An Orillia business owner is “at a loss” after his request to use city property for a video shoot was turned down, despite being granted earlier approval.
Patrick Kehoe, who owns Eco Earth Sciences, was granted approval by the City of Orillia to use the West Orillia Sports Complex property as a backdrop for the shoot, which would focus on his company’s Aquacide device. The product was originally designed to kill weeds but has been modified to sterilize surfaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kehoe said he wanted to shoot at the West Orillia Sports Complex because the Rotary Place arena was, “for the most part, shuttered” during the pandemic.
When the COVID-19 assessment centre was moved from Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital to Rotary Place, Kehoe suggested the shoot take place on the far edge of the property, well away from Rotary Place, but he was not given permission.
That’s when he suggested he use Tudhope Park instead. Less than 24 hours before the crew was scheduled to do the shoot, that request was shot down, too, causing “maximum inconvenience,” Kehoe said.
“Whenever we deal with the City of Orillia, it’s roadblock after roadblock,” said, a former city councillor.
Jennifer Ruff, the city’s director of business development and communications, said the scheduling of a shoot at a location that hadn’t been previously approved by the municipality was “premature.”
“After advising Rotary Place was no longer an option, it was suggested that he seek out other options on private property as an alternative,” she said.
Kehoe’s request to use the park was turned down over worries about damage, she noted.
“The change of location to a park setting raised concern for potential damage to the surrounding environment (grass, trees, gardens, shrubs, etc.) as a result of demonstrating the application of the technology, which is intended to kill pathogens,” she said. “The city was not prepared to take that potential risk and therefore did not approve the request to change location of the video shoot.”
Kehoe called those concerns “absolutely ridiculous.”
Using Aquacide, water “can only be superheated in a vacuum,” he explained.
“The moment it comes into contact with atmospheric pressure, it converts almost instantaneously to a gas,” he said, adding the device is “not foreign” to the city, which has used it in the past.
Kehoe suggested his “surname was a factor” in the city’s decision.
“My father (Frank) and myself have been outspoken on issues before. There’s been some head butting on environmental concerns in the past,” he said, also mentioning his father’s persistent, vocal opposition to the city's decision to sell Orillia Power Distribution Corporation to Hydro One.
Asked to respond to that statement, Ruff reiterated that the decision was made based on concerns about damage to the environment.
Kehoe said he has received “full support” when working with other municipalities, including Burlington and Mississauga.
“To do this elsewhere is not an issue,” he said, adding the shoot will now take place in Burlington. “It’s a critical time in the local economy. There should be an attitude to go above and beyond to help businesses at this time.”