Leaderboard

Shop local - advertise local

Town council debates Emergency Cold Weather shelter plan for upcoming season

 by Niki Luymes
 
June 17, 2024 issue: During the 2023/2024 winter season, the Town of Edson instigated an Emergency Cold Weather shelter for the vulnerable population experiencing homelessness that is at increased risk during the winter months.
  The program ran from December of 2023 to April of 2024.  During the recent Committee of the Whole Meeting on June 11, Edson Town Council was presented the final statistics from the program, and asked by Administration for feedback on the best way to continue.
  The Emergency cold shelter program was created specifically to meet a temporary, yet critical need in the community. While currently there are programs and warm spaces provided by various social support agencies for unhoused individuals during the day, there continues to be no facilities available during the evenings and nights.
  The shelters are located across from the Provincial Building at 54th Street between 1st and 2nd Ave, and became operational on December 20, 2023. Access to the emergency cold shelters was only available after the weather dropped below -25°C including wind chill. Once triggered, access was available from 8:00pm to 8:00am. 
  The temporary buildings acted solely as refuge from the cold weather. No other supports, such as day lodging, mat/sleeping accommodations or food provisions were supplied. Each simply contained a few chairs, with two portable washrooms placed outside. "The facility would not function as a shelter and was in no way intended to replace the Shelter Pods or function in a similar manner," said Tanya Byers, Community Development Manager. The site was also constantly monitored by video surveillance, and on site security when in use.
  The shelters were demobilized on April 27, 2024. During those intervening months, the facility was open a total of 26 nights and welcomed 63 visitors. This is broken down as, January: open 13 nights, 24 visitors; February: open 6 nights, 10 visitors; and March: Open 7 nights, with 29 visitors. The number of visitors does not indicate individuals, just the number of times It was used. 
  The total cost for the initiative was $53,405.90. This number does not include Town staff costs, even though a total of 360 staff hours went into operation of the warming facility.
  After the demobilization of the warming centre, the Town received feedback for the Edson Homelessness Taskforce and several other organizations. Issues of concern included potentially raising the trigger temperature and lack of sleeping comfort, but overall, the response was positive. "We had a really good discussion with the Homelessness Taskforce today and I think overall we can say this was really quite a success," said Byers. "The RCMP in particular, have said that they felt that the model that we used was very successful. If nothing else is in place for the fall, they would like the same kind of project take place."
  Councillor Ed Moore asked for clarification on how the group was able to enforce this not being a sleeping shelter. "If someone was falling asleep on their chair would they be nudged and told you can't sleep there? How did that work?"
Byers answered that the security company had also asked this question. "Our suggestion was that if they were nodding off and not causing any trouble, and there were no health risks, to just allow them to nod off."
  Doug Wagstaff, General Manager, Community & Protective Service added that the security also did wellness checks on all persons who stayed overnight, so if they fell asleep, they were checked to make sure they we okay.
  Councillor Greg Pasychny asked the actual cost with the inclusion of staff hours. "That could be anything from 9 to 15 thousand dollars extra in staff costs to add. If you broke it down every day it was open, it's $333 a day in external costs. So moving forward we need to understand what our true costs will be."
  Councillor Krystal Cacka said,  "Does Administration have a plan for what month it would be intended on opening the shelter going forward? Is there another organization planning on doing a MAT [medication assisted treatment] program? Wagstaff explained that the plan is to look into options and numbers to bring back at the July 16 Council meeting. "There is one organization within the community that is looking at attempting to have something in place for a mat-type program. We have reached out to them to see where they are at with that, but at this time it is not confirmed to be operational."
  Councillor Pasychny, asked that Administration to look into other options and bring those options back to council as well. "This program was an emergency response and to run it for a full winter would create exponential costs to the town." Council accepted the report for information.

Family pleas for faster Mutual Aid calls for home fires

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: June 10, 2024 issue: In the early morning hours of April 20, 2024 the Westgrove neighborhood was awakened to the sights and sounds of a tragic house fire.
  Obviously, many residents are not used to seeing this type of tragedy unfold before their very eyes. It was traumatic (to say the least) watching this event unfold and the stress and agony inflicted upon the victims as they watched their lives as they knew them, come crashing down so quickly.
  Kudos to the Edson and Yellowhead County Fire Departments for their response. I don't think our community understands the intricacies of a volunteer model like Edson's. There is NO guarantee of a response if there are no members available. Volunteer departments also don't have the same response times as those found in the bigger centers with full-time, staffed departments —and often don't have the resources to acquire all the apparatus that can assist in different types of emergency situations.
  As the events of that early morning incident unfolded, everyone present acknowledged that 'time' was the enemy. A lot of destruction occurs from the time a call for assistance is made, the time a hall is appropriately staffed to respond, the time to travel to the incident, and ultimately, to the time to get assets in position to extinguish the fire.
  This was a challenging event and it did have its complications for the responders. In the end, the fire was extinguished. However, the damages included three families being displaced from their homes.
  As with any major incident, a review should be undertaken to determine the things that worked well and things that could be improved upon. The observations of many witnesses that morning were that the immediate implementation of Mutual Aid from the County would have likely had a more positive outcome for the situation. This is in no way a slight to the brave men and women of the Edson Fire Department. A Mutual Aid call to the County was eventually enacted. In this particular instance, having access to additional fire fighters and the aerial truck proved instrumental in putting out this type of two story home fire. Unfortunately, a significant amount of time had passed, and subsequent damage, before this request occurred.
  To clarify, there is an existing Mutual Aid Agreement in place between the Town and County for this very reason —to share resources and personnel in times of emergency, at no expense to the jurisdiction in need. The issue is that the implementation of this agreement is a judgment call of the Chief (or his/her designate) in the jurisdiction requesting aid.
  Our argument to Town leadership (political and administrative) is that the resources available under this agreement should be an automatic call-out from the 9-1-1 call center when a structure fire is reported within town (as much of the County's fire equipment is already housed in Edson, including the aerial). This gets the assets moving in a timelier way than waiting on the judgment-call of an individual who may be under extreme stress, depending on the nature of the incident they are attending.
Alternatively, the Town could consider acquiring its own aerial unit, however, the cost may make it prohibitive at this time, and likely unnecessary.
  It is better to have the early arrival of manpower and equipment and not need it, as opposed to needing it and not having it. 
  To date, the town does not wish to enact automatic mutual aid for residential structure fires, but is discussing a joint response for what they call commercial and highlife hazard structure fires. We are not sure why they wouldn't want the best possible outcomes available for our entire community.
 
The Mercer Family
 
Editor's note: The Edson Fire Department currently has one full time Fire Chief, a volunteer deputy, training office, chaplain, and 36 other volunteer members who strive to protect the community should an emergency arise.
Yellowhead County fire/rescue services are provided 24/7 by a composite fire services model made up of full-time, casual, and paid on call volunteer members. The County's Central Fire Station is in Edson, and they operate six other stations throughout the Hamlets.

Brief ER closure at Edson Hospital impacts residents

by Dana McArthur
 
June 3, 2024 issue: In Edson, an emergency room closure was a pressing issue on May 26, affecting residents' access to critical health services at the hospital.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) reported that the Edson Hospital had no physician available in the emergency department May 26 (0800) to May 27 (0800). The reason stated was a "temporary physician shortage due to illness / leave / vacation / vacancies".
"Our local physician team, nurses, and staff have worked extremely hard to keep our ER open and have made a lot of sacrifices to do so. Closing the ER was a last resort as no locums [travelling doctors] were available. Fortunately, coverage was arranged over the weekend allowing for a much shorter closure than anticipated, said Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara.
Records from AHS indicate that this year there have been approximately 52 instances when emergency rooms and urgent care centers in Alberta were either closed or had to rely solely on nursing staff due to a lack of available doctors. Comparatively, last year saw approximately 50 similar notices posted for the entire year.
The overwhelming reason for ERs having to temporarily shut down was because doctors or other staff were unavailable. More than half of the hospitals recorded closures of 20 days or longer. For EMS crews, the loss of the local ERs means more patient transfers over longer distances and longer turnaround times for calls.
Rural communities across Canada continue to struggle to attract and retain physicians. A sudden absence of even one or two physicians can lead to unavoidable ER closures. These ER closures can create anxiety, especially for older individuals or those with medical conditions.
Dr. Parker Vandermeer, a locum (travelling) doctor who works in emergency departments across Alberta, described the provincial situation as a constant drain. He noted that within the last six months, the requests he receives have changed. Instead of one or two days, he's now asked to cover gaps for more than 20 days.
Addressing ER closures, like what happened briefly in Edson, requires concerted efforts to recruit and retain health professionals, explore alternative models, and ensure timely access to emergency care.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of local officials, doctors, AHS staff, and local medical support staff to recruit and retain health professionals, this was the only ER closure in Edson this year. "We have been working with AHS and local physicians on recruitment. I've also spoken to the Health Minister and MLA Long directly about our concerns regarding physician retention and recruitment," stated Mayor Zahara.
This year, the UCP government aims to dismantle Alberta Health Services to create four agencies linked to specific areas of care — such as acute care and primary care — all answering to the Minister of Health and cabinet.
Some healthcare experts are sceptical this management shuffle will fix the staffing crisis, others are more optimistic that the shake-up will help revitalize the system.
Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare stated, “The ongoing short staffing crisis in our public health care system making it increasingly difficult for Albertans to access their health care. Yet instead of addressing the real issues impacting people in this province, the UCP government wants to drastically restructure administration as a supposed solution.”
Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said the changes should attract physicians, nurses and other health-care professionals to Alberta since they would be able to focus on delivering care under the new model.
"They're excited by the possibilities," LaGrange said, referencing telephone town halls with health care employees. "There's hope that the work that they're doing will in fact produce better results and they can really use their skills to their full potential."
For more information visit: alberta.ca/establishing-the-future-of-alberta-health-care

County moves ahead with fireguard plans

by Dana McArthur
 
May 27, 2024 issue: At the January 23, 2024 Yellowhead County (YC) Council meeting, Administration shared potential options for documenting the fire and flood disasters of  2023.
The project, dubbed 'Our Uncompromising Communities', aims to capture the voices of all segments of our communities and groups of residents who experienced events caused by natural disasters this past spring.
During that meeting, Council made a motion to move forward with the following three items:
1. Highlighting our Resilience: This entails asking residents to submit any creative artwork, photos or stories they would like to share of their experience.
2. Sharing our Story: Interviews will be conducted with 20-25 people who have interesting stories and experiences to share. Interviews could be with residents, staff, first responders, etc. to showcase the many elements and impacts of the disasters.
3. Recording our History: A hardcover book will be created using all the information gathered throughout the project. Up to 1000 book copies may be printed and made available on a cost-recovery basis.
The remaining projects were asked to be brought back to Council for further discussion and clarification. During the County's May 21 Governance and Priorities meeting, Crystal McNernie, General Manager of Community Services re-introduced the proposed additions to the project, including:
Making our Mark: Reaching out to local artists within each division to create artwork that they feel represents their division's resiliency and strength. Artwork would then be displayed in YC-owned facilities.
Celebrating our Hamlets: Community engagement project. Residents within each hamlet will be consulted to create imagery that represents how their community overcame adversity. A paint-by-number mural is then designed where residents can come together to assist with the painting. Each hamlet mural would form part of a larger picture, showing a united Yellowhead County. Images are intended to be uplifting, positive, and celebratory in nature.
Displaying our Experience: Creating an exhibit to showcase the artist submissions, resident submissions, printed versions of the mural, and the book. Would go hand and hand with the next item, showcasing our growth.
Showcasing our Growth: Community "open house" to share all elements of the overall project.
The entire proposal has been intentionally designed to share seven distinct projects, allowing Council the opportunity to approve all seven or a combination thereof. The total of all seven projects falls within the $100,000 budget allotment.
The three projects currently approved can be completed for approximately $45,000.
Councillor Brigitte Lemieux said, "This has a really positive tone to it. So, I am supportive of the four additional projects.
Councillor David Russell said, "I too support this presentation. I think it captures what council had in mind. The idea for a book is going to happen, so that's what I'm very pleased about."
Mayor Wade Williams said, "I also like the four options as they do involve the community. There will be a lot of community input and I think that's what we're looking to achieve."
Council voted to direct Administration to pursue the additional four projects to document the spring 2023 wildfire and flood emergencies, for a total of seven distinct projects.

County moves ahead with fireguard plans

by Dana McArthur
 
  During the Yellowhead County meeting on May 14, council discussed the feasibility of fireguards at major population centers around the county.
"Multiple catastrophic forest fires burned across Yellowhead County in 2023 and overwhelmed fire fighting forces. Over 20 primary residences were destroyed and tens of thousands of residents evacuated. In some cases, multiple times," stated Albert Bahri, General Manager of Protective Services with the County.
  Yellowhead County Administration has begun to explore protection in the form of fire guards to help make the best use of available resources. The Province of Alberta announced a Fire Guard program in early 2024. Yellowhead County with the assistance of a consultant applied for the fire guard funding.
  The County has received notice that their Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) Community Fireguard Program funding request has received conditional approval. FRIAA now requires formalized support from Yellowhead County for the project to move forward.
  The grant funding amount is conditionally approved for $2,449,000. Yellowhead County will have to fund a 10 percent contingency and in-kind work from Protective Services.
  There are many rural subdivisions and hamlets in the county. Administration and council would like to explore the feasibility of fireguards at major population centers around the county. Areas of concern are Evansburg, Brule, Cadomin, Jasper gate (Overlander), Peers, Niton, Robb, Marlboro, Wildwood.
  A planning phase would be undertaken to prioritize each community including consultation with nearby residents, lease holders, and government agencies such as Forestry and Parks, Parks, Lands, Wildfire, and County municipal planners. The fireguards would be built on Yellowhead County owned or Crown Land, and would not include private properties.
  Bahri added, "This will bring with it operational costs going forward. We as a municipalit y will need to maintain these, possibly through grazing leases. We don't know all the options yet, but we will need to make sure that these are kept to their original capacity so that they work."
  Following several questions from councillors, Yellowhead County Council voted to formally support the FRIAA Community Fireguard Program CFP-24-18 - Yellowhead County Fireguard Program 2024 in the amount of $2,449,000.00
2024 Final Budget
  During the meeting, council adopted the 2024 Final Budget. The Interim Budget was accepted on December 19, 2023 and that budget went into effect on January 1, 2024. Since the adoption of the Interim Budget the remaining pieces of information that are required for completion of the 2024 Final Budget have been received. These included the property assessment, the requisitions for school taxes, Senior's Foundation and the designated Industrial property assessment and included final amounts for tenders and price quotes.
   The overall assessment increased from $10.9 billion to $11.4 billion versus the 2023 budget; this equates to $2.9 million in additional revenue from taxation. As a result of the overall assessment increase the municipal mill rate for the 2024 is 0%. Residential Assessment will change approximately 1.30% as a result of inflation and growth, while Non-Residential Assessment has experienced a 5.92% change.
Council for Yellowhead County voted to adopt the 2024 Final Budget in the amount of $238,735,199 as presented. This option will provide final approval and will allow the 2024 Tax Rate Bylaw to be presented. The final budget can be viewed on the County website at yhcounty.ca.

After 112 year Switzer's Drug Store says goodbye

by Deanna Mitchener
 
May 13, 2024 issue: Switzer's Drugs, which opened its doors in 1912 and was one of Edson's oldest surviving businesses, closed it doors permanently on May 8, 2024.
Pharmacy manager Dan Reich, said, “It is true the closure of the historic Switzer's Drugs Store is upon us. Before I continue, I must thank the patients and community for their support. It is an incredible feat for a business to last 112 years."
Thanks also went to the Switzer family including founder Harvey A. Switzer, John and Hazel, Dan (John's brother), and Harold and Cheryl.
After graduating from the Ontario College of Pharmacy, Harvey moved to Edson in 1910. He began his pharmacy business establishing it as Switzer's Drugs. His wife Edith and he had 14 children, several of whom also pursued pharmacy as a profession. The pharmacy has been an integral part of the community, providing essential services and care for over a century. Harvey Switzer passed away in 1977.
Upon hearing the news of the closure, Harold and Cheryl Switzer stated, "It is with a very heavy heart that Cheryl and I, and the Switzer family have to see the doors of Switzer’s Drugs close. It was 109 years of a family owned store and the past 3 1/2 years privately owned in the name of Switzer’s Drugs. We would like to thank the community for their loyal support over the generations. As well, a huge thanks to all of our excellent employees who have served the pubic over the years. You all helped to contribute to the longevity of the store. Edson is our home, we were both born and raised here and will continue to make it our home in retirement. Thanks again to the Edson and district community."
"Harold and the Switzer family have been great support since I purchased Switzer's back in October 2020. I truly appreciate how they have made me feel like family, just like the drug store has for its patients for years,” said Reich.
“Unfortunately, I had to make plans to transition onwards with my pending marriage and sold the store in February 2023. The new owners, I am sure, never planned to divest of the store. However, the search for my replacement has been fruitless. As time moved on, I believe they felt the lack of pharmacists would result in locum (travelling) pharmacists rotating through the store, decreasing patient care, and destroying the family feeling of the business.”
“The difficult decision was finally made to join with Shopper's Drug Mart in Edson, where Callen and Sam are dedicated to this town," said Reich.
 "Pharmacist Laurie Stuve and I will move over to Shopper's to assist in patient transition and care for at least one year,” Reich concluded.
For customers that are concerned about their prescription files they will be automatically transferred to Shoppers Drug Mart, unless they desire elsewhere.

Security Suites debated at Town Council meeting

by Niki Luymes
 
  May 6, 2024 issue: Edson Town council held a Committee of the Whole meeting on April 30, to discuss the final changes to the updated Land Use Bylaw (LUB). 
  This meeting served only to discuss the changes. Final readings and approval will need to take place at an upcoming council meeting. The meeting was broken down into sections. Administration changes and residential and industrial feedack/ concern responses.
  One topic that was of great concern was the new bylaws around Security Suites on industrial property.  Many residents expressed concern with the changes as many have homes that are on business lots. The updated bylaws have suite size restrictions that would prevent them from rebuilding those building should they be lost. Most feedback asked for the removal of the size restrictions.
  Town Administration defined Security Suites/Surveillance Suites as subordinate to a principal parcel use an intended for more remote areas of a municipally to provide a form of extra security for business owners. They may be classified as dwelling if food preparation and sleeping quarters are included, but they are not intended to function as residential land uses for families to reside in. "It really isn't intended to create a situation where there might be individuals that are living predominately on a site that has industrial operations on it," said Becky Soby, Planner with Urban Systems, who assisted the town with the bylaw draft.
  Bylaws often prohibit the mixing of residential and industrial uses due to safety concerns. Admin-istration is recommending the current provisions in Section 8.27 of the proposed draft LUB No. 2296 remain as is.  However, they still would like to hear council's feedback.
  Mayor Kevin Zahara voiced his concern for the changes. "The fact remains that some of these places have been there for a very long time. And so people have invested money, a significant amount of money. So if something were to happen, and they would not be able to replace their home, I'm very challenged with that. For me, I don't support the changes that are here. Dwellings should continue to be allowed, if they are existing on those specific properties. I don't think we should be allowing any new development."
  Councillor Greg Pasychny added that often he sees pre-built homes like mobile home, or Atco trailers being used as security suites. These can also exceed the size limits. "I'm not against limiting them in the future. But is there a way we can add a provision or a clause for existing ones, that if something happens to them they can be replaced?"
  "I think it would have to be specific to allowing it to be rebuild to what it was before," answered Soby. "The intention of these regulations are to insure that these surveillance suites are built only for the purpose of surveillance of the site and not having residents live on it." Soby explained that the challenge would be that rebuilds would not align with that intention, and could not be defined as a surveillance suite.
  "I agree with the intent," stated Councillor Peter Taylor. "We shouldn't see residential dwellings in an industrial area. That being said, I cannot ignore the number of people who have come forward. I think we are going to have to have some kind of provision, in some way, that any  existing suites may remain." 
Clayton Kittlitz, General Manager of Infrastructure and Planning, responded to the concerns, "I can certainly appreciate the challenge. It is hard to deal with legacy issues and situations."  He explained that the earliest drafts of the bylaw didn't even include the surveillance suites in Business Industrial (BI-2) zones. They were added in after discussions with the public. It is an option for an exception clause to be added.  That is something that would need to be discussed by Admin-istration. Although he would want to restrict the mixing of residential and industrial zoning for future builds.
Administration will record direction from Council and revise the current draft of LUB No. 2296 accordingly before preparing a final bylaw for first reading at a future Council meeting. 

Edson Town Council approves 2024 Operating Budget

April 29, 2024 issue: (Town of Edson) A $37.28 million operating budget was approved that focuses on affordability for our residents, while continuing to offer high quality services to the community.
  The budget was designed to touch every pillar of Council's Strategic Plan: Creating a Connected Community that is Safe and Inclusive; Fostering a Robust and Adaptable Economy; Responding to a Changing Global Environment; Ensuring Quality Infrastructure; and Providing Effective Leadership and Community Engagement.
  “Council is pleased to support this final Operating Budget, which sees no new user fee increases, but continues to focus on quality services for our residents. It was important to Council to limit increases considering the immense financial pressure Canadians are dealing with. This is a difficult balance considering costs to municipalities also continue to increase, but we feel we've been presented a fair budget that addresses both affordability and quality levels of service," stated Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara.
  The overall taxation increase for 2024 is 2.89%. The Reserve Policy requires 0.5%, with the remaining 2.39% going towards new budget initiatives. On an average residential assessment of $336,400, this would equate to an increase of $65.50 for the year.
  A couple of changes have also been approved for the 2024 Capital budget, including an increase of $60.24 million for YCE Multi-use Facility with the project set to commence this summer, and a decrease of $1.5 million in the Township Road 532 project.

Councils approve final design for YCE Multiplex

by Dana McArthur
 
 April 22, 2024 issue:  In synchronized Council meetings at noon on April 16, both the Town of Edson Council and the Yellowhead County Council approved the program design for the Yellowhead County Edson (YCE) Multiplex Facility Project.
  The facility will include a new pool, new arena, new gymnasium, renovations to Centennial Arena, repurposing Memorial Arena to a curling facility, and inclusion of an elevated walking track in the gymnasium at an estimated cost of $80.24 million.
The scope budget includes: Fees, management + OH $8.46M; construction $70.18M; off-site service Uupgrades $0.54M; and FFE allowance $1.06M.
  Funding for this project includes an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant for $20,000,000. The YCE Multiplex is a regional partnership with the project being cost-shared 50-50 between the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County. Each partner will contribute $30,120,000, representing an increase of $5,120,000 from our currently approved financial contribution of $25,000,000.
  Each Council directed the Steering Committee and their respective Administrations to proceed with phased tendering of the project.
Over the past several months, intensive planning has been done towards developing the design of the YCE Multiplex. Construction set to begin on the new recreation facility in Summer 2024.
  This joint initiative between the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County is one step closer to becoming a regional staple, with schematic designs for the YCE Multiplex officially approved. With the innovative design given the thumbs-up, a four-phase construction plan is in the books and work is ready to begin this summer.
  The initial phase of construction focuses on the continued use of the existing Edson and District Leisure Centre – a unique step advocated by both municipalities.
  During the County Council meeting, Crystal McNernie, General Manager of Community Services and a member of the Steering Committee, stated, "The intent behind the entire construction project is that services will be maintained. So the pool will remain operational until the new pool is online. Nothing will be shut down with the arenas until the new arena is online. Will there be impacts to use? There will be, we'll have temporary access points and so forth. But the intent throughout this entire project is to maintain operations."
  Public parking and building access will be planned and managed during construction, working around existing amenities and various project activities. This will ensure residents’ have access to recreational opportunities throughout the entire project, it stated in a joint release.
  “Edson Town Council is excited to get to this stage of the project. We are no longer talking about it; we’re actually doing it. This investment will make our region more desirable for those looking to move here, and will enhance the wellness of existing residents with expanded recreation opportunities. We thank Yellowhead County for being at the table as an equal partner in this regional facility,” stated Mayor Kevin Zahara, Town of Edson.
  Phase 2 of the project will include the construction of a new ice arena and an aquatics area, including lane and leisure swimming, scheduled for completion in Spring 2026.
Phase 3 will incorporate the construction of a new lobby and a gymnasium that includes an elevated walking track and Phase 4 will see renovations to the current Centennial Arena and the conversion of the Memorial Arena to a new curling facility. The project is expected to be completed by Summer 2027.
  “The new YCE Multiplex will be a fantastic space for year-round indoor recreation for residents of all ages, from young families to seniors and every age in between. The upgrades and new amenities will be well-used, and it will be a facility that we can take pride in. We’re happy we can give new life to this well-utilized centre in our community and the results show the benefit of being able to work in partnership with the Town of Edson towards this common goal. It will be a welcome addition for our residents and a draw to anyone moving to our region, now and for years to come,” stated Mayor Wade Williams, Yellowhead County.

Town of Edson considers expansion of Backflow Preventer Program

by Niki Luymes
 
 April 15, 2024 issue: During the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 9, Council was presented an update on the Backflow Preventer Program Pilot.
Council set aside $50,000 for the program for 2023, which covered 50% of the cost of having a backflow device installed. Eligibility was on a first come basis for those affected by flooding, until the budget was depleted. It was created in response to the 2022 flood event that caused damages to 23 private properties.
  The initial rollout saw nine homeowners apply and install backflow valves before June 2023. However, the major flood event in that same month, caused damage to over 90 private properties. Following this event, another 13 homes applied to have a backflow preventer installed.  Of the $50,000 budget, a total of $23,857.40 was used for reimbursements.
  After the 2022 events, Administration decided that more research had to be done to help understand, troubleshoot, and recommend solutions to limit or prevent damage to private properties during major flood events. The Utilities Department put out a Request for Quotes to local companies to complete private property plumbing inspections. Local Edson business, Truman Plumbing and Gas Fitting, was the successful proponent. 
  After reaching out to all landowners affected by flooding, 46 of them consented to sewer inspection services as offered by Truman Plumbing and Gas Fitting. From this process, the Town learned that 50% of the homes inspected had no backflow prevention device installed. Many of them also had an old model weeping tiles that feed into the sewer lines. When weeping tile feeds into the sewer system, it is more likely to flood during a rain event as water overpowers the sewer system causing backflow. The remaining homes had both a backflow prevention device and a weeping tile/sump pump that were correctly installed. It's important to note that some of the homes with properly installed devices still experienced backups due to line pressure.
  Both, Darin Borysko, Fleet & Utilities Manager for the Town of Edson, and Colin Truman of Truman Plumbing and Gas Fitting, presented their findings to council. They, and Town Administration, were seeking feedback from Council on making the pilot program a permanent program funded through Sewer Contracted Services as proposed in the 2024 Operating Budget. They also recommended an update and expansion to the program.
  They proposed that the program reimburse owners for the installation of a backflow valve and a full sump pump. They also wanted to open the program to all residents of Edson and not just those who had experienced flooding. If Council approves the proposed operating budget for this program, the Communications department would inform landowners of the continuation and expansion of the program.
  Following the presentation, Mayor Kevin Zahara asked Borysko if he believed that the $50,000 allotted would be enough to cover the program after expansion.  "Do you think that is a sufficient amount to include sump pumps in this program as well?"
"I was actually pleasantly surprised," replied Borysko "In doing the program, a lot of the builds were anywhere from $1,500, to $3,000 just for the backflow preventer. I was expecting a little bit more." Truman agreed, saying that installing the sump pump and back flow preventer at the same time would reduce the overall cost. "As long as they are in the same location, it's not that much more work to add. One at a time would be about $3,000 each, but both together would only be a third more. Borysko also reminded Council that the full $50,000 hadn't been used last year. Assuming the program is as popular, it shouldn't be an issue.
  Councillor Peter Taylor commented that if the program reached the $50,00 maximum, Administration would simply have to come ask for an extension. "If people are really enjoying the program, and want to take part in it, I would rather see them do that than deal with a flooded basement."  He also added that with the amount of people who just don't know what kind of system they have, maybe they could also create a program that educates. It may also be a good idea to prioritize people who would financially struggle to pay for the installation on their own. 
  Mayor Zahara added that while he is in support of an education program, he wouldn't want to complicate things by limiting the program to those who need financial aid. "As soon as you start adding different mechanisms, it becomes more of a burden to administer."
  "Would this program apply to anyone who has this system or just those who have been flooded?" asked Councillor Greg Pasychny. "It would apply to anybody," answered Borysko, "Even if you were a business owner within town and had a connected sump."
  The program will not be put into action until the full 2024 budget is approved on April 23. If approved during this process, interested residents can reach out to the town for more information on the program. 

Town plans to rejoin Rural Renewal Stream

by Niki Luymes
 
  April 8, 2024 issue: Council discussed the merits of rejoining the Rural Renewal Stream (RRS) program during the April 2 Town Council meeting.
  This program would allow business to sponsor skilled international workers to come into the country and work. "The RRS program is a provincial program designed to support the attraction and retention of newcomers in rural Alberta through a community driven approach that is responsive to local economic development needs and contributes to the economic growth of the community," said Morgan Roberts, Economic Development Officer.
  The program goals are to help small businesses with staffing challenges and to help foreign workers find a place in Canada where they can thrive. It is only open to Alberta communities with populations under 100,000.  The employees gained through the program are granted employment while they work towards permanent resident status. The number of employees brought in is decided on a federal level. The program then allocates those approved workers to the individual partner municipalities.
  This is not the first time Edson has joined the RRS program. Edson was approved as a host community back in 2023. Back then, 86 endorsement letters were written to support local businesses with staffing challenges. Although the program saw support, it became unmanageable due to staffing  issues. "In the summer of 2023, Administration made the decision to pause the program due to capacity challenges with running the program, and potentially fraudulent attempts at accessing the program," said Roberts.
  After Roberts was hired in 2023, she was able to begin discussions in the community regarding the program and its local impact. She also consulted communities across the province and developed a list of best practices to provide guidance for better risk management of the program, as well as provide guidance for the management of the heavy administrative load that accompanies participation in the program. In Alberta, there are currently 34 rural municipalities that are in partnership with RRS.
  More than 75 letters of support have been received from Edson and the surrounding community requesting that the Town of Edson return to the RRS program. "Implementing the RRS program in our community will provide support to our local businesses as well as benefit our community in growth, stability, and prosperity." To avoid some of the issues seen before, EDO Roberts will be putting together a new system of best practices. Then, should Edson be accepted back into the program, Town Administration will conduct a full review six months after implementation in the community.
  The application requirements include an endorsement letter from the Town's Municipal Council. The application timeline is approximately eight weeks from the time of submission by the Town. Only after being approved on the provincial level, will the town actually join the program. Council presented two motions that would begin the application process. The program wouldn't bring any extra cost to Edson or its taxpayers.
  Councillor Peter Taylor voiced his support for this program, "We need people employed in Edson. People that are going to come here, pursue homes, send their kids to schools, and everybody wins." He then asked, "What are we looking at in terms of an administration fee?  Roberts replied, "At this point, we are looking at a $500 fee to be paid by the businesses that are making applications to the program. That fee is not to be passed on to any of the individuals."
  Councillor Krystal Cacka echoed this support as a recent Community Futures triage report highlighted the need for workers in our community. "Do we need to ask for allocation to be a host community annually or once you receive that endorsement does that just continue until you decide not to?"  Roberts responded, "The application process is for approximately two years but can be extended up to five years."
  Mayor Kevin Zahara asked, "How many letters of support and inquires have you received at this point?" Roberts replied, "At this point I have received over 100 letters of support. We've also had thousands of phone calls in support from employers and job seekers." She added that the process of rejoining the program would reset the applications. The town would only be viewing new applications.
  Councillor Greg Pasychny asked if the town was guaranteed a spot in the program once council had passed the necessary motions. Roberts replied that it is not guaranteed. The town needs to create a business plan to outline policies and procedures which would then go back to the province for approval.
  Council unanimously carried the motion to authorize Administration to submit an application to become a designated host community under the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program. They also carried a motion to authorize the Mayor to execute an endorsement letter for the Town's application to the Rural Renewal Stream Program to become a designated host community under the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program.

Broadband Internet Project underway in Yellowhead County

by Dana McArthur
 
  April 1, 2024 issue: After a lengthy embargo on information imposed by the federal and provincial governments, Yellowhead County Council was finally able to publicly discuss the Universal Broadband Project (UBF-03570) during it's March 26, 2024 council meeting.
  Until this point, County's discussions on the topic were held in-camera, closed to the public and media, to comply with the governments' grant and funding requirements. "Yellowhead County applied for the Universal Broadband Funding for Rural Broadband through the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) in February of 2021," said General Manager of Protective Services, Albert Bahri.
The project costing $41,113,824.40 looks to provide coverage to over 90% of residents within Yellowhead County.
  "On May 25, 2022 Yellowhead County received a letter with conditional approval of the UBF Project. ISED then contacted Administration to begin the negotiation process and project scope of work," said Bahri.
  ISED then provided mapping that excluded the Hamlet of Marlboro, Hamlet Of Evansburg, and a portion of residents in the highway 32 corridor stating that other internet service providers had already provided the required 50-down, 10-up speeds. "Yellowhead County did question these restrictions," said Bahri.
  ISED required a resolution of Council approving the UBF Project in order to move forward with negations for the funding. "The issue was that the project was embargoed until such time it was announced by the federal and provincial governments. This meant that any resolution would have to be presented in camera," said Bahri. Discussions did occur in camera at the September 27, 2022 Council meeting, but the motion/resolution was passed in the public portion, albeit without significant information, Chief Administrative Officer Luc Mercier and Mayor Wade Williams, later clarified.
  The resolution committed Yellowhead County to the entire project and associated funding to complete the project within a five year timeline. The project has a completion date of 2027.
  "Based on the submission guidelines a response should have been received within 5 weeks of the submission should a party be successful. Yellowhead County received a letter providing conditional approval on May 25, 2022 via email," said Bahri. May 25, 2022 then became the official date that Yellowhead County could begin to action the project and bill for items. The contract for the federal government portion was received on January 11, 2024. The contract for the provincial government portion was received on March 7, 2024.
  "With the information embargo now lifted and both federal and provincial government contracts in place, the required Yellowhead County funding portion is presented to Council for approval," said Bahri.
  Crews are ready to move forward and construction will begin immediately based on frost remaining in the ground.
  The total project cost funded by the provincial and federal governments is based on $36,476,204.00. This is broken down as follows: Federal contribution $11,660,646; provincial contribution $11,660,646; Yellowhead County Contribution $13,154,912.
Yellowhead County is also responsible for costs associated with the project, but outside of the approved funding model of the provincial and federal governments. These includes: Legal and land acquisition $500,000; system management program $250,000; consultant services $150,000; and a contingency of 10% on the overall project $3,737,204.40.
  This brings Yellowhead County's contribution to $17,792,532.40 for a total project cost of $41,113,824.40. The project will span from 2024 to the first quarter of 2027.
Yellowhead County would utilize the Restricted Surplus Fund: Infrastructure to fund the project, with the reserve being paid back over a four year period (2025 to 2028) through a combination of property tax revenue from assessment growth, annual surplus, and program revenue.
  Wade Williams said, "I am going to go to questions and comments from council prior to asking for a motion."
  Councillor Dawn Mitchell began, "The required 50-down and 10-up speeds, those are recognized by whom? I don't believe that those speeds are being met, specifically in Marlboro, because I remember having to go door to door and do stuff on my iPad there."
  Bahri replied, "We spent over eight and a half months trying to prove to them that the service wasn't there, but they were provided that data from those ISPs [Telus and Shaw] and that's all they have to go on. Hence the reason that those areas are still excluded. This is a bigger conversation that has to happen throughout Canada, based on all of those providers and carriers that won't serve smaller areas, based on the small population."
  Councillor David Russell said, "I did a survey on my own upload-download speeds from three different websites and provided that information to my internet service provider. I asked them for an explanation, because they weren't achieving anywhere near their stated upload or download speeds. Their answer to that was, 'that's our best possible speed. We don't have to provide that, but that is our best possible speed'. Unfortunately, that is the number that they report to ISED, and those aren't their actual numbers. So they're playing fast and loose with the actual truth, in my opinion."
Councillor Shawn Berry commented, "I've been looking forward to this motion in order to move forward with getting us into the broadband network, that we so deserve
as residents in Canada and especially in Alberta."
  Williams concluded, "This is a huge undertaking for any municipality. With the joint funding from the federal government, the provincial government, and Yellowhead County we're able to move forward with this and get this much needed infrastructure in. I'm so excited for this."
  Yellowhead County Council approved Yellowhead County's portion of the project in the amount of $17,792,532.40 from the Infrastructure Reserve, paid back over a four year period from 2025 to 2028. Council also approved the broadband project in the amount of $41,113,824.40, and direct administration to proceed with the project installation.
  Yellowhead County's Broadband Tower Network System provides a vital infrastructure service to its communities. The goal has been to get fibre connections to as many households as possible and create new wireless options where fibre is not an option.
  These federal and provincial grants will help support the ongoing development of this infrastructure backbone to support the ever-increasing need for high-speed internet and cellular connectivity for Yellowhead County residents, first responders, emergency services, and other protective services such as early wildfire protection, as well as industry and other stakeholders.

ESTS re-branding as ME: Moving Edson & Area

by Niki Luymes
 
Mar 25, 2024 issue: At the March 19 Edson Town Council Meeting, Dawn Mitchell, Executive Director of the Edson Senior's Transportation Society (ESTS) came to give an update of their activities over the past year.
Some highlights from this report was the changing of the Society's name, an overview of their updated clientele, and their work during the wildfires. 
The Edson Senior's Transportation Society has been operating under that name for the past 39 years. In 2023 the decision was made to expand the society to reach other clients throughout Edson. While they will continue to offer their services to Edson residents 55 year and over, they have expanded to also serve Edson residents under 54 who have cognitive or mobility challenges. In correlation, they also changed their name to ME (Moving Edson). "This re-branding is meant to be more inclusive," explained Mitchell. 
Moving Edson & Area now has one full time driver and three part time drivers working for them throughout the week. The group is run by a volunteer governance board, with an Executive Director.  Moving Edson & Area has one wheelchair accessible bus, which now runs from 8:30am to 4pm, Monday thru Friday, with the exception of Thursdays when it runs until 9pm, and on weekends from 9am to 3pm.  This adds up to 54.5 operational hours per week. 
When summarizing the past year Mitchell highlighted the Society's actions during the 2023 wildfires. Throughout the emergency the buses were running to evacuate and then transport all their clientele. "So I need to say thank you to all our drivers. They went night and day for months." However, the wildfires did have a negative effect on the year's statistics. Overall ridership looks like it has dropped, but in actuality if you factor in the fires, it has remained the same.
Also in 2023, Moving Edson & Area received a grant from Healthy Aging Alberta. This, coupled with fundraising and other donations, allowed them to purchase a new mobility van. This new vehicle has been ordered and hopefully will be in Edson soon to begin operations.
Mitchell explained their priorities going into 2024 include: further development of policies & procedures; re-branding from ESTS to Moving Edson & Area; the implementation of modern technology like the new van; Increasing revenue by raising community awareness; and promoting their charter service. As well, a the return of their Annual Trivia Night Fundraiser on May 4.
Councillor Gean Chouinard, asked about the expanded hours. "Saturday and Sunday you started in December. Have you seen ridership increasing?" Mitchell answered that they have seen increased usage on Saturdays and Sundays. As words spreads, the weekends are getting busier. They have consistent clients that get rides to Sunday worship services.
"My question is regarding the mobility van," said Councillor Krystal Cacka, "I'm curious about when will it arrive and if it will have air conditioning?" Mitchell replied that the van should get here by the end of March or beginning of April. "I promise you it will have air conditioning, it will be a comfortable ride,  and it will have heat. This new van is going to be fabulous."
Councillor Ed Moore then asked if they complete many out of town trips. Mitchell explained that when you charter the bus it  will take you everywhere and anywhere. Mitchell also explained that with the new van they plan to greatly enhancing their services. "We will be offering subsided medical service trips to Edmonton, that is really exciting."
Mitchell explained that it's a big challenge for some seniors to make it to the city for specialized medical appointments. ESTS used to offer a limited service where they would drop clients at Tim Hortons to then ride the SunDog bus to the city. However, those busses only go to West Edmonton Mall. From there the client would need to arrange rides to the actual medical appointment. The stress of this whole procedure would often stop them from going. With the new grant and the new van, Moving Edson will be able to offer door to door service. "We will pick seniors up where they live or wherever is most appropriate for them. We will drive them straight to their appointment, wait for them, and take them straight back home." Mitchell also added that if the client requires a support person for their appointment, that person will be able to ride with them at no extra cost. This new program is very exciting as it fills an incredible need in the Edson community.
Mayor Zahara voiced his approval for this program. He noted that Council has often looked into fixing this problem and is excited to have a solution with a partner that has done such good work in the community. Moving Edson and Area is filling the need in Edson for public transportation without the high overhead that comes with a municipal bus system. "I thank you for taking on that work. We all appreciate that, and I think taxpayers should appreciate that as well."

County reviews after-action report on 2023 disasters

by Dana McArthur
 
Mar 18, 2024 issue: A Special County Council meeting was called on March 6 to discuss the 2023 after-action report the County commissioned from 9Zero Solutions.
9Zero is a national consultancy based in Alberta that provides services which include emergency management, incident management, strategic direction, and after-action reviews.
"It takes courage to call for an independent review of a disaster," stated Tom Sampson, with 9Zero Solutions, in his report.
"The events of 2023 were unprecedented in nature. The scope and scale of wildfires across the province of Alberta challenged many communities, stretched resources to the breaking point, and resulted in the evacuation of thousands of Albertans.
"In Yellowhead County, there was not one fire but multiple large complex fires that disrupted the regular operations and routine of staff, volunteers, and community members. An abrupt change in weather quickly required the focus to shift from wildfire to flood response.
"After-action reviews are difficult by nature. We realize and want to acknowledge that without the hard work done by paid staff, volunteers, and countless members of the community, the losses in Yellowhead County would have been much worse. Yellowhead County should be commended for their effort, their response and their dedication to mitigating losses in the community," stated Sampson.
The company collected and analyzed information including data from open surveys, interviews, and a review of all documents provided by Yellowhead County and other stakeholders, as well as publicly available information regarding the fire response.
"At every turn, I have been impressed by the way Yellowhead County staff, volunteers, and residents rose to the challenge and never gave up despite the length, complexity, and magnitude of the situation. A commendable feat!" Sampson emphasized.
In the report Sampson outlined some best practices and opportunities for improvement in 11 different areas. "As the 2024 spring hazard season approaches, there will be limited time to comprehensively implement all aspects of the after-action review." Below are the most impactful best practices and opportunities for Yellowhead County.
Most Impactful Best Practices
- The staff members of Yellowhead County showed an incredible spirit and willingness to help. This demonstrates a strong culture that should be maintained.
- The alignment of leadership between the Mayor, Council, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the General Manager (GM)/Fire Chief was noteworthy and impactful.
- The establishment of an evacuee call-in line where evacuees obtained information. Residents from Yellowhead County, the Town of Edson,and Entwistle (Parkland County) were able to access the line for information.
- The leadership of Yellowhead County recognized the magnitude of the events early and requested assistance of both the North Central Incident Management Team and Canada Task Force 2.
Most Impactful Opportunities
- Continue to advocate for increased Alberta Wildfire resources, both personnel and air assets to be fully trained and available earlier in the wildfire season.
- Advocate for a review of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) program within the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).Alter the program to dismantle roadblocks and open access to interested parties, including first responders and community members.
- Work with Alberta Wildfire to modernize their mapping system and approach to information transparency to provide increased situational awareness for members of the community.
- Work with Alberta Wildfire to re-evaluate the dual processes of using 9-1-1 and 310-FIRE for reporting fires.
"People are smart. They need to understand what's coming their way," said Sampson. One of the most impactful actions he stated is a new provincial public information system "that refers that information and allows smart people to make smart decisions about how they protect their land or what they're going to do."
"The geographical area of Yellowhead County is massive. The county encompasses over 22,000+square kilometres that are covered by 14 full time firefighters, 2 work experience students, and a volunteer contingent that fluctuates in number. At the time of the wildfires, there were 70 rostered volunteers, including the work experience students. This means one fulltime firefighter for approximately every 1,375 square kilometres," said Sampson. Many volunteers, however, were not available during the disasters.
Council has recently approved four additional full-time equivalent firefighters and two additional work experience students in their 2024 Budget. Additional opportunities are also available Sampson stated, "We believe that a six-person seasonal crew focused on the speciality of Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) would be extremely beneficial to the advancement of the program and the residents."
Councillor David Russell commented, "I want to make sure that everyone is aware that the residents at Shiningbank Lake stopped the fire when it crossed the McLeod River. Only the residents stopped the fire. Had it not been for them, that fire would have been in Fox Creek in two days. So they also contributed to the local resources fighting fires. Please do not forget."
Russell added, "The State of Texas has their largest fire in recorded history burning right now. It's the second largest in the United States at just over 1.1 million acres and they are completely overwhelmed, they stated in the Media. This is in a country of almost 400 million people! If I'm not mistaken, our fire was 2.2 million hectares. Double that! So what we faced was indeed overwhelming and I don't think we can overstate that."
"It is important to reiterate that a disaster, by very definition, overwhelms the resources of the local response agencies. The staff, volunteers, and residents of Yellowhead County should be commended for the response to the wildfires of 2023 and the seamless shift to respond to the subsequent flooding.  While there are opportunities for improvement, there are also many best practices that should be continued through any future response," stated Sampson.
Mayor Wade Williams said, "Did some things go wrong? Absolutely. We went through 61 days of devastation in the area and not everything is going to go right. Did we learn, are we learning? Absolutely."
"Right from the start, Yellowhead County's number one priority was the safety of residents and protection of as much property as we could possibly protect. I think we did that. I'm a little bit fearful that if a very similar situation were to happen again that we're going to have more and more people trying to stay back. I'm fearful that at some point we're not going to escape with no loss of life. The more people that we have staying back the tougher it is to get people out when things do turn bad. These fires turn and we've had fire crews trapped that are experienced in fighting fires. I think we got away very lucky, but I'm fearful," concluded Mayor Williams.
The spring 2023 wildfire/flood after action report is available on the Yellowhead County website at: yhcounty.ca.

Six wildfires remain listed as active in Edson Forest Area

by Niki Luymes
 
Mar 18, 2024 issue: Alberta Wildfire and the Edson Fire Department continue to raise wildfire awareness before Spring with a FireSmart Open House event hosted at the Galloway Museum.
 This event specifically reached out to the community of Edson. From 2pm to 7pm, on February 28 and March 4, members of both departments were on hand to answer questions people had about the wildfire season.
This meeting was just part of the many FireSmart events that haven taken place recently in cooperation with the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County. Alberta Wildfire is making it a priority to reach out to as many local hamlets and towns as possible.
  Locations that have already had a FireSmart event include Peers, Niton, Marlboro, Robb, Fulham, Evansburg, Wildwood, and Burle. The goal of these events is to have as many conversations about wildfire preparation as possible. This helps arm local residents with knowledge and tools to better protect their homes.
  The basic FireSmart tips remain the same for rural and urban residents. "It's for towns, it's for residential properties, even out in the county, and it can also be applied for commercial properties as well," said Edson Fire Chief Brad Milton. One of the most important tips to remember is to create a buffer zone between your dwelling and flammable materials such as brush and dry wood. 
Within a town this may mean coordinating with your neighbours to keep the whole neighbourhood safe. Alberta Wildfire offers programs such as the Neighbourhood Recognition Program to help communities make themselves FireSmart. Though this program neighbourhoods can get funding to prepare their residents and also be recognized as a FireSmart community.
  Currently there are six active wildfires in the Edson Forest Area. All of these fires are carryover fires from last year. "With those carryover fires, it doesn't mean that they are still burning or smouldering," said Caroline Charbonneau, Wildfire Information Officer with Alberta Wildfire. "It's just that there's hundreds of kilometres of perimeter that was burnt last year and until we know 100% that those wildfires are out, we're going to leave them on the app."
  Even with the recent snow, the risk of these fires returning remains a possibility. The snow can cause these fire areas to smoulder underground, explained Charbonneau.
  The equipment that Alberta Wildfire uses to do high level scans for active hot spots cannot be used until the snow melts. "We need to wait until the conditions are right and then we will do those high-level scans. But in the meantime we are monitoring. So firefighters are out there monitor some of the perimeter. We also rely on the public to call 310-FIRE if they see smoke or flame," added Charbonneau. 
  The next scheduled FireSmart event is planned for May 18 in Cadomin from 4pm to 7pm.
For more FireSmart information visit alberta.ca/firesmart

Edson Library receives donation for Furniture Fundraising Drive

Mar 4, 2024 issue: The Edson & District Public Library is thrilled to announce that it has received a $10,000 grant from the Vermilion Ways of Caring program in support of their Furniture Fundraising Drive.
“Vermilion Energy is more than happy to help in the areas we operate in,” said Wally Samson, Operations Superintendent for AB/BC with Vermilion Energy, when he presented the donation to the library on February 23.
“With this generous donation from Vermilion Energy, we will be able to purchase much needed furniture for the children's and teen areas,” said Robin Corser, Library Board Chair.
The library is currently fundraising to furnish the new spaces in the renovated and expanded building that will include a larger children's area, dedicated teen zone, and quiet room. “We expect to move back to our former location at 4726 8th Avenue in June and this $10,000 donation is a large step towards our goal of raising $250,000. We are very grateful for the generosity of Vermilion Energy and their support of our library,” said Corser.
"If anyone wants more information or would like to join Vermilion Energy on our Wall of Recognition, please contact Connie Hargreaves, Library Director at (780) 723-6691, chargreaves@edsonlibrary.ca," concluded Corser.

County Council updated on Spring Wildfire Preparedness

by Dana McArthur
 
  Feb 26, 2024 issue: Albert Bahri, General Manager of Protective Services presented an update report to Yellowhead County Council at their February 20 meeting.
"In the spring of 2023, devasting   Wildland Fires occurred within Yellowhead County. One of the fires occurred in the 'white zone' which consists of a portion of Yellowhead From Highway 16 to the northern most boundary of the County and between Highway 22 North and the Pembina River," stated Bahri.
  The bulk of the fires occurred in the 'green zone' or the Forest Protection Area, which is the jurisdiction of Alberta Wildfire. Most of this area is covered by the Edson Provincial Forest Protection Branch, with a small portion to the South covered by the Rocky Provincial Forrest Protection Branch. Over 310,337 hectares of forest burnt.
"Looking forward to Spring 2024, Yellowhead County Administration has been working very hard to prepare for the upcoming  Wildland season," Bahri added. The report stated:
Training: Yellowhead County staff have exceptional training in all aspects of Protective Services. Keeping with this high standard training is occurring on a regular basis in all disciplines of Protective Services. Yellowhead County has a very aggressive training  regiment.
Current Equipment: All current equipment in Protective Services is response ready.
New Equipment: All wildland equipment identified in the 2024 Capital Budget has been ordered. The request for quotes for the Regional Rescue and Wildland Response vehicle is posted on APC, closing on February 23, 2024, at 14:00.
Operational Preparedness: All staff and associated equipment are response ready for any incidents that may occur including  wildland fires.
Community preparedness: Fire smart safety sessions, in conjunction with Alberta Wildfire, are well underway. 12 have been scheduled, with 7 being completed as of this report being written. More will be scheduled in the fall, with the program being  developed to be offered yearly. The Fire Equipment Contractor list and requirements are being finalized and will be advertised to local citizens and contractors to sign up for. This list will be for equipment that can be used to assist in firefighting. MOU's for Helicopter assistance are being developed for white zone coverage.
Community Protection: Yellowhead County, working with Alberta Wildfire, will be creating an application to be submitted for fire guards around Hamlets within Yellowhead County. Funding for this is coming from the Provincial Government. These fire guards will be combustible-free areas to prevent the spread of a Wildland fire into Hamlets and other populated areas. Sprinkler protection lines can also be used in these fire guards to bolster protection.
  The process to acquire funding will start immediately after the program is announced. Funding is limited and the project scope will have to be based on successful funding. Once the project has been approved it will then move to developing the scope of work using a consultant who would have expertise in these types of  projects. Once this is complete the project would move into land acquisition, followed by actual guard construction. Project timelines would be expected to see actual guards being built within 24 months of project approval.
  "We'll be creating an application to be submitted for fire guards around Hamlets within Yellowhead County that can be expanded to subdivisions," Bahri explained. " It won't be without challenges to get them around Hamlets."
  Councillor David Russell said, "I compare this to the way people protect their yards from criminal activity; no one thing will protect you. It has to be layers of protection. The same thing applies to fire guards around hamlets. In and of itself, it won't be sufficient, but it's one more layer in protection."
  Councillor Brigitte Lemieux said, "I want to say thank you for all the work that you [Albert Bahri] and your team have been doing, hosting these fire smart sessions. I attended the one that was in Pine Grove. It was well attended. The feedback I have received has been very positive."
  Mayor Wade Williams added, "I would just like to thank the province for stepping up and realizing that this is a concern in these areas and for offering this funding. We don't know what it's going to look like."
  Council for Yellowhead County accepted the report on Spring Wildfire Preparedness, for information.

 

AB Wildfire Reflects on Causes of 2023 Season

by Deanna Mitchener
 
Feb 19, 2024 issue: Last summer the Edson Forest Area saw a wildfire season that few people will soon forget.
Caroline Charbonneau, Area Information Coordinator for Alberta Wildfire -Edson Forest Area, stated, “89 wildfires burned 234,558 hectares of grass, wetland, and forest in the Edson Forest Area. Wildfires typically leave islands of unburnt vegetation within their perimeter. They often create a mosaic effect on the landscape by burning more flammable fuels such as conifer trees and leaving less flammable deciduous trees unburned. Of the total hectares (ha) burnt, 90 per cent were caused by lightning and the rest were human-caused.”
“Wildfires are usually caused by either lightning or human activity. Human-caused wildfires are most often caused accidentally, such as by a campfire that escapes its ring, a powerline malfunction that causes a spark, or sparks from the improper use of a burn barrel,” said Charbonneau.
“They are rarely caused by arson. Less than 10% of wildfires in Alberta were determined to be caused by arson last year. Arson is part of a broader category referred to as 'incendiary' by Alberta Wildfire. Incendiary fires are intentionally set but only those with a criminal element are deemed to be arson. For example, incendiary fires could be started by a child playing with a lighter, or even by fireworks or exploding targets. It's important to understand that we're all capable of starting a wildfire and we need to pay attention to help prevent them,” Charbonneau said.
Of the 89 wildfires in the Edson Forest Area, 33 were caused by lightning and 56 were human-caused.
 “Alberta Wildfire investigates every wildfire to determine origin and cause. This helps us track primary causes, emerging trends, and how we can ensure our prevention methods are working," said Charbonneau.
It's not uncommon to see a significant number of fires classified as 'under investigation' in a year like 2023. Unless a wildfire is undoubtedly caused by lightning, it defaults to 'under investigation' until the file is closed. If a cause can not be determined, it becomes classified as 'undetermined'.
Residents were responsible for 12 of the 56 wildfires determined to be human-caused in the Edson Forest Area. “These causes can include improperly extinguishing winter burning, unsafe debris disposal, unattended cooking and warming fires, and mechanical failure of machinery such as lawnmowers,” explained Charbonneau.
“The industrial sector was responsible for the second highest total, with 11 fires. Some of these fires were caused by mechanical failure of equipment, winter pile burning that escaped or wasn't properly extinguished, and flaring devices," said Charbonneau. "Powerlines and railroads were responsible for eight wildfires. These were caused by friction and sparks, mechanical failure, and by one unfortunate animal who climbed a power pole."
Six wildfires were determined to be caused by recreational activity. Five were caused by unattended campfires and one could not be determined. Incendiary came in last with two unclassified fires and one arson. There are 16 wildfires that remain under investigation or are undetermined.
“If you are working or recreating in the outdoors, it is everyone's responsibly to know how to prevent wildfires. Do your research, keep watch of your surroundings, and pay attention when whatever you are doing could be creating sparks, hot exhaust, or friction," Charbonneau advised.
Follow along as more topics about wildfire are discussed in this recurring mini-series.
For up-to-date information on wildfires in our area, you can subscribe to the Edson Forest Area Wildfire updates by downloading the AB Wildfire Status app. Once in the app, select the info tab at the bottom, click the bell and toggle on Edson Forest Area. You'll receive notifications each time a new update is sent.
To learn more, visit our website alberta.wildfire.ca

Town reviews report on 2023 local disasters

by Niki Luymes
 
Feb 12, 2024 issue: During the Town of Edson's council meeting on February 6, Edson Fire Chief Brad Milton presented an after-action report regarding the three local emergencies that took place in 2023.
In the spring of 2023, the Town of Edson experienced two wildfires and a flood.
Administration and the Emergency Command Center (ECC) team enlisted Transitional Solutions Inc's (TSI) expertise as a third-party to create the report, offer oversight and recommendations regarding the operations, capacity, training, and management of all three emergencies. Assisting online with the presentation for council were TSI analysts Kevin Lefebvre, Kerri Holmes, and Cory Thomas, who were also able to answers questions afterwards.
The report on the first of the wildfires (EWF-031) and subsequent evacuation concluded that as a small municipality with limited training, Edson demonstrated a resilient, community-driven culture underscoring the power of  solidarity and adaptability in the face of adversity. “Edson's success in managing the wildfire was not merely a result of technical expertise or extensive resources but was profoundly influenced by the strength of the community's unity, quick thinking, and resourcefulness."
"The collaboration among residents, emergency responders, and local authorities played a pivotal role in containing the fire and minimizing its impact."
"The Town of Edson achieved its overall priorities to protect lives and property, demonstrating a resiliency of spirit in extremely trying times."
This review also identifies areas for improvement. While the team's cultural strength significantly contributed to its success, formal training and resources could enhance preparedness and response capabilities further. Investing in training programs, acquiring necessary resources, and establishing more structured emergency response protocols would complement and fortify Edson's existing community driven approach.
"Moving forward, integrating formal training and resources within the framework of a resilient community culture will fortify the Town's ability to address such crises more effectively while preserving the ethos that defines the municipality."
The second wildfire and subsequent town-wide evacuation to Edmonton once again presented the Town of Edson with a challenging and sobering set of circumstances. The second report concluded that, "the response efforts were evidence of the resilience and dedication of the Town staff, IMTs, emergency response teams, provincial agencies, and the community. It should be noted that the Town successfully managed to evacuate residents and contain the wildfire. It is evident that there are still lessons to be learned and improvements to be made, but overall, the protection of life and property was a success."
"The ability to execute a second evacuation so soon after the first demonstrates the importance of preparedness and the need for a robust and adaptable MEP. The Town is encouraged to continue to refine the plans for wildfire and evacuation procedures and identify vulnerabilities, the Town must be commended for its use of enhanced communication strategies to ensure the safety and well-being of its residents."
In regard to the flooding event, the report concluded that based on the comprehensive assessment of the response to the 2023 Edson Flood, it was evident that the management of this disaster was highly effective. "The Town demonstrated a commendable commitment to safeguarding the lives and property of its residents."
"It is essential to highlight that the success of the Town of Edson during this flood crisis can be attributed, in part, to having been through two previous wildfires in a very short time. Although the Town ECC staff were exhausted, they were able to collaborate with key players, stakeholders, and vendors to mitigate the flood effectively. Had the circumstances been different, the Town might not have fared as well under the challenging conditions it faced."
During the presentation, the TSI representatives offered multiple actionable ideas for each of the events to help the Town to be better prepared for future challenges. "You did an incredible job," said Holmes, "Nobody died, you safeguarded their lives and you protected their residences." 
Councillor Krystal Cacka said see believed everyone did a commendable job during the evacuations. She then asked where Administration stands in response to TSI's recommendations. Milton responded, "We have started actioning the recommendations that were made here. We are working on an implementation plan for all of the, I believe, 81 recommendations. We are working through that process and that is something we will bring back to council at a later date."
Councillor Gean Chouinard had a question about the issue of fatigue management, a challenge that staff faced in the second fire evacuation and the overland flooding. "In all fairness how do you train for this? We can do all the training in the world and yet everything could be different."
Milton responded, "You are very correct in that. Trying to balance the fatigue management side is extremely difficult." He then explained that joining the North Central Incident Management Team along with accessing the recently joined Northwest Alberta Emergency Resource Agreements would give Edson an option for relief in the future.
Councillor Peter Taylor had a question on the issue of unified command. He pointed out that even though the Edson and the County had different Emergency Command Centres, they were still required to coordinate on a lot of things. "When an evacuation like this happens, we're linked."
Chief Milton said, "Those conversation are going to be had. Unified command is always going to be a challenge everywhere we go. But it is something that we are going to be continuing to work towards to better our response and work with our municipal partners."
After the discussion, Council voted unanimously to accept the 2023 TSI After Action Reports as information.

Town Community Development staff moving into Griffiths Park Centre

Feb 5, 2024 issue: The Town of Edson is excited to announce that the Community Development staff, which includes Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Arts, Culture, and Active Living are moving into the newly renovated Griffiths Park Centre located at 5414 – 6th Avenue.
Although the facility will remain closed to the public while we settle in, services are still available, and programs are still operating.
Should you need assistance during the transition the Community Development team can be reached by calling (780) 725-0582. They will be inviting the community to join them at their new location for the Grand Opening on February 19th where they will host Family Day festivities in collaboration with community partners.
The renovations were completed to create a fully accessible community facility which provides the opportunity to better serve residents and was funded in part through the Community Services Reserve and Provincial/Federal grants.
The Town of Edson is committed to the strategic priorities of Ensuring Quality Infrastructure and Creating a Community that is Safe and Inclusive. This project supports that by facilitating a new space which fosters a sense of belonging and provides a variety of services for all residents to enjoy.
The Community Development team is very excited to welcome residents into this new community space.

County project to showcase community resiliency during fire and flood disasters

by Dana McArthur
 
Jan 29, 2024 issue: During the Yellowhead County Council meeting on January 23, CAO Luc Mercier presented council with an overview of the proposed project 'Our Uncompromising Communities'.
Yellowhead County Council previously directed Administration to prepare options for how the County could document the fire and flood disasters of 2023, highlighting the resiliency and strength of our communities.
"During the budget process, the idea that Council put forward and put $100,000 as a place marker for, was to look at options to capture the 2023 disasters, the fires and the flooding, so we could keep that as part of our history and document it," said Mercier.
During the spring emergencies of 2023, residents, first responders, and staff demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. Despite these challenges, our communities came together to support one another and overcome obstacles. Documenting this experience will serve as a testament to the strength and determination of our residents and will allow our communities to come together to share their collective experiences, Mercier stated.
The project dubbed 'Our Uncompromising Communities' is to document the stories of Yellowhead County related to the spring 2023 emergencies. These stories may be showcased through seven proposed distinct projects with a projected total of $100,000:
- Highlighting our Resilience (no cost)
- Making our Mark ($14,000)
- Celebrating our Hamlets ($33,000)
- Sharing our Story ($15,000)
- Displaying our Experience ($4,000)
- Recording our History ($29,000)
- Showcasing our Growth ($5,000)
The proposed plan for the project includes a book, community displays, murals, artwork displays, and other associated material. Upon completion, each hamlet would host an opening day/evening for the exhibit, mural, and book. The event would feature food for the community, speakers, interview clips, and giveaways.
Councillor Dawn Mitchell said, "I think this captures the will of Council, and as usual, Administration expanded on it and just made it into something so much better. We have an amazing number of brilliant artists in Yellowhead County... this is a living history, I like it."
Councillor Penny Lowe said, "I guess I looked at this a little bit differently. It was a very large piece of history for Yellowhead County. I really am against doing a mural or artwork or something as you enter in one of our hamlets, because to me that's labelling that hamlet. As you're driving in you want to have something positive and not of a negative nature. Not only that, but it's very difficult for a lot of people to deal with. I think that constant reminder would be there every time you drive into town and I think it would not serve the purpose of what Council is trying to do. Yes, it happened, but it was a negative impact on that community."
Councillor David Russell said, "I can certainly empathize with counselor Lowe's position. I totally understand that and you don't want to repeat that over and over again. So it can be looked at and studied as to how much visual arts needs to be attached to this."
Mitchell responded, "I hadn't looked at it from the negative. I truly had looked at it from the positive, in my mind's eye. Maybe people holding hands? I think we came out on the other side bigger, better, stronger, right?"
Councillor Anthony Giezen said, "from my perspective, I support the whole program. I think it has to be done tastefully and in the right way. But I think if we truly want to capture the event, we have to have it open and as broad as we can."
Councillor David Russell moved that Council for Yellowhead County direct Administration to proceed with Highlighting Our Resilience, Sharing Our Story, and Recording Our History projects for documenting the spring 2023 wildfire and flood emergencies as presented in "Our Uncompromising Communities"; and further, that Administration forward the remaining projects to a Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting for further discussion. This was carried unanimously.

Town updated on Disaster Recovery Programs

by Niki Luymes

Jan 22, 2024 issue: At the January 16 Town Council Meeting, Council received information on the 2023 Disaster Recovery Programs (DRP).  This update includes the DRP information for both the May 5 to June 23, 2023 wildfires and the June 16 to June 22, 2023 overland flooding. 

From the initial announcement dates of each of these programs, the Town has three years to confirm and submit all claims related to either. 

In summary, during the May and June wildfires the Town incurred initial expenditures of $1,312,806.15.

On December 8, 2023, the Town requested reimbursement of 50% of the recovery costs, as instructed in the Disaster Assistance Guidelines.

The Town is anticipating this initial partial reimbursement from the province in January 2024. However, since submission the Town has incurred an additional $46,739.23 in expenses for fire fighting assistance provided by other municipalities. These additional expenses will be added to the 2023 Wildfires DRP claim bringing the current total to $1,359,545.38.

These numbers do not include the cost involved in the potentially significant charge from Edmonton for reimbursement of Town residents use of the City's Evacuation Centre. When or if received, this number would be added to the DRP claim. 

"Ultimately, the DRP Program reimburses back to the Town 90% of all eligible recovery expenditures. This is the final reimbursement percentage amount which is determined after the initial 50% reimbursement provided to the Town," said Paul Hanlan, General Manager Corporate Services. 

The Alberta government confirmed the 2023 Overland Flooding DRP on November 29, 2023. While the Town is still  preparing the required project list for this flood event, the current estimated total of recovery of expenditures is $857,483.13.  Administration also decided to add $241,000 in the 2024 Budget for remediation of damages received during the flood event. This brings the current estimated and planned expenditures for this DRP up to $1,098,483.13.

"We just wanted to add this for council's information," said Chief Administrative Officer Christine Beveridge. "When it comes to these programs we typically don't see funding for years. These programs are typically three year programs. [These expenses] will show in our books for the coming year as well." 

Councillor Krystal Baier asked for clarification on what "show in our books" means for the operating budget. "Is that just like how we see our capital projects that we carry forward, does it carry on in that same way or is it affecting our operating budget?" 

Beveridge explained that the town had already paid the expenses, so there would not be any affect on the budget's outgoing expenses.

Councillor Greg Pasychny asked what the town might expect the cost from the city of Edmonton to be for the evacuation centre.  The regional centres cost around $800,000.

"The reception centres in Edmonton, were open for 7 months this year. So there is some pressure on the Province to pay that outright and not distribute it to the various municipalities," said Hanlan. "At this point there is no clear direction and I would be uncomfortable hazarding a guess on what that cost could be. My understanding is that the City of Edmonton spent considerable funds on their evacuation centres."

Council accepted the 2023 Disaster Recovery Programs update as information.

 Letters have been circulated to the community providing a claim submission reminder for those who qualify for funding under the Disaster Recovery Program for the June Floods. The deadline to apply is February 26, 2024, and it covers uninsured losses. It is important to note private sector claimants (residents) can only make one claim per property. This is for the lifetime of the property and includes subsequent owners.

- Residential Portal: https://recovery.alberta.ca/SitePages/Home.aspx

- Small Business:

https://www.alberta.ca/disaster-recovery-programs

Construction Managment appointed for YCE Multiplex in Edson

by Niki Luymes
 
Jan 15, 2024 issue: At their respective Council meetings on January 9, The Town of Edson and Yellowhead County voted in favour of the construction management firm Clark Builders for the new YCE Multiplex Facility.
 Yellowhead County and the Town of Edson are moving ahead in 2024 with the construction plans for the Yellowhead County Edson (YCE) Multiplex located in Edson, Alberta.
The company chosen as the Construction Management will function as both an advisor during the budgeting process, and eventual general contractor. In September 2023 the committee invited various companies to submit proposals for the project.  Seven proposals were submitted, and from those seven, three were invited to respond. 
 Following a thorough evaluation process, Clark Builders, a renowned construction management and general contracting company, has been appointed the construction manager for this highly anticipated project, which includes a new pool, arena, and walking loop, stated a subsequent joint release from the Town and County. The project also includes renovations to the Centennial Arena, repurposing the Memorial Arena to accommodate curling, and planning of potential space for a gymnasium.
"After deliberations on December 19, 2023, the Steering Committee unanimously endorsed Clark Builders as the choice for the Construction Management team of the YCE Multiplex Facility," said Doug Wagstaff, Edson's General Manager, Community & Protective Services. "Clark has the depth, expertise, experience, availability, and organization necessary to successfully plan and construct this project." 
Clark Builders is an Edmonton based company and is one of Canada's leading Construction Managers and General Contractors. The company has experience with similar projects, including the Camrose Aquatics Centre, Beaumont Sports and Recreation Centre and over 20 sports and recreation projects in the Greater Edmonton area. 
"Through their submissions and interview Clark clearly articulated their relative experience with building new arenas and aquatic facilities, coupled with renovating and upgrading facility components and systems whilst maintaining safe operations of existing programs," added Wagstaff.
"This project has been very frustrating from the get go," commented Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara. "I'm very happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel with shovels in the ground and construction hopefully occurring later this year."
The YCE Multiplex project will be funded in partnership between the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County. Clark Builder's proposed construction management fee for this project is 2.6% of the total construction budget. The current target for this budget is  $59,300,000, so this could reflect a fee of around $1,541,800. "This recommendation is within the overall project target budget of $70 million," said Wagstaff. However, the construction budget is still to be finalized by the Steering Committee.
The next stage of the project is to meld the ongoing schematic design work with construction management input that will include a cost analysis and constructability review. In September, the Town and County selected GEC Architecture to perform the architectural and design functions on the YCE Multi-plex project. Clark Builders will begin work with GEC Architecture, Town of Edson, and Yellowhead County on the schematic design of the YCE Multiplex. This will lay the groundwork for the construction planning during this important stage of the project.
In a follow-up statement Zahara added, “Edson Town Council is excited to see this important step forward. We have the team in place to ensure we get a facility that is focused on functionality and meeting the needs of our regional community. A lot of work has occurred in the last several months to get us to this milestone in the project. Town Council is firmly committed to getting this project complete as reflected in our Strategic Plan.”
Yellowhead County Mayor, Wade Williams stated, “With this step of hiring an experienced and accomplished construction management team, we're moving ahead to provide a modernized recreation hub for our regional community. Our residents will get a multiplex that will deliver a range of recreation services and promote healthy active living for current and new users.”
 

Fire advisory now in effect in the Edson Forest Area

Jan 8, 2024 issue: A fire advisory is now in effect in the Edson Forest Area due to warm, dry and windy conditions with no significant precipitation in the forecast. Exposed dry or dead grass and vegetation pose a serious risk. A wildfire can easily ignite and spread quickly under these conditions.
  Fire permits are not required outside of wildfire season in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta. Residents and industry planning a burn are still responsible for all fires they ignite and should keep safe burning practices top of mind by following Alberta Wildfire’s guidelines.
  These guidelines include the following:
- Carefully select your burn site and do not burn until you have good snow cover in the area.
 - Check weather conditions and refrain from burning when an inversion is in place or is forecasted.
- Actively manage burn projects to reduce total burning time.
- Burn debris in stages so that you can adapt to changing weather conditions and reduce smoke.
- Ensure you have the right tools, water and equipment on hand to keep the burn under control.
 - Consult your local municipality on how to safely undertake larger winter burning projects near communities or roads. 
Municipalities, parks and protected areas may have additional fire safety requirements.
  This fire advisory will remain in effect until conditions improve.
After a dry wildfire season, smart winter burning practices can make a big difference in reducing the number of human-caused wildfires.
  “While wildfire season officially ended October 31 and a fire permit is no longer required for burning inside the Forest Protection Area, it's important to keep safe burning practices top of mind,” says Josee St-Onge, provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire. “Fire safety matters year-round, even when there is snow on the ground.”
  Fires that are not properly extinguished can smoulder underground and re-ignite as a wildfire in the spring when conditions tend to be at their driest.
Winter burning can also cause dangerous driving conditions when smoke lingers in the air. On particularly cold winter days, such as during an inversion when cooler air is trapped at the ground under a layer of warmer air, smoke can stay close to the ground and travel great distances. The ideal conditions for burning are typically days with average temperatures and minimal wind.

Bethel Pentecostal Church vandalized by rocks

by Deanna Mitchener
 
Dec 25, 2023 issue: The Bethel Pentecostal Church in Edson was the target of a recent vandalism incident.
  Pastor John stated, “Over the past 30 years I've been at Bethel Pentecostal Church we've often had people burn donuts [tires] in our parking lot. We even had a sign made stating 'Thank you for not burning donuts on the streets'. I've even managed to catch a few of them and give them the same message."
  "Last Friday or Saturday, however, someone made some very aggressive donuts in our parking lot and shattered both our entry doors, broke 10 windows, and put about 15 holes in our siding.  I am thankful that this was off the public streets, but I ask drivers to not only be safe, but also consider the expense for damage to nearby property," said Pastor John.
  Anyone knowing of vandalism in the communities, please speak up or let the authorities know. Thanks for helping to keep our community safe.  

Warming Centre to be near Edson RCMP station

  by Niki Luymes
 
  The Edson Town Council convened a Special Meeting on December 12, to discuss the creation of an Extreme Cold Emergency Warming Centre and protocol in Edson. 
  This Special Meeting was a continuation of the December 5 Town council meeting. During that meeting it was decided that Administration needed more time to reevaluate the protocol. Therefore, the motion to enact the Extreme Cold Weather Warming Centre Protocol was postponed to its own Special Meeting.
  "I just want to be clear again on what the emergency warming centre in our proposal is about," said Doug Wagstaff, General Manager, Community and Protective Services. "It's a heated trailer[s] to act as a warming location for overnight. It is not a shelter. It is not lodging. It is not a MAT [medication assisted treatment] program. It is not a replacement for the Shelter Pods. It only operates in the evening once a threshold of -25º Celsius including a wind chill, has occurred in the forecast. And it does not open during the daytime."
  The revised protocol comes with a new location and layout, including two trailers. On the days that dip below -25ºC, the warming centre will be opened at 8pm, allowing people to shelter in a warm building. The trailer will then closed at 8am, with occupants being vacated so that the trailers can be cleaned.
  The facility would be supervised by a third-party security contractor on-site to monitor the use of the facility, provide regular wellness checks throughout the night, and contact emergency services if required.
  After the deliberation from council on Dec 5, and further research, Administration proposed a new location for the centre. "We have sited a location just west of the Provincial building, east of the RCMP station, in the vicinity of 1st Ave," said Wagstaff. The location would not be directly in line with 1st Ave, to avoid unintended traffic.
  This new site has many factors that make it superior to the previous location of Griffiths Park, according to Administration.  It is close to the RCMP station. It is Town of Edson owned land. It has high visibility and has no residential buildings nearby. Finally, it is close to other services commonly used by unhoused individuals. The only noted disadvantage to the location is its proximity to the Provincial building which does house an early childhood program during daylight hours.
  They proposed shelter compound would be laid out with two trailers and two portable washrooms surrounded by fencing. The whole site would be supplied with electricity by a portable generator, also protected by fencing. There would be parking spaces just outside the fence for security personal. In the event that security cannot come out to the site, the centre would not be opened.  Local RCMP would make routine patrols of the area.
  "What is the capacity of the trailers at any given time?" asked Councillor Ed Moore. "The capacity of each trailer is about 13 persons," answered Wagstaff. "I say about because if there are chairs, which we are able to have, there can be 13. With no chairs it can be as high as 17. We do intend on having at least somewhere for them to sit with a chair inside. So, the capacity of the two trailers is between 23 and 36."
  Councillor Peter Taylor directed his question towards the Edson RCMP and Fire Department representatives that came to the meeting. "If we don't proceed with this, if we decide that the $45 to $55 thousand dollars that we're looking at is too expensive, what kinds of things do you think will happen in the interim?"
  "To be quite honest I don't have a definite answer," said Edson RCMP Staff Sergeant Christian Delisle, Detachment Commander with Edson RCMP.  "Having worked with the homeless population for many years, they have always surprised me with how they can be so resourceful. So I don't have a definite answer, although there is a high risk, if we look at the winter time, of people freezing. That would be our fear." He also added that in terms of policing, they have also seen the resourcefulness of unhoused people extend to criminal action. 
  Bradley Milton, Edson Fire Chief, echoed Staff Sargent Delisle's response. "One thing that could be noticed is the potential for increased fires. Those would be fires of necessity, trying to stay warm. The other side of this is obviously the fact of someone freezing, and receiving those medical calls and responding to that. Frost bit feet, hypothermia, and other stuff like that." 
  Councillor Greg Pasychny, had a few concerns about the new estimated price for the project. He asked Delisle who was around for the previous trailer project and Shelter Pods, and in his experience, would the trailers see enough usage. "I will struggle with spending taxpayers money on something that one, maybe two people will go in. I'm just looking for professional guidance here." 
  "Was the [previous] trailer successful? It really depends on your definition of success," answered Delisle.  "I will say, yes it was successful, because some people used it when it was very cold. So we probably prevented someone from getting frostbite or freezing to death. I still believe that when we're talking temperatures of -25ºC we have to have a place at least where they have the choice to go." 
  "How long is this going to take to get set up? What kind of timeframe?" asked Councillor Gean Chouinard. "Within 5-10 days is the anticipated timeframe for us to have it set, and to have it operational," answered Wagstaff.
  Pasychny asked for clarification on why the town can't just make use of the existing shelter pods in the emergency capacity. Wagstaff answered that there were multiple issues with trying to reuse the pods. They were much closer to businesses that may be disrupted. The insurance would not cover the pods in the same way as a the new trailers without increased monitoring and manpower. Chief Administrative Officer Christine Beveridge also pointed out that the Town doesn't own the Shelter Pods themselves, just the land.
  The motion that council adopt the Extreme Cold Weather Warming Centre Protocol as presented was carried.
 
 with edits by Dana McArthur

 Town considers extreme cold weather trailer after closure of Shelter Pods

by Niki Luymes
 
Dec 11, 2023 issue: During the Town of Edson Council meeting on December 5, Council discussed the implementation of an emergency cold shelter for Edson's unhoused population. The proposed plan is called the Extreme Cold Weather Emergency Cover Protocol.
 This new plan has been put forward since the closure of the Shelter Pods at the Edson and District Recycling Centre (EDRS).
 The five Shelter Pods opened at the site in 2021. This was a two year pilot program that the Edson Friendship Centre Housing Plus+ Program had collaborated with the EDRS to develop. There was also significant collaboration with Reflections Edson, Alberta Health Services, the Town of Edson, and local RCMP.
 EDRS stated online that they were, "saddened to hear of the recent passing of two young people who were patrons of the Shelter Pods". The EDRS added, "At this time, the development permit to operate at our facility has lapsed, without which, the Board cannot allow operation of the pods. As always, the health and safety of our employees and the public using the Recycling Depot facilities is our primary focus."
 This closure has left the vulnerable population in the Edson area with no overnight extreme cold weather option. Although programs and warm spaces are provided by various social support agencies during the day, there are currently no facilities available for unhoused individuals to escape extreme temperatures at night.
 The proposed protocol states that a heated trailer will act as a warming location for those in need of a place to escape the elements. There will be access to a secure bathroom located on-site with an external entry. It will provide rudimentary cover when temperatures are forecast to drop below -25°C (including wind chill) and is assigned no other purpose (lodging etc). This unit will be in place through the winter months as an emergency measure until a suitable alternative is available. CONTINUED ON PAGE 4, DEC. 11, 2023.

Reflections Chair offers clarifications
regarding Shelter Pods

by Dana McArthur
 
  The Weekly Anchor asked for clarification from Reflections regarding the Shelter Pods. Debbie Bezaire, Chairperson for Reflections, responded, "The EDRS has a long-term lease agreement with the Town of Edson for the area where the pods were to be built. As a result, the EDRS needed to apply for a development permit (change of use) and building permit. This was a long process since a project such as the planned Pod facility had never been developed in Alberta."
  "A two-year development permit and building permit were issued. Construction started in January 2021. The pods officially opened in June 2021. The pods were open 7 days per week, 365 days per year from day one —this has never changed. The Pods were designed as a permanent shelter not a cold weather shelter," Bezaire added.
  "In December 2021 the question came up as to who was covering the liability insurance for the project. It was discovered that the EDRS had building coverage for the project, the Friendship Center had coverage for the volunteers, but no one had liability coverage. The EDRS decided to close the pods until someone stepped forward to cover the liability insurance. The EDRS approached the friendship center. They replied with an emphatic "no". Reflections knew how crucial this project was for their clients and agreed to take over the operations of the pods and acquired liability insurance. A usage agreement between the Town and EDRS plus an agreement between the EDRS and Reflections was developed and signed," Bezaire said.
  "From this point on paid staff made sure clients left the pods by 9am every morning, cleaned/sanitized the Pods, hired security staff 40 hours per week and allocated the pods every day.  The only change Reflections made was to how pods were allocated. Previously, Pods were allocated via a intercom system at 8pm every night, first come first served. Upon input from the EDRS this was changed. Pod users started to line up at the Depot as early as 3pm, this was disruptive to the residents using the depot. Therefore, Reflections allocated the Pods at 5:30pm every day at their office and allowed Pod users to go to the Pods at 6:00pm. This was a very good adjustment for all involved," said Bezaire.
  "The summer of 2023 was a very difficult summer for the homeless population. There were several overdoses and near incidents in the Town and County as a whole. In fact, there were two such deaths that occurred at the Pods. These deaths could have happened anywhere in the community.  A number did occur in other areas of the Town," Bezaire said.
  “The EDRS, Reflections, and the Town of Edson Administration had a meeting in early September. The Town informed the group that in fact the development (change of use) permit was for only a two-year period ending in December 2022. This was a shock to the both the EDRS and Reflections. The Pods could not be legally open without that permit," Bezaire stated.
   "The EDRS could have applied, but there was little chance it would be successful. As a result, the EDRS board decided to cancel the current operating agreement they had with Reflections for the Pods," said Bezaire.
  "Public and safety concerns were an ongoing concern for Reflections. The operation of the pods was constantly being monitored and improving. Additional cameras, monitoring, and security systems had been added. Some simple operational protocols were also being considered," Bezaire said. CONTINUED ON PAGE 4, DEC. 11, 2023 ISSUE.

 County directs removal of soil added on floodplain

by Dana McArthur
 
Dec 4, 2023 issue: During late summer of 2022 there was approximately 11,000 tonnes of material deposited on the a property (Lot 20, Block 1, Plan 9021558) during the widening of Highway 40 northwest of Hinton, done at the request of the landowner.
The location of this deposited material is on a Country Residential lot in Seabolt Estates and is within the Special Risk Area of the Maskuta Creek floodplain.
"The landowner elected to have a fairly significant portion of earth and material deposited on his property for reasons that he thought suitable at the time. The reality of that is, the earth and material were placed within the floodplain within a creek in that area. And it is not compliant with the municipal land use bylaw," said County Planning & Development Manager, Cory Armfelt during County Council's November 28 meeting.
The concern is that the new dirt placed in the middle of the floodplain may affect where water will go to in the next flood event and could cause damage to other nearby properties.
County Administration stated their preference was for the landowner to deal with the issue he created, but added that the landowner has not been cooperative. "Through our Administration we dealt with the landowner the best that we could right from the start of this, and they were just not cooperating whatsoever. This is really unfortunate," said County CAO Luc Mercier.
Administration sought compliance on the parcel by way of a Stop Order, the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, and a Court Order via the Court of Kings Bench.
Administration sought three quotes for the removal of this material. JRF Oilfield Services Ltd. was the lowest fixed fee bid provided at $232,270.00 and demonstrated a clear understanding of how to effectively mitigate the site challenges and address safety concerns. Yellowhead County's expenditure will be recoverable through a transfer to the subject property's tax roll. The assessed value of the property is in excess of $232,000.
"We're concerned that if something were to happen in the spring and we hadn't dealt with this, that we could cause further damage to other properties," said Mercier.
Councillor Brigitte Lemieux asked, "Let's say we pass this motion today, but the property owner decides tomorrow that he or she will undertake this work. Will that property owner have that opportunity?"
Armfelt responded, "Yes, I believe we would give that property owner the opportunity. They've had the opportunity for almost a year and a half to undertake this work. We have worked with our legal council. That individual has been represented by their legal council, so they have known that this process is coming."
CAO Mercier added, "Most definitely we would prefer that the landowner deal with this. We don't want to get into to this cleanup. If we sign the contract with this company, it's too late. We will have a legally binding contract with this company to remove that dirt."
County Mayor Wade Williams added, "I'd just like to say this is a very unfortunate incident. I know that the stop work order was placed on that property. When this was going on here a few months back and I know that Administration had done everything to work with the landowner. Unfortunate we got to this point, but that seems to be where we're at. So, this is the next step."
Council agreed to direct Administration to transfer $232,270.00 excluding GST from the General Emergent Operating Reserve for the purposes of funding the removal of the earthen material from Lot 20, Block 1, Plan 9021558 which will be recoverable on the property's tax roll as per the Court Order. This will allow Administration to proceed with the removal as per the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board Order.

 ESTS expands bus service and hours

Nov 27, 2023 issue: In August 2023, the Edson Seniors Transportation Society (ESTS) submitted a Healthy Aging Alberta grant application to the provincial government in hopes of receiving capital funding support for the purchase of a new Mobility Van and expanding transportation services to Edson residents aged 55+.
The full funding request of $275,660 was approved and ESTS is thrilled to be able to publicly announce their new initiatives and capital purchase.
The grant application included a capital funds request for the purchase of a new Wheelchair Accessible Van configured for up to 10 ambulatory passengers, 4 wheelchairs, or a combination of both.
Mayor Kevin Zahara stated, "This is fantastic news for the Edson community and speaks to the work, collaboration & advocacy done by ESTS, the Town of Edson and community partners over the last year."
Additional capital funding was requested to allow ESTS to purchase safety cameras and location tracking equipment for all buses, as well as funds to purchase an app/system that will allow clients to book On-Demand transportation from their computer or smartphone 24hrs a day. 
Dawn Mitchell, Executive Director of ESTS, said, "This service will simplify point of purchase and fare reloads and send reminders to clients regarding their On-Demand reservation. It will also provide detailed transportation analytics that will inform future decision making at the Board level and support all government and Town of Edson reporting requirements".
To support repeated requests from Edson residents for increased hours of service, operational funding was also requested. ESTS currently operates Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:00pm. With this approved funding, beginning on November 30, ESTS will be offering late-night transportation every Thursday (4pm to 9pm), as well as service on both Saturday and Sunday (9am to 3pm). 
Mitchell spoke to the health benefits of older adults being able to connect with community and retain their independence. “Studies overwhelmingly show that if adults aging in the place most appropriate for them, are provided with opportunities to socially engage and connect with the community of their choice, improved physical and psychological well-being follows. Being able to provide opportunities for our Edson Seniors to attend their grandchild's birthday party on a Saturday, attend weekend worship services, or go for Sunday brunch with friends is all part of supporting healthy aging”.
Mitchell also included a request for grant funding that would enable ESTS to offer door-to-door, wheelchair accessible transportation for Edson Seniors needing to travel to Edmonton for medical appointments. A sliding scale model-based income will be used to determine the amount each 55+ adult wishing to access this service will pay. Mitchell said that, “ESTS will begin offering this service once the new Mobility Van arrives in April of 2024”.
Local MLA Martin Long stated, "This funding for Edson is great news. Seniors in my community rely on this transportation and now Edson Seniors Transportation Society will be able to expand service to include weekends, evenings, and transportation to Edmonton for medical appointments. This expanded access will help seniors get to where they need to go and live independently."
On behalf of the ESTS Board of Directors, Mitchell would like to sincerely thank everyone for their continued support and patronage. “Part of the grant funding requirements were proof of community support and financial contribution to the Mobility Van with saved capital funding dollars. Without the donation we received from the 1st Annual Edson Mayors Charity Golf Tournament in 2022, funds earned from our Trivia Night fundraiser this spring, and the donation received from Members of 100 Women Who Care (Edson), we would not have met the capital grant funding requirements”. 
 
(with files from Dana McArthur and Dawn Mitchell)

 County not included in Drought Livestock Assistance Program

by Dana McArthur
 
Nov 20, 2023 issue: On October 20, the governments of Alberta and Canada announced they are providing $165 million to support livestock producers affected by drought and extreme growing conditions.
Funding for this joint AgriRecovery initiative is cost-shared through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), with the federal government providing $99 million and Alberta's government providing $66 million. Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) will administer the program.
Livestock producers with grazing animals will be able to apply for financial support to cover losses they incurred to manage and maintain their breeding herds. For example, eligible producers could access up to $150 per head for breeding animals. However, Yellowhead County residents are not currently included in the programs.
During the Yellowhead County Council meeting on November 14, Jennifer Benson, the County's Agricultural Services Supervisor, stated, "The province, through AFSC (Alberta Financial Services Corporation), announced a 2023 Canada/Alberta Drought Livestock Assistance Program, Opening November 1. At the same time, the 2023 AgriRecovery Tax Deferral Program-Livestock Producers was also released. Neither of these programs include Yellowhead County residents."
"While the AgriRecovery Program considers forage yields, spring moisture, and summer rainfalls, the preliminary map shows that Yellowhead County producers will not be included in this program," said Benson. "The Alberta Drought Livestock Assistance Program has already eliminated Yellowhead County residents based on drought projections made by experts and supplemented by Alberta Government weather stations placed throughout Alberta."
"I'm sure I don't have to tell any of you how hard this spring, summer, and fall have been for our producers. Last winter, we effectively had a drought with very little precipitation, " said Benson. "There was no moisture in the spring of 2023. Drought conditions led to the 2023 fires that played out in Yellowhead County. Some of our residents were evacuated from their homes for days. Some of them for weeks; and this happened multiple times."
"Hayfields and pastures burned. Producers had an inability to seed or fertilize until late June because of the evacuations, fires, and road closures. Pasture land was destroyed because the fire itself either burned the pasture or removed kilometres upon kilometres of fences. Smoke hindered the growth of pasture and haylands. Producers experienced two cycles of grasshoppers; arguably three. When the rain did come in the end of June, it came so fast and heavy that overland flooding was a result. High temperatures in the latter part of the summer continued to impede growth," Benson concluded.
On November 2, an email survey was sent to Agricultural Service Board (ASB) members asking if they support a letter being presented to Council —they unanimously agreed.
"I am asking that Yellowhead County Council approve sending a letter to the Ministry of Agricultural and Irrigation asking for Yellowhead County to be included in the 2023 Drought Livestock Assistance Program and the 2023 AgriRecovery Tax Deferral Program as presented," said Benson. Councillor Ken Groat made the motion.
Councillor Shawn Berry said, "Our Ag producers were hard hit this year. I don't think I've seen anything quite like this before, especially with the fires on top of it. I really hope the Alberta government cooperates with us and working with our producers."
Councillor David Russell said, "When I read what you [Benson] had presented to us that the Canadian drought monitor has excluded central Alberta, including Yellowhead County, and deemed that area not analyzed, to me, it spoke that they made a decision based on no facts and no data. I know of two producers in my area that received cattle from southern Alberta because of the droughts. They had no pastures left, so they moved their cattle all the way up to my area. And partway through the summer, they had to find another home for them again as there was no grass for them here. So if that isn't an indication of drought, I don't know what is."
The motion was carried unanimously.
Ravine Community Hall – Council approved a request for funding from the Ravine Community Association for $27,000 to upgrade kitchen facilities to bring them to CSA standards so they can resume commercial use. The Ravine Community Association is contributing $21,000 along with donated labour and materials to match the Community Hall Capital Assistance Grant.

Edson RCMP warn public of group physically impersonating police officers

(Nov 10, 2023) Edson, Alta. – Edson RCMP have recently been made aware of a scam involving a group of people physically impersonating police officers.
In the most recent case, an Edson victim was called by a number listed as RCMP. When they answered the phone, the person on the other end of the line stated they were calling from the RCMP and that the victim was going to be arrested due to some outstanding “money laundering” scheme.
At the same time, two people, dressed as police officers, knocked on the door asking if the victim had gotten a call. The two suspects confirmed that the victim would be arrested unless they pay a fee. The victim was instructed to empty their account and purchase gift cards and give the information to the person on the phone. The suspect on the phone said that the money would be given back if it was proven that they were not part of an ongoing investigation.
Edson RCMP are asking anyone who was in the area of 4th avenue, 63rd street and 56th street in Edson, on Nov. 3, 2023, between the hours of 10-11 a.m., and may have seen something or have access to dashcam or surveillance footage, to please call the Edson RCMP detachment.
Alberta RCMP would like to remind the public to always be aware of scammers:
· At no time will an RCMP officer request a fee, gift cards, or otherwise money in exchange of forgoing an arrest.
· If an arrest warrant is issued, the warrant will be executed as specified on the warrant. If a warrant to search a home or seize an account is granted, the warrant will be executed as specified and you are entitled to read the warrant.
· If ever you are in the presence of someone stating they are a police officer and you have doubts, you are allowed to ask for identification. Furthermore, you may call 911 or your local detachment or dispatch number to confirm that the officers before you are who they say they are.
If you, or anyone you know, has fallen victim to this scam, please contact the Edson RCMP Detachment at 780-723-8822, or your local police. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) online at www.P3Tips.com.

Edson Friendship Centre hosts Fall Family Gathering

by Deanna Mitchener
 
Nov 6, 2023 issue: On October 26 the Edson Friendship Centre held a Fall Family Gathering at the Bingo Hall.  
Between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. they had lots of draw prizes ready to be won along with pizza, drinks, and dilly bars. Everyone was welcome to attend, and to find out more about all the events coming up this winter for youth and families.
The Friendship Centre staff said, “What a great night with our community at the Fall Family Gathering. Congratulations to everyone who won in our draws and a huge thank you to everyone who came out. We can't wait to see everyone again at our upcoming events. Thanks to Alberta Health Services' Honouring Life grant for funding all these wonderful activities.”
There are some pretty amazing activities coming up in 2024 if you would like to take part. On January 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. you can learn how to make Spirit Pouches. Participants will learn about and make individual spirits pouches to take home. 
On January 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Quilling with a Metis artist will teach about how to make
quill art.
Then in February, learn about Felted Indian Dolls on February 5 and 6th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This class will show you how to make figures out of felt.
On February 12 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. come do some Mohawk Beading. Learn basic Mohawk beading skills to do your own beading.
An Ice Fishing Family Event will take place on February 23 and 24th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Learn how to net fish and enjoy a hotdog roast.
On February 26 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Lean how to scale a fish, then create your own fish scale art.
In March there will be lots happening too with Food Smarts on March 18 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Youth will learn how to do meal preparations (with supplies and costs). Youth will shop for their meal and return to the hall to cook.
Moose Tufting will take place on March 23 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A Metis artist will teach basic moose tufting.
Remember to mark your calendar and contact the Friendship Centre at 780-723-5495 to confirm times and information on how to join in the fun and learning.

Leisure Centre wins Swim for Life award

Oct 30, 2023 issue: For the seventh year in a row the Edson and District Leisure Centre Pool has won the Lifesaving Society of Alberta's Anne Resek Swim for Life Award.
Since 2016, with the exception of 2020 due to COVID, Edson's dedicated pool staff have consistently earned this honour.
The award acknowledges Edson for achieving the highest point tally in the Swim for Life program among communities under 15,000 residents.
"In essence, we're the top spot for swimming lessons for a town our size!" stated Steve Bethge, Communications Coordinator with the Town of Edson. "A huge shout out to our amazing staff and to our community's commitment to water safety!"

New light industrial road planned from 54 Street to Willmore Park Road

by Niki Luymes
 
Oct. 23, 2023 issue: The Town of Edson Administration requested a decision from Council to approve reallocating $150,000 from the 2023 Capital-Road Repairs Budget to procure tree removal and detailed design for the construction of a new light industrial rural road TWP RD 532, between 54 Street to Willmore Park Road.
"Secondary access/egress to the south industrial area is warranted, even without the Pivotal development proceeding," stated a report to Council from Clayton Kittlitz, General Manager, Infrastructure & Planning and CAO Christine Beveridge.
At present, the town landfill, one county residential property, and five private businesses (not including Pivotal) use 54 St. as their only access and egress. There is a bridge crossing in this area that has been damaged by flooding on more than one occasion, which needs upgrades or replacement, according to a recent assessment. A cost assessment is now underway. The creation of the road would also allow access in and out of  the area while allowing for potential repairs or reconstruction to take place.
Without a secondary road into the area two private businesses, the county residence, and the landfill will be inaccessible if the bridge crossing becomes impassable. Deemed more critical is the lack of secondary access and egress for emergency purposes. Train traffic at the CN Rail Yard blocks the 54 St. crossing multiple times a day for extended periods.
Pivotal Energy Partners made a commitment to provide temporary emergency access/egress to the area and this commitment was secured through a condition of approval for DP-019-2023 for striping and grading of their plant site.
Only a verbal commitment could be secured with CN and building a temporary road would be an expensive throwaway cost for Pivotal. The temporary road would be built above a cutline created during the placing of a sanitary pipeline. This road could never be permanent due to the pipeline not being buried deep enough.
Administration is proposing accepting the verbal commitment from CN under the condition that Pivotal contributes funds earmarked for the temporary emergency access/egress, to the building of a permanent rural industrial road within the existing TWP RD 532 road allowance.
 It is proposed the project will be a 2024 Capital Project managed by the Town with contributions coming from benefiting landowners (future) and the Pivotal contribution. No dollar figure has been determined or committed at this time.
Councillor Greg Pasychny started off the question period by asking about the tree removal. "Part of the $150,000 talks about the removal of the trees. Is that for the entire quarter south, so it would be a substantial firebreak or is that just a road allowance amount of trees?" Kittlitz replied, "I think our plan would be to take the road allowance plus a little bit more, but it would not be the entire area. I suggest it would be a little bit wider than the road allowance, since it's our land."
Pasychny then asked, "Has any work been done to figure out what the cost would be to remove the trees to the end of the property line to create a significant firebreak." Kittlitz responded, "No, we have not done that, but certainly if it's the will of council we could pursue that."
Councillor Gean Chouinard asked, "Is there any value to those trees? If we could get someone to come in and possibly log it all, since it's ours, we could get rid of the trees at virtually zero cost."  Kittlitz replied that Administration had looked into that option. "We weren't able to find a local tree removal provider who saw value in those trees. But, if council supports the motion we could certainly pursue that more."
Mayor Kevin Zahara expressed his support for the motions. "With Pivotal coming to our community, it's a huge opportunity. This is the biggest development that this community has seen since Weyerhaeuser was built. It's going to be a major taxpayer, a source of major employment, and support our natural gas industry."
Zahara added, "I certainly want to see us going east as well as west. I think that it is a better opportunity for the safety of all residents and ease of access for people to be able access from Land Fill Road to either Willmore Park or Golf Course Road. The challenge that we have is that we do not own all the land to the Golf Course Road."
The motion that Council approve reallocating $150,000 from the 2023 Capital-Road Repairs Budget was passed by a unanimous vote. This motion means that the project will move forward with the design and pricing.
A second motion was made for Council to instruct Administration to come back with progress report and total dollar amount to remove all the trees to the south of the boundary for a larger firebreak. This motion was also passed.

County requests meeting with Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

Oct 16, 2023 issue: During the Yellowhead County Council meeting on Oct 10, Council passed a motion to direct Administration to schedule a meeting for Mayor Williams and CAO Mercier with the Honorable Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services to discuss Yellowhead County's concerns with the Wildland Urban Interface program under Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
County Chief Administrative Officer Luc Mercier stated, "There were hindrances that worked against local emergency services in a few cases during the disasters, which should have never occurred."
Mercier's report to Council stated: "The first incident in question involved representatives of the Provincial Wildland Urban Interface division and their unauthorized entrance into the local authority command post during a critical time and giving unauthorized direction to members on the emergency response team dealing with the emergency. The Wildland Urban Interface representatives were directed to leave the  site and not to return by senior officials, as they had no authority to be in the command post whatsoever. It should be noted that one of the Wildland Urban Interface representatives was again directed to leave the command center site on a second day.
The second incident involved representatives from the Provincial Wildland Urban Interface department disconnecting and moving, without consultation and without any authority, some of the sprinkler protection systems that were installed by local emergency  services to protect homes.
The third incident in question occurred by a Wildland Urban Interface representative putting out very unprofessional comments, in words that we will not put out in a public document, to members of the fire department in an adjacent municipality about  Yellowhead County administration after we complained about the first two incidents to the Province."
In addition to these issues, Yellowhead County has attempted to be part of the formal AEMA Wildland Urban Interface, and Structural Protection Specialist Certification training for a number of years and has been denied access to this training by the  Province. "Although our members have training from other sources, this training should be made available by AEMA to allow all fire departments in our Province if they choose," stated Mercier.
After some discussion by Council, Mayor Wade William summarized, "This is all about accountability. We can't just let this go and if we don't ask for this meeting, it's just going to be swept under the carpet. It's far too serious an issue to sweep under a carpet."

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

by Niki Luymes
 
Oct. 9, 2023 issue: The Edson Friendship Centre welcomed the people of Edson to the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation at Centennial Park on September 30.  
The event ran from 11am to 1pm with many different activities taking place. In 2021 the federal government declared National Day of Truth and Reconciliation a federal statutory holiday. This is the second year the Friendship Centre hosted the event.
The day started off with opening prayers, lightning of the sacred fire, and a drumming circle. The prayer and fire-lighting were performed by local Elders Dorothy Courtereille and Debbie Gaucher, with the drumming circle being led by the Mountain Cree Drummers. 
Starting at noon, Secure Energy sponsored a free hotdog lunch that ran until 1pm. During the afternoon small orange cards were scattered around the park. "The cards had residential school information from local Alberta. People could take the information back to an elder and discuss what they learned and then they were given a gift. This helped open up conversations between indigenous and non-indigenous people,"  said Renay Woelfing, cultural programming coordinator with the Edson Friendship Centre. 
Throughout the rest of the afternoon local Elders led visitors in three different Indigenous crafts. People could choose from Fish Scale Art, Dream Catchers, or Mini Drums. The crafts were an enjoyable activity for people of all ages and served as a memento for people to take home. They also allowed people to learn from and connect with local elders. 
Alongside the crafts were free range Indigenous games that people could enjoy at their leisure. There were also raffles and local Indigenous crafts for sale throughout the afternoon.
The day wrapped up with a free chili and bannock supper from 5pm to 6:30pm. There was also an outdoor documentary movie about residential schools and their effects. 
One of the more important aspects of the event was the ongoing conversations happening around the fire.
"One of the main things about today, and what we really wanted to bring forward, was that this is not a day of celebration or of fanfare," said Woelfing. "This is a day of reflection. It's really about recognizing and educating people about the true history of Canada and how we're still healing. We have a long ways to go and it's about honouring that. You can go to the fire and share in prayers for the children that were found or for the survivors."
While this year's event was smaller than last year, lots of people came through and there was plenty of good conversations.
This whole event was planned and put on by the Edson Friendship Centre with funds provided by the Gord Downy and Chanie Wenjack fund. 
The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation event marked the conclusion of a month for Truth and Reconciliation in September. Other acts of reconciliation have been happening throughout the month. On the October 5, Edson Town Council and town staff met with local elders to take part in a Blanket Ceremony; Town Council implemented a land acknowledgment; and on Sept 20 council began flying a survivor's flag outside the Civic Centre. 
There is hope that Truth and Reconciliation will last far beyond the month. "So often we focus on days throughout the year of healing or remembrance, not just for Indigenous issues, but issues in general. It's really taxing on members that are living it. So we really encourage people to reach out to us throughout the whole year for reconciliation —because it can go all year. And it's so meaningful that by the time next year rolls around on September 30, people have that basis of true understanding," said Woelfing.

Edson Food Bank extends hours due to increased need

by Deanna Mitchener
 
Oct. 2, 2023 issue: The Edson Food Bank has extended their hours to try and accommodate those in need.
Amy Pillage, the Program Coordinator for the Edson Food Bank Society, said, “We recently helped 212 people in just one week. That included 86 children and handing out 94 hampers. That's close to double what we usually see. We've decided to expand our hours to help alleviate the bottleneck that seemed to happen on Thursday evenings.”
“Our hope is that by being open every Thursday evening from 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as well as every Tuesday morning, we'll be able to better plan and meet the needs of the community,” said Pillage.
“With the new hours, we're reaching out to our incredible volunteer base to fill those extra roles. The response has been incredible so it should be a seamless transition for us all," Pillage said. "Also new, we are seeing an increase in the amount of reclamation donations from our local Walmart store. This up-tick has helped us immensely during this busy snap we're experiencing. The increase in reclaim has allowed us to keep our shelves fuller for longer.”
The Edson Food Bank appointment line is 780-725-3185.

 

Concerns raised at County with 2023 wildland fire season

by Dana McArthur
 
Sept 25, 2023 issue: During the Yellowhead County's September 19 Governance and Priorities meeting, Albert Bahri, General Manager of Protective Services gave a presentation on some issues of concern encountered during the 2023 Wildland fire season.
"The fires started on April 29 at approximately 14:00 with fire EWF-15 North East of Peers. Over 60 days later the fires were being brought under control. During this time there were many issues and struggles," said Bahri.
"Yellowhead County worked in conjunction with Alberta Wildfire to protect lives, property, and to control, and extinguish these fires over an extended two-month period. No lives were lost in these fires," stated Bahri.
Bahri's report to council stated —There were several issues that hampered the ability to fight these fires. The first was the Provincial election, which Mayor Williams addressed. The next issue was the Province's inability to supply needed resources and staff to suppress the fires and bring them under control. One imported IMT group stated that three thousand firefighters were needed to deal with fires of this size in Yellowhead County alone. The Province did not supply this number.
The Province of Alberta Fire Season starts March 1 of each year. Although the season starts March 1, the Province does not provide staffing or resources to the Forest Protection areas March 1. Witnessed in this 2023 fire season, aircraft contracts did not kick in until May 1, 2023, which meant pilot certification followed this. The onboarding of essential wildland Firefighters was not complete on March 1, 2023, but getting underway. Keep in mind the first fire started April 29, 2023, with wildland firefighter's staffing, equipment, and aircraft not at the full level throughout the Province.
The current training levels of Alberta Wildfire firefighters does not include Wildland Urban interface training, sprinkler protection training, or any type of structural protection or tactics. The Edson Forest protection area only has one type 6 wildland engine to cover some 22,000 square kilometres. None of the other trucks used to transport Alberta Wildfire firefighters in the Edson Forest protection area contained a water system or tank. During the April 29 startup of these fires local ponds, creeks, and lake were still frozen over not allowing portable pumps to be used to their maximum. Type six engines were needed.
The local forest protection area also does not have control over major equipment or staffing requests. The local area submits requests to Edmonton for approval. This takes time and the response to the requests could be denied.
Because there is currently no crossover training for Alberta Wildfire fighters, when a fire approaches an asset at risk, building, or residence, these firefighters must stand down and do not assist municipal structural trained firefighters. Meaning all protection, wildland urban interface response, and structural protection is left to municipal firefighters.
The aerial water and retardant application process needs to also be reviewed as the current policy does not allow for close retardant application around residences and or structures. This is also an issue when a structure becomes involved in fire, as the current policy will not allow drops directly on a burning structure to prevent extension. This was witnessed during the fires in Yellowhead County this year.
On top of this, Alberta Wildfire firefighters are currently not trained for night operations and do not have the staffing to cover both a day shift and a night shift. Yellowhead County Firefighters work 24/7.
To add to this, the Alberta Government began cutting wildfire budgets and air tanker groups in 2016, followed by more cuts in 2019 with one major cut being the repel team. All these cuts have impacted the boots on the ground ability to actually fight fires. —
Adding to these issues, Bahri stated there were several rude and demeaning comments made by provincial counterparts, in reference to Yellowhead County staff. CAO Luc Mercier added that those comments have caused some County Fire Department volunteers to leave their positions.
Bahri presented council with a list of questions developed from issues encountered with reference to the Provincial Wildfire response.
"If the questions are not addressed and the Province will not commit to providing the required resources and training in a timely manner. Who will provide this? If there is no change in response, aircraft, staffing levels and equipment from the Province, who will fill these needs?"
After some discussion by the council members, council voted that a request for decision regarding a letter to the province and meeting with the Minister of Forestry and Parks, be brought back to a future County Council meeting.

YCE Recreation Multi-Use Facility Update

(Release) September 12, 2023 – Work continues by the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County towards the construction of a Multi-Use Facility for the region.
On September 12, 2023, the Town and County selected Alberta-based GEC Architecture as the design firm for the architectural and design functions on the YCE Multiplex project. GEC Architecture is a renowned firm with a proven track record of excellence in designing and delivering state-of-the-art multiplex facilities, including complex renovation projects. The firm's extensive experience and sustainable design approach make them an ideal firm for this project.
GEC has done considerable work along the Yellowhead highway with projects located in Spruce Grove, Hinton, Jasper, and Grande Cache and understand the challenges and opportunities working in our region presents.
GEC will immediately begin work with the Town and County on the schematic design of the YCE Multiplex, which includes a new pool and arena, repurposing of one arena to accommodate a curling rink and planning space for a gymnasium. The next milestone in the project will be the selection of a general contractor to lead construction.
This project represents a significant investment in both community's future, and the town and county are excited to embark on this journey with GEC Architecture as the project design partner. The firm's expertise, creativity, and commitment to excellence will help bring the vision for the YCE Multiplex to life.

Town adopts Land Acknowledgement Policy

by Niki Luymes
 
During the September 5 Edson Town Council meeting, council took the time to review and discuss the new Land Acknowledgment Policy. They invited members of the Edson Friendship Centre along with local Elder Freda Maynard to attend the meeting to give feedback on the acknowledgment.
This new acknowledgment is a part of the Town of Edson's desire to create and strengthen relationships with the local Indigenous peoples. "In 2022, Council adopted the Town of Edson Strategic Plan 2022-2025, which included a commitment to enacting relevant Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. The Plan also emphasized the need to build strong relationships with Indigenous people and organizations by working with local partners to learn of Indigenous matters and adapting Town initiatives to meet common interests, and by reviewing all decisions through the lens of the Calls to Action," in a statement from the Town's Administration.
A territorial or land acknowledgment is an act of truth telling and reconciliation that involves making a statement recognizing the territory of Indigenous Peoples who are present and have thrived in the area since time immemorial, as outlined in the Land Acknowledgment Guidance Document.
The acknowledgment was created after many meetings with members of the Edson Friendship Centre. Town Administration relied on their guidance throughout the process. According to the Municipal Guide to the Truth and Reconciliation, a land acknowledgment statement is to be used when appropriate at the beginning of each public council or committee meeting. This also includes boards, committees, and town communications. The new acknowledgment is as follows:
"In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, we acknowledge the Town of Edson is located on Treaty 6 territory, the traditional and ancestral lands of the Nehiyawak, Saulteaux, Siksika, Piikuni, Kainai, Dene, Nakota Sioux, and the Otipemisiwak (Metis) Nations. We honour the knowledge of this land, the Elders and youth which gather here, and our ancestors who have gathered here for centuries."
The motion presented was that Council adopt Land Acknowledgment Policy L-M-5 as presented. It is important to note that the Land Acknowledgment may not be required at all gatherings of the Town of Edson, but should be used wherever meaningful and appropriate. The statement will also be printed on, meeting agendas, the Town website and other Town communications where appropriate.
Elder Maynard took a moment to introduce herself and give a brief history. "I am an Indian residential school survivor. I decided rather than let that experience make me bitter, that I would become a better person," she said. "I decided that I would help other Indian residential school survivors. Once I learned why I was so messed up, unhealthy, I stopped being so hard on myself and started helping other people."  
Mayor Kevin Zahara then asked Maynard how important Land Acknowledgment Policy is to her. "I believe it's very important because native people were booted off their own land, and I believe it's important to acknowledge that," she said.
Councillor Greg Pasychny requested Elder Maynard's opinion on whether it would be a good idea to open every meeting with the acknowledgment. He expressed concern that overusing it would lessen its impact and whether it would be better for them to save it for special occasions. "I guess I'm just looking for an opinion and I will support whatever option you think would be the best way to do this."
Elder Maynard replied that she thinks it would be important to do the land acknowledgment, but have other natives members of the community come in to talk about their experience. After answering questions Elder Maynard presented a survivor's flag to council to display as they choose.
Tanya Byers, Senior Manager for Community Services, presented the new Land Acknowledgment Policy on behalf of the Administration. "I want to acknowledge Elder Maynard joining us this evening and also the time we have been spending with our friends at the Friendship Centre working though these documents so that they were representative of our Indigenous community."
Councillor Peter Taylor thanked everyone for their work. "To have you here tonight, to have you show your support for this policy, it means a lot that you are willing to come to the table and discuss and move forward in reconciliation with us."
Councillor Krystal Baier said, "Truth and Reconciliation isn't just a one way thing, we are very happy that you're here to work with us as well. Because that's a very important process to go through." 
The motion was carried unanimously to accept the policy.
“This is an important step forward in the Town of Edson's commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. We are grateful to be able to work with Elder Freida Maynard and organizations such as the Edson Friendship Centre to further our efforts. Council looks forward to further collaboration with the Indigenous community in the spirit of Truth & Reconciliation,” said Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara in a release.

CRAA meets with CN Rail to advance regional transportation priorities

Sept 4, 2023 issue: On August 22, the Community Rail Advocacy Alliance (CRAA) and its membership met with representatives from CN Rail in Grande Prairie to discuss ongoing concerns regarding rail service throughout Northern Alberta.
Mayor Kevin Zahara, who sits on the Alliance board, said, "The meeting was very productive with both sides sharing a desire to improve service to communities and customers. From an Edson perspective we talked about the need for consistent service and the challenge local industry has faced with rail car availability in recent years."
"CN assured us that rail car availability is improving and they have taken a number of steps in the last year and half to improve service.  They have had challenges recruiting staff and have a number of job openings in our region. We will work with them to get the word out. We look forward to future dialogue on these issues," stated Zahara. 
Since January 2023, CRAA has advocated for government and railway providers to address rail challenges experienced by local communities and industries. Railway services throughout Alberta need sufficient seasonal service, consistent capacity levels, and evenly deployed resources. Members of CRAA met with CN representatives to discuss these issues and work collaboratively to identify solutions.
With over 25 CRAA members in attendance and regional and national representatives from CN Rail, CRAA is pleased to share that the conversation left participants feeling optimistic and motivated to address longstanding issues regarding rail reliability for communities, businesses, and key industries throughout Northern Alberta, including forestry and agriculture.
CRAA continues to identify future opportunities for collaboration with rail partners and advance the priorities of Northern Alberta to provincial and federal decision-makers to ensure that local businesses and industries have the transportation systems to meet their needs on time and on budget.
The Community Rail Advocacy Alliance (CRAA) is a coalition of 32 counties, municipalities, and associations impacted by Alberta's inequitable and undersupplied rail services. For more information, visit their website: www.railforward.ca.

Pioneer Cabin's Annual Summer Barbecue

by Deanna Mitchener
 
August 28, 2023 issue: The Pioneer Cabin held their Annual Summer Barbecue on August 16. It was almost like seniors week all over again, but all rolled into one day. The Pioneer Cabin went above and beyond to cater to all that attended. There was no shortage of snacks throughout the afternoon with everything from cheese, crackers, and pickles to fruit and vegetable trays and an endless amount of desserts (all day), along with plenty of cold drinks to help keep everyone hydrated.
Outside games of Bocce Ball, Bean Bag Toss, and Ladder Ball were under heavy competition as each team tried their best to take the lead. Even down to getting the old measuring tape out to ensure who was closer in the Bocce Ball game.
Mid West Glass donated a couple of tents for shade to help keep those watching the games outside out of the direct hot sun. Inside the Cabin, tables were full of card players competing in cribbage.
The afternoon seemed to fly by quickly and before anyone knew it, it was time for the barbecue supper. As always, it was a great meal with a few different kinds of salads, cheese burgers, hot dogs, brown beans, fried onions, and homemade pie and other desserts.  The crowd was hungry after playing games outdoors all afternoon, and enjoyed everything on offer. A very special thanks went out to the kitchen staff for organizing such fantastic food all day long. Everything was delicious.
Thanks also went to those that pitched in to volunteer wherever they could. Plenty of work goes into the planning, preparing the food, setting up tables, tents, games, serving, and then clean up.
After supper, first and second place prizes went out to the winners. A very special birthday was also highlighted as Dorothy Desjardais celebrated her 90th birthday.

Residential flood damage discussed at County

by Dana McArthur
 
August 21, 2023 issue: There are a significant number of properties throughout Yellowhead County that sustained damage during the flooding that occurred in  June. County CAO Luc Mercier said, "We have had damage to agricultural lands, grazing lands, homes, residential acreages, and some commercial properties."
Council received several letters from residents regarding erosion to their property due to the June floods and they request that County replace the lands eroded and consider building a rock barrier to guard against future erosion.
The three letters presented at Council refer to the Mile 34 area along the Embarrass River in lower Robb, where there's a significant amount of private properties impacted by the floods.
"As the mandate for repairing private properties does not lie with Yellowhead County, we are awaiting direction from the Province of Alberta as to the potential for the implementation of a Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) for the floods," Mercier stated.
"We are hopeful that a DRP program is implemented and we have been in discussions with the province. A DRP would allow Yellowhead County residents who were affected by the floods to gain access to provincial funds to help certain aspects of repair to their properties," stated Mercier.
"The province's disaster relief programs are based in dealing with uninsurable costs for residences. Their disaster recovery programs are a little bit different for significant overland flooding," said Mercier. His assumption is that the province will implement the flood recovery program.
Although sympathetic with their plight, Mercier stated that affected residents will need to deal with the province directly in applying for the recovery program, but that Yellowead County will help them work through the red-tape as much as possible.
Mayor Wade Williams said, "I have been in conversation with numerous residents and they are under the impression the County will fix all this up." Williams stated that he made it clear that the County does not have the mandate or resources to repair private properties.
Yellowhead County Council voted to direct Administration to respond to the residents regarding the Embarrass River erosion with the recommendations discussed at council.
The County will give notice to residents as soon as they get notice from the Province on the DRP program and its particulars.
 
Editor's note: Currently, standard insurance policies generally do not cover storm surge and overland flooding because it is considered too high risk. The federal government and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are now working on a way to make insurance coverage for that kind of damage possible. The goal is to have a national flood insurance program available by April 1, 2025. While the exact details are still being worked out, it is likely that flood-related damages to residential properties will no longer be eligible for federal disaster financial assistance once flood insurance is considered available and affordable to Canadians. At that point, decisions on flood recovery programs will be made on a province by province basis.

Shandy's Dream for a Cure set for September 10

by Deanna Mitchener

August 14, 2023 issue: The Annual Shandy's Dream for a Cure Barbecue and Fundraiser was postponed, and will now be held on September 10 from noon to 4p.m. in the RCMP Centennial Park in Edson.
In 2015, Barbie Brown and husband Rod Reichenbacher lost their daughter Shandy to a brain tumour at the tender age of just 11 years old.
Shandy had a dream to help find a cure for brain cancer. After her passing the family was determined to keep Shandy's dream alive. They came up with Shandy's Dream for a Cure to raise much needed funds for paediatric brain tumour research.
Every year family, friends, and the community come together to remember Shandy and her dream and to raise awareness of brain cancer and to raise money for research into a cure.
“Since starting Shandy's Dream for a Cure in 2016 we have raised over $100,000 in support of paediatric research. For four years Brain Canada matched our money that was raised," said Barbie.
"During Covid in 2021 and 2022 we couldn't hold the barbecue due to restrictions, so we decided to try a Bottle Drive. Now that the Covid restrictions have lifted we are back doing the barbecue fundraiser plus we still do the bottle drive," explained Barbie. "Our Bottle Drive raised $1,630.70 so far this year. We are accepting bottles all year long if anyone has some they would like to donate. Our goal is to raise $10,000 this year.”
If you would like to help support Shandy's Dream for a Cure you can go online to
https://rb.gy/ybboph anytime to make a donation. You can also come out to the barbecue and purchase a burger or some memorabilia in Shandy's name. Hope to see you there.

All Canada news will be removed from Facebook, Instagram within weeks: Meta

- Canadian governments and businesses boycott Meta - Editorial comment by Dana McArthur:

August 7, 2023 issue: Meta announced it is officially ending news availability in Canada. Meta has decided to block Canadian news content instead of following the requirements of Bill C-18. The law will force tech giants like Meta to pay Canadian news outlets for journalism they profit from, but do not pay for.
Meta said Tuesday, August 1 that within a few weeks it will remove news for all Canadian users of its Facebook and Instagram platforms. —"we are announcing today that we have begun the process of ending news availability permanently in Canada," said Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada.
   Paul Deegan, president of News Media Canada, said this "intemperate" action will harm user experience and devalue the Facebook platform. "Without access to real fact-based news created by real journalists, Facebook will become far less attractive to users and advertisers. We expect more and more advertisers and their agencies will begin pulling advertising from the platform in response to this unilateral, undemocratic, and unreasonable move."
   The Canadian Government's stance is that Meta's "bullying" tactics will not work with the government, which it says is ensuring those companies do not weaken Canada's democracy by threatening its domestic media industry.
Meta's actions have led to the Canada's Federal Government, and Provincial Governments in B.C. and Quebec to boycotting Meta. Many companies have followed suit.
   Does anyone in Canada believe having Meta and U.S. billionaire Mark Zuckerburg in charge of what news Canadians will or will not read, is a good idea?
   Since 2008, close to 500 media outlets in 335 communities across Canada have closed, with more than 20,000 journalists losing their job.
   For local rural journalism to survive in Canada, this needs to serve as a wake-up call to many local advertisers and event organizers. Local advertising matters, shop local matters, and supporting local events matters.

$80,000 in flood damage to McLeod Valley Recreation Area

by Dana McArthur
 
July 31, 2023 issue: The recent flood event in Yellowhead County caused significant damage to the McLeod Valley Recreation Area. Much of the damage occurred on property owned/leased by Yellowead County.
Damage includes:
- erosion and road wash outs of the access points to the main grounds, pavilion area, and group campground
- erosion around outhouses, cook shack, pavilion, and kitchen
- erosion of sand in the playground area
- erosion of both ball diamond infields
- ball diamond outfield fencing
The McLeod Valley Recreation Area is a popular location for ball tournaments, family reunions, weddings, and is home to the annual Peers Gold Dust Daze celebration every August long weekend. "This park space is a priority area for repair and redevelopment," stated Crystal McNernie, General Manager of Community Services, in her report.
Initial estimates to complete repairs are approximately 80,000  dollars.
If Yellowhead County's application is approved, these costs would be submitted for reimbursement through the Provincial Disaster Relief Program (DRP) for flooding.
Funding through this program is based on a 90/10 cost share, with 90% of the expenses being covered by the Province and the remaining 10% by the municipality.
Administration is requesting approval outside of the 2023 Budget for the un-budgeted expenditure of $80,000 to complete the above-noted repairs.
These expenditures would be submitted through the DRP for reimbursement, if approved. If the DRP related to the flooding event is not approved, these expenditures will be funded through the Community Services Reserve Fund.
The program would only cover like-for-like replacement/repair and not for future mitigation upgrades, explained General Manager of Corporate Services Jeffrey Morrison.
Council voted to approve the un-budgeted expenditure of $80,000 to complete repairs to the McLeod Valley Recreation Area resulting from the recent flood event.

County Mayor joins Taskforce for Wildfire Response

by Dana McArthur
 
During Yellowhead County's Governance and Priorities meeting on July 18, Mayor Wade Williams discussed the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) plan to create a Taskforce for Wildfire Response in Alberta.
Mayor Williams has been requested to sit on this Taskforce and attend meetings.
"As a result of the wildfires and state of local emergencies that we have just gone through, not just for Yellowhead County, but throughout Alberta, and the unprecedented damage RMA is putting together a taskforce." said Luc Mercier, Chief Administrative Officer for the County.
The taskforce will make recommendations back to the province in order to be better prepared for these types of emergencies. County is still in the process of unpacking what had transpired during the emergencies, and will report back to Council within a few months, stated Mercier.
Councillor David Russell said, "I think this is a great idea and I encourage Mayor Williams to keep an open mind and to see perhaps if we need any other Council members onboard."
Councillor Shawn Berry said, "I agree with sending the Mayor to sit on this taskforce. I would like a better understanding as time goes on as to what outcome we are looking for." This was a genuine emergency that had some errors in beginning. I want to see what outcomes we are going to be satisfied with."
"The key here is to make recommendations to the province so we never get caught again to where we have multiple wildfires burning throughout the County and the resources are not ready to get into the firefight," responded Mayor Williams.
Council voted all in favour that Mayor Williams sit on the RMA Wildfire Response in Alberta Taskforce.
Flood damages/Flood Recovery:
During the recent flood event, 19 county bridge structures sustained minor/major damages. A County engineering consultant will be conducting inspections of 19 sites to access the extent of damages and provide remedial options and high-level costs.
Recent flooding also damaged critical infrastructure including significant roadway washout and embankment /culvert failures at various locations. Yellowhead County is in process to retain engineering consultant services to conduct inspection/design/tender.
The province has approved a $175 million Disaster Recovery Program (DRP). Municipalities and Metis settlements affected by wildfires can now apply for financial support to help with rebuilding and recovery efforts. The province has not come out with a flood damage component as of yet. DRP provides financial assistance for uninsurable loss and damage caused by emergencies and disasters, but it is not intended to replace appropriate fire insurance coverage.

International wildland firefighters gather in Edson

by Niki Luymes
 
On July 6th there was a social event at the RCMP Centennial Park in Edson to meet and greet and also say farewell to the international wildland firefighters.
Starting at 5pm, residents of Edson and Yellowhead County were invited to come say thank-you to all the firefighters who helped protect lives and properties in the region from the devastating wildfires. 
Due to the exceptional wildfire year Alberta has had, 215 South African firefighters came up to assist with controlling the fires. This group, along with a group from Australia had just recently finished their 40 day tour here and were heading home soon. 
Yellowhead County resident Ken Katarynchuk wanted to say thanks to the international firefighters with a small gift for each of them before they left. Katarynchuk used his own money to create and procure stickers, pins, and customized pictures for all the inter-national fire-fighters. For logistical reasons, meeting at the park was the easiest option. Alberta Wildfire decided to turn the meeting into a whole event for the community. All 215 South African fire-fighters turned out alongside other firefighters from Canada, Australia, and the USA.  
The event started with the South Africans performing a song and dance while marching around Centennial Park. It is commonplace for South African firefighters to start each day with song and dance. So, as a final send-off to the town and county they worked so hard to protect, they decided to showcase some of those songs. They went up through the parking lot, around the museum, and across the bridge. From there they made their way to the front of the stage where they took up formation, did a small marching demonstration, then sang the South African national anthem.
All firefighters present then gathered in front of the stage for a final group photo. All of this was done while proudly carrying flags for Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
Following that, the South African A-Rep, Antoinette Jini, took a few moments to thank Edson and the County for their hospitality. She said they all felt very welcome here and were proud to represent their country and fight alongside their firefighting brothers and sisters. 
Caroline Charbonneau, with Alberta Wildfire, also thanked the International Firefighters from South Africa and all over the world, for coming out to help. "Alberta Wildfire put out the call for assistance, and thanks to the many agreements we have with other agencies in provinces, territories, and countries, they sent us their highly skilled professional firefighters to help with these wildfires," Charbonneau said. "Today is the last day for most of our international fire-fighters. We want to wish them safe travels home in the next few days. And from bottom of our hearts, thank you."
Charbonneau and Jini then welcomed up Katarynchuk to thank him for his gifts while also giving him a chance to voice his thanks. "The fire was on three sides of me, I thank everybody because they came from all around the world to be on my doorstep. I'm truly appreciative of all the help." 
Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara also added words of thanks and appreciation. Mayor Zahara, West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, and other members of the Edson Town Council then handed out pins to each firefighter present. The groups then spent some time mingling before heading back to camp.
Today there are nearly 2,400 wildland firefighters currently working in Alberta, 1,287 from Alberta and 1,077 from other jurisdictions. So far this season, more than 3,300 wildland firefighters have come to assist from across Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Chile, and South Africa. 400 members of the Canadian Armed Forces also gave assistance.

Budget increase approved for Edson Public Library renovations

by Niki Luymes
 
On June 29th, Bob Beck, General Manager, Community and Protective Services, submitted a request for decision regarding an updated budget for the Edson Public Library Renovations.
The request was that if Council would approve an increase in the Capital Budget for the Library Renovation and Expansion project from $3,000,000 to $3,700,000 with increased town funding of $616,600 to be funded from the Future Civic/Cultural Facility Reserve.
Plans for the Library renovation have been in the works since the February 9, 2021 Committee of the Whole Meeting when Edson & District Public Library representatives gave a presentation to Council regarding a renovation feasibility study conducted for their facility.
Council previously passed resolutions to allow the Town to proceed to tender on the Library Renovation and Expansion project in advance of final adoption of the 2023 Budget. Six compliant tenders were received. The tender deemed most acceptable to the project team requires a construction budget of $3,700,000, which includes a contribution to the project budget from the Library Board of $83,400. The project went to tender during the budgeting process, and was only recently completed.  
"The bids were not shocking, even the highest ones are not shocking. So we feel good about the builder. The library board, the architect, and the project manager have negotiated a number of different things over the past 10 days, so we feel really good about perusing this bid," said Beck. 
The whole of the $3,700,000 would not come entirely from the town. An exact breakdown of the cost is as follows:  $2,078,600 would come form the Town of Edson, $538,000 from Yellowhead County, $1,000,000 is coming from the province in the form of the CFEP program grant, and finally the library itself has raised $83,400 in reserves for the project. The Library Board has indicated that fundraising efforts will continue for this project. There is also an outstanding grant application that could reduce costs through an additional $777,501 in funds.
Councillor Peter Taylor, who is the council representative on the Library board, took a moment to thank the current board for all their hard work getting this project going.  He said, "We got some good bids and this project is a feasible project. I will admit that another $616,000 is a lot of money. But this is not something we can wait for. The more we drag our heels, the more expensive it will be."
"This is a very manageable project in the second most used facility in our community, and it's 40 years old, so it's needed," added Taylor. He also said that the Library board will potentially be looking for sponsorships during the building process. There are also hopes that the County will provide further support. The Library Board is going to go back to the County Council in the future budgeting year to have those discussions. 
Councillor Taylor also asked Beck when construction would begin and how long would it take if the motion was approved. Beck answered, "They are working with the builder for August and an expected eight month construction process."
Councillor Krystal Baier took a moment to note that the expansion will accommodate the activities the library already provides. 
Councillor Gean Chouinard said that he was glad to see this project coming to fruition. "It's been a long time coming." 
Mayor Kevin Zahara also voiced his approval. He noted that the building renovations would be beneficial to the community as a whole. "We cannot attract people to our community, be that from the lowest level to the highest level, if there's not things for them to do. We are competing with every single community, not only in our region, but across Alberta and across our country. We need things and we have a very passionate group that's been behind this. I hope to see shovels in the ground and to see it open as soon as possible."
The motion was carried unanimously.

Mayor Wade William: 56 Days of Turmoil in our Region

July 3, 2023 issue: In a prepared statement during the Yellowhead County Council meeting on June 27, Mayor Wade Williams stated:

"With what I hope is the worst part of our disasters behind us, I wish to reflect on where we are at now and how proud I am of our region and its response to multiple disasters at the same time and for extended periods of time.
It seems somewhat surreal to know that we opened up 11 reception centres in the past 56 days, and had help from across the world, across the country, across the Province, from our municipal partners, far and wide, and from residents of Alberta as a whole. For this, we thank you. We cannot begin to list off the hundreds of people who came to our help, but we do know that we would not be where we are at without you. For all of you, Thank you from Yellowhead County.
To the residents of Yellowhead County. Your resilience, courage, passion and determination have inspired me during this crisis and I thank you for that. Even in the face of fires, floods and snowstorms, you have persevered, and I am so very proud to be part of this community. We will continue to work with our residents in the coming months as we rebuild, and I know that our community will be stronger than what it was 2 months ago.
With that said, I wish to focus my next comments on Yellowhead County Staff, Fire Crews and Volunteer Fire Fighters.
Yellowhead County staff have worked tirelessly for extended long shifts and filled in positions wherever necessary. Many times this included working nightshifts on short notice or extended hours to ensure we had the best approach to the disasters. There is not one staff member that hasn't been affected by this disaster, and each and every one of them has made me proud to see how they have done whatever was needed of them.
Our fire services have 8 full-time fire fighters, 5 office/management staff and over 90 volunteer fire fighters. That is not a lot of people to cover 22,000 km2 but they make us proud every day and have excelled in their service to our community over the past 8 weeks. The initial fires that hit us hit us so fast and with such ferocity that forestry crews nor our resources were able to stop them. Winds quickly fanned the fires to have 200kms of fire front which quickly inundated our region and our fire fighters efforts. We were then hit with new fires in the Shiningbank Area and a fire from Parkland County which jumped the river with 60km/ hour wind gusts. There is no possible way to have enough crews to be at all of these places at once, nor to stop mother nature with such strong winds.
Since this wasn't enough for mother nature, we then had Fire 31, which took a run from the Brazeau Dam area to points just close to our residents in an area stretching from Nojack to Marlboro. These same fire fighters continued to be on scene for all of these fires, (along with hundreds of fire fighters from Alberta Forestry as well as partners) and continued to work long hours to keep our community safe on a daily basis.
What we don't see through all of this is:
· the fire North of Evansburg, which would have given us another out of control fire to deal with, but was put out by our fire crews, even while fighting strong winds and after it jumped RR 75
· the volunteer fire fighter who gave up his/her day job or closed their business so they could help our community.
· the fire fighter who has given up 2 months of their personal lives, only to be admonished by those who feel they should have done more
· the homes that were saved because municipally installed sprinkler systems were able to keep the fire at bay
· the fire fighter's spouse who was spit on by a disgruntled person without knowledge of what really transpired
· the fire fighter who's property was severely comprised by fire, but continued to fight the fires in the community
· Yellowhead County having hired its own helicopter to fight fire for 5 days in the Shiningbank Fire when Provincial resources were busy in other parts of Alberta
· the resident who was mad at the fire fighting efforts one day when they lost their home but hugged a fire fighter the next day as they realized just how much effort these human beings have put into saving our community.
In the end, we are only human, and I applaud our staff and first responders for the extraordinary effort they have put in over the past 2 months to keep our community safe. I have received numerous comments from our region thanking our municipal resources and fire fighters and have committed to acknowledging them now in this public forum and on behalf of Yellowhead County residents. You are such great people and our municipality and community commend you for your efforts.
The past 8 weeks have been a disaster for our Region, similar to other parts of Alberta, and our fire crews acted valiantly to keep our community safe. There is no possible way that these fires could have been stopped sooner, but I do know that things would have been a lot worse without the extraordinary efforts of our staff and fire crews.
After 2 months of crisis with more than 350,000 hectares burned, massive flooding, to heavy snowfalls, we are proud that not a single human life was lost. This is a testament to our residents, outside help from all parts, and our county staff and first responders.
I take my hat off to each and every one of you. Thank you all so very much for all you do. Yellowhead County is a very beautiful place to live, raise our families and enjoy our lifestyles knowing you are all there protecting us.
I thank you for listening and trust that you will follow me in showing my appreciation to those who came to help us, our staff and our first responders as they have done a fabulous job."

International firefighters come to aid of local wildfire crews

by Niki Luymes
 
In early May, the first of the Alberta forest fires ignited in Yellowhead County. This was only the first of what has become one of the worst years for forest fires in decades. Alberta Firefighters have been on the frontlines since the very beginning.  However, with this year being as bad as it is, more help was needed to keep the fires under control. 
In the past few months Alberta Firefighters have received help, not only from other provinces and the Canadian military, but also from international fire crews. Detachments from South Africa, Australia, and other countries have come to assist the already hardworking Canadian firefighters.
The first of the international fire crews arrived in the area on the weekend of June 3. "When we first came to Edson, we came to the base camps and we could see multiple plumes of smoke in the area. For us, we could tell from the fire behaviour we could see and the smoke we could see, that they were fairly intense moving, at a fairly rapid rate through the forest. From that we knew we were going to have some significant days ahead of us," said Andrew Stewart, Fire Crew Leader with the South Australian County Service.
Each of the crews work in a 14 days on and 2 days off rhythm, and will stay in Canada for around 40 days. Crews are working along control lines and fire breaks taking out hotspots to stop the spread of the fire. "Its a big challenge working with crews from all over the world. Everybody has different levels of training, different experiences, and they're used to different work practices. So being able to bring what I know to the team and lead them is quite important to steer the direction and strategy to contain these fires and prevent impacts to the community," said Stewart.
Stewart has never been to Canada before, but is proud to be here and helping out. "I'm very proud to be able to represent my country and come support Canada.  In 2019 during fire season for us in Australia, we also received support from Canadian crews when we had a bad season. The fire fighting industry is a big brotherhood and sisterhood, so it's good to repay the favour," said Stewart. "I'm very passionate about my job. I get a lot of satisfaction helping the community. That's not just my community, but the wider human population. You get a lot a gratitude in that."
Sietse Vandermeulen, a Firefighter with Alberta Wildfire, said, "They're very positive and very proud of the country they're representing and they bring that enthusiasm with them. We've been bogged down working day in and day out, so to have that positivity, to have that enthusiasm, and that eagerness to help out has been phenomenal for us. A good morale boost for sure."
"It's a good experience learning new things as we come from a different environment for firefighting in South Africa," said Antoinette Jiai, Firefighter and A-Rep with The South African crews. "It's a great exposure in learning and making sure that we make a difference to protect the environment and the communities and everything around.  It's very exciting, and it's very motivating to come all the way from South Africa and lift the flag of South Africa and make a difference. We as South Africans, I think, are very passionate about making a difference. We want to be the leading integrated fire management in the world. And so we strive to make that difference and we live according to those values."
South Africa has sent at total of 215 people to fight the fires —200 crew and 15 management.  This not the first time South Africa, or Jlai herself has come to Canada. She was in High Level in 2019 and Manitoba in 2021. "So far my team has been excellent in what they do. They've done a great job. When we arrived we went straight to the frontline and there was a great improvement and a great excitement in the team that was here." She added, "In the beginning we could not understand because the terminology was different. Our terminology back home was so different. There's a lot to learn and it is a journey. We are looking forward to equipping each other with practicals that we are doing and that we are taking it home and implementing it and improving ourselves in terms of understanding that different things that Canada uses around their fires."
As the rain falls and people return to their homes, Andrew Stewart had a few words to share, "People might be coming home to a different landscape. It's important to stick together during this time. Speak to you neighbour, speak to your family and friends, and make sure you support each other during this time.  There are people who may have lost personal belongings, so it's important we stick by them and support them during these times."

Edson and area residents return home

by Dana McArthur
 
June 19 2023 issue: On June 15, the Town of Edson rescinded the evacuation order that was put in place on June 9th at 6:22 pm. Yellowhead County and the Town of Edson issued the evacuation order for the town and parts of the county due to out of control wildfires in the area.
Edson's Chief Administrative Officer, Christine Beveridge, said, "We are happy to announce that we are lifting the evacuation order at 6pm tonight."
This was the second wildfire evacuation of Edson to occur in just a few weeks. The first wildfire evacuation occurred on May 5 and remained in effect until May 8.
Rains and favourable weather, along with the efforts of fire crews battling the Willmore Park wildfire were key factors in lifting the evacuation order.
The wildfires received a significant amount of rain over the last two days which will buy firefighters up to 10 days of quiet fire behaviour, said Beveridge. Firefighters continue to work as quickly as possible to build containment lines and extinguish hotspots in key areas near communities.
"Welcome home and please drive safely," said Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara. Thanks went to all those who have helped battle the wildfires. Yellowhead County has removed its Evacuation Order as of 6:00pm on June 14, for the Marlboro and Millers Lake areas and south of Highway 16.
Fire crews continue to make progress in fighting fires, creating fire guards, and putting out hotspots. However, even with cooler temperatures, and rain, the fires remain out-of-control and are still close to rural homes, roads and highways, and several communities, including the Town of Edson.
Local official caution residents to be prepared to evacuate with four hours notice if the situation worsens. The potential for further evacuations will remain until snow cover takes place this winter.
For information on evacuation alerts and orders, please visit Alberta Emergency Alert or visit www.edson.ca and www.yhcounty.ca and their social media pages for updates. All residents are encouraged to download the Alberta Emergency Alert app. For evacuation information, contact the info line: 1-833-334-4630.

Changes at the Edson Food Bank

by Deanna Mitchener
 
June 12, 2023 issue: The Edson Food Bank has undergone some exciting changes over the past winter from new positions to renovations.
After meeting with Amy Pillage, the Program Coordinator, and taking a tour around the facility recently, there have been a lot of changes.
Pillage has been in this position for 13 months now. “We have been able to maintain our hours to meet the needs of the community. We are open every Tuesday morning for hamper service to our clients from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and two Thursday evenings a month. One happened to be last night and it was quite busy."
"Our visits are getting busier and busier and last night we almost ran out of produce. We always order enough food to be ahead of the visits. We always think we have enough for everybody, but this week has been so busy. We had 48 families we helped this week and it's the last week of the month. Usually the last week of the month we aren't as busy," said Pillage.
 "Because our clients can visit once per month, normally we see lots of visits in the first week, less visits the second week, and even less on the third week. By the last week of the month we see them just trickle in," explained Pillage. "That was not the case this week. We under-ordered our produce thinking it was going to be a normal week and it wasn't. It kind of knocked the doors off. It's break up, so we are hearing that from a few families. There're not working right now as it's the slow season. Things are starting to ramp up, so hopefully that is the case for many families and they will be going back to work. It has just been a very busy time for us."
“That being said, our shelves are always full. Our goal is to keep the shelves full. We want to try and keep a months worth of food on hand. We want to do this, because what if something happened? What if we couldn't get fruit? What if we couldn't get canned beans? Our pricing could go through the roof. We have seen this happen over the past few years with Covid. Supply chain issues where we couldn't get certain items and had to go without for a while. Learning from past experiences, we want to try and stay ahead on the food,” said Pillage.
“Our non-perishable hampers are always the same. Our clients can always rely on what's inside. There's familiarity to it. We want our clients to know that every visit they can count on certain items always being the same. Some weeks we can give extras, such as last week we had 150 pounds of chocolate donated from Independent Grocers, so families can enjoy a little extra,” Pillage said.
“We have such great relationships with Sobeys, Independent Grocers, Walmart, as well as Shoppers Drug Mart where we have volunteers weekly picking up from them. We are able to get short dated items, items that might be slightly damaged, maybe items going through a marketing change, or items the store chooses not to sell any longer. All of these extras are fantastic on the days we run short or out of fresh produce,” said Pillage.
The Edson Food Bank has an active volunteer base of approximately 55 people ranging in age from eight to 88 years old.
"We have work bees that happen on a regular basis to help build the food hampers. We have volunteers who help out twice a week. Other volunteers sign up on open days to hand out hampers, compose produce hampers, and meet and greet the clients," Pillage said.
“The community support we have seen lately has been mind-blowing. People are just so willing to help. Our core volunteers are thrilled with the extra help. It helps take a lot of the pressure off those extra jobs. Now they have more time to focus on the hampers that are needed for that day,” said Pillage.
“The board is 100% volunteer. My position is a part time paid position. The board started my position at 20 hours a week and have recently bumped it up to 25 hours a week. Honestly this could easily be a full time position. There is so much more work that could be done," said Pillage.

50 years of History for the Carrot Creek 4-H Club

by Cameron Coady, Club Reporter
 
June 5, 2023 issue: This year is the 50th year of running for the Carrot Creek 4-H Club. The club has been through a lot over the last 50 years. The club started back in 1973 and has been going and growing ever since. Back in 1973 the Grand Champion sold for $0.64 per pound.  As the club grew so did the people who got involved. The buyers, members and leaders grew in size. 
In 1973 our first Club Champion was won by Jody Karzlen.  Years later his own children were part of the Carrot Creek Club.  Looking through the history of the club many members from years ago later had their children join the club.  There is a strong family history in our club. 
The leaders in 1973 were Linda Roder, Eric Karlzen, Robert Mackay, Ed Birkenhagen, Joan Aschenmeir and Hans Roder.   Members included Anne Auriat, David Birkenhagen, Arnold and Frank Deleeuw, Ricky and Rodney Gale, Jim Hart, Eric & Jody Karzlen, Dale and Jeff MacKay, Joanne Rizzie, Leslie & Lorrie Roder, Ron Thomas and Bernice Van Dyk.
The club has been doing Highway Cleanup, Speak-offs, Community Service Events, Multi Card and Achievement Days over the last 50 years. Even though such things as Covid slowed us down , and this year with the wildfires, we were able to make our way past the circumstances and pull through.
This year we are happy to say we are back to doing Multi Card after being restricted from doing so over the last couple of years. The club is back at full speed after all these years of being slowed down. This year we were able to do almost all of our events and more.  Even though the club is 50 years old, we are as strong as ever and heading to another Achievement Day.  We just want to say thanks to all the buyers, members and leaders that have been a part of our club. We can't wait to see you on June 2, 2023.

A local resident's wildfire encounter

by Deanna Mitchener
 
May 29, 2023 issue: The wildfires so far this season have been unprecedented in the Edson Forest Area with many fires burning at the same time across the region.
Yellowhead County resident Karen Whitnack Ahlskog spoke with the Weekly Anchor on May 22 about her recent wildfire encounter on May 19, just south of the Beaver Meadow Hall.
 "We knew the fire was coming and we were getting prepared. Pat Van Koughnett had gone to help our neighbour move a couple of horses to safety. My grandson Brycen and I had gone into Edson to pick up a few groceries and his graduation suit for his big day next weekend," began Ahlskog.
"Meanwhile, Pat received a call from a neighbour saying he thought our place as gone. Pat immediately called to inform me that our house was on fire. We were so worried about our pets. After Pat was able to get back home, he called me back saying no, the house was not on fire it was still standing," explained Ahlskog.
"By the time I was able to make it home after being rerouted due to smoke and fire, locals had the fire extinguished and under control. The fire went through so fast. We knew the day before they were predicting the winds to change in our direction, so we knew we were in danger. I just didn't realize how fast it was coming. I got a call from my other neighbour letting me know they had our dog.  I just didn't know which dog, as we have two plus a cat. My grandson and I were worried about the other pets, and Pat, as we knew he was back at the house. It's hard to put into words all the emotions a person goes through," said Ahlskog.
“I'm overwhelmed, thankful beyond words, and humbled and amazed that we still have a home. We had firemen here putting sprinklers on our house about 11:30 a.m. and by 1:30 p.m. the fire was ravaging our place. It even burnt the pump that was supplying the sprinklers. Everyone thought our house was gone. When they realized it wasn't, they all jumped in to help save it,” continued Ahlskog.
“The work of our neighbors coming together to help with the fire was truly incredible. Total strangers coming to help wherever they could. All the firefighters that have been working on the fires, some from the States, B.C., Calgary, and Red Deer —it didn't matter what time I looked out my window, even at 3:00am, there was someone on fire patrol checking for hot spots,” said Ahlskog.
“My most emotional moment through it all was on Friday night when five young firefighters from B.C. came to check on things. The one young guy said to me, "You know, when I realized you still had a house I cried. It's my birthday today and couldn't have gotten a better birthday present," Ahlskog said. "I started to cry too."
"All of our neighbours are totally astonished we didn't lose the house. It isn't about our homes or houses, it's about neighbours, livelihoods, and all the stock they have —hundreds and hundreds of cows— they aren't just going to walk away and leave them behind. Some neighbours had to leave because of health issues, which is understandable. The rest stayed behind to fight the fires head on to save their livelihoods,”said Ahlskog.
"Some RCMP were given [#*+*] jobs, having to tell people they couldn't go home. That couldn't have made them feel very good, but it was a job they were told had to be done. We all understand that, we know it's an evacuation order, and we know they are stretched thin," said Ahlskog.
 "The community had a meeting with Martin Long the night before telling him something needs to change, this can never happen again to this extreme. I have to give Long credit, he came into a pretty hostile environment with a lot of frustrated people. Not to point fingers or put blame, because I think everyone is trying their best. But if not for locals staying behind when given the evacuation notice, more homes and livelihoods would have been lost," said Ahlskog.

Free support for those feeling distressed by wildfires

May 22, 2022 issue: Albertans – even if not directly affected by the wildfires, may be experiencing a sense of distress or vulnerability. As a provincial community we have been through several natural disasters in the last decade, and are still reeling from the pandemic lockdown and economic changes. 

 In a communication we received from the Psychologists' Association of Alberta (PAA) the organization thanked community news producers, including The Weekly Anchor, for our coverage of the wildfires that have so grievously impacted our area. "Thank you for your exceptional coverage of what Albertans need to know as they cope with the Wildfire Disaster that we are currently experiencing."
The PPA has now activated their Disaster Response Network (DRN) for Albertans experiencing distress due to wildfires.
The organization's DRN provides pro-bono (free) tele-psychology services for those traumatized by these recent events. This is not a crisis line or a referral service but pro-bono support by volunteer psychologists of 1-3 sessions for those in need.
"Whether you have been evacuated, you live near the current or past wildfires, or you are just watching destruction unfold in the media – particularly if you have family or friends who may be impacted and are concerned by about health, wellness, or safety -- psychologists in Alberta are there for you," states the PPA.
"The Psychologists' Association of Alberta would like to help those Albertan's who are experiencing distress due to wildfires. Our Disaster Response Network members are offering pro-bono telepsychology services for those traumatized by recent events. This is not a crisis line or a referral service but pro-bono support by volunteer psychologists of 1-3 sessions for those in need," the organization states.
To access this service, contact the PAA Office at: paa@paa-ab.ca  or (780) 424-0294. Online advice in dealing with wildfire distress can be found at:  https://www.apa.org/topics/disasters-response/wildfires-tips
Our thoughts are with all Albertans impacted by the wildfires in northern Alberta, particularly with the recent evacuations.
Supports are also available 24/7 through the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642, the Addiction Helpline at 1-866-332-2322, or Health Link at 811. Online mental health resources are also available on the AHS website at www.ahs.ca/helpintoughtimes. -with files PPA

Edson and area residents return after wildfire evacuation

by Niki Luymes
 
(updated May 10, 2023) As skies darkened to red and ashes began to fall on the town, residents of Edson and Yellowhead County had to pack up and leave, as a widespread wildfire evacuation order was released on May 5.
For the we
ek prior, residents had been on alert as fires near Wildwood and Evansburg threatened the hamlets and nearby residents forcing several evacuations.
While those fires still burn, new blazes sprouted up including a fire 14 km southeast of Edson near the Brazeau Dam and another north near Shiningbank along Highway 32.
These created increased smoke and filled the air with floating ash. On May 5 at approximately 6pm the emergency alert went out that all residents of Edson and the affected Yellowhead County areas were ordered to evacuate. This included the Edson Hospital and Seniors residences in the region.
The Western boundary of the evacuation zone was Marlboro and Range Road 200 all the way to the East end of Yellowhead County. The northern boundary was Township Road 550 and southern was Township Road 520.
Due to the fires still burning east near Wildwood and Evansburg causing a Hwy 16 closure and the Shiningbank fire closing Hwy 32, all evacuees were directed to head west. During this time, residents of Evansburg and Wildwood had already been evacuated to Edson.  Now they, along with Edson and area residents, headed to evacuation centres located in Hinton and Jasper.
Lineups at gas stations quickly ensued and the exodus created bumper-to-bumper traffic as it rolled out of Edson. With guidance from local RCMP, the process went relatively smoothly. “The evacuation went well,” said Staff Sergeant Christian Delisle, Detachment Commander with Edson RCMP. "The constant changes in the fire behaviour were a challenge as it limited the use of some of the pre-planned evacuation routes."
“The local RCMP members with the assistance of RCMP members from other detachments, the RCMP STO team, the County CPOs, and different provincial enforcement agencies evacuated Edson and the surrounding rural communities without any major problems. The vast majority of the population followed the evacuation order and were able to safely get to an alternate location for the night,” said Delisle.
In regard to patrolling the empty township overnight, Delisle said, "This requires a heavier police presence in Town and in the County to prevent and deter any form of criminality while the population is away. The Town did pretty well Friday night."
 "There were couple of accidents that we have to report within the town of Edson, and one in Yellowhead County. Two were very minor, and another one, unfortunately, someone got injured. Besides that, the evacuation went very well,” added Delisle. It took approximately two hours for residents to make their way to Highway 16 and head towards Hinton/Jasper.
As of May 6, over 24,000 individuals had been evacuated from communities throughout north and central Alberta, with that count growing. Some people made their way to evacuation centres or hotels, while others stayed with family or friends.
While most of the Edson township was vacated, some residents of Yellowhead County made the choice to stay and do what they could to protect their property. “The work that they did was spectacular, whether it was in Shiningbank, Wildwood, or north of Wildwood,” said Yellowhead County Director of Protective Services and Fire Chief, Albert Bahri. “Those residents were great. They didn’t evacuate, they were asked to evacuate, they didn’t evacuate, they stayed and defended their property, and I support that. The tough part is, our Firefighters are working to do that as well. It's about coordination, it’s about training, it’s about all that knowledge, and now we have to make sure we keep them safe as well.”
On Saturday May 6, a Provincial State of Emergency was declared for all of Alberta. 
With some rain, favourable winds, and efforts of Alberta Wildfire, local fire crews, and support staff, the evacuation order was lifted for Edson and certain areas of Yellowhead County on May 8. The fires, however, are still considered out of control. “Our biggest concern for Yellowhead County is all the residents affected by the fires. We are worried about all of them and their residences,” said Chief Bahri.
Throughout this time, and continuing now, Alberta Wildfire and local firefighters worked around the clock to contain and control the blazes. A number of out-of-town resources came out to assist with the fight. Due in no small part to their efforts, the fire never actually reached town limits. Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said he was very proud to announce that there was no damage to Edson and no lives lost. “When I left here on Friday night I thought we were going to lose this town. I could see flames from one of our residential neighborhoods and I thought there was nothing that could stop that. Fortunately, with the work of firefighters and the weather change we have a community that has come back in today,” said Mayor Zahara.
Yellowhead County did unfortunately lose homes to the fires. The exact number is currently unknown. “Yellowhead County, right from the very start, maintained the safety of our residents as our primary concern,” said Yellowhead County Mayor Wade Williams. “As of right now I am happy to report that we have had no loss of human life. We have also protected as much as we possibly could. But with 13 fires burning throughout the county in the past few days that’s a massive undertaking.”
It didn't take long for life in Edson to resume. The Edson Medical Centre reopened for walk-ins on May 9. The Edson Hospital's emergency room reopened the same day and most schools resumed classes on Wednesday, May 10. 
Martin Long, the MLA for West Yellowhead, said, "Over the last week I've witnessed firefighters, volunteers, officials, and leaders from all levels prioritize human safety and wellbeing. I am deeply thankful for the hard work and dedication each of them has shown."
"I have seen local residents and businesses coming into evacuation centres bringing in pillows and blankets, offering to bring food and water, offering to volunteer, even offering to provide a room in their homes. The resilience and compassion of our community members, emergency response teams, volunteers, and citizens make me extremely proud to be a part of West Yellowhead," Long added.
Evansburg residents were able to return home on May 10th, and on the 10th, Yellowhead County announced that Wildwood, Lobstick, and Hansonville area residents could plan to head home on the morning of May 11th.
Yellowhead County stated, "As we continue to deal with the wildfire situation in Yellowhead County, we want to thank the firefighters and emergency crews that have been working long and hard throughout this difficult time. Many of these boots-on-the-ground emergency responders have dealt with their own evacuations and being away from their homes and families while they work to contain these wildfires. —We are all in this together and we thank you for all you’ve done."
Fire bans and OHV restrictions remain in place for Edson, all of Yellowhead County, and Alberta. Highway 16 in both directions was reopened completely on May 9.
Alberta Wildfire states that while there are some areas that experienced some precipitation other areas did not. "The wildfires in the area are extremely hot and will burn deep into the ground. These fires can re-ignite again if conditions are right. Mid-high temperatures and windy conditions will ignite fires that may look extinguished as they hide deep in the ground. There is still a risk to the communities affected by the Deep Creek Complex.” The Deep Creek Complex includes the EWF035 (Shiningbank) fire, and the WCU001/002 fires (which are in the area of Wildwood, Chip Lake, and on both sides of Highway 22).
"All residents should be ready to leave again if need be, weather is unpredictable,” said Mayor Zahara.  “We didn’t want to leave people outside the community longer than we needed to, so what we’ve said to people is keep your trailers stocked, be ready. We certainly hope that’s not going to happen, we’re confident that’s not going to happen —but as we know, things can change.”   --- with files Dana McArthur

Wildfires force evacuation of Edson and east Yellowhead County residents

Update: May 5, 2023 5:37pm Yellowhead County and Town of Edson have issued an Immediate Evacuation Order for the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County. For details see: www.alberta.ca/alberta-emergency-alert

Wildfires force evacuation of Yellowhead County residents

by Dana McArthur

Posted May 3, 2023: Fueled by dry conditions and powerful winds, wildfires threaten communities in Yellowhead County resulting in evacuations affecting over 1,100 Yellowhead County residents.

As the wildfires put rural homes and businesses under threat, critical alerts were sent out advising people to collect important documents, medications, and enough food and water to be away for at least three days. Yellowhead County worked with Alberta Wildfire to contain the spread of the fires.

Detected April 29th, a wildfire southeast of Evansburg threatened areas in both Parkland and Yellowhead County, resulting in mandatory evacuation orders for the hamlets of Entwistle and Evansburg that same day. The four seniors lodges in Evansburg were evacuated safely with assistance from neighbouring municipalities and organizations such at the Edson Seniors Transportation Society and the Evergreen Foundation.

Another two wildfires were detected the evening of April 29, northwest of Evansburg on both the east and west sides of Highway 22. Originally two separate incidents, the fires quickly merged into one, causing middle-of-the-night evacuations with emergency responders going door-to-door to let residents know they needed to pack up and go.

Yellowhead County declared a state of local emergency, and by mid-afternoon on April 30 expanded its evacuation area, with residents in the Lobstick Resort community and areas north of Wildwood, including properties at the east end of Chip Lake, being issued mandatory evacuation orders.

On May 1 at approximately 1pm, Yellowhead County expanded the evacuation area once again, sending out the notice that residents of Wildwood should also evacuate immediately. A reception centre for evacuees was set up at the Edson and District Leisure Centre. Structural protection, including the use of sprinklers, were employed by County Fire Department crews.

Yellowhead County Mayor Wade Williams stated, "We practice this. We hope it never happens, but we’re realistic enough to know that at some point these things will happen in our communities. And it is very critical to be ready.”

 Mayor Williams also expressed his gratitude to residents impacted by the fire and the teams working throughout this emergency. “We would like to acknowledge our residents for their resiliency in this situation. Their patience, understanding, and cooperation during this difficult time has been a crucial part in helping our emergency services and Yellowhead County staff, including our firefighters and the other agencies, who have been working together to deal with this incident.”

“Yellowhead County residents and our neighbours offered their support and empathy throughout the event. This show of support and community spirit is encouraging and truly shows the integrity of our residents and neighbours,” said Williams.

Evacuees, who were originally welcomed at a reception centre in Wildwood, were moved to the Edson & District Leisure Centre when the hamlet of Wildwood was issued their own evacuation order.

“The Town of Edson provided support to Yellowhead County in terms of staff resources at the Evacuation Centre and at the Emergency Coordination Centre,” said Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara.

"Our thoughts are with all those impacted by the fires over the last week along with all those fighting the fire on the front lines. The one positive to come out of this is the generosity of so many Edson area residents and businesses wanting to help and support evacuees,” Zahara said. “The Town of Edson will be here to support the county as needed throughout the emergency.”

Approximately 25 Yellowhead County firefighters and over 60 firefighters from Alberta Wildfire battled the blaze, supported by more than a dozen pieces of heavy equipment and six helicopters. This was alongside several other agencies and contractors from neighbouring municipalities and organizations over several days.

With some favourable weather and the efforts of these fire crews and support personnel, the mandatory evacuation order was lifted at 12:00 noon on May 2 for Evansburg, Entwistle, and areas in Parkland County located west of Highway 22. These residents were now safe to return to their homes. The entire Highway 16 corridor was opened for Yellowhead County residents and Parkland County residents traveling to their homes.

The Wildwood evacuation order was lifted at 3:00pm on May 3 for all evacuees in the Wildwood/Lobstick area. Residents were directed to remain on 30-minute alert and be prepared to evacuate if conditions changed. Transportation was available from Edson to Wildwood for evacuees.

As of May 3, the wildfire affecting Wildwood and Lobstick area residents was still burning out of control and was estimated to be 2,320ha in size and burning in a mixture of grass, shrub, trees, and marsh.

On May 3, the fire behaviour was less active with the majority of burning occurring within the perimeter. It is currently being maintained in its boundaries and firefighting crews continue their efforts to contain and reduce the fire.

 Yellowhead County Fire Chief and GM of Protective Services, Albert Bahri acknowledged the work done to mitigate the fire and assist with the evacuation but is reminding residents that there continues to be threats with the current hot weather. “It’s important to acknowledge that wildfires are dynamic situations and changes can happen quickly. Our focus continues to be on the safety of our residents as we continue to work to contain and extinguish these fires with our partners.”

“We encourage everyone to have an evacuation plan in place for themselves, family members, and pets and livestock,” added Bahri.

A fire restriction is in effect for most of Central Alberta in the Forest Protection Area due to high fire hazard. Dry grass can catch fire easily and burn quickly. Any spark, hot exhaust, or friction can cause a wildfire. Avoid working near or on dry vegetation to help prevent wildfires. If you see smoke or flame and suspect it's a wildfire, call 310-FIRE.

 Yellowhead County continues to monitor the situation closely and all important updates will be posted on www.yhcounty.ca and at www.facebook.com/yellowheadcounty.

For the most up-to-date information on the wildfires, visit https://srd.web.alberta.ca/edson-area-update.

 

Volunteers recognized at annual Awards Night

by Niki Luymes
 
May 1, 2023 issue: The Town of Edson took a moment to appreciate local volunteers at the annual Volunteer Awards Night on Friday, April 21 at the Galloway Station Museum. 
The doors opened at 5:30 with the ceremony starting at 7pm. This created a time for mixing and mingling among the guests. After the ceremony, there was also live entertainment from local musicians until 8:30pm.
The theme of this year's awards night was 'Volunteers are an Essential Piece of Edson'. “This is because it takes both our collective and individual actions to make Edson a thriving and inclusive community,” said Marsha Shack, Community Development Coordinator with FCSS.
The night was a great way for local volunteers to connect with others in the community while also enjoying free food and entertainment.  During the 'mix and mingle' time attendees could take part in free food and drink, a free photo booth, and a cash bar. Guests could also enjoy the provided discussion prompts and blank puzzle pieces for a little creative fun.  
The award presentations began at 7pm. Members of the Edson town council and youth council were present to hand out the awards. There were six categories and the winners were as follows: 
The Social Innovator Award went to a local volunteer who tackles old problems in a new way and innovate despite the challenges. This award went to Sheila Buckle in recognition of the countless hours she has put into the Edson Public Library expansion project.
The Emerging Leader Award celebrates young volunteers who demonstrate growing leadership skills. This year's recipient was Maya Dalueg. Dalueg is a grade 9 student who has donated her time to multiple causes including Edson Youth Council, Edson Hospital, and March 4 A Cure.
The Long Term Service Award went to Debra Edey-Halterman. Edey-Halterman has lived, worked, and volunteered in Edson since the 1980's. In that time, she has served on the Public Library Board, as President of the Edson Fencing Club, as a part of the Edson Cultural Historical Society (ECHO), and much more.
The Community Leader Award went to outstanding volunteers who have taken a lead role in developing solutions to social challenges in communities. The award went to Dewayne Scott for helping the Edson Food Bank navigate the complexity of providing to the vulnerable people in Edson for the past five years.
Preston Langton accepted both the Business Leadership Award on behalf of Surepoint Energy and personally accepted the Biggest Heart Award. Surepoint was celebrated for their continual donations of money and volunteers to local events.
Langton received the Biggest Heart Award for continually going above and beyond with his time and effort as the go-to BBQ person for local events. 
Finally, The Mayors Award of Excellence went to the Edson Cycling Association. This award goes to volunteers that Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara wishes to recognize for outstanding contribution to the Town of Edson. This year Mayor Zahara choose the Edson Cycling Association in recognition of their tremendous work developing the bike trails and skills park at Willmore.
After the awards, local band 'Not to Scale' performed a few songs to close out the night.
Fittingly, the Awards night itself was put together with the help of local volunteers. “I wouldn't be able to do this without all the volunteers who helped host this event for all the other volunteers,” said Shack, “Especially the Community Development team.”
Local artist Madison Sharman designed the art on the tote bags given to attendees. Edson Girl Guides painted the table decorations, which were put together by the members of the Grand Buddies program at Parkland Lodge.

YCE Recreation Centre plans continue to progress

by Dana McArthur
 
At the April 18 Yellowhead County Governance and Priorities meeting, Council discussed the YCE Recreation Centre, during the presentation of the Community Services monthly highlights.
"In terms of the YCE Centre [Yellowhead County/Edson Recreation Centre] we are finalizing and wrapping up our contract with Dialog Design," said Crystal McNernie, General Manager of Community Services.
Project management services for the construction of the facility has been awarded to Tango Management Group. "Tango Management will be our project consultant over the next four years of this project or however long it takes to complete."
A start-up meeting with the steering committee has been organized for April 19 to bring Tango representatives up to speed on the concept design work that has been completed over the last few months.
"In addition, we will be working to establish significant milestones and objectives we hope to achieve over the next 3, 6, and 9 months," said McNernie.
Of note, the steering committee has not yet heard back from the 'Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program' (ICIP) regarding the amended grant application, due to the change of plans favouring the Leisure Centre location.
Councillor Shawn Berry asked, "Could you please identify to me if a concept plan for the YCE Centre has been approved by the steering committee and is that what's going forward to Tango?"
McNernie responded, "We actually have two concept designs that have been approved by the steering committee and we are still finalizing those. We are not looking to release to the public after this meeting. We would like to meet with Tango, get them up to speed, and have another steering committee meeting to wrap up our relationship with Dialog, and then look at releasing a [design] concept to the public."
"I think we all recognize it's time for the public to see what we have been working on and keep the momentum and excitement going for the project," McNernie added.
Councillor Berry replied, "I am a little concerned releasing two plans to the public when Council has not approved either of them at this point. The steering committee may have this in mind of meeting with the consultant, but the moment they do that, your putting out to the public that we are going to go ahead with the project (or seem to be) and that decision has not been made by this Council at this time."
Mayor Wade Williams, who sits on the steering committee, said, "Those are good comments Councillor Berry, and we have been upfront right from start with the information the committee has and anything else people are hearing out there, is rumour. At this point in time that's all I can say."
Councillor David Russell added, "There is nothing wrong with the steering committee saying to the public, this is the design we will present to our Councils. At which point is it made very clear that Council(s) still have to say, yes or no."
In regard to the ICIP grant, Councillor Anthony Giezen asked, "Have any of the other communities that applied received any response yet?" McNernie replied, "There are other community groups that have applied. Drayton Valley applied and had to amend their application and it took about four months, but they did and it was approved. We are pushing that four month mark now, so we are anxiously awaiting a response. It's a likely time to do a follow up with our provincial reps to see where things are at. The decision is made at the federal level so we are trying to be patient."
Council accepted the Community Services monthly highlights for information. 

Writer concerned overuse of road
salt causing deterioration of Hwy16

April 17, 2023 issue: (Letter to the Editor) I am a business owner whose storefront is on Hwy 16 west through Edson, and my family has been doing business here since 1987. My desk is adjacent to the front window, so I am very familiar with the condition of the highway, traffic habits, and maintenance that takes place year round.
I do believe that I know why the condition of the highway has rapidly deteriorated in the recent years, and I have been collecting data on this for quite some time. In all the years that we have been located on Hwy 16 it seems that year after year the amount of salt being used for winter ice control on the hwy increases.
When my brother used to clean the snow bank away from the front of the store 20 years ago, it was white and fluffy, now it is a horrid mess of brown slop. The purpose of the salt is to raise the melting point of the snow and ice, something that seems useful, but they don't realize all of the down sides to this.
When the salt melts the snow into water during the warmer temperatures of the day, it then freezes at night, splitting apart the small pours and cracks of the asphalt road surface breaking it away, exponentially creaking these massive pot holes and cracks we see today.
This melt and freeze scenario without the excessive use of salt would only happen in the spring time, but instead is happening every single day all throughout the winter. I have documented the highway maintenance company spreading this material upwards of a dozen times a day on the hwy through Edson, even during periods where it hasn't snowed in weeks.
This can be seen right now in spring time with the accumulation of sand in the shoulders of the highway, in some places 2” deep. On top of this non necessary damage to the road surface, it is also creating environmental and public health concerns.
Often out front of my store I have been able to taste the salt in the air, and I have taken multiple water samples of run off, with test results indicating that the water would be harmful to anything that ingests it, including children, pets, and wildlife.
The salt mist from the highway is causing visible rust and corrosion to adjacent infrastructure, the sign structure and downspout screws are rusting on my building. The grout of the tiles on my showroom floor has become permanently stained from the mixture tracking in on customers footwear. The sand/salt mixture plugs our storm drains, and eating up tax dollars both in the cost of the material itself and the cost of cleaning it up.
The cost both direct and indirect to taxpayers for this de-icing program is much higher than anyone realizes, and the Government of Canada's policy on use of road salts is based off information from 1999.

D. Auriat, Northside Motorsports

Province providing $750,000 to begin preliminary work on improvements to Hwy 16 through Edson

by Dana McArthur

April 10, 2023 issue: For a very long time, Edson's Town Council and Administration have been making considerable efforts to get the repaving of Hwy 16 through Edson on the Province's Capital Plan, but to no avail.
The highway's maintenance and repair is under provincial jurisdiction. But the continued patching along Highway 16 through Edson has done little to improve the deteriorating road surface. This is in spite of the fact that the province recognizes the primary purpose of the highway is as a major trade and economic corridor.
In an interview, Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said, "We are encouraging the provincial government to include the paving of Hwy 16 through Edson in their capital plan. As of right now it is not in their three year plan and the condition of the highway continues to deteriorate with 18,000 vehicles a day passing through our community. Our biggest concern is the smoothness and safety of the travelling public."
"The highway has been in poor shape for quite some time and it's only getting worse. Ledcor crews are spending a lot of time doing pothole repair work, but at this point in time we feel that it needs complete repaving as the pothole repairs do not hold up with the amount of heavy traffic flowing through the community," Zahara said.
"We have reached out to the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridor, Devin Dreeshen's office and also requested meetings with the previous Minister —those meetings have been declined," said Zahara. The mayor was directed to speak with the local Transportation officials. "MLA Long has also been involved on this file and is advocating on our behalf."
In an emailed letter to the Town, Devin Dreeshen, the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, stated, "Transportation and Economic Corridors reviews several factors when evaluating pavement condition, including traffic volumes, pavement quality, roughness, existing structure, local information, visual inspections, and surface distress. This data is used to determine when the road is expected to need rehabilitation. The data is also used to prioritize rehabilitation projects from across the province for inclusion in the Provincial Construction Program in order to ensure a fair process for all areas of Alberta."
However, Mayor Zahara stated that, "The province's own data shows that the highway through Edson is 1.9x more rough compared to the rest of the province and the rut depths are significantly higher compared to other sections of the highway."
Dreeshen's letter continued, "Based on these factors, there are no rehabilitation projects planned for Highway 16 in the Town of Edson on the department's three year Provincial Construction Program. However, as part of our annual capital planning process, future rehabilitation projects for Highway 16 through Edson will be evaluated and considered for prioritization and funding along with all other projects across the province."
In 2016 under the NDP government, Hwy 16 through Hinton was repaved even though it was in much better shape than the highway through Edson. "When you look at the conditions that they repaved a large portion of the highway through Hinton compared to Edson's, it doesn't make any sense. Ours is far worse than some of the other communities that have the highway going through it," said Zahara.
The Mayor was able to meet with the Parliamentary Secretary for Economic Corridors, Shane Getson, and took him on a tour of Edson's problematic highway. Getson was raised on a mixed farming operation west of Chip Lake and went to Niton Central High School. He was, however, "very non-committal", said Zahara.
The Town of Edson has also been working with the Trans-Canada Highway Association on this issue, said Zahara.
In response to The Weekly Anchor's inquiry, local MLA Martin Long responded, “I have heard from a number of my constituents and know first-hand from driving through the area that there is a need for repaving Highway 16 through Edson. I have continuously advocated to the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors and regional staff that Highway 16 is critical to the well-being of the region's economy and residents... More work needs to be done, and I am committed to advocating for the repaving of highway 16 through Edson as quickly as possible. The UCP government understands the importance of our provincial highway infrastructure in rural Alberta. This is why the Government of Alberta has invested over $2.5 billion in rural Alberta's roads in Budget 2023, with $1.3 billion allocated to Northern Alberta," concluded Long.
The Weekly Anchor also sent a list of questions on the state of the highway through Edson, to Transportation Minister Dreeshen's office. Below are the responses.

1. Is the condition of Hwy 16, as one of Alberta's main corridors, a priority for the Province?
Yes, highway condition is a priority for the Province. Alberta has an extensive highway network that requires significant investment to maintain and rehabilitate approximately 64,000 lane-kilometres of roads and nearly 4,600 bridges and interchanges. Department staff, along with the highway maintenance contractor, conduct road patrols along the provincial highway network on a regular basis to ensure safety-related concerns are addressed as soon as possible within available budgets.

2. What is the criteria/threshold for considering the repaving of Hwy 16 through a township?
For all provincial highways, Transportation and Economic Corridors reviews several factors when evaluating pavement condition, including traffic volumes, pavement quality, roughness, existing structure, local information, visual inspections, and surface distress. This data is used to determine when the road is expected to need rehabilitation. The data is also used to prioritize rehabilitation projects from across the province for inclusion in the Provincial Construction Program in order to ensure a fair process for all areas of Alberta.

3. Crack and pothole repairs are a temporary solution that erodes with weather and traffic. Will the erosion of the roadbed lead to more costly and time-consuming repairs?
Roads deteriorate based on a number of factors, such as time, weather cycles, traffic loading, etc. The presence of cracks and potholes allow water to penetrate into the asphalt, pools below the surface and freezes. As vehicles drive over these defects, the asphalt is weakened and cracks/holes begin to expand. As more water pools and vehicles drive over it, the hole gets larger. With the freeze-thaw cycles in spring, freezing water expands which further accelerates pavement deterioration. This is minimized with timely maintenance.

4. Why was Hwy 16 through Hinton chosen for repaving in 2016 (under the NDP government) when it was in much better condition that Hwy 16 within Edson, even back then?
Recommended projects for Capital Maintenance and Renewal are analyzed through technical systems, and validated and prioritized by department subject matter experts. All projects continue to be evaluated as provincial priorities and budgets allow.

5. What would the Province like to say to the many local residents who continue to complain about the state of Hwy 16 in Edson?
Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors is providing approximately $750,000 to begin preliminary work, including engineering and design, on improvements to Hwy 16 through Edson. Construction would be expected to start next year. Thank you to MLA Martin Long for his advocacy for his community on this important project.
Furthermore, Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors has completed pothole repairs and hand patching work on Highway 16 through Edson. Additional pothole repairs and hand patching work is planned to be completed, beginning April 2 weather-permitting. Selective paver patching is also scheduled to be completed during the 2023 summer maintenance program to keep up with highway surface maintenance. Until a rehabilitation project takes place, the department will monitor Highway 16 through Edson and ongoing maintenance will continue to ensure issues are addressed in a timely manner.

 

What do you think of the state of Hwy 16 through Edson?

Editorial: Province says NO PAVING more PATCHES
 
by Dana McArthur
 
(Page 18, April 3, 2023 issue)   Under the provincial government's care, the rinse-and-repeat repetition of pavement patching along Highway 16 through Edson will continue for the foreseeable future, it seems.
  As every Edsonite knows, painfully well, the highway through Edson has been in abysmal condition for a very long time.
  This seems at odds with the fact Highway 16 is one of the premiere highways in Alberta and the gateway to world-renowned Jasper National Park.
Quite frankly, the highway in both directions through Edson should be an embarrassment to a province that's experiencing a windfall of cash into its coffers. And the fact is, repaving this badly deteriorating surface is not even in the province's three year plan!
  It would be amusing, if it wasn't so tragic, that if you want to know which vehicles ahead of you are local residents, just watch for which ones swerve around the ever-present potholes and manhole covers with uncanny precision. As a rider myself, motorcycles are at particular risk.
  In the meantime, highway crews continue to revisit many of the same areas over and over adding to this patchwork quilt of cracks and repairs, as their last efforts quickly erode under the traffic and weather.
  What seems odd, is that back in 2016 under the previous NDP government, Hinton had pretty much their whole highway through town repaved within a month, and it was in much better shape than Edson's. One is left wondering why the UCP government, in a much better financial situation, doesn't seem to show that same commitment to rural Alberta infrastructure?
  If you would like to send your comments about the condition of the provincial highway through Edson, it may appear in our upcoming story on Hwy 16.
Please email us a brief message by April 4 to: anchorwk@telusplanet.net

Public hearing held for proposed NGL processing facility

by Niki Luymes
 
 Mar 27, 2023 issue: During the Edson Town Council meeting on March 21, a statutory public hearing was held in regard to draft Bylaw No. 2286 to redistrict a parcel of land for Pivotal Energy Partners proposed Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) processing facility.
 The company says the facility will provide area oil and gas producers with a strategic processing alternative for their C3+. A C3+ processing facility uses the natural liquid remnants of natural gas after the removal of methane. This can be processed into three separate gas liquid products including propane, butane, and condensate.
 The Town of Edson has received an application to redistrict a ±46.30 hectares parcel in the SW-15-53-17-W5 (603 54 Street South) bordering Yellowhead County on the east and south boundaries from Urban Reserve (UR) to Heavy Industrial (M-2).
 First reading of Bylaw No. 2286 was passed by Council on February 21, 2023 moving it to the public hearing process. Administration did not recommend that any further readings of the bylaw be given at this time. Instead, second and third reading would be brought forward in April 2023, acknowledging input received during this public hearing process.
 The parcel is currently zoned Urban Reserve (UR). The proposal is to redistrict this parcel to Heavy Industrial (M-2) based on the applicant's plans to develop a Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) processing facility, which is a permitted use in the Heavy Industrial (M-2) District, according to a report to Council by Shaival Gajjar, Planner with the Town.
 The proposed redistricting is not in conflict with the MDP for future uses proposed in this area of Town, stated Gajjar. This redistricting is considered in conjunction with the direction of the 2017 Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) with Yellowhead County.
 Gajjar stated that Town Administration is in support of the Applicant's proposed Land Use Bylaw Amendment seeking to redistrict these lands to Heavy Industrial (M-2). Second and third reading would be recommended in April, acknowledging input received during the public hearing process.
As part of the process, the Town referred the application to external stakeholders including Yellowhead County, CN Rail, Alberta Environment and Parks, and Alberta Energy Regulator. Pivotal Energy has provided responses to the comments and concerns.
 Gajjar stated that Administration went beyond the standard notification radius and notified all landowners within 500 metres of the subject site (including County residents), keeping in mind the scale of the project.
 Several nearby landowners have objected to the proposed site stating safety concerns, future financial property losses, and other concerns. Another resident expressed concerns over access of emergency vehicles if the one access road becomes blocked with the additional traffic across the railway tracks. One landowner sent a letter of support for the project stating, "With the conditions imposed by the province and the Town of Edson, this resource based project can be a successful development for the community.”
 After Gajjar completed his presentation, John Schwarz Vice President, Business Development with Pivotal Energy Partners presented a response from the company.  Based on the feedback from stakeholders, the company recognized the need to continue to consult with residents and landowners on what the project is, but also, what it is not.
 Pivotal has also began the necessary steps on the regulatory and environmental front. Key steps have been taken in order to prepare the license application to Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). Environmental Phase 1 is completed, the Historical Resource application was approved March 14, and Nav Canada has given approval regarding the heights of facility equipment in relation to the airport. A geotechnical assessment has been completed, with final analysis expected the week of March 13. The traffic impact assessment study is currently underway.  “Recognizing that the job is nowhere close to being done, there is still lots of work to reach out and move forward," said Schwarz.
 Councillor Ed Moore asked, “To this day have there been any problems with your other facilities or any emergency situations?”  Schwarz responded, “Currently we have five facilities operating in the Province of Alberta and we have had zero incidents to date at those facilities.”  
 Councillor Gean Chouinard asked, “Just for clarification, you said that you had a chance to talk to all the residents, for or against, in the radius —is that correct?” Schwarz responded, “Yes, that's correct. Anything that we heard back we made an attempt to meet with those people. To my knowledge, anybody who was either for or against we met with in person.”
 Councillor Trevor Bevan asked if a pipeline was still being considered to reduce congestion in the area. “Is that still something you will be pursuing?” Schwarz replied that they were still looking into it, and without getting into confidential specifics, they have had some successful meetings on that front.
 Council then opened the floor to public questions. Randy McGuire of Moose Meadows RV Park was the first of three registered presenters.  McGuire stated that he and his wife were totally against the proposed plant coming to this site. “We are concerned for the future, safety concerns, and future financial property losses, not just for us, but for the future of our grandchildren, and their future children. Plus, currently for the safety of our RV Park clients who live here sometimes for months at a time.”  McGuire continued by saying, “I want to see Pivotal Energy processing in our area for the employment opportunities and other benefits. But within two kilometers of the town of Edson and populated county areas, it shouldn't even be considered as an option.”  
 Next to speak was Mike Lenahan who echoed McGuire's concerns. Lenahan brought along small scale models of the proposed tanks to be set up at the plant. He stated that according to Pivotal's plan there will be a potential of 840,000 gallons of pressured gas on site. In a worse case scenario, he speculated, the blast radius would devastate Edson. “It's something to seriously think about because no one has thought about the size of it, and there are other options.”
 Finally,  Jo-Ann Sobon spoke on behalf of several different business located within the notification radius. “For clarity, we are in support on this project in principal,” said Sobon. "However, we do have several concerns." Access of emergency vehicles due to added congestion at the CN crossing, area road construction standards, and concerns with residential versus non-residential assessments, were just some of the concerns she presented. The group has been in conversation with Pivotal Energy and the Town of Edson, but feels their concerns have not been adequately addressed. 
 Pivotal Energy was then able to give closing remarks. “One of the things I will say is that we are governed under the Alberta Energy Regulator that has some of the most stringent rules around safety, for local, for our workers, and the environment. We'll have 17 to 20 of our own operators out there, so safety is of the utmost importance,” said Schwarz. He also encouraged anyone with thoughts or concerns to reach out to them.
 Mayor Kevin Zahara, then brought that portion of the meeting to a close. “I do want to thank everybody that's engaged with this process. It's important that council gets all the feedback, be it for or against. We're not making any decisions tonight regarding this. We will be in a few weeks, following a review of all the comments made here today.”

Cadomin Community Society's new Hall Project approved

by Dana McArthur
 
Mar 20, 2023 issue: During the March 14th Yellowhead County Council meeting, council discussed the Cadomin Community Society's recent request for support to construct a new community hall in Cadomin.
The Cadomin Community Society (CCS) was pursuing the renovation of the Cadomin firehall into a community hall facility, stated Crystal McNernie, General Manager of Community Services for the County.
"Most recently they were looking at renovating the decommissioned firehall," McNernie said. Upon receipt of tenders for the project, the renovation costs were significantly greater than anticipated. CCS have since been engaged with the low construction bidder, Fillmore Construction, to explore alternative options and to come up with a cost-effective solution to move the project forward.
When comparing renovation costs to the costs of a new build, the consensus within the Society was to go back to the original freestanding building design located immediately west of the playground as proposed in the summer of 2021, stated McNernie. "They determined it would be more economically feasible than renovating the firehall."
Construction of a new facility would be approximately $4.17 million and includes the cost of construction, all design and consultant fees, furniture and fixtures, as well as a contingency.
Facility concept plans and layout were presented to council. CCS has spent significant time fundraising, both through private business and within the community, and can commit to providing $1.92 million or 46% of the funding for the Community Hall. Administration added that this is a major feat for CCS to bring to the table such a significant contribution towards the facility.
This project does require an additional $750,000, and as such, the Society is requesting this funding be provided from Yellowhead County as follows: 2023 - $375,000; 2024 - $375,000.
The proposed size of the hall is 6,300 sq ft. This is the same size as the existing Legion building in Cadomin. This square footage has proven to be the right size for the community, meeting the various functional needs. If square footage is reduced now, the Society believes an addition will be needed at a later date.
The current design includes a full basement, which allows for future uses. If the basement was eliminated, it would result in a $150k savings.
As agreed upon between the Cadomin Community Society and Yellowhead County, the County will assume ownership of this facility upon completion. "This agreement is consistent with our other community halls and recreation facilities located within hamlets and designates responsibility for all utility costs and repairs and maintenance to Yellowhead County," stated McNernie.
"Our current facility operators who previously owned and operated their respective facilities have found this arrangement preferable as it allows them to focus on maximizing program and event offerings without the financial onus of costly utilities and repair expenses. The financial contribution of the society/association towards the new facility has never been a determining factor for ownership," McNernie added.
Councillor Dawn Mitchell said, "I can not believe you raised 46% of the cost of this new building. I have never seen this in my time on council. I am so proud of you, as I am sure all of Council is —good job."
Councillor Brigitte Lemieux asked, "Who is responsible for the parking lot development?" McNernie responded, "There is a provision within their budget to construct a gravel parking lot. At this point they are not pursuing a paved lot."
Councillor David Russell said, "I would like to echo Councillor Mitchell's comments, stellar work, absolutely incredible, and I support it 100%."
Councillor Shawn Berry said, "To the society, thank you for doing the good work to bring this forward to us. It is very understandable the way you have presented this. I am in favour of the project."
"Thank you to the group, you have done a really, really good job," said Mayor Wade Williams. "You have done everything council has asked and I will definitely support this motion."
Council voted all in favour of approving Cadomin Community Society moving forward with constructing a new community hall in Cadomin. And that Council for Yellowhead County provides an additional $750,000 in funding towards the project, with $375,000 being provided in 2023 and $375,000 being provided in 2024.

New Saturday Youth Club at Edson's Library

by Niki Luymes
 
Mar 13, 2023 issue: Edson Public Library kicked off a brand new program. The new Saturday Youth Club held its first event on March 4.  
The club will be gathering every Saturday from 1pm to 3pm at the Edson and District Public Library to take part in fun crafts and games. The group is open to anyone ages 8 to 15. 
The club was created to specifically fill a void in the library's programming. “I do story-time during the week for the toddlers and the preschool kids, and I wanted something for this group, this age group is seemingly always left out, so I decided to start the Saturday Youth Club,” said Ms Terry, Program Facilitator with the Library.
This week's activity was Morse code bracelets. Each youth planned out a message in Morse code, then selected different colours to represent the 'dots' and 'dashes'. The end result was a colourful creation that also taught decoding and problem solving skills.
“Next week we're going to be doing a fun day of Minute to Win It games," said Ms Terry. So it's going to be a variety of crafts and other weekly activities for the kids, to get the kids to try something new they probably wouldn't on their own.”
The program is still in its infancy. “Right now we are just trying it. I have March and April planned, but it is something that I hope to continue,” said Ms Terry. “Plus, once we get into July we're planning on doing Summer Reading Program and Summer Camp Activities, so I'm using this as a jump off with these kids to ask, 'Hey, what are you interested in, what can I plan for camp?'”
Like all the library programs, this one is free to the public. “It's absolutely free,” said Ms Terry, "my only request is that people sign up, so I have a rough idea of numbers.”
There is no limit in attendance as long as the numbers stay manageable. Those who are interested can sign up at the library front desk, or if you want more information visit edsonlibrary.ca or call 780-723-6691.

RCMP crime stats presentation at County Council

by Dana McArthur
 
Mar 13, 2023 issue: During the February 28 Edson Town Council meeting, Staff Sergeant Christian Delisle, Detachment Commander for the Edson and area Municipal RCMP, presented a review of the detachment’s 2022 operations and outlined its priorities for 2023. He was accompanied by Hinton's S/Sgt Shiloh Fragomeni.
 “We are coming to you today to have a discussion in policing priorities for upcoming financial year, said SSgt Delisle. “If we look at last year when I was here the priorities were overall crime reduction, community presence, visibility, youth, and squatter [concerns].
SSgt Delisle stated that they exceeded their goal of 30 community presences/contacts with 51 different meetings and activities throughout the communities.
For general crime reduction, this year they mostly focused on thefts. Specifically, the goal was a 10% decease in thefts over $5,000 and vehicular theft. So far they have achieved a 9.5% reduction in this area.
The detachment also had the goal for their General Investigations Section (GIS) unit to do six proactive drug investigations. So far they have only done one, however, there are other things in development, said Delisle. "We are also going to pretty much every school even it's just to say hi, and ask if they have any questions etc." To address squatter concerns, he stated officers have been out in the field talked to people and making sure they are complying with regulations.
Delisle also presented a rundown of the basic statistics for the Edson Municipal Detachment. This included the number of crimes committed, crimes filed, the workload associated with the different crime types, and the response times. Total personal crimes were up 14%. "The big driver of this was criminal harassment," he said. This broad category even includes social media websites where people say things to each other they should probably not be saying, the Staff Sergeant explained.
Property crimes were also up at 12%. "Basically our big challenge with property crimes in Yellow County is oil and gas sites; they are being targeted pretty hard."
Overall there is a 5% increase in crime over last year, in Edson and area. Delisle also pointed out, "People seem more willing to call us so we can gather stats and do our jobs," which he said was a good thing.
Councillor Dawn Mitchell said, "I think some of these number are up because calls are up. I know in my area people are feeling they can call." SSgt Delisle responded, "That's 100 percent right. The number of calls in the county are actually up by 4%."
Councillor Shawn Berry said, "The calls I am getting are not about violent cries, it's trespassing, particularly ATVs along the pipeline corridor."
Councillor David Russell said that he'd like to see more focus on knowledge and education of the RCMP and the court's rolls, continued police presence on casual patrol, and more community meetings.
SSgt Delisle said he is holding another Town Hall meeting on March 15 at 7pm in the Hospitality Room of the Edson and District Leisure Centre. He invited council to suggest locations for other meetings as well.
Mayor Wade Williams thanks the two RCMP members for their presentations.

Edson Downtown Parking Changes

Feb 27, 2023 issue: The Town of Edson is reinstituting downtown parking rules with some new signage this month.
Following some concerns from local businesses, the 1.5-hour parking restriction signs are being re-installed in the downtown core. This will be in effect Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. While the rules have remained in place over the years, the signage was taken down during the light standard upgrade project. The new signage will help with awareness and enforcement moving forward.
“It is great to see our downtown busy once again, but it has caused some parking issues in recent months with people parked for extended periods. We have heard the concerns of our business community and we are making every effort to ensure our downtown core is meeting the needs of our local businesses and remains accessible for shoppers, diners, and visitors to spend time in our community.” -Mayor Kevin Zahara
As this will only be in effect during the daytime hours, it will not interfere with bowling, theatre, or other evening entertainment venues.
This change is a part of Edson's ongoing efforts to encourage economic growth in our downtown and make it a more attractive and accessible destination for residents and visitors. It also ties directly to Council's strategic Priority of fostering a robust and adaptable economy. (release)

Raising awareness of bullying: editorial

Feb 20, 2023 issue: On February 22 students in Edson and area, and across Canada, are urged to wear pink shirts as part of the bullying awareness campaign “Pink Shirt Day”. 
The theme this year is “Be Kind”. It is a simple but powerful message encouraging us to look beyond our differences and celebrate the things that make us unique.
This theme also encourages Albertans to be inclusive, welcoming and supportive with colleagues, clients, friends and family. Building healthy relationships is one of the best ways to prevent bullying and create safe environments.
As parents, we worry about our children being bullied and schools can be a place where bullying is encountered most frequently.
Bullying is a form of aggression where there is a power imbalance; the person doing the bullying has power over the person being victimized. It is a conscious, wilful, deliberate, hostile, and repeated behaviour by one or more people which is intended to harm others. It can take on many forms including physical, verbal, emotional, cyber, and peer exclusion. Bullying can result in serious emotional problems, including anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, or worse.
One in five children are affected by bullying. Even with the added awareness in recent years, every seven minutes someone is bullied on a playground in Canada, according to bullying.org.
Pink Shirt Day is a reminder to parents, teachers, and students of just how critical it is to ensure that our children are safe inside and outside of school.
The day offers an important reminder and helps to keep public attention focused on a problem that is so damaging and destructive within our schools and society.
However, reminders alone will not be enough to bring an end to this age old problem. Bullying is a complex multi-level problem, and in order to address these negative behaviours, solutions also need to be on multiple levels.
Parents play a key role in teaching children how to be inclusive, empathetic, and how to deal with feelings without becoming aggressive. With the support of important programs like Family and Community Support Services, and teaching empathy at the classroom level, communities that focus on helping to promote inclusion, respect, and empathy have been the most successful at reducing bullying behaviours.
Can we ever get rid of bullying completely? Probably not. This is why reducing bullying must be an ongoing effort with the whole community working together, so every child feels valued, equal, and safe.  DM

C3+ processing facility proposed in Edson

by Niki Luymes
 
Feb 13, 2023 issue: During the Town Council meeting on February 7, John Schwarz, Vice President of Business Development, and Oliver Sherwood, Business Development Specialist, of Pivotal Energy Partners, provided an introduction to the company and the potential development of a C3+ processing facility in Edson.
The company, headquartered in Calgary, currently has over $50MM in assets in operation and over $100MM in project development, and they continue to invest and explore opportunities across the midstream energy space. Currently they have 9 facilities across Alberta and North Dakota.
The two representatives were joined (via teleconference) by supporting presenters and technical team Mike Longeway, Jill Hofer, Nick Hanson, and Sameh Esmail.
A C3+ processing facility uses the natural liquid remnants of natural gas after the removal of methane. It can be processed into three separate gas liquid products including propane, butane and condensate.
The company says the facility will provide area oil and gas producers with a strategic processing alternative for their C3+. It will also provide access to premium markets for their specification products and increasing netbacks as a result of lower overall transportation costs.
The Town of Edson was chosen after a detailed survey.  Edson provides multiple amenities that make it the optimal site for such a facility. This includes proximity to the railway and highway, and ample space for the current build and any future expansion.
The presentation included visuals and maps regarding the facility, along with a business overview and project schedule. The overview also included the plot, which they have the right to purchase, and economic benefits to the community.
The proposed location is within town limits at 603 Landfill Road. Pivotal Energy has entered into an option to purchase with the current landowner. The facility would also bring added jobs for Edson and area residents. “We are really open to contracting and hiring locally, it's really important to our business,” said Schwarz. This includes the jobs needed for site construction, and continual day to day running.
The company plans a multi-phased approach for development that offers a market-based scalability.
 The facility will receive feedstock (natural gas liquids) and separate it into gas liquids purity products including propane, butane, and condensate. This feedstock will be transported to the facility via truck. Egress options include rail for propane and truck for propane, butane, and condensate.
Pivotal Energy Partners' specific action they are requesting from Town Council is the re-zoning of lot 4G to Heavy Industry use.
The project has been in the works for nearly three years. The regulatory and permitting process has started including D56 application, development permit and engagement with Alberta Environmental. The project team is secured, with fabrication, land, engineering, and procurement underway. Once all the permits have been approved and completed, Pivotal Energy hopes to begin construction in May or June of this year.
After the presentation the floor was open to council to ask any questions about the planned facility.  (see the Feb. 13, 2023 issue for the full story)

Family Literacy Day celebrated at Edson Public Library

by Niki Luymes
 
Feb 6, 2023 issue: Saturday, January 28 was a big day at Edson Public Library.  Not only was it the Library's 75th birthday party, it was also Family Literacy Day.
There was no shortage of activities from 1pm to 4pm as families could come out and enjoy free treats, crafts, and storytimes. 
Family Literacy Day has always been a partnership with Edson Public Library and Edson and District Community Learning. It is the focus of a national event that takes place once a year.
It serves as a reminder for families to consistently practice and encourage literacy related activities as a family.
This includes things such as reading stories, singing, rhyming, and other activities that facilitate strong literacy skills. “Every year we do this to  celebrate Family Literacy Day,” said Josephine Bunz-Clark, Library Clerk and Adult Learning Coordinator with Edson and District Community Learning. “Hopefully it promotes people coming in to the library and all the things they can access here.” 
The event was well attended throughout the day. Many families took the time to come out and enjoy the activities.  From storytime with Miss Terry to parent-led craft, all the activities planned for the Library's party supported the  goals of Family Literacy Day.  Some of the crafts included mini story books and flower pens.  All those who attended received a free book and could enter a draw for even more prizes. 
These activities also served to draw attention to everything the library has to offer.  From free board games, to the open play area, to the immense catalogue of books and movies, the Public Library offers things for people and families of all ages.
“That's what the library is for,” said Bunz-Clark. “It's for you to bring your kids. People don't come to the library because they have babies or small children, and they think that's not for them.  It's totally for them.”  Patrons hoping to encourage Family Literacy in their homes can also check out the 'bag of books' which are specially curated with stories and activities to do at home.

County Council votes on creating Municipal Planning Commission

by Dana McArthur
 
Jan 30, 2023 issue: Yellowhead County Council gave third reading to the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) Bylaw 23.22 during their January 24 meeting.
A Municipal Planning Commission offers the municipality another option for facilitating development requests for unique or contentious development proposals. This approach allows for increased public engagement during the development approval process.
Shortly after the adoption of Land Use Bylaw 09.21 it became evident, according to County Administration, that due to the spectrum of developments which could be approved under some uses, there was not the certainty of outcome in permitting processes which residents had become accustomed to.
Standard practice has been that Administration (as Development Authority) makes the decision on Development Permit applications, with unique or contentious development proposals coming before County Council.
Some residents have requested a change to the current process for the more unique and/or contentious development proposals that are applied for. Creating a MPC and populating this commission with elected officials is one method to address this matter.
Creating a MPC has been discussed at previous Governance and Priorities Committee meetings and the bylaw underwent several draft revisions. First and second readings of the bylaw were passed at the January 10 Council meeting.
During the January 24 Council meeting, Councillor Shawn Berry made the motion to give third reading to Bylaw 23.22.
Councillor Brigitte Lemieux said, "It's my position that creating an MPC is simply [adding] another layer of bureaucracy with very little gain. Therefore I will not be supporting this motion."
Councillor David Russell said, "While I echo Councillor Lemieux's sentiments on this, it's become apparent that the majority of Council supports trying out a Municipal Planning Commission, so I think we need to move ahead."
Mayor Wade Williams said, "We have heard a lot from the residents and I feel that by passing this it gives them another layer to bring their concerns to, prior to some of these decisions being made for rezoning. For those reasons I would support this."
Council then passed third reading for Bylaw 23.22. Council also passed a motion to appoint Councillor Soroka, Councillor Giezen, Councillor Lowe, Councillor Mitchell and Councillor Groat as members of the Yellowhead County Municipal Planning Commission.

Questions raised regarding hot tub leak at Leisure Centre

Hot tub to remain out of service; focus centered on YCE Multiplex construction
 
by Niki Luymes
 
Jan. 23, 2023 issue: On January 17,  Edson's Town Council voted on whether to direct Administration to proceed with an additional investigation into the ongoing leak of the hot tub at the Edson and District Leisure Centre. The presentation on the matter was made by General Manager of Community and Protective Services Bob Beck, and Recreation Manager Krysta Hawboldt.
During the assessment of the facility in fall of 2022, leakage from the existing hot tub was confirmed on the exterior of the building and in the basement of the facility.
Council was shown the water issue during a facility tour in 2022. It was noted that this was a longstanding issue that has been worked on multiple times with no resolution, prior to the 2022 assessment.
With the Town and County actively pursuing redevelopment of the Leisure Centre, including construction of a new aquatic facility, questions have been raised regarding shutting down the existing hot tub for the foreseeable future of the current facility. The closure of the hot tub would be a significant loss of amenities for facility users.
The architectural and engineering team working on the YCE Multiplex project have recommended against reopening the hot tub until the cause of the leakage is determined and it is confirmed that the subsurface conditions in and around the hot tub pose no hazards. In particular, the engineer and contractor raised concerns that there may be potential voids in the ground caused by the long-term leak of water from the hot tub.
Given the costs involved in exploring and implementing interim solutions, it is unclear the extent to which staffing and financial resources should be invested in solutions.
The preliminary estimate for the engineering/consulting work to investigate the hot tub matter is approximately $50,000. The Town office states that the costs of actual repair or temporary solutions are hard to predict without the engineering study, however, one community in Alberta is currently planning to replace their hot tub at a cost of approximately $450,000. This is also a cost-shared facility with Yellowhead County. 
Although the County is aware of the issue, they have not yet been formally consulted on the matter of conducting additional investigations. 
After further consultation with the design team, it is now recommended by Town Administration not to pursue further investigation.  Instead, the focus and resources should be put towards development of the new YCE Multiplex project. The uncertainty surrounding further investigative work would mean such efforts could potentially go to waste if no viable or cost effective solution can be found. 
Councillor Greg Pasychny stated, “I definitely do not support spending money on that hot tub.”
Councillor Krystal Baier agreed with Councillor Pasychny, but also asked if there was a possibility of putting a portable hot tub in for temporary use. “I’ve seen hotels put Arctic Spa hot tubs in as their hotel hot tub. Is there any possibility that something like that could fit in the pool or aquatic centre at all?” 
Beck answered that they would need to talk it over, however, “There are some code issues we might have, so it might not be so simple.” Beck added that the cost of installing something like that may not be worth it, considering how long it would be in use. “It could be quite costly for us to do it. I know it sounds simple, but nothing is simple for government.”
Councillor Peter Taylor stated that as a user of the pool he understood the desire to get the hot tub up and running, but he had no desire to sink money into the situation. “My only concern is if there's any damage, like underneath or in the ground, that may cause issues with future construction.”
“[The architectural and engineering team] didn’t seem concerned with that,” answered Beck, “They’re anticipating that we’re demolishing that entire pool. So, I don’t think they’re concerned about that."
Councillor Taylor added, “I guess the challenge is now, that we have a significant portion of that facility that is unavailable. I hate to think about reducing fees or something like that, but we are asking people to pay the same amount that they would when they had a hot tub."
Beck responded, "It is a significant loss of amenity and we’re hearing from people that it is a beloved part of the pool, and people are missing it."  
Chief Administrative Officer Christine Beveridge added that Administration would require a motion to further investigate the options, be it fee reduction or otherwise."
Councillor Pasychny added, “I understand that it’s a loss, but at this time we need to focus on the new facility and get shovels in the ground so we can get this thing built."
Councillor Trevor Bevan said that he agrees with Councillor Pasychny. “I wouldn’t support lowering any fees, because there’s only a handful of people using it.”  He also added that he wouldn’t support the temporary hot tub idea because if the cement does not support it, it would only lead to more issues.
Mayor Kevin Zahara concluded the discussion by saying that when he saw this item on the agenda he felt just like the rest of council. “It’s up to $50,000 and what comes after the $50,000? We've got a 40 year old building and all of a sudden you do something and something else breaks. It’s unfortunate. I know people are very disappointed. But I think it speaks to why we are building a new facility, and why the urgency to get shovels in the ground this year.”
Following the report, Council voted against the motion to proceed with additional investigation into the hot tub issues. Resources will instead be focused on the development of the new facility.
“We understand that the hot tub is a popular feature for facility users, but, considering all of the information, Council felt it wouldn’t be fiscally prudent to move forward with putting any more resources towards this issue. I know this isn’t the news anyone wants to hear, but our focus needs to be on the new facility which will hopefully break ground later this year,” Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara stated later in a release.
Administration will continue to review programming to ensure quality and value for patrons of the facility until the new multi-plex is constructed.

YCE Multi-plex revised grant moves ahead

by Dana McArthur
 
Jan 16, 2023 issue: Both Town of Edson and Yellowhead County councils approved excluding the Multi-plex facility gymnasium from the grant tendering process. If included in the revised grant application, there would be no option of eliminating this program area if tenders came in significantly over budget. Projections suggest it could exceed $70M.
The grant being applied for is based on a construction cost of $50M. The grant funding being applied for is $20M.
A revised grant application was needed with the switch to the new plan of transforming the Leisure Centre into the new Multi-plex facility.
Both councils agreed the gymnasium will continue to be included in the project scope of work and tendering process, as will the costing of a second arena.
"Our intent is still to build the gymnasium and to include it in the scope of work and the tendering process, but just exclude it from the grant application," said County CAO Luc Mercier, during Yellowhead County's Council meeting on January 10.
The two municipalities jointly submitted a draft amended grant application to Government of Alberta ICIP representatives, with the preferred concept design and project costing, for review and feedback.
The representatives recommended the removal of the gymnasium component of the application, as the current costing projections exceed the $70 million budget. By including this component, both municipalities would have been obliged to include the gymnasium in the final project regardless of tender results, and would therefore not have the option of eliminating this program area if tenders came in significantly over budget.
On January 10, both Councils voted to approve the joint submission of the cost-effective concept design amended grant application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program without the gymnasium program area, and further, that Councils direct their respective Administrations to include the gymnasium in the overall project scope and for design and tendering purposes.
It will likely take 3 to 4 months to receive a response back on the revised application.

Bill C-21 amendments could impact rural farmers, hunters

Jan 9, 2023 issue: by Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
 
The Liberal federal government brought forward several proposed amendments to its gun control legislation, Bill C-21, in late November which could potentially lead to many rifles and shotguns commonly used for hunting prohibited.
 One major change in the proposed amendments would add a definition for “assault-style” firearms, which is currently not defined in Canadian law, and would also include a clause to ban any long gun capable of accepting a detachable magazine able to hold more than five rounds of ammunition.
 “Bill C-21 is deeply problematic in and of itself,” said Battle River-Crowfoot MP Damien Kurek.
 He adds there were significant problems with the bill, even before the proposed amendments were “dropped on the table in the eleventh hour,” and says the proposed amendments are a “backhanded, undemocratic approach” by the Liberal government.
 “A bunch of firearms meant for hunting and farmers to protect their property, and sports shooters-these are important activities; for hunters and farmers, it's integral to their livelihoods,” stated Alberta's Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro during a virtual roundtable with rural media on Friday, December 9.
 Bill C-21 was initially meant to ban handguns in a bid to reduce violent gun crime, but critics say the proposed changes are a significant departure from the original intention.
 Both Minister Shandro and MP Kurek share concerns the federal Liberal government is using the image of “scary-looking” firearms to take them out of the hands of legal gun owners in Canada.
 Conservatives are not the only ones with concerns around the proposed amendments to Bill C-21, either.
 The amendments are also facing opposition from NDP and Liberal MPs, and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) also publicly stated it could not support the bill as it is currently presented due to the impact it would have on Indigenous hunters and communities, many of whom currently use firearms on the proposed banned list.
 Minister Shandro noted the Liberal government was previously accused they would use Bill C-21 to “eventually go after hunters and sportsmen,” and says this is exactly what is being proposed with the amendments to the bill.
 MP Kurek acknowledges there is a rise in violent crimes and gun violence in the country, but says the proposed amendments do not address the real problem; he adds, in most cases, guns used in violent crimes are often illegally obtained through means such as cross border smuggling.
 He also expressed concerns over “softened penalties” and reduced mandatory minimums for some firearms offenses outlined in Bill C-5, which received royal assent in November.
 Minister Shandro shares similar sentiments, noting the fact Canada does not currently track illegal gun crime-an issue he says he has brought up to federal Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino.
 He worries the proposed changes are not focused on safety, but rather on politics and targeting law-abiding Canadians.  (Drumheller Mail Dec. 14, 2022)
 
Weekly Anchor Editor's update: Minister Shandro has sent a letter to the federal minister of justice informing him that Alberta will be taking back constitutional jurisdiction for charges related to the federal Firearms Act. According to Shandro, provinces have constitutional authority to handle Criminal Code matters, including charges related to the Firearms Act.

 Walk-in Clinic opens at Shoppers Drug Mart

by Niki Luymes
 
Dec 26, 2022 issue: On Friday, December 16 the Town of Edson became home to one of the first ever Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacist lead Walk-in Clinics. The clinic is only the forth of its kind in the province. The first three locations opened in Lethbridge, Fort Saskatchewan, and Brooks over the course of the last year.
“I'm just incredibly excited about it,” said Callen James Kenyon, local Shoppers Drug Mart Clinical Pharmacist and Associate owner of the Edson location. Kenyon has been living in Edson for the past 7 months and it very excited for this opportunity. “Obviously it's a huge initiative, it's one of the first of its kind nationwide. So I'm incredibly grateful to have the opportunity in Edson, a community that I think could really benefit from it.”
The official ribbon cutting for the Edson location happened on December 16, with the clinic fully opening to the public on Saturday the 17th.  The new clinic features two top of the line examination rooms, within close proximity to the pharmacy. Both Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara, MLA for West Yellowhead Martin Long, and Todd Small, VP Operations at Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as others from Shoppers Drug Mart & Loblaws corporate offices were present for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“I think it's fantastic,” said Mayor Zahara. “It's really going to enhance the health services in our community. I think one of the great things too is that you don't need to be a Shoppers customer to come down here and utilize the services. It's open to the community as a whole.”
“It's a great way for this clinic, and pharmacists, to get the word out about just how broad their scope of practice is,” said MLA Long.  The Province of Alberta is the only province that allows for Pharmacists to fully utilize their training in this way. A Clinical Pharmacist is able to help with minor injuries and/or illness, prescription refills, travel health, vaccinations, lab testing, and chronic pain management.
The hope is that clinics like this will alleviate some of the pressure put on the Alberta healthcare system, and specifically local medical clinics.  “We know that access to the primary heath care services have been an issue across the country for sometime, and over the past few years as we dealt with COVID it has gotten worse and worse,” said Todd Small, VP Operations at Shoppers Drug Mart.  “We're ready to do our part and really help close the gap that's there in the public healthcare system.” 
The Shoppers walk-in clinic will be operating 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6 pm. The walk-in clinic will not affect the day to day workings of the current pharmacy or the store itself, both of which will still be open their usual hours.

 YCE Multi-Plex Centre preferred concept approved

by Niki Luymes
 
Dec 19, 2022 issue: The YCE Multi-Plex Centre preferred concept was under discussion at the Town of Edson Council Meeting the evening of December 13.
Since September 2022, the YCE Multi-Plex Steering Committee has been working on design concepts for the Leisure Centre which involve both new construction and renovation to achieve the service level desired by the Town and County.
Upon completion of the Edson & District Leisure Centre facility condition assessment in September, it was reported that this facility was deemed suitable for re-use and could support continued utilization for another 50 years.
The project architects, Dialog Architecture and Engineering, have developed two design concepts: the Cost-Effective Option” and the “Minimum Disruption Option.”
The Cost-Effective Option proposes a new aquatic centre and one new NHL-sized rink/arena. This would involve the demolition of the existing aquatic centre. Centennial Arena would be renovated for ice sports (hockey, ringette, etc.), and Memorial Arena would be renovated for curling.
The Minimum Disruption Option proposes a new aquatic centre and two new NHL-sized rinks. This would involve demolition of the existing aquatic centre. Centennial Arena would be renovated for gym/fieldhouse purposes and Memorial Arena would be renovated for curling.
Based on construction estimates, the Cost-Effective Option will be within the project budget, but the Minimum Disruption Option would exceed it. Ether renovation option would be completed during the Centre’s off season to allow users to access the facilities as long as possible. 
This recommendation is within the overall project budget of $70 million. $20 million in capital funding has been included in the 2023 Budget. It is hoped that further efficiencies may be found during the design and procurement stage which may allow for additional amenities or a modified design to be considered while remaining within the overall budget.
Councillor Greg Pasychny made the motion, "That Council approve the Cost-Effective concept design option. This design includes a new aquatics centre and one new ice surface, the conversion of Memorial Arena to a curling rink facility, upgrading the existing Centennial Arena, and allowing for the addition of a new gym space and walking track on the front of the existing structure for the purposes of the ICIP grant application."  
“I’m very please to share this update today, we’ve been working very had to reach this stage in this process,” said CAO Christine Beveridge. 
Mayor Kevin Zahara stated, “This latest design is fiscally responsible, responsive to the region’s needs, and very exciting. We are making use of what we already have and building new facilities within our original budget. Edson is very excited to see this move forward.”
A vote was then taken for the first motion and it was carried unanimously.  The motion was then made that Council direct Administration to further investigate costing options for a second ice arena, which was also carried. 
During the morning of December 13, after a closed meeting on the subject, Yellowhead County Council also unanimously voted in favour of the Cost-Effective concept.
“I’m excited by the new concept and look forward to the next phase of the project. This new design is a great reuse of the existing facility while also building new components to better serve the region,” stated Yellowhead County Mayor Wade Williams.
The next step in the process will be the submission of the amended ICEP grant application to the Federal Government.  “We anticipate the time line to be about 6 months,”  said CAO Beveridge.
The Town of Edson and Yellowhead County continue to pursue the Federal and Provincial grants needed to make this concept a reality, and to further develop the concept to allow the municipalities to secure a builder in the spring of 2023.

Town joins effort to improve regional rail service

by Niki Luymes
 
Dec. 12, 2022 issue: During the Edson Town Council meeting on December 6, Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA) representatives Brock Mulligan, Senior Vice President and Natalie Peace, General Manager of Weyerhaeuser raised concerns regarding the impact of diminished rail capacity.
In response to an increased number of circumstances whereby the rail system, owned by Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, has been unreliable or failed to meet service obligations, the AFPA states, it is approaching affected municipalities to highlight the issue and lobby all levels of government for support.
The group contends that, "poor railway service is having a negative impact on communities throughout rural Alberta. Our most important industries, including energy, agriculture, and forestry, are suffering from unreliable service. This undermines competitiveness, tarnishes our reputation as a reliable supplier, and harms local jobs. While Canada's railway duopoly continues to make record profits, they are failing to invest those profits back into the people and infrastructure to fulfill their service obligations."
Rail capacity issues can have a direct and adverse effect on Edson's economy
 Together with local municipal partners, AFPA's plan is to lobby at the federal and provincial levels, and with railways themselves, for better service.  "We are seeking both advocacy and financial support from our municipal partners to execute the strategy and stand up for our communities and industries."
Led by Mayor Jackie Clayton of Grande Prairie, the coalition seeks to include a diverse group of representatives from municipalities and industry. Already 8 different communities have agreed to be a part of the delegation. This number includes towns such as, Whitecourt, High Level, and Slave Lake, and counties such as Northern Lights County and Northern Sunrise County. Mayor Zahara has been working with representatives from other municipalities and industry to discuss railway service in Alberta over the past few weeks.
The AFPA asked the Town for $2000 towards the coalition for the implementation of the advocacy plan compiled by Canadian Strategy Group. The budget from CSG to execute the strategy is $35,000 over 4 months. Potential travel expenses for participation in a delegation to Ottawa is estimated at approximately $1,300 (assuming two nights accommodation).
Councillor Ed Moore began the open discussion by asking,  “How long has this problem been around and what do you think are some solutions to it?”
Peace answered by saying that the issues are usually seasonal, happening more often in the winter and that they have existed since she came to Edson in 2018. “As for solutions, I think we really need to lobby and work with the rail services and make sure they understand our needs. And then, how do we prioritize the forestry sector when they're planning and reach out to them for solutions as well.”
“It's a problem every winter,” said Mulligan, also in answer to the question. “One of our asks for railway is going to be that they need to figure out how to deal with this because it's not like winter is a surprise phenomena. The service is consistently poor during those months. So this is a big part of the ask —for them to make the proper investment in people and infrastructure to make sure the service is delivered in the months we need it the most.” 
“You mentioned eight communities that signed on in favour. Have any communities not, or been hesitant, or haven't gotten back to you?” asked Councillor Peter Taylor.
“There are a handful of communities that we don't have confirmation from,'' answered   Mulligan.  While no specific names were given, the call went out to most of northern Alberta and they are waiting for all responses.
“Regarding lobbying the federal government,” said Councillor Krystal Baier,  "have you had any successes with them so far?”
“Our conversation as AFPA with the federal government are in their early stages,” replied Mulligan. “We're planning, as part of this lobbying effort, to have more in-depth conversations. The recommendations are there, and now it's time to put some resources and actions in place to help them stick.”
Mulligan and Peace ending the open question time by thanking Mayor Zahara and the Council for being supporters of the process.  “That support means a lot to people all over our industry,” said Mulligan.
Following the presentation council put forward three different motions relating to the matter presented. 
First, that Council contributes $2000 to the Alberta Railway Advocacy Coalition. That Council appoint Mayor Kevin Zahara to the Alberta Railway Advocacy Coalition. And that Council approve Mayor Kevin Zahara's participation, along with associated expenses, in an Alberta Railway Advocacy Coalition delegation to meet with government officials in Ottawa to further the Coalition's advocacy efforts, if required.
Councillor Gean Chouinard asked, “Since this is federally funded, with CN, have we brought this to the attention of our local MP?”  Mayor Zahara replied by saying that doing so is a part of the whole strategy.
All three motions were then carried unanimously by council.
During the discussion on the first of the three motions Councillor Baier presented the idea that the issue should also be presented to Alberta Municipalities.  “Maybe this is something they could advocate for us as well.”  The idea was supported by the rest of council. This led to the creation of a motion that council direct administration to bring back a draft resolution for Alberta Railway Advocacy Coalition to be considered at the 2023 association convention.  This motion was also carried unanimously. 

Shop local this season

Editorial by Dana McArthur.

Dec 5, 2022 issue: With the holiday season upon us, it's time to contemplate what shopping local means to a community. There are a whole lot of reasons why this makes good sense.
One of the biggest factors is that for every dollar spent locally, more than half goes back into the community to support local charities, programs, and the local economy.
The small business sector is also a major contributor to local employment and quality of life in the communities they serve. The donations small businesses make to local charities and non-profit groups are often the lifeblood of these organizations.
Newspapers also play a defining role, with local journalism that not only covers our municipal governments, but highlights the efforts, struggles, and successes of our local community groups.
The problem is that local shopping and the local advertising dollars are being continually sucked up by massive foreign corporations like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Even our locally generated journalism is usurped without payment by these social 'media' giants to feed their bottom line.
The irony for newspapers is that we have more readers than ever before —and more ways than ever to reach them. More than eight out of 10 Canadians read community newspapers every week, according to the latest research from News Media Canada and government.
So, before you shop online check out this video on shopping local in Edson available on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4u6r_W-PKA
Please remember that Google, Amazon, or Facebook are not going to donate to your local non-profit group or add to local employment —nor will they be spending money to send a journalist to our local council chambers or write local stories that benefit the whole community.
Simply put, a community cannot prosper and grow without the support of local purchasing.
By making deliberate choices to shop local, and read local, you are not only helping to support local jobs and the tax dollars those businesses and their employers generate —you are also helping to support local journalism.
Shopping local matters —and local journalism matters— now more than ever!

Off-highway vehicle use broadened in County

by Dana McArthur

Nov 28, 2022 issue: Off Highway Vehicle Bylaw 18-22 was discussed during the Nov. 22 Yellowhead County Council meeting.
The bylaw regulates the operation and use of off-highway vehicles on highways under the jurisdiction of Yellowhead County. The current bylaw only allowed OHV use on routes from a property to a trailhead.
After the draft bylaw was presented to Council at a previous GPC meeting, Administration was instructed to bring the bylaw back for debate and approval at a regular Council meeting.
"The current bylaw was passed in 2012 and was written based on current usage of the day and Traffic Safety Act within Alberta," said Albert Bahri, General Manager of Protective Services. "The current bylaw was forwarded to Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer LLP for their review. There were several changes recommended in this review."
Administration also reviewed the current bylaw in its entirety. Statistics were also reviewed to determine any major enforcement issues that were encountered with the current bylaw. No major issues were found.
"It was clear in the research that OHV use in hamlets and county roads is done in a very responsible manner. The one major issue in hamlets is that the current bylaw only allows travel from a residence to a trailhead. It doesn't allow for operation throughout the hamlet for extended periods or on a regular basis. This means that there are daily violations of the bylaw," said Bahri.
The changes in the new bylaw will allow operation of off-highway vehicles in hamlets and county roadways on a regular basis, but in a safe and controlled manor to include proper operation in county ditches. Not just to go from a property to a trailhead.
"The changes have been reviewed for their enforceability and do not pose any challenges to the Traffic Safety Act," said Bahri.
Mayor Wade Williams said, "I think this is a very good plan moving forward. I think we will get really good support from residents in the hamlets."
Councillor Shawn Berry asked, "Are we actually promoting the use of county ditches for off-highway vehicles? I thought we were promoting on road, licensed and insured."  Bahri responded, "We are recommending they drive on the road when possible. There may be times when they need to use the ditch, but they have to operates properly in the ditches and not ripping it up —we have regulated that."
Council passed all three readings of the bylaw, bringing it into effect.

Community Care Foundation fundraising for additional cataract suite equipment
 

by Dana McArthur
 
Nov. 21, 2022 issue: During Yellowhead County's Governance and Priorities meeting on November 15, the Community Care Foundation of Edson & District requested support for the Ophthalmology Program at the Edson hospital. The presentation was made by their president, Ruth Martin-Williams.
Martin-Williams advocated for the need of addition equipment for the cataract surgery suite at the Edson hospital.  This would enable patients to have their pre-operative assessment in Edson. Currently patients must travel to Sherwood Park, she stated.
"Everybody had to go to Edmonton for [cataract] surgery and it increased the wait time for many surgeries up to two, three years. With cataract surgery now in Edson we are able to do it in about two and a half weeks." Over 560 people have had surgery at the new clinic since 2021.
"What we don't have for cataract surgery or any other additional special surgeries at any of the hospitals in the province is equipment, and that's where Community Care Foundations come in," she stated. Unlike AHS, Community Care Foundations are able to issue tax receipts for donations.
"Rather than having to drive to Sherwood Park to have the assessment done," where wait times are up to 3 hours, "we want to have these assessments done in Edson," said Martin-Williams.
She stated that the surgeon is prepared to complete the pre-operative assessment in Edson, but requires the following equipment: an IOL master and a macular OCT machine, totalling approximately $150,000. Martin-Williams requested the financial support of the County.
The cataract surgery suite's catchment area extends to all of Yellowhead County, west to McBride in BC, and north past Grande Cache. Martin-Williams stated they will also be asking the other communities for donations.
Mayor Wade Williams thanked Martin-Williams for the presentation. Council passed a motion to request Administration to return the request to a future council meeting for deliberation.

Municipal government register as lobbyists?

Editorial/Comment by Dana McArthur
 
United Conservative Party members want all municipal politicians and staff to register as lobbyists if they have any dealings with provincial officials.
At the UCP's annual convention on October 20, party members voted in favour of a resolution to require municipal representatives to register as lobbyists if they're in touch with the provincial government.
This means Mayors, Town and County CAO's, and staff would be required to register as lobbyists. Then, before speaking to any elected official like an MLA or a provincial civil servant, they would need to indicate who will be doing the lobbying, what ministries they will be contacting, and what topics they will communicating about.
By definition, the current Act states municipal civil servants are not lobbyists. "A member of a council or other statutory body charged with the administration of the civic or municipal affairs of a municipality, or an individual on their staff" —are not lobbyists.
Now, UCP resolutions are not bills, and bills are not legislation —but each can be very short stepping stones to laws. And this new stone is particularly concerning for local government.
Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said, "Such a move would create further divisions between levels of government at a time when we need to be working together."
"Elected officials should be able to talk to each other without layers of bureaucracy in the way. Lobbying legislation is in place for those who are trying to get contracts or funding/legislation changes for private interests. We are elected by people and represent our constituents, not private business interests," Mayor Zahara stated. "What is going to be next? Residents have to register to speak with their elected representatives?"
The UCP resolution seems to apply a ponderous red-tape solution, without a problem. "It [municipalities] should require to be held to the highest standards of accountability and transparency in all areas of their activities/operations and exercise of their judgment and authority…"
As a journalist, editor, and publisher I have been covering municipal council meetings for over 30 years. And in my experience, municipal councils (albeit not perfect) are extraordinarily better at accountability and transparency than their provincial counterparts —and far better at responding to journalist inquires.
 A peculiar example of this is an unprecedented email we received last week from Premier Danielle Smith's office asking about removing The Weekly Anchor as a listed "publication interested in media opportunities engaging with the Premier and Cabinet Ministers for your articles and stories". We can not fathom why a Premier's office would ask about closing down communications with any rural Alberta newspaper, particularly one with our substantial readership. Of course we asked to remain on the list!
"Municipalities are the creation of the province through legislation. To have legislation in place restricting access to municipal representatives makes zero sense and would only create a further narrative that the government is not interested in working with municipalities. Our communities are stronger when we work together," concluded Mayor Zahara.

The Evansburg Legion: Then and Now

by Shaylyn Thornton

Nov 7, 2022 issue: The Evansburg Legion Branch No. 196 has been an important part of our local communities since they were granted their charter in 1946.
Branch No. 196 had 12 founding members who started off meeting in a small room in the top of a red house, as they had no Legion building for the first three years. After the local community hall burned down, Branch No. 196 collaborated with Evansburg community groups to help rebuild the hall as “The Royal Canadian Legion Community Hall.”
While part of the rebuild was covered by insurance, much of the funds came from money raised by the Legion. The hall reopened to the public in 1949. Since that time, the hall has gone through several expansions, adding wings on each side and digging out the basement.
Legion membership has also grown considerably over the years. Currently, there are just under 200 members, although pre-COVID they saw numbers as high as 350.
Past President Floyd Fausak noted that about 75% of members are locals from the Evansburg, Entwistle, and Drayton Valley areas, however they still have long-time Legion members who keep up their membership despite having moved away.
Fausak said that he has been a member for about 15 years now, and a board member since 2013. "We're a pretty proud group, and our main goal is to be of service to veterans and veteran's families," he said.
Fausak became involved with the Legion through his father, who was a World War II veteran. He said that there were many soldiers from the Evansburg area, both male and female, who went off to fight in WWII.
Fausak estimated the number to be around 250 people who went off to fight for our freedoms during the second world war, based on photos and records he was able to find. Afterwards, many WWII veterans continued to make the Evansburg area home.
The Evansburg Legion also has a cenotaph, which is erected near The Royal Canadian Legion Community Hall. The cenotaph represents all veterans lost in any war or in peacetime.
One important aspect of any Legion is its dedication to the community. The Evansburg Legion has been a great example of this throughout the years, donating to and helping many organizations, both local and outside the community.
Hockey, dance, seniors' groups, and Camp He Ho Ha are just a few of the beneficiaries of the Evansburg Legion. Fausak noted that, in the “glory years with lots of volunteers” there were “10s of thousands of dollars given away every year.” While donating to that extent is not currently possible, Branch No. 196 continues to find ways to help when they can.
One way the Evansburg Legion has continued to give back is through their purchase and operation of the Evansburg Lodge. Out of 22 residents, 4 are veterans. The Evansburg Lodge is run by volunteer board members.
The community hall is also benefited by “dedicated volunteers” who “work very hard” on everything from events to facility maintenance. With “massive utility bills,” these volunteers make such a difference in the continued operation of the building.
You can also help support your local Legions by taking part in events, visiting their establishments, or buying a membership. The Evansburg Legion holds several events that you can support, including weekly meat draws, holiday-related events and, of course, their yearly Remembrance Day celebration.
Fausak noted that the Evansburg Legion's celebration is “traditionally one of the largest” in the local areas, often seeing approximately 250-300 people. During COVID, only a cenotaph ceremony could be had, but this year the group is able to do a full service, parade, and wreath-laying. After the ceremony, the Lounge will be open, and the band Flat Broke will also be providing some live entertainment later in the day.
Everyone is welcome to attend, no membership is required. You can find more information about this event and others on the Evansburg Legion's social media.
Fausak also encouraged the public to support your local Legion, wherever you're located. “We're all struggling right now,” he said. “The main thing is to get out and support your Legion. The very least we can do is be grateful for our freedom.”

Wild boars detected in Yellowhead County

by Dana McArthur
 
Oct 31, 2022 issue: During the Yellowhead County Council meeting on Oct. 25, Administration provided an update on wild boar in the county.
Wild Boars (Sus scrofa) are considered a pest when at large in Alberta. Raising wild boars or starting a wild boar farm in Yellowhead County is not allowed, as wild boars are prohibited animals under Yellowhead County's Animal Control Bylaw and Prohibited Animals Bylaw.
Wild boars can weigh over 150 kilograms (330 lbs) and stand about 1 meter (3.28 feet) at the shoulders. They are protected from cold weather by a thick woolly undercoat. These highly adaptive animals can travel more than 40 kilometres in a day. Their ability to survive in almost any climate makes them among the most prolific and invasive species in North America.
Wild boars usually live in the forest and emerge to devour crops, contaminate water sources, and harass livestock. They also carry diseases that can be transmitted to domestic pigs.
"In May 2022, Yellowhead County Council received an update on the Wild Boar Bounty program, and as per the recommendation by Administration, Council declined to continue participating in the program," stated Jennifer Benson, County's Agricultural Services Supervisor.
Since that time, Administration twice received reports of sightings of wild boar within the County from Agriculture Forestry Rural and Economic Development (AFRED).
"Information was not provided regarding whether these sightings have resulted in damage to property and/or livestock, the report was mainly to notify staff that wild boar are present," said Benson. "Additionally, we have not heard from landowners regarding wild boar impacting their property."
Staff will continue to remain in contact with provincial representatives to stay informed on the status of the wild boar population as well as any new initiatives or strategies that can be implemented to address the concern.
"We are not getting a lot of sightings and because we don't have a bounty program, we are not getting [boar] ears sent in. But it is of the opinion of Administration that a problem does exist," said Benson. "The two neighbouring municipalities to the north have a significant problem. It's just a matter of time before those boar encroach our borders."
Councillor Brigitte Lemieux said, "I read an article on eDNA testing to monitor wild boar populations. Could you expand on that?"   
Benson responded, "eDNA stands for Environmental DNA. What they do is test water bodies in the area for wild boar DNA. What it allows us to do, is know if its a single boar or a sounder [herd of wild boar] in the area."  Benson explained they do not have plans currently to bring the technology to the county, but Administration is talking with neighbouring municipalities regarding the costs and benefits to residents.
Councillor David Russell said, "Wild boar are a problem and they grow exponentially. Currently we are dealing with the viewpoint that they are a recreational opportunity for hunting. This is an erroneous viewpoint, because once the population grows to a certain point, there is no stopping it. They will grow completely out of control. The State of Texas estimates the impact on their agricultural industry at $1.4 billion per year. We have an opportunity to stop this 'infection' now and we need to continue working on it."
Councillor Shawn Berry was not in favour of eDNA testing at this time, "There are trappers out there who want to trap them for the ears, and people who want to use them recreationally for hunting. So it's a divisive topic at this time, and I am hoping for more clarity on what we want to do in the future. It's hard making a decision because we are not seeing them, we are not testing for them, and people are arguing on the side of keeping them wild —and others want to be farmers. It's still way too controversial at this time."
 Councillor Russell pointed out that these are not "pink little piggies" running around, "These are large nasty creatures. The first human fatality has been recorded in the United States. These animals will attack human beings without hesitation. The time to deal with this is now."
Council for Yellowhead County voted to accept the wild boar update as information.

Edson's 2023 Draft Operating Budget introduced

Oct 24, 2022 issue: Edson Town Council was introduced to the draft 2023 Operating Budget on October 15.
During the budget consultation earlier in the year, residents identified a desire for a service level increase for roads while maintaining service levels in most other departments. The $30.5 million draft budget responds to these priorities by increasing the budget for transportation through increased infrastructure funding and snow removal. The budget also includes funds for casual staff to assist with outdoor rinks, a sidewalk maintenance program, and a proposed backflow prevention program.
The draft budget also includes the completion of the final phase of the Covid Recovery Strategy ($295,000), which was implemented to reduce taxation impacts through the pandemic, including a tax reduction of 5% in 2020.
The Town of Edson faces numerous challenges with this budget due to increased inflationary pressures, rising gas and electricity prices, and a substantial mandatory increase in the policing contract. To lessen the taxation impact, additional funds from the Revenue Sharing Agreement with Yellowhead County have been allocated towards the operating budget. Efforts have also been made to reduce spending and increase revenues where possible.
The base budget accounts for 4.52% of the proposed increase, which is comprised of mandatory items such as policing, inflationary costs, compensation, and other obligations including 2.46% for COVID recovery. The additional 3.19% is made up of improved service level changes which were reviewed during the introductory budget meeting with Council.
Council requested further information to provide costing for the hiring of additional summer students to support the road program, dust control on the Willmore Park access road, and the reinstatement of the skating oval at Water Tower Park on an annual basis. The operational effects and costs for these items will be brought back to Council for further consideration.
When all of this is taken into consideration, the draft budget proposes an approximate taxation increase of 7.71%. Each percent represents approximately $120,000 in revenue.
The draft budget will be adjusted in the coming weeks before being brought back to Council for deliberation.
The Town of Edson is committed to providing a high level of service to meet the growing demands of our community, all while being fiscally responsible and ensuring long-term sustainability.

Yellowhead Ag Society renovation receives County support

by Dana McArthur
 
Oct 17, 2022 issue: Crystal McNernie, Interim General Manager of Community Services for Yellowhead County, updated council on the Yellowhead Agricultural Society's request for funding for repairs and abatement costs due to the discovery of mould in the riding facility.
Repairs are estimated to cost approximately $456,226.75. The society has confirmed financing for the project and is looking to start repairs immediately.
"At the September 27th council meeting the society shared they were no longer looking to pursue a new facility, but instead want to extend the life of their current facility," said McNernie.
The Yellowhead Agricultural Society operates and maintains a 16,000 sq ft community indoor riding facility that offers a variety of programs, workshops, and events to the public while also providing a home base to other local clubs and service groups within the area. To date, they have 346 members, 194 of which are Yellowhead County residents.
Over the past number of years, the society has been pursuing the construction of a new facility to better meet the needs of the community. Yellowhead County had committed $500,000 in the 2022 capital budget to assist with this endeavor.
However, with rising costs, a new facility is no longer feasible and the society is now pivoting its approach and looking to extend its current facility's life.
The request to Yellowhead County is for a $100,000 commitment toward the project, which, if approved, would go directly towards paying back the financing loan.
"In the 2022 budget we do have $500,000 allocated towards the society for a new facility. A portion of that money could be used to fund this request and the remainder could be redirected to general revenue," said McNernie.
Councillor Brigitte Lemieux said, "I think this facility is extremely important to the region." Lemieux added that she would support the request under two conditions: that the lender provide County with written confirmation that the society has secured the funding; and the society provides written confirmation that County funds will only be used to offset the original loan principal.
Councillor Dawn Mitchell said, " I agree with Councillor Lemieux that those two conditions should be part of the motion."
Mayor Wade Williams said, "I was very happy to see the Ag Society decide to try and repurpose the existing building rather than building something new at this time, because I am sure the costs would have more that doubled."  He added, "With the two conditions Councillor Lemieux added, I think I can support this motion and get them back up running. I think that would be good for the residents that use this facility."
With the two added stipulations, council approve the funding request from the Yellowhead Agricultural Society for $100,000 to complete their facility repair and mold abatement project; and that the remaining $400,000 originally allocated towards the Yellowhead Agricultural Society's new facility project be moved from capital to general revenue.

Memorial Wake and Reconciliation held in Edson

by Deanna Mitchener

Oct 10, 2022 issue: During the course of three days, starting on September 29, the Edson Friendship Centre welcomed the community to take part in a Memorial Wake and Reconciliation at the Lions Park in Edson, as part of  Canada's National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
A ceremonial fire that burned for 24 hours was a special part of the event, and drummers from the Hinton area performed during the start of the fire. Near to the fire was a tipi (tepee), which are structures that retain culture significance and are constructed for special functions. A couple of canopies were also set up for Indigenous Elders.
The fire-keepers build, maintain, and keep watch over the fire for 24 hours so it’s never unattended. Fire is the element that requires the utmost care and attention, since it can bring new life and take life away.
Fire can devastate land during times of drought but can also provide a natural cleansing of Mother Earth, Elder Jackie Whitford explained.
When asked the reason behind the ceremonial fire, Renay Woelfing said, “It is a memorial wake for all the children that are beginning to be found. For the ones that have been found, the ones that are still lost, our present children, and future generations.”
“The fire is also open to the community for their own prayers. Once the fire is opened, all prayers are open to our creator. Anyone can come to the fire, we will have tobacco pouches, which are tobacco offerings that can be used,” Woelfing explained. “So they can pray for their loved ones, as well as for anyone who may be sick or struggling, and even for their ancestors that have gone on.”
    Chad Dickson supplied all of the wood, providing enough for the 24-hour ceremonial fire as well as for a fish demonstration and for the making of Bannock.
   September 30th began with a free community breakfast, where everyone was welcome to attend and enjoy. This was followed by a ceremonial smudging, prayer, and then the lighting of the fire. Out of respect, those in attendance refrained from photography.
Everyone that attended was offered the opportunity to take part in the ceremonial smudging, and the drums for the ceremony also were smudged. ‘Smudging’ involves the burning of sacred herbs used for ceremonies and rituals involving smoke.
Elder Jackie Whitford explained, “The smudging we did today was the opening of calling all our ancestors and little ones down to join us. The songs that were sung are a cleansing. It’s a prayer for all the little ones to join us.”
Many individuals from all walks of life attended and took part in this special ceremony, which is significant. “Everyone is invited, it doesn’t matter who,” said Whitford.
The drummers, Bowdrie and Grayson Roan, sang while playing the drum. Drums are considered sacred amongst Indigenous people and represent the heartbeat of people, animals, and Mother Earth.
While it was hoped that a blanket exercise would be a part of the event, it was cancelled as not enough people signed up. The blanket exercise will likely be offered again soon.
Before heading into the Lions Park Hall for lunch, individuals took part in a round dance. Regardless of background, the Round Dance is a time when all members of the community can come together with family and friends to join hands. Round Dance is a community gathering of all people.
In Indigenous cultures, Elders are always given great respect as they are looked upon as leaders, teachers, role models, mentors, and healers. The Elders lead the way into the lunch.
The huge luncheon was offered to the community free of charge. There was plenty of good food to enjoy over the course of the ceremonial event. Between lunch, supper, and a breakfast before closing remarks, everyone was sure to leave satisfied.
Elder Jackie Whitford explained the importance of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. “It is a learning for everyone about our culture. They need to know that we feel this still today. It is still going on and continuing,” she said.
“So if we don’t start helping people to understand us and where we come from, the racism will continue. It’s from all cultures, not just one culture. If we don’t stop and take the time to learn about each other, we are never going to understand each other,” Whitford explained. “It’s not about the 'poor me, poor me' anymore, that’s all gone.”
"It’s time we share our culture, not just ours, but everyone’s culture. It is so important to learn and understand each other,” Whitford continued. “I’ve learned so much from other cultures, it’s amazing. We need to teach our children… Be proud of who you are and not ashamed.” Whitford stressed the importance of education and learning about not only your own culture, but the culture of those around you.
The three-day event was filled by many stories being shared, prayers, crafts, food, and new friendships being formed through teachings, listening, and the encouragement of opening your heart and mind to another’s culture.

County adds library renovation project funding request to 2030 budget deliberations

by Dana McArthur

Oct 3, 2022 issue: During the Yellowhead County Council meeting on Sept 27, council discussed the Edson & District Public Library's request for financial support to complete both an extension and renovation to their current library facility.
The library board requested $538,000 in financial assistance from the county for the project. Total project budget is estimated at $2,875,243*.
At the September 20, 2022 Governance and Priorities Committee meeting, members of the Edson & District Public Library (EDPL) presented to Council their plans to undertake both an expansion of their current library facility as well as interior renovations.
In a briefing to Council, GM Crystal McNernie with Yellowhead County stated that the proposed project would achieve: a welcoming, engaging design; increased capacity and functionality; accessible and inclusive spaces; address safety and code compliance issues; and dedicated children and teen spaces.
Timelines indicate that the project will be tendered in quarter one of 2023, with construction beginning soon after. The library board anticipate a total project length of 12-18 months, with the facility being finished in its entirety by 2024.
To date, funding has been pursued through the library's own fundraising and reserves, provincial and federal grants, as well as through requests to both the Town of Edson and Yellowhead County Councils.
Council voted to direct Administration to include the $538,000 request from the Edson & District Public Library for 2023 budget consideration.

YCE Multi-Plex Centre Project Update

by Dana McArthur
 
Sept. 26, 2022 issue: The YCE Multi-Plex Centre steering committee asked DIALOG Design to do a condition assessment report of the YCE Multi-Plex Centre Project which has now been completed.
The draft report of the condition assessment and conceptual design of the Multi-Plex has been received and a presentation to both Administration and the YCE Steering Committee highlighting the findings of the assessment took place on September 13, 2022.
Yelllowhead County council had the opportunity to discuss the report during their Governance and Priorities meeting on Sept. 20.
GM Crystal McNernie stated, "What we found during the final report is that overall the structures of these three buildings are sound (Centennial Arena, Memorial Arena, and the Aquatics Centre) and can continue to support utilization over the next 50 years."
"This is great news as we were all sort of holding our breath waiting for this report to come in; great news for the potential of that facility and options we can now pursue moving forward," added McNernie.
Key findings from the report include that overall, the structures of all three program areas (Centennial Arena, Memorial Arena, and the Aquatics Centre) are sound and can support continued utilization over the next 50 years.
Recommendations for the future use of these program areas were focused on whether the space could be re-used in its current form, re-purposed to accommodate another use, or should be replaced entirely.
The next steps for the project will focus on developing strategies in which the combination of new with renovated or repurposed buildings can deliver all the desired program areas as outlined in the statement of requirements, as set out by the planning committee. This would include the development of concepts for consideration by the Steering Committee, with a final concept being utilized to amend the grant application for funding.
Councillor Shawn Berry pointed out that due to the overall condition of the aquatic center, as laid out in the report, if it was better to replace the pool facility. The report indicates that, while the swimming pool facility is still safe for current use, it has many deficiencies which must be rectified to extend its useful life and a complete new build of a swimming pool facility is likely a more logical option to consider.
McNernie responded, "The aquatic center is recommended for complete replacement. The structure itself is sound. What we will be looking at is what use could that space have? Could it become a fitness center or a dry space? The aquatic center as you know it will not exist in the new facility. We will be looking at a complete replacement."
"Building a new aquatic center while keeping the old one functional and then repurposing the space is very positive —22,000 people a year use that facility," stated Berry.
Council accepted the YCE Multi-Plex Centre Project condition assessment and conceptual design draft report for information.
Yellowhead County and Town of Edson Administration will continue working with the architectural team to refine concepts to include all the desired components of the original plan: two ice arenas, a leisure and competition pool, a curling rink, a walking track and an exercise area. The goal is to have a final concept forwarded to both Councils for consideration before the end of 2022.   -with files

Jasper welcomes back visitors with end of fire threat

by Dana McArthur
 
Sept 19, 2022 issue: Jasper Mayor Richard Ireland stated, "We are able and eager to safely welcome visitors back to the community."
Line transmission power has been restored for Jasper and the Chetamon Mountain wildfire poses no risk to the town site or surrounding communities.  The town was switched to generators due to transmission lines being taken out by the wildfire. Residents were asked to conserve electricity amid intermittent outages.
The wildfire, which ignited September 1, was estimated to be around 6,000 hectares on Sept 14. About 100 firefighters and five helicopters were working on the fire. 
Despite dry conditions over the weekend, Parks Canada deputy incident commander of the Chetamon Mountain wildfire, Landon Shepherd stated they were able to keep the fire growth limited on both the critical north and south ends of the fire.
Reservations for Whistlers Campground through the Parks Canada system was to resume on September 20, with bookings available until October 10. Parks Canada will be keeping all other front country campgrounds closed for the season.
The back country reservation system will be reopening and all hiking trails not within the zone where the wildfire is still burning are open and have not been damaged.
During the Yellowhead County Council meeting on September 13, General Manager of Protective Services Albert Bahri said, "When the fire ignited we were able to watch that on our Aspen Heights camera. So we watched it develop from Friday straight through the weekend. That enabled us to do our planning to move equipment into place very quickly."
County worked with the Agriculture and Forestry department and Jasper Park on what the fire was doing, how it was moving and any points of concern, said Bahri. County deployed structure protection equipment including tanks in the Brule area for sprinkler protection.
"There is 15 kms of distance from the fire to Yellowhead County; the fire is very subdued. It did pose a hazard to surrounding communities. It was moving very quickly and was out of control. That threat is gone now," said Bahri.
Councillor Ken Groat, Division 8, Hinton Area/Cadomin/Robb stated, "On behalf of the community I want to thank you and Protective Services for bringing those tanks. People are thankful for what the County did."
Mayor Wade Williams also thanked Bahri for Protective Services' proactive approach and a job well done.

Residents bring flooding concerns to Edson council

by Niki Luymes 
 
Sept 12, 2022 issue: During the September 6 Town council meeting, members of the community came to present concerns about reoccurring flooding of their properties.
 Multiple residents of the Tiffin area of Edson came to speak about issues with the town sewer system that they believe are causing basements to flood during substantial amount of rainfall.
It happened in July 2019 and again on June 28, 2022. The group was represented by Melissa Weeteringen and Liane Richardson, who spoke on their behalf. 
Weeteringen began by giving a summary of her own experiences with flooding.  Both times the water came up from the floor drain.  The damage caused was upwards of $100,000 in 2019 and $90,000 in 2022.  Despite the presence of backflow valves they stated the water pressure coming up from the drains is significant.  New electronic backflow valves would cost around $18,000.
“Our main concern,” said Weeteringen, “is we just want to know where, why, and how water is getting into the sewer system.” Richardson added, “And why it cannot handle what’s coming in, in our area”.  They then asked if the town would be willing to help out with the cost of new electronic backflow valves, as other municipalities have done in the past.
“This isn’t a new problem in our community,” said Councillor Greg Pasychny.  “This it the third event. The first one, which was the worst one, was in the early 2000s.”  He continued to say that steps have been taken by previous councils to mitigate the issue. This includes legislation that prevents new builds from having weeping tile that ties into the sewer system, which causes the overflow. Older neighbourhoods like Tiffin are still connected in the old way and so have those issues.
Weeteringen responded that they know that town is aware. “We’re just wondering if there’s anything that can be done to help prevent it from happening again. [And] if the town is willing to work with us to come up with a solution on what we can do on our end and what the town can do on their end to make the problem go away.”
Mayor Zahara concluded, “We appreciate you taking the time here today. We will refer this to Administration and hopefully follow up with you in due course. And this will certainly be a discussion as we talk about our upcoming budget.” 

Edson BEST: Family Dance Party

by Niki Luymes
 
Sept 5, 2022 issue: As we reach the end of summer, quite a few activities and weekly events are coming to a close. 
Among those events are the free family activities provided by the Edson BEST (Bringing Empowered Students Together). 
The program is 1 of 38 provincial Mental Health Capacity Building In School Initiatives which help to build resiliency in all children, youth and families for successful and healthy futures.
Throughout the summer months BEST has been providing drop-in events of all kinds for people in Edson and Yellowhead County area.
Among the events that happened this summer was a Yoga and Journaling mindfulness event August 23, an Art Club and multiple Pop-up in the Park events across Yellowhead County. The final event of the summer was a free Family Dance Party at the gazebo next to Parkland High School on August 25 from 5 to 6pm.
Like most of their events, the Family Dance Party was done in partnership with a local group.  Professional dance teacher Amy Wesolowsky with the Edson Dance Academy was teaching kids and parents how to bust a move. Although there were small numbers at the dance party, there were big smiles as kids danced along. There were also snacks and cool drinks to enjoy during the breaks. 
While the summer winds down, Edson BEST isn't done with their programming. “We put on programming throughout the summer and throughout the year to provide mental health programming, usually free,” said Edson BEST coach Katerina Giovos. “We're sorry to see the summer coming to a close, but excited for kids to enter back into their school routine.”

Wildwood Ag Fair Fun Returns

by Niki Luymes

August 29, 2022 issue: The Wildwood Agricultural Grounds was bustling with activity as crowds gathered for the Annual Wildwood Agricultural Fair on August 19. 
The fair started 8 am with a pancake breakfast and continued with the parade at 11 am. This was followed by various fun activities going until 4 pm.
The day closed with a supper at the Wildwood Legion at 6 pm.  The Wildwood Ag Fair features both judging competitions and fun activities for all ages.
Various livestock, plants, and handicrafts were there for the competition. Since this was the first fair in two years due to the COVID restrictions, the number of competitors was lower than previous years.
Despite that, there were many events going on throughout the day including horse, beef, sheep, goat, poultry, and rabbit shows. The handicrafts and produce bench show featured a wide variety of items. 
The full schedule of events started at 1 pm with the jelly and watermelon eating contests and basketball games.  After that, the fun continued with a greased pig chase and a catch the rooster chase.  The last of the scheduled activities was the nail pounding and log sawing competition at 3 pm. 
To go with the scheduled events were plenty of drop-in games and activities. From the money pit dig to face painting, rock climbing, axe throwing, and balloon animals there was no shortage of fun things to do.  There was also options for snacks and lunch, plus live music from Singing Sawyer and Friends. 
This is the 81st year for the annual fair, not counting the two year break.  Wildwood Agricultural Society President and Fair Coordinator, Wilma Swinkels said, "It’s good to be back —but it was nice to have the break."  The Wildwood Fair will return again in 2023. “So long as I have the volunteers we will keep going,” said Swinkels.

Ice cream fun traveling across Yellowhead County

by Niki Luymes
 
August 22, 2022 issue: Ice cream fun is traveling across Yellowhead County.
For each week in August and into September, Yellowhead County is sending out free games and ice cream to different parks and playgrounds across the county.
People of all ages are welcome to come out to enjoy the treats, while also interacting with the community.
On August 15, the event landed in Peers at the Family Fun Playground. For an hour from 3 pm till 4 pm, members of the community were able to enjoy getting out and have some fun.
“The goal of events like this,” said Recreation Program Coordinator with Yellowhead County Nicole Parven, “is to get people using the county playgrounds and parks and help residents get to know one another, socialize, and maybe make some new connections.”
The Peers event saw a good turnout with upwards of 30 to 40 people making their way to the ice cream cooler on site.
To go with the cool treats, there were also multiple lawn games available. Croquet and lawn golf proved especially popular.
The events are put together by the Yellowhead County Parks and Rec Department. The first of these ice cream socials took place on August 12 in Brule from 1 to 2 pm and had a turnout of close to 50 people.
Future locations include Robb on August 23 from 1-2 pm, Evansburg in September on the 1 from 1-2 pm, Wildwood on September 1 from 3-4 pm, and finally Marlboro on September 2 from 1-2 pm.
All Ice Cream Socials are weather dependant, so keep and eye on the skies and the schedule to make it to the next one happening near you.

Edson's school zones to share same speed/time limits as playgrounds

August 15, 2022 issue: Changes are underway to school and playground zones in the Town of Edson.
A thorough review of all traffic zones identified many inconsistencies and showed that most school zones contained playgrounds and gathering spots that were used outside of normal school hours. As such, Council made the decision that all school zones will become playground zones in the Town of Edson.
In January of this year, Town Council also passed Bylaw 2273, which set the new active times for playground zones in Edson. Playground zones are now in effect from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm, 7 days a week, year-round.
New signage is being posted over the next few weeks starting with Phase 1 of three phases totalling 13 zones. Target completion date of the three phases is set for mid-late fall.
These changes will update all former school zones to the new playground zones as part of the harmonization project.
While signage is being erected, the focus will be on education on the new hours and new zones, as opposed to enforcement. The goal is to allow everyone time to adjust to the changes with enforcement going into effect as the new school year commences.
Background
At their January 11th meeting, Council gave all three readings to Bylaw 2273, amending the Edson Traffic Bylaw. The amendment harmonizes all school and playground zones to playground zones only.
The CAO has been authorized to designate these zones and a review was conducted to ensure the zones fit the current pedestrian traffic patterns.
These adjustments come after a thorough review of all school and playground zones in 2020/2021. During the review it became evident that many zones were inconsistent and many school zones contained playgrounds that were used more than just during school hours.
It’s hoped these changes will provide greater clarity and consistency to drivers and increase safety in potential hazard areas when school is not in session. This could include organized events and general use of playgrounds and sports fields after school hours. Safety is paramount, especially in the winter when the sun sets well before 5:00 pm.
For more information on these changes, and maps of the zones being updated, visit www.edson.ca/zones.

Peers Gold Dust Daze returns

by Niki Luymes
 
August 8, 2022 issue: Summer 2022 has seen the return of many annual events. This past weekend was the return of the ever popular Peers Gold Dust Daze. From July 30 to August 1 people flocked to the McLeod Valley Recreation Grounds to enjoy food, activities, and entertaining events. 
The weekend was full of things for the whole family, and despite shifting weather, was consistently busy.  While entrance to the grounds is always free, some activities required tickets. The official opening ceremonies were at noon on the 30th. Both Yellowhead County Mayor Wade Williams and local MLA Martin Long were there to show their support for the event.
The weekend had no shortage of activities.  What started with a parade through Peers downtown on Saturday at 10am, did not slow down until the last of the slopitch games on Monday.  There was something for all ages to enjoy.  For the kids there were bouncy castles, gold panning, arts and crafts, kids tube races, and a free Sunday night family dance.  There was also weekend-long camping available for any who wanted.
Each day of the event started with a pancake breakfast. There were also lots of food trucks on hand offering both amazing meals and great snacks for spectators. Some of the featured competitions were a show and shine, horseshoe toss, mounted shooting, horse pull, tubing races, and ranch events. Gold Dust Daze also runs a weekend-long slopitch tournament that coincides with all the other events. Saturday night ended with an 18-and-up dance with a live concert by local country artist Tyler Babiuk. 
This year was an amazing return to form for the annual event. Not including the pause during COVID, the event has now been running for 44 years.  Watch out for next year's event on the August long weekend. 

County hosts Bear Chase Triathlon

by Niki Luymes
 
August 1, 2022 issue: July 21 saw the return of the Bear Chase Triathlon held at Bear Lake Park and Campground.
The Bear Chase Triathlon is a kids and family event that has been running for close to five years with a pause in 2020.
This year's event had 104 racers in four different age categories.  The youngest group was the under-fives then the 6-7s, 8-9, and finally the 10-11s.
All racers began with a short dash through the lake, continued with one or two bike laps around the campground, depending on  age, and then either a half or full lap run to the finish.  An 12-13 age category had been offered in previous years, but was removed due to lack of entries.
This year was unique as it was the first time that a prize was offered for the top ranked racers. Stone RV in Whitecourt donated both the main prize and multiple items for draws. 
There was also a free barbecue run by Integra Tire/Advantage Towing.  They served up hamburgers for racers and their families from 4:00 till 7:30 pm.  The event began at 5:30 pm with the first race and the last one finishing about 7 pm.
Fun activities were also available into the evening.
The Bear Chase Triathlon was planned and staged by Yellowhead County. “We wanted to feature Bear Lake as a great place to explore in the county,” said Nicole Tarves, Recreation Program Coordinator with Yellowhead County.  “We really wanted to encourage families being fit together. It's not about necessarily winning, but just completing it, trying it, and everyone working together and enjoying themselves.”

Summer Festival Returns to Edson

by Niki Luymes
 
July 25, 2022 issue: Great weather and fun rides made for an amazing time at this year's Edson Chamber of Commerce Summer Festival from July 13th to 15th. 
Main street Edson was filled with rides, games of chance, local food trucks, and local businesses offering great deals to all who came by.  Each day the festivities would begin at noon, and go into the evening.  Wednesday and Thursday ended around 9pm, with the whole event coming to a close at 5pm on Friday. 
“The Chamber's last summer festival was 2019, before COVID,” said Chamber Manager Kathy Arndt.  “Our numbers this year were considerably up from 2019, which is absolutely awesome.” 
This year was the first time that tickets and wrist bands were available for preorder online.  There were over 50 rides, courtesy of West Coast Amusements. 
Popular amongst festival goers was the new Speed ride that towered over the town.  Other classic rides available included the Ferris Wheel, Carousel, and Bumper Cars.  Overall, there was a great mix of rides for dare devils and casual riders alike. 
A big hit this year was all the local food trucks. From Mexican to ice cream to the always popular elephant ears, there was more than enough for attendees to choose from.
Shopping the main street sales was also a big draw this year.  “People were just happy to get out, get on Main Street, get some good sales, have some rides and eat some carnival food,” said Arndt.