The Town of Brome Lake had seven employees when it was first formed in 1971. Today it has 41. In 1971 the town had an annual budget of $901,040 ($6.1 millon when adjusted for inflation); today, it is close to $15 million.
The Town Hall was on the first floor of the old courthouse; the Town of Brome Lake police department was on the second floor. The complement of town workers included two police officers, and Richard Burcombe, the current mayor, was hired by the town as a policeman in the summer of 1971. The town had its police force until 2005.
Richard Burcombe is a link to the past, being the only current municipal official who was working for the town in the year it was founded. The current town hall was the federal Post Office and the town workers, and the police moved to it in 1974. Across the street was a BP gas station, long closed.
There are many reasons for the rise in the number of employees and the municipal budget. Over the years, municipalities across Quebec have had to take on more as the province downloaded responsibilities for things such as roads. “Then there is the environment and construction and the inspectors that we have and the programs for everything which didn’t exist back then,” says Mayor Richard Burcombe.
In 1972 the town had its first significant infrastructure expansion: a sewage system, which meant major construction. Another reason for the expansion of the town staff and budget is population growth.
“We were a population then of 4,000 or 4,500 back then, and there were not many secondary homes, that is people whose permanent address is elsewhere, and who live here quite a bit of the time,” says Mayor Burcombe. “Now we have a permanent population of around 5,600, and we probably have a secondary population of 3,000 people.”
With isolation and the move to rural areas, that secondary population has been expanding. Many of those part-timers are spending more time in the Town of Brome Lake because the area is well served by high-speed Internet connections in many locations.
Back in 1971, Bondville was mostly summer cottages; today, it a prosperous area of four-season houses, and there seems to be constant renovations and construction going on. Speaking of building, there seems to be non-stop work for builders and the town’s two building inspectors. There is also an environment inspector.
If all the projects now before the town were approved, there would be another 500 residences in the town. As it stands now, demand for housing is far outstripping supply. All this means a rise in tax rolls and construction permits. It is not an exaggeration that the town of Brome Lake is awash in cash.
Back in 1971, Knowlton was a bit of a ghost town. There was an expansion of shops and outlets in the 1980s, but then that slowed due to competition from other towns and the Internet. Tourism is headed back up again, in particular the use of the lake and walking and bike paths.
There are also demographic changes.
“Back in 1971, the percentage was probably 80% Anglophone and 20% Francophone, but now it’s probably 60% Francophone and 40% Anglophone” says Mayor Burcombe. “It was a slow-paced town in the 1970s, but now it’s a fast-paced seven-day a week town.”