The City of Lethbridge renamed a local hockey arena last Saturday in honour of Logan Boulet, the former Humboldt Broncos’ player who died in the 2018 April bus crash, but left a large message and legacy behind.
During the 18 months following the tragic crash, Boulet has been the inspiration behind a movement throughout Alberta and Canada for people to sign organ donor cards to save many other lives after they pass away, just as Logan did just before the crash. Logan’s family said the arena named after him was his favourite growing up and it is a big honour.
“It is a very special day for us to have the Logan Boulet Arena renamed, it was Logan’s favourite arena growing up in Lethbridge, it has such character and history, this is where he started playing hockey,” says Toby Boulet, Logan’s father.
“As a little guy they would have practice here, it’s a really special day for us, after 18 months of not much fun and this is a nice day. He was a little guy here, skating on the ice, working hard, pushing guys over and chasing them down, chasing the puck, it was like watching the little guys at the Hurricanes game between periods.”
Dozens of people gathered outside the former Adams Park Ice Centre arena in support of the Boulet family, as friends, family, Broncos players and staff, and community members took in the moment.
Council to request more cops
City council voted unanimously during the Oct. 28 public meeting to request the police commission explore the possibility of hiring eight new officers to help deal with the recent upsurge in crime in Lethbridge.
“It’s a concern that has been shared through various different members of the community of public safety with the recent crime influx,” stated Coun. Blaine Hyggen, who brought forth the motion to council on Oct. 28. “I thought it was important to have more feet on the street to deal with it.”
Hyggen acknowledged it is not within city council’s power to direct the police commission to take any specific course of action, given that body must, by law, be an arm’s length organization from council and not subject to its dictates. Hyggen said that’s why he agreed to frame his motion, at the suggestion of Coun. Jeffrey Coffman, as a request for consideration instead of a directive to the police commission.
“Coun. Hyggen isn’t going out and hiring any people, and telling them to start work,” Hyggen explained. “This definitely is going to be up to the police commission to have this done, and that is why it is a request for them and not a direction for them to do that. I would hope they would come back and let us exactly know what their requirements are, and together we can work.
“Of course, because it is a pot of money we give to the police commission for them to use accordingly to what they need.”
Meter vote delayed
Lethbridge City Council has postponed a decision on whether or not to raise metered parking rates downtown, and levy more expensive fines against those in violation, until the next public meeting on Nov. 12.
Council was still waiting for more information from City staff on the matter as of Monday’s council meeting, and thus felt further delay was necessary.
Andrew Malcolm, City of Lethbridge urban revitalization manager, had suggested council consider the proposed rate and fine changes at last Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting.
Those proposed changes would include increasing existing downtown parking rates in all zones. Zone 2 (two-hour) parking would increase from $1 to $1.10 per hour in 2020, and eventually be increased to $1.25 by 2024. Zone 3 (three-hour) parking would see an identical hourly rate increase. Zone 10 (10-hour) parking would increase from its current rate of $0.45 per hour to $0.50 per hour in 2020, and eventually be increased to $0.55 per hour by 2024.
System being streamlined
The City of Lethbridge is pooling all of its available funding for social programs and will seek greater integration and accountability from service providers applying for grants.
The measure comes into effect after city council voted 7-0 in favour on Monday for the pooling of resources as recommended within the Community Well-Being and Safety Strategy. Coun. Joe Mauro was absent for the vote and Coun. Rob Miyashiro recused himself after declaring a conflict of interest.
“Altogether over a four-year period, we’re looking in excess of $25 million (in available funding),” explained Marten Thomsen. “Built into this new system, we’re going to have new performance targets and measures to ensure the money that goes out the door is effectively achieving the desired outcomes.”
But there will also be efficiency savings and benefits for service organizations as well under the new integrated funding model, stated Thomsen. Under the previous system organizations had to make separate applications to various pools of money, and most had to re-apply for funding on an annual basis.
The new system, explained Thomsen, will pool all funds under three general streams: Family and Community Support Services (FCSS); Outreach Support and Services Initiative (OSSI); and the Reaching Home program. Service providers will only have to make one grant application which will automatically make them potentially eligible for funding from all three streams. Depending on the ask, and the kind of program, applicants may also receive up to four years of funding after making only one grant application to the general fund.
However, said Thomsen, the City will expect organizations who want funding to do things differently in terms of their service-delivery models.
“Right now, we have mapped over 1,400 programs in Lethbridge delivering services or programs related to community well-being and safety, and we know we spend a lot of money,” stated Thomsen.
Airport plans still flying
The City’s plans for the Lethbridge Airport will not be disrupted by provincial budget cuts.
“Typically airports in Canada have received funding primarily from the federal government, not from the provincial government,” says Michael Kelly, manager of real estate and land development and airport transition co-ordinator for the City of Lethbridge. “We have seen a few examples where the province of Alberta has provided some funding to other airports. An example being Red Deer, which received a grant. And that was all in line for Red Deer to be able to host the Canada Winter Games. But, typically, it is the federal government we deal with.”
Kelly says that fact won’t prevent the City from applying to the province for grants for the airport, but with understandably limited expectations of any success in the current fiscal climate.
It helps that the City is also in the early stages of the proposed airport redevelopment project, he states.
“To date, we have completed a master plan for the airport, which included the infrastructure forecasting about what our needs were over a 30-year period,” Kelly explains. “This equated to about $38.5 million. Currently, city council has only approved a budget for design for an air terminal renovation and a design for an extension of water line from the City boundaries out to the airport for better fire suppression services. When we are finished with that exercise, we will go back to city council and have a recommendation of how many dollars be required for Phase One of the renovation.”
Market closes for season
With the frost and chilly wind entering southern Alberta, the final Farmers’ Market of the season came to an end last weekend with people stocking up on the last of fresh local produce and handmade items.
The Lethbridge Farmers’ Market primarily focuses on providing a space for local handmade entrepreneurs and crafters, along with local agriculture to sell their products in a one-stop-shopping space for people to shop through. Organizers of the weekly market say it was a busy season for them and they were happy to see new casuals apply and try out the market.
“The Farmers Market season has been fantastic, it has been really good this year,” says Lisa Ludwig, event co-ordinator with Exhibition Park. “We have had a lot more casuals apply this year and so that has been a really fantastic thing for us because we are getting new people in and testing it out and seeing what the market is all about.”
Many of the vendors spend endless hours growing, creating or building their products for people to buy and find the market a good space for them to get exposure to the community. Ludwig says the Farmers’ Market enjoys getting new vendors from the community to switch it up a bit every year and to give more local businesses some exposure.
Open house staged
The University of Lethbridge welcomed hundreds of possible future students from Western Canada to their campus last Saturday as they hosted their annual Open House.
Throughout the day, prospective students were able to get a good feel for the institution and all it has to offer. With endless opportunities for future careers that students have to decide from, the university lays out a majority of their options for students to look through and speak with faculty about.
“Today is the University of Lethbridge Open House, so we are welcoming guests from all over western Canada to explore the University of Lethbridge,” says Susan Bakker, manager of National Recruitment.
“Our future students have an exciting day ahead of them, first they attended a welcome with our president Mike Mahon, then they are moving into some of the sessions that we have planned, we also have an opportunity for them to apply for admission today, so it is a great way for a future student at the University of Lethbridge to see if this is their future post-secondary home.”
During the Open House, students were able to get some hands-on activity with the U of L Library hosting a technology petting zoo, allowing students to interact with technologies available at the university, as well as the Agility Innovation Zone, a new technology area in the Science Commons where students get access to equipment they can utilize in studies, hobbies or future business ventures.
Man sentenced for drug bust
A Lethbridge man has been sent to jail, nearly two years after being caught in what was at the time considered Medicine Hat’s largest one-time drug bust.
Michael Kebede Abate, who previously pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking 112 grams of cocaine, was sentenced Monday in Lethbridge provincial court to three months in jail.
Federal Crown prosecutor John Oman told court Abate was arrested in December 2017 during a drug investigation by Medicine Hat police. Oman said Medicine Hat police followed a woman to Lethbridge where she met Abate and drugs were exchanged. Abate was arrested shortly afterward, but the woman was not arrested until after she returned to Medicine Hat.
Abate, 30, was initially charged with drug trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime. However, Oman said Abate was no more than a courier and had the matter gone to trial the charges may have been difficult to prove given Charter issues defence had raised, particularly over his arrest before Medicine Hat police had confirmed the woman had the drugs.
Oman noted Abate has a related criminal record, including a conviction in 2013 for trafficking, for which he was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison.
Business survey running
How well are local businesses really doing?
And how can Lethbridge attract more companies to set up shop?
Two city organizations are working together to find out. Starting last week, Economic Development Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce began surveying major employers and the Chamber membership.
This year’s “Brighter Together” survey will be available online until Nov. 8, with results expected to be released later this winter.
“The new and expanded major employers survey is a great tool in helping us aggregate local data that will in turn be used to find out what the region is doing well when it comes to employment and possibly where some gaps may be occurring,” says Trevor Lewington, chief executive officer at Economic Development Lethbridge.
“The survey is also a way for EDL to gain valuable knowledge about what is being accomplished in the region in terms of implementing new processes, innovations and technologies to give us a better understanding of how we as an organization and region can attract more major employers, help existing ones, and grow some of the medium-sized businesses into major employers if they are ready to take that step.”
The agency has conducted a major employers survey every two years for the last decade, and will be contacting those companies again. For the 2017 survey, 49 of those Lethbridge-area employers took part.
Board taking over centre
A community open house on Sunday was held to introduce new leadership for the Martha Retreat Centre.
The Sisters of St. Martha, who built and operated the facility for five decades, have handed day-to-day operation of the Scenic Drive centre to a board of Lethbridge citizens.
“When we knew we would be leaving Lethbridge, we formed a committee of local spiritual teachers and community leaders with a wide range of expertise to help plan how the centre could continue into the future,” says Sister Theresa Parker.
“This dedicated and enthusiastic group formed a society last year and is now fully installed to carry on the work.”
“We believe the history and potential of the centre is a solid foundation for a bright future, carrying on the tradition of gospel hospitality and open-hearted service the Sisters of St. Martha offered for half a century,” says board chair Cheryl Dick.
“It is our intention to continue to offer programs and retreats for all interested people throughout Western Canada and specifically in southern Alberta.”
Dick leads a board that includes Sister Theresa along with Elda Barva, Annette BruisedHead, Sister Stella Chafe, Bob Campbell, Kathy Gillis, Lise Schmidt and Debra Tarnava. The board has appointed Mark Nixon, a former chaplain at Catholic Central High, as its executive director.
Utility relocation underway
While construction is underway on new features at Legacy Regional Park, crews are preparing for two different projects immediately to its west.
Survey stakes are already in place for a located Atco natural gas trunk line, alongside an electrical service relocation that will see cables buried in a vault. That work, just east of the existing 13 Street North, is required before Lethbridge’s transportation department can get started on what will eventually become a four-lane extension of Scenic Drive North.
Meanwhile, a section of 13 Street North is being closed to allow construction of a new sewer trunk line.
Traffic will be diverted through the Legacy Ridge neighourhood while 13 Street is shut between Uplands Boulevard and 40 Avenue North. The road is expected to reopen by the weekend.
Scenic Drive project spokesperson Robert Kovacs says it’s hoped both utility relocation projects can be completed over the winter. The ultimate design would see Scenic become a four-lane divided roadway all the way to 62 Avenue North, currently the city limit. The route would then turn east to link with an access road to the long-planned Lethbridge bypass route — running north of Coalhurst, Lethbridge and Coaldale — rejoining the existing Highway 3 near Tempest.
Police commission passes motion on to chief
The Lethbridge Police Commission will let the Chief of Police deal with a motion from Lethbridge city council to consider potentially hiring eight new police officers.
Lethbridge Police Chief Scott Woods said he appreciated the latitude afforded him by the commissioners during last Wednesday’s police commission meeting to look at all ends of the problem instead of being confined to one path.
“We always welcome resources, but I think we have to do our due diligence as a police service to look at what’s best for our deployment and what’s best for the community,” Woods said. “We will look at all angles of it instead of just putting eight frontline officers back on the street. I don’t want to go in with the blinders on and just have one approach. We need to look outside the box at a number of different ways we could potentially address some of the issues we’re having both in the community, but also with some of the strain our officers are feeling from having to deal with the number of issues they are facing on a daily basis within our community.”
Some commissioners voiced their concerns about reports of rank and file members of the police service turning to the community to reportedly show their frustrations about manpower strains instead of conveying through the police service itself up the chain of command through the chief of police to the police commission to voice those frustrations.
New fundraiser brewing
A charity foundation which recently surfaced in Lethbridge to help support first responders with personal assistance is returning to raise more funds after their success at the Lethbridge Firefighters Pipes and Drums Scotchtoberfest.
The New Dawn Foundation was developed by Shawn Folk in memory of his wife, who passed away earlier this year from brain cancer. Throughout her treatment they developed the idea of the charity to supply resources to help first responders with whatever they are going through. Throughout November, the community will be able to support the foundation by purchasing a pint of Kilt Tugger beer at Hudson’s Tap House, with $1 from every pint being donated.
“The Beer is called Kilt Tugger, it’s an Irish red ale and we teamed up with Theoretically Brewing Co. and they had a beer already made and they labelled it as Kilt Tugger for the pipe band and our charities they are giving to,” says Folk with Lethbridge Fire Department. “Hudson’s will be donating $1 from every pint throughout the month of November which goes straight to the New Dawn Foundation and whatever we make on the kegs throughout the city will be donated as well.”
Folk says he was overwhelmed by the response the foundation had from Scotchtoberfest, where the Lethbridge Firefighters Pipes and Drums Band switched who they were donating to for over a decade.
New owner for Black Velvet
Heaven Hill Inc. says the future is bright for Lethbridge-based Black Velvet Distilling Company as it formally takes control of the brand.
“We believe the brand has been underfunded from a merchandising and marketing perspective,” says Heaven Hill Brands president Max Shapira. “We believe the plant has a lot of infrastructure that needs to be added to it in order to make it run totally efficiently. We are prepared to make all of those investments. We think the fact that the brand continues to be as strong as it is, without all of this investment over the last several years, that even with a modicum of investment, and we are going to make more than a modicum of investment, that we think there is an opportunity for the brand to grow.”
“We see opportunity to take some of the exquisitely made Canadian whiskeys that are made here at Black Velvet,” he adds, “and to take them to where they can develop additional permutations and additional brands that fit right into that Canadian whiskey drinkers space.”
Rally protests rising crime
A group of concerned Lethbridge citizens gathered along Mayor Magrath Drive south Sunday afternoon to raise their voices and concerns about the rising crime rates in the city, along with the lack of resources to fix it.
Connecting our Community is a group of individuals who have experienced or have concerns about the crime rates in the city. The group started after a northside resident was sexually assaulted and many residents had violent incidents happen to them or their property.
“Connecting our Community started as a result of a woman who was violently and viciously attacked in one of our alleys and became victim of sexual assault,” says Mallory Kristjanson, organizer.
“We started immediately because we did all that we could in the Westminster area. We were impacted by crime daily, I saw and witnessed myself four break and enters in one day during broad daylight, this is not OK. We have came together as the northside and have since expanded to a grassroots initiative because we deserve better as a city and we deserve better as a community because we deserve to be safe.”
Many incidents in the city over the last year have sparked conversations between residents and City officials, but group members still feel their concerns are not being heard or addressed. Group members say that if funding is the issue for solving the crime rates in the city, that unnecessary funding opportunities need to be redistributed to resources that will make a difference.