With keys now in hand, the University of Lethbridge is looking forward to moving into its new $248-million Destination Project Science and Academic building by May. Local media were given the opportunity to tour the largely completed project on Wednesday with Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips, Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick and various university officials.
The tour highlighted the first-rate laboratory facilities which will be housed in the building, the sustainability aspects which have been incorporated into the building’s design, and some of “wow-factor” spaces which the building boasts — spaces such as the university’s largest auditorium, the building’s Winter Garden, and its Makerspace classrooms, which will allow greater applied learning by students attending classes in the facility.
Media representatives were told there are still about 100 workers left on site applying the finishing touches on a project that boasted about 600 workers at its height.
Phillips credited the Destination Project with being the right project for the right time in Lethbridge in helping many workers who would otherwise have been unemployed during the recent recession.
“I can tell you from personal experience on knocking on doors in west Lethbridge that I have talked to people who moved here for work on this project, and then the Cavendish project,” said Phillips.
Shuttered drug house ‘one of the worst’
The floor was littered with hundreds of used drug needles. A blood stain on the wall was being used as a macabre dart board, with the used needles as darts.
And the home had been basically trashed before Alberta Sheriffs and Lethbridge police entered and sealed a suspected drug house on Wednesday. Responding to ongoing complaints from neighbours, they shuttered the northside home for 90 days.
“It’s one of the worst we’ve seen,” said Insp. Mike Letourneau of the Alberta Sheriffs’ special Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods unit.
“You couldn’t walk without stepping on used needles.”
Armed with a court-issued Community Safety Order, the officers ordered the building vacated. Work crews changed the locks, boarded the windows and erected a security fence around the property at 235 15 St. N.
City police first responded to neighbours’ concerns last summer, reported Const. Ryan Darroch. Alberta Sheriffs investigators confirmed drug activity and then partnered with Lethbridge police to address the issues. In August, city police executed a search warrant at the property, seizing drugs and weapons.
Then a warning letter was sent to the owner, who does not live at the property. But drug activity at the property continued, police say, so investigators began gathering more evidence to support a Community Safety Order application in court.
Lottery coming for playoff tickets
Tickets will be free for any Lethbridge Hurricanes’ 2019 home playoff games played at Nicholas Sheran Arena.
That’s if you can get one.
Season ticket holders, or those who commit to buying season tickets for the 2019-20 regular season, can buy playoff ticket packages for the city’s WHL team. One entry for each package purchased will then go to a lottery draw for two free tickets to a possible game at Nicholas Sheran.
Those selected for the first game will not be qualified for further games until the entire pool of eligible ticket seekers is rolled through. The visiting team also receives an allotment of 100 tickets. If they are not all claimed by noon on a game day, any remaining tickets will be dispersed to those on a 50-person waiting list.
This potential situation is because the Lethbridge Hurricanes, should they qualify for the post-season, will be displaced from the Enmax Centre due to the 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship set for March 30 to April 7. Depending on different WHL divisional matchup scenarios, up to three Hurricanes’ home playoff games could took place during this time.
The Enmax Centre can fit about 5,350 people for hockey, but Nicholas Sheran Arena only has 968 seats and standing room for about 200 more.
Illinois man facing charges
Numerous charges have been laid related to 10 bomb threats thanks to the efforts of multiple departments spanning two countries.
Thirty-five-year-old Justin Bagley of Elkville, Ill., has been charged with 11 counts of felony disorderly conduct in connection to a series of bomb threats made in Taber that spanned three days last week.
A joint investigation began Saturday when police in Taber contacted the Jackson County Sheriff’s office in Illinois.
The Taber Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, Jackson County police and United States Department of Homeland Security all participated in the investigation.
Jackson County Sheriff’s office noted investigators were able to track the phone number used to call the targets in Taber, leading to the arrest of Bagley.
All told, the suspect was arrested within a 72-hour time frame from when the first threat was received last Thursday night at Walmart in Taber.
Graham Abela, chief for the Taber Police Service, said Bagley accessed an online app which is used to listen to police scanners. Bagley would often listen to these from the United States but chose to attempt to spy on detachments from Canada. Bagley clicked on the Alberta tab from the app and selected Taber Police Service.
Airport traffic taking off
A little competition can have a huge impact.
Launching WestJet flights to Calgary has reportedly brought new life to Lethbridge Airport.
Passenger traffic has soared by 75 per cent, according to reports from Tourism Lethbridge.
To meet the new demand, travellers are seeing larger aircraft assigned to the Lethbridge service. And for those travelling out-of-province, they’re also seeing connector fares that eliminate the need to drive and park at Calgary International.
The unprecedented hike in Lethbridge Airport business, highlighted in a new Tourism Lethbridge report, followed WestJet’s introduction of daily service in competition with Air Canada.
WestJet partner Pacific Coastal Airline started the Calgary connector with 34-seat Saab turbo-props. Now one of those flights is being handled by a Q400 aircraft with more than 75 seats.
Air Canada’s regional partner has been using a 19-seat Beechcraft — with no washroom or other amenities — but now it’s reportedly planning an upgrade. The national carrier did not respond Tuesday to a call for confirmation of that change.
The airport figures, comparing November 2018 to the same month a year earlier, are part of a new monthly update from Tourism Lethbridge. It will also track the number of passenger cars driving into the city from other Alberta communities, and report the number of American cars heading north through the Coutts border crossing.
Local hotel operators also reported a five per cent occupancy rate increase in November, the report shows, while numbers were little changed in the rest of the province.
And in seasonally warm December, it adds, the number of Waterton Lakes National Park visitors reached 8,000 — up more than five per cent.
William Slenders, executive director at Tourism Lethbridge, cites the growing number of travellers using Lethbridge Airport as a positive indicator for the region’s hospitality and tourism industry.
“We do have a quite vibrant tourism economy,” he points out.
WestJet promoted its new “regional hub” routes when they were launched, he says, but traffic has continued to grow.
“A lot of it is ‘organic’ growth,” says Slenders.
The former southern Alberta woman charged after 200 dogs were taken from her by the SPCA in 2014 and 2015, has been ordered to have a psychiatric assessment.
It’s the second time April Dawn Irving has been ordered to have the assessment.
The first time was in November 2015 but the accused, who was not in custody at the time, failed to attend and later disappeared.
During a hearing in Lethbridge provincial court, Irving was ordered again to have the 30-day assessment, this time as an inpatient since she is in custody and will not have a choice but to attend.
The former Milk River-area resident faces one charge of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code and 13 charges under the Animal Protection Act.
She was charged early in 2015 after she voluntarily surrendered 60 dogs to the SPCA in December 2014, and after another 141 dogs were seized Jan. 13, 2015, after authorities returned to her property with a warrant.
Officials reported many of the dogs were emaciated, dirty, dehydrated and suffering from various medical and behavioural ailments, and were found under trailers, in outbuildings and outside where they were exposed to cold weather.
Turbine up for auction
Alberta’s ongoing wind power and renewable energy renaissance may be in full bloom under the NDP government, but it is not the first time Alberta has flirted with government-sponsored wind power generation. On March 20 at Ritchie Bros. in Lethbridge a remnant of that legacy will be coming up for auction.
Built in the 1990s under the government of the day’s Small Power Producers Program, the Bonus 150 has a height of 23 metres with a generating capacity of 150 kW/hr.
Jeff Wearmouth, owner of Optimist Wind Energy, which is selling the turbine, says the Bonus 150 was the first privately owned power-generating wind turbine erected in southern Alberta.
Air Canada adding bigger planes
With Lethbridge passenger numbers soaring, travellers will soon say farewell to their familiar 19-seat commuter aircraft.
Starting April 30, Air Canada confirms, 50-seat turboprops will replace the narrow-body Beechcraft 1900 planes that have covered the Lethbridge-to-Calgary run for many years.
The upgrade is part of an agreement signed earlier this month providing three daily flights with the much-larger aircraft.
“Air Canada’s regional flights in Western Canada will be operated exclusively by Jazz Aviation LP as part of our new agreement with Jazz’s parent company, Chorus,” says Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah.
Halifax-based Chorus Aviation Inc. provides aircraft leasing and contract flying in addition to regional service as an Air Canada partner. Lethbridge flights on Beechcraft have been provided by smaller companies including Air Georgian and Central Mountain Air in recent years.