You’re listening to CKMS 100.3 Sound FM in Waterloo Region. Lisa and Robyn are with you this afternoon, and here’s the weekly news round-up for Friday, July 22.
The Scoop on Chicken Coops
The Region of Waterloo first considered allowing chickens in urban backyards in 2009, and again in 2011. But earlier this year city council opted not to follow staff recommendations. Although existing chicken owners show its viability, backyard chicken coops are not currently permitted in the city of Kitchener, and a study of whether to permit or cap the possession of urban hens within the city is expected in October.
The Region of Waterloo Public Health says keeping backyard chickens supports urban agriculture, is a sustainable food system and provides greater food security.
Nathan Somer, on the other hand, highlighted at a recent public meeting the risks involved in keeping chickens. These include more than just the food-borne diseases like salmonella, with other animal-borne diseases like the avian flu, management of chicken poop, and nuisance complaints about possible noise and smell.
Megan Swan, lead animal protection officer at the Guelph Humane Society recommends people really need to do their research and that “There’s a lot of things about owning chickens that people may not realize.” Chickens are said to only be capable of laying eggs for two to five years but can live for an estimated 10 years further.
For the past three decades Guelph has allowed backyard chickens with a bylaw that doesn’t restrict the number of hens or ban the possession of a rooster.
Guelph’s manager of bylaw enforcement, Doug Godfrey, commented on the topic and says “Chickens aren’t a big concern; over the past seven years, the number of complaints about chickens ranged from five in 2012 to 19 last year. Most complaints are easily resolved by speaking to the hen owners. … to put it into perspective, we have thousands of bylaw complaints every year – in 2015 we had 1,700 for just noise and 1,850 complaints about parking.” Once councilors have made a decision, bylaw officers will begin to enforce the rules regarding chicken coops- that is whatever they may be to come.
A Report on Hate Crimes in the Region
This spring, Statistics Canada released a report that found the number of hate crimes reported in Waterloo Region is on the rise, with 28 reported in 2014, up from the 14 reported in 2013. Even so, the number is still lower than the 30 hate crimes recorded in 2012. With that in mind, the Region still has an above average rate of reported hate crimes, at 5.2 reports per 100, 000 people, compared to the 4.3 average. Other municipalities, such as Hamilton and Thunder Bay, have a rate as high as 14 reported crimes per 100, 000 people. By sharp contrast, cities including Regina and Barrie had almost no hate crimes reported.
It should be noted that the increasing number of reported hate crimes does not necessarily suggest that more hate crimes are committed than the year before. As the Region’s Chief of Police, Bryan Larkin explained he felt that, “the increased reporting points to people feeling more comfortable to come forward to police.” Nonetheless, it is difficult to say without specific statistics on the amount of committed versus the amount of reported crimes. According to the report, most hate crimes were nonviolent crimes motivated by religion, race or ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Filsinger Park creek restoration wins award
It was the longest section of concrete removal in Ontario, but after restoring Filsinger Park and the creek that joins the flows into the Victoria Park Lake, the City of Kitchener has won an engineering award for all that hard environmental reformation work.
Originally the stream was a concrete channel for the city’s flood-water management. Now that stream has been transformed back into a natural environment.
In June, the city and the consultants on the project from the development company Stantec won a Diamond Design and Construction Award from the Consulting Engineers of Ontario.
The award was presented at the group’s annual general meeting earlier this week.
The restoration of the creek involved workers removing a 1.7 kilometres long concrete storm channel in order to reinstate the the structured stream back into a sinuous waterway.
The city says removing the concrete from the creek has improved fish habitat and vegetation in the area.
Restoring of the channel is just one of the pieces to the city’s plan to improve its stormwater management.
New Program for Students Suffering from New School Anxiety
Carizon, a counselling agency located in Kitchener, is launching a new program this summer for students going into grade 7 and 9 this September. The idea behind the two week long program, called Leader in Me, is to comfort any students who are nervous about attending a new school. The new program is Carizon’s response to a demand from parents.
While the service would usually be offered as individual counselling, the new program is targeting ‘new school anxiety’ in students, and thus allowing the Centre to provide its services in a group environment. The activities involved in taking part of this program will encourage students to develop their leadership skills, improve communication skills, and even boost their self-esteem, while learning to cope with and lower their level of stress throughout the school year.
The counsellors involved in the program didn’t want to spoil the surprise by specifying the exact activities planned but emphasized that while the program will be educational, it will be packed with fun activities, both indoor and outdoor.
The cost of the Monday to Friday, 1 to 4 PM program is $150 and includes snacks and all art activities. For those going into grade 7, the program will run from August 8 to 12. For those going into grade 9, the program will be August 15 until the 19. For more information visit Carizon’s website or call 519-743-6333.
It should however, be noted that something as simple as 10 hours of sleep a night for teenagers, a healthy diet, and some easy breathing exercises can be effective in reducing back to school stress. Psychological doctor Shimi Kang explains that breathing deeply, beyond a normal, amount fully expands the lungs which means receptors signal the brain that everything is okay, thus relaxing the mind and body. On top of that, parents are encouraged to create positive environment by helping their children talk about their anxieties, and set a positive tone by discussing the unique opportunity of making new friendships, and learning new material. For more serious anxiety, parents can call counselling agencies to set up one-on-one appointment with psychologists or counsellors.
Communitech Data Hub planned for Uptown Waterloo
Waterloo City Council is working to bring a Communitech Data Hub to the old police station on Erb Street in Uptown Waterloo.
Founded in 1997, the local company says it strives to elevate the Waterloo Region tech community and its vision, as indicated on its website, is for more tech talent, a globally recognized tech sector and better support for companies within the region.
Waterloo Mayor, Dave Jaworsky, commented on the decision to proceed this term and says that the Hub will organize the terabytes of data that is being gathered by local business on consumer spending and information. Information that is provided by businesses will then be made available for data scientists to analyze and garner insights on trends and products and that “What we have is an opportunity to start creating a centre of excellence on data and to create new companies, to start creating jobs and really the spillover effect is to bring urban employment back to Uptown Waterloo.” Mayor Jaworsky went on to add “It’s through this big data that we’re going to bring some of the smartest minds here, you’re going to see corporations come in here with investments saying, “You know what, we have an enormous amount of data and we need to create an outpost here in Waterloo, Ontario to start analysing that data and make better use of it to serve our consumers.”
The overall goal for this decision is to use the consumer data such as postal codes and emails that are being collected that are not being used as efficiently as they could be.
While some consumer data is voluntarily provided through in-store surveys, much can be obtained otherwise. Privacy advocates have long warned of the potential impacts of the large quantities of data that can be gathered on consumers, as such information can quite specifically illustrate individual lifestyles and patterns of movement.
School Board Trustees to Allow Volunteers to Supervise After School Activities
Waterloo Region’s School Board trustees have taken steps to prevent teachers from using the elimination of after school activities as a means of forcing compliance with their demands. The Board unanimously voted to allow volunteers to supervise students without teachers, in certain circumstances. Obviously, this move by the School Board will limit the teachers’ union in term of leverage during job actions. The Board clarified that potential volunteers would only be allowed to supervise low-risk activities such as drama or chess club. On top of that, volunteers will be screened, trained, approved by a school principal, and covered by the school’s insurance.
Last year, many elementary students protested by refusing to attend class for a day, after teachers withdrew from supervising after school activities as a part of bargaining for the most recent union contract. Both parents and students felt that the job action movement last year caused students to miss out on the activities they loved the most, which made their school experience less enjoyable. The School Board trustees felt that students should not have to miss out or be upset because of labour disputes, and as such moved to reduce the future impact these disputes might have on student. On that note, Natalie Waddell, a School Board trustee said, “Ideally I’d like to see it so that parents can volunteer to do those types of activities not just during a labour dispute, but actually all year round.” Waddell went on to express hope that the proposed policy will be ready for School Board confirmation this Autumn.
Two area beaches posted for high bacteria levels
To swim or not to swim shouldn’t be a second thought for summer swimmers but two area beaches have been established questionable in the Waterloo Region after the discovery of elevated levels of bacteria that could pose potential risks for swimmers.
The two areas in question are at Belwood Park’s quarry beach and the Conestoga Lake Park.
Midweek, this week, elevated levels of the E. coli bacteria were found in tests that are to ensure that the city’s water quality meets the provincial guidelines for swimming.
Warning signs have been posted at both affected areas. Swimming should be avoided but the public has the option to swim at their own risk.
Laurier Strikes A Deal
CUPE 926, the union of custodial staff at Wilfrid Laurier University, reached a deal with the University following strike action last week. The deal was ratified by the Union on Monday. While the strike action aimed to keep custodial jobs within the Union, the deal allows the University to pursue its plan of contracting out future positions of this nature, which the Union cautions will likely be lower wage and without benefits and Union protection. While CUPE 926 had substantial support from other union locals, many its own members crossed the picket line to continue work. The University rationalised the move by comparing this policy to ones reached at other post-secondary institutions. Such policy modelling has been a feature of neoliberal ‘harmonisation’ efforts that have become common in North America, which take the weakest examples of policy and adopt them across the board.
More bike parking wanted throughout Waterloo
This week, survey results shown on the City of Waterloo website have revealed that city cyclists want more inner city parking, and not just within the Uptown core.
Approximately 450 locations were highlighted at shopping centres and plazas across the city.
The identified areas include the plaza on the corner of Columbia St. West and Fischer-Hallman Rd., the Waterloo Corporate Campus on Northfield Dr. and Weber St. North, the Bridge St. and University Ave. East plaza along with additional parking required at Conestoga Mall.
This came as a surprise to John Griffin, the city’s project manager for active transportation and LRT integration.
Griffin said there isn’t any money in the budget for more bike racks in 2016, but there is money available come 2017 and 2018. Griffin went on to further comment and said, “Yes it was . We know people want more bike parking at parks, but we realized they can just lie them down on the ground whereas commercial shopping centres you have to go in the building.” end quote.Parking requests were concentrated in the Uptown core, which didn’t surprise Griffin since the study in 2015 found that 70% of shoppers in uptown Waterloo had either arrived by bicycle, public transit or on foot. Griffin said the results could push the implementation for public-private partnerships with the city and local businesses to provide more bicycle parking within the city.
Not including installation, however, the cost for a five-ring bike rack is about $1,500 while inverted U racks cost about $150 each.This study reflects cyclists’ needs for more secure parking in the city, convenient parking locations, and more bicycle parking overall.
So far, the steps the city has made to address these concerns include the installation of two secure lockers at the uptown parkade, inverted U racks along Willis Way and at Vincenzo’s; as well as the installation of two five-ring racks at the public square and new inverted U racks at Waterloo City Hall.
There will be a formation of a team to begin implementing bicycle parking and to develop a strategies to provide more parking in the city.
However, out of the 450 highlighted not all will be feasible . “It’s going to be challenge implementing,” noted Griffin.
For more information on this topic, you can visit the city’s website at www.waterloo.ca/en/government/engagewaterloo.asp and click “closed topics”
Water Treatment Bugs are Super Productive this Hot Summer
This year’s hot summer has proven extremely beneficial for our wastewater treatment system. That is to say, there has been no actual change to the system itself, but the heat has created a perfect environment for the bugs that are in charge of cleaning up the wastewater. Of course, these bugs are not really bugs, but rather microscopic bugs, and some of them are roundworms. Thomas Schmidt, Waterloo Region’s Commissioner of transportation and environmental services explained that with the recent heatwave the bugs , “…are hungrier, they grow faster, they grow bigger, they absorb things more quickly,” He then continued to say that the responsibility of the bugs is to eat away any organic material, which actually eliminates the concentration of ammonia from the water. As such, since the bugs are particularly hungry this summer, the process of removing ammonia has improved greatly. Another reason why the water is better this summer is that less water goes through the treatment plant, which means that the water can be treated for a longer period of time.
On that note, the Director of water services Nancy Kodousek said the the process of treating the water begins with removing large material from the water, such as waste and sticks, after which, air is introduced to the system to allow for the bugs to grow from the waste. She went on to say that once the bugs eat, they settle at the bottom of the system, at which point they are called biosolids, and are scraped away. Each month, the Region fills about 18 Olympic sized swimming pools with the scraped up biosolids. Finally, the water is filtered and often a disinfectant solution is added. She summed up stating that this is very good for the Grand River.
As of this year, the Region has been drafting proposals on what to do with the biosolids, in response to 2013’s scandal of spending $4.7 million on a private contractor to send the biosolids out to farmers in adjoining communities.
Heat warning issued for Waterloo Region, Wellington County
Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for the Waterloo Region and Wellington County.
The hot and humid conditions arrived this Thursday and will continue into the weekend.
Heat Warnings are issued when the humidex value is expected to reach 40 degrees celsius or more or when temperatures range between 29-40 degrees celsius or greater.
Remember that heat illnesses can be prevented.
Some tips for keeping cool this weekend include: Drinking plenty of fluids, more importantly water, and avoid drinking liquids that are high in sugar, caffeine or alcohol, wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, and arrange public outings or activities during the cooler parts of the day. Municipalities across the region have posted a list of public cooling centres online that include city hall buildings, libraries, shopping malls and outdoor splash pads found within our city’s parks. For a full list of cooling centres throughout the city you can visit www.regionofwaterloo.ca/extremeheat
Update on Tent City
Tent City, a protest event held every summer in Kitchener-Waterloo, but also across Canada is coming to a close of its public face this week. This year’s Tent City began in Victoria Park, where participants set up their tents to camp out on Roo’s Island. With Ribfest occurring in the park, Tent City agreed to move to the rear section of the park. However, they were subsequently displaced from this and their next location at Sandhills Park in the Cedar Hill neighbourhood. The current location has not been disclosed. The purpose of Tent City is to raise awareness against gentrification, which is the process of renewing and urbanizing lower class neighbourhoods to attract middle or higher class individuals, ultimately driving out lower income people because, as a result, they cannot afford rising real estate prices. Everyone is invited to take part in Tent City, whether they are against gentrification, or whether they’ve been directly affected by it. The hope is to remove the out of sight out of mind mindset around growing poverty and gentrification.
Individuals involved in the demonstration have asked the government to add affordable housing, so that those left homeless because of gentrification can once again have a home without being displaced from their community.
Update: Tent City organisers have indicated that they are now in negotiations with the City on affordable housing placements.
Kitchener seeks residents’ goodwill to keep young trees alive
The Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive beetle that first hit KW trees in 2010, and now is expected to kill an estimated 5,000 ash trees and about 80% of ash trees in the city thereafter by 2017.
Due to the destructiveness of the beetle’s presence, the city has planted about 1,000 new ash trees, and now these trees need to be watered at least once a week for the first two years; unfortunately the city doesn’t have the budget or human-power to water all of the new trees.
So earlier this week, the city sent out flyers to homeowners where the trees have been planted and are seeking volunteers to help water these trees.
The city only has three trucks available to water these new trees and Adam Buitendyk, urban forest technologist with the city, commented on the issue and said quote “ This is the first year we’re really pushing to encourage residents to water” end quote.
With record hot temperatures along with the prolonged drought, residents’ willingness to water is even more crucial according to Buitendyk. Since the past two years, every tree planted in the city has been equipped with green watering bags. Its design allows for water to be released slowly over several hours to reduce waste and evaporation, also encouraging maximum root growth for those trees.
Dozen of young trees have been planted in areas in order to replace the lost ash trees.
Trees provide a number of benefits, from enhancing natural beauty, providing cool shade, reducing stormwater runoff and diminishes carbon, but these benefits don’t really apply until a tree hits maturity which is suggested to be after about 20 years.
So without volunteers, the city may risk losing a higher percentage of its young trees which might require the city to cut the number of trees to be planted next year and thereafter.
So please go out and volunteer to water the new ash trees within the city which can be easily identified by their green watering bags around the base of the tree. The public can also check the city’s website at www.kitchener.ca/en/livinginkitchener/tree-watering.asp
To see how often to water or to sign up for weekly watering emails within your area.
Music and food in town this week
If you’re in Kitchener this week, there are a number of events coming up for you to check out. The Rock and Rumble, an event for motorcycle and rock music enthusiasts, featuring live music and food trucks, is starting this evening outside Kitchener City Hall. And on Thursday, July 28, the Sherwood Shindig is happening all day on 124 Ottawa St S, featuring free music by Steve Strongman, Jojo Worthington, and others. The event starts at 10:30, with music starting at the lunch hour.
And that wraps up the news for July 22.