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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.
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!