” Elaine said, “she's been doing the same thing with other groups for decades.”

Township staff will look into preparing the nomination papers, which are due on March 16.

Becoming Elektra ...fied - Frank Roy, from Elektra Observatories, made his first appearance before North Frontenac council. The non-profit organization hopes to build a state-of-the-art astronomical observatory at Mallory Hill, which is located at the western edge of the township on the border with Addington Highlands on the Buckshot Lake Road.

As Roy has stated in presentations to Frontenac County, Lennox and Addington County and to local MPP Randy Hiller and MP Scott Reid, the location was chosen because it has the darkest skies in southern Ontario.

The observatory, which is named the “One Metre Initiative” because of the characteristics of the electronic telescope the group intends to build, would be remotely controlled.

“In order to preserve the darkness of the night sky, which is of critical importance in the observatory, Elektra seeks to have new bylaws enacted,” Frank Roy said. “This will also help in establishing the area as an International Dark Sky Preserve as defined by the International Dark Sky Association.”

So, while Roy is pitching the project as a tourism promotion opportunity for North Frontenac, he is also asking that none of this tourist infrastructure be located in the immediate vicinity of Mallory Hill itself.

There is a precedent for this, according to Roy. At Mont Megantic, in Quebec, a provincial park has been established near an observatory, and $10 million in tourism dollars is generated at that site each year.

There is a potential connection to Bon Echo Park. If 20% per cent of Bon Echo's 200,000 annual visitors came and spent $25 each it would generate $1 million” Roy said. He envisions that a visitors’ centre could be located somewhere on Highway 41.

Steve Smart, owner of Smart's Marina on Mazinaw Lake, was at the meeting and said “I have trouble getting my head around how the visitors’ centre could be that far away from the observatory itself.”

Frank Roy suggested that his focus would be on the observatory but that he would be open to ideas from the townships, the county, the local business communities and even the provincial government to capitalize on the promotional opportunities offered by the project.

“The key in Quebec was the buy-in from the provincial government,” said North Frontenac Deputy Mayor Jim Beam.

Frank Roy will be making a presentation at Addington Highlands Council next week, and is hoping to meet soon with Leona Dombrowsky, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

He suggested that a steering committee be formed to consider the economic potential of the project from a regional angle, and proposed that a first meeting be held in the coming months, perhaps in Sharbot Lake.

Deputy Mayor Beam volunteered to represent the township to the committee. He has been involved in establishing a township business group in recent months.

“This is like something that has just fallen from the sky; in other words it’s an initiative we couldn't plan any better,” said Mayor Ron Maguire, promising the township’s co-operation in enacting necessary bylaws and working with Roy to develop the project.

The Elektra Observatory now has $26,000 in seed money funding, $14,000 from the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation, and $12,000 from the members of its board of directors. It has partnerships with three universities, but must raise $2 million from the philanthropic sector in order to come to fruition.

“We will be operational three years from receiving funding,” Frank Roy said.

Concerns over telephone service – Council received a letter from Catherine Tysick of Northern Frontenac Community Services. The letter expressed a concern that came to Tysick from the agency’s Seniors’ Advisory Committee about interruptions to phone service in the Ompah-Snow Road corridor.

“As you can imagine this is of great concern to seniors who may need to access emergency services but cannot. The frail elderly are particularly at risk,” the letter said.

The township is planning to put in an emergency phone at the ambulance station at Lavant Road, which would be operational when other phones are not, and will consider putting another one in at another location.

“I think we should communicate with Bell,” said Mayor Maguire

Hall rentals for not for profits - Land O'Lakes Community Services has requested that the township waive rental fees for a fundraising supper, and a seniors’ group made a similar request for their Tai Chi classes. Council did not agree to the requests, but the cost to non-profit groups for community halls is only $15 for four hours, and this information will be forwarded to the two organisations. 

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