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The Observer Year in Review

JANUARY

Region looks at photo radar

Easing up on the gas pedal might be a good New Year’s resolution for 2020, as the region contemplates bringing back photo radar.

Automated speed enforcement (ASE) in school and community safety zones, regional staff are currently drafting a report for councillors to consider early this year.

Downloading adds new cost to township fire budget

Regional downloading is expected to add $100,000 a year to the cost of operating the Woolwich Fire Department to help cover the cost of a new radio system.

Township council meeting Jan. 9 added $55,000 to the department’s 2020 budget, expected to pass $1.9 million. The new digital radio system is to be online by summer, the budget figure covering a cost of about $1,000 per year per radio through the end of 2020.

Chicken barn destroyed by fire

Fire completely levelled a two-storey chicken barn on the Third Line of Mapleton Township January 9. Damage was pegged at $250,000.

Record rainfall in the region

Unusual winter weather walloped local areas as well as Waterloo Region, with record levels of rainfall across the Grand River watershed. Portions of the watershed saw upwards of 100 mm of rain.

Woolwich looks to add green projects

Planting trees remains Woolwich’s priority in rolling out a 0.5 per cent greening levy on property taxes again this year. How much more the township will do to reach its goal of reducing carbon output by 20 per cent in the next decade remains up in the air.

Councillors meeting Jan. 14 seemed divided on efficacy of the likes of solar panels and switching over to electric vehicles.

Woolwich approves three-storey apartment building

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s also a prime reason Woolwich councillors Jan. 21 approved a three-storey, 18-unit condominium development on the site of the former Elmira pool building on Ernst Street. Citing the need for alternative housing, particularly for seniors looking to remain in Elmira while downsizing from their single-family homes, councillors backed a proposal by the current owners to rezone the property.

Catholic teachers join public board on the picket lines

Catholic school teachers in the region were off the job Tuesday, with some marching through downtown Elmira, home to Conservative MPP Mike Harris’ office. [Veronica Reiner]

Local Catholic elementary and high school teachers hit the picket lines Jan. 21, marching up and down Arthur Street in Elmira as part of a one-day, province-wide strike.

It’s not an uncommon sight in town, with two previous teacher walkouts taking place in December.

Woolwich tax hike to 3.9%

Woolwich taxpayers are looking at a 3.9 per cent tax hike as councillors made a few tweaks to the budget, dropping it from a planned five per cent increase.

The new figure includes 1.5 per cent for a special infrastructure fund, 0.5 per cent for greening and 0.38 per cent for climate-action projects, leaving about a 1.6 per cent hike in the general levy. In total, the hikes would add $34.16 to the tax bill of an average home valued at $394,000.

Old steel bridge on Middlebrook Pl. slated for removal

An historic steel bridge spanning the Grand River on Middlebrook Place will be removed, Woolwich council deeming that the most cost-effective way to deal with the deteriorating structure.

Built in the 1930s near the border with Centre Wellington Township, the bridge has been closed since 2012.

Region hikes taxes 3.84%

Township residents are on the hook for the bulk of a regional budget that will again outstrip inflation this year.

The Region of Waterloo passed a budget that hikes taxes by 3.84 per cent, adding $78 per year to the average household’s bills, based on an assessment of $394,000. This year’s tax increase includes 2.46 per cent for regional services and 1.38 for police.

FEBRUARY

Strike action to close Catholic schools

Catholic schools in the region were shuttered again Feb. 4 as the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) called for a one-day strike. Meanwhile, the province and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) this week resumed talks that had broken off.

Para hockey rivals Canada and the U.S. face off in Elmira

Greg Westlake, Corbyn Smith and Tyler McGregor took different routes to become members of the National Para Hockey Team, which held a camp at the WMC earlier this month. [Steve Kannon]

Canada’s National Para Hockey Team, holding a training camp in Elmira, played a pair of exhibition games against their U.S. rivals Feb. 13 and 15 at the WMC. After posting a 2-2 tie in the opening exhibition match Feb. 13, the stage was set for a deciding game two days later in which the U.S. team emerged with a 2-0 victory.

Sugar Kings win three games, clinch first place

In need of just one more win to clinch first place in the Midwestern Conference of the GOJHL, the Elmira Sugar Kings claimed all three games.

Jacks defeat Firebirds in six

The Wellesley Applejacks advanced to the second round of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs by defeating the New Hamburg Firebirds in six games on Feb. 21. With that, the Jacks advanced to face the Ayr Centennials.

Retirement home appeals loss of its license to operate

A St. Jacobs retirement home remained open pending an appeal of a regulatory body’s decision to revoke its license. Village Manor has a hearing May 12 to appeal the closure order by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, which last month issued the latest in a line of inspection reports detailing non-compliance.

First tap makes season official

The weather had been too variable for the sap to be running in earnest, but the maple syrup season got its official start in this area Feb. 28 with a tree-tapping ceremony.

MARCH

No cases here, but health officials prep for coronavirus

Waterloo Region hasn’t seen any cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but officials are nonetheless preparing for the potential of an outbreak.

“At this point, we haven’t had any cases of COVID-19 locally. But we are preparing for that to happen given the widespread of the infection and how easily transmitted it is,” said Kristy Wright, manager of infectious disease for the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services team.

Kings advance after sweeping Brantford in four straight

The Elmira Sugar Kings advanced to the second round of the GOJHL playoffs, having swept the Brantford Bandits in four games.

A 6-1 win in Brantford sealed the deal. The first-place Kings opened the Midwestern Conference series Feb. 26, posting a 7-0 victory on home ice. A 4-3 overtime win on the road Saturday was followed by an 8-3 score back at the WMC on Sunday, setting up the clinching game Mar. 2.

Waterloo Region sees its first case of coronavirus

Waterloo Region has its first case of the coronavirus, officials announced Mar. 5, with public health officials downplaying any risk to the public.

“The case does not represent an increased risk to residents in Waterloo Region,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, acting medical officer of health, at a hastily called news conference.

A woman in her 50s who had recently returned home from a trip to Europe and tested positive for COVID-19 was the sole case.

EDSS boys win CWOSSA hockey

The Lady Lancers of EDSS took the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association title Feb. 28 at the WMC. The team was at the CWOSSA regionals this week, making it as far as the semi-finals before suffering a 3-2 defeat to St. Mary’s in Kitchener on Wednesday. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

The EDSS boys’ hockey team was heading back to the provincials, having emerged victorious at the regional level.

The Lancers took the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletics Association (WCSSAA) title, and claimed top spot in the Central Waterloo Ontario Secondary School Association (CWOSSA) championships held Mar. 9-10 in Fergus.

EMSF cancelled due to coronavirus

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival committee announced the event schedule for Apr. 4 would be cancelled due to the novel coronavirus. Despite the cancellation of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival this year, the organizing committee still hoped to raise funds for the charitable groups that benefit each year.

Health Officials stress the need to stay informed

There were 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region, according to figures released Mar. 18 by the Public Health department. Nine of the cases involved residents returned from travelling, the ninth, a man in his 20s, believed to have acquired the virus through close contact.

Municipalities declare state of emergency

The spread of the coronavirus into the wider community prompted regional and municipal councils to jointly declare a state of emergency Mar. 25. The number of Waterloo Region residents afflicted with COVID-19 – confirmed and presumptive – stood at 58 at that point, up from 15 the previous weekend.

Where initial cases involved those recently returned from travelling, followed by those with close contact to those diagnosed with the virus, there are growing numbers of transmissions simply from the community in general.

Woolwich approves waiving late fees

Measures such as waiving late-payment charges adopted by Woolwich council may be just the first steps as the township deals with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an online meeting Mar. 26, councillors agreed to a series of steps that recognize some residents may be experiencing financial hardships during the crisis. Along with layoffs, many people have seen their paycheques dry up as non-essential businesses have been shuttered in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

First fatality linked to COVID-19

A 41-year-old man, John Tsai, died Mar. 31, 10 days after being admitted to St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener.

The number of cases in the region has grown steadily since four people tested positive Mar. 12, the first instances in Waterloo Region.

APRIL

Woolwich launches support fund

Woolwich residents looking to help their neighbours through the COVID-19 crisis got a very local outlet. The Woolwich Residents Support Fund (WRSF) began taking donations that will end up aiding others in the township.

The initiative, centrally administered by Woolwich Community Services (WCS), was launched Apr. 4 – what was supposed to be the big day for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

Pair of Elmira players OHL-bound

Fifteen-year-old Elmira residents and Waterloo Wolves teammates Liam Eveleigh and Lucas Carson were both drafted to the OHL during the Ontario Priority earlier this month. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft held Apr. 4 was unlike past years, hosted online at the Ontario Hockey League’s official website.

Left-handed defenseman Liam Eveleigh was picked in the sixth round, 103rd overall, by the Sarnia Sting. Winger Lucas Carson was drafted in the 13th round, 252nd overall, by the Guelph Storm.

Woolwich puts 150 employees on unpaid leave

Rather than issue layoffs, Woolwich put some 150 part-time and casual staff members on unpaid leave in response to the coronavirus-related shutdown of many frontline services.

The move protects the jobs of township employees such as lifeguards, facility attendants, concession workers and crossing guards.

The township maintained its complement of full-time employees and the majority of permanent part-time staff members, with most working from home.

Outbreak at EDCL strikes 21, part of 379 cases in region

Fourteen cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents of an Elmira District Community Living (EDCL) facility were part of a total that reached 379 in Waterloo Region as of Apr. 15.

Public Health reported deaths related to the coronavirus stood at 15, with 24 patients being hospitalized due to the virus, representing six per cent of cases.

All Woolwich events on hold

Woolwich announced that all township-affiliated events and festivals, as well as all third-party events and festivals held on township property, were cancelled up to and including June 30. The township was evaluating options for Canada Day celebrations, including reasonable alternatives to large public gatherings.

Crossroads Restaurant shutters

[Damon Maclean]

Something of an institution in Elmira, At The Crossroads Family Restaurant fell victim to the coronavirus crisis, closing its doors permanently.

Like many businesses, the operation went on hiatus following the sweeping lockdown ordered by the province. After weeks on hold, Anton Heimpel, who’d owned the place since 1996, made the decision to make the closure permanent. At The Crossroads dates back to 1991 when it was opened by Don Brox, but the location has been home to restaurants dating back to the 1960s.

MAY

Fire levels EDCL group home

An accidental fire at a EDCL group home on First Street had Woolwich firefighters on scene May 5 to quickly extinguish the blaze. [Sean Heeger]

A fire May 5 gutted an Elmira District Community Living group home at First Street and Flamingo Drive in Elmira. All of the residents were evacuated, and there were no injuries reported.

The cause of the blaze, which is believed to have started in a shed, but was considered to have been accidental. Damage was pegged at $750,000.

Woolwich moves to offset budget losses

Coming up short on revenues and expecting even larger shortfalls, Woolwich moved to cut spending.

Recreation fees were already down $100,000, with that department’s  expected revenues to be off by $400,000 by the end of June. Including other declines, revenues could be off by some $600,000 by the halfway point of 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdown, director of finance Richard Petherick told Woolwich councillors meeting May 5 via video conference.

To counter that, Petherick proposed spending cuts and deferrals totalling $3.9 million, about a third of which was to be funded from this year’s tax levy.

GRT plans more reductions

More reductions to public transit were announced, as Waterloo Region deals with the impact of COVID-19.

Grand River Transit eliminated fares on its buses, later in April reducing service levels to reflect both a lower ridership and the loss of revenues from its fare boxes.

The closure of schools and non-essential businesses, along with stay-at-home directives, lead to large declines in the number of users.  Revenues were down by $7 million, a trend that was expected to continue as the waiving of fees continued until May 31.

Unemployment levels increasing

Unemployment levels in the region shot up less dramatically in April than the national average, but were still about 50 per cent higher than at the start of the year, numbers from Statistics Canada showed.

The April unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area, up from 5.4 per cent in January and six per cent in March. Nationally, the rate was 13 per cent, up 5.2 percentage points over the previous month.

Elmira Bowl closes its doors for good

Jeff and Jen Young have sold the former Elmira Bowl building, which is now being repurposed. [File Photo]

Sold prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown and its owners looking for new opportunities, a longstanding business wound down.

The owners of Elmira Bowl, a fixture in the town since its opening in the 1960s, announced they were closing the doors for good.

Woolwich extends deferral of late fees

Woolwich residents struggling to pay property taxes and water bills were to avoid penalties on late payments through June, as township council on May 10 extended a program in place until the end of the month. The decision also waives non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees charged by the township through to the end of June, and suspends collection activities until Aug. 31.

Community Care Concepts expands Meals on Wheels program

Typically associated with services for seniors, the Meals on Wheels program branched out to accommodate the larger number of people both stuck in their homes and experiencing financial difficulties in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Even seniors who are usually able to get out for their own groceries were remaining at home, as they’re part of the age group most vulnerable to the virus.

ABC Festival committee pulls plug on event

Wellesley had apple butter and cheese on the menu this fall, but no celebration of the two, as the ABC Festival committee cancelled the 2020 edition.

“The committee came to the difficult but unanimous decision of postponing the festival until Sept. 25, 2021,” the organization said in a release May 14.

Province cancels the rest of the school year

Home since mid-March, students would not be returning to school in the spring. The province announced the cancellation of classes, emphasizing a voluntary online option.

The decision came May 19 in an online briefing from Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, who cited safety concerns for cancelling the 2019/2020 school year.

Lost revenues and the waiving of fees in response to the COVID-19 crisis cost Wellesley Township more than $81,000, and the meter was still running.

The total was destined to climb, aided by council’s decision May 19 to extend waiving penalties for late payment of property taxes. The decision also waived non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees charged by the township through to the end of June and suspended collection activities until Aug. 31.

More businesses can reopen as province eases restrictions

Some retail businesses with a street entrance were able to reopen in May, subject to guidelines to ensure the continued safety of customers. As of May 19, more businesses were able to start welcoming in customers for a normal shopping experience as restrictions began to relax.

In order to comply with new provincial rules, stores also needed to change their work processes, ensuring a safe social distance between employees and an upgrade of sanitation practices to include a rigorous emphasis on cleanliness.

Region coronavirus cases top 1,000, fatalities reach 112

The increase in testing and wider processing of results has contributed to a higher number of confirmed cases in Waterloo Region. As of May 20, there were 1,049 confirmed cases, with 112 associated fatalities.

JUNE

GRCA recloses some of its parks

Large numbers of visitors, many of them not abiding by provincial regulations aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, prompted the GRCA to close some its recently reopened conservation areas. Grand River Conservation Authority parks at Belwood Lake, Elora Gorge, Guelph Lake and Rockwood were closed again.

Farmers’ markets open for business

Staples of the summertime experience, farmers’ markets were among the retail operations allowed to reopen under relaxed provincial rules. Operating under new safety guidelines, the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market reopened Thursdays and Saturdays, while the Elmira Farmers’  Market resumed June 13.

Theft of new traffic bollards  in Elmira

[File Photo]

Perhaps not content with complaining to the township, someone decided removing them would be a quicker way to deal with the traffic-calming bollards on Oriole Parkway in Elmira. The recently installed traffic features greatly restricted lane width and parking space, which were the desired goal, director of infrastructure services Jared Puppe said at a council meeting June 16.

Province to provide $780K in support of local tourism

The COVID-19 crisis ravaged large swathes of the economy, perhaps none more fully than the tourism industry. That sector continued to struggle even as restrictions were eased, and will likely be among the slowest to recover.

The province pledged up to $783,000 in support for tourism in Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington counties on June 25.

Diane Martin retires

DIane Martin

When Diane Martin started teaching at the Elmira Community Nursery School in 1984, she probably didn’t plan on being there more than 35 years later, becoming a staple at the institution.

At the end of June she said goodbye to the school she loves and officially entered retirement.

JULY

Fire destroys Wellesley barn

The day’s sweltering heat found firefighters from all three township fire stations battling a blaze that destroyed a barn north of Wellesley.

Passersby noticed the structure was on fire around noon on July 4, helping five cattle escape before the flames spread. By the time emergency crews arrived at the Manser Road property, the barn was fully engulfed. No injuries were reported, but damage was estimated at $300,000.

Masks mandatory across the region

Face masks were made mandatory in most public indoor spaces in Waterloo Region as of July 13, as council unanimously approved new measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Residents were required to wear a mask that covers the mouth, nose and chin when entering locations such as retail stores, coffee shops and theatres, as well as when using public transit.

Work on the new Hwy. 7 to resume in 2021

On hold for the past couple of years, work on the new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph was predicted to begin in 2021, according to an announcement from the province. Construction on the four-lane, controlled access route began in 2015, but stopped in 2018 as the newly elected Ford government reviewed its finances.

Region moves into stage 3 reopening plan

Consistently low numbers of new COVID-19 cases paved the way for Waterloo Region to be part of stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan as of July 17. Residents will have to keep taking precautions if restrictions are to remain loosened, said local officials.

Wang appointed full-time medical officer of health

Regional council has made Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang the permanent medical officer of health. [Submitted]

The face of the public health response to the coronavirus in Waterloo Region, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang had been the acting medical officer of health for the past three years. Regional council moved to drop the “acting” part. The region named her ommissioner of public health and emergency services, indicating it would be applying to the Ministry of Health to have her appointed as the permanent medical officer of health.

Elmira Theatre Company celebrates 40 years

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Elmira Theatre Company would normally have staged something to mark the occasion. That option being off the table just now, the group opted for a digital reflection of the past four decades.

AUGUST

MCC on the ground in Lebanon

The deadly explosion that ripped through Beirut Aug. 4 had international development agencies scrambling to deal with the devastation. Long established in Lebanon, the Mennonite Central Committee already had boots on the ground.

More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 injured when some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded. The blast caused massive damage to parts of the city, with estimates in the $10-$15 billion range, and 300,000 people temporarily homeless.

Province provides $124K for trails

The provincial government provided funding to improve trail systems, including those in Woolwich and Wellesley townships. $124,078  was announced Aug. 5 to upgrade and preserve the Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail and Nith River Trail.

Split council nixes parking prohibitions on Oriole Pkwy

Parking restrictions proposed for stretches of Elmira’s Oriole Parkway have been scrapped, at least for the time being. The same was true of the plans to reinstall traffic bollards put in last spring then quickly removed following public complaints.

A vote at Woolwich council Aug. 11 ended in a draw, killing a staff recommendation to ban parking on both sides of Oriole Parkway West in the area of Goldfinch and Tanager streets, Meadowlark Road and Mockingbird Drive.

Rec. facility build hits a wall

Wellesley’s plans for a new recreation centre were in limbo after the township learned it would not be receiving the funding it applied for from the federal and provincial governments.

The township was counting on senior-government grants to cover 70 per cent of the estimated $22-million price tag for a new facility. On Aug. 14, officials learned the application they filed in 2019 didn’t  make the cut.

Municipalities to receive COVID-19 financial support

To help struggling regions rebuild post-COVID, the provincial government in partnership with the feds planned to deliver aid to 444 municipalities across the province. Waterloo Region municipalities were to receive more than $13 million in funding, with Woolwich and Wellesley townships receiving a combined total of $754,600 to help them address operating pressures brought on by the virus and ensuing pandemic. Woolwich was to get $550,500, while Wellesley’s share was pegged at $204,100 from phase one of the funding partnership.

Apartment gets greenlight

An 18-unit apartment building was cleared for Church Street West in Elmira, Woolwich council having this week approved the project despite concerns raised by neighbours.

Man arrested after stabbing in Elmira

The suspect arrested in connection with a pair of stabbings and arson at an Elmira home faced numerous charges.

Waterloo Regional Police on Aug. 31 formally charged Paul Bagley, 33, with two counts of attempt murder, arson, disregard for human life, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and robbery.

Bagley was arrested after turning himself in at the Wiarton detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police about 2:15 p.m. on Aug. 30.

No fair this year, but Wellesley has its ambassador

Caitlin Livingston was crowned Wellesley Fall Fair ambassador. [Damon Maclean]

Caitlin Livingston, a runner-up in the 2019 contest, was selected to serve as the Wellesley Fair ambassador for the next year. She formally received the crown from reigning ambassador Leah Sebben in a special ceremony held on Aug. 31.

Region saw just 17 new cases of COVID-19 in August

August saw the fewest new cases of COVID-19 for any month since the pandemic  hit Waterloo Region in March, a trend health officials welcomed ahead of a potential spike when school resumed the following week.

SEPTEMBER

Region extends mandatory mask bylaw

Regional councillors made masks mandatory in public spaces through May 31, 2021.

The revised face-covering bylaw also applies to locations such as inside taxi cabs and apartment building lobbies not specified in the previous regulations. The existing bylaw, in force since July, was due to expire on Sept. 30.

Terry Fox Run is still a go

Marking 40 years since Terry Fox’s now legendary Marathon of Hope, organizers of the annual run in his name certainly weren’t planning on going virtual with the 2020 event.

Wellesley Idol title

It was a Wellesley Idol unlike any of the others since the competition was launched in 2005, but in the end it was just like all the others: a young singer was named as winner. For 2020, it was New Dundee resident Chiara Heard who claimed the title after the final round. Heard, 16, edged out Conestogo’s Mitch Roemer, 12, and Elmira’s Cassandra Dammeier, 14.

Woolwich reopens arenas as minor hockey returns

Hockey returned to the Woolwich Memorial Centre, as the township reopened one ice pad there Sept. 28. That move followed the reopening In August of the St. Jacobs arena. The township put in place new procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Likewise, user groups such as the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association instigated their own new protocols.

OCTOBER

Long-time Elmira doctor retires

Dr. John Craig is set to retire after almost 40 years at the Elmira Medical Centre. [Sean Heeger]

Sometimes it is hard to say goodbye, but Dr. John Craig was ready to look back on his time at the Elmira Medical Centre fondly as he set to sail into retirement on Oct. 5.

For 39 years, Craig treated patients at the Elmira Medical Centre, working his entire career as a doctor in town.

Increased demand for food drive

Typically busy in The run-up to Thanksgiving, Woolwich Community Services faced even larger demands due to the coronavirus situation. More than ever, the organization was relying on the generosity of residents to restock the shelves of its food bank via  the annual Thanksgiving food drive that ran through the month.

Traditional trick-or-treating nixed

Halloween is typically time for ghouls, goblins and ghost stories, but the scary pandemic put the kibosh on the usual Oct. 31 festivities. Local public health officials didn’t follow some other jurisdictions in an outright cancellation of Halloween, but they suggested we find alternatives, especially to the usual trick-or-treating.

Legion moves ahead with poppy campaign

There were the usual reminders of the perils “lest we forget,” but Remembrance Day ceremonies and the poppy campaign that precedes them were both altered by the coronavirus situation.

From a scaled-back event at the National War Monument even as the country marked the 75 years since the end of the Second World War to the cadets who typically fan out to sell poppies, this year was decidedly different. Across the country, branches of the Royal Canadian Legion are making alternate arrangements for Nov. 11.

NOVEMBER

Entertainment hub proposed for former Conestogo feed mill site

The properties at 1795 and 1805 Sawmill Rd. – the former W-S Feed & Supply headquarters –are within the Conestogo urban boundary but are zoned agricultural, with a site-specific provision for a feed mill. The owner, Conestogo Mill Inc., wants to change the site-specific stats to permit a range of mixed commercial uses.

The new owners of a vacant feed mill in Conestogo envision the spot reborn as something of an entertainment hub, with a banquet hall, restaurant, gallery, studio and perhaps even a craft distillery. To get there, however, they’ll need new zoning for the site, having made their pitch to Woolwich council Nov. 3.

Region in second level, yellow, in new virus ranking

When the province rolled out its new colour-coded framework for the coronavirus status of areas across Ontario, Waterloo Region was classified as “yellow,” the second of five stages outlined in a new categorization of health units.

Region, local municipalities to share in $8 million in relief funds

Ontario municipalities battling the coronavirus pandemic were to get a new line of financial support from senior governments through the $1.05-billion COVID-19 resilience infrastructure stream. In total, $7,948,041 was to come to Waterloo Region, with Woolwich Township receiving $279,747 and Wellesley Township earmarked for $100,000.

Wellesley expands Citizen of the Year Awards

Expanding a citizen of the year award to encompass all of Wellesley Township, a new organization picked three people for its inaugural outing. Miranda Schultz of Wellesley village is the Junior Citizen of the Year, Linwood’s Dennis Schultz is the Citizen of the Year award recipient, and Wellesley village’s Esther Wagner was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement award.

The Winterbourne valley will be mined for gravel, as the township dropped further legal action and agreed to a deal with Preston Sand and Gravel.

COVID-19 cases up 50%

New cases spiked to their highest levels since the pandemic began, and the situation was expected to get worse before there’s any sign of improvement, predicted the Region of Waterloo’s medical officer of health.

Region forces closure of Mennonite churches, schools

A spike in COVID-19 cases among Old Order Mennonite groups forced the Region of Waterloo to step in, ordering the closure of churches and parochial schools.

The announcement made Nov. 30 by medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang applied to members of the Old Order, Markham, Old Colony, and David Martin Mennonite communities in Waterloo Region.

DECEMBER

Region votes to shutter childcare centres

Keri Linscott is one of the parents with a child at the Elmira Children’s Centre [Sean Heeger]

The Region of Waterloo opted to get out of the childcare business, council voting to close the five regionally operated facilities, including the Elmira Children’s Centre.

In a 12-3 decision (Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz was one of the dissenters) at a special session Dec. 2, councillors approved the money-saving move, pledging to use some of the $6.8 million to fund more daycare spaces.

Wellesley to apply infrastructure grant to roof repair

Repairs and upgrades to the roof of the St. Clements arena were to be funded in part by $100,000 in infrastructure money received by Wellesley Township. Meeting Dec. 8, councillors selected that project as the outlet for the grant.

Region appoints a vaccine task force, steps up enforcement

With the first vaccine approved for use in Canada, public health officials began planning how best to get supplies out to the public when the time comes.

To that end, the region formed a COVID- 19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, headed by Waterloo Region Police Service deputy chief Shirley Hilton.

Woolwich defers decision on fate of Peel St. bridge

[Joe Merlihan]

A decision on the fate of the Peel Street bridge in Winterbourne was put on hold as the township reviews options, including maintaining it for its heritage value, perhaps for use by pedestrians.

In the latest round of discussions about the century-old structure, Woolwich councillors meeting Dec. 15 voted to defer the matter until at least February. That would give staff time to draft a new report and to consider the financial impact following 2021 budget deliberations.

Woolwich and Wellesley to benefit from Safe Restart funds

Additional provincial funding will help local municipalities cope with the coronavirus pandemic, helping to offset lost revenues and cover additional expenses related to the crisis. Woolwich Township was to get $233,000, while Wellesley was to get $86,000 as part of the latest iteration of the Safe Restart Agreement.

Province-wide lockdown goes into effect Dec. 26

Premier Doug Ford made the long-expected announcement Dec. 21 in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. The lockdown began Dec. 26 and runs until Jan. 23, subject to an extension if conditions warrant it.

Elmira PSW first recipient of COVID-19 vaccine

Siham Ibrahim

A frontline worker from a long-term care facility in Elmira was the first person in Waterloo Region to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Siham Ibrahim, a personal support worker at Chartwell Elmira Long-Term Care Residence, received the shot Dec. 22 at Grand River Hospital.

Ten staff members were among the initial group vaccinated at the region’s first COVID-19 immunization clinic.

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