LighhthouseNOW Newsmakers of 2017: Part Two

This is the second part in our Newsmakers of 2017 series. We chose 10 stories to share with you based on public reaction, website numbers, and what drew the most attention on social media this year.

Lunenburg's water woes

Pollution and smells coming from Lunenburg's harbour led to heated discussions, a public meeting, and even issues in court.

LighthouseNOW first broke the story back in May when it was revealed that town council hadn't provided any money for an odour solution for the harbour.

Tour boat operator Bill Flower spoke out in the newspaper about the cost of cleaning his boat as outfall from the sewage treatment facility mucked it up. That wasn't his biggest problem however, it was the smell that plagued him the most.

Later this year, Flower and Mayor Rachel Bailey allegedly had a heated discussion, one that Bailey released a statement on, saying she was assaulted. Flower is alleged to have smeared Bailey with sewage. He entered a plea of not guilty in October and the case will go to trial in April.

In the meantime, a public meeting on a strategy for the harbour was held, with dozens of disgruntled citizens taking part.

Representatives from the town's engineering department, an engineering consulting firm and an environmental stewardship charity presented to a packed fire hall.

A biofilter odour control system is set to be installed at the wastewater treatment plan, however, there are also still over 20 straight pipes that flow into the harbour.

To twin or not to twin?

Public meetings were held across the province to look into the issue of twinning 100-series highways.

However, the issue of tolls came to the forefront of those discussions with the province saying that in order to twin some areas, they would have to be put in place. It was a resounding "no" that came from the meetings held in Lunenburg County.

The province chose to move forward instead with plans to twin some sections without tolling, but not extending far on Highway 103.

An additional $390 million to fund highway improvements, including twinning Highway 103, which runs along the South Shore, were allocated, but only the 22 kilometres between Tantallon and Hubbards (exits 5 and 6) will be twinned.

Later this year, former reporter Michael Lee reached out to Ida Scott, who told us her son Paul's story and how 13 years ago he died in a car accident on the 103.

Scott said she'd happily pay tolls if it meant it would save lives.

Although 10,000 cars per day on a highway is often a signal to twin it, there is no guarantee that will take place. There are some highways with over 20,000 cars on them per day, according to Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

Lee's piece explored the number of people traveling on the highway as well as the reasons for many of the accidents that occur on Highway 103.

Bridgewater High School's last hurrah

Despite the hard fight the Town of Bridgewater put up to keep Bridgewater Senior High School (BHS) open, 2017 still marked the last graduation to happen at the school.

The town filed a judicial review against the South Shore Regional School Board's decision to move the students from BHS to Park View Education Centre (PVEC) but the court upheld the board's decision.

On June 29, students, teachers, and parents came out for the last graduation and former LighthouseNOW reporter Brittany Wentzell was in attendance to capture the tears and laughs that followed.

"I just feel very honoured to be considered the last valedictorian but at the same time... it's bittersweet because there won't be another class to follow in my footsteps or to follow in the footsteps of all these amazing students," Madeleine Graves, class valedictorian, told LighthouseNOW after the ceremony.

Grades 10 through 12 started at PVEC this fall.

Dropbox Six plead guilty

In a case that carried over from last year, local girls, some as young as 13, were pressured to - and later regretted transmitting - images of their fully and partially nude bodies to six Bridgewater area teenage boys known as the Dropbox Six.

The case saw some relatively new laws tested when it came to online harassment.

The boys were part of a private Facebook chat group and talk of intimate photographs of female students became a topic of discussion. Two of the boys created a Dropbox account in which to share intimate images of the girls.

All six youths admitted to Bridgewater court to distributing an intimate image without consent, a relatively new criminal code offence. They were granted conditional discharges on September 6.

The males must - among other conditions - complete 50 hours of community service work within six months, complete any necessary counselling, and, over the next nine months, have no contact with victims and their families unless they consent, and not access, view, store or distribute pornography.

Judge Paul Scovil commented the young men took advantage of vulnerable females and treated them as objects for sexual gratification. The teens abused the female's trust, resulting in far reaching ripple effects, the judge went on.

"Anyone to suggest that these women are at fault are completely wrong," Scovil said.

The case was followed closely by court reporter Keith Corcoran as well as news outlets from across the province.

South Shore foresters and environmentalists fight clear cuts and monopolies

Foresters across the South Shore voiced their concerns about Westfor Management Inc. a consortium of 13 mills with access to over 500,000 hectares of crown land formerly owned by Bowater.

After months of outcry, a group was formed with former South Shore - St. Margaret's MP Gerald Keddy at the helm. Many of the foresters argue that their inability to move wood and fibre on the market was being caused by a glut of wood on the market from larger mills as well as possibly lower stumpage fees.

"We have not been able to find out how much WestFor receives as a fee from the government," said Keddy.

Meanwhile, WestFor maintains they are cutting less wood than what was cut during Bowater's time.

It wasn't just foresters, however, who were worried about the management of crown land. Environmentalists repeatedly decried cutting practices, particularly those near ecologically sensitive and protected areas. The Ecology Action Centre and the Healthy Forests Coalition even went so far as to hold a forest funeral in Halifax earlier this year.

Communities also voiced their concerns to the province and the media including the County of Annapolis, whose council wrote to the premier asking that no cuts be made on crown land in their area until more research had been done into the issues highlighted by foresters.

Law professor Bill Lahey, who headed up an aquaculture strategy review, is now reviewing the province's forestry strategy and a report from Lahey is expected to be released in February.

Until that's released, WestFor is operating on an interim lease agreement on crown land. They are aiming to sign a 10 year Forest Utilization Licence Agreement. That's been put on hold until after the review is complete.

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