Local speech pathologist returns to Haiti

Karen MacKenzie-Stepner has worked with Haitians for the past 11 years

The speech pathologist, who lives in Chester and practices in Bridgewater, has been going to Haiti four to six times a year since 2004 to work with deaf people and train others to help them. She was to leave yesterday (May 12) on her latest volunteer mission.

“For me, it’s the smile on the kids faces when they realize that their mom and dad understand what they’re trying to say,” said Ms MacKenzie-Stepner, 57, when asked why she makes these trips.

Ms Mackenzie-Stepner will visit schools in Port-au-Prince, Tabarre and Jacmel over the next two-and-a-half weeks. “This will be the first time that I will see the kids in the classroom of the new school [in Jacmel] so I’m looking forward to that,” said MacKenzie Stepner, who taught in tents, temporary wooden structures or fields following the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.

The team she works with and a group from Arkansas helped Gallaudet University create a community for deaf people and their immediate families following the disaster. “After the tent cities were built, the deaf women who were in the tent cities were being raped because they couldn’t hear people entering their tents. The [deaf] men were being attacked too, and they had no way of defending themselves.” The new community was walled, with local men acting as security guards.

Ms MacKenzie-Stepner originally started working with Team Canada Healing Hands, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the provision of rehabilitative education and care in areas of need, when she worked at the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario. A colleague had asked her to set up a speech pathology program in Port-au-Prince.

“I started to work in the school system helping them develop their curriculum so that the deaf students could get an education,” she said. Parents must pay to send their children to school in Haiti and because of this many deaf people are left uneducated. It’s typical for a deaf child in Haiti to go ignored, as no one knows how to communicate with them.

“The children who come in, they don’t know their names because no ones been able to tell them what their name is,” said Ms MacKenzie-Stepner, who is trying to change this. “Education opens up the world to them.” She now travels to Haiti every two or three months to keep up the momentum with her programs.

She has put together teams of three to five people to train teachers how to work with deaf students, and to develop lessons and curriculum. “Team Canada is Canada-wide. However, with the deaf teacher training I’ve had to go further abroad, because I have to have individuals who are fluent in sign language and can go down to Haiti for two and a half weeks at a time. It’s only select individuals who have that flexibility with their jobs that can do that,” she said. Currently, they come from Halifax, Toronto, Boston and Austin. “We go frequently and we go back to the same places, so we’re building capacity in the schools and with the teachers, and we’re sustaining what we’re doing. It’s not a one trip wonder.”

Ms MacKenzie-Stepner moved to Chester from Ontario three years ago with plans of retiring in the province of her birth. Far from retiring, she maintains a practice in Bridgewater and works as an adjunct professor at Dalhousie University in addition to her overseas volunteer work.

Originally from Cape Breton Island, she was raised to value communication and education. “It was one of those things that was very important in my family. I feel very strongly that everybody should try to get as much education as they can.” She hopes the students she teaches in Haiti will be able to write their national exam to gain their high school diplomas. Last year, three deaf students she has worked with for the past five years achieved this goal.

She covers almost all of her own costs for the trips. When she lived in Ontario, she fundraised all the time, but she’s still getting aquainted in her new home. At the moment, a few local individuals are helping her. A ladies’ group in Chandler’s Cove cuts out materials she needs, and another individual laminates them at no charge to her. This is necessary because of the humidity in Haiti. Others offer donated school supplies. She has to transport anything needed. This trip, she’s travelling with 300 pounds of program materials and manuals.

Aside from her work with Haiti, she has worked with the deaf in Belize and Peru with Team Canada. “The dream goal is that I would do the travelling and working at the deaf schools for 12 months a year as opposed to the odd month here and there,” said Ms Mackenzie-Stepner. She plans to go back to Peru in July and Haiti again in August and October. “I’d be volunteering the entire time, which is why retirement has been pushed off, because I have to build that nest egg in order to do that.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Marina’s docks to be put in May 11

Board chair gives update on town’s investment

The Bridgewater Marina’s docks will go in the water on May 11.

Larry Rosborough, the chair of the board of the Bridgewater Marina Association, presented an update to town council on plans for this summer and its investment in the facility on April 27.

“People are linking the marina to potentially moving to Bridgewater,” said Mr. Rosborough, who added he was asked a lot of questions about the availability of housing and what the area is like when he went to promote the marina at the Halifax International Boat Show in February. “I was teasing Mayor Walker after the event, saying maybe the town should buy the booth for the marina to go there and help promote the town, but it was very interesting hearing people talking about thinking about moving to Bridgewater because now we have another facility to offer.”

Floats have been in the water for three years, and they now have power, water and lighting. Wi-Fi will also be available this year. An office, two full washrooms with showers and laundry facilities are now on site. Fourteen slips were available last year, and this will increase to 32 slips this year, 30 of which will be available to the public. Thirteen boats were stored here last year, another service the facility offers. It also has the only marine pump on the LaHave River. “Anyone with a boat can come up to the marina, and for a small cost we can do the marine pump out for that, which is very nice for the health of the river itself,” he said. The closest similar pump is in Mahone Bay.

Thirty-five transient boats visited the marina last year for a total of 65 days.

“[We] had many visitors last year that come in with power boats that are over 40 feet in length. These are not small vehicles; these are not people coming in here looking for a cheap place to stay,” said Mr. Rosborough. ”When they get here they’re spending money in the town.”

“We’re still looking for ways of getting the word out there, and right now word-of-mouth is probably our biggest benefit,” said Mr. Rosborough. The marina has been featured in Atlantic Boating magazine this year, but the association doesn’t have enough money to do a lot of external advertising. At the moment, most visitors are coming from Halifax or Saint John.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Big rig hill climb pitched again at Bridgewater Town Council

Decision deferred on controversial event at South Shore in Motion

Will the big rig hill climb be part of this year’s South Shore in Motion event?

Organizers Charlie Horstman and Robby Sarty made another pitch to Bridgewater Town Council April 27. A similar request was denied last year, which led to the entire event collapsing.

The hill climb is a driver skill competition, featuring two big rigs climbing an incline of a 6 per cent for 900 feet. It’s proposed to take place on Exhibition Drive between Dufferin Street and Jubilee Road, on August 9 at 1 p.m. South Shore in Motion would run from August 8-10.

Mr. Horstman told councillors he was made aware most of them had not received all information, including proof of insurance availability, the risk management plan, and other documents before they made their decision last year. He made sure to include this information in his presentation this year, to alleviate any concerns surrounding insurance issues.

South Shore in Motion’s risk management plan for this year has insurance for both the event and the Town of Bridgewater for $5 million in coverage. Ken Smith, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer, told councillors he would confirm that with the town’s insurer.

Councillor Andrew Tanner asked the organizers about the concrete barricades to secure the course. They would be placed along the route, on one side of the road at 20 foot intervals. Spectators would be behind plastic fencing 14 feet from the rear of these barricades. “Those barricades are not placed there to protect the fans from the trucks, they’re to protect the truckers from the fans. If you get 25,000 people, yes, we will need barricades to hold that,” said Mr. Horstman, noting that a similar event in St. Joseph Quebec attracted a crowd of that size. “With that many people you’re going to get somebody who wants to wander out and be a hero in front of those trucks. And we don’t want any heroes, alive or dead.”

A similar event was held in Digby last July.

“Although we can no longer be the first (in Nova Scotia), we hope that this presentation will show you it can be done safely and has the potential to grow as an attraction,” said Mr. Horstman. “If we fail then we are at fault, but if, like last year, we take many more valuable hours to try to meet these requirements only to still get rejected, we have no further interest in pursuing this event.”

Council agreed to give South Shore in Motion a decision at their next meeting May 11.

“I don’t think anyone is totally against this event, I know I’m in favour of it,” said Deputy Mayor Bill McInnis who was acting mayor at the meeting. “I haven’t had a chance to go back and review the information I’ve got on it, and I’d like to do that.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Long range outlook for school board released

Document will guide future closures and boundary changes

A much-anticipated document that will guide the South Shore Regional School Board (SSRSB) through future school closures and boundary reviews has been released.

The document, released on April 22, is a new requirement in Nova Scotia’s Education Act, aimed at providing information to the public about schools and the delivery of education programs and services. It’s also the first stage of the province’s new school review policy.

“I do want to point out to the board tonight that should they receive the document they have made no decisions other than to receive the outlook,” said Geoff Cainen, superintendent of schools for the SSRSB. “I think that’s a really important first piece in receiving it. What you then do is you allow staff to go on and continue some work, and that work would be to prepare to come back at a later date, probably September, with a list of ideas or options that the board could consider for that coming year.”

Though the document provides a lot of information about the board’s schools and its delivery of education programs and services, the recommended future considerations are the highlight of its 115 pages.

The first recommendation is for a review of school catchment areas. The document notes that catchment areas have remained the same, with few exceptions, as they were prior to 1982, when the province moved responsibility for education from municipal entities to a single board. The main goal of examining these boundaries would be to create shorter travel times to schools, which would benefit students and the board.

“There is the need to develop a school catchment policy, and staff recognizes that must come forward before we do any of the other recommended responses,” said Cheryl Fougere, Vice Chair of SSRSB and representative for District 3, which includes the Town of Bridgewater family of schools.

It is important to note a school review recommended for a family of schools does not necessarily mean a closure. A school review can also include a review of a catchment area, cross-boundary registrations, grade configuration, or a P3 school renewal option. It could also mean a recommendation for a new, replacement or refurbished school, if a closure was in fact decided upon.

The board has developed a timeline for these considerations.

The document calls for school reviews of the Bridgewater family of schools, the Park View family of schools as well and Big Tancook School. The current utilization of Big Tancook is eight per cent, with only four students currently enrolled. This number is projected to decrease to zero in 2016-17, so closing this facility will be considered soon.

The report says the closure of the Pentz and Petite Riviere schools could have an impact on enrolment at Hebbville Academy. Without the influx of students from Pentz and Petite Riviere, the report predicts Hebbville’s enrolment will drop from 71 to 59 per cent in the next 10 years. But the board has decisions to make about several other schools.

Bayview’s lease expires October 31, 2020, but its enrolment is projected to remain stable over the next decade. Bluenose Academy is said to cost substantially more than other board schools due to charges of $96,000 annually from the Town of Lunenburg. Its utilization is expected to decrease from 86 to 77 per cent in the next ten years. Park View is currently undergoing a $13 million renovation project, but over the next 10 years its utilization is expected to decrease from 82 to 56 per cent.

Decreasing enrollment at Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School will continue to reduce the course selections offered to students.

The document recommends a review two years from now of the New Germany family of schools and Aspotogan Elementary School. The lease for this school expires November 30, 2020, but a notice of intent for future use must be given to the owner by November 30, 2016. Its utilization of 57 per cent is expected to remain stable. The document notes the New Germany schools all have underutilized space and both facilities located in New Germany have deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed.

The report calls for a review in three years of the North Queens family of schools and New Ross Consolidated School. New Ross has a building utilization of 32 per cent, projected to decrease to 18 per cent in 10 years time, but the travel times these students would face if transported to another school would be more than an hour. However, the document also notes the cost to maintain this 1960’s-era school is high. North Queens Community School’s status has not changed, and its student enrolment is expected to continue to decrease.

The document recommends a review in 10 years of the Liverpool family of schools, Chester Area Middle School and Chester District Elementary School.

Staff and the board will have discussions in the near future with the school advisory councils and municipal councils regarding the outlook.

“Let me point out that for each of these recommended responses that you should not read into it that this is what’s going to happen,” said Elmer Garber, chair of SSRSB. “Because the board receives the report doesn’t mean that it is going to happen, that there is going to be a review of Bridgewater family of schools within one year, unless the staff brings that forward and a motion is passed to do just that at a future meeting, which I assume would take place after the communication plan with the communities.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

‘Be the Peace’ project has successful final public forum

Stories told, information shared, initiatives moving forward

Stepping into the Lunenburg fire hall on April 18, you would have heard stories rarely told in public, let alone on the South Shore. But the fact these personal stories of abuse, inadequacy and empowerment were being shared openly showcases the strides the group hosting the event has made over the past three years.

It was the final public forum for “Be the Peace,” a three-year project funded by Status of Women Canada to develop and co-ordinate a community response to violence against women in Lunenburg County.

“We did this day as a report to the community because we realized many people have been involved in different aspects of it, but nobody really sees the whole picture except us,” said Sue Bookchin, one of the project’s co-ordinators. “We wanted to share that from the viewpoints of the people involved and we wanted to just try and celebrate the things that have been accomplished even though there’s so many things we didn’t get to.”

Both Ms Bookchin and her fellow co-coordinator Helen Lanthier had worked with the Second Story Women’s Centre before they were hired on contract for three-year and year-and-a-half periods to work on this project. Although abuse against women has not been eradicated, conversations have started, initiatives have been introduced and change is underway. As one presenter that day described their efforts, ‘Women working part time haven’t overturned the system but their impact has been huge.”

“The idea was to bring as many people as possible together in the community to collaborate on ways of addressing the issue of violence against women,” said Ms Lanthier. “What we’re trying to do today is bring all of that together to bring all of the puzzle pieces together to create one big picture of what the project was about.”

Groups involved with the project designed puzzle pieces to visually represent their contribution, and these eventually were combined to form a whole picture in the centre of the meeting circle. The project started out with 12 working groups, and from these three areas of focus formed: youth, schools and parents; men, women and people; and justice, police and community.

“We had a particular mandate to engage men and boys, because when we wrote the proposal, it was clear to us that this was not a women’s issue, and unless we have men and boys involved nothing was ever going to change,” said Ms Bookchin. Communication barriers between genders had to be broken down, and inequity of wealth and power in the relationship between genders had to be addressed.

“We recognize our liberation is certainly tied with the liberation and the freedom and safety of women,” said Armand Degrenier, representing one working group called Gather the Men, which has been meeting for over three years and focusing on this issue. “There have been moments during that time when the raw, tender heart of sadness was brought forth, and many of you are probably fully aware many men are not akin to that kind of expression. To be able to support one another in that process has been transforming.” This group plans to meet in Chester Basin on May 23 to discuss its next steps.”

Sexual assault services for the area are one positive spinoff resulting from the project. “People are quite blown away by the co-operation that is happening here and the real actual change,” said Stacey Godsoe, one of the co-ordinators working on this particular arm of the project, who has one more year to finish related work. “There is actual change happening in policy, in protocol, in training, so there will be a model for sexual assault services in Lunenburg and Queens in the very near future, which is pretty incredible.”

An inter-agency hub involving many of the same organizations was also created, as well as a community dispute resolution centre to help people solve their conflicts peacefully through mediators and other restorative practices.

The two co-ordinators have a report they will present at three conferences, and they are also generating a chapter for a book related to the Canadian Domestic Violence Conference they are presenting in June. Both plan on continuing to work on a volunteer basis with the Second Story Women’s Centre, as they want to see their project succeed.

“We have interviewed a number of people that have been involved with the project, and the things they tell us about the difference we’ve made, it just blows our minds,” said Ms Bookchin. “We’ve just learned so much about this whole territory.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Business fair reveals what’s for sale in South Shore homes

Chester Basin Legion ladies auxiliary hosts event

One of the problems with running a business from home that’s not offered on-line is finding a customer base for your service or product. The ladies auxiliary of the Chester Basin Legion has tried to help solve this problem over the past few years by hosting a home-based business fair.

“It kind of morphed out of our Christmas craft fair,” said Jayne MacKenzie, the president of Legion Branch 88, about the event, which was held at this location for the third time on April 18. “Home-based businesses want to show at our Christmas craft fair, but the Christmas craft fair is just that – it’s for crafters. So we decided to create a spring home-based business fair for all those people that didn’t fit the criteria.”

The initial one didn’t go quite as planned. “The first one we did was a few years ago, and the biggest complaint from the public who came was that there was nothing to buy. It was just businesses showcasing what they had to offer,” said Ms MacKenzie, who revived the event a few years later with more success. This led her to start hosting it as an annual event. “Once the word gets out that we’re going to do this each year, we’re going to improve.”

Participants in the event have to be home-based businesses without a storefront. They also must have something for sale at their table or give a free product or service away in a draw. Only one type of each business is allowed to be showcased.

This year, the fair had 22 participants. Tables were $10 to rent or $15 with electricity. “Just enough to cover our heat and lights,” said Natalie Forsyth, the president of the auxiliary. “I just hope they have a lot of people come through and that it’s a success for them.”

Popular home-based businesses such as Arbonne, Tupperware and Mary Kay were represented along with products and services such as massages, steeped tea, apparel, homemade soap and photography. Also included were a ventilation company, a rebate program and a paranormal romantic novel series.

“This is my second business fair here and I did get clients from the last one,” said Susan Duncan, a retired nurse who now runs Cabin Escape Wellness Coaching, a business that involves therapeutic touch. “There were a lot of people. The numbers seem to be down a bit this year, but that’s why I came back. Last year it was great.”

Tanya Hickey, who runs PepperPot Photography, also benefited from last year’s fair. “It’s a two-fold thing. It’s getting your name out there. … I can come to a home-based business fair and have 100 people come by and take my cards. The word of mouth was invaluable,” she said. “I think we need to have more of these small business fairs, because there’s a lot of valuable home-based businesss out there that people aren’t aware of. I think it’s a great way to be able to make people aware of them.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Seasonal Chester resident develops autism app

Technology to allow users to rate, review places for autism friendliness

A Chester summer resident who’s also the father of a boy with autism is helping the world become a more accessible place for those on the spectrum of the disorder.

“We recognized there wasn’t a lot out there to help with the practical day-to-day problems that the autistic population has, and there’s five million families in North America that are living with autism, and that’s growing at one in 68 births, and it seems to be accelerating,” said Topher Wurts, whose own youngest son, Kirby, now 13, was diagnosed with the disorder when he was two years old. “We’ve been raising him and sort of living that experience, and, as I thought about it, I realized we could apply mobile and on-line software and tools and technology to help people with this.”

This resulted in Mr. Wurts creating Autism Village, a project to provide on-line tools to autism families and autistic adults. The organization’s first goal was to create an app for the iPhone similar to Yelp or TripAdvisor to help families or individuals find, add, rate and review places on the basis of autism friendliness.

“The way it works out now, families gather or the autism community meets, and it’s kind of a water-cooler conversation, so ‘Do you know a dentist?’ ‘Do you know a doctor?’ ‘Do you know a good restaurant that may be gluten or caffeine free or a museum that has early opening hours with dim lights?’ or that sort of thing,” said Mr. Wurts. “And so it’s all word of mouth right now, and what the app seeks to do is to take that word of mouth and make it readily available to more people, which you can imagine would be helpful in your own neighbourhood, but super helpful if you’re away from home.”

He started funding his idea through foundations, families and angel donors but launched it on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter on March 6, to see how the idea would resonate with the public.

“The result of that is Autism Village is the most successful autism-related crowdfunding effort ever,” he said. Autism Village hit its target of $38,500, enough to make the iPhone app, in 11 days. Following this, the campaign started working on stretch goals to create apps for Android phones, iPads and Android tablets, in that order, each costing around an additional $25,000 to fund.

“We did hit the Android phone goal, so that’s fully funded, and we’re about $1,200 towards the iPad goal,” he said. The campaign ended at 4 p.m. on April 20, having raised $75,393 with the help of 1,236 backers. They will be the first to get to test the app. The organization will continue to raise money for the iPad and Android tablet apps, just not through Kickstarter. He hopes the phone apps will be released this summer. At the moment, the Autism Village website is gathering rating and review data to be included in the app’s launch.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from future users, in particular autistic adults who are higher functioning and the importance of a service like this for them to identify prospective employers where they could be more or less successful based on others’ experiences. We weren’t expecting that, but that came out as part of it,” said Mr. Wurts. “The amount of sharing and positive reviews and encouragement we’ve seen has been humbling.”

The organization also hopes to launch an on-line training program through which businesses and their employees can learn how to become more autism friendly.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Students achieve Duke of Edinburgh gold awards

Governor General presents honour during ceremony

Right Hon. David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented several South Shore students with prestigious gold Duke of Edinburgh awards on April 22 at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, at a ceremony held to celebrate their achievement.

Forty-five Canadian youth volunteers were presented with the gold awards of achievement, including five individuals from this area.

“Honestly, I’m most excited about meeting the Governor General because he’s pretty high up in the chain and I don’t normally see people that high up in the chain,” said Gregory Curry of Chester Basin, who achieved the award through Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corp 351 Llewellyn, the Chester branch of the Navy League of Canada, before attending the ceremony. “I mean, you may see them in the news once in a while, but actually meeting them in person is quite a neat thing.”

Dean Larder of New Ross also achieved his award through this organization. Allison Smith, a former student of Park View Education Centre, and Meghan Ernst, set to graduate this spring, both live in Lunenburg and achieved the award through their school. Carla du Toit of Conquerall Mills was also recognized for her volunteer efforts in her community. She received the award independent of an organization.

“I really just enjoy helping others. That’s just what I wanted to do since I was little,” said Ms Smith, who is now 19 and enrolled in the continuing-care program at the Nova Scotia Community College campus in Lunenburg. “I think probably the biggest influence was my mom. She always gets out and volunteers a lot and she would take us with her, and I think it just became something I liked to do as well.” Ms Smith was already doing most of the activities required to achieve the award on her own when a teacher recommended the opportunity to her. Now, her two younger sisters are also enlisted in the Duke of Edinburgh program, and they recently received bronze and silver awards.

The same teacher signed Ms Ernst up for the program. “She automatically signed me up because it was about volunteer work and outdoor activity, and those are the two things that I really enjoy,” she said, adding that she learned more about herself and found herself through the program. She will enter the nursing program at the University of Prince Edward Island after she graduates.

The award program, in essence, is a self-development program. It’s a personal challenge available to participants between the ages of 14 and 24 that recognizes life skills contributing to a participant’s ability to make a difference to him or herself, his or her community and the world.

“I definitely learned a lot more than I thought I was capable of, and it basically pushes or challenges you to try different things, and that’s what I definitely got out of it,” said Mr. Curry, who became involved in the program through cadets. “I discovered myself as I was progressing through the program.” Mr. Curry is now a graduate of Forest Heights Community School and has joined the Canadian Forces. When not working in the navy, he’s teaching wrestling at Sackville Sports Stadium, which involves a combination of skills he picked up while going through this program.

With adult guidance and assessment, participants of the non-competitive and self-directed program are challenged and assessed in four areas: service to the community, physical participation in various recreational activities, an individual skill they possess and have developed, and an adventurous journey or outdoor expedition. To qualify for the gold award, participants must also take part in a residential project that requires spending five days and four nights doing a planned project or training in the company of unfamiliar peers. Ms Smith attended a leadership camp at Acadia University before heading off to high school, Mr. Curry trained as a fitness and sports instructor at a cadet camp and Ms Ernst attended Ecounters with Canada in Ontario.

Since the program began in 1956, over eight million youth in 143 countries have achieved this recognition for undertaking numerous voluntary and challenging activities, including over 500,000 youth from Canada since 1963. Over 44,000 motivated volunteers from Canada participate in the program each year. The award has operated in Nova Scotia since 1972, and over 4,000 people have achieved bronze, silver and gold awards in that time.

“If any youth have the chance to do this program, do it, because it definitely shows you new skills, gives you more confidence and attributes that you never knew you even had until you started this program,” said Mr. Curry.

The Governor General attended the ceremony in Halifax as the national chair of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Canada.

“This award exemplifies and acknowledges those who contribute to their communities in meaningful ways, practice good citizenship, and self-development,” said Connie Miller, Nova Scotia executive director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, in a press release for the event. “It’s not hard to imagine the significant contributions these young people have made, and will continue to make, to the fabric of life in Canada because of their participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Ford Ranger falls in ravine

Section of North King Street closed

A section of North King Street in Bridgewater was scheduled to re-open at 5 p.m. on April 22. The road was closed since early Sunday morning after a Ford Ranger with a 48-year-old man and his son in his mid-20’s fell into a brook that feeds into the LaHave River.

“The driver was driving south on King Street and whether it was distracted driving, or what it was, he just misjudged the corner and his wheels went up over the guardrail,” said Bridgewater Police Sgt. Dave Ramey who responded at 6:45, shortly after police got a call about the accident. Two other officers had already arrived on scene. “Because of the tapered guardrail, the vehicle fell over on top of the guardrail, until it came to a stop and when it came to a stop it tipped over and went down between the bridge and the walking bridge.”

Nobody was hurt, but the vehicle appears to be a write off after falling into the steep ravine. “There’s a lot of damage there,” said Mr. Ramey. No alcohol was involved in the incident.

The truck remained in the river until 11 a.m. as responders had to determine how to remove it. Eventually McCarthy’s Towing and Recovery Ltd. used a large boom truck to pull it out. The department of environment and the Bridgewater fire department also arrived on scene. The department of transportation was also contacted.

“That’s the first for me,” said Michael Nauss, Bridgewater fire chief, who’s been with with the department for 32 years. “We’ve had vehicles that went in the river before, but not that type, it’s an odd one.”

King Street was closed between Victoria Road and Starr Street to allow for inspection and repairs to the Old Mill Stream Bridge. The department of transportation hopes to have these repairs finished and the street open again by April 22. The nearby pedestrian bridge was not damaged and remained open.

The investigation is expected to take a week or two to complete.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Renewable to Retail makes presentation to council

Opportunity for town to own wind turbines and supply power directly to customers

Bridgewater’s town council has been offered the opportunity to gain more power – although in this case it’s electrical. The proposed project would involve buying 3-megawatt wind turbines at a cost of $6 million each and selling the power generated to customers using Nova Scotia Power’s (NSP) grid.

“You own bridges, roads and buildings. Why not own energy assets?” asked John Woods, who proposed this concept, called Renewable to Retail, to council on April 7, along with Chris Peters of Minas Energy, a division of Minas Basin Pulp and Power.

“What we’re promoting to the municipality is that you don’t go this alone,” said Mr. Woods, vice-president of energy development with the company, who was offering the town an opportunity to own its own power. “We would suggest or encourage that Bridgewater meets with some of your other colleagues and talk it through. … Tonight is just one more message and opportunity for this group to think about what’s best for the future of Bridgewater.”

The company is approaching municipalities because of the low cost of capital. The project would be financed by the Municipal Finance Corporation.

As each turbine is $6 million, interested municipalities could borrow in $6-million blocks. There would be no equity invested, and the net profit has been estimated to be in excess of $100,000 per year for each $1 million borrowed.

The project is made possible thanks to the Electricity Reform Act, introduced in 2013 by Stephen McNeil’s government, which allows for the supply and sale of renewable low-impact electricity.

Chester has land owned by Minas Energy’s sister company, Timberland Holdings, near another wind project development, South Canoe and Card Lake. There is a transmission line here, available land and, most importantly, wind – the three things necessary for such a project. Chester is already monitoring wind on the site and the space offers enough room for 10 turbines.

It would be up to council to find a customer base for the business. Options include reducing the cost of its own electricity, using the cheaper electricity to promote economic development or providing more affordable energy to residents.

The projected reduction is a two-cent difference in the cost of electricity generation. The project developers assume the current rate, to be around 7 cents per kilowatt hour. Other costs concerning transmission, distribution, losses, administration and profit are projected to stay the same. There will be a rate hearing this fall, to determine the stranded asset charge for NSP. Regulations are currently being developed, and NSP still needs to establish tariffs and procedures for interconnection relating to the project.

The project developers are looking to identify interested municipalities this spring and aim to have the project completed in the fall of 2017.

Minas Energy’s role in the project is as a consultant. It would guide the project, help oversee municipal partnerships, provide a project site, help in supplier negotiations and deliver the project on behalf of municipalities.

A model for the concept is already under way. The Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA) is a partnership among Berwick, Mahone Bay and Antigonish to develop a 9.2-megawatt project in West Hants.

“They’ve used this concept of investing in a project with 100 per cent debt financing and their temporary borrow resolution was approved,” said Mr. Peters. “Minas Energy helped through all the financing, and how that structure works is it’s a cost-plus arrangement where the electricity rate is as cheap as possible, which is cheap enough to pay off the cost of the project plus a reserve.”

Council has directed staff to do a report on potentially investing in the wind turbine proposal.

“In 20 years, if you’ve got a facility that can produce five-cent-kilowatt green energy it’s a jewel,” said Mr. Woods. “Most of the facility will have 100 years of life.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin