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Silver gear wheels, one marked Process and the other Automation

Town to introduce automated call-in system for services

Town of Pincher Creek services, like utilities and finance, will soon be accessible through a new automated phone system. An administration report says the system will improve efficiency when handling incoming calls at the town’s main office.

“When the public calls, they will get the automated system that will allow them to bypass reception and pick the extension of the person or department they are trying to reach, rather than reception answering the phone and transferring it,” reads the report from administration.

Before giving approval, town council was assured that callers would still be able to talk to administration staff for direction.

The current phone system allows for the change to automation, so no added cost is expected. A rollout date has yet to be announced.

 

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Riley McKenzie walks three dogs down Main Street in Pincher Creek

A last winter warm-up ahead of spring

It was downright summerlike in the southwestern corner of Alberta for the last weekend of winter.

In fact, it was one for the history books, with a 119-year-old daily maximum temperature record for Pincher Creek falling by the wayside. Sunday afternoon, the mercury reached 20.1 C, beating the old mark of 17.8 set in 1905. Data for the community has been recorded since 1893.

That same day, the Crowsnest Pass area weather station recorded a high of 16.5 C, up over three degrees from 2007’s 13.4, and Waterton Park’s weather station also broke its 2007 mark of 16.6 C, establishing a new daily high of 17.9.

Brocket’s temperature reached 21.5 C, tying with Fort Macleod, Claresholm and Red Earth, in the northwestern corner of the province, as Alberta’s Sunday hot spot.

March 16 was also a record-setting day as Crowsnest Pass and Waterton beat 2010 highs with readings of 14.7 and 15 C, respectively. Pincher Creek tied its 1972 record of 15.6 C.

 

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The warmth continued Monday, with all three weather stations reporting record highs. Waterton registered 17.6 C, Pincher Creek 16.7 and Crowsnest Pass 16.3.

Spring officially began Tuesday at 9:06 p.m., and with it comes another weather shift.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Monday predicting cooler temperatures and between 15 and 25 centimetres (six to almost 10 inches) of fresh snow for the Pincher Creek area.

A cold front passing through the province is responsible for the heavy snowfall, which was forecast to begin Tuesday night and last about 48 hours. A snowfall warning is likely and, as usual, precipitation will be highest on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

With daytime highs below zero, the cold weather will continue into next week.

 

 

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Mark Maunsell in front of Excuses Tavern at the Alberta Hotel on Main Street Pincher Creek

New owner for the Alberta Hotel

One of Pincher Creek’s longest-standing businesses has a new proprietor.

Local entrepreneur Mark Maunsell has taken charge of the Alberta Hotel on Main Street.

“My plan is to try and help rejuvenate the downtown, get some more life down here,” says Maunsell, who bought the establishment from David McQuaig in the fall.

“I know the previous owner of this property and the one across the street [the former King Edward Hotel site] and he’s been great to deal with. We approached him about purchasing across the street, and after we closed that, we started working on a deal for this place.”

First opened in 1885, the Alberta is considered the oldest standing hotel in the province.

With a dozen or so unoccupied rooms upstairs, Maunsell hopes to morph the space into four or five larger rental units.

“We have such a major shortage of housing in Pincher. The upstairs, the old hotel, right now is kind of abandoned and I would like to develop it into apartments, or maybe a B&B,” he says.

The old-style rooms are very small. Each has its own sink and shares a common bathroom. The new design would provide a more up-to-date living space.

 

 

While focusing on his latest venture, Maunsell was asked if he’s giving some long-term thought to what 729 Main St., the site of the former “King Eddy,” might look like.

While building regulations and requirements have changed, even in the four years since the heritage structure was destroyed by fire, the vision is to bring some of the former features that made it special into the new model.

“I’d like to see something modern,” Maunsell says. “A modern version of what was there. Bring back the frontage, have a restaurant, retail rental, hotel rooms, apartments.”

A return of the renowned stacked balconies is also among the considerations.

For now, though, Maunsell’s focus is on the Alberta Hotel, where patrons can karaoke to their hearts’ content on most Saturday nights.

“I’ve also been able to bring in a couple of  bands since I took over and we’ve had our two pool tables refurbished,” he says.

Once upgrades to the ground-level tavern are complete, the idea is to have live music once a month and hold special events like music trivia nights.

 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

MD of Pincher Creek temporary pumping station

MD confirms water in Crowsnest River despite media reports

The Crowsnest River has not run dry, although councillors and staff with the Municipal District of Pincher Creek have kept busy in recent weeks refuting a number of media reports saying otherwise.

“Our [water] intakes are constructed right near where the Crowsnest River historically passes, which is at the bed of the Oldman Reservoir,” says the MD’s utilities and infrastructure supervisor, David Desabrais.

“The river certainly has not been dry at any point during this water crisis. We’ve been pulling water from the Crowsnest River daily since at least Jan. 2. So, certainly not a dry river.”

Last August, the MD made the decision to institute a Stage 2 water restriction. Days later, levels on the nearby Oldman River dropped to historical lows — the level falling below the two intake valves that would otherwise collect the water supply. At this point the restriction was increased to Stage 3.

As a stopgap measure, MD council decided to truck in water, through the late summer and fall, to keep taps running with the intakes unable to do their job. This came with a high price tag — nearly $1 million at last count.

In late December, with water still near its intake, a temporary pumping station was set up on the river north of Cowley to provide a lion’s share of the MD’s water source. It will be dismantled once expected water levels return to the Crowsnest River.

“We’re making about two-thirds of our volume right now through the pumping setup that’s essentially hanging over the edge of the river,” Desabrais says. “Every morning our third-party contractor goes in and if there’s any ice will break it up as required.”

Once lowered into the river, the submersible pump goes through a series of processes before eventually ending up in the existing plant.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

“The water goes through a clarification/settling tank for minor treatment before we send it farther. It then goes through a filtering setup inside the nearby sea can,” Desabrais says.

“From there, it goes directly into our intake pipe, our existing piping and into our water treatment plant.”

Although far less than before, the remaining one-third or so of the water needed to keep tanks full at the plant is still being trucked in.

“We are still supplementing our levels every day with potable water,” he says. “There’s a few contractors in the town of Pincher Creek that have water hook-ups within their shops and they’re trucking out water directly to our plant every day to start in the morning.”

But Desabrais and the MD know the current situation is only temporary.

“We’ve looked at a ton of options for securing our long-term water needs,” Desabrais says.

“We’ve submitted all of our regulatory approvals for a project to build new infiltration structures that would be located sub-surface near our existing intakes, about 300 metres to the west on the bed of the Oldman Reservoir.”

If approved, two buildings would house a new framework of pipes, which Desabrais says would be hydraulically connected to the Crowsnest River underground and could still draw water during periods of drought.

“From there,” he says, “we would pump it up to our intake building, which is located about 700 metres to the southwest, which our existing intakes go to.”

While some permits for the proposed project have been granted, Desabrais says the MD is still waiting on seven others before work can begin.

Once all approvals are final, the hope is to break ground as early as the end of March.

 

 

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PIncher Creek dart players Dennis and Diana Plaza, and Rick and Michelle Visser

Shootin’ for the bullseye

Pincher Creek Legion hosted the organization’s provincial senior mixed darts tournament, held Friday and Saturday.

The home club was represented by couples Dennis and Diana Plaza, at left, and Rick and Michelle Visser.

The foursome finished seventh in the 16-team tournament. A team from Fort Saskatchewan will represent Alberta at nationals.

 

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Tick on a green leaf, on awareness message from Alberta Veterinary Medical Association

Local veterinarian reminds us every day can be tick season

Like fleas, ticks can quickly become a nuisance for your four-legged friend and, if not treated in time, can lead to bigger problems, like Lyme disease.

It’s a message the veterinary community wants to get out this month as it marks March as National Tick Awareness Month.

Usually picked up in woodlands and forested areas of the region, these eight-legged arthropods love to attach themselves to warm-blooded bodies.

“Any and all,” says Dr. Kari Grandoni with Peak Veterinary Clinic in Pincher Creek.

“Humans, dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, pet birds — really anything that goes outside and, certainly in our area, wildlife is the big one that brings them in.”

While you might think it’s still winter and there’s no concern, Alberta’s temperature swings and the desire to take our family members with us to the backwoods year-round give ticks the constant food source they crave.

“Take today, for example, where it’s minus 20-ish and it’s supposed to get to [plus] 18 on the weekend,” says Dr. Grandoni. “So, when you get these wild temperature fluctuations, really we have shifted from telling our clients ‘spring and fall’ to actually year-round surveillance.”

Ticks are traditionally active above 0 degrees Celsius but Dr. Grandoni says some studies have shown them thriving in cooler minus digits in dens or when they attach themselves to wildlife. For dogs that are off-leash on a regular basis in the backcountry, the suggestion is for year-round preventive measures, like a monthly treatment.

“What we also recommend when you come home after an outing is to check over your pet,” she says.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Ticks “typically tend to go to the hairless area of your pet. So, in and around the ears, under the collar, under the front legs, between the toes, and around the base of the tail. Maybe, after 24 hours, do so again. What happens is the tick starts feeding right away. They’re very tiny…about the size of a pinhead when they attach.”

Depending on the colour of the coat, they may be hard to spot. That changes once they’ve eaten and is the reason for checking a second time.

Unlike fleas, though, where there might be distinct scratching, how your pet reacts to ticks may not be the same.

“There’s no real clinical sign,” says Dr. Grandoni.

“It’s something that the owner may have found, something that they want us to check out or we’re doing a physical exam and we find a tick that the owner wasn’t aware of. In extreme infestations, they’ll get some hair loss. Sometimes you’ll get a dog itching at it, but that’s not the norm.”

With increasing options on store shelves, it’s a good idea to check with your vet first on what’s best for your pet.

“We’re now suggesting systemic products for dogs and cats,” she says.

While tick collars were highly recommended at one time, some product lines were linked to high toxicity levels.

Dr. Grandoni believes preventive measures are the best way to protect your pet. But equally as important is a thorough check of your pet after the journey and then 24 hours later.

“Never overlook the tick test,” she says. “If we can safely remove a tick in the first 24 to 36 hours, then the risk for transmission of disease will be greatly reduced.”

More details can be found online at TickTalkCanada, a Canadian Veterinary Medical Association resource.

 

 

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Exterior view of Triple T Energy building in Pincher Creek

New Pincher Creek fire hall location chosen

A new, larger fire hall and ambulance station to replace their cramped space is something first responders in Pincher Creek have long been hoping for. As of last week, that’s now becoming a reality.

“This is very exciting for our department as we make the move towards a bigger facility,” Chief Pat Neumann said Friday after receiving the keys to the former Triple T Energy Services building on Hunter Street.

“This is something that’s been much-needed for a long time.”

The new Pincher Creek Emergency Services home, just east of the RCMP detachment off Highway 6, will get some modifications and renovations. For now, however, there’s no set timeline.

“All of our equipment [from the hall on Charlotte Street], we’re going to try and reuse and take what we can out of the existing facility, and that includes all of our apparatus and tools,” Neumann said.

A larger space will create a safer working environment for staff and the department’s volunteer core, he added, and a fenced compound next door will provide the means to carry out practice training on such things as vehicle extrications.

The new facility was also chosen for its location.

“It was one of the things we considered when we looked at a new hall,” Neumann said. “No. 1, highway access for our equipment to get where it needed to go, and second, easy access for our crews to get here quickly from their homes.”

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Dave Cox, MD of Pincher Creek reeve and a former fire chief, is also thrilled to see the possibilities the new building will bring.

“We need the floor space. The current building is 40 years old and our crews are literally stepping on bumpers to get from one lane to another because there is so little room,” Cox said.

“We’ve renovated that building quite a few times, taking recreation space, turning it into living space and office space. We’ve pretty much made the best use of that building as we could, so this [new] opportunity will be good for us.”

Pincher Creek Mayor Don Anderberg agrees.

“One of the big issues we’ve got is space and an older building, so having the chance to buy this building and the property that goes with it is a real plus. It’s been on the radar screen for a long time, knowing that we’re going to have to do something, renovate the old building and add space or go to a new facility,” the mayor said.

“So, when this building came up for sale, we looked at it and saw that it could be a really good fit for what we envisioned for the future.”

The current facility at 655 Charlotte St., in place as a hall since the early 1980s, has brought with it some limitations over time, Anderberg added.

“One thing that has been talked about over the years is a ladder truck. [We] weren’t able to accommodate that in the existing hall, so it gives lots of opportunities for future growth and change.”

 

 

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Northback donation to Livingstone Range School Division — Mike Young, Raegan Lazzarotto, Daina Lazzarotto

LRSD receives $75K corporate donation

As many as seven more schools in the Livingstone Range School Division will now be able to provide breakfast and nutritious meals for students, thanks to the generosity of one locally operating business.

Northback Holdings Corp. has announced it’s providing $75,000 each year, over the next several years, to help fuel the bodies and minds of an additional 1,000 students.

”Many of our students face food insecurity at home,” said Richard Feller, LRSD’s associate superintendent of human and learning services, in making the Feb. 5 announcement.

“Our nutrition program helps ensure students don’t have to be hungry and can focus on learning.”

While close to 1,000 students in the division are already being supported by funding from the province and the Breakfast Club of Canada, this contribution will supplement schools that didn’t otherwise receive extra grant dollars.

“The story behind [the donation] is one of our employees, her child had started to notice that some of her classmates weren’t bringing what you’d call a nourishing lunch to the school, and she asked if we could help,” Northback CEO Mike Young told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“I have a sister-in-law in Kingston, Ont., who did a program like this and I remember visiting the school, and it really resonated with me when our employee came to me. I didn’t hesitate.”

In its 2023 annual Raising Canada report, Children First Canada listed poverty as the sixth biggest threat to kids nationwide, stating that nearly 1.8 million children under the age of 18 were affected by food insecurity in 2022.

 

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Lucy Glavin bowling

Hoping to strike out

Pincher Creek’s Chinook Lanes played host to a tournament Saturday that combined youth bowlers with members of Club 55 Plus.

Seen here are Lucy Glavin, 13, from Cowley and David Cerbo, president of the Five Pin Bowling Association, both in their first of three games on the day.

 

Lucy Glavin Bowling
Lucy Glavin
David Cerbo bowling
David Cerbo

 

 

 

Damage coin box

Vandalism behind temporary shutdown of Pincher Creek standpipe

An apparent thief or thieves targeting the coin box at the Pincher Creek water standpipe, operated by the MD of Pincher Creek, managed to put the entire unit out of commission.

In a social media post Friday morning, the MD reported that due to vandalism, the standpipe is currently not operational.

At this point, there’s no indication how long it will take to get it back up and running.

Those needing potable water will need to travel to Cowley.

Unlike the MD’s standpipes in Pincher Creek and near Beaver Mines, which are both lower and upper fill, the Railway Avenue water station in Cowley is only upper fill.

 

 

This photo from Sept. 10, 2023, taken just downstream of the Oldman River Dam spillway, shows how bad things were last year. Early predictions are the region could see similar drought-like conditions again this summer.

Oldman Watershed Council receives provincial grant

With record-low water levels throughout much of the province, including our region, the Alberta government has announced a $3.5-million investment in what it hopes will be the continuation of making the province more naturally drought resilient — helping to prevent floods and improve water quality.

On Jan. 16, it announced the awarding of eight grants, including one for $416,784 to the Oldman Watershed Council.

The council, which monitors the Oldman River Basin, is receiving the money for a project called Recovering Natural and Community Assets in the Oldman Watershed.

“The project will focus on natural infrastructure education and restoration to support communities impacted by drought,” said a government release.

It’s welcome news for the Oldman Watershed Council’s executive director.

“This vital grant will boost community resilience across the Oldman watershed at a critical time when southwest Alberta is facing extreme drought conditions,” said Shannon Frank.

“It will allow us to restore the essential natural infrastructure that reduces drought impacts for those being affected the most — agricultural producers, First Nations and municipalities.”

Provincial Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz feels it’s never been more important. Her government has already put up $46.5 million to address the crisis.

“By working with local communities and partners, we are helping mitigate the impact of future floods and droughts in communities across the province while creating healthier water bodies for future generations,” she said.

The minister is encouraging environmental groups and local governments to apply for funding under the province’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration umbrella.

The next application deadline is Sept. 15.

 

 

 

Black and white tuxedo cat casts a shadow on Groundhog Day

More winter predicted, more winter coming

It was almost unanimous, but Alberta’s Balzac Billy has gone against his Canadian and American counterparts in forecasting six more weeks of winter. 

The man-sized mascot popped out of a large dirt pile at an event just north of Calgary at 8:15 Friday morning wearing sunglasses and carrying a snowbrush.

Billy’s prognostication contradicts real-life groundhogs Wiarton Willie, Punxsutawney Phil, Atlantic Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam and Fred Jr. in Quebec, who all failed to see a shadow after emerging from their burrows — foretelling of an early spring.

Confusing as it might be, Friday’s prediction follows a fifth-straight day, Thursday, where new daily maximum temperatures were set across parts of the province and our region.

The mercury in the Crowsnest Pass reached 12.7 degrees Celsius, beating the old mark of 9.3 achieved three years ago. The warm spell also saw the thermometer shoot up at the Waterton Park weather station to 14.3, surpassing the 10.9-degree record established in 2020. Pincher Creek’s peak at 14.0 was just over three degrees better than 2021’s 10.7.

 

 

That might be where the record-setting temperatures end, at least for highs,  however after Environment Canada issued a Winter Storm Watch just before sunrise Friday morning, for areas just east of the mountains.

“In the far southwest corner of the province, rain is expected to develop Saturday morning with amounts of 10 to 20 mm. The rain will then transition to snow in the afternoon.”

The watch includes a forecast of between 15 and 30 cm of snow on the ground by Sunday afternoon.

“Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow,” the weather statement added.

It also recommends avoiding travel, where possible, during the heaviest snowfall.

For the record, there was one other dissenting vote for an early spring — Barrington, Nova Scotia’s Lucy the Lobster also saw her shadow Friday morning.

But then, again, who’s ever heard of a crustacean predicting the weather … that’s just silly

 

 

Map of Canada indicating percentage of CEBA funding distributed by province.

The CEBA loan repayment — how will it impact Alberta business?

With the deadline now past, the president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce is worried that a large number of her members simply weren’t able to pay off their Canada Emergency Business Account loans in time to take advantage of the program’s key incentive.

According to the agency overseeing the funding, 125,015 Alberta-based businesses were granted CEBA loans of up to $60,000. For those able to repay $40,000 by Jan. 18, the remaining $20,000 was forgiven.

“Prior to Christmas, we did a quick call button survey to see where businesses were at and we had over 500 respondents,” the Chambers’ Shauna Feth said. “Of which, 41 per cent were saying they weren’t anticipating being able to repay the CEBA loan. And that, for us, is a really high number.”

Feth said the key piece for most is the forgivable portion.

“The extension has been applied for three years to actually repay the loan, but when you look at a small business, in a lot of these cases they’re not evening getting the five per cent refinancing. They’re having to refinance at much higher rates,” she explained.

 

 

Feth said there’s a substantial impact when you think of interest payments on the $20,000 and the additional burden that it places on a small business.

“We also surveyed those same 500-plus respondents through our data research, and out of those, 42 per cent of them anticipated being in poor financial health, actually paying or refinancing the CEBA loan.”

Topping the list of businesses struggling to pay the loans back were ones that were forced to shut down during the pandemic, including personal services, housing and accommodation, as well as travel and tourism.

“Any kind of those industries that had no recourse or a way to recoup their losses,” Feth said.

Even more detrimental in all of this — according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, nearly 50,000 businesses that were granted a loan were later found to be ineligible.

According to the CFIB website, businesses that applied for a refinancing loan on or before Jan. 18, 2024, through their financial institution, qualified for a special extension to March 28, 2024, to keep the forgivable portion. But it points out there are terms and conditions.

 

 

 

 

Torsos of three medical staff with crossed arms. One in a white coat and two in blue scrubs.

Alberta’s health-care future front and centre at engagement sessions

The Alberta government is looking at changing the province’s health care, a system many describe as broken.

A series of in-person engagements began last week, hearing from health-care providers and community members on what the government called some of the challenges Albertans are facing.

Two of those gatherings were held Jan. 24 in Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek. Unlike a packed town hall meeting in August 2023 at Pincher Creek Community Hall, last week’s sessions can be best described as roundtable discussions.

“I think any time that there’s change there’s an opportunity, and with opportunity a chance for folks to participate, to contribute,” said Sarah Murrant, speaking on behalf of the province.

“What I understand, and why we’re running this entire process, is not every answer is there.”

Discussion during the two-hour event centred around topics including experiences and outcomes, but also on a proposed unified health-care system the current government says will enhance local decision-making and lead to early detection and intervention. Just what that might look like is yet to be determined.

Chelsae Petrovic, MLA for Livingstone-Macleod, feels any conversation must include patient care outside of the larger centres.

“It’s extremely important that we look at rural health. That we start to see the unique challenges and some of the unique solutions that, maybe, can be brought forward,” she said.

 

 

A former nurse with 13 years in the field, Petrovic knows all too well about the challenges.

“I think it’s great to meet with front-liners, coming from that experience and understanding where they’re coming from. Being able to, I guess, sympathize,” she said. “And it was only seven months ago that I was in those same positions, so I really do understand.”

Some health-care providers at the Pincher Creek event, who didn’t wish to go on record, felt the agenda items lacked details and “weren’t sure what they were signing up for” in any future plan.

Dr. Gavin Parker, a local physician, agreed engagement is important, however.

“I think we have a system that has long failed Albertans, in particular the lack of investment in primary care and rural services. But if these conversations lead towards improving that, then it was time well spent,” he said.

One of the talking points zeroed in on Alberta’s burgeoning population and the added stress it’s putting on the health-care system.

Parker acknowledged there’s more at play.

“I think what you’ve seen in the last few years is not only an exodus of family physicians in the province or people going into early retirement, but also changing the scope of their practice.”

 

 

He said the end result is less focus on primary comprehensive care and more doctors working toward a niche practice.

“Until we train, pay and support rural family physicians better, the situation won’t change,” he said. “The problem is we’re running into a dearth of physicians who are trained as rural comprehensive physicians, and when they are trained they aren’t compensated adequately.”

Parker also noted a drop in specialty practices, like maternity, declining to less than 50 per cent in the south zone compared to when he started his training.

“So, these young doctors that want to provide comprehensive rural care, including maternity, feel utterly unsupported to do that right now because of the current situation,” he said.

The sessions in Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek were the second and third of more than 40 visits scheduled to communities across Alberta.

Although there aren’t further meetings scheduled for the southwest region, a complete list of the remaining sessions can be found online and you can have your say here.

 

 

Tim Oczkowski, man dressed in warm camo jacket, ski pants and hat, on a cold day in Pincher Creek

Warm spell sets new daily temperature marks

Although not blistering temperature-wise, it was a record-breaking Sunday in almost every region of Alberta.

According to Environment Canada, as of 6 p.m. Sunday, 55 weather stations had either tied or surpassed previous daily maximum temperature records and several more should follow once all the numbers are crunched.

In Pincher Creek, the mercury reached 11.8 degrees Celsius, beating the old 8.7 mark set in 2005.

Crowsnest Pass, not to be outdone, saw its temperature peak at 10.4, replacing the old 2015 record of 8.7.

The Waterton Park weather station recorded a maximum reading of 12.0, up from 2016’s 11.1.

Pincher Creek also had another distinction on Sunday: the highest recorded Alberta wind gust for the day of 107 km/h, recorded overnight at the airport. Waterton was close behind with 92 km/h.

Monday should add another chapter to the story.

The forecast temperature for both Pincher Creek and the Pass is 14, surely shattering the old Jan. 29 standards of 9.3 (2017) and 7.6 (2012) respectively.

Coincidentally, Jan. 29, 2023, was also the date of the coldest-ever minimum recorded temperature in Pincher Creek, when the thermometer bottomed out at -31.1 C.

 

 

Dana Connelly, woman with short grey hair and dark-framed glasses with a selection of Alzheimer's brochures

Alzheimer Society selects community ambassador

Pincher Creek’s Dana Connelly has a new added role in the community. After applying to become a volunteer with the Alzheimer Society’s Alberta chapter, she was chosen by the not-for-profit organization as the area’s community dementia ambassador.

“We’re really here to educate as many people as we can about Alzheimer’s and the different dementias,” Dana explains. “To also help relieve some of the stress of caregivers.”

A caregiver doesn’t necessarily mean a professional and in many cases can be someone in the family.

Most commonly referred to as Alzheimer’s, dementia is a debilitating disease that begins with mild memory loss and can progress to the point where a person may not recognize close family members or be able to carry on a conversation.

“My parents are both in their 80s,” Dana shares. “I have noticed some memory loss with my mother, maybe related to other things.”

Concerned, she reached out to the society to gather more information about memory loss. Part of the package she received asked if she’d also consider becoming a volunteer.

“So, I filled it out and sent it in,” she says. “I was thinking it was a good time in my life where I should be giving something back, spending my spare time doing other things.”

 

 

As ambassador, one of her first goals is to establish a local caregiver support group.

“I’m hoping to co-facilitate the sessions with a colleague, a community navigator, out of Lethbridge,” Dana says.

The gatherings are likely to start sometime in mid to late spring.

Until then, she suggests checking out the society’s website, alzheimer.ca/ab/en.

“There’s tons and tons of information, and the website is a great place for caregivers,” she says. “For people maybe starting to see signs of dementia or community groups looking to help.”

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and, as the name indicates, is meant to bring awareness to a disease which, surprisingly, still brings with it a stigma.

Alzheimer’s, Dana points out, accounts for 64 per cent of all dementias and while there are no definitive triggers, experts in the field believe that certain behaviours lead to a higher risk — high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity, among them.

 

 

There are ten warning signs that may indicate the presence of dementia

Memory changes that affect day-to-day abilities

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting things often or struggling to retain new information?

Difficulty doing familiar tasks

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting how to do a typical routine or task, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed?

Changes in language and communication

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit into a conversation?

Disorientation in time and place

Are you, or the person you know, having problems knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place?

Impaired judgment

Are you, or the person you know, not recognizing something that can put health and safety at risk?

 

 

Problems with abstract thinking

Are you, or the person you know, having problems understanding what numbers and symbols mean?

Misplacing things

Are you, or the person you know, putting things in places where they shouldn’t be?

Changes in mood, personality and behaviour

Are you, or the person you know, exhibiting severe changes in mood?

Loss of initiative

Are you, or the person you know, losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities?

Challenges in understanding visual and spatial information

Are you, or someone you know, having problems seeing things correctly? Or co-ordinating visual and spatial information?

Statistics compiled by the Alzheimer Society show that over 600,000 Canadians are currently living with the condition. It estimates that more than 350 people develop dementia every day, and it’s predicted that close to one million people in Canada will be diagnosed with the disease by 2030.

 

 

Aerial map showing proposed site of Sunrise Solar Project near Pincher Creek.

New draft for proposed solar project in MD of Pincher Creek

A revised design for a proposed solar power project northwest of Pincher Creek was front and centre at an open house Jan. 16.

Slightly leaner in size than one presented almost a year ago, the project’s placement of solar panels is the biggest modification.

“We’ve made a number of changes that we think offer advantages relative to our earlier concept,” said Mike Peters, director of public affairs for Evolugen, the company behind the Sunrise Solar Project proposal.

“In spring 2023, we were in the community and held an open house. Subsequent to that, we’ve done a number of follow-up consultations and engagement with the public, with the town and with the MD.”

A visual change in the layout is the most substantive difference, Peters added.

“Within the quarter-section that was closest to town, we’re going to move [those panels] further north,” he said.

“So, that’s going to reduce the proximity to the municipal district boundary. As part of that, we’ve actually ended up reducing the size of the project by 15 per cent.”

 

 

Peters believes the new concept will help to reduce not only the visual impact but its effect on existing agricultural land in the area.

“We’re really trying to shrink our footprint,” he said.

While there’s no formal plan in place on who might be connected to the power generated from the solar panels, there’s no doubt it’s needed provincially in light of the recent extreme cold snap that saw power consumption result in grid alerts being issued for five consecutive days.

“We see the benefits of this project on so many levels,” Peters told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“We can look at it as an overall contribution to the electrical grid and this idea of bringing on new power generation to meet rising demand, new less carbon-intensive energy. So, we see that contributing to grid stability.”

Other benefits the company feels Sunrise will bring include stable long-term tax revenue to the MD, a rise in the need for local labour during the construction phase and something new to the table — a community benefits fund.

“We’re proposing initially a contribution of $25,000 annually,” Peters said. “That would be something that would be directed towards community priorities, causes, events, as a way to ensure the community is really benefiting from this project.”

If approved, this would be Evolugen’s second undertaking in Alberta. Its first venture, the Spring Coulee project, northeast of Cardston, with a 42-megawatt capacity, could be fully up and running by next month.

 

 

 

Three men sweep as a curling rock moves down the ice

Big step toward new Pincher Creek curling rink

For curlers in Pincher Creek and surrounding area, it was the best possible news — an early Christmas present, if you will.

After months, maybe years, of uncertainty, it now appears a new curling facility is one step closer to reality after the Pincher Creek Curling Club received approval of a $1-million grant application through the province’s Community Facility Enhancement Program.

The new structure, to be built on the existing golf course parking lot, has a current estimated cost of about $3.6 million, which is expected to be shared evenly between the club, the town and the MD.

“We’ve always had money set aside for a curling rink,” explained Mayor Don Anderberg following a curling event Jan. 20.

“So, where it’s at right now … there has to be discussion about how this is going to look going forward.”

Construction of the proposed four-sheet facility will include connecting the club, in some form, to the golf course clubhouse and utilizing the restaurant, now closed over the winter months.

 

 

“Our intent is to make the clubhouse a year-round facility,” Anderberg added.

Because of height restrictions with Crestview Lodge next door, the new rink won’t have the advantage of a second-floor viewing area, as it enjoys now.

It will, however, be able to generate revenue during the five or so months the ice is out with weddings, dances or other community events. Unlike the Main Street location, which has a dirt-based foundation, the new facility will have a solid concrete floor.

Although a large portion of its $1.3-million share comes from the Alberta government, curling club president Hayley Smith said there’s still some fundraising to be done — about $200,000.

“We will be looking for corporate sponsorships to help cover some of the remaining cost,” she said. “Our [ice] plant, which was installed in 2018, will also be moved over to the new site as part of our contribution to the project.”

Asked if there’s any indication when construction might start, the mayor said possibly later this year with a potential 2025 opening, once everything that needs to be done is in place.

 

 

Related articles:

Pincher Creek to build new curling rink pending borrowing bylaw

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink petitioned

 

Icy sheen on Highway 3 near Elko.

Icy conditions west of Alberta/BC border

Extremely icy road conditions overnight near the British Columbia-Alberta border resulted in at least two vehicles sliding off Highway 3 east of Sparwood.

According to Drive BC, the incidents occurred between Michel Creek Road and the Carbon Creek Bridge. 

Elk Valley RCMP confirm there were no serious injuries.

RCMP in Crowsnest Pass are urging drivers travelling west to use extreme caution.

At one point overnight, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure closed a section of the highway. Traffic coming from Alberta was stopped at Coleman, while eastbound vehicles were halted at Sparwood.

Freezing rain had been in the forecast overnight, but there’s no indication if that was a contributing factor.

Traffic in the area has been reduced to single-lane alternating traffic.

Road conditions in the area remain poor.

 

 

 

Empty lot on Pincher Creek's Main Street.

Taking control: town council looks at developing lots

Pincher Creek council has given first reading to a plan that would see the town take possession of four sections of property on the west edge of the downtown core.

In official terms, two of the lots would need to be redesignated from transitional commercial to direct control, and two from downtown/retail commercial to direct control, to allow the town to move forward on any potential development.

The properties include 655 and 659 Main St. (the latter, the old RCMP building) and 656 Charlotte St., directly across from the fire hall.

“At the Feb. 13, 2023, regular council meeting, direction was given to administration to proceed with demolition of the old RCMP building,” said a Jan. 8 report by legislative service manager Lisa Goss. 

“On June 7, 2023, the motion was rescinded, so that prospective developers would be able to view the property from the perspective of being able to submit proposals for purchase and renovation of the building, in a manner which may suit the town’s needs.”

One of those needs, and the leading consideration, is affordable housing.

The last official community plan, developed in 1993, contained several different uses for the area — retail, office, residential, public and institutional development.

For the plan to move forward, it must go to a public hearing, where residents and nearby businesses can have their say. That’s scheduled for Jan. 22, with the second and third (final) readings set for the Feb. 26 council meeting.