YEAR IN REVIEW: No shortage of big stories in Coquitlam in 2012
Here's our picks for top stories of 2012:
Among the top court stories in 2012 was the acquittal in November of Aleksandr Plehanov, a former School District 43 substitute teacher who was accused of sexual assault. Judge David St. Pierre said the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Plehanov intended to touch the girls, who were seven and eight years old at the time, in a sexual manner. His teaching career is in limbo, however. pending further review by the new Teacher Regulation Branch.
NEWS ON EVERGREEN LINE
A group of companies headed by SNC-Lavalin was selected to build the Evergreen Line from Burnaby to Coquitlam and Bombardier, which builds SkyTrain cars, will build the cars, it was announced this year. The 11 km line will include elevated and ground-level tracks, a 2 km tunnel and seven stations, and connect to the Millennium Line SkyTrain station at Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby. Construction is estimated to cost $1.4 billion and the line is planned to open in 2016.
NDP WINS BY ELECTION
Longtime Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini switched jobs to become the MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam in April after winning a byelection, collecting 31% of the popular vote. He replaced Liberal MLA Iain Black, who took a job in the private sector. Provincial politics will heat up in the spring for the May election. Coquitlam Coun. Linda Reimer will face off against Trasolini for the Liberals while Coquitlam Coun. Selina Robinson is running for the NDP in Coquitlam-Maillardville and Liberal MLA Doug Horne is running again in Coquitlam Burke Mountain. MLA Mike Farnworth is expected to be acclaimed next month to run for the NDP in Port Coquitlam.
FOR WHOM BRIDGE TOLLS
The $3.8-billion Port Mann Bridge opened in December with eight lanes and half-price tolls to induce people to sign up for a tolling account. Early indications were that people were happy with the new bridge and traffic flowed relatively smoothly — until it was closed Dec. 19 because icy slush balls falling from the bridge were damaging cars and injuring drivers. Transportation Minister Mary Polak and Mike Proudfoot, CEO of the Transportation Investment Corp. said it's up to the contractor, Kiewit-Flatiron, to come up with a solution — at no cost to taxpayers.
CLOSING ON 100 YEARS
Riverview Hospital closed last summer and was essentially mothballed while the province decides what to do with the 100-year-old facility. Many are calling for a long-term maintenance plan and money to heat and look after buildings, and a Heritage Conservation Plan made public in the fall also recommended maintenance and a stabilization plan for the former provincial mental health hospital. Riverview was also named by the Heritage Canada Foundation as one of the top 10 most endangered historic sites.
FOR LIBRARY LOVERS
The long-awaited Coquitlam Public Library City Centre branch opened in November. Designed by David Nairne and Associates, the $15-million facility includes multi-purpose rooms and a raised fireside lounge, and is more than three times larger than the former site at city hall.
The coming of the Evergreen Line has resulted in a mini-boom of construction and applications for new towers in the Tri-Cities. Onni Development wants to build an office tower in Port Moody it says could generate 700 jobs; Coquitlam council approved two 25-storey towers for Windsor Gate, up from eight storeys, a 33-storey tower for Westwood Street and Lincoln Avenue was approved, and council also took some extra time to review parking for a 43-storey tower planned in city centre.
GLOOMY CHAPTER ENDS
Donald Hay, who in 1976 kidnapped 12-year-old Abby Drover and held her captive for 181 days in a bunker beneath his Port Moody garage, died in June. Hay had been serving a life sentence since February 1977 for kidnapping and forcible confinement, and an eight-year concurrent sentence for sexual interference with a girl under 14.
Unescorted day passes were temporarily suspended at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital at Colony Farm after two patients walked away from the facility in May. At the time, authorities said that a panel of experts from outside the hospital would conduct a more in-depth external review, which he said will likely take several months. Members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation said the number of unauthorized absences being reported at the neighbouring hospital had them concerned for their safety. In December, another man on a day pass went missing and was located in Ontario.
School District 43 moved to try and raise capital for new and replacement buildings by selling off surplus land but was greeted with some opposition. The board of education decided not to sell a portion of Porter Street elementary school's field but will still move ahead with the process of possibly selling land at Parkland elementary. It needs money to replace older buildings, such as Sir Frederick Banting and Minnekhada middle schools and build new schools on Burke Mountain.
A group calling itself the Port Moody Families Against Violence called for action from Port Moody city hall in September after three gang-related shootings in the city. In May, Gurbinder Singh Toor, a 35-year-old with connections to the Dhak-Duhre crime group, was gunned down outside the Port Moody rec complex. The following month, Randy Naicker, one of the founders of the Independent Soldiers gang, was shot outside the Starbucks on St. Johns Street. And in September, Joseph Allan Markel, 32, was shot dead at his home n the 9000-block of Wallace Wynd in Glenayre in what police called a targeted attack.
Some closure was reached on the brutal beating of a security guard in Port Coquitlam in October when a 16-year-old teen, who can't be identified, was charged with one count of aggravated assault this month. Hoshiar Bajwa, 64, was working alone when he was assaulted by a group of males near the Pitt River middle school.
A Coquitlam daycare operator who was facing four changes in relation to to the death last year of a baby in her care pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. Maria McFerran's sentencing hearing is in April 2013.