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The Observer Year in Review 2021

JANUARY

Church elders charged for breaching provincial lockdown

[Sean Heeger]

Six elders from Trinity Bible Chapel east of Heidelberg were charged for failing to comply with rules set under the province-wide lockdown. Waterloo Regional Police visited the church at 1373 Lobsinger Line and observed people outdoors. Police charged six members of the church. The charged members were issued summons under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Woolwich eyes 1.5% tax hike as budget talks get underway

Woolwich residents are looking at another $13.61 this year, based on an average home assessed at $409,400.

Wellesley tax bills to rise 2.75%

The average Wellesley homeowner will pay an additional $21 this year on the township portion of their property taxes under the 2021 budget approved this week by council.

Trickling supply of vaccine

Despite a reported shortage of vaccine supplies, Waterloo Region is administering about 600 COVID-19 vaccinations daily at this point. The region has officially administered 5,142 of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Public health officials call for greater adherence to COVID-19 rules

Facing an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Region of Waterloo is stepping up enforcement efforts when residents fail to comply with lockdown rules even in advance of new stay-at-home orders that went into effect Jan. 12.

The township will be upgrading the Elmira fire station this year, with future plans for an addition to the building. [Damon MacLean]

Elmira fire station to stay put on Howard Ave.

Repairs and upgrades planned for the Elmira fire station this year are the first step in making the Howard Avenue building their long-term home. That reverses course from a previous plan to move the station to a piece of land in the new residential subdivision on Church Street West.

Region joins push for paid sick leave to help curb virus

While people showing signs of illness are encouraged to stay home from work, many simply can’t afford to miss out on the pay that would entail. With that in mind, regional officials are calling on the federal and provincial governments to implement paid sick leave.

COVID-19 immunization rates limited by supply of vaccine

The vaccine remains in short supply as Waterloo Region health officials prioritize the immunization of long-term care and retirement home residents. Mobile clinics began rolling out Jan. 12, helping to boost region-wide totals to 12,000 shots.

Water and sewer rates to remain unchanged this year, council decides

Woolwich residents will see no increases in the fees they pay for water and wastewater this year under a budget approved this week by council.

Return to in-class learning pushed back

Area students will have to stick with online learning until at least Feb. 10, the Waterloo Region District School Board announced.

The decision was based on current directions from the Ministry of Education and the advice of public health experts with the intention of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Region sees drop in cases; rates still above early stages of pandemic

COVID-19 cases have declined in the region for the first time since the province declared a state of emergency, but transmission of the virus is still widespread throughout the area.

Region approves 0.5% tax hike

The average homeowner will see a 0.51 per cent increase on the regional portion of their property tax bills, which accounts for more than half of the total, under the 2021 budget approved by council.

That would add about $3 per $100,000 of assessed value to the bill, though the numbers will be lower in the townships where there are fewer services than in the cities.

MCC to consolidate warehouse operations

[Damon Maclean]

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada will be moving its central material resources warehouse to Waterloo Region in a move to distribute relief supplies more rapidly. The facility will be relocated to New Hamburg from Plum Coulee, Man. starting Apr. 1.

COVID-19 cases slowing in area even as UK variant discovered locally

Waterloo Region last week saw its first case of the more contagious UK variant of COVID-19. Local officials were notified Jan. 28 by Public Health Ontario that a woman in her 30s had been diagnosed with the mutant strain.

Organizers cancel this year’s Wellesley ABC Festival

The event still some eight months away, the uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic have prompted the cancellation of this year’s Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese (ABC) Festival. The organizing committee announced the decision last week, saying it was too much of a risk at this point to schedule an in-person event, even one scheduled for Sept. 25.

FEBRUARY

Province steps up COVID-19 inspections at farm operations

The province has expanded coronavirus inspections at farming operations, but local operators will see few real changes, suggests Waterloo Region’s medical officer of health.

Province provides townships with $1.9 million for infrastructure projects

Woolwich, Wellesley and Wilmot townships will see $1.9 million in infrastructure funding from the province under the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF).

The local funding, announced by Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris, is part of a larger $200-million investment in 424 communities across the province. The money can be used for building and repairing roads, bridges, water, and wastewater infrastructure, with Harris noting the timing will help municipalities solidify their budgets for the year.

Province provides $7.5 million to help long-term care facilities in region

Long-term care homes in the region will receive $7.5 million to help them cope with COVID-19 under the latest round of funding from the province. Twenty-two facilities in Waterloo Region are slated to receive support to increase their prevention and containment efforts.

Province allows students to return to class

Along with easing lockdown restrictions, the provincial government also let students return to in-person learning this week. It marked the end of a long-extended Christmas break of sorts.

COVID-19 numbers on downward trend in region as province moves to end lockdown

Waterloo Region is seeing a downward trend in pandemic numbers, including active cases and outbreaks. Those numbers repeated across much of the province help prompt the Ford government to lift the state of emergency, and allowed students to begin returning to classrooms.

Province postpones March Break to mid-April

“April break” may not have the same ring to it, but that’s this year’s timing for the weeklong interlude from school. Provincial Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced March Break would be postponed rather than cancelled.

Region sees economic boon in new carrier when pandemic starts to recede

Flair Airlines is the latest carrier to offer up flights from the Region of Waterloo International Airport, looking to connect the area with six Canadian cities.

Starting May 1, the company will fly several times each week from Breslau to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Halifax, adding Victoria and Winnipeg to the itinerary as of July.

Provincial funding expands Community Paramedicine Program in region

A $7.8-million infusion from the province will see the Community Paramedicine Program expand in Waterloo Region.

Since 2018, the paramedicine program has helped people within the community who need some extra assistance at home by giving paramedics the ability to go in and help with medical needs.

WCS’ Coldest Night of the Year event raises $92K

Even with all the changes needed to accommodate a public event during a pandemic, Woolwich Community Services managed to raise $92,000 through the weekend’s Coldest Night of the Year. That total surpassed the local organization’s goal by some 150 per cent.

MARCH

Province provides another $18 million in pandemic relief to region

Woolwich will get $447,000 and Wellesley $166,000 in the latest round of pandemic relief funding from the province, with a total of $18 million earmarked across the Region of Waterloo.

The funding will help municipalities offset pandemic-related costs such as buying personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, as well as enhanced bylaw enforcement.

Woolwich council pledges $25,000 to support theatres in St. Jacobs

The St. Jacobs Country Playhouse has been vacant for much of the lockdown. [Submitted]

Out 100 per cent of its revenues in the past year, Drayton Entertainment is getting some funding support from the municipalities where it operates theatres, including $25,000 from Woolwich Township.

The money approved Mar. 9  by council will help maintain the organization’s facilities in the township, the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse and St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre.

Region marks a year since the start of pandemic

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Waterloo Region’s numbers remain relatively high, but are considered stable.

There have been 11,091 cases since the virus was first identified in the region one year ago. There have been 236 fatalities since that time.

Region opens new vaccine clinics, but pace still remains slow

The Region of Waterloo is starting to administer the Moderna vaccine, branching out from exclusively using the Pfizer-BionNTech as has been the case since December.

Health officials are also extending the period between the first and second shots of the vaccine, part of a new process laid out Mar. 12 in the weekly pandemic briefing.

Province announces $155K in new funding for groups in Waterloo Region

Three seniors’ organizations in the region will share in $155,000 in provincial funding provided with the goal of keeping older Ontarians active during the pandemic.

Locally, Community Care Concepts (CCC) and the Woolwich Seniors Association (WSA) will each benefit from $54,014.41, while Saint Luke’s Place in Cambridge will receive $46,701.53.

School zone speed cameras

The region has doubled to 16 the number of photo radar locations it plans to roll out this year. Schools zones in front of Foundation Christian School on Katherine Street in Winterbourne and St. Clement school on Lobsinger Line were first identified for the townships. Added to the list are Clearview Mennonite School on Three Bridges Road in Woolwich and Wellesley PS on Queen’s Bush Road

Couple’s long-time volunteer work earns official kudos

Graham and LuAnn Snyder received multiple nominations to the Region of Waterloo Hall of Fame. [Damon MacLean]

Known for their years of volunteer work, particularly in the Elmira hockey community, Graham and LuAnn Snyder are among those to be inducted this year into the Region of Waterloo Hall of Fame.

Woolwich gets funding for $4.2M in new projects

With funding from the federal and provincial governments, Woolwich will be spending $4.2 million on two projects in Elmira: upgrades at the Woolwich Memorial Centre and improvements to the underground drain that runs under much of the core.             

APRIL

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival takes experience online

Last Saturday should have seen tens of thousands of people in the downtown core for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. Instead, as with last year, the in-person event was a no-go due to the pandemic. Unlike last year, however, the festival will be represented virtually this time around, with online activities slated for Apr. 9 and 10.

Residents move back into EDCL group home destroyed by fire last spring

Almost a year after fire destroyed the EDCL group home on First Street in Elmira, residents are moving back in.
[Damon MacLean]

Almost a year after a fire levelled an Elmira District Community Living group home, the structure has been rebuilt and residents are moving back in. Rodger Hanna, manager of residential services for EDCL, remembers that May afternoon vividly Damage to the building was estimated at $750,000.

Low supplies of vaccine have region falling well short of inoculation targets

Less than three per cent of Waterloo Region residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the rollout largely delayed by limited supplies of the vaccine. Months into the inoculation campaign, just 15,479 people (2.63 per cent) had received both shots at midweek. Just shy of 99,000 total doses had been administered, representing 14.2 per cent of the populate, well short of Public Health’s goal of vaccinating at least 75 per cent of the population.

Couple feted for their volunteerism

Paul and Margaret Marrow love to volunteer, but are much more reluctant to be recognized for their efforts. Still, the Winterbourne couple is this year’s recipient of Woolwich Community Service’s Yvonne Reid Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award. Both are volunteers with WCS, part of a long history of volunteerism

Covered bridge project part of new infrastructure funding

Plans for rehabilitating the West Montrose covered bridge moved a little closer with funding from the federal and provincial governments. Ottawa is kicking in $2.5 million and Queen’s Park $2.08 million as part of new infrastructure funding. The project will also receive $1.67 million from the Region of Waterloo, the owner of the bridge now seeking public input on plans that include the potential of replacing wooden trusses with steel.

Local meat processors to receive $2 million in new federal funding for pandemic measures

Three area meat processors will receive almost $2 million in federal funding to improve worker safety and increase capacity. Conestoga Meat Packers Ltd. in Breslau is to get $1,570,155; Heidelberg Foods Ltd. will receive $277,575; and Stemmler’s Meats and Cheese Heidelberg Inc. and KST Investments Inc. will get $108,685.

Trees for Woolwich unveils plans for sprawling Elmira Nature Reserve

What is today largely neglected scrubland adjacent to the town’s eastside industrial area will be transformed into the Elmira Nature Reserve, Trees for Woolwich’s latest transformational project.

The goal unveiled Apr. 20 at Woolwich council involves turning some 65 acres of marginal township land into a thriving ecosystem for native species of flora and fauna. The project area, which runs in an area between Union Street and the railroad tracks, includes a location known as The Habitats, a six-acre field that’s being turned into a showcase of five different habitats that can be found within southern Ontario.

Dam book marks paper’s milestone

With The Observer marking its 25th anniversary, it seemed like a good time to put into action longstanding plans to compile the columns of the late Allen D. Martin into a book. That long-discussed project is now a reality in the form of ‘My Side of the Dam: The retrospective 1996-2003.’

Martin, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 75, was a popular contributor in the newspaper’s early days, sharing his quirky observations and wry humour until Parkinson’s Disease forced him to step back from writing.

EMSF expects to raise more than $25K to distribute to community groups

The first virtual version of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival was so well received, organizers are looking at incorporating aspects of it into an expected return to an in-person event next year. They’re also doing a tally of fundraising efforts, and expecting to have at least $25,000 to distribute to various charities in the region. The virtual version ran Apr. 9-10.

MAY

Woolwich council votes to speed up the rehabilitation of Peel Street bridge

[Joe Merlihan]

Winterbourne’s Peel Street bridge could be reopened to pedestrian traffic as early as next year under a plan approved by Woolwich council. The goal is to have the engineering work done this year, with construction on the structure carried out in 2022.

The decision May 4 follows up on council’s earlier decision that rehabilitation as a pedestrian crossing was the best fate for the historic steel bridge.

WRDSB pushing back commencement events to fall

Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) students graduating this year will no longer celebrate commencement this summer as originally planned, having to wait instead for the fall, as is the case for all 16 high schools. Virtual is still the expected medium in which the ceremony will take place later this year.

Region extends mask bylaw in line with province

A mask mandate will remain in effect for Waterloo Region, as council this week voted to extend the requirement that was due to expire at month’s end. Face coverings will be mandatory until the end of the year, unless circumstances allow for the bylaw to be revoked sooner.

Wellesley outside workers give union strike mandate

Wellesley’s outside workers have given their union a strike mandate, shoring up their bargaining position during current contract negotiations. The workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1542, voted unanimously in support of the position.

Local 1542 president Chris Roth said the vote in favour of strike action doesn’t mean a labour disruption will happen, but it is a sign that negotiations are not going well and that members are committed to getting a fair deal.

Harris’ private member’s bill gets royal assent

An amber-red warning system for school buses, the focus of a private member’s bill introduced by local MPP Mike Harris, was signed into law.

Known as the Safer School Bus Act 2021, the law calls for older school buses to be retrofitted with a new flashing light system to boost safety.

Upgrades to water meters will see Woolwich switch to remote reading

Long a manual task, the job of reading water meters in Woolwich Township is becoming automated.

Work is now underway installing radio transmitters on the meters at some 6,200 households, with contractor KTI Utility Services wrapping up in Heidelberg, adding the village to a list of completed settlements that includes Maryhill and West Montrose. The larger jobs of Breslau, Elmira and St. Jacobs await, with Conestogo next on the list. The work is part of million-dollar, multi-year conversion to a remote meter-reading system.

JUNE

Students won’t return to class before year’s end

June’s arrival would normally mark the final countdown to the school year, with kids looking forward to leaving their classrooms behind them. But they’ve already done that, and they won’t be returning until September.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced June 2 that schools will remain shuttered for the rest of the year, with in-person learning on hold until after the summer.

GRT subsidies move to income-based system as of July 1

Reduced Grand River Transit fares for seniors and students will end July 1, replaced by a new subsidy based on income rather than age. The affordable transit program (ATP) replaces existing discounts in order to provide fare reductions to a wider range of low-income residents. The new program cuts almost in half (48 per cent) fares paid by eligible transit users.

Charles Reeves, site coordinator Nadine Green, Dennis Leger and Zoe Wassing with one of the tiny homes at A Better Tent City at Lot42 in Kitchener. The group was looking to relocate to a site near Breslau. [Alex Filipe]

Woolwich rejects ABTC bid to fast-track site

There’ll be no fast-tracking of a bid to relocate a homeless enclave to Woolwich, putting the ball back in the hands of A Better Tent City. Meeting June 8, councillors voted unanimously to have the organization submit a formal application to use a piece of farmland near Breslau as the home for some 40 previously homeless residents.

Mark Brubacher recognized with distinguished teacher of the year award

Hawkesville native Mark Brubacher, a teacher at Courtland PS, is one of this year’s (2021) recipients of an ETFO award.
[Damon MacLean]

Hawkesville native Mark Brubacher is one of three Waterloo Region educators recognized with a distinguished teacher of the year award. Organized by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the award recognized exemplary teaching.

Region’s rise in virus cases linked to Delta variant

Even as the province begins to ease restrictions on reopening, Waterloo Region’s COVID-19 numbers are headed in the wrong direction, largely the result in a surge of the new Delta variant of the disease.

Of the 574 total cases reported by the province at the end of last week, the region accounted for 79, trailing only Toronto which reported 109, and Peel Region with 84. Still, the region was part of stage one of the province-wide reopening plan that began June 11.

Wellesley rec. complex get $16-million boost

The province has breathed new life into Wellesley’s plans for a new recreation centre, last week pledging $16 million towards the $22-million project.

The provincial money gets plans back on track, says Chris Martin, chair of the Wellesley Township Recreation Centre Advisory Committee, who last year thought the community would have to fund the development on its own. “I was ecstatic – I couldn’t believe it,” said Martin following the announcement June 17.

Hawk Ridge developer back to the drawing board … again

Still unconvinced a residential subdivision should be located next to Elmira’s Union Street industrial area, Woolwich councillors want to see more changes to the plan submitted by Hawk Ridge Homes.

Meeting by videoconference June 22, Woolwich councillors opposed a staff recommendation to approve the residential project, calling instead for yet more adjustments that might help ward off future problems, particularly noise related to the late-night shunting of trains.

Wellesley gives go-ahead to townhouse development

A planned 50-unit townhouse development in Wellesley village continues to raise concerns from residents, with opposition surfacing again at a June 22 virtual council meeting. In a split decision, the township approved the condominium plan nonetheless.

Woolwich clears way for small subdivision in Bloomingdale

Bloomingdale can expect to see a small residential development take form, as Woolwich council approved the required subdivider’s agreement.

Sawmill Development Corp. and Stevanus Developments Inc. plan to develop six residential lots and a commercial/industrial property on a 13.3-acre site on the south side of Snyder’s Flats Road, across from the community centre.

Students pose for their graduation in front of the St Boniface School in Maryhill, Ontario. [ALEX FILIPE]

School’s out forever in Maryhill

The anything-but-normal school year wrapped up for students in the region, but perhaps most poignantly for those who attend St. Boniface School in Maryhill, which this week closed its doors for good. Come September, students will be at the new St. Boniface in Breslau.

Woolwich arranges public river access site in West Montrose

Already prone to conflicts between visitors and nearby homeowners, the area around the West Montrose covered bridge has been especially busy during the pandemic.

With limited parking, few amenities and no real public access to the river (some people, for instance, routinely trespass on private property to launch their canoes), the bridge area is a victim of its own popularity.

Now, the township has reached a deal with the nearby West Montrose Family Camp to provide an access point for canoeists and kayaks entering and exiting the Grand River without trespassing on private property.

Woolwich posts surplus

Woolwich Township ended 2020 with a budget surplus, largely due to postponing capital projects and bailouts from the federal and provincial governments. In an audit presented June 29, council heard the tax-supported surplus was $717,409 – $11,921 operating surplus and $705,488 capital surplus – which represents approximately 6.38% of the total budget.

Delta variant keeps Waterloo Region a hot spot, delays reopening

Health officials explain that the Delta variant, with its efficiency in spreading more quickly, is the main reason behind why Waterloo Region is being held at step 1 while the rest of the province continues to reopen.

JULY

Georgie and Bruce Hutchison celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. [ Submitted]

Region’s hospitals receive an additional $20 million in funding

The region’s three hospitals will receive additional funding this year totalling almost $20 million as the province looks to help them cope with the pandemic and expand services.

Couple at Chartwell Elmira this week celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary

Chartwell Elmira was the scene of a special event this week, as Georgie and Bruce Hutchison celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. The two were married on Saturday, July 7, 1951 at 2 p.m. at the Baptist church in Springfield, Ont.

Heidelberg pitcher drafted by New York Mets

Back at home in Heidelberg, Cal Ziegler was selected by the New York Mets in the second round of this year’s (2021) MLB draft. [Justine Fraser]

Cal Ziegler began playing baseball at the park in Heidelberg with his father when he was 4 years old. Now he’s 18 and on the radar of the New York Mets organization. Ziegler was selected in the second round, 46th overall, in the latest Major League Baseball draft, which took place July 11-13.

Region set to move to stage 3 of reopening as COVID-19 cases stabilize

Having joined the rest of the province on in stage 2 of the reopening plan, Waterloo Region will be in lockstep with other municipalities in moving to stage 3 July 16.

New operator to take over childcare centre in Elmira

A not-for-profit organization will be offering daycare services at Riverside PS in Elmira come September. Jacob Hespeler Child Care Centres currently operates out of six other schools in the region.

The change comes in the wake of the Region of Waterloo’s decision the year prior to close all five of the daycare facilities it operates, including the Elmira Children’s Centre.

Food bank sees 26% increase since start of pandemic

Demand for food bank assistance in the region increased by 26 per cent during the first year of the pandemic. As such, the Waterloo Region Food Bank distributed more than 4.6 million pounds of fresh, frozen and non-perishable food.

AUGUST

Decision on Maryhill gravel pit to be made at provincial tribunal

Looking for some movement on its application for a gravel pit near Maryhill, Capital Paving wants a provincial tribunal to weigh in rather than waiting on Woolwich Township to decide. The move takes the decision out of council’s hands, though it will have to decide what course it wants to take at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hearing.

Once a King, Always a King

Once a King, Always a King chronicles the 50 years since the formation of the Elmira Sugar Kings in 1971. [Alex Filipe]

Hockey being on hold for the past year and a half wasn’t how the Elmira Sugar Kings had hoped to lead into their 50th anniversary season, but they’ve been busy off the ice preparing to mark the milestone. Now, a book detailing the club’s history is available.

Once a King Always a King not only delves into the team’s past, but looks to the future as a fundraiser for the Junior B hockey club.

Woolwich eyes plan for broadening housing mix, boosting affordability

A fledging plan to provide a broader mix of housing, including affordable options, will see Woolwich develop options for some township-owned land, including the Kiwanis House site in Elmira.

Region hits vaccination milestone

More than 76 per cent of those over the age of 12 have been fully inoculated, exceeding the original target of 75 per cent. Given the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, there’s a push to reach 90.

Region OKs third doses for those most at risk

In the face of the Delta variant of novel coronavirus and increasing evidence of the need for booster shots, Waterloo Region will make third doses available to anyone who might be considered high-risk individuals or immunocompromised, the likes of those living in long-term care homes or undergoing cancer treatment.

Township puts on hold efforts to extend services in Breslau

Pressed to consider municipal water and sewer connections, Breslau residents in unserviced parts of the village have earned a 15-year respite, the result of a recent survey by the township.

The majority of residents in the affected area opposed the idea of extending municipal services into their neighbourhoods, with Woolwich agreeing to drop the issue.

Woolwich fire chief Dale Martin retires

As of Aug. 31, 2021, Dale Martin no longer had to worry about being forced to roll out of bed in the middle of the night. [File Photo]

As of Aug. 31, Dale Martin no longer had to worry about being forced to roll out of bed in the middle of the night. That was someone else’s since his retirement from his post as chief of the Woolwich Fire Department.

Responding to emergencies is something he’s done for most of the last 43 years since he first joined the Elmira station in 1978. He was named the township’s deputy chief in 2008, taking on responsibility for enhanced training requirements.

SEPTEMBER

Region dealing with fourth wave; province announces vaccine passport

Along with adjustments for the fourth wave of the COVID-19 virus, local public health officials are also gearing up for a new vaccine passport system announced by Premier Doug Ford.

The new system will require patrons of restaurants, theatres, movie houses and similar public settings to provide proof of vaccination.

Wellesley names its citizens of the year

Beth Schlueter was awarded the lifetime achievement award for her years of volunteer service. [Steve Kannon]

The regular Wellesley Fall Fair may be on hold again due to the pandemic, but the township will carry on its recognition of its citizens of the year.

This year’s citizen of the year is Jerome (Jerry) Sherrer, while Ahmad Khan is the junior citizen of the year. Beth Schlueter is being recognized with a lifetime achievement award.

Avery Flynn is named new Wellesley Fair ambassador

Avery Flynn is the new Wellesley Fair ambassador, taking over from Caitlin Livingston. [File Photo]

Avery Flynn is the new Wellesley Fair ambassador, taking over from Caitlin Livingston. While there was no Wellesley Fall Fair to host her crowning, the 17-year-old Wellesley village resident did go through a selection process improvised due to the pandemic.

 New policy sees regional employees disclose vaccination status

 Employees of Waterloo Region will be required to disclose whether or not they are vaccinated by Sept. 27 under a new policy. Those not inoculated will be required to undergo COVID-19 vaccination education and face a rapid-antigen testing program.

Woolwich names new fire chief

Dennis Aldous [File Photo]

Dennis Aldous was named the Woolwich Fire Department’s new chief on Sept. 13, replacing the retired Dale Martin. He came to the job after four years as the deputy chief, a position to which he was promoted after Martin became chief in 2017.

The new chief first joined the department 24 years ago as a volunteer at the Elmira station, eventually serving as fire prevention officer before becoming the deputy chief.

Woolwich township staff must disclose vaccination status

As with employees of the Region of Waterloo and its lower-tier municipalities, Woolwich employees had until Sept. 22 to disclose their vaccination status. The date coincides with the province’s new vaccine passport policy as officials look to boost inoculation rates to combat a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tight race meant three-day delay before MP learned he’d retained riding

Liberal candidate Tim Louis was joined by supporters at the Malt & Barley Public House in Kitchener, with the night ending without a decision. Louis was leading at press time. [Steve Kannon]

It became apparent shortly after the polls closed Sept. 20 that Canada would have another Liberal-led minority government, but it wasn’t until three days later that Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis learned he’d be part of that caucus. A decision in the riding came down to mail-in ballots, as election-night returns had Louis and Conservative challenger Carlene Hawley separated by fewer than 200 votes.

Region approves Breslau on-demand bus

Breslau residents can expect to be part of an on-demand busing experiment next spring, as Waterloo Region council approved a new pilot project.

The eight-month program will see users order up rides in advance, principally through a mobile app, rather than see a traditional bus service running along a fixed route. The $175,000 in funding for the project is coming from Metrolinx, the provincial Crown agency.

OCTOBER

Coun. Martin apologizes for behaviour that prompted investigation

Having been subject to an investigation by the township’s integrity commissioner, Coun. Murray Martin apologized Oct. 5 for the actions at the root of public complaints. His colleagues accepted the apology and the consultant’s reports, opting to move on past the incident.

Woolwich’s integrity commissioner recommended council censure Martin for violating the township’s code of conduct in relation to a gravel pit proposed for the Maryhill area. An investigation was launched when two complaints were filed following a July 13 committee meeting chaired by Martin at which the Capital Paving application was discussed.

Unvaccinated local hospital workers face prospect of losing their jobs

Unvaccinated hospital staff are at risk of more than COVID – they could lose their jobs, as St. Mary’s General Hospital and Grand River Hospital implement provincially mandated vaccine policies.

As of Oct. 10, the hospitals’ joint policy calls for staff to have had at least one dose of vaccine or face unpaid leave. Grand River Hospital said in a statement that staff will have until Nov. 9 to provide proof of full vaccination or risk losing their employment, while physicians will risk losing their hospital privileges.

School board insists it’s not cancelling Halloween

Even as the Waterloo Region District School Board insists it’s not cancelling Halloween, an online petition is calling for the board to reverse its restrictive measures.

The board has advised schools to discourage the wearing of costumes, decorations, handing out candy and just about anything related to Halloween other than permitting the wearing of orange and black clothing.

Mix of housing proposed for new Elmira subdivision

A long-anticipated residential development on the west edge of Elmira now has some details, as Activa Holdings brought its plans to Woolwich council Oct. 19.

The Waterloo-based company is proposing to build 662 to 803 units on a 76-acre piece of land running west of Barnswallow Drive and south of Church Street. The property surrounds Gale Presbyterian Church on two sides.

A Better Tent City relocates to new site in Kitchener

Housed temporarily At a City of Kitchener site used as a snow dump, residents of A Better Tent City moved Oct. 26 to a new home in the city. The new site at 49 Ardelt Ave. straddles land owned by the city and the Waterloo Region District School Board.

NOVEMBER

Premier tours local businesses, announces $2.2 million in funding

Four businesses in the region will share in $2.2 million of new provincial funding, with Premier Doug Ford visiting some of the recipients Nov. 9. He was at RTS Companies in St. Clements, and Minister of Economic Development  Vic Fedeli announced the funding during an earlier stop at Huron Digital Pathology in St. Jacobs.

Wellesley approves new revised kennel bylaw

A cap on the number of dogs and new standards for facilities are among the provisions of new kennel bylaw approved Nov. 9 by Wellesley council. The goal is to improve the welfare of the animals, says Coun. Shelley Wagner, who has spearheaded the longstanding review of the township bylaw. The rules limit kennel operations to no more than 35 dogs, and reduces the limits for new operators.

 $400K in emergency spending to shore up failing bridge

[File Photo]

Woolwich will spend $400,000 to shore up the low-level bridge in St. Jacobs that’s been closed since September due to safety concerns. A large rainfall event on Sept. 22 caused rapid erosion on some of the piers supporting the bridge, which is designed to be flooded over during high-water episodes. Erosion concerns had first been identified during underwater inspections in 2018, but the September downpour caused visible sagging and cracking.

Engineering staff proposed emergency repairs to the existing piers and replacement of a portion of the deck as township councillors met in a special session Nov. 16.

Hot on the trail for the past 40 years

If you’re a user of Woolwich’s now-expansive trail system, you have Art Woods to thank for that. The Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) did just that on your behalf, presenting him with an award recognizing his decades of service.

The group’s CARES award (Community Awards in Recognition of Environmental Stewardship) acknowledges the Elmira resident’s pioneering efforts to launch trails in the community.

Region to begin giving vaccine shots to kids

Parents in Waterloo Region can now book appointments to get their children between the ages of 5 and 11 vaccinated, a move that public health officials hope will counter outbreaks at schools.

DECEMBER

Council approves $1.9 million for reconstruction of two Elmira streets

Woolwich approved plans to reconstruct College and Bauman streets in Elmira at a council meeting Dec. 7, agreeing to spend $1.9 million to reconstruct the two roads as the next phase of 2021’s reconstruction of Union Street. Currently dead-end streets, both will be extended to Union Street in advance of a proposed residential development on the former apple orchard site fronting on Union.

EDSS among high schools removing washroom doors

EDSS was among those high schools in the region where exterior doors have been removed from some bathrooms, the board citing safety concerns as the rationale. Though some students and parents have challenged the decision, the Waterloo Region District School Board is going ahead with the policy approved in November by trustees.

Region steps up bid to vaccinate children

A rise in COVID cases among school-aged children in the region prompted the closure of two schools in the last month – the first time since they had reopened for the school year – as long health officials look to get more shots in arms.

In the meantime, multiple cohort outbreaks meant high numbers and high contact cases that needed to get tested.

New long-term care home for St. Jacobs

A new long-term care facility in St. Jacobs is among three projects to receive new funding announced by the province. PeopleCare plans to build a new home in an as-yet announced location in the village in 2023.

Minister of Long-term Care Rod Phillips was in St. Jacobs Dec. 9 to announce the funding of 448 new and upgraded beds in Waterloo Region.

Breslau connector road put on hold; council balks at cost

The idea of spending some $30 million to build a road of unknown value saw Woolwich council put the project on hold Dec. 14. The decision follows the previous week’s council discussion about a recently completed environmental assessment (EA) study for the so-called Breslau east connector road. The new route would run between a future Dolman Street extension at Fountain Street and Greenhouse Road to the east. An estimated $14.5 million would be needed simply for an overpass to span the railroad tracks, an oversized project that would cover potential future expansion of the Metrolinx/GO Transit line.

Woolwich eyes affordable housing project for Kiwanis House

Woolwich is looking to redevelop the site at South Street and Snyder Avenue to clear the way for an affordable housing project.

The former Kiwanis House property in Elmira will be used to provide affordable housing under a township proposal aired Dec. 14. Woolwich is looking to declare as surplus the land at 28 South St. W. If that goes through, the plan is to request proposals to develop housing on the site at the corner of Snyder Avenue, near the Woolwich Memorial Centre.

Woolwich approves plans for hydro utility merger

[File Photo]

The merger of Waterloo North Hydro (WNH) with its Kitchener Wilmot counterpart got the green light from Woolwich council, moving the venture forward.

The vote by councillors Dec. 14 was the latest development in merger plans announced Oct. 1, though WNH has been looking at merger options since 2017. The amalgamation would create the province’s seventh largest utility, based on the number of customers served – some 158,000.

Wellesley moving ahead with new recreation complex

Artist’s rendering of the Wellesley Township Recreation Centre. [Submitted]

Something for everyone is not only the slogan for the fundraising campaign, it’s the goal of the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre which will offer a wide array of services when the $27-million project is completed.

Council got the ball rolling in awarding a $26.5-million contract to Kitchener-based Ball Construction Ltd. to carry out the work. The project will also use another $700,000 for the addition of green features.

Woolwich agrees to waive DC fees for St. Jacobs seniors’ apartment expansion

Now under the supervision of MennoHomes, a planned expansion at Sprucelawn Apartments for Seniors in St. Jacobs will enjoy savings of $192,000, as Woolwich council agreed to waive development charges for the project.

The plan is to add 28 units to the existing building, which would essentially double the size of the complex at 33 Front St., which is currently home to 30 units. Construction is expected to cost $6.5 to $7 million.

Region prepares to ramp up vaccination clinics

The Region of Waterloo hit a milestone in administering one million vaccinations since vaccines became available a year into the pandemic. The goal posts are shifting, however, as the Omicron variant accelerates the need for booster shots.

Region sees 4.56% tax hike for 2022 in passing budget

Increased spending on police, social housing and paramedic services will see Region of Waterloo residents pay another $96 a year in property taxes in 2022 under a newly approved budget. That’s an increase of 4.56 per cent.

That tax hit is based on an average home with an assessed value of just $354,500, with 3.3 per cent going to regional services and a 1.26 per cent for police. Regional council approved a 2022 police budget increase of $10.4 million, or 5.6 per cent, despite calls for larger cuts to help pay for other social services.

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