Observer 2018: Year In Review
Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada

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Observer 2018: Year In Review


Cold weather, holiday schedules wreak havoc with garbage collection

Extremely cold weather to start the year wreaked havoc on waste collection in the townships, leaving garbage bags and bins on the roadsides over the New Year’s weekend until pickup later in the week. The delays were further compounded by the scheduled breaks in service because of the holidays, which pushed back by a day all garbage collection in the region.

Wellesley barn fire sees livestock perish, with damage put at $400,000
It was all hands on deck for Wellesley Township firefighters as an early-morning fire January 7 destroyed a barn and caused some 150 animals to perish. Damage was estimated at $400,000.

The call came in just before 3 a.m. from a farm on Hessen Strasse Road. By the time crews arrived, however, the barn had already collapsed onto itself.

Issues with snow clearing have Woolwich officials looking to do better

Inexperienced plow operators are at the root of an upswing in complaints about snow clearing in Woolwich Township in the past couple of years, officials said.

Some roads had been particularly bad due to the high volume of snow by comparison to relatively milder years. The situation has generated grievances from residents. Council had plenty of questions in calling for action as they met on January 9.

Earlidale Meats gets the go ahead from council for most of its expansion bid at Floradale location

A Floradale business owner’s expansion plans won approval January 9 from Woolwich Township, with councillors loosening planning staff restrictions they deemed too tight.

The decision cleared the way for Earlidale Meats to construct a new 600-square-metre facility on the a 3.2-acre property at 2065 Floradale Rd.

Ice jams follow sudden thaw, but no flooding issues along local stretch of the Grand River

Thick sections of ice washed up along the banks of Grand River in places like West Montrose and Conestogo after an unusual thaw in the weather caused minor ice jams and elevated river flows. Melting ice and rainfall contributed to flooding of low-lying areas – areas typically flooded in the springtime – such as the low-level bridge along Three Bridges Road upstream from St. Jacobs.

About a month of cold weather preceded the sudden warming, which caused the breakage of ice along the Grand River, according to the Grand River Conservation Authority.

West Montrose wells to close

A system of four ground water wells in Woolwich were approved for decommissioning in favour of installing a direct connection to the region’s integrated urban system waterline. Regional council voted to shut down the system in West Montrose, as well as five other systems in the region, after a study determined they would not be needed to meet future water demand. Instead, West Montrose would be supplied via a connection from Conestogo.

Woolwich welcomes Sledge Team Ontario for training camp

The Township of Woolwich was visited by some of the premier athletes in the burgeoning sport of sledge hockey. Sledge Team Ontario (STO), the province’s elite sledge hockey team, was at the WMC’s McLeod arena in Elmira for a three-day training camp.

It was a big opportunity to impress the big leagues, as the township not only has a strong local scene with the Woolwich Thrashers, but was actively seeking to host the 2019 sledge hockey championships.

Scott Hahn resigns from Woolwich council, citing time constraints

Woolwich has a vacant seat around its council table following the resignation of Ward 1 councillor Scott Hahn. He gave notice January 17, with immediate effect.

He cited new work commitments as the impetus for the decision, saying he would no longer have the time to give his council position the attention it warranted.

A first-term councillor, Hahn won a Ward 1 seat in 2014.

LED streetlights already paying off

Woolwich’s decision to convert all of its streetlights to LED fixtures began paying dividends in short order.

The move was intended to save on electricity costs and repairs, but the savings became apparent very early on.

Having budgeted $165,000 for energy costs in 2017, the actual amount was $112,000. For 2018, the township budget reflects a project costs of $102,000, councillors heard at a special budget meeting January 18.

Woolwich to host Curling Ontario championship

It was an exciting day for Woolwich on January 23, as representatives from the Ontario Curling Association came by to officially announce Elmira as the host of next year’s provincial championships.

The OCA members met with township staff, including Mayor Sandy Shantz, and members of the Elmira & District Curling Club at the Dan Snyder arena.

Dog park gets the nod for Elmira

Work was OK’d to get underway in the spring on a fenced, off-leash dog park in Elmira, Woolwich councillors having approved the project on January 30. The park was slated for a 0.85-acre piece of township land at 75 Oriole Pkwy. E.


Two opioid overdose kits found to contain fentanyl

A naloxone kit is kept on hand to treat someone overdosing on an opioid such as fentanyl. It ought not to contain an opioid such a fentanyl, but that’s just what happened with a couple of such kits obtained at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Elmira.

The occurrence was investigated by Health Canada and the Ontario College of Pharmacists.

An area resident, found fentanyl in place of naloxone in a kit acquired at the Elmira store. They compared the new kit to one obtained from another pharmacy to confirm the discrepancy, later confirming with another party that a similar mix-up had occurred. In both cases, the owner-pharmacist came out to pick up the kits.

The information was shared briefly on social media after the February 5 incident before being taken down by the area resident.

Wellesley makes it official with 2018 budget, 2.98% tax increase

Wellesley council voted to approve the township’s 2018 budget at a public meeting February 6 evening. The budget sets the tax levy increase at 2.98 per cent, representing an additional $43 per year in taxes for the average household valued at $349,000.

Kitchener man, 31, killed in collision with train at Breslau crossing

A collision with a VIA Rail passenger train in Breslau February 8 claimed the life of a 31-year-old Kitchener man. Vanja Medic was driving a cube van over the CN Rail crossing at Wurster Place when the train struck the vehicle.

The crossing was not outfitted with flashing lights or barriers, but a stop sign and a rail crossing sign saying “reduced visibility.”

The Waterloo Regional Police investigation suggested the delivery driver may have missed the stop sign.

Jacks’ season comes to an end as they’re swept from playoffs

The Wellesley Applejacks found themselves swept out of the playoffs by the Paris Mounties, who won the best-of-seven series in four straight, sealing the Jacks’ fate on February 11. It was a disappointing first-round exit from the PJHL playoffs.

Woolwich to partner with the Mennonite Story to offer visitor information services

In need of a new home for its visitor information centre (VIC), Woolwich found a new partner in the Mennonite Story in downtown St. Jacobs. The service had been based out of the old “yellow house,” a refurbished farmhouse at 844 Weber St. N. adjacent to the market, since 2005 under a dollar-a-year lease agreement with Mercedes Corp. The sale of the company and its assets left the township looking for a new location. Enter a pilot project with the Mennonite Story, an already established tourism draw of its own, welcoming some 70,000 visitors each year.

Meeting February 13, councillors voted in favour of the pilot project to start in the summer.

Township gives nod to new subdivision in Wellesley village

A small subdivision for the village of Wellesley got the go-ahead February 20 from township council. The decision cleared the way for development on a 4.8-acre plot just east of Wellesley Public School, on the north side of Ferris Drive where it intersects  with Greenwood Hill Road. The plan was for 32 single-family homes, to be accessed by a new road and sidewalk system. A new recreational trail about 70 metres long was to be built as part of the project.

Woolwich to host 2019 Canadian Sledge Hockey Championships

Woolwich Township was awarded the 2019 Canadian Sledge Hockey Championships scheduled for May 10-12, 2019. The Ontario Sledge Hockey Association formally announced Elmira as the official host at a news conference February 21 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.

Woolwich picks former councillor to fill vacant seat

Julie-Anne Herteis

Former Ward 1 councillor Julie-Anne Herteis was picked to fill the vacant Elmira council seat, replacing Scott Hahn, who resigned in January.

Herteis was selected by the five remaining councillors from among 10 candidates at a special Woolwich council session February 27, winning three of five votes cast on the first ballot. The other two votes went to Dan Holt, the first runner-up in the 2014 municipal election.

The voting process lasted only minutes in what appeared to be an orchestrated effort that placed Herteis’ experience above all other considerations. Eight of the nine candidates, who had previously made written applications outlining their bids for the seat, made pitches to councillors who listened but asked no questions of any of them.


Waterloo Regional Police satellite office approved for Wellesley arena

A new Waterloo Regional Police satellite office was earmarked for the Wellesley arena, as township council approved the arrangement at a meeting March 6.

The township entered into a formal lease agreement that allows the police to use a small room at the facility in Wellesley village.

Unlike a police station the satellite office the WRPS hopes to open at the arena wouldn’t be a staffed location. Rather, the office would allow officers to do administrative work, or even use the bathroom at a late hour, without having to leave township for the nearest police stations in Elmira or Waterloo.

Region pushes back dates for trio of major road construction projects in Woolwich

The region pushed back a few major road projects slated for Woolwich Township. Reconstruction work on Hawkesville Road and Northside Drive in St. Jacobs, originally planned for 2018, was delayed until 2019. Likewise, regional plans for major construction on Church Street East and Arthur Street in Elmira were put off until 2020 and 2021 respectively.


Swept by Listowel, Kings still qualify for wildcard spot

Swept by the Listowel Cyclones in the Midwestern Conference finals, the Elmira Sugar Kings nonetheless headed to the Sutherland Cup. Qualifying for the wildcard spot in the series, the team got to face off against the Caledonia Corvairs, winners of the Golden Horseshoe Conference.

Going into game four April 4 against the visiting Listowel Cyclones, the Kings were already three games in the hole in the best-of-seven series. And while Elmira came back to make a game of it, the scales tipped back in Listowel’s favour in the dying minutes to cap a 5-3 win and give the visitors the Cherrey Cup, with Elmira claiming the wildcard position.

MPP Harris ejected from PC caucus over text messages of a “sexual nature”

Mirroring the party’s scramble for a new leader to start the year, local Progressive Conservatives found themselves in search of a new candidate for a June provincial election.

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris was ejected from the PC caucus on April 9 after allegations were brought forward of an inappropriate exchange between the politician and a “young intern” in 2013.

Harris, a two-term MPP who has served since 2011, was the PC candidate until this week and seemed primed to win a third term.

Maryhill residents ask council to push back against proposed cell phone tower

Maryhill residents opposed to the prospect of a large communications tower looming over their village found a sympathetic ear at Woolwich council April 10. Shared Network Canada (SNC) plans to erect a 65-metre (213-foot) tower on a farm property on St. Charles Street, just east of the village.

Residents are none too happy, with a petition bearing almost 200 names presented to councillors.

Incremental improvements for covered bridge

When it comes to improvements to the tourist experience around the West Montrose covered bridge, Woolwich planned to start small and go from there.

Changes such as a new stop sign, reflector posts and better washroom amenities were put in motion for 2018. Other suggestions from the West Montrose Residents’ Association such as additional parking at Gole Park and improvements to Letson Park require more study and funding. Some kind of public access to the river, meanwhile, is both a logistical and financial hurdle with no easy answer, noted a staff report presented April 10.

Assistant becomes new head coach of the Wellesley Applejacks

The Wellelsey Applejacks got a new head coach for the 2018-19 season. Malcolm Hutt, an assistant coach in the season that had just ended, was tagged to take over the reins from Brad Gerber, who moved into a managerial position with the team.

Kings swept by Caledonia in Sutherland Cup semis

The Elmira Sugar Kings skated off the ice April 17 for the final time this season following a four-game sweep by Caledonia in the Sutherland Cup semi-finals. The series got underway April 11, and while the first couple of games were close, things got worse from there for the Kings, who dropped four straight.

Mike Harris Jr. replaces Michael Harris as PC candidate in Kitchener-Conestoga

MPP Michael Harris
Michael Harris

With the sudden expulsion of MPP Michael Harris from the Progressive Conservative caucus earlier in the month, the party was left scrambling to find a suitable replacement to field in Kitchener-Conestoga in time for the upcoming provincial election.

Circumventing the usual process, where card-carrying party members must vote for their choice of representative, the party opted to appoint its own instead.

Mike Harris Jr., who has no relation to the riding’s current MPP Michael Harris but is instead the son of the former Ontario premier Mike Harris, was one of 11 candidates appointed by party leader Doug Ford on April 21 to the remaining ridings in the province without a representative.

Former Jakobstettel Inn property generates heritage, redevelopment concerns

A heritage designation for the former Jakobstettel Inn building shouldn’t delay redevelopment efforts on the 4.2-acre property, Woolwich council decided April 24

Although the township’s heritage committee called for the designation of the historic structure prior to any development, councillors opted to run the process concurrently with the owners’ bid to rezone the property.

The developer plans to construct 25 to 27 homes on a 3.25-acre portion of the land at 16 Isabella St. in St. Jacobs.


Cost of building a home to rise

The cost of building a new home in Woolwich rose again as the township made plans to hike its development charges.

The fees are intended to cover future municipal expenditures related to growth, with the developers – ultimately the buyers, of course – paying for the cost of each new addition to the building stock.

For fully serviced single-family homes in Woolwich’s urban areas, the new charges considered by councillors May 1 saw levies rise to $7,129, up 6.2 per cent from the current $6,712. In Breslau, due to servicing arrangements with the City of Kitchener, the increase hit $8,603 from $8,432.

Council approves BIA request to boost levy

Elmira BIA members were hit with higher taxes, as Woolwich council approved plans to increase the special levy assessed on commercial properties in the core.

The May 1 decision cleared the way for the Business Improvement Area to boost its budget to $50,000 from the current $30,000, as requested by the organization’s executive.

Cyclones win Sutherland Cup

The Listowel Cyclones made a clean sweep in the final round of the GOJHL playoffs, claiming the Sutherland Cup for the first time in the organization’s history. Their final match against the runner-ups, the Caledonia Corvairs, was won in Listowel May 1 by a score of 4-1, to a rapturous applause from the home crowd.

Listowel was the Elmira Sugar Kings chief rivals this year, beating the Elmira team for the coveted Cherrey Cup.

Storm unleashes destruction

The townships, along with much of southern Ontario, were battered on May 4 by strong gusts of wind that snapped trees, downed hydro wires and blocked roadways across the region. Winds reached a peak of 122 km/h in the Waterloo Region as a result of a storm system that tracked north and east from the U.S.

Woolwich pledges $250,000 to regional economic development group

Having already dumped $160,000 into a regional economic development scheme, Woolwich was in for another $250,000, councillors having signed on for another five years with little discussion on May 15.

The Waterloo Economic Development Corporation is a joint venture between the Region of Waterloo and its seven-member municipalities: the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, and the townships of Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot and North Dumfries.

Ken Seiling to retire at end of term

Ken Seiling

Ken Seiling, 70, announced he wouldn’t be running for re-election as chair of the Region of Waterloo, vacating the seat he’s held for 33 years. His retirement put an end to a 42-year political career that dates back to his 1976 election to Woolwich council. The lifelong Elmira resident was then Woolwich’s mayor, joining regional council as chair in 1985 when the position was still filled by a vote among councillors. The office became directly elected by the public in 1997.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival committee doles out $45,000 to community groups, charities

The Elmira Maple Syrup  Festival is known for its massive crowds, its colourful spectacles and, of course, the sweet nectar that gives it its name. But the event also known for the support that it gives to the many organizations and community groups working to the betterment of the community.

For 2018, a total of $45,000 was distributed from the proceeds of the festival to almost 30 organizations at a ceremony May 17 at St. James Lutheran Church in Elmira.

Woolwich wants quicker action on road improvements

Waterloo Region’s decades-out plan for improving growing traffic congestion between Elmira and points south doesn’t jibe with Woolwich’s own concerns.

In adopting a new transportation master plan, the region sees the widening of Reg. Rd. 85/Arthur Street occurring over the next 15 to 25 years, while a bypass route around downtown Elmira is earmarked beyond the 2018-2041 timeline of the new planning document.

Woolwich wants to see the timelines moved up, while the region is hoping intersection improvements at the St. Jacobs roundabout and, perhaps, at Arthur Street and Listowel Road will ease some of the traffic woes in the meantime, with councillors agreeing to forward their concerns to the region.


Kitchener-Conestoga stays blue as much of the province follows suit

Mike Harris Jr., the Tory candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga, rode to victory as part of the blue wave that swept the province June 7. The Progressive Conservatives turned widespread public hostility towards Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals into a solid majority, taking 76 of 124 seats and making Doug Ford the new premier.

For Harris, the son of the former Ontario premier Mike Harris, this will be his first foray into politics as an elected official.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Harris in the immediate aftermath of the vote, mirroring the triumphant mood amongst supporters, who were out celebrating in St. Jacobs.

Ament/Herrgott intersection to become a roundabout

Construction of a new roundabout at a St. Clements intersection deemed dangerous by residents got underway.

A decision by regional council to award the work to E&E Seegmiller Ltd. – a contract worth $1.7 million – cleared the final hurdle to upgrading the intersection of Ament Line and Herrgott Road.

A longstanding concern for residents of Wellesley Township since a fatal collision that claimed the life of five-year-old Emma Ringrose in 2005, the intersection was approved for a roundabout in late 2016.

Expansion of Elmira’s Foodland plaza cleared after legal appeal

A developer’s expansion bid for an Elmira shopping plaza having been backed by a provincial agency, Woolwich was left to decide if it wanted to launch a legal appeal.

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) sided with Skyline Retail Real Estate Holdings, which had been turned down by the township after applying to increase the size of the Foodland plaza in Elmira’s south end.

The decision handed down by tribunal member Blair Taylor essentially overturned a previous Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruling against the plaza’s former owner, Sobey’s Capital Inc., which had been stymied in its expansion attempts at 315 Arthur St. S.

The developer wants to expand the permitted uses on the site to include ancillary retail, an LCBO outlet and a Beer Store, to a total of 35,000 additional square feet. Overall, the entire development would be permitted up to 138,000 square feet. Originally home to 51,500 sq. ft. of retail, including a 34,000 sq. ft. grocery store, the site has seen the footprint grown, including an addition of the main building and a new structure.

Township, region back Kiwanis Transit shuttle service

Bus driver Joanne Brown, a familiar face to riders on the new Kiwanis Transit shuttle bus service in Elmira. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]
A small shuttle service that will move people around Elmira and connect with the Grand River Transit bus was approved for launch in September for a six-month trial period.

The pilot project proposed by Kiwanis Transit was backed by both the township and the Region of Waterloo.

Meeting June 26, Woolwich councillors approved spending some $13,000 to support the trial, $9,000 to pay for the service and another $4,000 for signage and promotion. The bulk of the $54,000 operating cost was to be paid for by Kiwanis Transit.

The project was OK’d to run from September 4, 2018 to Mar. 1, 2019. While the region won’t provide any funding, if the pilot proves successful, it will look at extending the service through the rest of 2019, including the project in the 2019 budget talks.


Farmers’ market crosswalk gets green light

After years of talks, Woolwich and the Region of Waterloo finally agreed on a long-awaited pedestrian crossing at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. Woolwich hired an engineering firm to carry out the design of the signalized crossing at Farmers Market and Benjamin roads. The township is responsible for the $110,000 project, and will then pay the region to operate and maintain the crossing.

The signals are pedestrian-activated, but the crossing will be synced to the lights at the Weber Street intersection, functioning in a manner similar to the crosswalk at King and Albert streets in the village of St. Jacobs.

Awareness tour ends in tragedy

Henk and Bettina Schuurmans were driving across the country on a tractor to support Canadian dairy producers before tragedy struck in Saskatchewan. [SASKATCHEWAN MILK ASSOCIATION]
Elmira’s Henk and Bettina Schuurmans’ national milk tour ended in tragedy July 9, when their tractor was rear-ended by a semi-truck on Saskatchewan’s Highway #16 West. Bettina, 55, was killed in the accident.

Henk was transported to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon with critical injuries, but was stabilized by doctors. The driver of the truck was not injured. The news of the collision came to a shock to their family and friends.

The couple was travelling across Canada to promote and inform the public of the importance of protecting local dairy farms, having worked in the industry for nearly 30 years.

Ford government  takes aim at sex ed. curriculum

Ontario’s new government announced plans to scrap the Liberal’s updated health curriculum in favour of the version used in the 1990s, effectively taking sexual education in the province back by about 20 years. The announcement, fulfilling a key campaign promise, prompted teachers across the province to dust off their old curriculums for the 2018-19 year, at least until a new curriculum can be written.

The announcement was met with universal opprobrium from teachers, educators and health professionals in the province, who said the move would put children at risk by providing badly outdated information in the classrooms.

Jones Feed building new plant in Linwood

A $27-million expansion got underway at the Linwood location of Jones Feed Mills Ltd. The state-of-the-art plant was said to be capable of producing some 200,000 tonnes of feed each year.

It was latest growth spurt for a company that traces its roots back three generations to 1930. Jones Feed has been particularly busy in the last couple of decades, acquiring mills in Heidelberg, Wroxeter and Mitchell and expanding in Linwood, where it all began.


Lord Stanley’s Cup in St. Clements

Washington Capitals goaltending coach and St. Clements native Scott Murray brought the Stanley Cup home Aug. 4, posing with excited hockey fans at the St. Clements Community Centre. It is tradition to have each member of the Cup-winning team take it to their hometown for a day.

Woolwich approves outsourcing animal control

Expanding on its longstanding agreement for pound services with the K-W Humane Society, Woolwich offloaded its animal control functions onto the agency in a new contract set to start in 2019. The existing four-year deal ended at the end of 2018, with the expanded contract running through 2023.

The arrangement sees animal control services such as responding to calls about dogs running at large, dog bites and aggressive dogs handled by the agency rather than by township staff.

Plans unveiled for townhouse condos in Wellesley

Developers unveiled plans for the construction of 24 townhouse units on 2.7 acres of land at the corner of Nafziger and Gerber roads in Wellesley village. Presenting their client’s concept for the currently vacant plot at a public meeting August 28, the GSP Group requested a zone change to allow for the creation of the new condominium-style housing.


Wellesley rec. director dies

Flags were lowered to half mast in Wellesley to honour Brad Voisin, the township’s director of recreation, who passed away suddenly on September 3 at the age of 56. Voisin served to oversee the township’s range of recreational services, from its arenas and fields to its recreation centres.

Bauman opts against running again

Mark Bauman. [Steve Kannon / The Observer]
Longtime Woolwich councillor Mark Bauman began winding down his 18-year stint as the representative for Ward 2, having opted not to run again in the October municipal election.

Having retired earlier in the year from Menno S. Martin Contractor Ltd., where he spent more than four decades, Bauman decided it was time to move on.

After serving five terms as a councillor, Bauman officially retired when the term of council expired at the end of November.

Residential/commercial development proposed for Bloomingdale

Plans for a small residential development in Bloomingdale were revealed even as the developers looked to address concerns raised by government officials and neighbours. Sawmill Development Corp. and Stevanus Developments Inc. applied for changes to the township’s official plan and the zoning to allow six residential lots and a commercial/industrial property on a 13.3-acre site across from the community centre. The new subdivision calls for the residential lots to range in size from 1.63 to 1.85 acres, and a commercial property on some three acres.

At a public meeting September 11, councillors heard that township staff, the Grand River Conservation Authority and Bloomingdale residents all have questions and concerns about the development.

Amanda Lebold named ambassador at Wellesley North Easthope Fall Fair

Amanda Lebold was crowned as the 2018 ambassador at the 165th Wellesley North Easthope Fall Fair on September 11. She took over the position of 2017-2018 winner Katie Kniesel.

The 17-year-old Lebold’s’ inspiration to participate in the fair ambassador event came from Kniesel, who recommended she try out.

St. Jacobs BIA wins rate increase

The St. Jacobs BIA’s plans to increase the tax on businesses in the core won approval September 11 from Woolwich council.

The core-area group’s goal was to expand its role in promoting business activities in the village. To that end, it sought a threefold increase in the special tax levied on some 85 businesses.

To do that, the BIA (business improvement area) reached out to its members to back the plan, or at least not to object, which turned out to be the case: the township received just two objections, deputy clerk Jeff Smith told councillors. That was well below the third of members opposed needed to scuttle the plan.

Schuurmans family continues cross-country milk tour

With the Canadian dairy industry under fire, the Schuurmans family opted to raise awareness. Henk Schuurmans decided to continue his cross-country milk tour in memory of his wife, Bettina Schuurmans, who died in a collision during the original tour in July.

“It’s just not right to not continue it,” said Henk Schuurmans. “We wanted to finish this trip, this unfinished adventure.”

Left-turn lanes OK’d for Elmira intersection

Left-turn lanes should be added into the mix when the Region of Waterloo reconstructs the intersection of Arthur and Church streets, Woolwich councillors decided September 25. They endorsed a plan that would add new lanes on both the east and west side of Church Street, corresponding to existing turning lanes on Arthur, when the work is carried out in 2020.

The realignment would eliminate the 11 existing parking spaces on the north and south sides of Church Street West.

It’s that change that was opposed by both the Elmira Business Improvement Area (BIA) and, specifically, by some of the merchants at the corner who depend on the on-street parking options.

Elmira greening plan approved

No one would mistake Elmira for the glass-and-concrete jungle of Toronto, but the small, rural town lags the sprawling metropolis when it comes to tree cover. Where the city boasts a tree canopy covering some 26.6 per cent of the urban area, Elmira can claim just 16.3 per cent.

To make up ground, Elmira needs a greening strategy to bring that coverage to 30 per cent, says the Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC). Meeting September 25, Woolwich councillors agreed.

A study launched in 2016 resulted in the new greening plan that calls on the township to make tree coverage a priority, committing time and resources to the pursuit. In backing the plan, councillors agreed to establish a timeline for reaching the 30 per cent coverage, along with looking to free up staff resources to coordinate township-wide efforts.

Rachel Regier wins Wellesley Idol

Rachel Regier, 16, was named the Wellesley Idol winner for 2018, her strong voice and vocal range coming out on top at the final competition held September 29 during the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival.

In second place was Justine Sharma with her cover of “Say Something” by A Great Big World, followed by “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Sharma claimed the $300 prize.

Third place went to Mitchell Roemer, who performed “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran and “This Is Me” by the Greatest Showman, picking up $200 for his efforts.


Council approves $1.5-million co-gen project at WMC

Woolwich rec. budget still involves juggling expenses at the WMC
[File Photo]
Looking to reduce soaring operating and maintenance costs at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, the township decided to  install heat-and-energy cogeneration equipment in the facility, along with a geothermal system for cooling and heating.

The $1.5-million project, to be financed largely through energy cost savings over the next 20 years, was approved October 2 by Woolwich council.

The plan calls for what’s known as a combined heat and power (CHP) system, which generates electricity and captures the heat that would otherwise be wasted to provide useful thermal energy, such as steam or hot water, that can be used for space heating, cooling, domestic hot water and industrial processes, said a report presented to council.

Woolwich backs plan for Mennonite museum

Plans for a new museum to document the area’s Mennonite history moved ahead with the support of the township, with Woolwich council backing the project. Martin’s Historical Place will feature various agricultural artifacts from the 1800s and 1900s and provide history on the Mennonite culture. It’s to be located on Ronald Martin’s farm property at 1057 Bridge St. W. near St. Jacobs and the Waterloo border.

Two new councillors at the table

The October 22 municipal election brought some changes to Woolwich. In Ward 1 (Elmira), which has two seats on township council, incumbent Patrick Merlihan was joined by newcomer Scott McMillan. Ward 2 saw Fred Redekop take over the position from long-time councillor Mark Bauman, who retired at the end of this term.

Rounding out the remaining members of Woolwich council were Mayor Sandy Shantz, and Ward 3 councillors Murray Martin and Larry Shantz, all of whom ran unopposed and were acclaimed to their positions.

Election sees all incumbents return to Wellesley council

Wellesley’s governing body will had a very familiar look when all the voting was done on October 22, as all of the incumbents were returned to office.

Joe Nowak held onto his seat in a very tight battle for the mayoralty, edging challenger Bernia Wheaton by just 23 votes.

In Ward 2, Herb Neher was returned after taking 150 votes to Mark Witmer’s 84. Ward 3 incumbent Peter van der Maas faced three challengers, coming out on top with 593 ballots cast in his favour. That was followed by Joyce Barker at 433, Grant Kingsbury with 338 and Philip Morris, who had dropped out earlier, at 27.

Ward 1’s Shelley Wagner and Ward 4’s Carl Smith already knew they’d be returning, having been acclaimed.

Voting system bogs down in townships hours before polls close, forcing extension

A fairly by-the-numbers municipal election was thrown dramatically off kilter in the townships after the exclusively electronic system used by both Woolwich and Wellesley suffered severe slowdowns hours before polls were set to close on election day, October 22.

The unexpected delay forced both townships to extend voting by an additional 24 hours, as hundreds of voters were reportedly unable to cast their ballots through the internet-based system used by both municipalities.

Latest version of new Birdland subdivision in Elmira gets OK

Woolwich council approved plans for the latest expansion to the Birdland subdivision in Elmira’s south end.

Southwood 4 will see a mix of single-family homes, semis, townhouses and apartments on some 70 acres. Altogether, Birdland Developments’s plan calls for 481 to 552 units that will be home to some 1,270 to 1,430 people.

The final plan recommended by township planners and OK’d by council October 30 addresses many of the concerns raised by neighbours during a pair of public meetings, said manager of planning John Scarfone.

Woolwich to move on Breslau drain problems

With residents of the Elroy Acres subdivision in Breslau facing ongoing flooding issues, Woolwich moved to make improvements to a rundown municipal drain.

As a first step, councillors meeting October 30 approved spending up to $50,000 to hire an engineering firm to begin investigating the problem and options for fixing it. Full engineering costs could hit $150,000 and construction another $700,000, according to estimates from the township’s drainage superintendent.

As with similar projects, the tab would eventually be picked up by the benefitting property owners.


Elmira sees rotating postal strikes

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been carrying out rotating strikes across the country for three weeks, with posties in the region getting the call Nov. 2. Local strike action included picketers outside the Elmira post office. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]
There was a slight delay in mail delivery when the Canadian Union Postal Workers (CUPW) rotating strike hit the Elmira location November 2.

The picketers outside the Arthur Street facility were part of some 750 Canada Post employees taking part in protests in Waterloo Region.

Lack of races rather than technology seen as reason for lower turnout in Woolwich

A lower voter turnout for October’s Woolwich election had more to do with limited voting options than with a shift to electronic voting, said township staff responsible for running the election.

Voter turnout dropped to 31.3 per cent this down, down from 37 per cent in 2014 and 36 per cent in 2010. That number is higher, however, than 27 per cent seen in 2006 and 23 per cent in 2003.

That the mayor’s position and both Ward 3 seats were filled by acclamation likely caused a drop, suggested Jeff Smith, the township’s deputy clerk, to councillors meeting November 6.

Ribbon cutting marks new bridge in Wellesley

A Wellesley bridge back in service, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the occasion and the township’s partnership with the province and other agencies to get the work done.

Provincial Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton was joined by area Conservative MPPs and Wellesley council members for the November 8 ceremony at Bridge 26, located on Nafziger Road, north of Henry Street.

New Elmira headquarters opens

Krista Martin, floor manager at the Living Waters Book and Toy Store, joins her husband and company shareholder Derek Martin at the company’s new Elmira location.

Once home to a farm-equipment dealer, an Elmira site was transformed into the new headquarters of Living Waters Christian Bookstore.

The completed renovations of the former Premier Equipment building west of downtown Elmira allowed the company to move from Linwood. In addition to offices, the location feature warehouse space and a retail store under one roof. The facility joins four retail locations.

Woolwich hires outside firm to pick up the slack in its building department

Short-staffed and expecting something of a building boom, Woolwich decided to bring in some extra help with its building department. The township signed on with RMS Building Consultants to provide assistance on an as-needed basis.

Woolwich councillors meeting November 20 approved the arrangement in an attempt to avoid any backlogs.

Breslau home under construction explodes

Still under construction, a Breslau house was reduced to rubble in a fire that caused damages pegged at $1 million.

The structure on Woolwich Street South was still being built and unoccupied at the time of the fire, which broke out in the early morning hours of November 23. No injuries were reported, though a neighbouring home was damaged to the tune of $50,000 by the heat from the blaze.


Hwy. 7 project on hold pending provincial review

Having already spent some $120 million on the project, the province is unlikely to halt work on the new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph, local officials posited in the wake of a freeze announced by Queen’s Park.

The Ford government said it was reviewing its finances, meaning there was no timeline for completing the highway.

Discussed for decades, the new route finally saw actual construction work begin in 2015. Following the election, however, the province announced it would be taking another look at the project.

New Elmira bus proving to be a popular option during test run

Halfway through its six-month trial run, the “Elmira Bus” was exceeding the expectations of the Kiwanis Transit organizer who jumpstarted the venture. The service provides both in-town transit and a connection to the GRT route that connects Elmira to Waterloo. It was launched in September as an official pilot project funded by Kiwanis Transit, which is picking up the bulk of the costs with a $45,000 contribution, and the Township of Woolwich, which is contributing $9,000 and an additional $4,000 for signage and promotion.

From September 2 through November 30, there have been 3,012 rides. November saw 1,218 bus trips alone. The route circles around Elmira, with 24 stops along the way

Stone Crock companies get new owners in sale by Shantz family

A well regarded name in St. Jacobs for generations, from the meats and cheese store to the bakery, and the iconic restaurant at the heart of the village, the Stone Crock has been a mainstay of the community for more than 40 years.

Headed by the entrepreneurial Shantz family, known for their stewardship of the local farmers’ market through Mercedes Corporation, the legacy of Stone Crock passed to new hands at the Fat Sparrow Group.

The sale of the Stone Crock follows a steady divestment of the Shantz family from business ventures in the township, including the sale of the market late last year to Schlegel Urban Developments. Taking over the reins of the local business were Nick and Natalie Benninger of Fat Sparrow Group.

Wellesley re-opens committee of adjustment to the public

Wellesley will once again be opening membership on its committee of adjustment to the public, township council decided.

Acting on a proposal from Coun. Shelly Wagner, councillors meeting December 18 voted 3-1 to reverse, at least somewhat, its stance on the committee. In March 2017, council dissolved the citizen-staffed committee of adjustment, taking on the duties itself. The latest move would see councillors and members of the public on the body.

Wellesley takes aim at affordable housing issue

Affordable housing, namely the lack of it in the township, was perhaps one of the biggest concerns to emerge from the municipal election Wellesley. Particularly for young families looking to start life in the township on limited incomes and seniors hoping to find smaller and more affordable quarters in their home communities, the options were seen as limited. To that end, the township is considering allowing the creation of second units on lots as a possible solution.

Better known as basement apartments, in-law suites, coach houses and granny flats, a second unit is defined as a self-contained dwelling created within, or adjacent to, an existing home. The units would by necessity require their own amenities, such as a bedroom, kitchen and full washroom, and may be rented out as distinct homes.

Wellesley councillors meeting December 18 gave the go-ahead for public consultations to begin into instituting second units in the township.

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