Cel­e­brat­ing a mile­stone in Old Per­li­can

Town to mark 40 years of mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment this sum­mer

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH - BYANDREWROBINSON

Forty years ago, the com­mu­nity of Old Per­li­can was a dif­fer­ent place. There was no break­wa­ter, no garbage col­lec­tion, no street­lights, and lit­tle in the way of lo­cal govern­ment, ex­clud­ing a lo­cal road com­mit­tee op­er­at­ing with a small grant to fill pot­holes.

In July of 1971, a path was set that would change all this. That sum­mer, res­i­dents of the com­mu­nity elected its first town coun­cil. This Au­gust, the town will cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­sary of in­cor­po­ra­tion with a se­ries of spe­cial events.

Fred Cram, a re­tired teacher and for­mer prin­ci­pal at E.J Pratt High School in Browns­dale, which closed in 2003, was a mem­ber of the orig­i­nal coun­cil. He started out as deputy mayor, but 11 months in he switched places with War­ren Green and served as mayor for al­most 10 years.

Cram says the roots of in­cor­po­ra­tion started with the Old Per­li­can Har­bour Im­prove­ment Com­mit­tee, which was elected in 1966. While it was fo­cused on mat­ters re­lat­ing to the har­bour, talk pe­ri­od­i­cally cov­ered other is­sues in town.

“ They saw the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a town coun­cil,” says Cram, who served as a sec­re­tary on the com­mit­tee.

In 1967, the com­mit­tee was in dis­cus­sions with the fed­eral Depart­ment of Re­gional Eco­nomic Ex­pan­sion, a fore­run­ner to the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency. It was look­ing for funds to go to­wards pro­vid­ing a fresh­wa­ter sup­ply to the lo­cal fish plant, op­er­ated at the time by Bird’s Eye Seafoods.

Fund­ing was avail­able to pro­vide not only wa­ter from Bell Pond to the plant, but also to pro­vide wa­ter and sewer ser­vices for res­i­dent of the town. To ob­tain those funds, Old Per­li­can had to in­cor­po­rate.

The area’s Mem­ber of the House Assem­bly at the time, Wil­liam Saun­ders, en­cour­aged the com­mit­tee to con­tact the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs, set­ting in mo­tion a com­mu­nity vote on the topic of in­cor­po­ra­tion in 1968. The first at­tempt at in­cor­po­rat­ing failed. Fund­ing was se­cured to pro­vide a wa­ter line for the fish plant, but the rest of the com­mu­nity was left out, as a re­sult.

“I think peo­ple are afraid of change,” says Cram. “This was a big change. The rumour mill started im­me­di­ately that your chop­ping block would be taxed.”

Cram goes on to say peo­ple could not ini­tially com­pre­hend the ben­e­fits of in­cor­po­rat­ing, which over­pow­ered any dis­ad­van­tages.

The com­mit­tee re­mained de­ter­mined to form an in­cor­po­rated com­mu­nity. This led to a sec­ond vote in the win­ter of 1971, and this time res­i­dents chose to ac­cept in­cor­po­ra­tion, with 54 per cent of vot­ing res­i­dents of­fer­ing their sup­port.

The vote was a pre­lude to the first mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion for Old Per­li­can on July 23, 1971. Elected were Cram, Green, Ron­ald Bursey, Frank Burt, Robert Cram, Erik Strong, and Ch­es­ley Squires, who re­ceived the most votes in the elec­tion. Six of the seven elected mem­bers had al­ready served on the har­bour com­mit­tee. A month af­ter the vote, W. J. Squires be­came Old Per­li­can’s first town clerk.

From there, coun­cil worked on im­prov­ing roads in the com­mu­nity, re­plac­ing wooden bridges with steel, cor­ru­gated pipe, in­tro­duc­ing garbage col­lec­tion and a new dump site, in­stalling street­lights, and es­tab­lish­ing an am­bu­lance ser­vice.

Coun­cil drafted a town plan that fo­cused on cre­at­ing an eco­nomic base for the com­mu­nity and pro­vid­ing wa­ter and sewer ser­vices. The fish­ery was a big part of the eco­nomic por­tion of the plan, and ob­tain­ing a break­wa­ter was con­sid­ered a key devel­op­ment, says Cram. He says push­ing the fed­eral govern­ment to build two break­wa­ters was prob­a­bly coun­cil’s most sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment at the time.

To­day, the fish­ery re­mains a pil­lar of the com­mu­nity, with Quin­lan Broth­ers op­er­at­ing three plants in the com­mu­nity.

“Things have pros­pered here, and the last 40 years have found that even with the slump in the econ­omy and the cod mora­to­rium and all the things that have gone against us, Old Per­li­can didn’t smirk. Old Per­li­can be­came bet­ter and bet­ter.”

To mark the 40th an­niver­sary of in­cor­po­ra­tion, the town has formed a steer­ing com­mit­tee headed by Mayor Harry Strong to plan ac­tiv­i­ties for the sum­mer. Mayor Strong says cel­e­bra­tions will take place Aug. 10-14, and the town will be pro­mot­ing 2011 as a come home year for Old Per­li­can.

It has been 40 years since res­i­dents of Old Per­li­can voted to be­come an in­cor­po­rated mu­nic­i­pal­ity. From Aug. 10-14, the town will be hold­ing events to cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary as part of a come home year.

Fred Cram served on Old Per­li­can’s orig­i­nal coun­cil in 1971, and a year later he be­came its sec­ond mayor, a po­si­tion he held un­til 1981.

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