The only link from Durrell’s Island to Canso, the Tittle Bridge, collapsed on July 7 as contractors were hauling a crane with a transport truck to begin construction on a replacement bridge.

STRAIT AREA: Richmond County officials rejected a meeting with Port Hawkesbury representatives to find a solution to their conflict over fire service for the Point Tupper area.

The Municipality of the County of Richmond issued a press release that it decided to go with other options for fire service protection in an area of the municipality covering the Point Tupper Industrial Park.

The Town of Port Hawkesbury submitted a contract to the municipality seeking an additional 50 per cent increase in fees to provide fire protection to the Point Tupper area, which would bring the annual cost to approximately $75,000 per year.

The town asserted that the Port Hawkesbury Volunteer Fire Department is the natural responding agency to the Point Tupper area because of its proximity, quick response time, large volunteer base, training, and equipment.

The town and Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton reached out to Richmond Warden Brian Marchand for an in-person meeting but their request was rejected by the warden, on behalf of council.

The first ever Strait Area Pride March was held on June 29 in Port Hawkesbury, featuring speeches, music and a march down Reeves Street.

PORT HAWKESBURY: A day after the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the region hosted its first ever Pride March.

Approximately 150 people attended the inaugural Strait Area Pride March which featured land acknowledgement and “2 Spirit” explanation by Bryson Sili’pay.

The Strait Area Pride March was a socially-distanced sidewalk march for the protection of both pedestrians and drivers.

According to the Town of Port Hawkesbury, Taylor Linloff was partially inspired to organize the event because of a negative e-mail received by the town about raising the Pride flag.

STRAIT AREA: Traditional high school graduations were completely out the window in 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ceremonies were in limbo leaving the graduating class without a formal way to celebrate this achievement.

In Antigonish, Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School students ended their year at Riverside International Speedway.

The event included the graduation ceremony, a “Grad March” for the students in their school graduation gowns and caps and music – all while maintaining physical distancing.

For graduating students at SAREC in Port Hawkesbury, they were able to set their proverbial wings free at the Allan J. MacEachen Airport.

In Richmond County, graduates participated in a car procession on June 27, starting at Centre La Picasse in Petit de Grat, travelling through Arichat and West Arichat.

Graduating students at SAREC celebrated their achievements at the Allan J. MacEachen Airport.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Dawna MacDonald was very much the face of Port Hawkesbury.

In a heavy-hearted Facebook post on July 3, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, the town’s mayor announced MacDonald’s sudden passing.

She advised MacDonald was more than an amazing communications and administrative officer and caring co-worker with the town; greeting each and every citizen and visitor with a kind and gentle grace, always professional, and always with a smile.

The mayor indicated her former college had the hugest and most accepting heart; she often went out of her way to make sure everyone felt welcomed and felt like they belonged.

ANTIGONISH: StFX’s Board of Governors was pleased to welcome Andrew Hakin as the university’s 19th President and Vice-Chancellor. Hakin assumed the role on July 1.

Interim President Kevin Wamsley resumed his role as StFX’s Academic Vice-President and Provost.

Hakin came to StFX from the University of Lethbridge where he began as a faculty member in 1989 and served as Provost and Vice President (Academic) since 2007.

During his tenure, Hakin led the strategy to redefine the University of Lethbridge as a destination university with a strong focus on undergraduate and graduate student experience, leading to important advances in academic programming and significant growth in enrolment, both domestic and international.

A champion of diversity and inclusion, he was recognized for his contributions to education within indigenous communities.

Andrew Hakin became StFX university’s 19th President and Vice-Chancellor on July 1.

CANSO: Tittle Bridge, the only link from Durrell’s Island to Canso, collapsed on July 7 under the weight of a transport truck and crane as contractors were hauling equipment on site to begin construction on a replacement bridge.

The aging structure, which was built in 1950, was scheduled to be replaced this summer.

The small island community of Durrell’s Island is home to 11 families and approximately 30 people, and work was already underway to re-establish the link to the island.

Antigonish-based Alva Construction, which was awarded the tender, was in the beginning stages of their work when the bridge collapsed as they were trying to transport a Terex HC80 crane to be used during construction of the new bridge.

GUYSBOROUGH: Six inpatient beds that were unavailable at the Eastern Memorial Hospital re-opened, something the warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) said would help.

The beds were closed in May 2019, due to a shortage of Registered Nurses (RN) and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) put them back into rotation on July 5.

The hospital said it was able to recruit four RNs to the facility and had a “full complement” of nursing staff.

They received a lot of support in its recruitment efforts from the MODG, who financially contributed to increase incentives to hire nurses, the Eastern Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Canso and Area Stakeholder Working Group.

Warden Vernon Pitts indicated the beds don’t solve their long-term problems since they required more doctors in the community.

He advised the new nurses and re-opened unit show the extraordinary work everyone has done in the recruitment process – but they still had an uphill battle.

ANTIGONISH: As StFX was one of two universities across the province to welcome students back to campus for an in-person fall semester, the school also required their students to sign a COVID-19 liability waiver to attend classes.

By signing the waiver, students would relinquish certain legal rights, including the right to sue or claim compensation for the “loss, damage, illness, sickness, expense or injury including death…as a result of COVID-19 risks.”

Sarah Elliot, president of the StFX Students Union indicated a lot of people had strong feelings surrounding the waiver, while student opinions remain mixed, and some even feel pressured into signing it since it had tp be signed by August 1 or their student account would be suspended.

The lack of communication and consultation surrounding the waiver, and the necessity of a waiver itself, led to uncertainty and apprehension about how StFX was dealing with the pandemic.

The waiver was required because the university was informed that insurance providers were not going to cover COVID-19 claims in the upcoming year; and the legal language was severe, but needed to be as straight forward as possible.

Officials with StFX University unveiled their plan for students to return to campus and hold in-person classes during two separate virtual meetings on July 15.

ANTIGONISH: Officials with StFX University unveiled their plan for students to return to campus and hold in-person classes during two separate virtual meetings on July 15.

The university started a phased-in return to work plan for its employees, according to vice president of finance and administration, Andrew Beckett.

Many participants of the virtual meetings had concerns surrounding the impact returning students would have on the community, resulting in questions about the preparedness level of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, the risk of potential outbreaks, and how the university would monitor isolating and sick students.

Students who completed their self-isolation, or who were not required to quarantine, were issued a green wrist bracelet. Throughout the month of September, all students needed to have a green bracelet to enter all academic or administrative buildings on campus.

StFX President Andy Hakin said there was no zero-risk scenario with as many as 1,500 students returning to Antigonish.

ANTIGONISH: The end of the town’s regular council meeting became slightly heated when councillor Jack MacPherson asked to discuss the town’s official position on the re-opening of StFX.

MacPherson was advised his request was too late, and that it was going to be added to the agenda of the next council meeting, but the next regular council meeting for the Town of Antigonish was in September, after students returned to campus, something he suggested was too late.

Following the meeting Laurie Boucher, the town’s mayor, advised the re-opening plan was made in consultation with and accepted by provincial health experts.

Highlighting council’s feeling on the university’s decision are irrelevant, because it’s a provincial decision, Boucher noted, adding the plan is only on paper, but it gave her confidence that it was vetted by public health officials.

PORT HASTINGS: A former Port Hawkesbury town councillor and deputy mayor was the first person to announce their intention to run in the newly restored riding of Richmond.

Trevor Boudreau announced that he filed his nomination papers to become the candidate for the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party in the constituency of Richmond for the next provincial election.

Months after leaving Port Hawkesbury Town Council because he moved outside town limits, Boudreau said it was important to get out early given the uncertainty of when the provincial election will take place.

Boudreau said he was approached to run for the Tories in Cape Breton-Richmond four years ago, and he felt the timing wasn’t right then, since he was still on town council and had a number of priorities he wanted to see to completion in the town.

Having served as a town councillor for almost eight years, Boudreau said he understands the need for collaboration and cooperation between the three levels of government, the business community and community-minded citizens to see opportunities become reality.

GUYSBOROUGH: A four-day work week was seeing positive results, according to the Warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG).

Employees throughout the municipality began their reduced work week in June. Divided into two teams, one group works Monday-Thursday, while the other works Tuesday-Friday.

During their monthly council meeting on July 22, councillors passed the first reading of their expanded hours and four-day week policy.

Following the meeting, Vernon Pitts advised COVID-19 initiated the change in operations, but he suggested it was something the municipality had been considering even before the global pandemic.

All employees were given the option to remain on the standard five-day rotation, and not a single person accepted the offer.

Pitts advised the four-day week has resulted in a more efficient model so far, and the municipality will decide if they’ll continue with the reduced work week on a permanent basis in January.