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The top news stories of 2011

This past year was a busy one in Woolwich. We followed the growing success of Kate’s Kause, a charity that aims to build a fully accessible playground for Elmira children.

The Elmira Sugar Kings celebrated 40 years as a hockey organization, with an anniversary weekend that included a range of activities. The Kings went on to great success this past season, taking home the Sutherland Cup.

We also saw both a federal and provincial election, with local Conservatives faring well — politically, at least. For of course, the federal election on May 2 was marred by the tragic collapse of Conservative MP Harold Albrecht’s wife, Betty, who never recovered from a sudden brain hemorrhage.

As is our annual tradition, here we take a closer look at the top news stories the year, highlighting the stories that made the front page in 2011.

Jan. 5, 2011 — In this issue, we highlighted the New Year’s blood drive, in which dozens of local residents took the time to give blood during the holiday season. Gord Martin, who was donating that day, was making his 74th donation of blood.

The GRCA also issued a flood warning that week, in wake of a warm spell.

Jan. 12, 2011 — The Elmira detachment of the Waterloo Regional Police was gearing up for its new responsibilities, covering a larger territory, including Maryhill and Breslau, and parts of Kitchener. The change also added new officers to the detachment.

Woolwich councillors also approved a new liaison committee structure for a one-year trial period, as a new means of communicating between staff and council.

Jan. 19, 2011 — Woolwich Township continued to seek new members for the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, after advertising throughout November and December to fill the position. Councillor Julie-Anne Herteis was appointed chairman of the committee.

Jan. 26, 2011 — The Elmira Sugar Kings celebrated their 40th anniversary as a team, with more than 60 current and past team members lacing up for an anniversary tournament.

Feb. 2, 2011 — Wellesley Township Historical Society became the proud owners of a “major acquisition,” a map of the village of Hawkesville, circa 1862. The map depicts some of the earliest-known plans for the village.

Feb. 9, 2011 — Woolwich Township lent its support to the new policing policy outlined by Waterloo Regional Police, which added five new police officers to the Rural North Division, which operates out of Elmira. The change, highlighted by police chief Matt Torigian, also pulled more officers from office positions, putting more police officers on the street.

The township’s Cultural Heritage Landscape study was made public, receiving praise from numerous individuals and organizations concerned about preserving the historic village of West Montrose.

Feb. 15, 2011 — CPAC member Rich Petrone, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, withdrew his application for the committee, citing concerns about the way Woolwich Township was treating members of the voluntary advisory committee.

Kate’s Kause reached the $40,000-mark in its fundraising, after only three months of fundraising.

Feb. 23, 2011 — The Elmira District Community Living’s new apartment project, which combines developmentally challenged residents with “friendly neighbours,” was highlighted as a success. The project has students at Renison College live in the apartment building, providing an additional level of support for the residents, while allowing them to maintain as much independence as possible.

March 2, 2011 — Woolwich started off the maple syrup season with its official tree-tapping ceremony on Feb. 25. However, it was a little too cold for the sap to start running yet. The annual event, which features local politicians and dignitaries, is used as a kick-off to the syrup season, as well as to highlight the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

March 10, 2011 — The township’s recreation department was seeing red — and so were councillors — when it was revealed that recreation overspent its budget by $533,976. The vast majority of the overspending was attributed to higher-than-expected expenses in the township’s newest facility, the Woolwich Memorial Centre.

Councillors spent the better part of six-and-a-half hours on budget deliberations on March 3, with a second budget meeting set for March 8.

March 17, 2011 — A teen driver was charged in a fatal collision that took place the previous October. The collision, which took place on Barnswallow Drive, claimed the life of Miles Hamilton, 18, of Elmira. The 17-year-old driver of the truck faced a number of charges, including impaired driving causing death.

Five-year-old Rylee Arndt donated her lengthy locks to Wigs for Kids, adding on to a family tradition started by Rylee’s aunt, Emilie Greene.

March 24, 2011 — The planned Lunor subdivision for the west end of Elmira, was placed under further review, in the light of concerns raised by a competing developer, Hawk Ridge Homes.

A recreation study completed by Watson and Associates, suggested raising fees for recreation programs, to provide a greater level of cost-recovery for the programs.

March 31, 2011 — All but one former member of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee pulled their applications for the coming term, citing a range of concerns about the lengthy timeframe Woolwich Township was taking in appointing the new committee.

Councillors gave draft approval to the township’s budget for 2011, with taxpayers seeing a 2.44 per cent increase.

April 7, 2011 — Premier Dalton McGuinty made an appearance at this year’s Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, which enjoyed marvelous weather. The amount of money raised from the festival was estimated at $50,000.

April 14, 2011 — The Elmira Sugar Kings were crowned Cherrey Cup champions, after defeating the Listowel Cyclones in the playoff series.

Woolwich council discussed the Lockhart gravel pit application, in which there were “several areas of disagreement” between the township and the gravel pit applicants.

April 21, 2011 — It was standing room only in the community room at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, when candidates for the federal riding of Kitchener-Conestoga squared off. Approximately 200 local residents attended the event, which was sponsored by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.

April 28, 2011 — The Elmira Sugar Kings earned a berth in the Sutherland Cup finals, after an overtime defeat of Niagara Falls. The team came back after dropping their first two games in the round-robin tournament.

May 5, 2011 — Local residents were saddened to learn of the sudden illness of Betty Albrecht, wife of MP Harold Albrecht, who was sent to hospital with a sudden brain hemorrhage on election night. The night had started well for Albrecht, who handily defeated his opponents in the riding, earning 54 per cent of the vote.

May 12, 2011 — Betty Albrecht was remembered as a gracious, faith-filled woman at her funeral, held on Mother’s Day. Albrecht never regained consciousness after a sudden intracranial hemorrhage. Many politicians, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, attended the funeral at Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener.

The Elmira Sugar Kings netted the coveted Sutherland Cup, after defeating the Niagara Falls Canucks four games to one in a best-of-seven series.

May 19, 2011 — Spring on the Trail, a fundraiser to support the Kissing Bridge Trail, raised $10,000, in spite of poor weather.

The Elmira Independent was named one of the best newspapers in Ontario, winning first prize for a spot-news photo taken by Jenn Franklin.

May 26, 2011 — Woolwich councillors asked township staff to conduct a peer review of the Jigs Hollow gravel pit application, in light of concerns raised by area residents.

Elmira’s butterfly garden was restored by the Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee, in honour of former Elmira librarian Mary Anne Cressman, who had passed away in 2010.

June 2, 2011 — Local environmentalist Alan Marshall suggested there was still time this year to remove dioxins from contaminated soil on the Chemtura site, rather than waiting until the following year. Marshall raised the issue at a council meeting on May 30. The issue was referred to the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, which was to meet for the first time the following week.

June 9, 2011 — The training of firefighters for the Breslau substation began in May, as reported in this issue of the Elmira Independent. A crew of 15 firefighters had been selected for the fledgling station, which serves the community of Breslau under the supervision of Maryhill firefighters.

The Robin in the Hood medieval festival was cancelled for the first time in its history, after a thunderstorm rolled into town on June. 4.

June 16, 2011 — The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival handed out $60,000 in donations to various charitable organizations in the community, the largest disbursement of funds for the organization since it started more than four decades ago.

Woolwich mayor Todd Cowan rode on Grand River Transit’s Route 21, as a means of getting his own personal experience with riding the bus.

June 23, 2011 — Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Leeanna Pendergast made an election-style stop in the village of West Montrose on June 21, calling for a review of the Aggregate Resources Act, in light of growing concerns on gravel pit applications in Woolwich Township.

June 30, 2011 — Councillors approved an all-way stop for a dangerous intersection at Crowsfoot Road and Maryhill Road, the same intersection that claimed the life of 11-year-old Grace Wynen, of Conestogo.

July 7, 2011 — Kate’s Kause surpassed the $150,000 mark in fundraising, after receiving $59,000 over a few short days. A charity golf tournament, organized by owners of local McDonald’s restaurants, raised $34,000. A further $25,000 was gained through the Keg Thanks a Million contest, an online voting competition.

The Chemtura Public Advisory Committee gave the go-ahead to investigative work that will eventually see the removal of DNAPLs (dense, non-aqueous phase liquid) from contaminated soil on the Chemtura site.

July 14, 2011 — Elmira’s Youth Centre was enjoying a bit of a boom in the summer months, as local teens were discovering it as a great place to hang out with friends.

July 21, 2011 — Residents were advised to take it easy during the summer heat wave, with local “cooling centres” being set up by the Region of Waterloo to help residents cope with the heat.

July 28, 2011 — An exhibit at Conrad Grebel University College was designed to get people thinking more about the food they eat — and where it comes from.

Aug. 4, 2011 — The owner of a Woolwich Township property west of Maryhill landed in some hot water after illegally dumping fill in a wetland on his property. Silviu Buta pled guilty to one count of undertaking development on his property without obtaining a permit from the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Residents were reminded of the dangers of West Nile Virus and Lyme disease, through an educational program launched by the Region of Waterloo.

Aug. 11, 2011 — Woolwich Township adopted a resolution to oppose the Hunder gravel pit application at the Ontario Municipal Board, after the proponents of the pit appealed the application to the OMB in May. Nearby residents have long voiced concerns over the application, citing compatibility concerns.

The township also sent its list of concerns regarding the Woolwich Bio-En biogas proposal to the Ministry of the Environment.

Aug. 18, 2011 — Those suffering from asthma were warned of the so-called “September epidemic,” in which asthma emergencies are seen to spike as children return to school.

Aug. 25, 2011 — Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue, dropped by the St. Jacobs firehall on Aug. 22, to announce a new volunteer firefighter tax credit. The credit would give firefighters a tax break for the service they provide in communities without full-time fire departments.

Sept. 1, 2011 — Woolwich Township voted in favour of continuing Elmira’s Route 21, taking the first step towards the establishment of a permanent bus route for Elmira. However, two councillors — Allan Poffenroth and Bonnie Bryant — voted against the plan, citing concerns about the cost, as well as the fact that the bus route would only serve Elmira and St. Jacobs.

John Mahood school, along with Woolwich Township, announced several changes to parking at the school, in hopes of improving the safety for the students.

Sept. 8, 2011 — Elmira’s Youth Centre received a substantial donation from the Astley Family Foundation — $75,000 over the next five years, which will help the youth centre maintain its hours and programs.

Sept. 15, 2011 — the Elmira food bank put out a plea for more donations for the fall food drive. The food bank needed a little bit of everything to help fill its shelves.

Construction started on the Elmira MennoHomes build, which will build two semi-detached homes for local low-German speaking Mennonite families.

Sept. 22, 2011 — The provincial Liberals announced their support for a review of the Aggregate Resources Act. Local MPP Leeanna Pendergast had pushed for the review in June, and announced the move in another press conference in West Montrose.

Sept. 29, 2011 — Progressive Conservative candidate Michael Harris announced his party’s intention to restore “local decision-making” when it comes to proposals under the Green Energy Act. Harris made the campaign announcement in Elmira, at the proposed location for the Woolwich Bio-En biogas project.

Gravel pits were pegged as the “hottest issue” in Kitchener-Conestoga for the provincial election.

Oct. 6, 2011 — A suicide prevention bill put forward by Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht was supported by local advocate Cathy Read-Wilson, a suicide attempt survivor.

Recreation expenses in Woolwich Township were tracking near budget, with one-quarter of the year remaining.

Oct. 13, 2011 — Newly elected MPP Michael Harris announced his intentions to get down to work, a few short days after defeating incumbent Leeanna Pendergast, for the Kitchener-Conestoga seat.

Four local schools were slated for accommodation reviews — Floradale, Linwood, St. Jacobs and Three Bridges schools.

Oct. 20, 2011 — A gala to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the West Montrose Covered Bridge was announced. The event was organized by BridgeKeeprs, the West Montrose Residents’ Association, whose mission is to preserve the covered bridge.

Oct. 27, 2011 — Foster parents Leilani and Craig Bauman shared their story with readers of the Elmira Independent, highlighting the need for more foster parents in the region.

Local residents geared up for Random Act of Kindness Day, set for Nov. 4.

Nov. 3, 2011 — The Chemtura Public Advisory Committee received additional support from Woolwich Township, giving the committee the resources needed to retain McMaster University professor Gail Krantzberg to help the fledgling committee develop an action plan for the coming year.

Woolwich Township welcomed its new recreation director, Karen Makela.

Nov. 10, 2011 — Woolwich Township staff is under “cost control” measures for the fourth quarter of the year, in hopes of keeping expenses in line with the budget. Areas of concern include the township’s winter control budget, as well as township fire services — both budgetary areas that are difficult to control.

Nov. 17, 2011 — An e-waste recycling program put on by Calvary United Church was held, in hopes of raising money in support of the church’s planned mission trip to Mexico.

Nov. 24, 2011 — Firefighter students from Conestoga College had some hands-on training at the St. Jacobs firehall, spending a week at the station as part of their program.

The village of West Montrose neared its designation as a Cultural Heritage Landscape, as a second public meeting was held in council chambers on Nov. 22.

Dec. 1, 2011 — The Ministry of the Environment announced its intention to install additional monitoring wells at the former Varnicolor site, at the Nov. 24 Chemtura Public Advisory Committtee meeting. The move came after the site was reviewed by ministry officials.

Dec. 8, 2011 — The 25th anniversary of the original Rick Hansen Man in Motion tour was celebrated in style, as local medal bearers traced the original route taken by Rick Hansen when he went through St. Jacobs and Elmira in 1986.

Dec. 15, 2011 — Students and teachers at John Mahood school celebrated the early arrival of a Christmas present that all could enjoy — an iPad lab consisting of 20 different iPads, along with a computer. The lab was funded by the sale of Treasures coupon books, an annual fundraiser at the school.

Dec. 22, 2011 — Woolwich council endorsed staff’s recommendation to deny the Hawk Ridge Homes subdivision at the Ontario Municipal Board, citing compatibility concerns.

Kate’s Kause was listed as a finalist in the Aviva Community Fund. The charity may be eligible for up to $100,000 in grants.

These are the top stories of 2011. We’re looking forward to what 2012 will bring.

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