A permitted fire just southeast of the city got out of control for one Lethbridge County resident, prompting a call to the fire department and the warning to the public about burning responsibly.
Fire crews from the City of Lethbridge and Town of Coaldale responded to the blaze Thursday afternoon on Range Road 21-1A and spent a few hours bringing the burn under control. Black smoke from the blaze could clearly be seen from the city.
The owner of the property, who would not give his name, told The Herald he had been burning some grass on his property and went in for lunch.
He heard a water pump kick on in his backyard, and when he came out to investigate he saw the blaze had sparked up in a pile of wooden gates in his backyard corral, which he used as a storage space for his scrap metal business.
Seeing the fire was already beyond his ability to put out, he called the fire department. The corral structure was eventually lost in the blaze.
Acting Captain Mark Matheson of the Lethbridge Fire Department said many rural property owners in the area engage in open burns in the spring, but he cautioned those doing so must do so responsibly.
Little impact from water deal
The Montana Water Court has been asked to approve a new water rights compact between the State of Montana, the U.S. government and the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana.
The compact would give the the Blackfeet people enhanced water rights on several rivers in northern Montana including substantial water rights on the American side of the St. Mary River and all water rights on the American side of the Milk River.
The historic agreement was signed between the Blackfeet people, the state and the U.S. federal government last year after 30 years of negotiations, and is currently clearing its last hurdle to be legalized by the Water Court.
However, it should have little to no effect on how water is apportioned on the Canadian side of the border, says Milk River Watershed Council executive director Tim Romanow.
“It does abide by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 regarding apportionment so it doesn’t make a big difference in terms of how things are operated north of the border,” confirms Romanow.
Funding boost coming
Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) will be providing two grants worth over $1.6 million to the University of Lethbridge to enhance its Terrestrial Eco-system Remote Sensing program and to help the local Piikani First Nation meld traditional teaching with new technological innovations in community-based environmental monitoring.
For the first grant, the university’s department of geography will receive nearly $1.2 million from WD for a new Titan multi-spectral LIDAR imaging system.
“It’s a laser-pulsing system on board an airplane,” explained Chris Hopkinson, U of L Research Chair for Terrestrial Eco-System Remote Sensing.
The new multi-spectral LIDAR system will allow the U of L to expand its current nationally leading program in this kind of laser-mapping technology, said Hopkinson.
“The University of Lethbridge has been a national leader in remote sensing in general, airborne and satellite-based,” he explained, “and this gives us our own capability to lead and implement our own missions anywhere around the world. We don’t have to borrow technology anymore.”
The second Western Economic Diversification grant is worth about $432,000, and will help the Piikani Nation develop and implement community-based environmental monitoring that integrates traditional Indigenous knowledge with emerging environmental monitoring technologies.
This brew’s for you
Southern Alberta couples planning a summer wedding will be able to surprise their guests.
For the first time, they’ll be able to create their own celebratory wine for their reception and dinner.
And if they’re new at crafting their own vintage, they’ll have the support of Lethbridge wine experts.
Those options are now permitted under recently updated regulations issued by the Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Commission.
And Albertans who prefer a cool handcrafted beer — but don’t have sufficient space in their apartment or condo — may now make their own in a dedicated facility, just as they have in British Columbia for decades.
A Lethbridge business — Wine Brew & You — has become the first in southern Alberta to offer the “you brew” service. Wine and beer fans with no hands-on experience can simply select their favourite taste, start the liquid fermenting in the stainless steel work room, then leave their product to age.
Four to six weeks later, clients return to bottle their wine or transfer their brew into bottles, growlers or kegs.
“This gives the customer the ability to say, ‘I crafted my own wine,’” says winery concierge Shelley Doucette.
Irving fit for trial
A psychiatrist has determined that the former southern Alberta woman charged with animal cruelty more than four years ago can be held criminally responsible for the offences she faces.
Although the assessment doesn’t imply guilt, it paves the way for the Crown to proceed with a trial should defence choose not to resolve the case another way.
During a hearing April 23 in Lethbridge provincial court, the Crown and defence received the results of a psychiatric assessment the court ordered for April Dawn Irving in February.
Under Section 672 of the Criminal Code, an assessment of the mental condition of an accused can be ordered to determine whether the accused was, at the time of the commission of the alleged offence, suffering from a mental disorder so as to be exempt from criminal responsibility.
Irving, 59, had originally been ordered to have an assessment as an outpatient in November 2015, several months after she had been charged with one count of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code and 13 counts under the Animal Protection Act relating to the lack of care of animals in her possession. She then failed to attend court Feb. 19, 2016 and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
The woman had reportedly fled to Jamaica, but she was finally arrested in December of last year in Manitoba and returned to Lethbridge the following month. She’s been in custody ever since.
Area residents struggling
According to a recent MNP Consumer Debt Index report, many Lethbridge residents, and residents throughout southern Alberta in general, have been living on the edge of insolvency for some time — with almost half now living within $200 a month of not being able to pay their bills or debts. And it is beginning to take a toll, says Lethbridge-based MNP licensed insolvency trustee Randy Kobbert, as debt continues to accumulate.
“In Lethbridge,” he says, “the number of people within the calendar year of 2018 applying for insolvency was up 21 per cent in southern Alberta over the calendar year of 2017. Those translate to numbers from 611 filings in southern Alberta in 2017 to 744 filings in southern Alberta in 2018.
“And so far in 2019 we’re seeing another seven per cent more over the same time period last year. We have now surpassed in our office our numbers from 2009-2010 coming out of the great recession. We’re actually doing more filings now than we did back then.”
This makes southern Alberta the hardest hit region for insolvencies in the province, confirms Kobbert. The languishing oil and gas economy and the slowing construction industry are both factors in rising household debt in southern Alberta. But it is also attributable to the region’s relatively lower wages not keeping up with the cost of living, and the failure of some households to adjust spending habits accordingly, he says.
All that jazz
For nearly a decade, southern Albertans have been enjoying top-flight entertainment during the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival.
This year, there’s a new note of harmony. Organizers have joined forces with the Lethbridge Folk Club and the Wide Skies Music and Arts Festival to further promote our city as a centre for music and outdoor entertainment.
The week-long jazz series — June 7 to 15 this year — now draws about 5,000 people, festival founder Don Robb said Thursday.
Many of this year’s events are low-cost or free, he pointed out, including the popular Jazz in the Park attraction on June 8. All will be held at venues in the downtown area, where a number of restaurants will also offer jazz over the dinner hours.
Adding to the downtown buzz, Mike Spencer said the Wide Skies festival, July 30 and 31, will also feature a number of performers during no-charge concerts on 11 Street S. alongside Southminster United Church.
He credited the Allied Arts Council, the Heart of the City initiative and the church for making the mid-week event one of the highlights of summer.
The Lethbridge Folk Club is part of the action this year as well, Robb said, co-sponsoring a concert by Calgary’s long-popular Karl Roth Trio.
Ready for business
The first year brought many challenges. But William Slenders says the city’s new visitor promotion agency is gearing up for action during its second summer.
Slenders, executive director of the Lethbridge Destination Management Organization, says its inaugural year was “incredibly successful.”
As mandated by city council, the new organization had to begin by transitioning the tourist-related services previously provided to the city by the Lethbridge Sports Council, Economic Development Lethbridge and the long-running Chinook Country Tourism Association.
At the same time, Slenders had to recruit and interview staff members to handle those responsibilities. And from its January 2018 startup, it had to be ready to assist visitors as spring turned into summer.
“It was really a very tense year,” he explained recently, reporting after the agency’s first annual meeting.
But co-operation from the three related organizations allowed the small team to complete the change-over.
Custom brew coming
The Oldman Watershed Council will soon be saluting its latest contribution to southern Alberta life. A launch party on May 7 will introduce a new craft brew.
Oldman Watershed Council Hazy Kolsch Ale has been named winner of this year’s Phillips Benefit Brew Competition. It will be served during a launch party from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
But the beer won’t be based on water from the Oldman River. Instead, it will be produced by the Phillips Brewing and Malting Co., based in Victoria.
Representatives of Phillips and the council will present the new beverage during the evening, and and a live songwriter’s circle performance from Oldman Watershed-based musicians John Wort Hannam, Shaela Miller and Jon Martin will cap off the event.
Street sweeping starts
The City of Lethbridge is letting residents know if they don’t move their vehicles from the street when the annual street cleaning operation comes through their neighbourhood they will be fined.
The annual operation started April 23 on the city’s northside. In the coming two months it will eventually move to the southside and finish up by the end of June on the westside.
“The parking control commissionaire will follow behind the street sweepers, not in front,” explained the City’s senior bylaw officer Dave Henley, “so that individuals who receive tickets were there and the sweeper had to go around.
“The signs will be removed shortly after the area has been swept; so if you come back and you have a ticket on the windshield certainly the signs were in place. They have just been removed and moved to the next zone.”
The tickets will be $30, but will be reduced to $15 if paid in seven days, said Henley.
“The ticket is for parking in an area where there is a temporary parking ban,” he confirmed. “That’s what the street sweeping signs are all about— they create a temporary parking ban in those locations.”
Adam Campbell, the City’s transportation operations manager, explained that night crews will put out the street sweeping signs in designated zones the night before to give local residents plenty of warning about which zones are to be swept the following day. He also cautions drivers passing the street sweepers to be cautious.
Mahon gets third term
President and vice-chancellor Mike Mahon will serve a third term leading the University of Lethbridge.
The university’s board of governors has announced his reappointment for term ending in July 2023.
Originally from Winnipeg, Mahon served 10 years at the University of Alberta before being appointed to his first five-year U of L term in 2010. With his current appointment ending in June 2020, he asked for a shorter final term.
“I am very grateful for this reappointment and extend my appreciation to the board and members of the search and review committee for their service,” Mahon says.
“As I shared with members of our university community earlier, my motivation in seeking a third term is to complete a number of very important projects underway at the university and see the path forward secured for others.”
Mahon is the sixth president and vice-chancellor of the university. During his tenure, he introduced the U of L’s first academic plan and strategic research plan, followed closely by plans for “Destination 2020.” Its key component was funding and construction of the new Science and Academic Building, a $280-million science teaching and research facility due to open in September — promising to be the most advanced science teaching and research centre of its kind in the country.
It’s also the largest project since completion of the original University Hall in 1972.
“My passion for the university is strong and I feel that there is much more to be done,” he says.