Top news stories 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.
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.