The past year brought some big news in Surrey, White Rock and North Delta. Some news was good, some news was bad and a lot of news was controversial. Here are our picks for top stories of the year, in no particular order:
SOUTH SURREY CASINO
While the project had been introduced to Surrey council three years ago, a proposed South Surrey casino became one of the hottest issues of the year as council began moving forward with the final stages of the application. It was only then that the public and businesses took notice, and lines were soon drawn between opponents and proponents. While those in favour argued the benefits for Surrey would be many, such as job creation, added revenue and the like, others opposed what the project may mean for the location, the clientele it may draw and the habits it could encourage.
At of the end of 2012, Surrey council was one step away from granting the project final approval, which will come after a public hearing is held on Jan. 14.
EMERGENCY ROOM FLOOD
On the morning of Nov. 19, the bottom floor of Surrey Memorial Hospital flooded when an excavator struck a pipe, causing it to burst and spread muddy water 18 inches deep throughout the emergency room, X-ray unit and Rapid Assessment Zone. "They were calling the Code Orange and then not even a minute later, they were like, 'If you can walk, run. There's water coming,'" said Jennesa Reddekopp, who was in the waiting room with about a dozen other patients at the time. Twenty-five ER patients were relocated within SMH and incoming patients were triaged to other hospitals, including Royal Columbian Hospital and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. Peace Arch Hospital saw an extra 100 patients in the two days after the flooding. The damage was estimated to cost about $3 million, though it could double depending on how many repairs are needed on the hospital's MRI machine. All damages will be covered by insurance.
PORT MANN BRIDGE SAGA
It's virtually impossible to find a person in these parts who doesn't hold a strong opinion about some aspect of the new eight-lane Port Mann Bridge.
Commuters groaned heavy groans in 2012 about having to pay tolls to drive across the Port Mann, and will no doubt continue to do so until the toll finally lifts in 2050 (or so they say).
The bridge pretty much outdid itself at drawing headlines when toward the end of 2012, during what will be remembered as an infamous snow storm in these parts, it rained ice bombs from on high upon unfortunate commuters below.
The provincial government says taxpayers won't be on the hook for bridge upgrades to prevent this from happening again.
We shall see.
LOCALS MAKE OLYMPIC HISTORY
It had been four years since the last Summer Olympics and for the 2012 Summer Games, London would be the world's stage for the latest and greatest athletes of the world to compete. Of those athletes, a few notable Canadians hailed from the Surrey/White Rock area. Who could forget White Rock's Christine Girard, who became the first Canadian woman to win a medal in weightlifting for her bronze-medal performance in the 63-kilogram division?
After coming so close in years previous, Girard was able to muster everything she had to put on a historic performance, landing her on the podium. Additionally, former South Surrey swimmer Richard Weinberger demonstrated his potential for even more greatness following his bronze medal performance in the men's open water marathon. It was Weinberger's first time at the Olympics.
NEW GARBAGE BINS
In October, the City of Surrey rolled out its Rethink Waste program, urging residents to separate their waste into garbage, recycling and organic bins to reach the city's goal of diverting 70 per cent of the region's waste from landfills by 2015. In the first month, residents were well on their way with 35 per cent of waste being redirected.
"We've felt that we would get to a 50 per cent drop in garbage in about two years' time, but given that we have 35 per cent right off the top, we're thinking we'll get to the 50 per cent much sooner," said Rob Costanzo, deputy manager of operations with the city.
Despite a few bumps - glitches with bin delivery and jammed phone lines angered residents, and a garbage truck accidentally snagged on some low-hanging power lines - the city considers the program to be a success. Starting in 2015, organic waste will be banned from landfills.
TEACHERS' LABOUR DISPUTE
The year also saw the continuation of the teacher job action that began in the latter half of 2011, with many teachers in Surrey no longer partaking in extra-curricular activities and walking off the job in different instances. The job action was meant to shine a light on the troublesome dispute between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government over contract negotiations.
That job action ended in summer 2012 though, when teachers were legislated back to work, with negotiations set to resume the same time a year later. Whether or not that means students and parents can expect a return to job action and reduced teacher involvement remains to be seen.
PIT BULL DEBATE
An attack on a four-year-old girl in White Rock prompted calls for the breed to be banned at all levels of government this past summer. The attack, which saw Elizabeth Cranford's daughter, Emma, receive around 40 stitches to her face and neck, ended up being a catalyst for revisiting the wide-ranging debate. On one side, some argued it was not the breed but rather the owners that should be blamed, while others claimed it was the breed's genetic makeup that led to the aggression. White Rock council was also asked to vote on banning the breed, which it decided against, saying the issue should be left up to the province.
A young humpback whale washed up on the beach in White Rock in June, sparking a lot of interest from curious families and scientists alike.
The humpback beached itself in Semiahmoo Bay after becoming tangled in fishing lines, possibly from a drag net or bottom fishing operation. It was quite emaciated with its blubber essentially all gone, according to scientists.
A post-mortem examination of the whale showed it was starved due to the length of its migration from around Hawaii and being unable to eat due to the fishing line wound around its body. The cetacean then suffered secondary health problems such as bacterial infection.
The carcass was towed offshore to a place where it can decompose naturally.
Eventually, the whale's skeleton will be publicly displayed and used for educational purposes.
Subsequent talk of a life-sized whale statue on the beach was nixed.
BORDER GUARD SHOT
The year also proved to be a tragic one for border guards in South Surrey, as one of their own was the victim of a shooting by a Seattle man in October. Lori Bowcock, who only arrived in the region earlier this year from Ontario, was working her booth at the Peace Arch Border when Andrew Michael Crews pulled up in his van and shot her in the neck.
Crews then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide. While Bowcock's wound was extremely serious, she did survive, and is currently recuperating.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the Peace Arch Border was shut down for the day, with dozens of motorists being stranded in the area.
As for the shooter, a motive has yet to be released by police, but it had been noted that Crews, a Seattle-based tattoo artist, was going through some difficulties in life.
WHITE ROCK BYELECTION
With the passing of White Rock Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson in June, White Rock voters were faced with a fall byelection to determine who would fill the gap on council. Following a lengthy campaign that drew nine candidates gunning for the spot, local businessman Bill Lawrence emerged victorious. Lawrence, owner and operator of the Sandpiper Pub and Restaurant and accompanying liquor store, campaigned heavily on his business background.
"I felt I could provide businesses with a voice and... if I can affect some level of change that can benefit them, it would be perfect," said Lawrence following his swearing-in in November.
Compiled by staff