A personal view of Knowlton, Quebec, the Eastern Townships most beautiful village.

Boil Water Advisory Has Residents Boiling
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Little information is being offered as to reasons behind a recent boil water advisory.A water advisory has been issued for the town of Lac Brome and some residents are wondering why they had to learn about by accident instead of being informed directly by City Hall. Officials knew that the municipal water supply required boiling as early as the middle of last week and food serving establishments were warned not to even wash dishes with tap water let alone consume it, but there was what many consider a negligence in the efforts taken by the Town to warn residents of a potential hazard. It has been six days since the first announcement appeared as a small printed notice in a local newspaper but many residents hardly noticed the miniscule printed ad and there was no mailing issued to residents or phonecalls to homes alerting anyone to potential risks.

In fact, the boil water advisory has been in place since Wednesday, February 14th but many residents only learned about it five days later by over-hearing others bringing it up in conversation! With a well documented array of serious health issues that relate to drinking contaminated water it seems to some residents that the Town of Brome Lake took an overly-casual attitude towards announcing the precautionary measures. Some are visibly angered at the fact that they learned of the potential problems with the municipal water supply by chance.

One resident of Knowlton who only learned of the water boil advisory through the grapevine was critical of the Town: "I can't believe there was even the remotest danger to health and no-one knew about the problem!" they said, visibly angered with the officials and their handling of the situation, "There's no excuse! It's irresponsible!".

You may want to switch to beer! The water may not be safe!The Town took out an advertisement to announce the boil water advisory in the February 16th edition of the Journal Le Guide newspaper but the small announcement appeared at the bottom of page 28 in the form of a 2 inch by 3 inch notice at the bottom of the page with the headline: "Public notice on the water network". There was no sense of urgency in the notice and the small print mentioned it was a precautionary measure due to the fact that the water was being drawn from the Bailey Well. There was no clarification as to why or what was involved or the reasons for the precautionary measures. The official website of the Town of Brome Lake had a small notice to the hazard that is dated February 14th. The February 14th edition of the Brome County News, a popular local newspaper, had no notice of the potential risk to drinking the water supply. To some, this represents an inadequate attempt at informing a population of over 6000 residents of a potential health danger.

The announcement in the Journal La Guide, signed by Town General Manager Jean Bouret, was somewhat vague as to cause or effect and mentioned only that the municipality would be taking daily water samples for further testing. There was no further information given beyond mentioning that "the town is issuing a notice to boil drinking water since it is drawn from the Bailey Well". The Towns' website offers no further information.

The Journal La Guide newspaper is mainly distributed in the Publi-Sac along with flyers and coupons from businesses in the area and to some residents, placing a small announcement on page 26 can hardly be considered a serious attempt at notifying the public of a health concern, considering that many residents do not accept the Publi-Sac. The Town could have distributed a simple flyer to every mailbox with a notice that their may be a potential danger in the drinking water instead of simply buying a small 2 inch space in a free newspaper read by a small percentage of the population. As one resident put it: "You would think that whoever is in charge of public safety would have insisted on doing something about letting people know (about the water)! Making phone calls, placing signs at the IGA, posting notices at mail pick-up points would have been a start. Even someone who is trying to give away free kittens has more initiative and can find the time to put up a handwritten notice up on every bulletin board!"

Some restaurants in Knowlton and Lac Brome were actually telephoned by Quebec health officials who wanted to ensure that they were not serving the water for public consumption or even washing dishes with the water! The local daycare was phoned and told not to drink or even use tap-water to wash surfaces due to the potential risk! If even washing with tap water posed a health risk the town should have been notified! It is comforting to know that restaurants and daycares may have been alerted to contamination risks but for other residents who have been drinking, bathing and washing with the potentially dangerous water for the last few days with no idea they could be at risk are not so lucky.

When high ranking Provincial health officials issue such direct notifications which carry notes of gravity and imply an urgent need to reduce potential threats to public safety it seems incredulous that many residents remained in the dark for so long, as long as five days for some. We have all seen the results of mismanaged towns where elected officials were slow to act when water quality issues were involved and it has many residents wondering if Lac Brome is another example of such inept management. Getting a warning message regarding the safety of the water 6000 people in the year 2007 cannot be considered an arduous task when most of us have emails. Perhaps the Town should collect email addresses with their tax payments and create a mailing list to ensure that all residents can be informed of any such issues at a moments notice.

There have been many highly publicized tragedies involving contaminated water supplies and one name that echoes in the Canadian small town psyche is Walkerton, the small town which saw deaths due to the consumption of contaminated water. The small town in Ontario saw Scandal surrounded the elected officials of the town when their mismanagement of the situation was uncovered. Out of the extensive Walkerton Inquiry by the Attorney General there came a multitude of recommendations for dealing with municipal water issues in the future which included keeping an up-to-date emergency response plan in the event of contaminations and stressed the importance of maintaining a communication system to relay information to the public as well as a telephone directory of vital services in the event of any such emergencies.

Of course, the case of Walkerton is extreme and involved criminal charges due to the forging of documents and safety-records relating to water quality control and does not have any relation or similarity to the possible water problems of this week in Lac Brome, indeed the water advisory seems to be only a precautionary measure but still, the importance of being able to quickly notify a population of imminent risk is a key factor in municipal responsibility and it seems that in this case the Town of Lac Brome failed at following this and many guidelines that were recommended in the Walkerton Report.

The Towns sign for posting announcements is prominent but for some reason not being usedThis picture shows the signage used by the Town to post public notices yet there is no warning posted as to the boil water advisory. It is hard to understand why a prominent notice board is not being used. The Town has sent registered letters to bussinesses warning of legal action if certain signage rules wern't adhered to but the fact they can find fault with the sign of the renovated Rona store because it has lights on it while letting their own sign crumble to pieces when it should be used to alert the population is utterly incredulous!

The most basic issue revolves around informing the public of an imminent threat, no matter how small. Most of us would prefer to have officials being extra cautious regarding our family health and safety. Most of us would prefer that if we were dining at a restaurant our waiter would inform us if a neon light bulb had just exploded in the kitchen showering powdered granules throughout the kitchen which may have landed in the soup we are about to eat instead of having a friend tell us two days later after we had already eaten it. Most of us would prefer that the people we entrust with directing our taxes show a real concern with the key values of our health and safety.

The snowstorm of February was a record accumulation that will not likely be beat for another two decades but the paralyzing storm we experienced that basically closed the town cannot be used an excuse by officials to explain why more of the population were not informed of the potential danger. The elected officials who are the first to learn of hazards to our health have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is rapidly informed regardless of extenuating circumstances. In this case, the town’s failure to warn us in a timely matter is an extreme dereliction that has many people asking questions.

Snow Storm Is Townships Record
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Knowlton residents found snow up to their chests and the traditional Canadian winter sport known as the 100 meter snow dig begins again!The record snowfall of over two feet signalled the start of that great Canadian Olympic sport: the 100 yard snow shovel race as participants tried to find their way to their buried cars and the doors to their homes. As usual, the snow shovelling event always takes place with bitter windchills and in zero visibility that is typical for a Quebec snowstorm!

Finally, Saturday the sun started to shine again and the skies are clearing giving blizzard-weary resident of the Eastern Townships a break from the tremendous snowfall that hit on Valentines day. Over 65 cm of snow have fallen in the last few days in the Lac Brome breaking snowfall records in the area and while we were not alone in seeing record snowfalls we were still taken aback by the ferocity of the storm.

Such accumulations hadn’t been seen in over a decade. The storm hit quickly and with decisiveness. The blinding snow squalls were moving in from the south west and as we watched the Weather Network to see our fellow Canadians being buried under a thick frozen blanket it was all we could do but make sure there was wood in the pile and a supplies of fresh food at home as we braced for the worst. When the storm hit it quickly created white-out conditions and wind and heavy snow quickly piled, drifted and made driving treacherous.

Cars buried by snow in downtown KnowltonCars buried deep under snow sat looking forlorn as the streets took on a deserted look. The CTV TV news did a report right in front of Panissimo on main street showing the snow drifting right up the staircase to the main door. WThe town may have been deserted but at least we made the news!!

Knowlton was basically shutdown on Thursday as many of the stores saw snow drifting up as high as their second floor windows and snowplows could barely keep up with the workload. The roads were extremely dangerous as visibility was reduced to zero and the accumulations of snow made driving next to impossible. Cars were either buried in snow or were swerving wildly down slippery roads and when the night ended and people finally could open their doors it was unbelievable the sheer volume of snow that had accumulated.

The highways and roads saw their usual share of cars rolled in the ditch and even abandoned literally where they got stock as towtrucks were in short supply and snowplows seemed to be an elusive species! Most residents have spent hours shoveling and grappling with snow blowers for the last two days and with the warming les windy temperatures today it seems almost beautiful again!

The storm in Quebec and here in Knowlton was not as impressive as it was down in New York but still it was one we will not soon forget especially since many of us had a particularly unforgettable Valentines evening. Most schools were closed as the pre-warning of the storms arrival allowed most schools to cancel classes ahead of time. Some school boards in Sherbrooke didn't seem to have actually heard the news that a record dump was on the way and merrily invited classes to proceed as per normal but when the storm hit many students either got stranded in buses or were actually forced to spend the night at the school due to the snow storm but it is unclear if Sherbrooke is just not served by the Weather Network and no-one at the school board actually heard the news.

One tragic death of a young athlete in Quebec who went out training (!?) during the storm and was later reported missing and then found dead in the snow. People often underestimate the forces of nature and drivers continue to speed on roads that have large settled snow on the roads. The narrow Chemin Knowlton is hard enough to navigate at the best of times and with the snow it is like a single lane pioneer trail! Even though the weather is warming up and the snow has stopped for now, the roads around Knowlton are looking like a frozen maze with the mountains of snow lining the roads reaching up to the height of the stop signs.

Winds reached well over 60 kmh during the peak of the storm and wind chills for the three days averaged at minus 28 degrees. While we were scratching our heads in January wondering what the heck happened to winter as even the ponds weren't frozen we are now seeing a real Canadian winter up close and, maybe for some of us, a little too personal!

More snowy pictures can be found in the DK Image Gallery

Arts Sutton Undergoes "Metamorphosis"
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Works by Mary Bogden will be presented as part of the new exhibit at the Sutton Art Gallery.Arts Sutton again leads the way with exhibiting the best artists of the Eastern Townships and beyond by hosting another must-see event featuring the artwork of Mary Bogden and Ted Yudelson. Both artists have been involved in the creative proces for years and the chance to have the two artists appearing together is a wonderful chance to explore some modern multi-disciplinary masters. Image Courtesy of Mary Bogdan, Madonna & Child 1, Mixed Media, 79 X 57 cm


From February 22 to March 25, Arts Sutton Gallery presents an exhibition of current works by Mary Bogdan and Ted Yudelson which deal with the theme of change or the hope of change. The two artists address the issue of personal evolution in their own unique way through their encounter with the creative process. Within the moments of incidental illuminations that occur along the way, each discovers hope for metamorphosis, leading to transformation and ultimately, transcendence.

The work involves the recycling, recovery, manipulation and alteration of "found" objects and demonstrates the pursuit of reinvention of self, of an approach to life or a way of being. It addresses the shaping of the self through the creation of art, both on a personal and collective level. The work looks at inner struggles and seeks a better understanding of self and its place in our society. It portrays a quest for healing...a way to undo the past or, at least, to understand the present and invent a better future.

Mary Bogdan holds a bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Concordia University, and has participated in creative painting at the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts, and assemblage at the Visual Arts Centre. A graphic designer by profession, she is co-founder and partner of Crayon Design & Communication, a graphic design firm, with husband photographer, Sol Lang, and has won numerous international awards. Her paintings, assemblages and limited edition prints have been exhibited internationally and are in public and private collections.

Works by Ted Yudelson add to the drama of the newest Arts Sutton showcase.Ted Yudelson holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from McGill University and has participated in sketching at McGill, stained glass at the Visual Arts Centre and pottery at the Gora Studio. An architect by profession, he is an Associate with the IBI Group, a multidisciplinary international design firm. Ted recently embarked on a project of assemblages, his first major body of work. The mixed media series, called Broken Promises, employs computer components as its primary element. Image Courtesy of Ted Yudelson, Cyborg 1 (detail), Mixed Media, 36 X 36 X 10 cm


The curator of the Exhibition is Kathy Feig. The vernissage will be held on Saturday February 24 at 2:00pm. The Gallery will also be presenting an "Artist Talk" with Mary Bogdan on Saturday March 10 at 2:00pm. The vernissage and exhibit are happening at the Sutton gallery in beautiful downtown Sutton during the regular opening hours of the Gallery which are Thursday to Sunday 11:00 to 5:00.

Sutton, Quebec is one of our favorite villages near Lac Brome because of her quaint charm and pretty layout. Located at the junction of 239 and the 215 highways it can be reached on your way to Cowansville or Knowlton and is a short one hour out of Montreal. The art gallery and local boutiques, coffee shops and great restaurants in Sutton are the ideal afternoon visit and the skiing at Mont Sutton is the Eastern Townships best kept secret.

The Sutton Gallery is located at Academy Road in Sutton, Quebec. Telephone (450)538-2563 for more information. Arts Sutton Website

Tobogganing & Valentines Fight The Cold
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Kids on the hill behind Knowlton Academy stay warm the good old fashioned way!When we are in the coldest period of the year with bitter wind chills and bone freezing temperatures it is often difficult to see the silver lining in the clouds of winter. Shovelling the snow from our walkways and driveways and dealing with boots covered in dirty slush are now a daily inconvenience not to mention the temperature necessitates extra layers of sweaters, hats and mittens and taking walks and venturing outside become a less inviting activity. While we may not have the record snowfalls as in areas of New York and previously in Colorado we still take our share of abuse with the Canadian Winter bringing her annual dose of misery to us.

Knowlton is lucky to have great outdoor skating rinks, one behind the Knowlton Academy and one right downtown in the main park beside the Cold Brook. The hill behind Knowlton Academy is the perfect place for families to gather and do their toboggoning and play some hockey. Weekends often see dozens of kids with their tubes and crazy-carpets zooming down the hill. Luckily it is within walking distance for most residents and what better way to spend time with friends and family and keep warm through good wholesome exercise.


The cold weather does tend to make life's simple pleasure even more enjoyable; a crackling fire in the fireplace is something magical at this time of year and a glass of red wine can warm us up with a sweet tenderness that is extra delicious this time of year. Valentine's day gives us a chance to have a much needed "holiday" after the Christmas' denouement. What can warm us up more than celebrating our love for one another and Valentines day is a chance for us to be reminded that we cannot take anything for granted especially our family, friends and loved ones.


Valentines Day is for all creatures great and small...even those pesky squirrels!The period around Valentines day is a traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other. We give flowers and chocolates and help our kids make cut-out paper hearts for their friends at school and it is a perfect time to make a donation to a local charity. While handmade cards have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards and now more and more people are sending ecards via email it is still a handmade gift or a small heartfelt token of appreciation that means the most to those closest to us. The Greeting Card Association based in the United States estimates that nearly one billion store-bought paper valentines are sent each year around the world, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association also reported that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

While giving chocolates and jewels to the "better half" is a traditional priority this lover's holiday is an even better time to reflect on our responsibilities and priorities and to take a few moments to go over our own personal rules of engagement in our lives. While retailers are encouraging us to by gifts, toys, cards and candies we should not forget that Valentine's day should be about celebrating and showing appreciation for the human bond we have with those close to us. But, as we are often reminded, there is nothing wrong with giving a store bought token of appreciation shaped like a heart especially if it is pure dark chocolate!

To all creatures great and small...have a happy Valentines Day...even you pesky squirrels!

Centre Lac Brome Lake Center Open
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The New Centre Lac Brome is open much to the joy of residents happy to have a clean modern facility to c all their own!By now almost everyone in the Lac Brome area of the Eastern Townships has visited the brand new community center on Victoria Street which celebrated a grand opening in January. The beautiful Centre Lac Brome is definitely a jewel in Knowlton and as most of us know it has been a project a long time in the making with countless volunteers and advocates pushing to bring the community and recreation services together in one home under one roof and the results as we see now are a huge success and Knowlton is busting with pride at the brand new facility!

The grand opening saw hundreds of residents, visitors and dignitaries gather to inaugurate the Brome Lake Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony, speeches, music and a lot of congratulations. The Knowlton Garden Club decorated the center for the opening and our very own Knowlton Harmony Band and the Brome Lake Concert Ensemble entertained everyone throughout the day and it was definitely a day full of pride and much back-patting for the completion of this long process of bringing the community center to life.

The long and winding road that the Lac Brome Center took from idea to fruition was, naturally, a dramatic and often difficult process involving many levels of the community and government. In 1999 the town of Brome Lake identified a priority for the region to have a modern and larger community facility. We can all testify to the pitiful condition of the old community center on Knowlton Road that is in a state of lamentable decline and the new center is in a different league, a modern and large structure with space and an ergonomic feeling of family.

The site on Victoria Street behind the Lions Park, sandwiched by the Daycare and Windmill Plastics was the site chosen after three other sites were deemed un-acceptable. The new site is perfect and seems to be part of a shift of the center of growth and activity in Knowlton from the "old town" of Lakeside and Knowlton Road and a new more vibrant center burgeoning between the new IGA, the Community Center and the corner of Victoria Street and Knowlton Road. With the new Uniprix drugstore soon to be moving into the site of the old IGA and an improved SAQ building in the works it’s clear that the economic and business center of Knowlton is shifting. While more and more stores and shops in the "old town" of Knowlton have for sale and for rent signs hanging the area between the IGA and the Community center is flourishing with projects of new buildings and popular brand name stores; maybe there is still hope for a Tim Horton's in Knowlton! Why an entrepreneur hasn't identified Knowlton as an ideal spot for establishing a Tim Horton’s franchise is beyond reason!

The Brome Lake Center took a real leap towards being a dream to a reality in 2003 and when Dr. Bill Barakett through himself into the project of combining the CLSC, Community Services and a Medical Clinic and the notion of renting space in the community center helped get the ball rolling even faster. Later that year Brome Lake Ducks Ltd. increased their land donation to the project from 6 up to 13 acres. The land on the gentle sloping hill off of Victoria Street had been a home to hundreds of deer who grazed on the large prairie like fields of grasses. While the new center has encroached on their habitat residents are more than pleased with the esthetics of the new center which captures a modern yet still Victorian flavor.

When the Town of Brome Lake officially approved the project in early 2004 the fund-raising began locally and community groups got busy bringing in funds from donations that flooded in from all aspects of the community, from private individuals and long-time residents who gladly opened their purses to help with the project to business leaders and government of Canada and Quebec who got on-board with the important commitment of grant money totaling two million dollars!

The actual construction of the building was completed by Groupe Drumco Construction Inc. of Drummondville who won the tender process and by all accounts seem to have done a decent job of construction coming in right in the budget zone of 4.2 million dollars.

Large rooms that can be divided and high ceilings make the Brome Lake Center a fantastic place for community groups and recreation activities.The community center underlines the importance of our town to preserving family and community values. As we have all seen since the opening of the center the parking lot is often full of cars as community groups use the thoroughly modern facility for their meetings and activities. Not only are the medical and CLSC services located in the center but there is also the Knowlton Food Bank, the drop-in daycare, the pre-teen dances, wellness support groups for seniors, karate, internet services etc. There are even spacious meeting rooms available to rent for meetings and events for as little as $10 per hour. The monthly public council meetings are also held in the center and while some residents of outlying communities cried foul at the council stopping their local meetings which had rotated from town to town in Lac Brome there is no doubt that the new facilities with the modern audio-visual system makes the meetings much more professional.

The center is also designed to be an emergency shelter in the event of an ice-storm or major disaster for residents of the region.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the project!

Mont Morin Likely No Threat To Ski Bromont
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Knowlton decided to build a new mountain right next to the community center instead of just watching visitors flock to Bromont! Innovation is our middle name here in Lac Brome!Residents of Knowlton are seeing another innovative idea to add more tourist attractions to Lac Brome. With such successful annual events as the Brome Lake Duck Festival, The Festival of Lights and this year's first Duck Race down the ColdBrook it seems that the locals are always trying to add another reason for folks to visit Knowlton.

Not that there is any shortage of reasons for visiting this region; we are constantly reminded of the beauty of this region of the Eastern Townships whenever we step outside no matter what the season and the growing number of visitors is attestation to Lac Brome as a vibrant and growing tourist center full of activities and events for the entire family.

Not willing to sit idly by as visitors from Montreal drove the highway 10 to Bromont for a day of skiing it seems Knowlton has decided to literally build a new mountain! The newly opened "Mont Morin" on Victoria Street was named after Johanne Morin who worked tirelessly as the executive director on the new community center. While the mountain itself is better suited for toboggans and crazy-carpets it is, as we all know, the thought that counts! The mini-mountain was excavated material from the construction site on Victoria Street and building a wee hill for local children to play on is a great idea. There is no word yet if a more permanent sign will be erected or if lighting will be added to allow for "night sliding" but it seems likely that for now the only night skiing will be down the road at Ski Bromont.

It was definitely a significant blow to the Lac Brome area economy when Mont Glen ski resort was sold to Societe Ski Glen Inc. and the land adjoining the mountain, which is located in a residential zone that was purchased by Societe immobiliere Bolton Ouest Inc. Since the sale in 2004 skiers have had to find other ski hills to pursue downhill skiing. While the official word was that the new owner of Mount Glen ski resort was dissatisfied with the current state of the ski resort’s facilities and thus decided to suspend activities at the resort there is talk that the ski hill is being kept closed deliberately to get boost the traffic at Ski Bromont. Apparently, investors involved in the Bromont Ski Resort, own interests in Mont Glen and consider it in their best interest to keep Mount Glen closed.

Bromont is considered by most in the area to be a brash commercial ski hill with long line-ups and a limited challenge as far as skiing is concerned. The fact it is right off highway 10 and only an hour from Montreal make it a good alternative for skiers not wanting to go to Tremblant but the best local skiing is most definitely at Mount Sutton which boasts a higher elevation, more trails and a lot more space than Bromont. Not only is the best skiing in the Eastern Townships in Suttoin but Sutton also beats Bromont hands-down for being a village with charm and atmosphere. The garish development at the Bromont exit off of the auto-route is testament to the vision of the Bromont development plan which is seemingly based on creating a large shopping mall to lull tourists into a daze.

Of course Mont Morin in Knowlton will never be a threat to Sutton as the best place to ski, but the fact that a sign was erected on the hill beside the Community Center to honor the hard work of one of Lac Bromes finest contributors for the project is a wonderful gesture! Indeed, a more permanent sign or marker should be erected to not only pay tribute to a hard working individual but also to underline the fact that Knowlton still does have a good sense of humour!

Our own Mount Morin may never compete for a chance at allowing us to host the Olympic Winter Games but at least it's something we can call our own!

Renaissance Lac Brome Continue Raising Funds
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Maybe exporting Blue Green Algae from Brome Lake as a health supplement would generate a new economy for the region?
A recent single page announcement from Renaissance Lac Brome was distributed around the town of Brome Lake trying to gather more support from residents to working together to help save the lake. The October 14th meeting which saw huge crowds pack the meeting hall to bring people and their ideas together was a catalyst bringing the group to new recognition and it seems a renewed sense of purpose.

They want to work with the experts and the Town to help repair and maintain the problems of the watershed which have resulted in blooms of blue green algae in the lake. Strict enforcement and monitoring of the lake are also needed as is the collaboration of all residents, businesses and farms in the watershed.

Renaissance Lac Brome also mentioned that despite rumors to the contrary, they have not formed an opinion on the desirability of stringent regulations for motor boats on the lake. It seems that one of the few concrete measures to help the lake brought forward by elected officials included limiting motor boat traffic on the lake but Renaissance Lac Brome has now distanced themselves from this action saying that more studies and consultations needed before restricting boats on the lake can be declared a viable solution. The regulations seem to be based upon the idea that motor boats stir-up sediments which ultimately will be detrimental to the lake water and may contribute to Algae Blooms. Studies in California and Vermont have determined that the real damage of motor boats is the two-stroke motors and their inefficiencies that lead to fuels and the chemical additives being released in to a lake. Four-stroke motors are recommended as they are more efficient…but perhaps having only canoes and kayaks on the lake would make more sense?

Skidooes on the lake must also deposit toxic residues in the snow which eventually leaks into the lake? Every year the ice-fishers drag their cabins onto the lake and inevitably one or two are left to sink into the lake. There are many example of the lake being taken for granted and Renaissance Lac Brome seems to be on the right track to organizing and proposing solutions.

James Wilkens offered some food for thought on the Eau Secours website and a list of concrete actions that he feels could be undertaken by the local government. The government seems intent to proceed with studies and consultations but hopefully they will work together with the private busineses and organizations in the area to come up with a plan where everyone plays a roll.

Renaissance Lac Brome is also asking for donations to help build a website and to fund their education and lobbying efforts. A regular membership is $25, a Silver Membership is $50 and a Gold Member is $100. Every man woman and child should be Gold Members at least!! One-hundred dollars is a pittance to the value of our lake! RLB should have people banging at their door willing to contribute thousands to help save the lake. Leaving the job of cleaning Lac Brome to the politicians will be like waiting for Rona Ambrosia to reduce greenhouse gasses…we'll all be dead by the time anything gets done!

The Eau Secours Website

Emballages Knowlton Merges With US Firm
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The rather overbearing LEK building on Knowlton Road has a fairly cold character but behind these doors over 700 people find employment in Lac Brome.One of Knowltons largest employers recently announced a merger with the American firm Tri Tech Industies of Lynchburg, Virginia. Tri Tech Industries also packages over-the-counter beauty products, deodorants and skin care products.

According to corporate press releases: "The two companies plan to grow by sharing respective strengths in such areas as technology, engineering, supply chain operations excellence and product innovation, thereby enhancing the ability to meet evolving customer and industry demands. The new entity will thus be positioned to expand its business with existing customers and add new, targeted customers, further bolstering its position as one of North America's largest independent
manufacturers of personal care product solutions."

The news can only be good for the economy in Lac Brome as stronger economic growth of LEK looms on the horizon. If the new partnerships increases the client base of the businesses then more workers will be needed in the downtown facilities and more people will move to Knowlton. With all the news of recent layoffs around the province at various multi-national corporations it is good to see a story of progress and success. Mergers and acquisitions have received increasing attention in the past few years. Mergers, acquisitions and buyouts involving Canadian companies generate interest both locally and nationally in the news because of a concern that merged companies will relocate corporate headquarters and/or reduce employment, community involvement and investment. While this concern reflects a possible downside side of mergers the other side of the coin can mean that mergers may lead to more competitive companies. A more competitive company can mean the company has more money to help improve the local business environments. When companies merge, they will often create larger operations that are better able to invest in our community resources and our community could use just such investments.

Of course, there will always be trepidation whenever companies get bigger as shareholders are always insisting that the profits flourish. The corporate press release further stated: "Employees of both organizations, at every level, will play a major role in the coming months as this new entity evolves and strives to optimize its synergies in manufacturing best practices and in product innovation in order to offer significant value to its current and future customer base." To some more jaded individuals this statement could be "corporate speak" for saying: "Our company is getting bigger and we'll be laying off people from both companies so the ones at the top make more money" but unfounded ideas of negative conspiracy theorists are not welcome in the blooming Knowlton economic forecast and these Gloomy-Gusses should maintain their conspiracy theories for untangling the Anna Nicole Smith affair!

With nearly 700 people working at Les Emballages Knowlton, one of the largest single employers in the region, the strength and growth of the company is a necessity to the stability of our community. We look forward to LEK bringing in more business so they can help improve the downtown core of Knowlton which could use some tender loving care and, if the money were available, a minor facelift. Perhaps a bigger, stronger and richer Emballages Knowlton will be able to get on board with the town to beautify the downtown since the LEK building is such an imposing structure right on the main street.

Brome Taxes Go Through The Roof
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Hmmm...seems fair based on something...doesn't it? Click to visit the webpage where this cartoon is from.Residents either dropped their jaws or quickly cleaned their bifocals to see if they were reading the numbers correctly when the recent property evaluations were picked up in mailboxes in the Brome Lake area. Many folks stared in disbelief, as if they were witnessing a UFO descending over Mount Glen, at the huge increases in property evaluations they were seeing that went beyond any relation with the rate of inflation, wages or cost of living index.

Reports of property evaluations jumping by up to 300% are coming forward as residents start to compare their new tax burden and are starting to see a similar pattern: property taxes are through the roof in a seemingly arbitrary manner that some say smacks of an indecent tax-grab. Astounded property owners are asking themselves how it is possible that the evaluation of their properties can more than double within a year since the last evaluations.

With more and more homes that are put up for sale staying on the market for longer and longer even when sellers drop prices it would seem that there is actually an over-estimation on home values in the area so when a homeowner drops a sale price by $20,000 and still can't sell and then sees the taxes on that property almost double due to an evaluation that doubled it can leave one scratching their head.

During council meetings property owners are expressing anger and disbelief at the evaluation process that seems to make little correlation to reality beyond the reality of allowing the Town of Brome Lake to quickly increase revenue at a record rate! Even when council is pressed for answers as to why the property evaluations in the Brome Lake area jumped faster, often doubling or tripling, compared to the averages in the rest of the province they had few answers instead preferring to point their fingers at the evaluation firm that performed the evaluation. The town manager didn’t share the feelings of dismay of taxpayers, which is understandable since the tax coffers of the town will need to be renovated to accommodate the huge increase in tax income, and suggested that taxpayers who felt their evaluations were un-fair could contest the evaluation (for a fee naturally).

One resident explained that the a source at city hall had informed them that indeed they could contest the evaluation hike but it would likely be futile; as long as the new evaluation was below the price paid for the home or property, then the contestation would likely fail. This means that a couple who bought a house in Knowlton for $300,000 in 2006 that was evaluated at the time for $190,000 could have seen their new property evaluation for 2007 jump to $299,500 and even though the couple felt that it was an unfair jump they would, according to the source at city hall, lose any contestation of the evaluation because the evaluation was lower than what they paid!

As new properties and homes are sold based on the new evaluations the neighboring properties will have their evaluations increase as well as according to the evaluators fuzzy logic. The town puts their own spin on the situation by pointing out that while evaluations have gone way up the actual rate has dropped. While this a point the town tries to make over and over again most folks see the reality differently no matter how it's spun: taxes are up….way up!

One new resident to Knowlton was shocked: "We bought land in Lac Brome 6 months ago that was evaluated at $28,000 and this year’s evaluation has gone to $62,000. We haven’t even built yet and our tax on the land is up 90%. If the cost of fuel or food or insurance went up by even 20% people would be raising a big stink but this government seems to think they can allow an outrageous increase into our taxes and we’ll sit back and just open our check books!"

What he and others feel is frustrating is the appearance that the city councilors want to wash their hands of any responsibility saying it is the evaluators who decide and we all have to go along with it. Of course the town managers would like everyone to quietly follow along with paying more taxes but more and more residents, as they compare evaluations with friends and neighbors, are actually starting to demand answers. Answers are something hard to come by when officials and evaluators seemingly "work together" to create conditions that increase taxes and perhaps if protesting, contesting or refusing to pay the taxes doesn't work then residents will just have to bite the bullet and wait for the next elections to inflict judgment on the council.

Cartoon courtesy of MacKay Editorial Cartoons

Action Plan or Fantasy Land?
Read the full story here.

Sometimes plans can become grandiose and overblown considering the economic realties of the day.The Brome Lake Center is open and running and residents are using the facility more and more and turning it in to the new heart for the town of Knowlton. The pride and joy at opening the center in January has not faded but at the same time residents have some issues that can now be brought back to the front-burner now that the holidays are over and the grand opening is behind us. The ongoing concerns for the health of Brome Lake are again being discussed more and more.

The town has chaired several meetings with experts, consultants, and environmental groups like Renaissance Lac Brome to come up with an action plan to help reduce pollution in Lac Brome and try and prevent the ongoing battle with blue green algae from again closing the lake and causing a loss of tourist dollars in the region.

The town has announced that the engineering firm Teknika will be overseeing the preparation of a plan of action for Brome Lake. By assessing studies and looking at environmental solutions the town wants to bring together the best minds to be able to move forward with fixing the lake in the best possible way. Teknika has stated they will be only looking at studies and evaluations from sources that are not older than five years which is a positive step as it means they will be using the latest data on dealing with phosphates and lake mechanics in developing their action plan instead of outdated materials.

It is unclear if Teknika will be focused primarily on preventing the further pollution of the lake or if they will also offer solutions to dealing with the pollution that has already accumulated over the years in the lake and is likely causing the yearly algae blooms that have lead to the closure of beaches on the lake. Indeed Teknika has worked with the town on many projects over the years and the firm has been working on various engineering projects since the 1920's and the town is relying on their track record of completing large and technical projects.

As consultants, the firm will be able to study existing techniques in reducing problem causing nutrients like phosphates, and create a "plan of action" although the expertise Teknika has in dealing with an environmental project involving a complex eco-system is not really clear. Their portfolio of projects includes mainly large structural designs of mechanical infra-structure systems like bridges, roads and large scale treatment stations leading some to wonder if their proposals will be similar to their current expertise and mean building large holding basins, diverting waterways and using constructed wetland systems as solutions.

Sometimes the simplest changes and plans can have the most impact.If the plan of action calls for constructing of collection basins, involving pumps, drainage, pipes, concrete basins and underground networks of water treatment systems then their plan of action might be a multi-million dollar proposal involving many of Teknika’s favorite contractors. Their record of water treatment plants, electrical engineering projects and urban infrastructure mega-projects is indeed impressive but is Teknika the ideal firm for dealing with something that is less about plans, rulers and pencils and more about repairing a living organism? The town seems to think so.

The town has a long history of working with Teknika on projects and continues to do so with projects like the supplementary study on the Fisher's point sewer project, the supplementary study on Rock-Island Bay and Foster village sewer project and the works on Grove Street and Landsdowne Street. Mandating studies to Teknika seems to be a common practice for the town and clearly Teknika has earned many awards for their projects which include building theatres, condominiums units and Acetone storage and recycling facilities among others.

Some residents, including some members of Renaissance Lac Brome, are unclear as to the process. Apparently Teknika will be tabling their report in April or May and Renaissance Lac Brome has concrete actions they want to take with the lake early in the Spring and are unclear as to how to work with Teknika. Town council is to hold more meetings with all parties involved and hopefully the direction of the project will take on more focused form.

Likely Teknika will come up with a plan of action that will require further study and knowing their portfolio of projects it is also likely their solutions will involve millions of dollars in structural changes around the town of Lac Brome. Any recommendations that come out in April or May will likely require more study and so the money being spent on the action plan is also buying more time for the town. The problems of the lake are not new or surprising and there has been a long history of heel dragging when it comes to anyone stepping up to the plate to attack the problem with conviction.

Many feel that getting the "experts" at the Ministry of the Environment to work with a traditional old-school engineering firm is a recipe for disaster. Engineering firms like to impress their clients and this often means big budgets. One look at the plans for the development of the park around the Brome Lake Center show the scope of Teknika’s vision: it is, as Donald Trump would say, "huge"!

The proposed plan for the the layout of the property on Victoria Street around the Center are absolutely mind-boggling! The extravagance of their design is incredible: an outdoor swimming pool, tree lined walking paths, a climbing wall, and a BMX (?!) race track, a basketball court, the plan looks like something out of Walt Disney world and some folks think this shows that Teknika is not the right firm to propose realistic solutions for the lake. The town is spending money for plans for a veritable fantasy park in Knowlton and now more money will be spent on a plan for a lake that could be just as extravagant and unrealistic.

Perhaps, instead of using the old-boys network philosophy, the town could invite the slew of leaders from similar lakeside towns and cities who have successfully dealt with similar problems to give them the recipe for treatments. Nearby states like Vermont have dealt with problems in a very pro-active way and have many strict environmental rules to follow and work hard at educating the citizens as to what is best for their lakes and there are studies from US government bodies that outline concrete steps to reduce problems like we’re having with Brome Lake.

Hopefully more and more residents will get on-board with the more proactive groups like Renaissance Lac Brome to actually do something about the problem. It is up to us, especially those who live and operate businesses around the lake, to take action.

If you have an infestation of ants in your house you don't do a study on the problem do you? If you do an engineering firm will recommend raising your house six inches off the foundations with hydraulic jacks and sealing the bottom with polyurethane to prevent ants from entering the house! What you do is go down to Flannigans and ask for the best product for controlling ants, you lay out the anti-ant powder and keep your front door closed! Problem solved! Sure, the lake is more complicated than this analogy but most residents can agree that a plan of action needs to be drawn up but even more importantly we need the leadership to implement the plan of action that will work!

Teknika has requested that any studies or documents regarding the lake or anything that may be helpful be forwarded to them which seem to suggest to some that they don’t currently have any extensive expertise in lake management. The State of Vermont has funding available to qualified organizations or businesses that have ideas, plans or methods that can assist in improving water quality. The local governments in the State actively seek out the solutions that can be offered by local groups and businesses for various lakes and river revitalization and rehabilitation projects. Environmental companies or groups are actually encouraged to assist in finding solutions in these jurisdictions. In our case it seems that the town prefers to not actively invite suggestions but prefers to ask their engineering consultants who have fixed many a road and sewer in the area to, in a few months, understand lakes and watersheds and aquatic systems adequately to create a plan of action.

Let's hope the Teknika connection is not going to be bucks in the bowl!Of course Teknika has access to experts in all fields as they have hundreds of employees in all fields of expertise so they will undoubtedly come up with a plan. In May, 2006 the Canton of Orford Mandated Teknika to plan, consult and supervise work on the sewer extension and aqueduct on a single road extension and the cost to taxpayers will be over $29,000 and this doesn't include the actual work itself. It will be interesting to see the money Teknika will bring in to shareholders coming up with plans and plans and more plans for Brome Lake. The proof will be in the pudding.. let's hope it's not a pudding of floating blue-green algae!

There have been concrete solutions offered to the town over the last five years even from the Ministry of the Environment itself and almost all of the recommendations made were ignored by the town managers. It will be interesting to see if the existing suggestions will be part of the Teknika plan and if there will now be adherence to the proposals?

Then again, perhaps multi-million dollar projects involving construction of holding basins, pumping systems and mechanical settling basins is in the best interest of, well, that is the question: Is it in the interest of repairing the lake? There are existing issues with the lake that need ommediate action beyond renovating the infrastructure surrounding the lake to prevent future influx of contaminants. Will the plan-of-action address the existing problems or simply be a plan that involves even more studies and making Teknika and their partner contractors a little richer, at the expense of taxpayers, along the way?

We hope, for the sake of the lake, we are finally on our way forward to restoring the lake and not heading closer to an "Olympic Stadium" style of project.

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