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The Death of the County Lifestyle

Strange things are happening in Ontario. Even stranger things are happening here in the County.
Personally, while writing these columns, I have moved from commentary to deep concern, from disbelief to reluctant acceptance, and from frustration to terror.
I have stated in past columns that we have nothing to fear in the County, as long as we maintain our sense of community. I consider that to be our suit of armour, the thing that protects us from the stupid-ass world out there. This is a world that locals have ignored for a couple of centuries, and a world that newcomers could escape to with a feeling of heady ecstasy.
But dark clouds appear suddenly, and unexpectedly and, without falling under the spell of paranoia, I’m not liking what’s goin’ on.
It started when I was enjoying a photo shoot of Grandpa’s Goodtime Gang, appearing at Mt. Tabor Playhouse last year.
But one small thing was out of place. There were three firemen at the entrance. It was a puzzle to me, and I found it more than a little unnerving. I got that old feeling from 1968, when people in uniforms would be standing at the entrance to rock concerts. But Grandpa’s Goodtime Gang wasn’t exactly The Who, or Pink Floyd, so I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.
So I did what I used to do in 1968 … I waited until a lady with a walker needed help going up the stairs, and I slipped through the door behind them, unnoticed.
And, of course, they were firemen, and not RCMP, but still, it was very strange.
I checked with several different sources to try to ascertain why firemen were sitting in chairs at each exit. I wasn’t aware of any terrorist threats on Milford.
After a few phone calls to ‘people who would know’, here’s the story I pieced together.
Someone in the Fire Department did a regulation check on the Regent Theatre, and found  some things out of whack, which needed fixing. At some point, someone at the Regent asked if other similar venues were being given the same treatment.
This led to that, and Mt. Tabor came under scrutiny. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. And, as Fire Marshalls tend to do, they found some things that needed fixing.
Where it messed up is that the GGG concert was already planned, and they had based their ticket price on their usual sell-out performance of 180 seats at Mt. Tabor. Suddenly this was restricted to 100 seats, days before the concert.
On the one hand, the organizers had planned to make a modest profit at 180 people, and so were now losing money. This didn’t bother the band much, because they have the biggest hearts in the south end of the County. They love to play, and they don’t care if they lose money as long as the remaining audience enjoys the show.
On the next hand, the organizers had 180 tickets out there in various outlets, and had no idea how many had been sold. They also didn’t have enough time to rush out and haul them back in to do a count.
So they were faced with the problem of how many ticket holders would be turned away at the door.
Where do the firemen come in? They were assigned to post themselves at all exits. The balcony sections were closed off to general seating (hence the loss in seat count), and only accessible to the lighting man, and any photographer who could wait for an old lady in a walker, and then slip up the stairs.
I know this doesn’t sound like an ‘end of the world’ situation, but it really gets under my skin.
For one thing, when one of the organizers spotted me, she said, “Oh, My God … your Number 101!”
I assured her that I was not a guest, or a ticket holder, or even a genuine human being. I was not even there, and I would not be staying long, while I was not there.
So now, having told my gut-wrenching story. Let me get to the head-shaking part.
We used to do things really easily.
As a church, Mt. Tabor held a full crowd of people for a century. Sure, there were no fast-food restaurants back then, but still, we’re not much heavier than we were in 1833. And, of course, only Christians attended the church, so they could count on God to save them, without interference from Fire authorities.
As one of the newspapers reported, the County staffer who called for the sudden changes was extremely apologetic, and I believe that. I’m sure it took him by surprise too.
But you don’t have to instantly react to every little thing that turns up. You don’t have to stop the whole train just because the seat belt lights are malfunctioning.
We’re caught in a world where nothing is easy anymore. In the old days, we would say, “Okay, let’s carry on but, after this, let’s bring a crew in right away and get this fixed up.”
This would have worked perfectly at Mt. Tabor in Milford. Hell, the whole community built it in 1833, and the whole community made it into one of the hottest venues for local talent in 1985. Everyone within a 25-mile radius of the village has a stake in this place.
The place has three doors ­ you don’t think people can find their way out if there’s a problem?
Let me head off the “If only one life is saved, it would be worth it” crowd. Since 1797, no-one in the County has been killed while engaging in a church service, or watching a performance. One guy bought it in Rednersville in the 1800s when he was hit by lightning coming out of a Masons meeting, but that doesn’t count. (I’m sure it’s just God’s way of sorting out Bad Masons.)
The point is: If there’s a problem, the community can fix it. They all know an electrical guy. A law that says, “Oh my God, the sky is falling we must act on this immediately!” has never been the County way.
Let’s be reasonable. Let’s use common sense. We’ll fix ‘er up. No worries.
I don’t fault the firefighters, they were instructed to be there, at taxpayers’ expense, not the band’s. But I really, really need to question the actions of the Fire Marshall.
Not personally … I’ve never met the guy. And I can’t fault him for his Due Diligence, because he is performing the job he was hired to do … by the Letter of the Law.
My real problem is that ­ while we were sleeping and enjoying County Life ­ the number of Laws and Bylaws have grown, and grown, and grown.
Sure, as individuals, we still like to solve our own problems, and repair our own broken stuff. But there are now laws that prevent us from enacting either of those solutions.
Next issue I will continue with a list of horror stories that have been reported to me ­ in true ‘Word on the Street’ fashion ­ of really simple activities which have been heavily persecuted by laws and bylaws we don’t even know exist.
Our sense of community will soon be worth nothing. There are already many things we do on our own property which are now illegal, or at least fine-able. And we don’t even know it. Yet.
Soon we’ll just be hiding in our homes, hoping the Officials don’t find us.
That’s Jane and Finch. That’s not County.

Filed Under: Steve Campbell

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  1. Robert says:

    Steve you need all the facts maybe you should ask your source for the rest of them before you post a small peice of the puzzle.

  2. Killashandra Ree says:

    Interesting & entertaining read on both sides of the issue. I also thought that the “fixes’ included a ramp for wheelchairs accessibility – which is of course, a very good thing. I do have to agree with Steve that sometimes all these rules and bylaws are ‘killing’ the County Way (not quite dead yet), but it is also the search for the almighty dollar that is partly to blame – people buying and selling and tearing down old buildings to make way for new shiny stores, building super sized stores just out of town and the one that disturbs me the most is having an accessibility ramp to a restaurant converted to a patio on Main Street Picton.

  3. Feona says:

    I think that this article is truly much more than just a safety issue however, I myself, sitting in the arm chairs of those making the decisions, would have absolutely voted on the side of safety. It is a common sense decision and had they used further common sense they probably would have never allowed the ceiling reno that occurred and continued to “sink” at the Demorestville Town Hall…its collapse would have never occurred. Layers of ceiling etc then blowing insulation on top?… pretty sad on a suspended ceiling situation! Where was the building inspector in this deal? Lessons learned and luckily no tragedies! If the death or possibility of death was on your head would you not be erring on the side of safety?
    Now, bring up the sign bylaw issue, which doesn’t allow a community group to even raise a few dollars by putting a sign on a post? That, truly is an issue, no liability involved, that could definitely apply to the above criticisms that I could agree with all on! This is truly one of the things that has contributed to the death of the County Life Style!

  4. Steve, I agree that we are over-regulated and at the mercy of insurance companies, however I would just like to point out a couple of things:
    1 – It’s my understanding that because of the short notice involved, Grandpa and the Gang did not have to foot the bill personally for the firemen
    2 – County government in fact found money within its budget to address the most serious concerns at Mt. Tabor
    3 – The Marysburgh Mummers agreed to contribute a whole bunch more
    4 – The TaborFix Committee staged several fundraisers, including a concert which was made possible by the generosity of the Regent Theatre and many local musicians
    OK – I know that’s four, not a couple, but it seems to me that this is not the death of the County lifestyle, but rather a perfect example of how local government and the community worked together to address an important local issue. One can argue whether or not it was necessary in the first place, but you have to admire the “get ‘er done” spirit – that’s pure County.
    And to end on a personal note – where did you and the beer disappear to on Saturday?

  5. Chris Keen says:

    Speaking of “The Death of the County Lifestyle”, I think it’s a bit much that this site publishes a “letter” from Gilead Power on “How Wind Works” and then closes the comments. Smells like an paid advertisement to me – like the link to their site which I’m sure was paid for by Gilead.

  6. Chris Keen says:

    Generally speaking I agree that government of all levels has turned us into a “nanny state” – perhaps not as bad as the U.K. or the E.U. – but a nanny state nonetheless.

    It would be refreshing to have a government that said “Right – let’s not do anything until we’ve reviewed all our laws or bylaws and rescinded all those that have taken away reasonable voter choice.” But that will never happen.

    In this case, because the letter of the law said 100 people in the audience, you can be sure, Steve and Gary, if that had been ignored, and anyone had died as a result of a fire, the County would have been abandoned by its insurer and would have been sued into the next century by victims’ families. And that’s not good for anyone – victim or survivor alike.

  7. John Thompson says:

    The reality is that the fact that no one was buried in the Demorestville Hall had nothing to do with good management. Think about it and give thanks that it went down when no one was present.

  8. Beth says:

    I understand that while there are arguments to both sides however there are safety concerns that are being addressed and these don’t have anything to do with the structure of the building, but in fact that the place is a fire hazard. I most people are aware old buildings burn faster than newer ones are the wood is well dried out and flammable (try burning the lath when you renovate your home).

    Reality is that for the capacity there, in that building, are simply not enough exits to get 180 people out fast enough in the event of a fire. And we cannot predict whether there will be a fire. The only way that it might be possible to correct this lack of exits issues is to install a sprinkler system, at an immense cost to the taxpayers. Reality is the County does not have the funds at this time.

    I would rather see a smaller capacity in place at Mount Tabor than to see the worst possible disaster happen, you know a electrical fire caused by the shorting out of wires (just an example), in the middle of a performance.

    The reduction of the capacity, may be a part of the death of the “County Lifestyle” as Steve puts it, however it has been implemented to protect the people who attend the Playhouse.

  9. Gary Mooney says:

    I’d like to pick up on Steve’s point about liability. Many organizations impose rules due to concerns about liability — concerns that are raised or reinforced by the organization’s insurance broker. The result is that these organizations effectively allow insurers to decide what the organization can and cannot do — a tail wagging dog situation. Rather than just going along with what insurers say (they’re always going to opt for minimizing risk), organizations should negotiate a solution that is a balance between freedom of action and risk assumed.

  10. Richard parks says:

    Steve, I really like your new nickname. I guess the
    “Fire Marshall” you refer to really is big brother after all. I’m sorry I did so much harm personaly to Mt Tabor and The Regent . I do recall voting in favour of huge sums of money for both those facilities to stay operating over the 4 years.I guess that doesn’t matter. By the way, the “flex” you refer to? Keeping Mt.Tabor open, with the balcony access limited, instead of closing it, but I understand. Not enough flex to suit you. That’s O.K. We live in a Democracy.

  11. Steve, who can't hold his tongue says:

    Richard Parks and I have been sparring partners for a long time. His best defense is: Steve, you don’t have the facts, or Steve, you just sit back and comment, without knowing the ‘real skinny’ of how decisions are made.
    Gotta set the record straight on that.
    I don’t work in a darkened room, I probably have more people providing me with ‘facts’ every day than councillors do. Some of my sources are probably the same as his.
    Clearly, he didn’t get my point, possibly because the Mt. Tabor problem happened under his watch as councillor. I had over 20 sources on this, including myself, who was there.
    Richard has one. In his Godlike position of making decisions based on the information of the Godlike people who asked for it, he forgot to add in the devastating effect on the many, many people he was serving/protecting.
    I understand the laws that protect people.
    I take issue with equating a Mt. Tabor disaster that never happened, in which no-one was hurt, with a Demorestville disaster that did occur, in which no-one was hurt.
    But my biggest problem is the persecution, not the execution, of the law, as you will see in the next two columns.
    Here’s an example I didn’t use in those columns:
    The Fire Marshall ordered a man to clear out his basement, because he had wood stored there – a possible fire hazard. He was given 7 days to do it.
    The wood included his late parents’ antique furniture, which he was storing in the basement. He claims there were no other combustibles in the basement.
    Given 7 days, he had no opportunity to have a yard sale, or check with local antique dealers to appraise the value. So he dragged it all to the roadside and put up a sign that said ‘Free’. Needless to say, everything was cleared in a matter of days.
    My point is, we don’t need officials with Power to run around enforcing the letter of the law, and demanding immediate action. Let’s have a little flex.
    Clearly Richard bought into the frantic “The Sky is falling, the sky is falling” attitude that has caused grief to Mt. Tabor, The Regent and dozens of businesses and private homes in the County.
    Go panic somewhere else, Richard, because you did us harm here.
    As I say, let’s take a breath, and give targeted people some time to take care of the needed changes.
    You, like me, don’t have $10,000 set aside in case a fire marshall or bylaw officer drops by and demands immediate compliance.
    Sometimes I think that councillors worry more about liability, than serving their people.
    Thanks for listening.

  12. Richard parks says:

    mmm… libel? liable? trouble either way. Cheers!

  13. Carolina says:

    I think Mr. Parks means “liable” – interesting Freudian slip though.

  14. Capt Chris Holder says:

    To borrow a phrase, I have seen the enemy and it is us

  15. Richard parks says:

    Here’s the skinny. It’s easy to be an arm chair Quarter back on Mount Tabor and other issues that irritate the hell out of us closing in on 60 baby boomers with excess time on our hands.
    However, when you are sitting in the arm chairs where real live decisions that count have to be made, and a professional tells you that you may be putting the lives of those very people in the wheel chairs at Mt.Tabor at risk, then it stops being a game. You have staff who remind you that if you just say “yah we’ll get around to that some day, real soon”
    then you are collectively( Council and the Municipality)
    libel for what happens or may happen down the road, due to your negligence/inaction in the face of being warned of the danger to the public.
    Think what could have happened at Demorestville Hall when the ceiling totaly collapsed had that Hall been full of people.
    I’m glad I took the Fire Chief’s advice on Mount Tabor, because I saw a picture of the inside of Demorestville Hall after the ceiling collapsed.

  16. Jason says:

    It seems to me that we are increasingly becoming like robots. We have a rigid programming (policies, laws) and we haven’t the brains to deviate from our core purpose. If we can’t RE-learn how to adapt then this world, and the County, is doomed to lose it’s sense of humour. All of those spontaneous moments we cherish so much…yet are sometimes dangerous in the eyes of Elmer the Safety Elephant, will be relegated to folk tales whispered between school children in their hermetically sealed playground devoid of danger….and life. It scares me too…can you tell?

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