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Grande Prairie, Alberta • Volume 97 • Issue 128


Monday, January 2, 2011

2011: Year In Review

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: JANUARY First babies hearing was put off to Jan. co-ordinator, said Jan. 5.

Th e f i r st b aby b o r n i n Grande Prairie in 2011 was Cooper Long born at the QEII Hospital at 6:41 a.m. New Year’s Day, weighing seven pounds and one ounce. Mom Valerie and dad Cameron are from Dawson Creek. Cooper is their third son, joining brothers Hunter, 6, and Jaxon, 2. And he wasn’t supposed to be a New Year’s baby at all: His due date was Jan. 28. The first baby born in the Peace Country for 2011 was at the Northwest Health Centre in High Level. Kai Gerbrandt was born at 3:07 a.m. Jan. 1, weighing eight pounds and 11 ounces, to parents Daniel and Beverly Gerbrandt of High Level. Kai has two siblings – five-year-old sister Taylor, and three-year-old brother Kaden. •••

Landfill life

Grande Prairie’s landfill life has been extended to 2034 from its predicted demise back in 2008. When the landfill was built in 1998, the city expected it to close within 20 years which won’t be the case, said Marcedes Braumberger, Aquatera’s landfill operations manager. Aquatera recently built a second bioreactor cell in 2010 which will be in operation this year. The first bioreactor was built in 2006. •••

Peace bond stayed

A peace bond application sought against Wiebo Ludwig, son Benjamin Ludwig and neighbour Richard Boonstra was stayed indefinitely in early January 2011, less than a month before a scheduled hearing. The peace bond was filed in February 2010 on behalf of Encana Corporation, Canadian Superior Energy and Seaview Energy out of fear of potential injury to their employees or damage to their property. After several delays, the

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24-28, 2011, but that will not now happen until an undetermined time in the future, if at all, a spokesman for Alberta Justice said Jan. 3. •••

The land-use bylaw details that residents are only allowed to park on paved areas. The city could issue a minimum fine of $500, which can increase each day depending how long a person is in contravention she said. They’d also do an investigation into why it’s an issue, she added. •••

Gonnet mourned

Bathroom baby

A young Grande Prairie couple’s first child proved to be an experience they can tell stories about for years to come. Devin Goodheart and Kayla Wilson expected their baby, Jazmin, to arrive fairly soon after they left the QEII Hospital the night of Sunday, Jan. 2 – but not on the bathroom floor. Kayla, 18, had been napping a few hours later, around 12:30 a.m. Monday, when she awoke to their baby girl “trying to come out all of a sudden.” A week overdue, Kayla had been induced at the hospital Sunday but was only two centimetres dilated and returned home to wait out the onset of labour. As Devin, 21, and his mother, Kathy Goodheart, prepared to take Kayla back to the QEII, the mom-to-be took a quick bath to relax. She was in the tub at 1:30 a.m. when she felt her water break. “She got out of the tub and the baby came out,” Devin said succinctly. Baby Jazmin weighed seven pounds, seven ounces. •••

No lawn parking

Grande Prairie residents aren’t allowed to park on their lawns according to city bylaws. But it’s handled on a situational basis, Valerie NorrisKirk, the city’s development


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The superintendent of the Grande Prairie Public School District died suddenly Jan. 10. The news GoNNet s e n t s h o c kwaves and disbelief throughout the community. Chris Gonnet was described as a man with educational vision, leadership and commitment to the staff and students in the district. He was the public superintendent since 2006. Board chairwoman Karen Prokopowich expressed great sadness for Gonnet’s family. “The staff and students of the district have benefited greatly from Chris’s love of education and he will be greatly missed,” she said. •••

Idling bylaw

City of Grande Prairie staff could take the first step in reducing vehicle fumes. Council’s environment committee unanimously recommended Jan. 17 an idling reduction polic y for city employees as of Feb. 1. Workers will be required to reduce their idling time to less than three minutes when temperatures are within the range of -10C to -25C. The internal policy applies to full-time and contract workers who operate vehicles owned or being compensated by the city.     •••

Crime stats

Crime in Grande Prairie for 2010 is on par with previous years with increases and decreases in some categories, said Insp. Peter Puszka of the Grande Prairie RCMP. Reported persons crimes rose to 1,839 in 2010 from 1,729 in 2009 and assaults rose to 961 from 872. Reported property crimes also increased to 5,017 from 4,985. But there were decreases in collisions to 2,372 in 2010 from 2,566 in 2009 and impaired drivers arrested decreased to 238 from 331. Reported drug offences also dropped to 397 in 2010 from 437 in 2009. While reported violations to the RCMP dropped in 2010 to 31,584 from 38,086 in 2009, those numbers still need to be updated, Puszka said. •••

leaving the city with only its arsenal of six graders, four plow trucks, five front-end loaders with angle blades, five dump trucks and one snow blower for cleaning windrows. Residential areas had to wait until GP Transit routes were cleared, said transportation services manager Robert Carroll, and work on started on them at mid-week. For the month of January, 70 centimetres (28 inches) of snow fell, twice normal. Meanwhile, Carroll rejected rumours circulating on social media networks that snow removal crews did not work on the weekend when the snow hit. The city invests $6 million annually on snow plowing and ice control. •••

Fire numbers in Grande Prairie in 2010 jumped to 609 from 382 which the bulk of those occurring in the spring, said Dan Lemieux, the city’s fire chief. Meanwhile, the fire department’s 911 calls rose drastically to 41,329 in 2010 from 35,410 in 2009.   •••

An announcement on the design firm that will build the long-awaited $520 million regional hospital in Grande Prairie is imminent, Infrastructure Minister Ray Danyluk said Jan. 20 Danyluk was one of several cabinet ministers who accompanied Premier Ed Stelmach to Grande Prairie as part of the two-day Growing the North conference at the TEC Centre at Evergreen Park.  •••

Fire stats

Bylaw stats

Motor vehicle collisions where GP Enforcement Services was needed dropped to 49 from 82 comparing 2010 to 2009. Parking offences jumped to 10,245 from 6,600, which Sgt. Gordon McMahon attributes to the increased commissionaires for enforcement. •••

Let it snow?

City snow removal crews were still working on clearing bus routes five days after 35 cm of snow fell on Grande Prairie over the Jan. 15-16 weekend. But because more snow fell at mid-week, several private contractors were not available to help because they had their regular customers. It put a crimp in plowing,

Hospital news

Rates climb

Grande Prairie residents will pay higher utility rates at the beginning of March. Council passed amendments to Aquatera Utilities’ bylaws to accommodate the increases in an 8-1 vote Jan. 24. Coun. Kevin McLean was the lone dissenter. The hikes apply to sewer, water and garbage collection, ranging from 3% to 9.7% in 2011 and 2012. The residential curbside recycling charge will take effect Sept. 1 starting at $4.39 and will likely rise to $4.52 in 2012 to accommodate the increased cost of providing the service.   •••

100th celebrated

The Grande Prairie Public School District marked a century of teaching local children in JanuRAdboURNe ary 2011 and a gala event for the public was held Jan. 24 at Maude Clifford school. Speakers included Coun. Lorne Radbourne, who got his schooling in the city, eventually embarking on a 35-year career as a teacher, principal and ultimately superintendent of the school district. The school district was established in 1911, the third in the South Peace, preceded by Spirit River and Beaverlodge. The first schoolhouse was built near 100 Street and 98 Avenue. The initial 13 students were taught by Irvin Macklin, a recent settler from Ontario who took the job for $60 a month. •••

Stelmach resigns

Premier Ed Stelmach’s resignation announcement Jan. 25 sent shockwaves throughout the Peace StelmAch Country. Stelmach indicated that after 25 years in public service he was not prepared to stay on for another term and opted to bow out. “ I wa s s u r p r i s e d . Th i s wasn’t something that I foresaw coming and I think it really comes as a surprise to the rest of the province, “ said Mayor Bill Given. “It came as a surprise to me,” Peace River MP Chris Warkentin said. Stelmach said he would stay on as premier until a leadership convention is held to choose his successor.   •••

Happy New Year from the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune Staff • Nancy Asegurado • Graeme Bruce • Melita Beltran • John Bradley • Randhir Bhinder • Nida Charest • Alan Carlson • Charlene Chwyl • Mary Dewhurst

• Corrina Darke • Ivan Danielewicz • Miriam Dore • Osias Dieto • Darlene Fritz • Terry Farrell • Phyllis Finch • Florence Glowaski • Ashley Gentles

• Melonie Gillis • Kirsten Goruk • Aaron Hinks • Lisa Hollis • Cody Hodges • Crystal Hodges • Fern Hickson • Sylvia Hovdebo • Dan Ilika

• Adam Jackson • Yvette Jadlong • Janeen Knapp • Ranjini Keerthikumar • Kim Letendre • Cristina Limun • Brenda MacFadden • Gerald Melrose • Ginnifer Mira

• Jane McRae • Lorraine Mailman • Peter Meyerhoffer • Mark Nilsson • Elvira Nordhagen • Chinenye Obiajulu • Erilin Pelton • Liezl Pasion • Diana Rinne

• Fred Rinne • Leonila Rollke • Connie Sandboe • Dianna Shaver • Joseph Sollano • Carmen Salcedo-Tarapaski • Margaret Steele • Michael Sutherland-Shaw • Patsy Scuralli • Shirley Thompson

780-532-1110 •

Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012


2011 In Review: FEBRUARY Appointments Aq u a t e ra’s s h a re h o l d ers appointed six new public members to the company’s board of directors, Three appointments will be effective immediately, while three additional members will begin their terms after the annual general meeting in June. The utility company, owned by the City and County of Grande Prair ie and S exsmith, agreed last summer to instate only public members approved by the shareholders. Members beginning immediately are Abe Neufeld, local business owner, Darren Kjemhus, of ATB Financial and ATB Corporate Financial Services, and Kenneth Cory, past executive vice-president of finance and administration at Epcor Utilities Inc. Chris Labossiere, the president of the provincial board for the Alberta Party, David Urness, a chartered accounta n t , a n d Ji m S m i t h w h o worked between Procter & Gamble Cellulose and Weyerhaeuser, will start in June. •••


The City of Grande Prairie is still in the early stages of annexing land from the county. If everything goes smoothly, the city could annex lands by the beginning of 2013, said Stuart Wraight, a planner with the city. The city and county agreed on an area of possible annexation in their Intermunicipal Development Plan last June. The short-term annexation area is 6,316 hectares (15,607 acres) over the next 30 years. The long-term area is another 7,073 hectares (17,478 acres) over the next 50 years. The city is currently 7,345 hectares (18,150 acres). Meanwhile, the city sent out initial letters to landowners within the proposed

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annexation area and notified the Municipal Government Board of an coming application last November. •••

Pool stays

The city is looking to go ahead with a new Muskoseepi Park water spray park despite a change of location. Since the Bear Creek outdoor pool is staying put for at least another summer season, the spray park will be built north of the asphalt path by the tennis courts. C o u n c i l ’s c o m m u n i t y development committe e unanimously backed a proposal from City Hall administration to reallocate $102,000 in approved capital funds for converting the pool to a spray park to the spray park itself. •••

Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce Chamber Ball John Simpson, chairman of the chamber in 1996, was named the recipient of the Clem E. Collins Award for his volunteer work within the chamber. The remaining award winners were ATB Financial with the Dan H. Minchin Award for its longstanding contributions to the community and the chamber, and Jim and Mary Helen Boccioletti (who were not present), owners of the Canadian Tire store, named Business Citizens of the Year. •••

Farm family


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Foothills, and Smoky, which includes Grande Prairie. The contractors are employing 600 workers – more than half of them in the Smoky area – to remove more than 169,000 trees. Work began in mid-January and is scheduled to be completed by March. •••

Traffic lights are going up at the intersection of Highway 40 and Highway 668, the Correction Line Road south of the city. Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette gave the good news to the County of Grande Prairie council in a private meeting. No date was finalized. •••

After a long and dry summer caused problems for livestock producers getting feed for animals – in some cases having to move animals south to greener pastures – the federal and provincial governments offered relief. About $25 million has been set aside for the Peace Country for the 2010 CanadaAlberta Feed Transportation program. Livestock producers will be eligible for up to 22 cents per ton/mile to bring feed in to the animals or 10 cents per head per loaded mile to bring the animals to the feed – whichever makes sense for each individual operation. The announcement was made at Evergreen Park, at the Old Timers Cabin. •••

Lights at the line

Big China deal

Chamber winners

A year ago Debbie Reid was having many a sle epless night as she was putting the finishing touches REID on the Arctic Winter Games. After worrying for weeks about the effect the sagging economy would have on the budget and whether enough volunteers were going to step forward, everything came together. Reid and her staff at the AWG Host Society and the city hosted an athletic competition that was acclaimed by many for its structure and organization. The result was a legacy of more than $500,000 cash and capital items. Now, almost a year after the conclusion of the Games, Reid and the more than 2,000 volunteers were recognized for their efforts when they were named the recipients of the 2010 Above & Beyond Award at the 92nd annual Grande

and Poplar Drive will not get tax refunds they requested to compensate for lost revenues while the road was under construction last summer. The amount asked for totalled $34,200. Council denied the request citing the setting of a dangerous precedent. •••

Bob and Shirley Patterson of Bezanson are the County of Grande Prairie’s 2011 Farm Family, a recognition of their lifetime legacy in the area. “We were quite surprised,” said Bob. The award is given by the county every year to a family that demonstrates a combination of quality farming practices and a lifetime of community involvement. The award will be presented to the Pattersons at the Peace Country Classic Agri-Show banquet March 11.    •••

Appeal denied

You can’t always get what you want, a group of southside business owners was told Wednesday by city council’s general government services committee. Several businesses along the stretch of 68 Avenue between Resources Road

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Canada’s largest producer of natural gas has proposed to sell half of its interests in a Peace Country formation to a state-owned petroleum corporation in China, pending approval from the federal government. Encana announced the proposed sale of half the rights in the 635,000-acre Cutbank Ridge formation along the Peace Country’s Alberta-British Columbia border. PetroChina offered $5.4 billion for the resource-rich area, and both parties await approval from the Canada’s Minister of Industry. •••

Beetle battles

The annual fight against the mountain pine beetle is well under way and hundreds of workers are removing infested trees in four areas surrounding Grande Prairie. Over the last six weeks, the province provided $15 million and has awarded more than 30 contracts for detection and removal work in four Sustainable Resource Development forest management areas -Lesser Slave, Woodlands,

Drought relief

Hospital plan

Th e n e w G ra n d e P ra i rie Regional Hospital is earmarked for funding in the 2011-2014 provincial government’s capital spending plan, although no specific dollar amount is attached. The proposed $520 million hospital is part of $17.6 billion the government pegged in its infrastructure spending intentions in its budget, including $6.6 billion on schools, highways, health facilities, and municipal infrastructure in 2011-12. •••

Snow business

It isn’t as bad as the last time a heavy dump of snow came down on Grande Prairie, but police still suggest motorists remember to drive for the road conditions while this weather lasts. Snow fell over the city for much of Februar y’s final weekend. Meanwhile temperatures were sitting in the -20s to -30s, not including wind chill, creating a frozen system of roadways. Since Friday evening (Feb. 25) there have been 29 motor vehicle collisions. Some can be attributed to the weather, some not so much. “Those are mostly fenderbenders,” said Cst. Ellen Archibald of the Grande Prairie RCMP. “ ( I n s o m e c a s e s ) i t ’s because people aren’t driving for the road conditions.”

State of City

Grande Prairie is in a state of flux, and the year 2011 is a time for the city to lay the groundwork for future suc-

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cess, said Mayor Bill Given. In his first State of the City address, he said it ’s important GIVEN for council to create a new strategic plan that isn’t just a revision of past plans. “At the start of this new term and budget cycle, it’s more important than ever that council forms a collective vision of where we believe the community needs to go,” Given told a room of 124 people at the Quality Hotel & Conference Centre. •••

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2000 1951


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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: MARCH Bickell honoured

Roy Bickell and Donald S. Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. It’s not every day you get a newly-completed bridge leading the way to a nearby dinosaur bone bed named after you. But at Pipestone Creek Park, Roy Bickell stood atop the Bickell Bridge. It’s also not every day Donald S. Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, appears to offer words of pride in your project. But he told those involved in the River of Death and Discovery Dinosaur project what he believed it means for all Albertans. This was not what Bickell expected to happen when he found his first fossils in the 1960s doing work for Canfor along the Cutbank River, about 80 km south of Grande Prairie. The official unveiling of the Bickell Bridge near the county’s Pipestone Creek Park alongside the Wapiti River south of Wembley marked the completion of the first stage of the dinosaur museum project. The bridge offers new access to the Pipestone bone bed, nestled just 85 yards away along a ridge. •••

Con recaptured

Escaped convicted killer William Wade Bicknell is back in custody after an armed standoff near Sexsmith on Saturday afternoon and evening. In the wake of the incident, Bicknell and one police officer required medical attention. Spirit River RCMP had been chasing the 42-year-old, 500 pound fugitive, after receiving word he was at a rural residence in the Sexsmith area. When they caught up with him on the snowy roads of the County of Grande Prairie, Bicknellattempted to flee a growing number of pursuers, including Grande Prairie RCMP. Bicknell was surrounded when his truck ended up in the ditch along Township Road 734, east of Sexsmith near Range Road 55, around 20 km north of Grande Prairie. Police blocked off a portion

of Highway 2 for a time around mid-afternoon Saturday. Bicknell was finally taken into custody around 8:30 p.m. during the day’s final hints of sunlight. Bicknell had been sought by police since escaping from custody March 10 when he overpowered and took hostage a corrections officer. He was on a day pass from Drumheller Correctional Institution. He was serving life, for the second-degree bludgeoning murder of a B.C. woman. •••

Centre closes

The Grande Prairie Regional College pulled out of funding Immigrant Settlement Services. ISS employees, all but one term appointments or parttime, recently received notice of the GPRC decision, effective June 30. After that it would be up to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Alberta Employment and Immigration – the college’s partners with ISS – to decide on its future. •••

New slogan

“Resourcefully inspired” is the newest suggestion on the table for Grande Prairie’s slogan. The general government services committee recommended city council approve the slogan, along w ith a graphic. The proposed slogan was put on the table after council sent “Resourceful, naturally” back to the committee for more tweaking. David Olinger, the city’s marketing and communications manager, said the motto was revamped after hearing councillors’ concerns. •••

Vote set

After months of speculation, a historic vote in Ottawa toppled the Conservative government, paving the way for a May 2 election. In the same week that a House of Commons committee report found the government to be in contempt of Parliament and a budget widely panned by the opposition was tabled, members of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois, banded together in a no-confidence vote to boot the Conservatives from power Friday. It didn’t take long to get the campaign off the ground. Peace River MP Chris Warkentin had signs up Sunday. Following the historic vote -

the sixth no-confidence measure in Parliamentary history and first since 2005 -Warkentin said it means that Canadians will head to the polls in a “costly and unnecessary election.” “We’re coming out of the recession and things are looking good, but now we have the opposition parties throwing us into turmoil,” the Conservative said. “There’s no question that Canada is doing well compared to the rest of the world coming out of the recession, but now is not the time for uncertainty, now is not the time for a costly and unnecessary election,” he said. Jennifer Villebrun, a Valleyview lawyer and the NDP candidate for the Peace River constituency, said the election does not come as a surprise because she says the Conservatives brought it upon themselves. Wayne Kamieniecki, 43, a farmer from the North Peace community of Manning and political neophyte, was officially nominated as the Green Party candidate and said the culture in Ottawa needs to change. •••

Grits choose

When the federal government fell on Friday, triggering an election, the Liberal Party had no candidate in the Peace River constituency. Bu t C o r i na Ga nt o n , a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Alberta, was officially confirmed by Elections Canada as the Liberal flagbearer in the May 2 election. Ganton, president of Alberta Young Liberals, is a native of the east-central town of Vermilion, and has been to the Peace Country a “couple of times”, but says she has family who live and own businesses in Grande Prairie and is looking forward to campaigning in the area over the next month. •••

Pool reprieve

The Bear Creek outdoor pool was saved this summer, but there’ll be a change in staffing. The city will run the facility this season to train more lifeguards in preparation of the move to the Multiplex. For 13 years, the Grande Prairie Piranhas swim club was contracted to run the facility, but this year the city decided to take over. Sarah Smith, head coach and executive director of the

Piranhas, said it was a mutual decision. “We originally took it on partly as a community service and as part of our fundraising,” she said. “We’re a not-forprofit and we look for ways to meet the bottom line.” One loss the group will face is access to pool space as it’ll need to rent pool time, but it could save on administration costs of running the facility, Smith said. The city shifted $89,900 in funding from a proposed new spray park in Muskoseepi Park toward operation of the pool. •••

Hospital design

The Grande Prairie regional hospital is one step closer to reality, with the province picking architectural-engineering firm Dialog to design the $520-million centre. The project will include a state-of-the-art cancer centre, 200 acute-care beds, and a health-care training facility in partnership with the Grande Prairie Regional College. Edmonton-based Dialog starts design work this month; construction is expected to begin by fall on the bypass site just north of Service Plus Inns on land donated by the college. Some health-care services at the new facility should be available by late fall 2014. •••

More slogan

City Hall administration will pull out multiple thesauruses once again to revise Grande Prairie’s proposed new slogan. A sp e cial g eneral g overnment services committee meeting Monday recommended in a 3-1 vote that city council approve “Resourceful, Naturally” as the city’s slogan. Committee chairwoman Coun. Helen Rice was the only naysayer, even though other committee members expressed concerns over the wording. David Olinger, manager of marketing and communications, said city administration recommended the slogan based on the two words being double entendres, or having two meanings. “‘Resourceful’ has a double meaning, clearly the traditional meaning of related to the agriculture and forestry and energy sector in the region. We also looked at it from the perspective as resourceful, as creative, the can-do spirit and ingenuity,” Olinger said.

“When it came to the word ... ‘naturally’ we also saw that as a double meaning as well, as the instinctive of nature in there as well as it’s natural that there’s that resourcefulness going on in both ways.” Rice suggested switching the two words around since it rolls off the tongue more easily. But Olinger said based on research from focus groups held by city staff and Brand Alliance Group, people were more likely to read the slogan as “Natural Resources.” •••

Funding short

The Grande Prairie Public School District is looking at the possibility of losing a portion of its teaching force amid predictions of a $2 million funding shortage for the next school year. “There will be a reduction in the teacher workforce,” said Russell Horswill, associate superintendent, business services, following a board meeting. “80% of our budget is salaries for support staff and teachers, so you’re not going to balance this budget by cutting back on the number of pencils we buy for central office.” The dire prediction comes a week and a half after the provincial budget was tabled. Earlier, both Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools and the Peace Wapiti School Division warned of deficits of at least $1 million for the 2011-12 school year. “At this stage the exercise is going to be how we’re going to balance the budget,” Horswill said of GP Public’s $74.5-million anticipated budget for 2011-12. •••

Youth help

Unemployed youth will have one less place in the city to go to for guidance in landing employment at the end of June. Youth Connections, a program in more than 40 sites across Alberta and run locally by Community Futures of Grande Prairie & Region, was a casualty of last month’s provincial budget. Holly Sorgen, executive director of Community Futures, said the timing of the cancellation was “questionable” at best, pointing to an 11.6% unemployment rate among 15-to- 24-year-olds, compared to the 5.9% overall rate. •••

Run for cancer A n a re a t e e n a g e r h a s pledged to run nearly 1,000 kilometres this spring to raise funds for cancer treatment and research. Fifteen-year-old Dyllan Duperron of Valleyview begins his cross-province run in Lethbridge on Monday. Followed by his mother Boni in a vehicle, Dyllan plans to finish the Today’s Hope, Tomorrow’s Cure run in Grande Prairie, with hopes of generating as much as $30,000 in pledges for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “Our goal is to finish by the end of May, but Dyllan is going to set his own personal goal and try to finish by the end of April,” said Boni Duperron. Dyllan has several family members stricken with cancer, including a great-grandfather and a great-grandmother who died from the disease, as well as two grandparents who survived cancer diagnoses. The Alberta Cancer Foundation estimates more than 15,000 people in the province developed cancer last year, and 6,410 lost their lives to the disease. The provincial numbers are expected to rise to 24,200 new cases by 2025, with 10,300 deaths. •••

Karly’s home For Karly Hilgers, there’s no place like home. But unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Hilgers, 17, didn’t have the luxury of magical ruby slippers to get her back to her friends and family in Grande Prairie. Until two days before, Hilgers was in Japan as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Koriyama, 80 kilometres from the earthquakestricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that is perilously close to a meltdown, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. After an arduous trek across Japan, she stepped through the doors at the Grande Prairie Regional Airport and into the waiting arms of her parents, Kevin Hilgers and Janice McNeice.

Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012


2011 in review: aPriL Foundation 15th To commemorate its 15th anniversary, the Community Foundation of Greater Grande Prairie launched its 15-Hour Giving Challenge on April 15, a unique event challenging the general public to open their hearts and wallets. Keeping w ith the desire to be symmetrical with the number 15, the foundation set a goal of raising $15,000 in 15 hours. The only problem – if one can call it that – is that the goal was surpassed even before the event started. It was announced more t ha n $95,000 was raised, and it was inching closer to six VaVrek figures. “The communit y was unbelievable. We had communit y members and friends and supporters that were calling and stopping in, donating online, they were just unbelievable in supporting all of the different funds of the foundation,” said Tracey Vavrek, the foundation’s executive director. •••

116th upgrades

Major upg r ade s to 116 Street began resulting in closure of the road from 68 Avenue to 84 Avenue, west of the Pinnacle Ridge and Westpoint subdivisions, for most of the summer. En ha ncement s i nclude widening the route to four l a ne s , c r e a t i n g a r a i s e d median and asphalt walking trails, installing street lights and paving the gravel portion of the road. Con st r uc t ion w i l l c ost about $8.4 million, bringing the city closer to the completion of its three-year capital construction projects. Crews would work along 116 Street from 68 Avenue north to 97 Avenue until the end of October. •••

RC cuts

Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools is dealing with funding limitations by

cutting back its services to students. Early budgeting for the 201112 school year revealed Germann $42 million in expenditures at a board of trustees meeting, an estimated $1.3 to $1.4 million less than the funding the Catholic district expects to receive. “If we continue everything that we’re doing we would need an extra $1.3 million,” sa id t he d ist r ic t ’s superintendent Karl Germann. “ We’re a l ready spend i ng about a million dollars more than what the province gave us, so we’re trying to trim out of each area.” Trimming translates into instructional losses equivalent to 3 1/2 full-time teachers, as well as four specialized educational personnel like teaching assistants and aboriginal liaisons. The district’s preliminary budget cuts special education funding from $200,000 to $175,000 for next school year. •••

Museum named

The R iver of Deat h and Discovery Dinosaur Mu s eu m i s no longer – instead t he Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Init iative will give Currie us the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. Cu r r ie’s na mesa ke was announced and the hope is that the name change can only benefit the long-anticipated facility. Count y of Grande Prairie Coun. Ross Sutherland, chairman of t he museum society, made the announcement with a lot of pride. “The River of Death and Discovery Dinosaur Museum (as a name) was chosen nearly 10 years ago,” he said. “Since that time several issues popped up.” Sutherland later elaborated for the press that one of the issues revolved around

the use of the word “death” in the title. “A couple of ou r sponsors came to us initially and said they didn’t like the word ‘death,’” he said. “That, together with a little bit of public pressure from people that they too, individually, didn’t like the word ‘death’ (was why) we held the vote to change the name. And the one that was picked was Dr. Phil Currie.” Sut herla nd sa id Cu r r ie stood out “head and shoulders above the rest.” Currie is a world-renowned paleontologist who helped spearhead work on A lberta’s fossil resources – and on generating interest in them – i n t he 1970s a nd 1980s. He helped found the famed Royell Ty rrell Museum in Drumheller. Over the last 25 years Currie has done extensive work at Pipestone Creek’s bone bed. He is also currently a biological sciences professor for the University of Alberta, and also the Canada Research chair in dinosaur paleobiology. •••

MD acquitted

A Grande Prairie physician charged with multiple sexual assaults was found not guilty on all charges. After a three-week Court of Queen’s Bench trial in January, Dr. Palaniswami Murthiwas in court to hear Madam Justice B.A. Browne’s verdict on the nine charges. Murthi was charged June 25, 2008, based on allegations of a 42-year-old Grande Prairie woman, who later testified at trial that he had repeatedly sexually assaulted her over six years, 2001-2007. The incidents were alleged to have happened bot h at the doctor’s office and several other locations in and around the city, sometimes with one of her four children or members of her family in the room. •••

PW cuts

The Peace Wapiti School Division is cutting the equivalent of 10 full-time teachers in the next school year to deal with budget restrictions.

The decision comes out of t he division’s struggles to hand le a projected $1 million defiLee cit for 2010-11. “Our total teaching staff projected for next year will be 10 fewer,” said deputy superintendent Rodney Lee. “There are a significant number of current employees not on continuing contracts, who we would love to keep, but will not have positions for next year.” The number represents the equivalent to full-time posit ions, meaning t hat more than 10 teachers could lose their jobs. T he f i na ncia l ci rc u mstances have become increasingly grim for Peace Wapiti since the province’s 2011 budget at the end of February. The education portion of the provincial budget has a 4.4% increase in funding for schools, but this is offset by additional funds needed to cover salary raises for teachers next fall, part of a five-year contract between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the province.  •••


The Peace Country might soon receive an unmanned robotic vehicle to be used in dangerous situations. The unit would be similar to what the RCMP K Division in Edmonton uses in certain situations, such as when there are threats of a suspicious package. Jennifer Wood, program co-ordinator for the Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership, told city council’s protective services committee that the unmanned vehicle would be looked at via collaboration with the Grande Prairie Regional College, the Centre for Research & Innovation, and the Peace Region Economic Development Alliance (PREDA). The project is still in its early stages, Wood said, and there is no timetable as to when an unit would be acquired.    •••

Now Brazil If she didn’t before, Karly Hilgers is now a believer in the saying that when one door closes, another one opens. Last month, a door closed on Hilgers in spectacular and tragic fashion. T he 17-yea r-old w as i n Japa n a s a Rot a r y Yout h Exchange student in Koriyama, 60 k ilometres from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged in a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the northeastern part of the country. Thanks in part to heroism displayed by her host father, who drove hours t hrough b ac k r o ad s t o g e t he r t o Tokyo’s airport, Hilgers was able to safely make it back to Grande Prairie on March 16. But no sooner did she arrive than another proverbial door opened. Rotarians in Brazil made an offer to accept any student who was forced to leave Japan after the triple tragedy of earthquake, tsunami, and possible nuclear calamity. And so the decision was easy for Hilgers to finish her term in the southeastern Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. “I’m so excited. I feel like I had to kind of prepare myself to be travelling for the next year,” she said. “I’m buying lots of shorts and other stuff. Getting ready to pack again.”  •••

Body found

Police believe a deceased person found inside a residence t hat burned to t he ground in Spirit River on April 17 is the one who started the fire. The fire was reported in the early-morning hours, prompting response from the Spirit River and Rycroft fire departments, along with Spirit River RCMP, and Emergency Medical Services. The blaze eng ulfed one house, destroy ing it completely; a duplex next door a lso sust a i ned ex tensive damage. Additionally, two houses across t he street received some heat damage to their exteriors. The body – it’s not been

determined whether it was a man or a woman – was located in the destroyed house. There were no other injuries to others as a result of the fire. “A s t h e i n v e s t i g a t i o n en s ue d, a de c e a s e d person was located within the one residence where police believe the fire to have origi n a t e d ,” s a id C p l . C a r ol McKinley of the Grande Prairie RCMP. An exact cause of the fire is still being looked into, but McKinley said police believe the deceased allegedly had a part in the matter. “Our early investigation first shows us that this was likely a deliberately-set fire and again early indications are that it was likely started by t he deceased who was located,” she said. •••

Loop shelved?

The city could scrap a proposed multi-million-dollar downtown couplet, a traffic flow realignment planned for since the 1980s. The couplet aimed to relocate westbound city-centre traffic on 100 (Richmond) Avenue to 101 Avenue by increasing 101 Avenue to three lanes westbound. This was to mirror the number of lanes on 99 Avenue eastbound. Richmond Avenue would revert to two-way traffic in the downtown. There were to be roundabouts installed at the west and east ends of 101 Avenue to connect traffic to 100 Avenue. It’s expected the project would cost the city $7 million. Administration adv ised council’s public works committee to recommend council scrap the project immediately and move ahead with the downtown enhancement plan instead. Public works committee chairman Coun. Dan Wong said administration’s report would help settle the issue once and for all. “If we decided at this point that it’s not worth acquiring land and doing construction over the next two years then it’s a project that definitely needs to not be shelved, but scrapped,” he said.

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: MAY •••

Tories win

With each seat gained, the noise in the Grande Prairie Inn grew from a dull roar to wild exuberance. Supporters of Peace River MP Chris Warkentin realized that not only had Warkentin won a third term but the Conservatives now had a majority with 167 seats. “Looks like this election wasn’t a bad idea after all,” he told the enthusiastic crowd. Tu r n ou t i n t h e r i d i ng eclipsed the 2008 result, with 49.6% of eligible voters casting a ballot. Warkentin won 75.8% of ballots cast, or 36,125 votes. NDP challenger Jennifer Villebrun was second with 16.1% (7,701 votes), followed by Green Party candidate Wayne Kamieniecki with 3.5% (1,691), Liberal Corina Ganton with 3.1% (1,480), Independent Russ Toews with 0.8% (359) and Donovan Eckstrom of the Rhinoceros Party 0.7% (350). “I do want to congratulate the people that ran against me. We had a strong and a good group of people that moved across the Peace Country and campaigned,” Warkentin said. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper won a majority government with the NDP in official opposition, the BQ virtually elinated, and the Liberals reduced to third-party status. Elizabeth May, leader, won the lone Green Party seat.

Established in

Royals wed

When Prince William and Catherine Middleton announced their engagement in November, GPer Bernadette Christie knew immediately that she would be there and she would have the best view. She was right. “As soon as they said it was at Westminster Abbey, I told everybody I would be on the street, right in front of the Abbey and I would have frontrow seat and I did,” she said proudly. Christie, who was born in Wimbledon, England, before moving to Edmonton and then, more than 20 years ago, to Grande Prairie, arrived back home after a whirlwind 10 days, much of it in the media spotlight. She arrived in London on Easter Sunday and visited with relatives before pitching a tent in front of Westminster Abbey the following Tuesday night in advance of the royal nuptials more than 60 hours later, on the Friday morning. “ The atmosphere was amazing. I think one of the biggest surprises was all the free food.”


Run success

Dyllan Duperron finished his 900-kilometre trek across Alberta on Thursday morning. The 16-year-old from Valleyview completed the journey at the doors of the Grande Prairie Cancer Centre at the QEII Hospital behind an RCMP escort, having raised more than $12,000 for the

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delaying their seeding. It’s an irony not lost on some. “We were waiting for three years, now it’s too wet. It’s been from one extreme to the next,” said Harry Schudlo, an operator of his family’s 3,000-acre grains and oilseeds farm near Sexsmith.  •••

Alberta Cancer Foundation. The run began March 14 in Lethbridge, and Duperron admitted to having sore hips, knees and ankles after averaging 35 kilometres of running a day. He went through three pairs of running shoes. “I’m pretty exhausted but it’s been a really good haul and we’ve raised lots of money,” he said at the finish ribbon. •••

Slave Lake help

GPRC grads

Grande Prairie Regional College celebrated its annual convocation with a recordbreaking number of graduates. “The convocation is always the highlight for the college, it’s the whole reason why we are in existence,” said president Don Gnatiuk. “This year was a special celebration because it’s a new record for GPRC, just over 220 graduating students.” Last year there were 201 graduates. The college gymnasium seated 1,200 spectators for convocation and it was standing room only.     •••

Bee-lieve it

With the approval of $925,360 in funding from the Rural Alberta Development Fund, the Centre for Research and Innovation has teamed with the Beaverlodge Research Farm to create a new one-stop shop for all honeybee diagnostics. The program will research honeybee mortality across Alberta and the country. The new initiative at the federal research farm will study the three main contributors to honeybee mortality: Pests, pathogens and parasites. Between 2003 and 2009, there were 605,288 bee colonies in Canada, 237,060 of which were in Alberta. Since Alberta hosts more than onethird of the nation’s colonies, their wellbeing is crucial to the industry.

Established in

“The Peace Country makes up for about 40% of the Alberta beekeeping industry. Alberta is a major honey producer. It’s important to have this type of research facility located in the heart of the region; it will strengthen beekeeping economics,” said Rutley. •••

Mayor chair

Mayor Bill Given had trouble entering City Hall one Tuesday afternoon. After repeated attempts, Given – in a wheelchair for the day to raise accessibility awareness – was unable to get onto the sidewalk ramp in front of City Hall without help. “There were some challenges even getting in the front doors,” he said. “Something as simple as a little bit of gravel made it so that in this chair I wasn’t able to get up the sidewalk.” He even had problems leaving his house to wait for the Grande Prairie Disabled Transportation Society bus to pick him up. Given spent a Tuesday in the wheelchair as part of the inaugural Chair-Leaders Enabling Access event, organized by the local chapter of the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA), which aims to help raise awareness about accessibility around the city.


Busy airport

The Grande Prairie Airport was a beehive of activity in the first three months of the year, recording numbers never before seen, First-quarter figures show 90,964 passengers passed through the airport, eclipsing the record set in 2009 by 6.9%. If passenger traffic holds steady, as airport officials expect, 2011 is poised to be a banner year for the newly renovated and expanded facility. A total of 346,756 people passed through the airport in 2010. In 2009, 335,075 passengers travelled through Alberta’s third-busiest airport, down 5.5% from 2008 when 344,755 people flew in or out of Grande Prairie.  •••

Seeding delayed

Peace Country farmers, ravaged by intense drought, have been clamouring for more rain for years. But now, heavy winter snowfalls have given way to a wet, cool spring – so far – which has resulted in some farmers

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In his more than 30 years’ experience as a firefighter, Capt. Barry Chorney of the Grande Prairie Fire Department has never seen devastation like what he encountered in Slave Lake. “An incredible amount of fire went through that community,” recalled Chorney. “I’ve never seen destruction of this magnitude, where there were houses there is nothing.” Chorney was among the personnel dispatched from Grande Prairie, the County of Grande Prairie, and the Towns of Beaverlodge and Sexsmith to help control the flames that ravaged Slave Lake, located just over 300 kilometres east of Grande Prairie. The fire departments got the call for help at 1 a.m. on May 16, six hours after an evacuation order was issued to the town due to encroaching wildfires. By 2 a.m., 18 personnel from the local detachments were on the road with three fire engines, a water tanker and two support vehicles. They approached the Slave Lake area just after dawn that Monday, noticing signs of what was to come within 40 kilometres of the town. “Even before we entered we were seeing burnt brush, some burnt houses, some houses standing, grass burnt around houses,” said Mike Cooke of the GPFD. “I was a little surprised to see it that far out of town.” “When we first showed up it was still fairly smoky,” said Dan Billingham, a Sexsmith firefighter. “It was quite a different place from what I remembered Slave Lake to be.”

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012


2011 In Review: JUNE Dog crackdown


GP Enforcement Services is tightening the leash on dogs. Officers will be turning up the heat on pet owners this month in Grande Prairie’s parks as incidents of animal attacks rise. “I don’t know why this year is different than any other year but we have just been inundated with a number of conflicts involving off-leash dogs in the park areas,” said Sgt. Gordon McMahon. With attacks on the rise, McMahon said it’s important for enforcement personnel to remind people that dogs must be leashed when they are in public parks. •••

A city teenager has proven to be one of the top computer students in Canada after earning a silver medal at the 2011 Skills Canada National Competition. Bryce Cartman of the Grande Prair ie Composite High returned from the national test of student’s abilities in trades, held in Quebec City on June 2 and 3. The Grade 12 student earned the impressive result in IT and Network Systems Administration, competing against four other top-ranked students from across Canada. Cartman was part of Team Alberta, a group of high school and post-secondary students who had earned the chance to travel to Quebec by attaining top scores in regional and provincial finals earlier this year. Skills Canada is a nonp ro f i t o r g a n i z a t i o n t h a t holds trades competitions to encourage students to apply themselves in areas considered in high demand among industries.   •••

House razed

It was a scary few moments for a Westpointe area resident when a fire ripped through her home. The Grande Prair ie Fire Department along with RCMP and EMS arrived at 1142183 Ave. on the city’s west side just after 9 p.m. where a house was fully ablaze with a threat of spreading to a neighbouring home. Capt. Barry Chorney of the GPFD said the fire originated in the basement and by the time they arrived it was a fully involved structure fire. “It’s highly likely that the fire originated in the basement, but I can’t say 100% until we do further investigation,” said fire prevention officer Rick Dahl.   •••

Dino donation

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is $500,000 closer to being built thanks to a provincial funding announcement. At the same time, Evergreen Park received $100,000. The Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative (PCDI) got the welcome half-million-dollar boost through the Alberta Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP). It will assist the $27 million

Established in

dinosaur and natural history project – formerly known as the River of Death and Discovery Museum – which will house fossils from the Pipestone Creek bone bed and other areas of northwestern Alberta. The 41,000 square foot project will be located at the east entrance to Wembley off of Highway 43. A second CFEP grant of $100,000 went to the Grande Prairie Regional Agricultural and Exhibition Society. The money will go towards the purchase of heavy equipment and materials for maintenance of the facility and riding trails at Evergreen Park.  •••

Sexsmith clinic

The doors to the new Sexsmith Medical Clinic opened, marking a big step in health care for the town. Located at 9805-103 St., the more than $2 million, 6,137 square-foot facility serves an area of about 10,000 patients with two full-time doctors Dr. Francois Oosthuizen and Dr. Rulene Maré. A third doctor will start in September.  •••

SPCA grows

The Grande Prairie Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has completed its final phase of construction on its new west-side facility on 104 Avenue.

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City tattoo and piercing shops’ frustration is more than skin deep as they try to wrap their heads around bylaw enforcement in Grande Prairie. Shops are still trying to make sense of what they describe as a recent crackdown on providing body piercings to customers under 18 years of age. “They apparently changed the (by) laws in 2003 and informed nobody,” said Toni Snydmiller, owner of All the Rage Tattoos. “When I called the city after (they) came in here and started throwing fines around, they said that they can’t inform everyone.” According to a copy of bylaw C-1064, “no tattooing or body-piercing business shall ... display on or in its business location any ... advertisement that suggests or indicates that sexual intercourse or other form of sexual gratification is offered on the premises or ... the services provided include sexual intercourse or other form of sexual gratification.”  •••

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YouTube voice

Brett Olsen’s life took an unexpected twist . The 22-year-old Grande Prairie native discovered he’d been chosen by Googleowned YouTube to be the voice of the company in an upcoming ad campaign. Olsen signed a mini-contract with the company to voice-over 10 commercials that will be aired internationally in movie theatres, on television, and on the Internet. For the foreseeable future, ever y single commercial that YouTube puts out that’s advertising some aspect of the company will feature Olsen’s voice.   •••

Skull ID’d

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Established in

tified. According to police, the Edmonton medical examiner’s office identified one set of human remains as Rene Gunning, who was last seen in Februar y 2005 at West Edmonton Mall. The remains were identified through dental records. Gunning, of Fort St. John, who was 19 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen with Krystle Knott, who is still missing. Police said the two girls allegedly told friends they were planning to hitchhike together to either Dawson Creek or Fort St. John, B.C., on Feb. 18, 2005.  •••

Cairn unveiled

The centennial celebration of the Edson Trail was launched with the unveiling of a special cairn at Kleskun Hills Park. The Homestead Cairn Dedication piece is made up of 164 rocks bearing the names of the first settlers in the area, with the date their land was claimed and the geographical co-ordinates. Some of the rocks display the names of freighters and stagecoach drivers who transported people and supplies to the South Peace. All of the names are of those who crossed the Edson Trail, a 400-kilometre path that opened in 1911 to allow a direct ground route from the Grand Trunk Pacific stop in Edson to Grande Prairie. Hundreds of people gathered in Kleskun Hills Park for the dedication, enjoying food, live music and rides from the Peace Draft Horse and Pulling Club.   •••


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And prove it she did. Boyne was 15 when she first realized the power that engaged youth possess. Horrified by what she had learned about genocide in Sudan, she and a group of friends organized one of the largest Save Darfur rallies in Canada in less than a month’s time. “That (genocide) really affected us, people who are a lot older than us, have a lot more money than us, who are a lot more powerful than us, aren’t doing anything,” Boyne said. In 2008 she became a charter member of the city’s first Interact, a Rotary youth club, at Peace Wapiti Academy. She was named president the following year. In April 2009, she helped organize one of the largest Make Poverty History marches in Canada at 2,200 students and then Mully’s Children Family rally in Canada with 4,000 students. For her efforts and dedication, Boyne received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Citzenship Medal in Edmonton.    •••

MP chairs

Peace River MP Chris Warkentin was named chairman of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development ahead of the upcoming session. Warkentin’s election was a unanimous decision by all parties on the commit- WaRkENtIN tee. “It’s really an honour,” he said from his Ottawa office. “I was excited to get the endorsement of my party and the prime minister’s endorsement, but then to get the unanimous support of other members of the committee from different parties was really an honour as well.”  •••

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: SPORTS JANUARY • (Jan. 8) - The 2011 sports year started on a disappointing note for Peace Curling Association junior teams. Although highly touted going in, none of the Peace Country rinks even so much as qualified for playoffs at the Subway Alberta Junior Championships in Edmonton. •(Jan. 10) Grande Prairie Storm general manager Mike Vandekamp pulls off a huge deal at the Alberta Junior Hockey League trade deadline, acquiring Rjay Berra from the Prince George Spruce Kings. At the time of the trade, Berra was the BCHL’s leading goal scorer, with 34 goals in 45 games. •(Jan. 20) The Grande Prairie Atom AA Vipers became the first home team to win the prestigious Lloyd Head Memorial Hockey Tournament in 18 years. •••

Jennifer Jones won the GP Car and Home Players’ Championship, held at the Canada Games Arena. Kevin Martin won the men’s event.


•(Feb. 13) Grande Prairie Curling Club’s Geoff Walker finished third at the Boston Pizza Cup Alberta Men’s Curling Championship in High River, despite being seeded 11th. He lost to 2010 world champion Kevin Koe in the semifinal. •(Feb. 17) The Grande Prairie Athletics are shocked by the Hythe Mustangs in the first round of the North Peace Hockey League playoffs. The senior AA squad lost its bestof-seven series against the Mustangs 4-1, dropping four straight games after winning 8-2 in Game 1. • (Feb. 23) Grande Prairie Storm captain Tanner Fritz is named AJHL regular season MVP. • (Feb. 25) Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves advance to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s basketball Final Four with a two-game sweep of the Medicine Hat Rattlers. • (Feb. 26) GPRC Lady Wolves volleyball team takes silver in ACAC championship tournament. •••


• (March 3) Lloydminster Bobcats stun the Grande Prairie Storm, coming back from a 0-2 series deficit to win the final three games of their bestof-five AJHL playoff series. • (March 5) GPRC Wolves win ACAC women’s basketball championship, scoring 16 points in the final eight minutes and scoring 24 of the

final 27 points in the game to defeat the Grant MacEwan Griffins 63-59. • (March 6) The GPRC women’s curling team of Stephanie Yanishewski, Jessica Henricks, second Victoria Yanishewski and lead Sarah Balderston win the ACAC curling championship, giving the college its second provincial banner in as many days. • (March 6) The Grande Prairie Panthers won the Senior Female A Provincial Hockey Championships for a third straight season. • (March 8) The Grande Prair ie Whe elers s eas on comes to an end as they lose their Northwest Junior Hockey League best-of-seven semifinal series to the Peace River Navigators 4-1. • (March 16) GPRC Wolves Andria Carlyon named Canada’s top female college basketball player. • (March 21) Grande Prairie Storm announce a coaching/GM change, as Mike Va n d e k a m p re s i g n s a n d

Blaine Bablitz is promoted from assistant to head coach and general manager. • (March 27) Peace Curling Association rink of Kurt Balderston, third Desiree Owen, second Del Shaughnessy and lead Stephanie Malekoff win the provincial mixed curling championship. •••


• (April 3) Daylan Vavrek rink (third, Jason Ginter; second, Tristan Steinke; lead Sanjay Bowry) wins the 2011 Optimist International Juvenile U18 Curling championship in Toronto. • (April 12-17) Grande Prairie hosts the best curlers in the world at the GP Car and Home Players’ Championship, held at the Canada Games Arena. Kevin Martin won the men’s event, while Jennifer Jones took home the women’s title. • (April 29-30) Grande Prairie hosts the Western Canadian Gymnastics Championships at the Canada Games

Arena. local gymnasts Sarah Zack and Melanie Curtis take part. •••


• (May 5) Grande Prairie’s Tyler Leicht, Fairview’s Kevin Yasinski and Fort St. John’s Lien Miller-Jeannotte were all selected in the eighth round of the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft. • (May 7) Peewee pitcher Dayne Fredland throws the first perfect game in Grande Prairie Minor Baseball history. He threw 57 pitches in a five inning (mercy rule) 10-0 victory. • (May 14) Grande Prairie hosts its first-ever mixed martial arts event - Evolution Fighting Championships 9 – at the Canada Games Arena. Although deemed a success, the second event, which was scheduled for October, was eventually cancelled. • (May 18) The Sexsmith Sab re s b e at t h e Hi l l s i d e Cougars 53-8 for their third

straight Mighty Peace Girls Football championship. The Sabres have won every championship since the league formed. • (May 29) Grande Prairie’s own Rick Fraser wins the Dash for Cash at the World Professional Chuckwagon Association’s Grande Prairie Stompede stop. Barrel racing provided the most unique highlights at the rodeo, as 53-yearold rookie Lee Ann Rust won, while 2010 Canadian Olympian skeleton racer Mellisa Hollingsworth made her professional rodeo debut. •••


• (June 7) The Peace Wapiti Academy Titans won Grande Prairie’s high school rugby championship by a 12-5 margin over the Grande Prairie Composite Warriors. • (June 18) The Grande Prairie Drillers racked up 44 first-half points en route to a 54-16 Alberta Football League victory over the Edmonton

Garrison Army in their season home-opener. • (June 25) Brian Ridgeway, the 27-year-old Grande Prairie product, officially cracked the roster of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes as a linebacker. •••


• (July 3) Grande Prairie bowler Nicholas LeBlanc won a silver and a bronze medal at the XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games. • (July 23) The Grande Prairie Drillers defeated the Lloydminster Vandals 35-28. The win completes a perfect 7-0 season – a franchise-first for the Drillers, and guaranteed them home-field advantage throughout the Alberta Football League playoffs. • (July 24) Tyson Beaupre captured the Dunes Golf and Winter Club’s Men’s Open title, shooting 75 and 72 in the two-day competition.

Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012


2011 In Review: SPORTS AUGUST • (Aug. 20) The Grande Prairie Drillers fell to the Calgary Wolfpack 38-14 in the Alberta Football League Championships at Legion Field. • (Aug. 24) The Blaine Bablitz era began as 39 invitees (23 forwards, 12 defencemen, four goalies) went through their physicals at the Grande Prairie Storm’s 2011 Alberta Junior Hockey League training camp. • (Aug. 28) Grande Prairie’s chuckwagon legend Kelly “The King” Sutherland captured his 12th career World Chuckwagon Championship at the 2011 Richard Cosgrave Badlands Dinosaur Derby in Drumheller. •••


• (Sept. 5) Al Stewart successfully defended his Grande Prairie Men’s Open title at the Grande Prairie Golf and Country Club. He shot 73- 73-70 -216 (even par) and rallied from three strokes on the final day of competition to beat Tony Pasich by one stroke. • (Sept. 22) The Sexsmith Sabres upset the Grande Prairie Composite Warriors 20-15 with a last-second catch by Sabres’ Jesse Deering to win the game. • (Sept. 23) Family and friends flocked to see Grande Prairie’s Brian Ridgeway, a Montreal Alouette linebacker, as his team takes on the Edmonton Eskimos. • (Sept. 24) Grande Prairie Centaurs claim second-straight Edmonton Rugby Union E3 division title by defeating the Strathcona Druids 46-15. •••

Above, Sexsmith Sabres Jesse Deering is swarmed by teammates after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Grande Prairie Composite Warriors during their high school football game in Sexsmith Sept. 22. The Comp would beat the Sabres in an emotional playoff game and go on to beat Peace River to capture the Peace Bowl. Left, Tyler Thomson of Black Diamond, Alta., is tossed from Squirt during Round 1 of the Grande Prairie Stompede rodeo in May.


• (Oct. 1) The Grande Prairie Centaurs defeated the Calgary Saracens 22-0 to capture the E3 provincial rugby title, their second in a row. • (Oct. 15) The Grande Prairie Composite High Warriors defeated the Peace River Pioneers 36-35 in Peace River for their first win over the Pioneers since Oct. 27, 2007. • (Oct. 24) Renee Sonnenberg won the 2011 Manitoba Lotteries Women’s Curling Classic in Winnipeg defeating Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin 8-7 in the championship match. • (Oct. 29) Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves crosscountry runner Devin Woodland captured a bronze medal at the Alberta College Athletic Conference championships in Calgary. • (Oct. 29) Heavy with the

boys’ volleyball team. •••


memories of their four lost teammates and one who remains in hospital, the Grande Prairie Composite Warriors beat the Sexsmith Sabres 40-0 to advance to the Peace Bowl. •••


• (Nov. 4) Wolves women’s volleyball head coach Ron

Thomson won his 500th match as a GPRC volleyball head coach in his team’s 3-0 victory over the Concordia University College Thunder. • (Nov. 4) In the Athabasca Bowl, the St. Joseph high school Celtics handily defeated the Valleyview Cougars in a blow-out 56-20 win. • (Nov. 5) The Grande Prairie Composite High Warriors

defeated the Peace River Pioneers 30-14 to win the Mighty Peace Football League Peace Bowl for the first time in four years. • (Nov. 12) Dusty LaValley scored an 85.75 to lock up first place and seal his second straight Canadian Finals Rodeo championship in Edmonton . • (Nov. 17) Grande Prairie Composite principal and head

coach of the Warriors football team Rick Gilson was named Youth Coach of the Year by NFL Canada. • (Nov. 26) The Peace Wapiti Titans made school history by capturing bronze at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association 3A boys volleyball championship tournament in Medicine Hat. The medal was the first podium finish ever for a PWA

• (Dec. 1) The Grande Prairie Storm made three deals, involving nine players, on the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Roster Cut Down Day. • (Dec. 3) Grande Prairie Ernie’s Sports Experts Storm defeat the Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-2 to capture their first win of the 2011/12 Alberta Midget Hockey League season on Dec. 3. • Dec. 18) Grande Prairie Boston Pizza U-16 Storm won their first game of season in the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League by defeating the Sherwood Park NIC Squires 2-1.


Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

July Canada Day What makes Canada the best place in the world to live? Everything. Well, that was the consensus at Canada’s 144th birthday celebration in Grande Prairie. “I think for me, the biggest thing about being Canadian, and the most important part of being Canadian is the opportunity that I can lead a great future for my kids,” said Conservative MP for the Peace River riding, Chris Warkentin. Warkentin celebrated Canada Day at Muskoseepi Park. “My kids live in the greatest country in the world, and for that, it’s truly a blessing that I am thankful for and it’s something that I am very proud of. That’s what motivates me to keep working to build a stronger and more vibrant community. I’m hoping to leave something great for my kids,” he said.     ••• 

Royal visit

The newlywed royals William and Kate made a stop in Slave Lake to meet some of the local residents and survey the damage left by a rampant wild fire that swept through the town in May. The royal couple reached the end of their nineday Canadian tour in Calgary today. Their visit wrapped up their trip with the visit to the Calgary Zoo and some time spent at the Stampede’s kickoff parade which included a chuckwagon driving lesson from Grande Prairie’s Kelly Sutherland. •••

Drought done?

Is the drought that has ravaged the Peace Country the last three years over? According to Environment Canada, the Grande Prairie area had 137.2 millimetres of precipitation in June, compared to 12.4 mm last year, 8.1 mm in 2009, and 37.2 in 2008. O v e r a l l , y e a r- t o - d a t e , Grande Prairie has received 332 mm of precipitation, more than all of 2010 with 313 mm. There was 352 mm of precipitation in 2009 and 337 mm in 2008. However, calling a definitive end to the drought is not an easy task to do, said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada in Toronto. “It’s always a tough call to say whether a drought is over because you just don’t know what’s coming down the pipe,”

he said. Only two years, 2004 and 2007 saw above average precipitation fall in the region. June had 18 days with some form of precipitation, although the bulk of the total came from five days that had 13 mm or more, with a high of 27.4 mm on June 24. On the surface, that might be good news for water deprived farms and ranches in the area, but Phillips said slow, steady rain falling in increments over a period of time is ideal for farmers.  •••

Sturgeon flood

Members of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation are calling on the province for answers as water levels continued to rise along a stretch of Highway 43 running through the reserve. The danger was evident as you head along the single-lane section of the highway over Woodpecker Creek, where heavy rainfall has caused flooding on the south side of the road due to a clogged culvert running under the asphalt. “I’m sure people are driving by here wondering what’s going on,” said the band’s director of operations, Alfred G oodsw immer. “ The y’ve noticed the water level’s going up (and) they’re finally realizing there is a problem.” The problem facing the stretch of highway that sees more than 7,200 vehicles a day, according to Goodswimmer, is that the provincial government is not stepping in to manage the flooding that is threatening the structural safety of the road. “They should take it a little bit more serious,” he said. “It’s affecting us (and) it’s still

... rising.”  •••

PCL gets nod

The Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative (PCDI) has taken another step forward with the hiring of a construction management firm for the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. “A construction manager for this project is a necessity,” executive director Brian Brake told the County of Grande Prairie council. “We’re down to the final parts of putting together the architectural design, the architects need input from construction management.” The Dinosaur Initiative board of directors put out a request for proposals for the $27 million project and reviewed 12 before deciding on PCL Construction at a price of $390,000 on July 7. The company is approved to begin the pre-construction phase of the museum slated to be built on Highway 43 near Wembley. “PCL has the most museum experience of any construction management firm that has applied, they are a large national company and they’ve got a great team that they’ve assembled for this,” said Brake. •••

Cabs capped?

The local taxi industry may soon face welcomed cutbacks to the number of cabs in the city, Grande Prairie’s protective services committee heard. Sgt. G ord McMahon of enforcement services spoke to the committee about the possibility of scaling back the number of cabs in the city and

implementing a “closed system” that would change how taxi companies operate. “There were five things brought forward as possible amendments to the bylaw,” he said at City Hall Tuesday. “I sat down with the company owners individually and had a conversation and listened to what they had to say on those issues.” Among the issues raised, according to McMahon, was changing the city’s current “open system” governing taxis to a capped system that would reduce the number of cabs from 157 to somewhere in the ballpark of 100, or one for every 500 residents. According to McMahon, Saskatoon currently issues licences at close to $90,000 per annum, which is a big loss to operators if retracted. Another meeting was scheduled with the city’s seven cab company owners at Muskoseepi Park to hash out a more in-depth plan. •••

Dino days

The stars shone on the red carpet during the glittering extravaganza that was the Dinosaur Ball. The ball, which was done in conjunction with Grande Prairie’s Celebrity Dino Dig, was another fundraising effort for the building of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur museum, in Pipestone Creek, near the town of Wembley. And the community didn’t disappoint. Brian Brake, executive director of the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative said that the silent auction and sponsorship for the ball took in more than half-a-million dollars, which is roughly 2%

of what the initiative needs to commence the building of the museum. “Not bad for just a dance,” he said. Although the festivities were fun, Brake said that the real reason for the ball and celebrity weekend was to help secure more contacts in hopes of getting the message out about the museum to potential sponsors. Brake said even though the weather presented an issue at times, the stars enjoyed every minute of their time at the dinobeds in Pipestone Creek. “I’m a fan of bad weather or technically bad weather,” said Matthew Gray Gubler, star of Criminal Minds. “It made the digging for bones a bit more like a five-year-old playing in a mud field ... It was a unique experience.” Film star Dan Aykroyd, who was one of the key players in the success of the event was ecstatic to be back in Alberta, where he spent much time in his younger days. “We’re adventurers and explorers, and we loved it,” he said, speaking of himself and family. “We love the mud, every little speck of it.”      •••

Terror too close

The first thing Chester Sorgaard did when he heard about the July 22 terrorist attacks in Norway was run to his computer. “I checked the computer and saw that some of my friends in Norway just wrote that there’d been a big bomb blast in Oslo,” he said. Sorgaard is the president of Grande Prairie’s Sons of Norway organization. He’s been president for about four years and a member for over 20. All of his father’s family lives in Norway. A third-cousin of his was in a deep coma after being injured in the bomb blast that shook Olso’s downtown core. A phone call on July 25 let Sorgaard know that he’s still in the hospital, but doing better. “It’s amazing, there wasn’t more (family hurt). The children on the island were from all over Norway,” he said. It’s possible that children on his father’s side of the family were on Utoeya Island, w h e r e a c c u s e d s h o o t e r, Anders Breivik, is said to have shot indiscriminately at a youth camp gathering. •••

Musko 25th

A lot was going on at Muskoseepi Park as the rec-

reational jewel celebrated its 25th anniversary. Muskee the Muskosaurus, the park’s veteran mascot, presented Mayor Bill Given a time capsule that’s been locked away in the park pavilion for 25 years. Celebrations at Muskoseepi also a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new BMX park near the off-leash dog park. Construction on the $67,000 park began in early July. “Its a legacy project for the 25-year anniversary,” said Chad Cronk, Muskoseepi Park customer service manager.   •••

Access for all

A proposed new program will help low-income families and individuals in Grande Prairie get greater access to city recreational facilities. Dubbed ‘’Access For Everyone.’’ the program will provide a 75% discount, up to $100 credit, to low-income residents. The program was outlined in a report to council’s Community Development committee this week, who approved it and sent it to council for ratification. If successful, the credit would be implemented as of Jan. 1, 2012. “It’s basically taking care of your citizens in the community,” said Mitra Zarei, program development facilitator for the city’s Community Social Development department. She pointed to a 2007 Grande Prairie survey that had 13.7% of respondents saying cost was a deterrent to using recreational facilities. “There are a certain number of people living in the community who are not able financially to pay some of the memberships,” she said. Edmonton has a similar initiative, called the Leisure Access Program, and it recorded a participation rate of 18.7% According to the 2006 census, Statistics Canada pegged the low-income population in Grande Prairie at 4,269 people or an 8.5% poverty rate. According to the report, obesity levels in the Peace Country stand at 30.2%, compared to 17.4% nationally. However, it is estimated the program will have health and social services cost savings of $93,919 over two years at the low end and a potential savings of $276,232 at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012


2011 In Review: AUGUST doesn’t keep people away. It’s a gathering place,” he said. •••



Heritage Day The Heritage Day celebrations at Muskoseepi Park were all the more special this year as the city marked the 25th anniversary of the park. Along with all the usual activities at the Grande Prairie Museum and around the park, those who took in the event were also treated to a birthday party complete with cake and the official opening of the new BMX facility at the south end of the park, south of 68 Avenue. “It’s the heart of our community in so many ways – physically because it’s in the centre of the city, but also socially and culturally,” said Mayor Bill Given in his speech at the 25th anniversary celebrations. Funding for Muskoseepi started in 1980, when the city applied for the provincial government’s Heritage Trust Fund. The park officially opened on July 26, 1986 with Ernie Radbourne leading the way. Radbourne, a former city alderman and an original member of the Muskoseepi Park Steering Committee, was an important voice for the park from the beginning. His efforts were honoured Monday. “Ernie helped make a better place for his family and for the families of Grande Prairie,” Given said as he presented Radbourne with a painting of the park. Arriving by golf cart, Radbourne was excited to take a tour of the Muskoseepi trails. “ Ev e r y g ro u p ca n p a rticipate. Economically, it’s

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It may seem to some like a plague of pests, but the recent wave of grasshoppers in the city and county pose no threat, say local experts. County of Grande Prairie agriculture fieldman Sonja Raven, says don’t fret, they’re nearly harmless. “We’re seeing quite a lot of grasshoppers but they’re not the pest species, there are a few, but not a lot of them,” Raven said. The number of pests and grasshoppers has dropped down to a point where we’re not concerned about them, says Raven. “I don’t think there’s a high risk at all,” he said.

••• Dino skulls

Two pachyrhinosaurus skulls have been airlifted out of the Charlie Young and Pipestone Creek bonebeds. It’s a lengthy process, says Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative paleontologist Phil Bell. First, the bones are mapped, to show where they were found and how they were resting. “Once you get back to the lab and put the maps back together you can identify how the skeleton is laying in the ground, identify things like how potentially the animal died, or came to rest,” Bell said. The skulls airlifted each weighed about 1,200 pounds. Both pachyrhinosaurus skulls were a great find for the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative, as they were nearly fully intact. •••

Multiplex over

The $110 million Aquatics and Wellness Multiplex is now a little bit more dear. Grande Prairie city coun-


cil voted to borrow $760,000 a n d d raw $ 2 4 0 , 0 0 0 f ro m reserves to make up $1 million in construction overages incurred as a result of “unanticipated expenses.” The overages are a result of three “significant” expenses and go above and beyond a 4% contingency fund, which has already been exhausted, but are not unusual in projects of this magnitude, said Garry Roth, the city community services director. “Had those three costs not occurred, we certainly would have been well within our budget and within our contingency,” he said. Most major construction projects have contingency funds of 5% to 10%, and the Multiplex overages represent 1% of the total budget, so in that context the $1 million in additional in costs are still reasonable, he said. “I’m not saying that $1 million isn’t a lot of money, I’m just saying you have to put it into perspective,” he said. The unanticipated expenses actually total more than $1.2 million, and include the loss of $400,000 in gift-inkind services. Roth would not divulge which company pulled its services, only stating that it’s related to utilities. “That’s about as far as I can go. There are a couple of other things that are connected to this that I can’t go into,” he said. “We were anticipating this service to be a gift-inkind and, of course, we were presented with a large bill for that work, so that just meant that obviously didn’t transpire.” The chiller unit at the Coca-Cola Centre suffered a “significant breakdown” and needs replacing at a cost of $575,000. It would serve the arena, Multiplex, and neighbouring St. Joseph High, of which the Catholic school board has already contributed its “fair share”, Roth said.

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T h e t h i rd a n d f i na l expense is $229,000 in additional costs for the RCMP satellite station in the Multiplex. •••

Vehicles moving

For the past year, Grande Prairie has been in the driver’s seat in terms of new vehicle sales, and it appears that the rest of the province has caught up. According to seasonally adjusted figures released by Statistics Canada, there were 19,927 new vehicles sold in June, a 10.9% jump from the previous month and 17.1% increase year-over-year. That follows slower months in April and May, which saw declines of 2.5% and 1.3%, respectively, although overall year-to-date numbers were on the positive side. Relative to those provincial figures, new vehicle sales have been surging in Grande Prairie since January. Scott Sargent, owner of Sean Sargent Toyota, said sales in Grande Prairie for all dealerships are up 18.7% this year. He said a couple of factors have played into that increase, including the conclusion of the federal election campaign in May. “I think the main reasons for that were, obviously the economy is picking up, and there’s more consumer confidence in the market,” he said. “As well as after that election was over, people wanted that done and out of the way,” he said. “There are a lot of people sitting on the fence because they weren’t sure, everything was in a bit of turmoil.” Pa ss e ng e r ca r sa l e s saw an increase of 12.2% in Grande Prairie, while trucks have a 19.9% jump, Sargent said. Nationally, there were 141,882 units sold in June, a 10.8% increase. •••

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Dunes dumping Visitors of the Dunes have more than just ATVs and dirt bikes to dodge as Sustainable Resources Development increases patrols to ward off illegal dumping. SRD, in partnership with Alberta Environment and the County of Grande Prairie, will ramp up patrols in the recreational area south of the city as it looks to prevent patrons from using the area as a makeshift dump. The enforcement will culminate in a cleanup of the area, an initiative that has removed some 350,000-lbs. of trash since it started in 1989. AccordBURke ing to SRD’s Blaine Burke in the last two years alone the cleanup has removed over 100-tonnes of waste. •••


Layton mourned

Even though they may have been literally and figuratively on opposite sides of the political aisle, Jack Layton and his Conservative colleagues had mutual respect for one another. That’s one of the legacies that the NDP leader, who passed away on Monday at 61 from a battle with cancer, will leave on the House of



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That important text message or phone call you get while driving is going to have to wait as of Sept. 1. Albertans have one week to adjust their driving habits because distracted driving legislation will take effect on that date. Gordon Ellert, a regional traffic safety consultant for the Grande Prairie region for the Alberta Transportation Office of Traffic Safety, said the intent of the legislation is so drivers focus on driving while in the car. The new legislation will apply to all vehicles as defined by the Traffic Safety Act – including bicycles – and will be in effect on all urban and rural roads in Alberta. Anyone caught using handheld cellphones, texting, any type of electronic device such as cameras and laptop computers, reading or writing, and grooming themselves while driving are subject to a $172 fine with no demerits.


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Commons, said Conservative Peace River MP Chris Warkentin. That respect was borne of Layton’s willingness to forego any ideological differences for the betterment of the country, Warkentin said, calling his passing a “loss for Canadian politics.” “There were times when we would work extensively together. Most notably, I recall when (he) was one of the only party leaders who worked constructively during the Indian Residential Schools apology that the prime minister initiated,” Warkentin said. Layton was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 and announced last month he was taking time off from his duties because he had an undisclosed form of cancer. He had become Official Opposition leader in May’s federal election – a party milestone. •••

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: SEPTEMBER More students G ra n d e P ra i r i e P u b l i c School District is facing a bit of an issue - 6% more students than budgeted for. The announcement came during the board’s first meeting of the school year. The 6% increase – or roughly 250 extra students – came as a shock to board trustees, but according to Deputy Supt. Roger Mestinsek, money will not be an issue. “If the students are there, the funding will automatically come,” he said. “But the only problem may be space – we’ll be monitoring class sizes.” School boards across Alberta are funded per student. In elementary schools, the board receives funding by bodies in the classroom and in high schools, the board receives funding per credit earned by the student. The public board operates 14 schools in the Grande Prairie area, with a total of 7,325 students. The higher-than-expected students total 111 new kindergarten students and 121 more students in Grades 1 to 6.   •••

Gas problem

Balls of fire spewed out of an Atco Gas tap causing more than 40 homes to lose their natural gas for the majority of the day in early September. Beaverlodge Fire Department, RCMP, Atco Gas and EMS responded to the blaze at approximately 8:30 a.m. The tap caught fire on Range Road 111, west of Beaverlodge. Atco owns roughly 4,000 natural gas taps throughout the province. This event is extremely rare and very unusual, says Chief Engineer of Atco Gas, Alan Dixon. Atco shut the gas line off at the time of the call. Emergency crews remained at the scene waiting for the six-kilometre gas line to burn itself out. Once the gas burns itself out,

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Atco will remove the old tap, install the new one and take the old tap back to the shop to determine what happened. •••


With the school year officially underway and autumn quickly approaching, some school zones are still experiencing a true sign of summer construction. There were five school zones that are experiencing difficulty due to construction in the area. The projects, which vary from sidewalk replacement to full road replacement, were originally planned to be complete by the beginning of the school year, but heavy rain throughout the summer has driven them behind schedule. Construction has caused a headache for parents, students and school staff alike, but according to Hinton, construction should be complete within two weeks.  •••

Purse snatched

Katherine Talbot was almost home on a Tuesday afternoon when it happened. Talbot, 77, had spent a few hours downtown with her older sister, Anna Steeves, 79, when they decided it was time to go home. Off they went on their chair scooters when they parted ways at the East Side Grocery, with Talbot turning north towards her 104 Avenue home. “I was just going along thinking I was getting home, it had been a good day and I was happy,” Talbot recalled. She was nearly home when a man reached out and grabbed her purse from the front basket and ran away. “I was about two blocks up and there is an alley right here and I never heard a thing, people were walking on the streets and I was weaving and waving and then this arm reached out and grabbed my purse and


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Survival story

When Marielle Guynup got out of her van after a truck T-boned it and caused a rollover, there was only one thing on her mind – her children. She searched around the wreckage of the vehicle on Highway 2 at Four-Mile Corner and was able to find all of her children in good health, except for her baby, Jed. “I heard him crying, but I couldn’t find him – it was the scariest feeling,” said the 29-year-old. The seven-month-old was ejected from the Pontiac Montana in his car seat when the vehicle rolled. He hit the truck that T-boned the van, then finally came to rest under the now right-side-up vehicle – still in his car seat. The car s eat had b e en securely fastened to the vehicle. Rescue personnel, including Grande Prairie Fire Department platoon chief Neil Young, were amazed by the fact that there were no serious injuries. “When we first got there, we could tell that it was a good collision, but at that point it was too early to know what had happened,” said Young. “It’s totally a miracle,” said Guynup with a sigh of relief. “ B e cau s e h ow ca n a k i d bounce off of a pickup, land under a van and just walk away with just a scrape?” •••

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(on Resources Road)

just took off and I only saw the back of him,” Talbot said. She screamed, grabbing the attention of two motorists in the area. “Two cars stopped and I said ‘he stole my purse’ so one took one street and the other one took the other street and they went down but they never saw him,” she said. Talbot said she didn’t get a good look at the thief, but noted that he was wearing a short-sleeved grey t-shirt, blue jeans, and a dark baseball cap.  •••




Multiplex preview

With the number of mountain pine beetles holding steady, the County of Grande Prairie has shifted its priority to preventing possible wildfire damage by creating firebreaks. A firebreak is a gap between combustible vegetation that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of wildfires. “We are controlling the beetle to a degree, but not only that, we’re protecting the area in case of a fire,” said Reeve Everett McDonald. Th e firebreaks will protect areas like the Dunes, Evergreen Park and subdivisions near forested areas. Last year the county logged ro u g h l y 1 7 5 h e c t a re s o f infested and dead pine from the Dunes.      •••

The Grande Prairie Aquatics and Wellness Multiplex may be months from full functionality, but it already had a grip on Grande Prairie residents. An estimated 5,000 residents of Grande Prairie and area flocked to the Multiplex for a glimpse inside the $110 million facility. “We were expecting a good crowd, but I never dreamt that it would be anything like this,” said Multiplex marketing manager Cheryl McKenzie. “This city just wants to get this facility open. They are waiting for this and they are so excited.” McKenzie added that she had not heard one single negative comment through the day. Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given says that he was shocked by the amount of support from the community for the event. •••

Search for Jamie

You don’t have to spend much time in the Smoky Flats area to realize it’s not somewhere you want to be without food or water. Once you cross the singlelane bridge over the Smoky River along the Canfor Road you are met by dense trees, perhaps wildlife and solitude. And while that may sound desirable to a prepared naturegoer, 19-year-old Grande Prairie resident Jamie Lee definitely wasn’t that when he went missing from an area campsite more than a week ago. Armed with only his wallet and cigarettes, Lee left his campsite after an argument with friends around 5 a.m. Sept. 4 and his family was left searching for answers and scouring the massive forested area some 40-kilometres south of the city off of Highway 40. They hold on to the hope that Lee is still alive. The search continued but was eventually called off. Lee has never been located. •••

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RV bylaw

After a long and drawn-out process, residents of Grande Prairie finally have firm direction on where and for how long they can park their recreational vehicles (RVs). City council gave bylaw C-1166C third and final reading, which allows RV owners to park on the street – as long as they are parked in front of their own property – and for only 48 hours at a time. The latest hiccup in the process came at council on Sept. 6 when the final draft was proposed to council, but failed to gain a unanimous decision with Coun. Kevin McLean being the odd man out.  •••


City administration is asking residents to take part in a short survey to provide input on how information about the community is delivered. The city’s marketing and communications department began conducting the survey to update an outdated com-

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munications strategy, according to Mayor Bill Given. According to Given, the need for an updated plan falls perfectly in line with city council’s goal to improve and better understand how the community wants to stay informed. According to Given, this year’s citizen satisfaction survey indicated the community was looking for more information from its local government.  •••

Barr postponed

For some local ice users, it may make more sense to build a rink outside. The Dave Barr Community Centre has hit yet another roadblock with its $1.4 million renovations, causing it to reopen on Oct. 27, as opposed to the originally planned Oct. 11 date. “We know that we have ice users relying on our surfaces, but we have run into challenges regarding our boards and glass up,” said community services director Garry Roth. The crews have run into problems with both manufacturing and installing the boards and glass, but according to Roth, as soon as the boards are complete, the community centre will pull staff from other arenas to get the ice done in a timely fashion. “We have (the boards) manufactured then shipped here and the delays have come from the manufacturers who have had problems getting them made and sent here,” said Roth. In the meantime, ice users were directed to the Coca Cola Centre. “We’re doing whatever we can to accommodate them and get them into those two surfaces,” said Roth. For the 850 youth in Grande Prairie Minor Hockey (GPMH) alone, the delays have caused a shortage of ice for the association and according to executive director Lorna LeBlanc.

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012


October Bowes mourned William H. (Bill) Bowes, a man instrumental in the formation of Bowes Publishers Limited, which took the Herald-Tribune to daily newspaper status in April 1964 and who went on to several successful business ventures in Grande Prairie over the next 60 years, died at the age of 86. Margaret (nee O’Brien), his wife of nearly 60 years, reflected lovingly on his life, their time together and how blessed they truly were. “We have to think that he had 83 good years, the 84th was pretty good and just the last year and a half has been a struggle for him,” she said. “We’re glad he didn’t have to linger to suffer more.” B o w e s, a Moose Jaw, Sask., native, joined his brother Jim in L ondon, Ont., after they returned BOwes from overseas World War II duty in 1945. Bowes initially returned to Saskatchewan after the war, where he served as a Bomber Command navigator in the RCAF. He soon joined Jim who had been working at the London Free Press. Together they pursued a scheme they had hatched overseas: To get into the newspaper business after the war and in 1950, Bowes Publishers bought the thenweekly Grande Prairie Herald-Tribune. After being part of Bowes Publishers and the Grande Prairie operation, mostly on the sales side, Bill left the company to venture into new things in 1970. These included Grande Prairie Cleaners, and most recently Capistrano Holdings. Bowes was also heavily involved in the GP Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, QEII Hospital Board, Grande Prairie Regional College -all institutions in which he was actively involved at formative stages both in front of, and behind the scenes. Bowes also dabbled in politics, running unsuccessfully for the legislature as a Social Credit candidate in the year of the Lougheed PC onset in 1971. In 1968, he was named Grande Prairie Citizen of the Year ; in 2008, one of Grande Prairie’s 50 Hometown Heroes, and he received a lifetime membership in the Royal Canadian Legion; and in 2009 he was inducted into

the Alberta Order of Excellence in a ceremony presided over by then Lt-Gov. Norman Kwong. •••

City in mourning

Epic tragedy The community is still in shock over the devastating collision that claimed the lives of four local teens and left a fifth in critical condition. Police confirmed Mathew Deller, 16, Vincent Stover, 16, Walter Borden-Wilkens, 15, and Tanner Hildebrand, 15, all of Grande Prairie, were killed in the two-vehicle collision that occurred south of the city just after midnight Saturday, Oct. 22. The fifth and lone-surviving occupant of the vehicle remains in critical-yet-stable condition in an Edmonton hospital. “Zach Judd, who is 15 years of age, remains in a hospital,” Cpl. Carol McKinley of Grande Prairie RCMP said. All five boys were students at Grande Prairie Composite High school and members of its Warriors football team. An emotional Comp principal, Rick Gilson, spoke publicly for the first time Saturday night about the loss. “At this time, the Grande P r a i r i e C o m p o s i t e Hi g h would like to express our condolences to the families who have lost their sons and our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the Judd family as Zach is receiving treatment and care,” Gilson said. The school provided counselling to staff, students and parents over the following week, according to Gilson. Students organized a black and orange day (the school’s colours) for that day in honour of their fallen peers, Gilson said. •••

Vigil held

Hundreds of orange-clad residents crowd the city’s

Legion Field late Saturday night, Oct. 22, to pay their respects to the victims and their families before releasing hundreds of orange balloons into the night sky. Mourners gathered at the Warriors’ home Legion Field some 24 hours following the mishap to reflect on both the tragedy and those it claimed. “He was an awesome kid,” said Brandon Papineau, 22, of Borden-Wilkens. “I knew his whole family growing up.” Papineau, who said he knew the 15-year-old for most of his life, said BordenWilkens always seemed like one of the more level-headed kids in the bunch. “We were always over there causing trouble this and that (and) Walter was the only kid to stay out of trouble,” he said. “Everyone just looked up to him and just knew he was going to do great things.” Police announced a host of charges laid in connection with the collision against a 21-year-old Grande Prairie man, including four counts of impaired driving causing death, four counts of operating a motor vehicle over .08 causing death, one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm, one count of operating a motor vehicle over .08 causing bodily harm and one count of failure to remain at the scene of an accident. While it would be easy to start pointing fingers, Gilson said it’s important for members of the community to support all those involved in the tragedy. “It is also very important to us that we express our thoughts and prayers are with the ... young man,” he said. “It’s incredibly important to us that everyone works to support him in the days and weeks ahead; it’s a tough situation for him.” •••


bonds With the community still in mourning over the weekend’s heartbreaking mishap, local residents and businesses are coming together to support the families affected by the tragedy. Social media and online classified sites were littered with posts Monday about fundraisers and donation drives for the families of the four teens killed in the two-vehicle collision Saturday and for the family of Zach Judd, who clung to life in an Edmonton hospital. Judd – who was transported to Edmonton following the collision – is still listed in critical-yet-stable condition, according to his aunt, Shelley Judd, suffering from multiple facial fractures, a broken left arm, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and serious head trauma. Multiple businesses stepped up to create special funds for the Judds and also memorial funds for the deceased boys. The community outpouring of emotion and support was recognized nationally, and as the Comp Warriors continued to play through playoffs in memory of their fallen friends, they were often featured on network TV. Grande Prairie was lauded for its resilience and support and this was emphasized when Coach Rick Gilson was named the NFL Canadian High School Coach of the Year. •••

CWB resignations

Following the lawsuit put for ward by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) against the federal government, confidence in that organization could be dwindling, as shown by the resignation of District 1 representative Henry Vos. The final straw for Vos was the announcement of the lawsuit, which attempts to pre-

vent legislation from passing that would see an end to the CWB’s single-desk monopoly on wheat. “The reasons I resigned from the CWB are what I see as decisions being made on the basis of an ideological point-of-view rather than on the basis of what is good for business,” said Henry Vos. Vos, a Fariview-based farmer of barley, wheat, canola and forage seed, was elected onto the CWB board in 2006, a decision he made in an effort to improve business for farmers, but recent events have caused a major lack of confidence in the board. In a recent survey conducted by the C WB, 62% of farmers in the organization want the CWB to remain intact. Board chairman Allen Oberg made an official plea on the board’s website for farmers to contact their elected officials and have their opinions heard. •••

Redford’s run

As Alison Redford celebrates her new role as the first female premier of Alberta, other members of the Progressive Conservative party are looking forward to positive change in the party. “The people have spoken,” said Stewart Wilson, president of the Grande Prairie- Smoky PC Association. “When we were going into the final day, from a party point of view, any of the three were very good contenders. Bringing the unity back to the party is the number one concern and challenge for everybody.” Originally a distant second in the first round of voting, Redford claimed support in a number of Edmonton and Calgary-based ridings previously won by Gary Mar. “She got a lot of support out there and I’ve spoken to her and I think she was a viable candidate and she’ll be a good

premier,” Wilson said. The final votes came in at around 51% for Redford with Mar a close second at approximately 48%. •••


For the second consecutive year the Swan City has been named the nation’s top entrepreneurial city, according to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) study. The Communities in Boom study ranked Grande Prairie tops among 100 cities in Canada with populations over 25,000. “I think it’s a big deal that G r a n d e P r a i r i e’s n a m e d number-one in Canada for entrepreneurship,” said Centre for Research and Innovation director Bruce Rutley. The CFIB study uses a set of 12 key indicators, which are then divided into three main groups -presence, perspective and policy. •••

Vital Signs

With the release of the Vital Signs results, the city of Grande Prairie now has a report card of sorts that details how the community is doing and what can be improved on. “This report looks at some of the strengths and issues facing our community and our region, but it doesn’t tell us why,” said Tracey Vavrek, executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater Grande Prairie. The report is part of a national project that includes 22 other community foundations in Canada. Since June, the foundation has been working with experts in areas such as health, public safety and education to gather data. A s u r v e y re c e i v e d 4 8 9 responses with the majority of those citizens between the ages of 45 and 64.


Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: NOVeMBeR Grave ID A meeting of the Alberta Genealogical Society’s Grande Prairie & District branch promised even more history than their typical gatherings. Tal Fisher, an archeologist who worked on identifying the remains of two WWI soldiers, made a presentation about his work. “The project was to identify the remains for two Canadian soldiers that had been recovered in a little town in France called Avion and it’s only a couple of kilometres from Vimy Ridge,” Fisher said. In 2003, the remains were discovered by French authorities, who then turned them over to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who in turn involved the Canadian Department of National Defence. Work on the project began around 2005, with the remains of Pte. Herbert Peterson being identified in early 2007. It’s estimated that 11,000 Canadian soldiers who fought in France during the First World War have no known grave. In April 2007, Pte. Peterson was buried in La Chaudière Military Cemetery in France, providing some closure for his living relatives. •••

Leisure bucks

The Leisure Centre is in line to receive $2 million in funding in 2013 as well as the 2014 budget years to make repairs possible that could see the facility remain open. Council committee of the whole decided during budget deliberations that the Leisure Centre would be closed, with the exception of the indoor soccer field, for the 2012 year. The $2 million in funding for 2013 and 2014 will be used to start renovations needed to bring the centre up to code. This marks a big step in how the Leisure Centre will be dealt with, something that council has been dealing with

since the announcement of the $110 million Multiplex. With $5.8 million being the total needed to fully renovate the Leisure Centre to add roughly 25 years to its life, the $4 million currently budgeted will cover more than half. •••

Budget passed

City council passed its three-year budget, and taxes are scheduled to increase 11.8% over the next three years. After a morning of voting on nearly 30 funding requests totalling $813,000 brought forward by local community groups, a lunchtime deliberation by administration brought the tax rate down from 12.7% over the next three years. The city is heralding this rate as “the lowest increase in property tax in a decade.” For the average Grande Prairie house valued at $245,000, taxes will go up $90, $96, and $97 in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. •••

Tougher DUI

With the province introducing legislation this month aimed at cracking down on impaired drivers the local h o s p i t a l i t y i n d u s t r y ha s shown a mixed reaction to the changes. If passed the legislation would see drivers found with a blood-alcohol level between .05 and .08 milligrams per cent have their licences suspended and their vehicles impounded for three days, a marked increase over the current 24-hour suspension. But according to local bar owner Raphael Bohlmann, the stiffer penalties are barking up the wrong tree. The current legal limit of .08 is low enough, Bohlmann said, and dipping below that mark would punish responsible drinkers. “I fail to understand why the premier wants to follow a

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set of laws that are proving to be imposing penalties on lawabiding citizens and not focus on those that are well above the limit,” he said. •••


It may just seem like yesterday to some, but STARS in Grande Prairie is celebrating its fifth anniversary and invited the public to join in. The public and former patients of STARS in Grande Prairie and area were invited to the base at the Grande Prairie airport for a short video presentation and an open house, as well as a look at the organization’s human simulation devices. Ca m He ke, m e d i a a n d public relations manager for STARS, says the organization has seen a great deal of change within the Grande Prairie base over its short history. “We’ve seen great development in terms of funding, but also in terms of patient care,” said Heke. “We’ve flown more than 900 times since we started in Grande Prairie, so quite a few missions and as you can imagine, quite a few individuals’ lives who have been affected directly by STARS involvement.” •••

No fluoride?

On the heels of a decision by the City of Calgary to remove fluoride from its water, and nearby Fort St. John in the same process, the fluoride debate is growing again in Grande Prairie Stacey Olson, who started a petition entitled Stop Fluoridation in Grande Prairie’s Water, cites lack of public consent and possibly health risks as reasons to remove the fluoride from the water. “I’m very health conscious and aware of what I put into my body and if fluoride is put into the drinking water, we have no control,” said Olson.

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So far, the online petition has close to 200 signatures, but copies have been circulating to health food stores across the city and Olson expects to add at least 100 more signatures through the paper copies. Olson planned to deliver the petition to Aquatera, which controls the city’s water supply. However, the company has an agreement with the provincial government stating it must fluoridate the water, but that contract is up for renewal soon. •••

Lee remembered

More than two months after disappearing from a campsite south of Grande Prairie, hope for Jamie Lee’s survival and return is still apparent in family and friends. A group of more than 30 friends and family gathered at the Grande Prairie Museum at a Saturday to release Lee balloons, hoping for Lee’s safe return. “All of the searchers and everyone who has come today are very positive people -we have to find Jamie and we have to bring him home and the only way we can do that is to stay positive,” said Lee’s mother, Julie DeWinter. “Chances are, he is out there, so as long as we keep getting pictures out and keep getting the information out, we have the chance to bring him home.” •••

In the black

The board of trustees of the GP Public School District approved audited financial statements ending Aug. 31, 2011, and because of enrolment, the board posted a $1 million surplus, after approving a deficit budget in May.

These funds will remain unallocated, going into a sustainability fund, which accounts for just over 1% of its $86 million budget. “We use that money as a buffer,” said Russell Horswill, secretary-treasurer. “If we keep that $1 million, that’s good financial planning.” Due to the increased enrolment – more than 200 new students – the board increased its salary budget by $2 million, and expects “massive hiring” soon, according to John Lehners, board trustee. Deputy superintendent Roger Mestinsek said this is normal for the board. “We typically hire 20 to 30 teachers per year, and we’ve been able to keep that pace up,” Mestinsek said. “We are pretty much always looking for new teachers.” •••


A Grande Prair ie jur y acquitted a man who stood before the courts in a sexual assault case. The jur y retired after a short second day of arguments Wednesday to make a decision in the case against 52-year-old Terry Harms, who was charged with one count sexual assault and one count of sexual touching a person under the age of 16. Harms took the stand for less than half an hour, where he refuted the previous day’s testimony from the underaged complainant that contained allegations of three separate instances of inappropriate touching. •••


As the Christmas season approached and more people focused on good will and giving back, charities and nonprofit groups in Grande Prairie were hoping for the gift of more volunteers this holiday season. Statistics from the Vital Signs report show that Grande

Prairie residents ages 15 years and up have a volunteer rate of 56.5%, which is above both the provincial and national averages. Of the respondents, 72% said they volunteered their time for a cause in the last year. While it seems as though the percentages have placed the city in good standing, the reality is that a lot of groups are noticing a drop in their volunteer numbers. “I would say that in our community right now we’re in an area where it could become a huge issue for us,” said Tracey Vavrek, executive director for the Community Foundation of Greater Grande Prairie. •••

Patch pickin’

Grande Prairie’s oil industry saw slow, but steady growth in 2011, and 2012 will likely be a carbon copy. 2011 saw modest growth in the oil industry in Alberta, which is in part because of capital money being put into plants in the GP area, as well as other locations in northwestern Alberta. “Our focus has changed, a n d a l l c o m p a n i e s h av e changed from natural gas to liquid oil,” said Rob Petrone, district superintendent for Devon Canada, “and that’s what’s really driving the increase in the Grande Prairie area over the last year.” Part of the increase in capital spending is going to a significant shift in technology, and how oil is extracted. “There are some fairly big plant expansions in northwestern Alberta as a result of recovering the liquids.” Instead of vertical drilling, sites are now using horizontal drilling, which covers more area, and reduces the amount of surface equipment needed to extract oil. And Petrone said this trend will continue to become more common in the future. “It’s the way of the future.”

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

December 2011 In Review: DECEMBER Lights up

County budget

After years of lobbying by the County of Grande Prairie, Alberta Transportation has completed the installation of traffic signals at the Highway 40 and Highway 668 (Correction Line) intersection. The county and the Municipal District of Greenview hadlobbied Alberta Transportation for the lights for several years. “I’m working on my eighth year of council and it was one of the platforms I started when I was actually campaigning,” said Deputy Reeve Leanne Beaupre, who represents the area. “To see those lights come to fruition has been a major accomplishment for that area.” It was a sigh of relief for Jason Reilly, the president of Reilly Transfer Ltd. “It’s a weight off everyone’s shoulders knowing that people are stopping and we can get out without too many worries,” he said. Reilly Transfer straddles what could be considered one of the county’s most dangerous intersections. Reilly said about 70 of his semi trucks travel through the intersection one to two times a day. Since 2007, at least two people have died and a slew of other collisions have occurred at the Highway 40 and Correction line intersection. “We had one of our residents in Grovedale die in an accident last year. We are very pleased that those lights are there. It makes it a far safer trip home for our residents,” said MD of Greenview Deputy Reeve Lesley Vandemark. The provincial government was slow to act on the installation of the traffic lights. Alberta Transportation conducted a number of studies to determine if the lights were necessary. •••

County residents will see no changes to property taxes in 2012 after council adopted its $113 million budget. The adoption of the budget will mean that an average residence assessed at $297,900, which had a 2.5% increase in assessment due to market value, will remain the same as last year. The tax rate for non-residential properties will remain the same in the New Year. The impact to individual properties will vary based on market-value changes across the county. Farmland taxes are proposed to remain the same. Council rectified a projected $2.8 million shortfall by adjusting road projects, shuffling around money, and turning down requests over the two-day budget deliberations. The interim budget includes estimated expenditures of $52 million for general operating and $61 million for capital. The total represents an operating increase of $1.7 million, which is a 3.4% increase over last year. A major percentage of the capital budget is $23.3 million for road construction, down from the projected $27.7 million. The road construction includes work on 12.4 kilometres, with five kilometres receiving new pavement, 4.2 km getting surface overlay and 3.2 km undergoing reconstruction. To help cover the costs, the county is expected to receive $6 million in provincial grants and $2.9 million in federal grants. •••

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Multiplex opened

With the ribbon cut and visitors in the building, the Multiplex is officially open for business – with the exception of the aquatics area. The aquatics area is to be tested again. Aside from the pool setback caused by a power surge on Dec. 1, Multiplex marketing manager Cheryl McKenzie says that everyone in attendance has been pleased with the facility. “Nobody has said much to be me about it honestly,” said McKenzie, who was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 10 at the Multiplex. “I think people are just excited to get in here and do their thing – certainly the pool affects people with children, but the membership is much more than just little children.” Dec. 10 marked the third day of operation for the $110 million facility, just the second it had been open to the general public, with more than 1,000 going through the doors during the VIP and members day two days earlier. •••

No nukes

O ntar io’s Br uce Power announced it will no longer

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advance the option for a new nuclear plant in Alberta that has been under consideration by the company since 2007. The project’s initial target site was along the shores of Lac Cardinal near Grimshaw, about 30 kilometres west of Peace River; that later changed to the Whitemud site along the banks of the Peace River, 30 kilometres north of the town. Both options created storms of both optimism and controversy, as pro-development and anti-proliferation factions battled for public opinion. Bruce Power and the Alberta government both refused to shut the door on any future nuclear-based power projects in Alberta or more specifically the Peace Country. •••

Beetle bucks

The province announced that the County of Grande Prairie will receive an early Christmas gift of $442,460. The government’s FireSmart program will fund a total of $1.2 million to 22 forested communities across the province. The money is designated to help protect property and

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people from the impact of wildfires. While the County of G ra n d e P ra i r i e re c e i v e d nearly half-a-million dollars, the remaining 21 grants are up to $50,000. The other communities that received the grants are looking at education or prevention measures, said Duncan MacDonnell the public affairs officer for Sustainable Resource Development. While the County of Grande Prairie is in the process of creating a firebreak •••

Surgical waits

In a report released by the Fraser Institute, wait times for surgery in Alberta are average for the rest of Canada, but a local surgeon says much more can be done in the Peace Country to help patients. The statistics for Alberta have improved drastically over the past year, with the gap between appointments with specialists and treatment, in total, 2.4 weeks more than the reasonable gap, compared to 5.8 in 2010. The reasonable wait time has also increased to eight weeks in 2011 from 6.4. •••

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Dangerous #6

The numbers are in and according to Maclean’s magazine’s yearly national crime rankings, Grande Prairie is the sixth-most-dangerous city in the country.


Prince George, British Columbia, took home first place again this year, with Red Deer in fourth place and Edmonton, which is experiencing a tough year for homicides, ranked 19th. “Ultimately, I think the rankings really don’t reflect how people feel on the streets of Grande Prairie,” said Mayor Bill Given. “ I think you’d b e hard pressed to find anybody in the city who feels that we’re the sixth most dangerous community in Canada.” This year the city moved up from seventh place to sixth and statistics from the recent Vital Signs report show that residents rank Grande Prairie’s “safe feel” as a moderate strength of the community. Still, Cpl. Carol McKinley, media relations officer with the local RCMP detachment c au t i o n e d p e o p l e a b o u t putting too much stock in the numbers. The rankings factor in crime rates for homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery and breaking and entering. Overall, Alberta ranked seventh in both violent and nonviolent crimes, while rising instances of automobile theft were flagged for Grande Prairie. It’s an issue that McKinley said the RCMP is aware of and working to prevent. “It’s a combination of enforcement and education, so we address those spikes in different ways. It can be the arrest of a prolific offender or an educational project to address vulnerable targets,” she said. One of those educational programs includes partnering with the Alberta Motor Association for their “All Valuables Removed” campaign, which involves placing placards on vehicles that fit that description. RCMP have carried out campaigns twice in the city during the summer.

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Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune • Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 In Review: IN PHOTOS

DHT Year in Review