• Your Local Journal

2015- The year in review: Part 1


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

JANUARY

Hacked by Mecca

John Jantak

A cyber-attack by an Islamist extremist group called Middle East Cyber Army (MECA) hijacked the town of Terrasse-Vaudreuil’s domain name and replaced the home page with a propaganda page filled with jihadist rants.

The hack was first discovered just after 9 p.m., January 22, by a YLJ journalist who visited the website by chance to being preparing a story on the upcoming inauguration of the town’s new fire hall scheduled for Monday, January 26.

A page immediately popped up with flashing words that displayed the message “HACKED BY MECA”.

The town finally regained control of its website almost 11 hours later. Though the story garnered national attention, it was determined that rather than being targeted, the town merely had a particular vulnerability in its site that allowed the hack.

“We have a private firm that takes care of our website server which is located off-site. It has nothing to do with the service provided by our municipality,” said DG Ron Kelley. “There was no confidential information that was compromised.”

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Pay hike for Beaconsfield councillors

Carmen Marie Fabio

News that Beaconsfield elected officials voted late in 2014 to increase their remuneration by 40 per cent – the first increase implemented in the town in almost eight years – was met with mixed reaction by residents and invoked an ongoing email debate.

The increase put Beaconsfield at about the middle of the earning field for 22 comparable cities across the province but didn't assuage the anger of citizens who said, “You all got into this position knowing exactly what your remuneration was.”

Council said it worked out to two raises in 18 years and, going forward, salaries would be adjusted on a yearly basis.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

FEBRUARY

FQM president calls on oil pipeline officials to disclose their safety strategy

John Jantak

Citing safety concerns for the Vaudreuil-Soulanges municipalities that will be affected by the eventual flow of oil through pipelines operated by Enbridge and TransCanada Pipelines, President of the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités Richard Lehoux (right, with MRC Prefect Jean Lalonde), said his organization will continue to press both companies to provide full disclosure regarding pipeline safety and security. For Lehoux, one the major concerns for Vaudreuil-Soulanges is the lack of disclosure from both Enbridge and TransCanada Pipelines for failing to provide information on what safety measures will be put in place to deal with the possibility of an oil spill should it occur within one of the municipalities that the pipelines will run through. Last September, the 23 mayors from the regional municipalities that comprise the MRC unanimously adopted a resolution at its monthly meeting calling on TransCanada Pipelines to provide full disclosure regarding its plans for the new Energy East Pipeline that will run through its territory.

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Angell Woods’ conservation status questioned by private landowner

Carmen Marie Fabio

News that Beaconsfield’s Angell Woods would likely be granted conservation status by the Montreal Agglomoration Committee may be good for local dog-walkers but was met with disdain by at least one of the private landowners whose company, SEDA Holdings, who owns just under 2 million square-feet of the woods. The conservation status of the 85-hectare lot, however, does not end the ongoing disputes between the city and the private landowners, SEDA, and Yale Properties who collectively own the largest tracts. SEDA Holdings’ President Diana Shahmoon alleges, “Beaconsfield and Montreal have consistently acted in bad faith towards the landowners. Everything they have done is an effort to massively slash its market value, and then “purchase” it. Further complicating the situation is the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) by-law requiring Beaconsfield property owners to inoculate all ash trees on their respective properties or face monetary fines starting at $750 per ash tree. Mayor Georges Bourelle said once the issue of ownership is finalized, Beaconsfield will look at creating a ‘nature park’ while a small portion at the southern portion of the woods will be slated for low-density residential development. “That will be certainly identified and zoned for residential development,” he said, “but the bulk of the woods will be conserved.”

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

St. Lazare’s H-300 housing development project

John Jantak

Attempting to preserve St. Lazare’s rustic charm and equestrian heritage with development requirements is the goal of the new H-300 residential project that began last spring. The sprawling urban village that will be called le Projet des Champs will comprise about 380 residential lots near the southwest corner of route de la Cité des Jeunes and Chemin Ste. Angélique.

“St. Lazare has the largest percentage, 49 per cent of buildable property in the 11 CMM municipalities that comprise Vaudreuil-Soulanges,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo. “If we’re going to have high-density development, we’re going to do it in the east where it will do the least possible damage to the environment. We have a conservation plan. It’s been adopted by council and was designed to protect our forests and water.”

New water and sewage systems will also eventually be extended for another new housing development being planned just west of le Projet des Champs with the aim of connecting it to the town’s small industrial park which is presently not serviced. Grimaudo said the development projects will bring in much needed additional tax revenue which will help the town keep property tax rates steady.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Hudson council vote upholds Director General’s suspension

Carmen Marie Fabio

In a hastily called meeting, Hudson council voted four to two to uphold the two-week unpaid suspension of Director General Catherine Haulard effective Monday, February 23. Mayor Ed Prévost told those in attendance the council and DG had “inherited each other” and though he credited Haulard for her performance during a difficult 18-month period, the interpersonal situation had deteriorated to the point where they could no longer move forward. A copy of the letter to Haulard obtained by Your Local Journal outlining the reasons for her suspension says, in part, “As General Manager, you must act in the best interests of all citizens of Hudson. Your personality conflict and recriminations towards (union negotiator) Ms. Sheehan clearly diverted you from the best interests that should define a Director General. Both Haulard, who has since left her position, and Sheehan currently have ongoing lawsuits against the town.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

MARCH

St. Lazare town councillors receive 76 per cent salary increase

John Jantak

The Town of St. Lazare passed a resolution that saw the remuneration for its councillors increase by 76 per cent. Former councillor Michel Lambert (pictured above) brought the town to task saying the current administration should try to keep taxes for its residents as low as possible instead of giving council a substantial salary increase. Property taxes have risen an average of 4.5 per cent in the past seven years and property values increased an average of six per cent in 2015. Mayor Robert Grimaudo defended the increase saying while councillors’ salaries were being increased from $11,000 to just over $19,000, they will no longer receive a $100 stipend for each municipal committee meeting or function they attend. “What we did tonight is not really a salary increase,” said Grimaudo. “In reality, they all earned an average of $19,000 last year. It’s just that the money came from two different pots.”

PHOTO COURTESY ÉLYSE CORRIVEAU

Dognapping

Carmen Marie Fabio

A Chihuahua stolen from Animalerie Toutou on Harwood Boulevard in Vaudreuil-Dorion March 7 was located and returned and police arrested a 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman in connection with the theft. Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Sgt. Ingrid Asselin said six people, three men and three women, entered the store and four of them created a diversion to distract the employees. In the process, two males, one under the age of 18, opened the cage containing two pure bred Blue Chihuahuas, taking one and hiding it under his jacket. The group then left in a van. Working with information obtained from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) police arrested the pair March 10 after a search of a home on Stanislas Street in Montreal.

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Community rallies to help Île Perrot man

Carmen Marie Fabio

Following a proverbial comedy of bureaucratic and legal errors that left a handicapped Île Perrot resident without adapted transport to his thrice-weekly Lakeshore General Hospital dialysis treatments, the community stepped up to help make Richard Lemieux’s life a little easier by offering transport, meals, and housecleaning services. A team of six volunteers was assembled to chauffeur Lemieux to and from his treatments. Lemieux, who was born with physical disabilities and is confined to a wheelchair, said his ordeal began when he received a notice from the Quebec Government recommending he seek child support from his ex-wife to help offset the costs of raising his 16-year-old daughter who’s been in his custody since age three-and-a-half. Lemieux followed the advice and said he was then told his income had exceeded the maximum allowable for which subsidized transportation services are provided. While he struggled to work out the bureaucratic details, volunteers picked up the transportation slack. At last report, the Lakeshore General Hospital provided six weeks' worth of taxi vouchers but Lemieux is reportedly still struggling to make it to his treatments.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Je Suis cultural program garners international recognition

John Janak

Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Je Suis cultural program took centre stage March 18, during a presentation to international delegates at the first United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Culture Summit in Bilbao, Spain. Vaudreuil-Dorion was the only North American city that was invited to present its Je Suis program because of the strategies it used to successfully initiate and integrate cultural programs within a sustainable urban environment in the past five years. “We were very proud to have been there for a city of our size with 37,000 people,” Mayor Guy Pilon said. “We accomplished something amazing because we’re a small town that developed a cultural program that other cities can look at and take away something from it.”

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Hudson hires Interim Treasurer/Director General

Carmen Marie Fabio and James Armstrong

The Town of Hudson hired Jacques Lemieux to fill the vacant positions of interim Director General and Treasurer following the suspension of former DG Catherine Haulard and resignation of Ramin Jawanda. In an emergency council meeting held Monday, March 23, council passed the motion to engage the services for a three month short-term contract to carry out the duties of both positions. Lemieux retired from a 30-year career as Director of Finance and Information with the Town of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

APRIL

Hudson’s newly hired interim Treasurer and Director General resigns after one week

Carmen Marie Fabio

Following media reports quoting District 1 Councillor Robert Spencer (pictured above) questioning the legality of the March 23 emergency meeting in which a resolution was passed, by Mayor Ed Prévost and four of the six sitting councillors, to hire an Interim Director General and Treasurer, newly hired Jacques Lemieux walked off the job after a mere eight days. “Given the circumstances that he (Lemieux) has found himself in at the town, he no longer has the energy or the desire to take this on. It’s too much of a monumental challenge for him at this time,” said Mayor Ed Prévost. In a copy of his resignation letter obtained by Your Local Journal, Lemieux states, “My decision follows an article published in the ‘Montreal Gazette’ where an elected official declared my nomination illegal.” Spencer had, in fact, questioned the legality of the last minute change of the meeting agenda that had originally stated the emergency March 23 meeting was called to pass a motion to hire a new interim treasurer. “It was nothing personal towards Mr. Lemieux,” Spencer said. “What I was questioning was the way the hiring was done.” Lemieux’s letter further stated, “I think the problems existing in the Town of Hudson are more in human and political (issues) and not problems of administrative processes.” Former Westmount Director General Duncan Campbell stepped in as interim DG until the September hiring of Jean-Pierre Roy.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

New animal control by-law takes effect in Rigaud

James Armstrong

Rigaud town council passed Bylaw 326-2015 at the regular monthly meeting held Monday, April 13 and according to Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr., the new regulations are intended to identify all the domestic animals in the municipality. “It’s not the animals that are out of control,” said the mayor, “It’s the people who own them.” He pointed out that Rigaud has a serious problem with colonies of stray cats, as well as dogs not being kept on leashes. The law also defines penalties for infractions from a minimum of $200 to a maximum of $2000 depending upon the situation.

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

National Energy Board meets behind closed-doors with Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC.

Carmen Marie Fabio

The National Energy Board’s invitation-only meeting April 20 with the elected officials of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC focused on the procedural role of the NEB in relation to pipeline companies and their regional operations and reportedly sidestepped questions concerning the requested hydrostatic testing for the 40-year-old Enbridge pipeline in preparation of its 9B flow reversal plan. Despite the board touting the meeting the following day on its website with the headline, ‘Ongoing public participation in Vaudreuil-Dorion,’ it was quickly changed to read ‘Board dialogue with the MRC Vaudreuil- Soulanges’ dropping the word ‘public’ from its communiqué. “I’ve already expressed my complete disappointment to the MRC, and had them express it to the NEB, that a closed-door meeting like this does not foster mutual trust and respect,” said St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo on the NEB’s decision to exclude the media and public from attending the two-hour session held at the St. Lazare community centre.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Train de l’Ouest coalition will keep pushing for dedicated West Island commuter line

John Jantak

Despite doubts beginning to emerge as to whether the much anticipated Train de l’Ouest project for the West Island will be realized now that the Agence Métropolitain de Transport (AMT) is no longer responsible for the file, coalition members vow to keep pushing to make sure the dedicated commuter rail line is built. Concerns were raised by Baie D’Urfé Mayor Maria Tutino (left) and Train de l’Ouest coalition advocate and spokesperson Clifford Lincoln (right) following a meeting between AMT representatives and West Island Mayors April 20. In a briefing to reporters following the closed door afternoon session with the mayors, AMT President and DG Nicolas Girard said the AMT was no longer directly involved in the project now that the Caisse de dépôt et placements du Québec and provincial government have taken over the dossier as of January.

PHOTO BY LAUREN MITCHELL

Adapted van donated to family for daughter with Trisomy 18

Lauren Mitchell

A fundraiser with the goal of $25,000 to buy an adapted van for 7-year-old Amanda Cugurs was achieved in an unexpected way after a West Island woman decided to donate a used adapted van after the owner passed away, saying it was what he would’ve wanted. “We received a call from the sister of the late Doug Webb of Pointe Claire,” said Eric Cugurs and Esmirna Lopes. Their daughterAmanda suffers from pulmonary hypertension, pronounced scoliosis, and is considered legally blind. “Doug’s sister Donna said that he passed away recently and he was the owner of this adapted 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan. It was Doug’s wish that the van be given to an organization that would find someone in need of it. We did the transfer a week later and now we have the van we need.”

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Hudson Firefighters’ second Shave2Save event exceeds expectations

Carmen Marie Fabio

Despite getting off to a slow start, the second annual Hudson Shave2Save April 25 fundraiser for cancer research was a resounding success, more than doubling the $5000 goal with an amount of $10,369. “We ended up with an extra six heads that we weren’t expecting,” said organizer Andrew Dumas of the last minute participants, young and old, who joined in the event at the Hudson Fire Station, “so we had 45 heads shaved in all.”

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

MAY

St. Lazare plane crash

Carmen Marie Fabio

Two people, a man and a woman, were killed May 14 as their homebuilt biplane plunged into a field just shy of the runway at the St. Lazare airport. SQ spokesperson Sgt. Joyce Kemp said police received the call at approximately 12:30 p.m. from an area business owner saying a plane had plunged straight down into the field near the corner of Montée St. Lazare and route de la Cité des Jeunes before bursting into flames. “When the craft hit the ground, it caught fire. The local fire department was called to the scene and was able to rapidly extinguish the flames. Unfortunately, in the craft, we know that there were at least two people, who have been pronounced dead.” Kemp said that given there was no criminal wrongdoing determined, the investigation had been turned over to the Canadian Transportation Safety Board.

IMAGE COURTESY SÛRETÉ DU QUÉBEC

SQ make arrests in 70 home break-ins

Carmen Marie Fabio

Following more than a year of investigation, Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers announced May 27 the arrest of four suspects in a series of 70 breakins in the Montérégie, between September 2011 and April 2014, with 21 homes in St. Lazare and one in Ste. Marthe included in the total. “The investigation started in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges west area after the investigators saw several break-ins that had taken place,” said SQ spokesperson Sgt. Joyce Kemp. The break-ins typically took place in single family homes while the occupants were away. The four suspects include a 30-yearold man and 27-year-old woman who were arrested in Laval, a 26-year-old man arrested in St. Jerome, and a 36-year-old man arrested in Prévost. “What was mainly stolen was jewellery and money totaling over $1 million,” said Kemp, who added the property damage caused due to the break-ins totaled over $150,000.

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Beaconsfield withdraws proposed billboard project

Carmen Marie Fabio

Following a public consultation session held May 25 to hear resident feedback over a proposed project to allow a large electronic billboard erected on Bearepaire Drive near City Lane in Beaconsfield, the town issued a communiqué Wednesday, May 27, indicating that through mutual agreement with Cogeco, it was withdrawing the proposal. “The councillors and I received a lot of email and phone calls from residents,” Mayor Georges Bourelle told Your Local Journal before going to press. “It started to become obvious that the social acceptability of this project, notwithstanding the fact that it would bring in some substantial money, just wasn’t there.” Bourelle said even citizens who did not live within the vicinity of the proposed project expressed their reluctance to proceed, saying it didn’t fit in with their perception of the town.

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