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YEAR IN REVIEW: Top news stories of 2017

Trent Butt sits in the prisoner’s box awaiting the arrival of a judge.
Trent Butt takes a seat while making his first courtroom appearance in Harbour Grace in January of 2017.

Each year there proves to be no shortage of major events to cover in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area.

That was once again the case for 2017, with challenging and surprising stories to tell concerning schools, politics, the court system and the business community. Even in the final month of the year, there were major new stories breaking.

Editor Andrew Robinson and reporter Chris Lewis took a look at some of the biggest stories of 2017 and came up with this list.

Trent Butt exits a police vehicle outside Harbour Grace Provincial Court Monday morning. A person in the crowd unfurled a purple scarf in his direction as he passed.
Trent Butt exits a police vehicle outside Harbour Grace Provincial Court Monday morning. A person in the crowd unfurled a purple scarf in his direction as he passed.

1. Trent Butt pleads not guilty to murdering daughter: Several months after his initial arrest for allegedly murdering his own daughter, Trent Butt of Carbonear made his first appearance in a courtroom back in January of 2017 for the start of a lengthy preliminary inquiry. A few months later at Supreme Court in St. John's, Butt entered not guilty pleas for first-degree murder and arson. He awaits the start of his trial.

SEE RELATED:

'Accused murderer Trent Butt stabbed at HMP'

'Man accused of murdering daughter pleads not guilty'

'Trent Butt murder case sent to trial, arraignment date set'

'Trent Butt arrives at Harbour Grace courthouse for preliminary inquiry'

Lawyer Kyle Rees chats with Frank Butt prior to courtroom proceedings in St. John's Jan. 3, 2018. Rees appeared as an agent for Butt's lawyer, John Babb.
Lawyer Kyle Rees chats with Frank Butt prior to courtroom proceedings in St. John's Jan. 3, 2018. Rees appeared as an agent for Butt's lawyer, John Babb.

2. Frank Butt removed as mayor of Carbonear: It was certainly a year of highs and lows for Frank Butt. The former deputy mayor of Carbonear successfully campaigned against two strong candidates to win the mayor's election in September. But last month, his fellow council members voted him out of the position over a conflict of interest accusation dating back to a 2014-motion about a commercial property located next to a business he owns. Since his removal from council, Butt has taken his fight to reclaim the mayor's chair to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SEE RELATED:

'Frank Butt accuses Carbonear council of bias, undemocratic conduct in court application'

'Town of Carbonear releases more details about former mayor's removal'

'Frank Butt to appeal ouster from Carbonear council'

'Carbonear mayor Frank Butt's seat declared vacant'

'Frank Butt elected as mayor of Carbonear'

There were a number of fatal accidents on Veterans Memorial Highway in 2017.
There were a number of fatal accidents on Veterans Memorial Highway in 2017.

3. Safety on Veterans Memorial Highway: The frequency of deadly accidents on Veterans Memorial Highway had lots of people talking about safety on the provincial road. With each new story came lots of online chatter about the root cause of these accidents, with many suggesting bad driving habits are an issue and others bemoaning the highway's design. At a meeting of the Conception Bay North Joint Council in October, Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker indicated some changes could be on the way.

SEE RELATED:

'PAT CULLEN: Let's make Veterans Memorial Highway safer for all'

'Change on the way for Veterans Memorial Highway'

'Veterans Memorial Highway isn't the problem, RCMP collision analyst says'

'Petition seeks passing lanes to be added to Veterans Memorial Highway'

'Not enough traffic for Veterans Memorial Highway passing lanes'

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/media/photologue/photos/cache/com-a00-27062017-whitbourne-elem-ar_display.jpg

4. (tie) Whitbourne Elementary stays open: For the second year in a row, parents and community supporters of Whitbourne Elementary were doing all they could to prevent the school's closure, and they were once again successful. Just as the school year was ending, they learned that a Supreme Court ruling once again favoured school supporters. It would appear the school's future is a bit more secure than it has been of late, with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District's board of trustees moving ahead with a review of schools that does not include Whitbourne Elementary.

SEE RELATED:

'Whitbourne motorcade celebrates court's ruling to save school'

'Whitbourne Elementary to remain open in September 2017'

'Whitbourne Elementary parents hope Wednesday isn't school's last day'

'Appeal filed in Whitbourne Elementary court challenge'

Ed Whelan operated Mary Brown's franchises in the Conception Bay North area for 44 years.
Ed Whelan operated Mary Brown's franchises in the Conception Bay North area for 44 years.

4. (tie) Ed Whelan loses Mary Brown's franchise: Ed Whelan of Harbour Grace was among the earliest Mary Brown's franchisees in Canada, working with the company for 44 years. But that came to an end early in 2017 when the parent company elected not to renew its agreement with Whelan, who has since opened a Fritou Chicken outlet in Carbonear. The closure of Whelan's franchise was the Compass' most read story of the year. Mary Brown's is set to open a new Carbonear location in 2018.

SEE RELATED:

'Mary Brown's coming back to Carbonear'

'Former Carbonear Mary Brown's franchisee starts over'

'Mary Brown's franchisee forced out after 44 years'

Joshua Chubbs, left, appeared in the Harbour Grace provincial courthouse twice throughout the matter, both times accompanied by friends and family.
Joshua Chubbs, left, appeared in the Harbour Grace provincial courthouse twice throughout the matter, both times accompanied by friends and family.

5. The Joshua Chubbs case: The story of a Carbonear man offering to circumcise people without a medical licence galvanized the public and attracted national attention. Joshua Chubbs eventually pleaded guilty to that charge, with his lawyer noting Chubbs did not perform any surgeries. He received a conditional discharge and a year of probation.

SEE RELATED:

'Joshua Chubbs receives conditional discharge'

'Joshua Chubbs pleads guilty to charge of advertising circumcision services'

'Woman alleges Joshua Chubbs offered to circumcise her son'

A concept drawing and potential location for the curved building, which may move further inland than what's shown. Petroff Partnership Architects created this design.
A concept drawing and potential location for the curved building, which may move further inland than what's shown. Petroff Partnership Architects created this design.

6. Hotel proposal for Crocker's Cove, Carbonear: An intriguing proposal made its way through Carbonear council chambers in 2017. A couple living in Ontario want to build a luxury boutique hotel on Crocker's Cove Point. Some residents have questioned the suitability of the location, which is at the edge of a largely residential area, while others have suggested it would give Carbonear a considerable economic boost. As of the end of 2017, a final vote necessary for the developers to move forward with the project had not taken place.

SEE RELATED:

'Residents express concerns regarding possible hotel in Crocker's Cove'

'Land use adjusted, hearing date announced for Carbonear hotel proposal'

'Developers share details on Carbonear hotel proposal'

'Many unanswered questions on Carbonear hotel proposal'

'Potential hotel to be built in Crocker's Cove, Carbonear'

Brian King was sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in the crash that claimed the life of Hannah Thorne.
Brian King was sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in the crash that claimed the life of Hannah Thorne.

7. Brian King sentenced for accident that killed Hannah Thorne: Brian King, the Bay Roberts man who entered guilty pleas in relation to a 2016 crash that killed 18-year-old Hannah Thorne of New Harbour, received a jail sentence of three years and four months in December. There were some dramatic moments at the courthouse in Harbour Grace as friends and family of the victim shared words about losing someone they loved so much. A trial for Steven Mercer, accused of engaging in a street race with King that caused the crash, will be held in 2018.

SEE RELATED:

'Brian King sentenced to just over three years for death of Hannah Thorne'

'Alleged street racer pleads not guilty'

'Facts laid out in events leading up to Hannah Thorne's death'

'Man pleads guilty in street racing incident that caused Hannah Thorne's death'

'Co-accused in death of New Harbour teen Hannah Thorne plead not guilty'

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood was the only incumbent mayor among the five largest towns in Trinity-Conception-Placentia to survive the 2017 general election.
Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood was the only incumbent mayor among the five largest towns in Trinity-Conception-Placentia to survive the 2017 general election.

8. (tie) Mayors go down in defeat: It was a bad year for incumbent mayoral candidates in the larger Trinity-Conception-Placentia towns. Aside from Philip Wood's win in Bay Roberts, former mayors in Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Placentia and Spaniard's Bay were unsuccessful in their bids to return to council (former Spaniard's Bay mayor Tony Menchions ran for a regular council seat and also failed to win).

SEE RELATED:

'Philip Wood back as mayor in Bay Roberts'

'Don Coombs reclaims mayor's chair in Harbour Grace'

'Frank Butt elected as mayor of Carbonear'

'Bernard Power elected new mayor of Placentia'

'Paul Brazil to fill mayor's seat in Spaniard's Bay'

Members of the Spaniard's Bay Volunteer Fire Department in a 2014 photo.
Members of the Spaniard's Bay Volunteer Fire Department in a 2014 photo.

8. (tie) Spaniard's Bay fire department review released: A retired police officer delivered his report into the Spaniard's Bay Fire Department and allegations of harassment leveled at the brigade by firefighter and now-former councillor Brenda Seymour. It ultimately concluded there was little evidence of harassment. The town later met with former members of the department and published a public apology.

SEE RELATED:

'Spaniard's Bay mayor calls fire department meeting successful'

'Spaniard's Bay fire brigade review finds little evidence of harassment'

'Firefighters didn't deserve scorn and ridicule: Spaniard's Bay review'

'Ex-mayor questions Spaniard's Bay council on fire department review'

Former Cupids town councillor Mike Power is taking the provincial government to court.
Former Cupids town councillor Mike Power is taking the provincial government to court.

9. (tie) Trouble on Cupids council: A flurry of resignations left Cupids without enough town councillors to form quorum and hold public meetings. Two councillors were appointed by the province, and a few months later, Mike Power was removed from council for giving directives to town workers without having proper authority from council as a whole. This prevented Power from running for reelection in 2017, and he has since taken the provincial government to court over the issue.

SEE RELATED:

'Former Cupids councillor Mike Power sues provincial government'

'Cupids residents rally for Mike Power and town's audit report'

'Mike Power removed from Cupids council over sewer line removal'

'Gordon Power declared mayor of Cupids, Kevin Connolly new deputy mayor'

'No more appointees for Cupids council'

'Municipal Affairs appoints two councillors in Cupids''

'Another mayor resigns in Cupids, council lacks quorum'

The new Quinlan Brothers fish plant in Bay de Verde, a couple of months prior to its opening in the spring of 2017.
The new Quinlan Brothers fish plant in Bay de Verde, a couple of months prior to its opening in the spring of 2017.

9. (tie) Quinlan Brothers plant reopens: One year after a brutal fire destroyed its fish plant in Bay de Verde, Quinlan Brothers managed to turn things around and have a new state-of-the-art plant ready to open for the 2017 fishery. The year proved to be a bittersweet one for the company, with co-founder Pat Quinlan dying Dec. 18 at the age of 88.

SEE RELATED:

'Pat Quinlan dies at 88'

'New Quinlan Brothers plant impresses MP Judy Foote'

Family flanked Judy Foote as she announced her decision in August to retire from public life.
Family flanked Judy Foote as she announced her decision in August to retire from public life.

10. Judy Foote retires from public life: Judy Foote ended her 21-year career in public life last fall, announcing she needed to put her family first and leave politics behind. The former Bonavista-Burin-Trinity MP spent a decade in provincial politics prior to making the jump to the federal level. Former Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador president Churence Rogers was elected as her successor in December.

SEE RELATED:

'Liberals win Bonavista-Burin-Trinity'

'MP Judy Foote resigns to spend time with family'

'MP Judy Foote says family comes first'

'NL MP Judy Foote taking leave of absence'

editor@cbncompass.ca

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