A few years ago the godfather of the ambitious Cotton Mill redevelopment project was singing praises for the removal of ugly oil storage tanks on a large chunk of federal government waterfront property; it was heralded as a great leap forward in the rejuvenation of the long neglected defunct factory region of the city.
On Monday, while surveying the steel work being erected on the same piece of property, Chuck Charlebois was singing from a different song book.
"It doesn't make any sense," Charlebois told a bevy of protesters. "It has to stop."
The feds have leased the property to a company that is in the process of building what is believed to be a storage facility for a liquid used to melt ice on roads in the winter and control dust in the summer.
Since the feds aren't required to engage in the paper work - permits, site plan, etc. - that is normally required for such projects when the unwashed are involved, city hall was kept in the dark.
It wasn't until last week when Seaway News editor Todd Lihou broke the story, after getting a tip, and tracked down the company that has leased the property, that the project became public information.
MP Guy Lauzon was just as surprised as everyone else when he first heard of the project last week. He needs to be asking some questions over at Transport Canada.
The feds haven't broken any rules or laws but one has to wonder why, knowing the residential and commercial development plans for the area, the city wasn't consulted. The feds seem to have taken an arrogant "It's our property and we'll do what we want with it" attitude.
On the other hand, one has to wonder if the city ever discussed the property and future uses with the feds. A former city councillor claims that the issue was raised in a closed meeting years ago. The feds offered the city a stake in the property for $1 with the condition that enter into an agreement with Akwesasne. Council, he said, rejected the partnership proposal.
In Johnny-come-lately fashion, council Monday night expedited a bylaw aimed at trying to nix the project. It might be too late for the city to try and take steps to force the project to cease without inviting costly litigation that it would not have much chance of winning. Meanwhile, the company has every legal right to continue building the project. If the project does stop, no doubt the company will want to be compensated for the money it has spent. One thing should be clear: No way should local taxpayers be put on the hook.
For city hall, this is a classic case of trying to shut the barn door after the horse gets out.
THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR Back before political correctness took hold of the public school system, the Cornwall Collegiate Christmas Christmas concert in the school auditorium with the loveable head custodian Alfie Tabram Sr. playing Santa. ... Loud speakers outside some of the downtown stores blasting out Christmas music at this time of year. ... The Andy Williams, Lawrence Welk, Perry Como (one featured Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and seven of their children), Tennessee Ernie Williams and Bob Hope Christmas specials watched on a black and white 21-inch Philco television. Hope was at his best in the specials from Vietnam. In 1967 the curvaceous bombshell Raquel Welch, resplendent in white boots, sweater and mini skirt, was part of the tour of 21 bases. ... Bing Crosby singing his signature Christmas tune, "White Christmas. ... The Amos and Andy Christmas show on radio. ... The Lucky Strike "Your Hit Parade" Christmas Eve special. ... The annual Howard Smith Paper Mill children's Chistmas party at Cornwall Armoury and a thousand excited kids singing "Here Comes Santa Claus" as the big steel door rolled up and Old St. Nick arrived riding in the back of a convertible. ... Santa Claus reading letters to the North Pole from Cornwall and area kids on CKSF radio. I think WMSA in Massena still carries on with the tradition. ... The Christmas Day family movie at the Capitol Theatre. There were four showings starting at 1 p.m.
TRIVIA ANSWER In 1942 the Department of Munitions and Supply expropriated parts of three farms west of the city (Cumberland Street), a total of 318 acres. By the end of 1943 a wartime chemical plant was up and running. The facility housed 50 buildings surrounded by a fenced topped with barbed wire and armed guards standing watch. The plant, which employed 300, was called Stormont Chemicals and one of the deadly chemicals it produced and stored was mustard gas. By the end of the war, 2,000 gallons of the nerve agent were in storage. The government packed it up in steel barrels and shipped it out to sea where it was dumped.
TRIVIA In the early 1900s Cornwall had a brewery called St. Lawrence Breweries Ltd. that sold "Cornwall Ale" coast to coast. Where was the plant?
HERE & THERE A Cornwall native and graduate of La Citadelle high school is chief of Kingston Police Service. Gilles Larochelle, who has been on the KPS job since June, spent 33 years with the Ottawa police force, climbing up the ranks to deputy chief. ... Brockville Police Services Board has tapped one of its own to move into the chief's office on Jan. 1. Insp. Scott Fraser, who has 15 years service with the Brockville force, will serve as interim chief until May 31, when the outgoing chief's contract runs out. The chief is on paid leave of his contract for what is called time owing. Wow, the guy must have been a workaholic. That works out to around 800 hours of "overtime". ... Cornwall hasn't had a chief from its own ranks since Earl Landry was chief from 1974-82. Current Deputy Chief Danny Aikman is the first dep to come up through the ranks since who knows when. ... Stop the press. Break out the Armageddon fonts. An extensive investigation has uncovered somebody (a custodian) working at Hydro One and Ontario Power Generaton headquarters who will miss making the Ontario Sunshine list of $100,000-plus income earners for 2013. ... Why do we pass bylaws when we can't enforce the ones that are on the books?
SPORTS STUFF One word for the 2013 Grey Cup: Boring! ... The Farmer's Almanac is calling for a snowstorm in the New York area the first week of February. This is of interest because Super Bowl XLV III will be played at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Feb. 2. It is an open-air stadium. No roof. ... According to the MetLife Stadium website, as of Monday there are still some Super Bowl tickets available, but they don't come with traditional stocking stuffer prices. Upper level end zone and corner seats, up where the pigeons roost, are going for $2,350 each. Those up-close and personal seats at midfield start at $9,466. Plus tax, of course. ... Andy Petepiece and Mike Heenan did a great job with Jockfest III gathering last Wednesday at the Navy Club. Good turnout of old sweats including out-of-towners Jean Payette, Barry Doyle, Rod Marshall, Jimmy MacPhee, George Rylands and Pat Rowe. Freshly minted CFL Hall of Famer Moe "The Toe" Racine got a standing "O". ... If NHL players get a flu shot why do teams have the flu bug sweeping through NHL dressing rooms during the season?
ONE LAST THING Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home.