Year In Review: Looking back on April
A four-year-old girl allegedly abducted by her father early was assessed after a van she was traveling in crashed near a truck stop along Highway 41 near Pembroke Monday April 18, 2016. The amber alert was issued in Aurora Ontario and the child was air lifted to CHEO.
CRASH CLAIMS ONE NEAR PETAWAWA: A 19-year-old man was killed after a catastrophic collision between a car and a transport truck shortly before 5 a.m. on April 23. The crash occurred at the intersection of Highway 17 and Murphy Road near Petawawa, and resulted in the closure of the highway between Paquette Road and Black Bay Road. The car's driver was pronounced dead on scene when emergency responders arrived, while the driver and passenger of the truck, both 53-year-old men, were taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries. There were no charges pending as a result of the accident. The identity of the deceased was not released by the Ontario Provincial Police.
WORKER KILLED NEAR ARNPRIOR: A construction worker died after being struck by a Jeep Patriot on Highway 17 west of Arnprior. William Danniel Milton, 42, of Addington Highlands Township, was killed when the Jeep crossed the centre line and struck the two workers and two construction vehicles. Milton, suffered fatal injuries. The other worker suffered serious injuries and was transported by paramedics to hospital.
HIGH SPEED CHASE ENDS HERE: Pembroke captured national headlines on April 18 when a province-wide Amber alert ended in a high-speed crash on Paul Martin Drive. The incident led to police safely recovering a four-year-old girl allegedly abducted by her father, Mario Rodrigues. The 35-year-old Toronto man was the subject of an Amber Alert issued after a man, police alleged, entered a home in Aurora at around 4:20 a.m. that morning, assaulted a woman and then took her four-year-old daughter without her consent. With the child, the suspect fled in a silver 2008 Toyota Sienna.
Ontario Provincial Police patrolling Highway 62 spotted the suspect vehicle going through Bancroft at a high rate of speed. Despite attempts to pull it over, the driver continued eastbound towards Pembroke. Rodrigues was charged with one count of abduction, one count of breaking and entering with intent to commit an indictable offence and two counts of assault. The incident also came under investigation by Ontario’s Special Investigation’s Unit (SIU).
REMEMBERING FRANK CIRELLA: An enterprising businessman and devoted community volunteer, former town councillor Frank Cirella passed away on April 10 at the age of 70. Cirella served as a councillor from 2010 to 2014 sitting on numerous committees including the Airport commission and the Tourist Destination Development Committee. His volunteerism within the community was boundless extending from coaching minor baseball to organizing a national slow pitch tournament. He was a member of the Pembroke/Petawawa Lions Club for 25 years once serving as the club’s president. He was involved in running TV Bingo, charity golf tournaments and the construction of the Lions Hall which opened on Victoria Street in 1994.
REMEMBERING ZOLO DEMETER: A long-time icon in local business and politics, former Pembroke alderman and deputy mayor Zoltan “Zolo” Demeter, passed away peacefully at the age of 91. Demeter was born in 1924, and had a lifelong passion for fine food. After spending three decades working as a chef at a prominent Italian restaurant in Montreal, Zolo relocated to the Ottawa Valley in 1975 and almost immediately set to work in changing the food service landscape he then found himself in.
“It was probably the very first place that had fine dining in Pembroke,” recalls his daughter, Lydia Lewis, who worked with her father at the soon-famous Zolo's Restaurant on Pembroke Street, “like lobster tails, steaks and the kind of thing you'd only get in big cities.”
Despite the significant setback of a fire that destroyed the first Zolo's Restaurant in 1985, he remained stalwart, and resurrected the restaurant in a new location in Pembroke's east end.
REMEMBERING HENRY BRADLEY: Retired lawyer Henry Bradley, who passionately represented not only his clients but Pembroke’s underprivileged in the courtroom for more than half a century, passed away in April at age 87. Bradley began practising law here in 1965 joining Murray Williams at the city’s oldest legal firm quickly earning a reputation for being a dedicated and compassionate barrister. With a genuine love for the courtroom, he devotedly argued civil, family and criminal cases over the course of a remarkable career.
“He was proud to be a lawyer, like his dad, and very strongly felt lawyers represented an important part of our society,” recalled his son, Matt, who followed his father into the legal profession. “Through his personal and professional life, he taught us conviction, perseverance and loyalty. A gentleman with principles.”
CPR TRAIL DEAL: The County of Renfrew voted to sign onto an historic deal to acquire the decommissioned Canadian Pacific corridor paying $360,300 for a multi-million dollar rail bed that will be converted into a trail system. The county partnered with Lanark County and the Township of Papineau-Cameron to secure 296 kilometres of Canadian Pacific rail line from Smiths Falls to Mattawa.
“It is a significant project and a legacy for Renfrew County,” said Warden Peter Emon.
TAXES GO UP IN PETAWAWA: Burdened by the cost to pay for infrastructure with few grant dollars, Petawawa town council trimmed $1.1 million in expenditures to bring in a balance budget with a projected 5.3 per cent tax increase. After a day-long budget workshop at the town hall, council agreed to bring in a preliminary tax rate of $772 on a property assessed at $243,000. That amounted to an increase of $40.37 from what homeowners paid last year.
ACCUSED CHARGED WITH MURDER: Basil Borutski was formally arraigned on first degree murder charges in the deaths of three Renfrew County women in September 2015. Justice Robert Selkirk informed the court that the Royal Ottawa Hospital had completed an assessment to see if Borutski is fit to stand trial noting their findings are “inconclusive.” Duty counsel Biagio Del Greco said that he has yet to receive instructions from Borutski, who still had not hired a lawyer. Borutski was arrested after the bodies of 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk and 48-year-old Nathalie Warmerdam were found in their homes in Wilno and Bonnechre Valley, while Carol Culleton, 66, was found dead in her cottage near Barry's Bay.
TRAVELODGE CLOSES: Twenty people found themselves out of work after the Travelodge hotel in Pembroke's East end unceremoniously closed its doors permanently. Despite the prominent presence of the familiar blue-and-white Travelodge sign on Pembroke St., as well as the permanent sign on the front of the building itself, the hotel has reportedly not been officially a Travelodge franchise for the last few months, following a falling-out with the Travelodge corporation. This according to one former employee who wished to remain anonymous.
WARDEN WON’T APOLOGIZE: County warden Peter Emon said he wouldn’t apologize to Head, Clara, Maria after publicly telling the municipality it has a responsibility to provide heavy vehicle extrication on Highway 17. During the monthly meeting of Renfrew County council, the township’s mayor, Jim Gibson, asked Emon to retract statements he made in the Feb. 16 edition of the newsletter Ottawa Valley Business. A mutual aid agreement between Head, Clara and Maria, and neighbouring Laurentian Hills and Deep River dissolved in October 2015.
Emon issued a blunt “no” in response to Gibson’s request adding that he was within his right to speak on the contentious matter because he felt this was a safety issue. The warden explained that the Ontario Municipal Act allows him to speak on the well being of a municipality and its residents.
HALL OF FAME: The Ottawa Valley Country Music Association (OVCMA) announced they will induct the late Jim Hickey, one of founders of the popular Pembroke Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Championships before becoming its long-serving chairman in 1983, into its Hall of Fame. Known for his grace, dignity and unflappable manner, Hickey became as synonymous with the contest as the musicians and all the traditions that spawned from the time-honoured Labour Day weekend event, such as Fiddle Park.
“He was a great person who really supported fiddle and step dance building it from a small event to one of the largest, if not the largest, competitions in Canada,” said OVCMA president Jim Long.
HIGHWAY 17 PITCHED: While there are no firm funding commitments coming from the province, Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon believe they made the case for speeding up the four-lane expansion of Highway 17 during a meeting with provincial officials in April. Emon reported that a county delegation had a positive meeting with Ontario transportation minister Steven Del Duca in Toronto. The county was requesting the inclusion of Highway 17's expansion as a key priority program within the province's five-year capital works program.