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Tag: Lisa Sygutek

Two women, Brenda Shenton in light orange sweater and Shannon Peace in dark rust shirt, with award certificates earned by Shootin' the Breeze.

Celebrate National Newspaper Week with us

While times are tough in most industries right now, our team tries to keep our chins up as we face new, and unique, challenges in the newspaper business.

Celebrating what Shootin’ the Breeze does well is something I enjoy. It’s not meant in a vain way but as a matter of shining a bright spotlight on the people who work very hard to ensure there is a newspaper in your hands every Wednesday morning.

A few weeks back, Brenda Shenton and I spent a weekend in Edmonton at the annual general meeting and convention of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association. We’d talked about going together for a number of years, and now that she’s retired she finally had time to join me!

If you ask, Brenda will tell you that she came away with much deeper insight into what happens beyond our local media outlet. She knows that, despite the potholes and bumps on the newspaper highway, I come back from this annual event rejuvenated and motivated.

The turnout was grim and, as convention chairwoman, it’s something I’ve been trying to address over the past two years. Many say they simply can’t afford the cost of the trip or the cost of being away from their office for even two days.

On the bright side, those in attendance, both in person and virtually, are committed to keeping Alberta’s newspapers strong.

 

Shelves of bottled liquor in an ad for Town & Country Liquor Store in Pincher Creek

 

Hardships were acknowledged and solutions were sought. There’s no better place to do this than among a group of your peers.

Once ideas get flowing, things quickly get productive. I’m sure each publisher in attendance went home with something new to implement.

Sometimes conversation leads to more questions than answers. This is just as important.

Brenda made a point of speaking with all of the younger members in attendance. She heard positive hopes for the future and concerns that their older co-workers or employers often aren’t open to trying new ideas.

An age-old story that is not limited to the press.

 

AWNA 2023 board of directors; Jeff Burgar, Amanda Zimmer, Lisa Sygutek, Shannon Peace and Evan Jamison.
2023 board of directors of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association are Jeff Burgar of the HIgh Prairie South Peace News, left, Amanda Zimmer of the Claresholm Local Press, Lisa Sygutek of the Pass Herald, Shannon Peace of Shootin’ the Breeze and Evan Jamison of the St. Albert Gazette. Missing are Craig Barnard of Post Media and Daria Zmiyiwsky of Black Press. | Photo by Pearl Lorentzen of the Slave Lake Lakeside Leader

 

Display of fall clothing at at Emerald & Ash Clothing in Crowsnest Pass.

 

The AGM always ends with the swearing in of the AWNA board of directors. A number of us are in our fourth year serving together, giving the board stability and strength.

This year, Lisa Sygutek of the Pass Herald has moved to the role of board president and I will work alongside her as vice-president.

Amanda Zimmer of the Claresholm Local Press is back on the board, giving southwestern Alberta the benefit of three female independent newspaper owners having a voice.

I mention female because back when my parents and Lisa’s parents were involved, these positions were generally held by men.

Joining us are Daria Zmiyiwsky of Black Press, Craig Barnard of Postmedia, Evan Jamison of the St. Albert Gazette and Jeff Burgar of the High Prairie South Peace News.

Lisa has been heavily involved in the government affairs of the association, something she excels in. Lisa is feisty and blunt, and fights for what she believes in.

We all believe in the value of community newspapers and look forward to a strong year supporting Alberta’s community news sources.

 

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

 

Along with a new title, I returned home with a number of awards for our publication.

The BNC Awards of Excellence and Photographic Awards are open to all Alberta newspapers, from the smallest to the largest.

Best Ad Campaign Award – third place: Jaiden Panchyshyn for Blackburn Jewellers 2022 Shop Local for Christmas campaign.

Best Agricultural Section – third place: Shootin’ the Breeze.

Sue Gawlak Best Local Editorial – honourable mention to Shannon Peace for My Little Corner.

Sports Writing Award – honourable mention to Mia Parker for Local Women Excel in 1,000-Mile Survival Race on the Yukon River.

Wildlife Photo – honourable mention to Jenaya Launstein.

The BNC General Excellence Awards are classed according to circulation. Shootin’ the Breeze is in a group of 13 newspapers and the awards reflect the work of our entire team.

Best Editorial Page – second place

Best Overall Score – third place

Best Front Page – third place

I tip my hat to my co-workers at the Breeze and to my fellow board members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association. Work well done is worthy of celebration as we move forward.

 

Plate of Charlie Biggs' chicken tenders with sauces on the side and link to Blairmore menu.

 

White car surrounded by auto parts on Pincher Creek Bumper to Bumper ad
Three people skating on outdoor rink shown from knees down

C.N.P. council funds temporary outdoor rink, park improvements

During its June 20 meeting, Crowsnest Pass council approved two expenditures that will help improve outdoor recreation for residents.

Temporary outdoor rink 

Earlier this year the parks and recreation advisory committee began exploring options for a viable location for an outdoor skating rink. The idea was to pick a suitable area and run a test season to see if a permanent rink would be successful.

Several locations were considered, such as Frank Playground, Gazebo Park, Flumerfelt Park, Pete’s Park and Hillcrest Memorial. Ultimately, space just south of the Coleman Complex was selected.

The Coleman Complex was chosen partly because all necessary equipment and staff are on-site. When open, the building also provides a heated place for skaters to warm up.

Council approved the committee’s request to fund expenses of the rink, set at $1,750. Expenses include installing the ice ($911), wages for workers maintaining the rink ($647.70) and clearing the rink for an estimated five heavy snow events ($189.80).

With all the information provided by the committee, Coun. Dean Ward said moving forward with the trial rink is a logical thing for the municipality to do.

“I’m not convinced yet 100 per cent that an outdoor skating rink makes sense, but I think this is  a good way to give it a try,” he said. “It’s cheap, it’s reasonable, it’s in a good location — if it works out, let’s do something for permanent next year. This is a good way to trial it.”

Building the outdoor rink outside the complex, added Coun. Lisa Sygutek, is a good step toward determining a permanent location.

“I like the idea of trying it out here as it’s only a $1,700 ticket,” said Sygutek. “And if it’s super, super well used, the group really felt the best bang for the buck would be to do it at Pete’s Park and that we could look into that and budget implications in the future.”

 

 

Bellevue Memorial Park

At the request of the Bellecrest Association, council voted in favour of covering $5,500 in unexpected costs spent re-grading and landscaping the picnic area west of the concession in Bellevue Memorial Park.

Due to a water main break a few years ago, the picnic area had been rendered unusable. About 1,000 square yards was levelled with concrete blocks, a border of limestone boulders and compacted gravel to revitalize the space.

The association had $5,000 of funding at its disposal and initial permission from the parks department to go ahead, but unforeseen issues bumped up the overall project cost. These included the need for deeper trenches for electric and sprinkler lines, extra concrete blocks, and cutting back broken concrete to allow for better grading.

Despite the larger-than-expected cost, Coun. Doreen Glavin said the work was something that needed to be completed.

“I actually commend Bellcrest Association for actually improving it and fixing it, because as far as I’m concerned it was a big safety issue,” she said. “I understand maybe they shouldn’t have went ahead and did it, but they did have permission not to grade the slope towards the adjacent lot because that’s how it was to start with.”

“There’s an awful lot more usable space there now,” added Coun. Glen Girhiny. “It surprised me how much room there was there, actually, in the end, compared to what it was before. It should’ve been fixed a long time ago.”

Not talking to the municipality about the situation before the work was completed, however, was something that concerned council and administration.

“My only concern here is process. I’m concerned that groups will go out, do work, without talking to the municipality first, and then they show up here,” said Coun. Ward. “To me they should’ve come to administration before they did the work. You don’t get to just do stuff and then show up and say here’s the bill.”

“It would be better to come at the front end and we can make a conscious decision if that’s a project we’re going to go ahead with, instead of coming at the tail end,” added CAO Patrick Thomas.

Although OK with covering the cost, Coun. Sygutek said the municipality’s expectations needed to be made clear with the Bellecrest Association.

“Those issues are going to come at us with any group. The difference is this group is a very functional group and they did a really great job,” she said, “but I think that they need, not a reprimand, but it made very clear that they need to come to us in these situations.”

As a result, council directed administration to provide the needed funds and also send a letter to the association explaining the municipality’s expectations.

Next meeting

The next Crowsnest council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m. in council chambers.

Have you heard, written in white chalk on a blackboard

Google and Meta plan to ban Canadian news

Have you heard the news?

Google and Meta, the biggest players in the world of social media, intend to start blocking Canadian news stories in response to the passage of Bill C-18.

“Real journalism, created by real journalists, continues to be demanded by Canadians and is vital to our democracy, but it costs real money,” Paul Deegan, president and CEO of News Media Canada, said after the Bill passed June 22.

That afternoon, Lisa Sygutek of the Crowsnest Pass Herald, Amanda Zimmer of the Claresholm Local Press, myself and other board members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association, heard directly from Paul.

Board president Evan Jamison of the St. Albert Gazette and AWNA executive director Dennis Merrill have made several trips east to share information on behalf of Alberta newspapers at hearings regarding this bill. They have kept members apprised of progress with Bill C-18 and roadblocks along the way.

Collectively, I think we felt cautious optimism after the discussion with Paul, with an emphasis on the word cautious.

Lisa also felt positive about a class-action lawsuit she and the Pass Herald have launched against Google and Facebook on behalf of Canadian newspapers. This is a tale for another day.

Social media outlets earn big dollars from Canadian journalism. Every share of a news article equals a cha-ching on their cash register.

We benefit as well. Social media can drive traffic to the Shootin’ the Breeze website as it is a quick way to advise our followers of new content and breaking news.

For every fraction of a penny we earn as people scroll past a Google ad on the Breeze website, Google earns many, many, many times more. The same thing happens on Facebook. 

Meta and Google earn dollars to the pennies left to businesses that do the work. This applies to shared content of all kinds, from recipes to travel blogs, and is not limited to newspapers.

 

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

 

When negotiations over C-18 began, it was said that Canadian media would stand unified in this bid for just compensation for the money social media outlets earn from their work.

However, some larger players quickly struck independent deals with Meta and Google. Only they and the flies on the wall know the details of the deals and the value of the compensation.

A big problem right now is that most of us lack a clear understanding of what losing and winning look like.

No one seems to know just how the news blocking will work.

When you consider the significant information Google and Meta hold about us all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine who’s in and who’s out.

It took only one day for Meta to spring into action against Bill C-18.

“We are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act (Bill C-18) taking effect,” Meta announced June 22.

The press release says, “As drafted, the legislation states that news outlets are in scope if they primarily report on, investigate or explain current issues or events of public interest.”

This encompasses virtually all Canadian media and, while they will continue to have access to their Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages, and to post to them, “some content will not be viewable in Canada.”

On June 29, Google announced its own plans to block and remove news in Canada on its search engine, aggregator and Discover app.

 

 

While the Pincher Creek Echo no longer exists in a traditional print or digital format, Postmedia, its parent company, made a deal with Google last summer and is reportedly paid for news content.

In the same announcement last week, Google said it would end deals currently in place with Canadian publishers.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world where there will be winners and losers. It looks like the big social media dogs have decided they will simply take the ball and run with it rather than enter into negotiations with us little guys.

This may seem like a lot of talk about money. While it was nice to imagine generating more revenue (if only for a moment), the reality is that small independent publishers, like many of us in southwestern Alberta, are not in a good place to be staring revenue reduction in the face.

Yes, the dollars matter, but it’s about more than that to me and to every community newspaper publisher I know.

There is a difference between news and journalism, and what Google and Meta are doing stands to give fake news an opportunity to thrive.

I’ve hated the term since former U.S. president Donald Trump made it popular and overused it, but it is real.

Canadian publishers are held to ethical standards and accountable for their news presentation.

Have you heard, is not how any news article should begin unless it is clearly marked as editorial content. Word on the street is not always true and little accountability exists when it’s not, whether intentionally or simply in error.

 

Chinese noodle dish and chopsticks on ad for Bright Pearl Restaurant in Pincher Creek

 

As a publisher, my integrity is on the line every time I write an article or print one by my staff. That even goes to letters to the editor — when we know something is incorrect, hateful or offside, it either doesn’t run or is discussed with the author and corrected.

We are human and when we make mistakes our team owns them, corrects them and offers a sincere apology.

We are journalists and integrity is at the heart of what we do.

As someone dedicated to community service, I do my utmost to make sure people know of emergency-room closures, wild weather alerts and evacuation notices. My team members do the same.

In preparation for a news-blocking scenario, we are working on some “Plan Bs” in the background. We will do everything within our power to ensure you receive important and factual information in a timely manner. More than that, we will continue sharing community stories and keeping you connected with your neighbours.

Social media has changed greatly over the past 15 years. Facebook was once a place for connecting with family and friends. Now it’s hard to find those types of posts when you log on.

Anonymity has also created a breeding ground for misinformation and hatred and I shudder what they will look like down the road.

Our followers will find the Breeze website a pleasant, interactive space as we shift our focus from sharing content on social media to turning shootinthebreeze.ca into a community hub for southwestern Alberta.

Google and Meta have been testing news blocking over the winter and spring, and I’m sure we will see significant changes in the near future. 

Meta’s press statement closes with, “While these product tests are temporary, we intend to end the availability of news content in Canada permanently following the passage of Bill C-18.”

Landscape view of gravel road and mountain with a planned cell tower location shown

Crowsnest Pass council takes Rogers to task over cell tower site

Crownsnest Pass council is pointedly withholding support for Rogers Communications’ bid to put a cellular tower in Coleman, castigating the telecom giant for allegedly dismissing concerns from the owner of an area RV park who says the tower would obstruct tenants’ mountain views.

A British Columbia land use planning firm notified the municipality in late February of Rogers’ intent to build a 61-metre cell tower near the Crowsnest River RV Park in order to boost wireless reception.

From its office in Vancouver, Cypress Land Services meanwhile notified six people at Sentinel Road addresses, including RV park owner Terry Kenney. Rogers also advertised the installation site in a local newspaper — all part of a public consultation process required by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, a collection of federal departments and agencies with exclusive jurisdiction over the licensing of telecommunications sites, including the proposed tower. 

 

 

Kenney and another community resident promptly told CLS they wanted Rogers to put the tower somewhere else in the vicinity — anywhere other than the proposed location in Sentinel Industrial Park, nearly half a kilometre south of Highway 3. 

“It would fall within our view of the mountains. And in all our conversations, [CLS] led me to believe we’d certainly enter into meaningful talks,” Kenney told Shootin’ the Breeze Friday. CLS staffer Kristina Bell even emailed Kenney drawings of two alternate locations, Kenney said. 

But Kenney said CLS and Rogers “started playing hardball with me” when the consultation period lapsed in early April. At that point, Kenney said neither company appeared willing to seriously consider an alternate tower site.  

 

Huge, loaded burger and onion rings on Bear Grass Bistro ad.

 

“While some views to the north may be impacted, the majority of views from this commercial industrial area are to the west and south and will not be impacted by the placement of the tower,” Bell wrote in a May 23 email to municipal administration. 

Acting on Rogers’ behalf, CLS asked council for “a letter of concurrence” validating Rogers’ consultation process. Bell also supplied a sample resolution acknowledging Rogers had met its due diligence and stating that the municipality agreed with the site location. 

Council was in no mood to concur when the matter came up at chambers June 6. 

Mayor Blair Painter said he doubted Rogers’ sincerity. The company had gone along with an obligatory consultation process that ignored residents’ stated opposition, he went on, highlighting that ISED’s jurisdiction meant council never really had a say, anyway. 

 

 

Painter and several councillors said they’d welcome the cell tower if Rogers lined up a better site in the Sentinel area.  

“I don’t give a crap where it goes. It just shouldn’t be there,” Coun. Lisa Sygutek said, calling Rogers’ handling of Kenney’s concerns “insulting” and “disgusting.” 

“I agree with all these concerns, but they don’t give a squat,” Coun. Dean Ward said. 

Council then unanimously passed Coun. Vicki Kubik’s resolution to send Rogers “a letter of non-concurrence,” along with a request for information about human health and wildlife impacts. The letter will also state council’s concerns to protect the Pass’s natural beauty, per a friendly amendment by Mayor Painter. 

Rogers did not immediately respond to the Breeze’s request for comment on Friday.

 

Man's hands – one writing with a pen and the other on a calculator

Pass council approves extra taxes, squares away half of added revenue

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is on track to take in over $1 million more in property taxes than was laid out in this year’s budget.

Budget 2023 projected roughly $10.2 million in municipal taxes when it was passed by council last December.

Council on April 4 unanimously approved a property tax rate bylaw that brings in roughly an extra $1.1 million, for an approximate total of $11.3 million in municipal taxes. The bylaw also authorizes the municipality to collect provincial taxes for education, as well as extra municipal taxes for seniors housing.

The property tax bump comes on the heels of a roughly 12 per cent annual rise in assessed property values across the Pass. Property assessments, finalized in February, added about $130 million to the Pass’s total tax base, according to an executive summary of the bylaw attached to council’s agenda. 

 

You're in good hands – animated ad for National Newspaper Week

 

What’s the difference? And how does it hit home? 

Budget 2023 initially projected a two per cent property tax increase in order to maintain service levels and balance the budget, according to a summary of the bylaw. The extra $1.1 million in property taxes represents a roughly 11 per cent increase over that projection. 

The impact on individual taxpayers will depend on this year’s mill rates, so-called because they set municipal tax levies per $1,000 in assessed property value, and how much a given property rose or fell in assessed value, according to chief administrative officer Patrick Thomas. 

The Pass’s residential mill rate fell from around 10.5 to around 7.5. At the same time, just over 80 per cent of properties either retained their assessed values or saw those values climb by up to 15 per cent. 

Municipal taxes on a home valued at $300,000 last year would rise nearly $335 in 2023 if that home’s assessment came in 15 per cent higher year-over-year. Taxes for the same home would drop by around $120 if its assessed value held at $300,000.   

Slightly over six per cent of Pass properties went down in assessed value, Thomas explained.

 

 

How will council spend the extra dough? 

Council unanimously voted to bank half of the extra tax revenue and spread the other half across a short list of new initiatives: $250,000 for a new trails master plan proposed by Coun. Lisa Sygutek; $64,000 for capital upgrades to Crowsnest Community Library; $70,000 for environmental monitoring projects at two area landfills, both recommended by administration; a $22,000 grant for Crowsnest CanDo — the non-profit organization lobbying to revive the Pass’s Roxy Theatre — tabled by Coun. Dean Ward; $200,000 for various road repair initiatives tabled by Couns. Ward and Doreen Glavin; and $30,000 for new beautification projects, following a motion by Sygutek. 

Sygutek said the Pass needs a new trails master plan to prepare for the massive influx in regional tourism backed by Travel Alberta last fall.

“The tourist stuff is coming, whether we want it to or not,” and staking municipal funds would boost the Pass’s chances of landing supplementary grants from the federal and provincial governments, she added.

Ward noted that the Pass and surrounding areas were promoted as tourist destinations at the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta’s convention in January.

Painter said the master plan initiative was “critical” to the Pass’s tourist economy. 

“I wish it had been done last year,” he said.

 

Large B logo for the Brick Pincher Creek with yellow button to view current flyer

 

What’s driving municipal taxes? 

The higher tax burden partly reflects a steep climb in property values since the “buying frenzy” that hit the Pass’s real estate market at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Christopher Snelgrove of Benchmark Assessment Consultants, the Lethbridge firm that handles the Pass’s property value assessments.

“I saw roughly twice as many [real estate] sales compared to pre-Covid years,” Snelgrove continued, noting that the Pass’s natural beauty and slower pace of life strongly appeal to urban professionals.  

Inflationary pressure on the Pass’s real estate market added roughly $92.5 million in overall assessed property value, according to council documents. Real estate development — new builds, renovations and other improvements — meanwhile added roughly $38.5 million. 

There are no physical barriers to real estate speculation in the Pass (or anywhere, for that matter). Not so for local development, which is sharply constrained by the region’s mountainous topography. 

The Pass will run out of room to grow unless it were to annex land from neighbouring municipalities, Snelgrove explained.

 

 

A reach too far? 

Council was rather exacting in its budget deliberations last fall, when it earmarked about $575,000 for 18 out of 42 proposals for new initiatives at a combined ask of nearly $20 million. 

Council passed the extra tax increase after a lengthy discussion at chambers on March 28, when the property tax rate bylaw came up for first reading. 

“While it looks like a bit of windfall for Crowsnest Pass, it definitely isn’t when you look at the improvements we’re looking at in the near future,” Coun. Vicki Kubik said on April 4. 

Councillors joined the mayor and chief administrative officer Patrick Thomas in pointing out that the province has steadily “downloaded” costs onto small municipalities since 2021. Many of these costs were budgeted for in December, but Kubik and Painter stressed that more are still to come, especially the Pass’s bill for policing costs.

Profile of Trevor Hay, a man with short grey hair, wearing a black jacket, speaks into a microphone while addressing Crowsnest Pass council.

Crowsnest Pass to seek legal advice on Blairmore subdivision

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is seeking legal advice after a resident asked to build a road through his proposed subdivision before putting up a security deposit.

Trevor Hay, who hopes to build homes for his family atop Blairmore’s Greenwood Heights, says the project has been held up since 2010 because he can’t afford the deposit and construction costs at the same time.

“There’s a very real human component that’s significant in order to completely understand this situation,” Hay told council Jan. 13. He’d hoped to build a home for himself and his wife and to give lots to their three adult children.

“This should’ve been one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of our lives,” he said. “Instead, it’s been like a recurring nightmare.”

 

Crockets Trading Company building against an orange and purple coloured sunset on ad for Crockets local Christmas gift ideas.

 

Council’s subdivision policy (2006-02) requires that developers put up the full estimated costs to build civic amenities through a subdivision — including public roads — before breaking ground. Security deposits keep municipalities off the hook should these amenities fail in the two years after construction, Patrick Thomas, Crownest Pass’s chief administrative officer, explained at council’s regular meeting Feb. 7. 

Hay wants to put down a 25 per cent security deposit after the municipality signs off on the road through Greenwood Heights. The municipality would close the road to the public and block the subdivision if the road were to fail inspection. 

“It would stay a private road through (an undivided) private property,” Thomas said, adding that Hay’s 25 per cent would safeguard the municipality’s interests. 

 

Young girl in multi-coloured jacket and bright pink helmet and ski pants, grins broadly while skating with arms outstretched.

 

Council unanimously approved a two-year extension for Hay’s project, but set aside his request for a smaller security deposit. 

“My biggest concern is that this will set a precedent moving forward,” Mayor Blair Painter said. 

Coun. Dean Ward drew on the example of a Blairmore development that went bust 15 years ago, which council had to buy back at taxpayers’ expense. 

“I’m not talking about (Hay’s) development, specifically. But, it’s not our job to just look after the safety of the municipality. It’s also to look after the safety of all our residents,” Ward said, cautioning that hilltop construction can put underlying homes at risk of flooding. 

 

Downhill skier catches air on ad inviting skiers to stop at Miner's Mercantile in Beaver Mines on their way to the Castle Mountain ski hill.

 

“How many times do you hear about unintended consequences?” Ward asked, echoing Painter’s concerns about setting a potentially dangerous precedent.

Speaking to the public perception that recent councils have been overly cautious, Coun. Vicki Kubik said, “If we sit here tonight with a bit of trepidation, it’s for a good reason.” 

Coun. Lisa Sygutek then tabled a motion calling for legal advice from the municipality’s legal team. 

“Are we willing to go down this road?” she asked. “Because once we’ve opened up this box, every developer is going to come to us asking for the same thing.” 

 

Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Council unanimously passed Sygetuk’s motion. 

Hay defended his position when council opened the floor, stressing that he was “very sensitive to the issue of flooding.” 

Three engineering surveys have shown that a properly built road would improve drainage atop Greenwood Heights as much as 85 per cent, he said. 

Mayor Painter thanked Hay for his input and said council would revisit the issue of his security deposit at a later date.

 

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

 

 

 

People enjoying the outdoor swimming pool in Crowsnest Pass on a hot summer day

Revenue drops for Crowsnest Pass pool

 

Crowsnest Pass Community Pool revenue drops off significantly amid lifeguard shortage 

A widespread lifeguard shortage has cost Crowsnest Pass’s community pool dearly, council heard Nov. 29.

Revenues hit roughly $65,500 between January and September, less than half of earnings that had been projected to bring in $127,300, according to a municipal budget report.

 

Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek

 

The municipality announced in the fall that it would take over from the Crowsnest Pass Community Pool Society, which has long run Blairmore’s Pass Community Pool, citing the pool’s expanding user base and increasing operational complexities.

“The municipality wishes to thank the society for their dedicated service to the pool during this time, and we look forward to working with them in this new capacity,” the municipality wrote in a Sept. 29 press release.

Council addressed the revenue shortfall during a budget review at chambers Tuesday. 

“What happened to the pool?” Coun. Lisa Sygutek asked.

Couns. Dave Filipuzzi and Doreen Glavin, who represent council on the pool society, pointed to staff shortages and low season pass sales.

 

Bottle of Huckleberry Tea Liqueur against purple background on an ad for Lost Things Distillery in Pincher Creek.

 

Firefighter gear hanging on fire hall wall

Hillcrest fire station to remain open

Historic buildings play an important role in the cultural identity of a community. As buildings age and their initial uses get transferred to modern facilities, however, rising maintenance costs can bring up questions about how much maintaining cultural identity is worth.

Such was the conversation about Hillcrest’s Fire Station 4 during Crowsnest Pass council’s Oct. 18 regular meeting. Administration brought the topic forward with the recommendation that council close the firehall due to the facility not meeting current fire protection standards, specifically in equipment requirements and staffing levels.

Only two volunteers man the station. One works a mining shift schedule and the other is in their late 70s and has reduced work function. The Fire Underwriters Survey, a fire insurance statistical group, states the minimum staff level for a station to be recognized is 10 personnel.

On top of requiring considerable upkeep and operating costs, the aging hall also is unable to house a front-line fire engine. Currently, the only firefighting truck is a 2001 Ford Type 6 brush/wildland truck that is past its end of life.

Emergency services calls to Hillcrest are serviced from Station 3 in Bellevue. Closing the Hillcrest station would not affect Hillcrest’s emergency or fire protection.

Closing the hall, said CAO Patrick Thomas, would allow the municipality to utilize the building and the respective funds in a more meaningful way, but would in no way be meant as a slight against the legacy of the facility.

“First and foremost, no one wants to go and put forth that there is not an immense appreciation for the years of service that have come out of that hall,” he said.

“That is not the intent, to try and put any slight against that. This is more looking at it from a business sense. It’s essentially just running as a hall on paper and nothing more.”

Though recognizing the financial commitment to the hall did not result in any additional advantages to the municipality’s fire response, Coun. Lisa Sygutek said keeping the hall open would carry a deeper meaning than monetary value could communicate.

“Sometimes there’s things you just do because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

“It shouldn’t have a cost price attached to it. This is a community that has nothing left in it — it has the Hillcrest Fish and Game, it’s got the Miners Club, and it’s got a facility that matters to them. It matters to them for their perceived safety.”

“Even if we don’t feel that it matters to their safety, for them, it matters for their safety,” Sygtuek continued.

“There’s right things to do and wrong things to do, in my opinion, and in this situation we are removing so many things from the community in such a short period of time, I’m just not willing to do this one.”

Coun. Vicki Kubik agreed.

“As it is, I get the financial part of it, but I also understand the connection that people have that gives them that sense of community, and a fire hall can be an important part of that,” she said.

“The general consensus when I meet with the constituents in that area is they would be really offended to have the firehall closed. They perceive it to be something that speaks to their safety.”

“I wonder if they just don’t even know that there’s nothing in that hall that would service them,” Kubik added.

“There is a lot of concern expressed about the railroad tracks and how long it would take for them to receive service if they needed it. Just on principle alone, given what the constituents in that area have told me, I can’t in good conscience vote in favour of closing the Hillcrest firehall either.”

Although still reliant on Bellevue, Coun. Doreen Glavin said, previous experience showed a station in Hillcrest could make a difference when a life was on the line.

“I know in one instance they didn’t do that [wait for help from Bellevue] and they went and helped with a heart attack patient. And whether it be medical or even a vehicle accident, I would feel better with having it closed if the personnel that live in that community can respond without having to go to the fire station first before they acted on whatever the emergency situation would be,” she said.

“I’m really concerned, we see it all the time with CP Rail, [where] that train is stuck on the tracks.”

Sentiments aside, however, the fact remained: the station did not have enough staff or the right equipment to provide an acceptable level of emergency service.

“Maybe what administration needs to do is to put it out to the public and say, ‘Hey look, these are the options: if we can’t get volunteers from this community to be members of the fire department, we are going to be forced to close this hall,’ ” said Mayor Blair Painter. “Lay it out in black and white and see if anybody steps forward.”

Apart from volunteers, the major issue was lack of equipment, said Coun. Dave Filipuzzi.

“Even if you recruited six people in the Hillcrest area — what are they going to do? There’s not going to be no equipment there,” he said. “You’re still going to have to go to either Bellevue or Blairmore.”

“I mean you’re going to a hall that’s got nothing in it. Even if you got 20 people from Hillcrest, it’s still got no value,” Filipuzzi continued.

“Other than you know what, the value that it’s got, is that ‘Hey we still got the Hillcrest firehall. Even though it’s falling down around us, we’ve got a nice rock outside and we got a nice thing outside and this looks great.’ But the value of it — think of the value of it. Does it have value to the community? No, it don’t.”

Closing Station 4, he said, would mean the municipality could repurpose it to fulfil another need. “It’s not like we’re just going to go there and plow it over,” he said.

Keeping the hall open, added Mayor Painter, would mean ignoring the facts of the issue and the logical course of action for the municipality to take as a whole.

“You’re not thinking with your head, you’re thinking with your heart. And that’s not always in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Council eventually voted not to close Station 4.

At the request of Coun. Sygutek, a recorded vote was taken. Mayor Painter and Couns. Filipuzzi and Girhiny voted in favour of closing the hall, while Couns. Sygutek, Kubik, Glavin and Ward opposed its closure.

Kids trick or treating in lion costumes – one roaring and one smiling on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 2, 2022

Lion’s share of fun

Ames and Miles were spotted enjoying Spooky Town and the great weather Saturday at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.

Woman flipping business sign to open

Crowsnest Pass council approves business licence payment plan

Licence to Kill, the 16th James Bond film produced, was initially titled Licence Revoked. Producers decided to change the title after test audiences in the United States thought the title referred to having driving privileges removed.

As a result of government-mandated shutdowns, businesses across the province likely felt their own business licences were revoked as many were forced to temporarily close.

Crowsnest Pass council considered altering the cost of renewing business licences during its Feb. 23 regular council meeting after a local business owner submitted a letter requesting fees for the 2021 business licence be reconsidered.

General, resident business licences cost $125. General non-resident licences are $360. The municipality typically collects about $68,000 each year.

 

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

With establishments like hair salons, barbershops and restaurants being unable to operate for the full term their 2020 licence permitted, Mayor Blair Painter said adjusting expectations for 2021 was not unreasonable.

“There’s already a big enough hardship on them,” he said.

While acknowledging some municipalities in the province have outrightly waived licence fees for small businesses, council was unsure how it would best determine if a business actually needed support.

“I would have no problem with the approach if a business could show a certain amount of loss,” said Coun. Dean Ward, “but I know several businesses that had their best year ever and collected $60,000 from the federal government, 20 of which they don’t have to pay back. I don’t want to see us get into that kind of situation.”

 

Sara Hawthorn, woman with long brown hair and glasses on ad for EXP Realty in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass

With over 75 per cent of businesses having already purchased their 2021 licences, Coun. Sygutek added, waiving fees for the whole community just wasn’t feasible and probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.

“If 125 is going to make or break your business, then you got problems from Day 1,” she said. “Reimbursing 300 business licences would also be a tremendous amount of work.”

Rather than forgiving fees, Coun. Sygutek continued, council could simply forego charging interest on late payments until the summer.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

Chief administrative officer Patrick Thomas suggested a route similar to overdue taxes could also be an option.

“If someone requires or needs it for this year, we look at a payment plan [for licence fees] instead,” he said.

“We do that with taxes, utilities — when someone gets behind you set up a payment plan so someone else can identify that they’re at least paying towards it and they’re not just ignoring it,” CAO Thomas continued. “If they are just going to ignore it, they’ll fall under the normal processes that we’ll try to pursue to deal with it.”

Council accepted the suggestion and approved creating an option for businesses to utilize a payment plan for their 2021 licence fees.

The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue. Agenda packages are available online at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.

 

Beauty products on ad for Providence Salon & Spa in Pincher Creek