2018: that was a year, that was

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Looking back on any given year, it is always surprising how much was packed into just twelve months. But looking back on 2018 leaves you breathless. What an amazing year it was: three elections for us to enjoy (is that the right word?), major anniversaries for the Kemptville Lions Club and the Kemptville Players, promising new beginnings and some sad departures too.

January marked the 20th anniversary of North Grenville itself, coming into existence back in 1998 by the feat of Mike Harris and his Amalgamating Government. Oxford-on-Rideau, South Gower and Kemptville were brought together in something that looked like a shotgun marriage. And, as if to mark the event, we had the famous Ice Storm, which hit just as the new municipal Council were beginning work. Significant, symbolic, a sign of things to come?

The Times began a series on The Road to Amalgamation, telling the story of the negotiations and controversies leading up to the creation of the new municipality. Perhaps inspired by this historical event, a new Archaeological Society was formed, and a new hotel was promised. The Comfort Inn and Suites people announced the imminent arrival of the hotel, and we are still waiting in expectation twelve months later.

The swing bridge in Burrits Rapids was closed for major renovations in January, though the work had been scheduled to begin in October of the previous year. It took a long time to complete, and was of some inconvenience to residents of the Island Nation, as well as bringing unwanted heavy traffic to the Andrewsville Bridge, which suffered greatly through the year from drivers ignoring warning signs regarding the weight of their vehicles. It was decided later in the year that the bridge would be closed during the winter months so that work could be done to maintain the historic structure.

Burritts Rapids and Bishops Mills were at the centre of a major debate on Council in February: should there be apostrophes in Burrits and Bishops? After deep thought (or as deep as that Council ever managed), it was decided that the opinion of residents was outweighed by national policies, and no apostrophe would be allowed.

February also saw the Kemptville Players mark their 50th birthday, and the Knights of Columbus held their 20th Annual Sweetheart Brunch, one of the social highlights of the year and generously supported by local businesses. There we have one of North Grenville’s most common statements: “generously supported by local businesses”, it can be said of so many events and fundraisers that take place regularly here, year after year.

The Spring saw some good and bad: the Greystones seniors home announced that it had to close, in spite of offers from local businesses (there it is again) to try and put the building in order. The Two Rivers Food Hub also closed in March, a blow to the local food industry. On the plus side, the Kemptville Lions Club began their 60th year of activities to benefit the people of the municipality.

The Municipality of North Grenville was front and centre in February and March, for very different reasons. In February, Mayor and Council, (with the excception of Jim Bertram) issued that infamous Open Letter (no need to elaborate), and a proper response from residents came in October, when the entire Council was thrown out of office. A more positive announcement by the Municipality came in March, when it was revealed that they had reached an agreement with the province to take over the old Kemptville College campus. Few details were available even then, and we still await the establishment of the not-for-profit corporation that will run the Campus without cost to the taxpayer.

There was so much to enjoy during the year, plays and concerts, fairs and festivals, all of which were well-attended and much appreciated. The standard of performance in the arts that we enjoy here is remarkable. The Kemptville Players Inc. Kids, Kemptville Youth Musical Theatre Company, the Kemptville Players, the North Grenville Concert Choir, and so many musicians and artists of all kinds, filled the year with entertainment and genuine culture to our common benefit.

We had a Rural Summit, a Sustainability Fair, Kemptville Live Music Festival, the Family Fun Fest at the Ferguson Forest centre, and the 58th Annual Hey Day. The Kemptville Youth Centre held their Annual Breakfast and, in August, their Book Fair. The first North Grenville Charity Expo was held in November, and the year ended with the annual Community Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day, a free event, open to everyone, with all food, cooking, serving and clearing up donated by the people of this amazing community.

There were some departures too. Some long-serving members of the community retired in 2018. OPP Community Safety Officer, Cathy Lindsey, left after 30 years with the OPP, to be replaced by Annie Collins, who is very welcome to our neighbourhood. Librarian Sue Higgins also retired. Sue had been with the library service in North Grenville for 27 years, starting even before North Grenville existed.

We lost other great people too, sadly. Peter Bunn, Donald Messenger, and, of course, our M.P., Gord Brown, and so many others, all died too soon. Alf Campbell, hero of local forestry since the 1950’s, died in March, aged 87. Marilyn Aldus, President of the Kemptville Legion, died on Remembrance Day, right after the ceremonies at the cenotaph. They are not forgotten, and in May another departed friend, Owen Fitz’Gerald was remembered when Veterans Way was dedicated in his memory.

One death deserves to be remembered for other reasons. Gary Boal was killed walking across the bridge on County Road 43 in March. It was believed that the lack of a street light on the bridge may have contributed to his death: there is still no light there. It would be a proper memorial to Gary if a light was installed immediately.

Perhaps one of the main elements that went to make 2018 a different year was the non-stop electioneering that went on from May until December. Provincial, Municipal, and then a federal by-election provided all the political fun and games any junkie would want. The Letters to the Editor pages in the Times were filled with the opinions and policies of so many residents that there were weeks when the Editorial was bumped to fit in all the letters. The Voice of North Grenville in action.

Now, as we start 2019, we have a brand new Council, a new Member of Parliament, and an M.P.P. in Steve Clark who is now the province’s Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing. The new Council has made peace with the Kemptville BIA, after the old Council got into serious trouble for trying to dictate the BIA budget and employment practices. The old Council backed down in October, but it did not save them from extinction in the election which followed soon after.

The other great political event was the visit to Kemptville of three of the federal Party Leaders, Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Elizabeth May, which prompted some very nasty posts on Facebook and some very happy residents who rubbed shoulders with their political heroes.

What a year it was. And I have hardly scratched the surface of what happened in North Grenville in those months. Forgive me if you or your event was not mentioned: there simply is not room for everything. And, no doubt, the coming year will be just as busy, though perhaps not on the political scene. But, who knows?

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