The Year in Review: January 2017
Celina Ip / Daily Observer Hometown Hockey hosts Tara Slone (far left) and Ron MacLean (far right) pose with Pembroke-born country singer Jason Blaine following his live performance at the Hometown Hockey Tour in Petawawa in January 2017.
HOMETOWN HOCKEY COMES TO PETAWAWA: The Petawawa Civic Centre was the proud venue for the Rogers Hometown Hockey television broadcast on New Year's Day welcoming the show's hosts Tara Slone, Ron MacLean and Don Cherry. The show, broadcast on Sportsnet, focused on the diverse and deep-rooted hockey history in Petawawa, particularly on the contribution by Roy Giesebrecht, who played for the Detroit Red Wings and appeared in the Stanley Cup final.
The event also featured former Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips and retired NHL winger and Petawawa resident Ray Sheppard. Headlining the live entertainment was Canadian country music star Jason Blaine. Hometown Hockey coincided with the town's annual First Night celebrations where hundreds of people came out to enjoy a family skating party, horse drawn sleigh rides and a fireworks show.
LEGIONS HOST LEVEES: The Pembroke and Petawawa branches of the Royal Canadian Legion kicked off 2017 with New Year's levees. Both events began with a serving of Moose Milk, a punch crafted from a mixture of egg nog, ice cream and a hint of run, followed by a toast to the incoming 365 days.
ONE KILLED IN FIRE: Police located a body inside a residence on Queen Street in Killaloe after a devastating fire on Jan. 16. Officials conceded they may never what started a horrific fire which destroyed a home claiming the life of a woman. Police did not release the name of the victim who perished in the early morning blaze that razed to the ground the two-storey residence on Queen Street. The century-old dwelling was quickly engulfed in flames shortly after 1:22 a.m. Fire officials believe the fire started in an addition at the back of the residence. By the time members of the Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Fire Department arrived at the scene, flames had climbed up the walls of the main house and spread to the roof.
MURDER CONSPIRACY: Officers from the Renfrew detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) launched an investigation in January after information came forward of a domestic violence incident which involved a conspiracy to commit murder. A 46-year old man from McNab/Braeside Township was arrested and was charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit and indictable offence – kidnapping, assault and cause injury to an animal or bird – fail to provide food, water, care, shelter, in addition to three counts of criminal harassment and six counts of mischief.
YAKABUSKI ACCLAIMED: Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski was acclaimed by the membership of the local riding association to represent the Progressive Conservatives in the 2018 provincial election. With the nomination secured, the MPP said he can concentrate on serving his constituents, holding the Wynne Liberals accountable and getting ready for the June 7, 2018 election. He first won the seat in 2003.
FUTURE OF THE KINSMEN POOL: Pembroke city council heard that the Kinsmen Pool will require $3 million in upgrades and maintenance if it is to stay operational. The recreation, culture and tourism committee learned that the city had applied for funding through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program to help contribute to the costs of a pool refurbishment, to a maximum of $1 million. The pool had been in serious trouble since 2014 when staff reported the heating and ventilation systems needed to be replaced.
STARBUCKS COMING TO PETAWAWA: Petawawa council approved plans to bring Starbucks to town. Developers revealed that the popular American-based coffeehouse chain was establishing a franchisee at the Moncion Market Mall with a late summer opening date. Situated adjacent to the Northern Credit Union, Starbucks would be part of the third and final phase to the 10-acre development which previously saw the addition of a Rona building supply store and two mini-malls.
THE PANTRY OPENS ITS DOORS: The Petawawa Pantry food bank officially opened its doors in January at the Bridgeway Mall on Petawawa Boulevard. Retired pastor Reverend Eric Strachan, the food bank's vice-president, said they had been in talks to open such a facility fulfilling a need for the community. The pastor came to that realization after a nine-year-old boy asked him if he fed the poor.
PETAWAWA BOULEVARD EXPANSION: Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet told council that the County of Renfrew has hired a consulting firm to help secure government funding for the widening of Petawawa Boulevard, a project estimated to cost $19 million. In the past 10 years, traffic congestion from Garrison Petawawa has increased due to the addition of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron.
TOWN TAXES GOING UP: Residential and commercial taxes were going up in Petawawa in 2017. Town council completed a one-day workshop on Jan. 12 learning that revenues exceeded $1.7 million bringing their shortfall down to $125,580. Council hammered out a budget that would result in a 6.85 per cent hike from 2016. Petawawa suffered from a $97,200 drop in provincial transfer payments. This was the first time that council had deliberated a budget so early in a new year.
COUNTY DRAFTS BUDGET: Renfrew County council members attended their annual all-day budget workshop on Jan. 19. By the end of the day, councillors agreed to recommend the budget and its three per cent increase in the tax levy be officially adopted. The levy amount for 2017 is expected to be $42,292,821. Warden Jennifer Murphy was quite pleased with how smoothly the budget process went, the first one she has presided over as warden. She said she appreciated all of the hard work the members of county committees did in reviewing the draft budgets.
PEMBROKE PREPARING FOR POT LAWS: City council learned they will have to redefine “retail marijuana” under its zoning bylaws as the federal government prepared in 2017 to push through the legalization of marijuana. Council approved the addition of the definition to the bylaw making it easier for the city to control the sale and location of marijuana shops, if and when they became established within the municipality.
OMBUDSMAN VISITS GARRISON: Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent visited Garrison Petawawa on on Jan. 26 to reassure not only veterans of the military and the RCMP but those currently serving that he is listening and will do what he can to ensure there are no longer gaps in the benefits and services they can access once their time in uniform is done.
“There is life after service and you should have been proud to have served,” said Parent, who has been the ombudsman since 2010. Pointing to the last federal budget, Parent said veterans’ concerns are being heard. The disability award has been increased to $360,000, while the increased income eligibility exemption for the Last Post Fund has gone from $12,000 to $36,000.
DEEP RIVER CONSIDERS OPP: Deep River pondered switching from its own town police force to the OPP in January. Town council convened a special meeting to hear out provincial police representatives as they provided the municipality details of what it would cost to enter into a contract with them to provide police services. The OPP stated they could put nine constables on the streets of Deep River, the same strength as currently within the Deep River Police Force, plus back them up administratively, for $1.62 million a year for the first three years. The town police force’s budget comes in at around $1.5 million.
A BALMY CABIN FEVER: The unusually balmy weather played havoc with the opening weekend of Petawawa's Cabin Fever forcing the postponement of one major event. The popular Petawawa winter carnival had seen sliding parties and skiing competitions cancelled over the last couple of years due to melting snow base. The 2017 casualty was the Polar Bear Dip in support of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The warmer weather did attract a larger crowd for the Snow Drag Race at the Pembroke and Area Airport. Coyle estimated that it was probably double the audience and participants from 2016.