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News: February 25, 2019 issue

Edson Minor Soccer Association speaks-out on sports field user fees

by Cassie Kushniruk
In response to the January 22 Committee of the Whole meeting in which Town Council was presented with a proposal to implement a sports field user fee, there have been numerous comments from community members fearing for the future of minor soccer in Edson.
On behalf of the Edson Minor Soccer Association (EMS), President Steven Lubarsky and Vice President Lacie Reilly with the association gave a presentation to members of Town Council during the regular Council meeting on February 19, relaying their concerns with the proposed fee.
“[During the January 22 meeting], there was a lot of discussion about fairness to user groups. I have a bit of an issue with that,” Lubarsky began. “I don’t think we’re comparing apples to apples when we start talking about fairness with the one group that is paying user fees.”
To expand on his point, Lubarsky brought up Repsol Place —which operates as a pay-to-use facility—explaining that both individuals and user groups use the facility and are charged a certain fee. “When you’re dealing with soccer fields, you’re not dealing with that,” he said. “You’re dealing with a user group and you’re also dealing with people walking their dogs …picnicking; it’s a green space. It’s not just for soccer field users.”
“The other major thing to know is that the Town handles everything [with Repsol Place],” Lubarsky added. “When the discussion took place last time, the statement was made that all maintenance [for the soccer fields] was handled by the Town of Edson, and that’s not true.”
In the past, Edson Minor Soccer maintained their own fields through tasks such as irrigation and fertilization; however, these responsibilities have recently been handed over to the Town. “That was handed over not necessarily in exchange for user fees,” Lubsarky stated.
Although the Town has been tasked with the upkeep of the soccer fields, the Edson Minor Soccer Association continues to provide a large amount of maintenance support through their yearly spring cleanup, supplying items for the washrooms, painting signage, and performing minor repairs to structures.
Apart from Repsol Place, Lubarsky also compared the soccer fields with other recreational facilities, such as the Skateboard Park and Pump Track. “If you get into the Skate Park, you’re talking about a green space that’s used by a user group,” Lubarsky said. “It’s not an organized user group but it is a user group. There’s a very specific person that’s using that skate park.”
Centennial Park, Kinsmen Spray Park, and the Dog Park were some other recreational facilities that Lubarsky gave as examples to stress his point that although these facilities are used in a similar fashion to the soccer fields, they are not charged a user fee. “I understand it’s very hard to [charge user fees] with a lot of those facilities unless you’re going to set them up as a paid facility,” Lubarsky said.“So why is it that because it’s easy to apply it to minor sports, we now want to apply a fee to them? I don’t think that’s fair.”
“When you deal with soccer, not everyone uses the soccer fields and that’s probably the best argument I’ve heard for it,” Lubarksy continued. “My kids don’t use the Skate Park or the Spray Park, but that doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of that. But that’s a shared use through taxation and that’s what a town does.”
Prior to the January 22 Committee of the Whole meeting when the proposed $20/player user fee was announced, Lubarsky explained that a few sports field user groups —including Edson Minor Soccer— met together on November 15 to discuss the proposal of a user fee. Following this discussion, the group decided to research the matter more in depth and bring it back for discussion at a later date.
However, on January 21, Lubarsky received a notification that Town Council would be presented with the $20 user fee proposal during the January 22 meeting. “We were lead to believe that there would be some discussion and [we would] work some of the kinks out, but it didn’t really happen that way,” Lubarsky said. “It definitely left a sour taste.”
“The main thing we are looking for today is a commitment to push this back at least for the year,” Lubarksy said to Council, explaining that the non-for-profit association will not be able to take on the extra $6500 in fees.
Mayor Kevin Zahara thanked Lubarsky and Reilly for their presentation, mentioning that Council is not in a huge rush to implement these user fees and will consider all information before making a final decision.
Councillor Gean Chouinard agreed with Lubarsky’s request to grant another year for people to absorb the sports field user fees, as “to these young growing families, that $20 might make a difference if they’re playing soccer or not.”
During the February 11 Youth Council meeting in which the sports field user fee proposal was discussed among Youth Councillors, the group discussed the importance of shining a light on subsidy programs available for parents in need, such as Edson Kids in Sport and Jumpstart. “Most of the kids hadn’t actually heard of the programs,” said Councillor Krystal Baier.“They felt that there was some lacking information about those programs. I was just wondering if Minor Soccer had a role with that as well.” 
Reilly replied that there are families associated with Minor Soccer that utilize Edson Kids in Sport, but there have been no applications for JumpStart. 
As a soccer coach, Lubarsky added that parents who are in need of extra funding for soccer tend to be resistant when it comes to applying for these subsidy programs. “Using that as a backdrop or something to catch those people that maybe aren’t going to be able to make it, we want to use that sparingly because most people won’t,” Lubarsky said. “They’ll just walk away and they won’t put their kids in sports, which happens a lot.”
Councillor Baier then asked, “What does EMS do with the fees they collect?”
Lubarsky stated that some of these fees are utilized to purchase soccer balls for younger children in the leagues below U13. “The reason we do that is because there’s different sized soccer balls for different groups,” he explained.“If you don’t provide the proper size of ball, they don't show up with the proper size of ball. Everybody shows up with a size 5 ball because Canadian Tire only carries size 5 balls.”
The association also utilizes these funds to pay for insurance for the younger kids, pay for the teams’ pictures, fund tournaments for the travel league, and pay for line painting. “[Lines] have to be done once a week and the painter as well as the paint is quite expensive,” said Lubarsky.
Councillor Janet Wilkinson thanked the group for their presentation and the work they do to provide kids with the opportunity to play soccer.
Councillor Jacqui Currie stated that although she does believe that a sports field user fee should be implemented due to the fact that fields used by registered sports groups require more maintenance than causal users, she stated that she would like to see a formula based on expenses to better decide on a fee. “I do think that a formula needs to be established based on the actual cost that it costs us,” she said.
Councillor Trevor Bevan agreed that a user fee should be implemented and stated that he would like to give the groups as much time on either side to gather as much information as needed.
CAO Mike Derricott addressed Council, “Administratively speaking, I think we’ve already eclipsed the point where it wouldn’t make any sense for us to apply a fee this year. I don’t feel administratively that there’s any reason why we wouldn’t say we’re not going to be in a place where it would be effective to try and apply a fee prior to their AGM and registration process.”
Mayor Zahara closed, saying, “We will take it all into account before we make any decisions.”               

News: February 18, 2019 issue

MLA Rosendahl's office faces allegations of partisan work on government time

by Cassie Kushniruk
In January, former Legislative Assembly of Alberta (LAO) employee Kathleen Westergaard  has made allegations against employer MLA Eric Rosendahl, claiming that he pressured her into doing partisan work for the NDP party on government time.
While staff members with the LAO are often tasked with assisting MLAs with the operation of constituency offices, they are prohibited to participate in any partisan work, such as lobbying votes for a party candidate or displaying materials with party logos. 
In a recent interview with The Weekly Anchor, MLA Rosendahl addressed the issue, “It’s a personnel thing and it has to stay with that.” Rosendahl would provide no further comment.
After the 2015 election, Kathleen Westergaard moved to Hinton to work for MLA Rosendahl as LAO staff.
Westergaard told global news in an interview that she was directed by Rosendahl to do party work for the NDP shortly after being hired.
According to the report, Westergaard alleged that Rosendahl’s requests escalated last spring when he told her that he would be changing her hours to evenings and weekends to focus on his re-election campaign.
After reminding Rosendahl in a text message that party business correspondence is prohibited from being sent through the office addresses, Rosendahl allegedly replied that she would have no future with the LAO if she refused to work on his campaign. Westergaard presented screenshots of these text messages as part of the report.
Westergaard remained at her job for some time following these requests, but when she eventually refused to do Rosendahl’s party work, she was reportedly fired without cause in June 2018.
Westergaard told an Edmonton media outlet that she believed her termination was a result of her refusal to work on Rosendahl’s re-election campaign.
There is no known investigation currently taking place concerning this matter. The Weekly Anchor contacted Westergaard for comment but received no reply as of press time.

News: February 11, 2019 issue

Are you prepared?


   With the recent extreme cold weather alerts in much of the province AMA reports that in just three days they fielded a record number of calls.
AMA received 42,000 requests for roadside assistance across the province. They engaged every available dispatcher, call centre employee, service vehicle operator, and contracted partner to rescue as many members as possible, as quickly as possible but the sheer volume of calls means wait times were much longer than usual.
Bear in mind, that was for a cold snap in a province typically braced for cold weather. What about an eventuality Albertans are not prepared for?
During the February 5th Town Council meeting, Edson's Director of Protective Services Alan Schram said, "Our main message is: are you prepared?"
"You should be prepared to be self-sustaining in your community for 72 hours. Depending on the nature of the situation emergency services may not be able to get to you until then," said Schram.
"The first thing is to know the risks in our area. We know tornados happen here, and the big one is wildfires. Heavy rains can restrict movement in our community. Power outages and industrial and major transportation incidences can also occur. We need to be prepared for all of these," said Schram.
Making an emergency plan with the family is critical and only takes a few minutes. Also very important is to have an emergency kit ready. "You may have to get by without power or even tap water for 72 hours," said Schram.
With funding through the Public Safety Initiative, the Town of Edson Protective Services in partnership with Citizens on Patrol purchased 200 emergency kit bags for residents. The free bags will come with a list of recommend items that residents can shop for, to fill the kit with. They are available at the Edson Fire Station and the Town office.
Once filled, make sure your emergency kit is easy to find and family members know where it is "like the front entry closet" suggested Schram.
A basic kit should include:
- At least two litres of water per person per day, include small bottles of water
- Food that won’t spoil, eg: Canned food, energy bars, dried food.
- Manual can opener
- Wind up or battery-operated flashlight
- Wind up or battery-operated radio
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Extra keys to house and car
- Cash in smaller bills
- A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
- Any prescription medications, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, food and water for your pets.
Additional Items could include:
- Two additional litres of water per person for cooking and cleaning
- Candles and matches or lighter
- Change of clothing and footwear for each family member
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each family member
- Toiletries
- Hand sanitizer
- Utensils
- Garbage bags
- Toilet paper
- Household chlorine bleach or water purifying tablets
- Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask, pocket knife)
- Small fuel operated stove and fuel
- A whistle
- Duct tape
Personally, I have kept an emergency kit stowed in my vehicle for many years, ever since I was forced off a snowy mountain highway in BC and spent a rather cold and hungry night huddled in my vehicle. My only thoughts were how great it would have been to have a sleeping bag, water, a bite to eat, even a candle handy at a time like this.
This is why we tip our toques this week to the Town of Edson Protective Services for bringing the importance of disaster readiness to the public's attention.
And as Mayor Kevin Zahara stated, "This is very important for our community especially with the risks associated with the mountain pine beetle."

News: February 4, 2019 issue

“Very positive change of plans”: Youth Shack moves to bigger building

by Cassie Kushniruk
Edson's Town Council was made aware of recent plans to move the Town’s future youth programming center, dubbed the ‘Youth Shack’, into a different building. 
Over the summer, youth who were part of the ‘Make Your Mark’ project repainted the old Scout shack in Kinsmen Park to be used by the Town of Edson for the future Youth Shack.
However, the Town was recently offered the opportunity to purchase the Kinsmen building, which contains the park’s on-site bathrooms. “This gives us a lot more opportunities,” said Town of Edson Municipal Intern and temporary Community Development Coordinator Scott Lamb, during the Jan. 22 Committee of the Whole meeting. “There’s good plumbing in there already, it’s a more solid building, we have more options for a kitchen, and it’s just going to be a more solid facility. It gives us more to work with for not too much of a price, so overall it works really good for us.”
As for the Scout Shack, youth involved in some of the Parks Department programs will be moved into that building, along with some park maintenance equipment.
As with every project, the Youth Shack has its fair share of obstacles, one of them being the issue of staffing. “We don’t want the youth running around free in there with nothing to do; we want a little bit more of structure,” said Lamb.“We can plan activities that are going to be there, but it’s going to be tough if we, just from the Town, are providing people to be there all the time.”
“We would love to hire staff to be there regularly, but at this point it’s not a reality,” Community Development Manager Tanya Byers said later during the meeting. “The [Community Development] Coordinators can all run events out of there on the evenings or weekends, but with only three of them with a lot of other things to do —they’re doing their full-time.”
The Town will be looking into applying for provincial grants and finding other opportunities to provide staffing.
Councilor Krystal Baier asked the rough amount of funds needed to be raised to complete the Youth Shack project.
“At this point, we had, I believe, $25,000 to put towards the renovations, but we also are going to have to take our operating expenses into that, so that’s going to take it down a little bit,” said Byers. “At this point, I think we need to start tearing the building apart and doing the renovations, which thankfully the Town of Edson staff are going to be able to do, to keep our costs down.Our plan is to fully stay within budget and do as much as we can with what we have."
“We originally thought we would need more because we would have had to bring plumbing and water to the other shack, but now that the Parks group has gracefully given us their shack, it’s going to be a far more useful, larger, and better space,” Byers concluded.
On January 30, the Town of Edson hosted the band Hillsburn at the Red Brick Arts Centre as a fundraising means and to raise awareness for the Youth Shack project.