2018-12-26

The top stories of 2018

by Keith Corcoran And Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Government officials and student advocate Stella Bowles gather in Riverport for a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the the first straight pipe replacement under MODL&#8217;s Straight Pipe Replacement Program.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>The Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre is now managed by the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg and the Town of Bridgewater.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Rofihe&#8217;s no more. The men&#8217;s shop has closed and the building is sold and undergoing a re-purposing.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>The Girl Guides Cabin on Dominion Street was deemed too expensive to maintain.</p>

SSRSB overruled

It had been a bit of a David versus Goliath scenario from the start. On February 13, the Honourable Justice Christa Brothers denounced the South Shore Regional School Board's motion on March 22, 2017 to close the Petite Rivière Elementary School in July 2018, declaring the motion "a violation of the duty of procedural fairness." The woman who spearheaded a contingent of Petite Rivière residents in their fight to save their rural elementary school, Stacey Godsoe, responded that the win felt "amazing." Caitlin Grant, a Grade 6 student, told a March 13 MODL council meeting that it wasn't just the school that was saved, "but the families in it."

Shovel hits the ground

After years or rhetoric and wrangling, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL) finally put shovel to the ground on its Straight Pipe Replacement Program. A group of government officials, MODL staff, student advocate Stella Bowles, and a few other people gathered amid pouring rain in Riverport April 30 for the ground-breaking ceremony at a residence where the first septic system was to be installed.

LCLC under new management

After continual concern over the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre's (LCLC's) operating and capital expenses, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL) and the Town of Bridgewater (TOB) decided to put their money where their mouths are. At a joint in-camera meeting October 3 the two municipalities agreed to take over the management of the centre and integrate their three recreation services. The LCLC's management and administration is now carried out under the jurisdiction of a management board, which consists of three elected representatives from MODL's council and three from TOB's council.

End of an era

The town of Bridgewater saw two iconic buildings in the news this year - the home of Rofihe's Men's Wear on King Street and the Girl Guides Cabin on Dominion Street.

Rofihe's closed down February 17, after 92 years of business, and the building it has been housed in for more than 50 years changed hands and is now undergoing renovations to serve as transitional housing and a hub for community supports services for undeserved adults, youth, and families.

And long-time Girl Guide Mikayla Halliday told LighthouseNOW she was "very shocked" when she learned the Town of Bridgewater council deemed in September that the Girl Guides Cabin at 93 Dominion Street, which it owned and operated for the past 84 years, was too expensive to maintain and should be sold, with the proceeds given to the charitable organization. Halliday says she always thought of the property "like another home." Judging by the flurry of comments this paper received on social media in response to the story, she wasn't the only one.

U.S.-based shark-taggers make mark on South Shore

Ocearch, the American non-profit group known internationally for tagging and tracking white sharks, brought a team of researchers to the South Shore for the organization's first expedition to Nova Scotia. The September/October excursion off Upper Kingsburg in the area of West Ironbound Island brought success with the installation of acoustic and satellite tags on multiple white sharks and science experts managing to extract hundreds of samples for the benefit of research. Ocearch's activities were applauded by many in the marine community but critics condemned the group's baiting tactics, resulting in some brief negative attention.

Queens County man acquitted of charges connected to 2015 fatal crash

A Justice of the Supreme Court acquitted a Milton man of all charges connected to a 2015 road accident near Liverpool where a pregnant woman died in the three-vehicle crash. The verdict shocked the family of Nicole Ezute-Thomas who were praying for a different outcome. Nicole's heartbroken mother and sister were among family who wept after hearing the decision. The vehicle Nicole was in had been struck by a tractor trailer that went out of control on Highway 103 after colliding with a truck driven by the accused. The court found the accused not guilty of charges, including criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death, because, in part, the Crown didn't prove he caused the accident nor did the prosecution have the admissible evidence to establish his actions were a marked departure from the norm.

Town cuts ties with police chief, long-time officers confirmed in senior ranks

Long-time lawmen Scott Feener and Danny MacPhee of the Bridgewater Police Service lost their "acting" credentials as both senior officers assumed the official titles of chief and deputy chief, respectively, of the town's municipal police department. They were sworn into their positions during a special ceremony at town hall where their family, friends and other supporters shared in the moment that surely yielded a collective sigh of relief among the local force and offered a chance to turn the page on a challenging period of time. Up until the title change, Feener had filled in since the summer of 2016 as police chief. Feener hit pause on the double-duty commitment when MacPhee was appointed to help as his second-in-command. This lasted until this year when the town cut ties with the then-police chief who's challenging criminal charges in a trial slated for summer 2019. The result of that trial will undoubtedly make top local news lists next year.

Fraxville farmer's lifetime animal ban

Provincial court Judge Cathy Benton surprised many in a Bridgewater courtroom this year when she imposed a lifetime animal ban - an uncommon move - on a New Ross area farmer convicted of starving his cattle. The farmer in question is fighting the sentence in a higher court but Benton sent a strong message to those who treat animals poorly: Expect a different degree of punishment from her. The sentence also included 60 days jail time (an aspect also subject to an appeal to a different court).

The Stephen Sander legacy donation

Stephen Sander, a British Columbia real estate magnate with Bridgewater roots, displayed a big heart to go with his deep pockets, giving a $1.2 million legacy to the South Shore town that took him in back in the early 1960s. The legacy donation from the former Bridgewater physical education teacher turned property mogul goes to a local health services charity and a committee overseeing construction of a playground. Through his company Hollyburn Properties, Sander gave most of the money, $1 million, to the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore toward the $1.4 million cost of renovating existing operation room space and establishing a minimally invasive surgical suite at the Bridgewater hospital. The remainder of the donation went to the Bridgewater Elementary School Playground Committee to finish the first phase of building a York Street play area.

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