As local motorists know, it was a tough winter for Lethbridge roads.
Frost boils became an obvious problem this spring. There were so many — and so large!
But surprisingly, the number of resident-reported potholes was actually down.
From Jan. 1 to June 11, there were 403 reports received online or through the 311 phone line.
That compares with 537 over the same period last year, according to Adam Campbell, transportation operations manager for the City of Lethbridge.
“This would partially be due to improvements in our reporting system — filtering out duplicates — but largely attributable to investments in the road system,” he says.
But though they were fewer, many of the paving failures were much larger.
“Frost boils in particular have been a problem, with over 25 reported,” Campbell says.
That’s far higher than the average, five.
“More importantly, however, the frost boils are generally much larger than we are accustomed to.”
As a result, Campbell says, paving contractors were hired to rebuild some of the fractured roadways, allowing City crews to get to the smaller repairs sooner.
That’s meant many of the problems have now been remedied. But Campbell says the job never ends.
“More requests will keep coming in,” he says. “Realistically they should never stop.”
So he encourages residents to call if they encounter new roadway issues, or if they think their earlier report has fallen through the cracks.
“It alerts us to the situation, providing the feedback we need to effectively manage the road system.”
How quickly repairs are made, Campbell explains, depends on a number of factors.
“In terms of timing the repairs of roadways, there are any number of operational considerations for staff,” he says.
“All requests are triaged according to risk and customer impact.”
He says crews aim at responding to every request within the year.
“But where your specific request falls within the priority list may vary.”
City to save on landfill gas management
There was a definite stink in the air at city hall on Monday but, for once, the wind blew in city council’s favour — at least from a capital spending point of view.
The City will borrow $5.5 million less to pay for a new disposal cell at the City’s landfill, but will borrow $3.3 million more to pay for landfill gas management after agreeing to amend its 10-year Capital Improvement Program budget during Monday’s council meeting, creating a total in $2.16 million in future savings.
That might sound confusing, conceded the City’s general manager of Waste and Recycling Services Joel Sanchez, but there was a great reason to make these adjustments: The City’s newest waste disposal cell, Cell 5B, came in under budget, even including the site’s future Hydrovac Disposal Facility, which now must be added under provincial regulations at the landfill.
That’s the good news, Sanchez explained to councillors, but the bad news is 25 years of buried, rotting organic matter is seeping out of the landfill in gas and leachate form. This seepage, combined with the establishment of the new high-emissions Materials Recovery Facility on site and the future high-emissions Hydrovac Disposal Facility on site, said Sanchez, will likely drive greenhouse gas emissions in the landfill up to the edge of, or beyond, the 100,000-tonne GHG allowable under the federal government’s Carbon Competitiveness Incentive Regulation and the site’s approval limits.
The landfill likely must deal with the excessive GHG emanating from the rotting organic matter by creating the ability to flare off that gas safely and the ability to suck up that leachate, said Sanchez — thus the reason for the larger CIP ask.
Site A decision irks group
Despite providing over 600 pages of information at Monday’s Town of Coaldale council meeting justifying their choice of “Site A” for a new joint-use recreation facility and school on the town’s north side, Mayor Kim Craig, town councillors and CAO Kalen Hastings couldn’t escape accusations of deception, lack of transparency and railroading.
Coaldale resident Kyle Frache led a delegation of concerned citizens to Coaldale’s last public council meeting on May 27 where he says he was reassured by the mayor and fellow council members they would be open to considering another site, and had asked for detailed information on all options. Frache, who was also present during Monday’s council meeting, said that turned out to be a “lie.”
“At that time (on May 27), the council members as well as the mayor agreed they were going to hold off on Site A and look at other potential areas selected and what other options they do have,” Frache explained. “Unfortunately at Monday’s meeting the mayor admitted he lied to us, and they have already decided without any public input. They did give a lot of information in regard to Site A, but they did not present any negative data or opposition data to Site A as far as other sites go.”
Hastings disagreed with Frache’s interpretation of what council had asked his staff members to provide. Hastings said Monday’s information session was intended to provide greater context why Site A was the best choice among those considered, not as a reconsideration of Site A’s ultimate suitability.
City clerk retiring
Aleta Neufeld attended her final city council meeting last Monday in her formal role as city clerk.
Neufeld was given flowers and praised by Mayor Chris Spearman and City Manager Bramwell Strain for her dutiful service to the City these past 40 years, the last seven as clerk.
“Some people ask me, ‘What the heck is a city clerk?’” Neufeld stated during her farewell comments to council. “In organizations we often hear the clerk is the pulse of the corporation, and every municipality in the country has one. Regardless of how best to describe this role, what I know today is how much I have loved being the city clerk.”
In Alberta, clerks organize council and city committee meetings, advise councillors on best practices for running meetings and help word bylaws to meet the standards of the Municipal Government Act. Clerks have signing powers to act as guarantors that bylaws and resolutions passed by council are in accordance with the MGA and were passed properly by a democratic-majority vote of councillors.
Groups share in funding
City council handed out about $484,000 in funding for various projects last Monday through the Community Capital Project Grant (CCPG) fund.
The big winners this year were the Lethbridge Oldtimers Sports Association, which received $200,000 toward construction of a $1.1-million community room at Henderson Arena, and the Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge which received just over $122,000 toward renovations which will create four new outreach program classrooms, new private meeting rooms to do client needs assessment and family washrooms in the building.
Other funds doled out on Monday will send $60,000 to the Lethbridge Kydokan Judo Club to expand its facility and $25,000 for Big Brothers and Big Sisters to expand its building. Other organizations which benefitted from this year’s CCPG grants were 5th on 5th Youth Services, the Ability Resource Centre, the Lethbridge Economic Development Initiative Society, the Canadian Bhutanese Society, the Lethbridge Curling Club and the Dragonboat Association of Southern Alberta.
City of Lethbridge Recreation and Culture development manager Lori Harasem brought forth this year’s funding requests to council and recommended they be approved. While not all applicants for the CCPG received funding this year, she said, those that did were worthy applicants vetted by committee before being presented to council.
“It’s always exciting to see how much our community groups are growing,” she said. “They are actually quite successful in receiving grants from other levels of government so it is exciting to be able to top it off or provide them the seed money to get started on some of their expansion work.
“Often we are the first step, and it is wonderful for them to be able to show the letter of support from the Mayor’s office we have financially backed a project and they should be lot more successful (in accessing other funds) because of that.”
Dangerous offender hearing set
A convicted sex offender who sexually assaulted an underage girl in 2017 and was sentenced earlier this year to nearly seven years in a federal prison, could also be designated a dangerous offender.
But Trevor Philip Pritchard won’t know for another year.
A hearing to determine whether Pritchard should be designated a dangerous offender has been scheduled for Feb. 3-7 and March 23-April 3, 2020 in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench. Should the judge agree with the Crown’s recommendation, Pritchard could serve an indeterminate term of imprisonment without any parole eligibility for seven years.
Pritchard pleaded guilty more than a year ago to sexual assault and child luring, and was sentenced in February to six and a half years in a federal penitentiary. Court was told Pritchard carefully planned the assault and, using Facebook, carefully groomed the girl to trust him over several months before he finally took her to his house — under the pretense of giving her a job — and forced her into various sex acts. He then drove her home and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
Target Hunger supported
Lethbridge residents donated nearly 42,000 pounds of food on the weekend.
Responding to the annual Target Hunger campaign, they also gave almost $3,500 to aid the city’s food banks.
“We’re thankful for everyone who participated by putting a bag out on their doorstep, and are equally grateful to the community volunteers for organizing the event and recruiting the people and resources necessary to complete all of the work on our behalf,” says Maral Kiani Tari, executive director with Lethbridge Food Bank.
“We couldn’t pull off a food drive of this size without the support of the community and the hundreds of volunteers that pitched in to help.”
While food donations were down slightly from last year, organizers say they were pleased to see an increase in financial donations accepted online. Lethbridge-area residents have given more than $112,000 in food or cash so far this year, they report.
Donations are still trickling in, they add, from people who missed putting their bags out in time for pickup, or who dropped off donations at the food banks or local supermarkets.
Blood Tribe wins big
After years of litigation, the Blood Tribe has won a second major victory.
In a decision released Wednesday, the Federal Court declared the Blood Nation was short-changed by more than 160 square miles during the Treaty Land Entitlement process about 140 years ago.
Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn agreed with the tribe’s claim that there was an outstanding treaty obligation and it is owed a further 162.5 square miles of land based on its population after Treaty 7 was signed. But he rejected submissions that the band should gain control of land now occupied by the Town of Cardston and part of Waterton Lakes National Park as compensation.
A court hearing will be ordered to hear submissions on what compensation would be appropriate.
CTF touts pipelines
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation brought its cross-country pipeline awareness tour to Coalhurst Wednesday morning.
CTF Alberta director Franco Terrazzano spoke to local media in front of a giant ticker display which showed the over $6.2 billion and counting of lost revenue to Canadians since 2013 because of price disparities between the world market and what Canadian producers can actually sell their oil for.
Terrazzano said Canada is losing out on about $3.6 million a day.
“Canadian taxpayers are losing out on billions of dollars because we can’t get pipelines built,” he said, “and we are not receiving full value for our oil.”
Terrazzano said the issue was much broader than just getting the Trans Mountain pipeline built.
Castle Mountain invests in infrastructure
Castle Mountain Resort is investing more than $2 million in infrastructure projects that could extend the ski season.
An upgraded snowmaking system, designed to ensure more consistent snow conditions on the lower mountain, could also open the possibility of pre-season training. It could also allow Castle to open a week earlier in the fall, and welcome skiers longer in April.
This summer’s projects include new top-to-bottom snowmaking infrastructure in the Huckleberry terrain pod, on the Whiskey Jack run and within the base area.
“Over recent months we have closely examined the areas where we saw room for improvement at Castle Mountain Resort and looked for opportunities to create an even better experience for our residents and guests,” says resort general manager Brad Brush in a release.
“These infrastructure updates will have an immediate and dramatic impact for our visitors, and we are excited to show off these changes starting this December.”
A key component, he says, is the resort’s first water storage reservoir — a $375,000 expenditure which features a water intake in nearby Haig Creek. Designed to hold 6,700 cubic metres of water to assist in snowmaking efforts, equivalent to three Olympic -sized swimming pools, the reservoir will be connected to the snowmaking system as its primary water source.
Castle has been issued a water licence that allows filling the reservoir once water conservation objectives are met in the Castle River. Meltwater from machine-made snow will return to the Castle River system in the spring, additive free.
Piikani buy transmission line
A local First Nation is now the majority owner of an electrical transmission line that crosses its land.
An equity investment by the Piikani Nation brings it a new revenue stream, after working with AltaLink to select a route that would not impact burial sites and other significant areas.
“It’s great to see that this Piikani Nation option agreement has finally come to fruition,” says Chief Stanley Grier.
“In order for AltaLink to build the transmission line, they had to consult the Piikani Nation people, and more importantly our traditional knowledge keepers who were entrusted to verify important sacred traditional and burial sites related to Piikani Nation lands.”
Under a limited partnership agreement, PiikaniLink L.P. has acquired AltaLink’s transmission assets on Piikani land. The deal was completed on June 1, with the band council investing 51 per cent of the equity portion of the Southwest 240 kV transmission line and associated substation equipment operated by AltaLink.
“This partnership is a win-win for the people of the Piikani First Nation and for all Albertans because we were able to save millions of dollars for Alberta electricity ratepayers by building a lower-cost project,” says Scott Thon, president and CEO of AltaLink.
“At the same time, the Piikani Nation is provided with the opportunity to invest in the transmission line on their land and create a consistent ongoing revenue source for their people for years to come.”
The Piikani will earn a regulated rate of return while AltaLink will continue to maintain and operate the transmission line as general partner of the PiikaniLink L.P., he explains.
“I’m very proud of the partnership we have created with AltaLink, my acknowledgement to all of those that have helped solidify this relationship,” says band council member Doane Crow Shoe.
Dark chapters of history seeing light
Two dark chapters in southern Alberta’s history are seeing the light at the Galt Museum.
And two education faculty students at the University of Lethbridge are credited with making that happen. Working with museum staff, they have brought those stories to life using a simulation game from technologies like augmented reality, photogrammetry and 3D printing.
LaRae Smith, working with museum educator Ashley Henrickson, developed a board game-like simulation to teach about the Great Depression of the 1930s. The game, designed for Grade 5 students, is played in a number of rounds. Each round, students choose what crops to plant and which agricultural techniques to use.
“The students analyze newspaper articles and photographs from the 1930s to help inform their choices,” Hendrickson says.
“Their farms are then hit by a number of travesties which affected Alberta farmers, including drought, grasshoppers and low market prices. Finally, the emotional reality of life in the Great Depression is driven home by sharing the stories of local families who lived through the period.”
LaRae collected those stories through oral history interviews.
Benjamin Weistra, working with history professor Kristine Alexander — a Canada Research Chair in child and youth studies — focused on Ukrainian-Canadian internment here during the First World War. It’s currently part of the Grade 3 curriculum in Alberta.
“There was an internment camp here in Lethbridge, although many people don’t know a lot about it,” says Henrickson.