The Compass names its Top-10 stories for 2013

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With 2014 now just days away, what better time to look back on the year that was 2013. The editorial team at The Compass has sifted through our archives and have come up with what we believe are the Top-10 stories for 2013 in our coverage area.
Here they are:

Milton Peach is pictured at a public consultation meeting in Blaketown on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Peach, of Carbonear, was chair of the Eastern School District board of trustees at the time. Peach has since been named chair of the new Newfoundland and Labrador English School District board of trustees.

1. It was a tumultuous year for education in the region, most notably a major restructuring of the school system in the Carbonear area and a boisterous debate over the future of elementary schools in Whitbourne and Heart's Delight-Islington. A decision by the province to collapse all four English school boards in the province into a single megaboard also had an impact, with officials announcing the closure of a satellite office in Spaniard's Bay.

The completion of a new kindergarten to Grade 8 school in Carbonear resulted in the closure of Davis Elementary and Harbour Grace Primary, and the reconfiguration of Carbonear Collegiate, St. Francis in Harbour Grace and Persalvic in Victoria. A higher than expected enrolment at the new Carbonear school also forced government to approve the construction of four additional classrooms before the new complex opened in September.

In Trinity South, a spirited fight by parents prompted a reversal of an earlier decision to close Whitbourne Elementary, while supporters of Epiphany Elementary in Heart's Delight-Islington were not so fortunate. That school closed permanently at the end of the 2012-13 academic year.

 

2. This region offered up some of the more interesting races and outcomes during the Sept. 26 provincial municipal elections, with all eyes on towns such as Clarke's Beach, Carbonear, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace, Spaniard's Bay and Upper Island Cove.

The election in Clarke's Beach, a town described by Maclean's magazine in 2012 as "Canada's most dysfunctional municipality," attracted two dozens candidates, and proved to be a significant victory for incumbent mayor Betty Moore. Moore was the only member of the previous council to earn re-election, with five others losing badly.

It was equally bad for incumbents in Harbour Grace, where longtime mayor Don Coombs was ousted from power by former deputy mayor Terry Barnes, who won by 70 votes. Four other incumbents also went down to defeat as voters signalled their desire for change.

The race for mayor in Spaniard's Bay was a hard fought battle, with Wayne Smith winning by 12 votes over Brenda Seymour on election night. A subsequent judicial recount upheld Smith's victory, though his margin of victory from reduced to just nine votes.

A judicial recount was also necessary in Placentia, where Wayne Power recorded a four-vote margin of victory over Bernard Power in the race for mayor.

 

3. It was one for the ages. The Eastlink CeeBee Stars appeared dead in the water at the end of February after the team jettisoned its high profile head coach, endured financial struggles and low attendance. The playoffs were not more than a glimmer in the eyes of the players.

What happened next was nothing short of spectacular. After beating the Gander Flyers 5-3 on Feb. 10, the team went on a Cinderella run in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League playoffs en route to the championship final. The CeeBees beat the top-ranked Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in the semifinals, earning the chance to face off with the Clarenville Caribous in the Herder finals.

The Caribous had nothing for the CeeBees, as the Harbour Grace team did the unthinkable and swept Clarenville to capture the coveted Herder Memorial Trophy.

The championship was the team's first since 2008 and 8th title in the CeeBees' history. The Herder games held at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium marked the first time the trophy had been contested in Harbour Grace since 1967.

 

4. A byelection was thrust upon the Carbonear-Harbour Grace district this year after the unexpected resignation of Progressive Conservative MHA and cabinet minister Jerome Kennedy at a time when the party support was the lowest of the three political parties.

This byelection was a significant political event to the area, which generated plenty of discussion on whether the PCs would keep their seat or if the Liberals would return the district to red after six years.

When popular Carbonear mayor Sam Slade entered his name into the race for the Liberals, Kennedy's former constituency assistant Jack Harrington for the PCs, local potter and businesswoman Charlene Sudbrink ran for the NDPs, it proved to be an interesting race, with members of both caucuses helping campaign for each candidate.

All three leaders - Kathy Dunderdale for the PCs, Dwight Ball for the Liberals and Lorraine Michael for the NDP - also made several appearances.

In the end, it was Slade who earned the seat with more than 450 votes between him and his nearest competitor, Harrington.

 

5. A number of instances with illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia made headlines in 2013. First, there was the discovery of a large cache of used needles in a trash bin at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts, then there was the discovery of used needles at the newly opened skate park in Bay Roberts, followed by a daylight arrest of a pair of users at the Beaver Plaza.

It was not just Bay Roberts that saw a spike in activity. It seemed like every week the police were releasing details on another case in communities all across the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region. The highlight could be considered a pair of arrests in relation to cocaine over the summer.

One of the highest profile court cases of the year involved Carbonear native Michael Brian Bowman. Although his case stretches back to August 2012, when he held up a South River pharmacy for prescription drugs with a loaded weapon, Bowman was not sentenced until October. He was sentenced to five years.

 

6. One of the more poignant and community minded events of 2013 was the official opening of the new Cpl. Jamie Murphy Community Park in North River, on the grounds of All Hallows Elementary. In a show of community spirit and pride that some say was unprecedented and heartwarming, more than 600 adults, students and special guests assembled on the school grounds June 8 for "build day," a day-long process that felt just as much like a festival as it did a construction project.

The total investment was estimated at some $200,000. Some $100,000 was raised locally through corporate donations, grants and fundraisers, while the Let Them Be Kids foundation matched, dollar-for-dollar, all funds raised for the purchase of playground equipment.

The park is named in memory of 26-year-old Cpl. Jamie Murphy of Conception Harbour, who was killed during a suicide bomber attack on his vehicle on Jan. 27, 2004. He was the first Newfoundlander killed during the war in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Murphy's niece, Kearsty Ryan, spoke on the behalf of the Murphy family.

"I know he would have loved this park and would have been the first person out with each child to make them smile," she said.

 

7. Former employees at the seafood processing plant in Hant's Harbour were left scrambling to try and pick up the pieces after getting word in March that P. Janes and Sons - a pioneering company in the fishery - had sold its assets to a competitor. The sale to the Barry Group resulted in the permanent closure of plants in Hant's Harbour, Salvage and Jackson's Arm.

The news sent shockwaves throughout the Trinity South region, where 120-plus people depended on the plant for seasonal work. But amid the sadness and shock was a glimmer of hope as opportunities with other fish companies in the region became available, including at the Barry owned plant in Port de Grave. It was also expected that workers would disperse to plants in Old Perlican, Bay de Verde, and New Harbour.

While the closure was shocking to many, it was not unexpected, since activity at the plant had been dropping every year, a reflection of the overcapacity in the industry, stiff competition between companies for raw material, and much less secondary processing of crab.

P. Janes was started in 1929 with a saltfish processing operation in Hant's Harbour, and was the first plant in this province to process crab.

 

8. This year there has been many notable moments for the youth of the region, but few as prominent as one that took place this July.

When three boys from Carbonear decided to fix a child's go-cart after it was vandalized, they had no idea what their act of kindness would generate. In less than a week, the story of Josh Griffin, Andrew Green and Anthony Griffin was making provincial headlines about their selfless deed.

Neither of them expected the attention, since they only wanted to help Ben Clarke get his go-cart into usable condition. It was never about the publicity.

The acknowledgment grew when the boys earned tickets to "We Day" - a concert to celebrate youth that help in their communities - in Halifax this November, where they stood side-by-side with celebrities, motivational speakers and other students who have given their time to help others in need.

 

9. 2013 marked the 100th birthday for the S.S. Kyle. The venerable ship was known as the Bulldog of the North since its launch in 1913.

A member of the Alphabet Fleet, the Kyle was an icebreaker and an integral part of the early lives of many a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. It made numerous trips up and down the Labrador coast, building its legend every step of the way before she was grounded in River Head, Harbour Grace in 1965.

This summer a weekend of events were planned to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the launch of the Kyle. There was the annual reciting of the "Smokeroom on the Kyle" by Kelly Russell from the deck of the Kyle itself, along with other historical reenactments.

 

10. After many months of discussion, debate and anticipation, the green light was given to the Town of Harbour Grace in March for a new arena to be built in the town.

During the final game of the Herder championship, former Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy formally announced the approval for 80 per cent funding for the $21 million stadium.

The town wasted no time, and immediately put in place a committee - chaired by local businessman Joey George - to determine the needs of the facility and possible locations.

Over the past nine months, a site was chosen, designs were determined, tenders have been submitted by contracting companies and the town is ready to hire a company to begin construction. A new facilities manager - Jennifer Janes - began work at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium Dec. 2, and it was announced she will run the new facility once it is completed.

An expected completion date has been set for September 2015, and a sod turning for early 2014.

Organizations: Grade 8 school, Carbonear school, Maclean's NDPs Newfoundland Senior Hockey League Kids foundation Barry Group Town of Harbour Grace

Geographic location: Carbonear, Bay Roberts, Trinity South Victoria Placentia Canada Clarenville Hant S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium South River North River Conception Harbour Afghanistan.Cpl Port de Grave Old Perlican Bay de Verde Halifax Labrador River Head

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