Top news sto­ries of 2017

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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.

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.

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 said lit­tle, though he has con­firmed via a Face­book post his in­ten­tion to ap­peal the de­ci­sion.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 co­founder Pat Quin­lan dy­ing Dec. 18 at the age of 88.

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.


Trent Butt takes a seat while mak­ing his first court­room ap­pear­ance in Har­bour Grace in Jan­uary of 2017.

Frank Butt chaired only a hand­ful of meet­ings as mayor be­fore he was re­moved from coun­cil in De­cem­ber.

When par­ents were drop­ping off kids for the last day of classes at Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary last June, they didn’t know if it would re­open in the fall.

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

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

Ed Whe­lan op­er­ated Mary Brown’s fran­chises for 44 years.


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


A con­cept draw­ing and po­ten­tial lo­ca­tion for the curved build­ing, which may move fur­ther in­land than what’s shown.

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

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


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

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

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