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February 24, 2020

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News: February 24, 2020 issue

Teamwork brings back the Family Day Extravaganza

by Brianne Benson
 
The Boys and Girls Club partnered with the Foster Parent Association to organize this year's successful Family Day Extravaganza.
With over 200 community members attending the carnival-style event, the Boys and Girls Club was able to help the Foster Parent Association keep the tradition of the annual event alive after they were forced to shut it down for the past two years due to a lack of volunteers.
The auditorium of the Legion Hall in Edson was transformed into a mini-carnival to help provide the community with a fun and low-cost activity to do with their families for Family Day on February 17. Families ate hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy while making their way through the wide variety of games.
“Everyone had a really great time and we are very appreciative that Gean Chouinard and Brian Golding from the Foster Parent Association thought of our organization to partner with to raise some much-needed funds, especially in these trying economic times. It is very helpful,” said Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Loralie Shupe-Latour.
Available games included plinko, bean bag toss, ring toss, mini-putt golf, horseshoes, fishing, spin to win wheel, ski-ball, and a basketball hoop shot. The kids and their families had a blast trying out all the games and winning tickets to use as entries for door prizes.
The two big ticket grand prizes were a six-person camping tent, and a 42-inch air hockey table. There was also a host of other great door prizes to be won.
“We are glad that we were able to partner with the 4-H Club and that we had the support of our staff, their families, and the board of directors. They all pitched in and we were able to work together and make it happen,” Loralie added. “We have found that the number of volunteers that we have available compared to previous years is lower and so it’s really important to develop these partnerships especially now that times are tougher than in the past.”
 “Anything we can do to provide an affordable and fun event opportunity for families to attend locally is always a good thing,” Shupe-Latour said, “we just want to thank the community for coming out and supporting us. We would also like to extend an extra special thanks to everyone who volunteered to help out.”
“In addition, if families are needing some extra support, they can also reach out to us and we can connect them with the services that they need," Loralie added.

News: February 17, 2020 issue

Town begins discussions for Campground Investment Plan

by Cassie Kushniruk
 
At the February 11 Town Council meeting, Council began preliminary discussions for the development of a Campground Investment Plan for both Willmore Park and the Lions Park Campground.
Currently, the Town operates Willmore Park and the Lions Park Campground is operated in partnership with the Lions Club.
“The first step for the campground investment plan is to clearly define the purpose and intent of each of the campgrounds,” said General Manager of Community and Protective Services Guy Latour. “A clear definition of purpose will then allow us to establish the required services each site can provide and the resulting infrastructure investments required to meet its intended purpose.”
During the time period for questions and comments from Council, Councillor GeanChouinard said, “I would like to take part of Lions Campground and Willmore Park and make it more attractive to temporary housing. A lot of times we are bringing workers into town and I have to agree that the campgrounds around us are staying very full.”
CAO Mike Derricott cautioned, “Most of the other campgrounds close to Edson are in the market of temporary housing and I’ve heard some hesitancy from Council in the past to create competitive dynamics where we’re competing against other entities that are trying to provide the same type of service.”
Councillor Troy Sorenson suggested completing a gap analysis first to “find what we are missing in our community and what we need more of”.
Sorenson added, “I would be uncomfortable if all of our campgrounds were full of long-term temporary workers. I know it would be great for the economy, but we already have hotels and apartment complexes that are looking to make money off of temporary workers.”
Councillor Jacqui Currie echoed Sorenson’s comment, adding, “I think the amount of money that has been invested into [Willmore] Park has already set the parameters of what that is. I think it would really take away if it was all temporary housing.”
Deputy Mayor Krystal Baier commented, “I think Willmore Park should be left a bit more on the rustic end as it is, maybe with a few enhancements, but I don’t think investing sewer, power, or additional water into it would make it any more attractive.”
Councillor Bevan stated that he would like to invest some money into developing the Lions Park Campground. “I don’t think we have to go 100%in providing year-round facilities there, but water, power, and sewer would be great. I know people that prefer going to Lions Park because they can go out to all the restaurants around town, they can walk downtown, or they can go down to our trails. We spent $400,000 out at Willmore Park. I think we can spend some money to fix our Lions Park.”
Councillor Currie stated, “I am interested in recreation and a bit of tourism for Willmore Park and tourism with some temporary housing for Lions Park.” Councillors Janet Wilkinson andGeanChouinard, along with Deputy Mayor Baier, agreed with Councillor Currie’s comment. 
During the time period for questions from the public, one resident commented, “[Lions Park] is not just for tourism or workers.My dream would be totally revamp the park. Right now it’s chopped up because it was designed in the 70s for little campers. We could relay it out, get things back in there, and start putting trees back in.”
This item will be brought back to Council at a future date for further discussion.

News: February 10, 2020 issue

Potholes plague motorists on Hwy 16

Highway pothole repairs get underway amid rising complaints and media inquires

by Dana McArthur
 
It's not a pretty sight. Highway 16 east and westbound from Evansburg to west of Wildwood is riddled with an obstacle course of deeply eroded potholes; better described in some sections as road trenches.
The section from Wildwood Range Road 92A and Range Road 91 eastbound, however, is particularly bad. "Although this is a particularly bad stretch there are many more potholes everywhere on Highway 16 in both directions," said Scott Meadwell from the County.
"In the past two days I have spoken to two County residents that have wrecked tires and rims in these potholes.  Today I spoke to a man who had been waiting for a tow truck for four hours after he hit a pothole," said Meadwell. "These potholes are going to cause accidents and damage as small cars get thrown around or from people swerving to avoid them. I don't want to think of what could happen if a motorcycle hit them."
On February 3, the Weekly Anchor contacted the media representative for Ledcor, the maintenance contractor for the highway, but no response to our questions was received as of press time.
Regarding the nearby potholes along Highway 16, Wildwood resident Megan Otway at Lobstick River Foods, said, "It's horrible! I was driving and hit one of those potholes and it kicked the back of my truck out and I almost hit the ditch! I swerved into the other lane and it was lucky no one was passing me or it would have caused an accident!"
Otway added that she knew of some repairs to the road that were attempted recently during wet weather. "When it froze it just seemed to crack off and made it even worse." Brooklyn Elhard, Press Secretary for the Ministry of Transportation, stated, "Pothole repair can be done any time of year, though most products and Alberta Transportation specifications require working conditions above +5 C for permanent repair."
Local resident Sadie Marklund with Special Touch in Wildwood, said, "It's one of the worst sections I have ever seen. I travel that section every day and it's gotten to the point where I won't even travel in the right lane anymore. It's safer to travel in the passing lane because it's not full of potholes. It's getting worse, so I have started taking the back roads just to avoid the potholes on the highway from Lobstick to Wildwood."
The Weekly Anchor also contacted MLA Martin Long's office on Monday, February 3 and received a call-back on Tuesday. Martin stated that he was headed to a scheduled meeting with the Alberta Transportation Area Operations Manager and that the potholes will be part of the conversation. "I talked to MLA Shane Getson [Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland] and he has brought our concerns to the Minister of Transportation's office as well," said Long.
In an interview with Long after his meeting with the area manager, he stated to the Anchor, "There is work being done on the highway in that [Wildwood] area today [January 4], and with weather permitting they will continue that work."
"Highway 16 is considered a priority highway because higher volume highways take presidence. People have brought us their concerns, and my office, and this government take those concerns very seriously. I appreciate people reaching out to my office and we will always do our part to make those concerns heard at the appropriate level," said Martin.
The Ministry of Transportation also confirmed, "The department is aware of the condition of this segment of Highway 16 and has issued hand patching work orders to the contractor to address these pavement defects on an emergency basis." Alberta Transportation states they assess a combination of factors for repair decisions, "but safety is our top priority," said Press Secretary Elhard.
To report issues on the highway it is recommended to contact the maintenance contractor Ledcor first at their 24 hour number 1-866-453-3267. The Alberta Transportation District Office in Edson can be reached at 780-723-8250. For highway travel information and reports go to 511.alberta.ca.
If your vehicle was damaged by potholes in the area along Highway 16, you can file a written claim including the date, time, and location of the incident. Include an estimate of the damage and a description of the incident, and your name and address (phone number optional).
Forward your claim to the highway maintenance contractor: Ledcor Alberta Limited, Attention: Claims Coordinator, 7008 Roper Road, Box 4031 Edmonton AB, T6B 3H2. Also send a copy to Alberta Transportation, Edson District 202 111-54 Street Edson AB, T7E 1T2. If you do not hear from the contractor within two weeks advise the Edson District Office of Alberta Transportation at 780-723-8250.
The Alberta Motor Association advises never to swerve abruptly to avoid a pothole. This could cause an accident. If you aren't able to safely avoid a pothole, slow down to help mitigate the damage. But take your foot off the brake just before you drive through the hole, this gives your suspension more 'travel' to absorb the blow.
The poor condition of Highway 16 through Edson has also raised concerns with Town Council. On January 21 council agreed to support a lobby for better maintenance of the east and westbound lanes.

News:February 3, 2020 issue

County denied funding under provincial MPB program for 2020

by Cassie Kushniruk
 
On December 2, 2019, Yellowhead County received notice from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) that grant funding under the provincial Mountain Pine Beetle program for 2020 has been denied.
According to a letter fromAAF, this $332,000 in funding, which was used to remove approximately 1500 trees from private property in Yellowhead County, will instead be reallocated to fightthe Mountain Pine Beetle solely on crown lands.
“Yellowhead County has been working with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry since 2009 to control or eradicate the MPB,” stated Yellowhead County Agricultural Services Supervisor Jennifer Benson. “Without grant funding, there is the possibility that the MPB will continue to move west and effect neighboring municipalities.”
During County Council’s January 28 meeting, Director of Community Services Christopher Read said, “Given that neither Alberta nor Canada are funding municipalities to participate in the MPB fight, Administration has drafted a letter to be sent to both levels of government to ask them to reconsider those respective decisions.”
Councillor David Russell asked, “If I understand this correctly, there are no funds that the County will have for a Pine Beetle program in 2020?”Read responded, “That is correct. The County has never funded this program as it has come through the Province. There will be no program to help our residents solve a beetle problem on their properties.”
Councillor Shawn Berry asked how much monetary assistance has been provided to residents through this program. Read responded, “Last year over $300,000 of Pine Beetle control was done in the County.” This is excluding the Robb area which the province discontinued funding support for last year.
Mayor Jim Eglinski added, “I am very disappointed with the provincial and federal governments for cutting funding for this program. I spent many hours as an MP speaking in the House on this issue and it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I think it is just a matter of time for a very serious fire situation to happen, and I am very concerned.”
When asked what residents will do now that there is no funding available for cutting down MPB-infested trees, Benson said, “Some residents will cut down the trees themselves and others will possibly hire contractors directly. Others still will unfortunately leave the trees standing because of financial or physical constraints.”
According to Alberta Wildfire Information Officer Caroline Charbonneau, the Forest Health Department from AAF has been busy over the past several months conducting aerial surveys to collect MPB red tree locations. “These locations are collected and analysed provincially to determine priority locations,” she said.
The province anticipates controlling approximately 100,000 infested trees this season in various Forest Areas throughout Alberta.
“The majority of the survey and control work is being completed in the southern portion of our forest area, 80 kms southeast of Hinton and 50 kms south of Edson,” Charbonneau mentioned. “Another small contract directed by AAF is located near the community of Grande Cache.”
In the Edson Forest Area, approximately 2500 sites are planned to be ground surveyed by contractors and are nearly complete. “From these ground surveyed sites, an estimated 13,920 trees are predicted to be controlled this season,” stated Charbonneau.
According to Charbonneau, 2404 trees have already been hand-fallen and burnt on site by provincially hired contractors, who will be working on this project until the end of March.
Charbonneau added, “Contractors require fire permits once wildfire season begins on March 1. This makes burning operations tricky since some sites may not be safe to burn due to lack of snow and dry grass. A Forest Officer will determine if a burn permit can be approved.” 
Two local forestry companies, Hinton Wood Products and Weyerhaeuser, have also applied for funding to control the MPB in this area through the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) grant.
“Hinton Wood Products has started ground surveys, which began in early January, and they anticipate controlling 1000 trees near the Mountain Cree Community through a FRIAA and FRIP (Forest Resource Improvement Program) grant,” Charbonneau said. “Hinton Wood Products FRIP dollars will also be put towards training six Mountain Cree members who will be helping with survey quality inspections and control quality inspection training.”
Weyerhaeuser has also been approved for FRIAA funding and have begun ground surveys on 600 sites. “Of these sites, they anticipate to identify and control 7,000 trees south of Edson,” Charbonneau stated.
Due to the cold temperatures Alberta received this January, Charbonneau stated that lower MPB numbers are to be expected, however, “there needs to be a mortality level of as much as 95% to suppress the population and the temperatures just weren’t cold enough”.  
“The results of this year’s cold temperatures won't be known until the spring when Alberta Agriculture and Forestry conducts and analyzes overwinter mortality surveys,” Charbonneau mentioned.
Charbonneau added, “The good news is that the MPB in our forest area have taken a significant hit the past 2 years, experiencing above average precipitation over the summer months and cold weather events at various stages of fall, winter and spring.  These events are certainly helping us achieve our control objectives.”

News: January 27, 2020 issue

County FCSS seeks funding for children's program

by Dana McArthur
  "In November 2019 Yellowhead County was informed that contract funding from Children's Services that covered the majority of the costs of services under the Children's Program, would be cut March 31 this year," stated FCSS Supervisor Wendy Robinson, during the County's Governance and Priorities meeting on January 21.
  "The new priorities of the provincial government do not align with the services provided in the program, and as such, any services provided under the Children's Program banner would need to be provided through the County," said Robinson.
  This program supports 2.3 full time employees (FTE's) providing services including Kounty Kids Preschool; Kids in the Hall After School programming; Roots of Empathy in some schools; Babysitters Safety; Little Chefs; Family Field Trips and Movie Nights; Kids Getaway and Summer Awesome Adventure Camps; along with other short term and one-off programs throughout the year for families and children in the community.
  "The intent of the Children's Program is to provide children 6-12 and their families with opportunities for them to build knowledge, skills and confidence, enabling them to make healthy choices and provide a foundation for positive family experiences," stated Robinson. "The Children's Program is a pure FCSS program, in terms of providing programming that focuses on preventing distress and promoting the wellbeing of children and the family unit."
  "Participating children in the programs overwhelmingly state that they feel more confident after participating in programs, have increased self esteem, and feel better about themselves post program," said Robinson.
  In 2019 the Children's Program staffing costs was $151,272 and programming expenses were $16,986. The amount of funding that has been lost from contracts earmarked for the Children's Program is $123,975.
  "Even though funding will cease March 31, families are requesting information regarding programming post March 31," said Robinson.
  "Typically, programming such as Kounty Kids Preschool and School based and after school programming runs through May each year, starting up again each fall. If all services were to stop March 31 when contract funding stops, this leaves families without services for the remainder of the school year, which is particularly difficult for children enrolled in preschool, who require consistency and routine to support their learning and development," stated Robinson.
  "There are some distinct services and programs that have their own costs. The Awesome Summer Adventure Camps cost is $45,000/year. The County Kids preschool program requires two staff, whereas other programs could operate with one staff, although it would decrease program capacity due to industry ratios and increasing participation of higher needs children," Robinson said.
  In a heartfelt statement Councillor Shawn Berry said, "I want to see these programs stay in place. Kids are special and if we can do programs like this that offer positive outcomes that send them in positive directions for their entire lives, then accept my emotion plea and please fund this program."
  Councillor Sandra Cherniawsky supported Councillor Berry's statement, "I see firsthand the impact of these programs. It's another download from the province but I am one hundred percent in support of this program."
  Christopher Read, Director of Community Services, clarified, "Just to be clear the Province has stated these services are very valuable, but as outcomes for Diversion funding have changed we have been very luck to continue to get this funding. This program fits into the FCSS mandate, it didn't fit in Diversion and we were lucky to be grandfathered. We are not going to get additional FCSS funding from the province."
  Jack Ramme, Chief Administrative Officer added, "We need to know how you what to fund this and your choices are to cut something or to raise taxes."
  Councillor Dawn Mitchell asked, "Have we looked at the amounts parents pay for some of these programs?" Fees for service brings in about $7,000 per year stated Robinson. "We want to make this accessible for as many families as possible. Increases to fees would bring in minimal extra."
  Mayor Jim Eglinski said, "I spoke to several residents who spoke very passionately about how good the program is and how they'd hate to see it go. I would be very much in favour that we try to find this money and keep the program going."
  Councillor Lavone Olson said, "Are there some of these programs that are more valuable than others and can we cut some of these? I am not in favour of raising taxes, we might be short on our budget already."
  Councillor David Russell said, "The benefits of this program to our residents is very obvious. Have we looked at the entire FCSS program to find wiggle room to make this work?"
  Read stated, "If council says 'no new money' then Administration would look to prioritize within a budget envelope, then we would come back and council can choose what to do."
  Councillor Williams added, "I am not in favour of raising taxes and some of these programs should be more parent driven than County driven. I think we need to look at tighten the belt here."
  Councillor Anthony Giezen said, "For me this is about looking for efficiencies. I am not in favour of raising taxes or going into our reserves. We have to put more of this back onto the parents and guardians and pick programming that works."
  Councillor Cherniawsky said, "Everyone says they don't want to raise taxes but how long can we sustain that with our transfer stations, community halls, and with everything going up every year? We have one of the lowest mill rates —a half a percent would cover this. This is a drop in the bucket to some of the projects coming up."
  Councillor Berry added, "If we take $168,000 and make this the amount of money we'd through kids under the bus for, we should be ashamed. There are all kinds of ways we can cut to find this money."
  Mayor Jim Eglinski, "As a former police officer and detachment commander we had a lot programs to work with kids and it paid off in dividends. We need to take this into consideration and we need to challenge our staff on where we can come up with this funding. If we don't want to cut, then the program is cut, and we will have to pay the consequences."
  Christopher Read summarized that council would like to see many of these services maintained but did not want to see taxes raised or the budget reopened. "We have support and clarity to bring back what you have asked us for."