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The 2023 Year in Review

Posted on January 4, 2024 by Sunny South News
Sunny South News File Photo

January

The St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID) has announced the proposed terms of reference for the Chin Reservoir expansion project.

Following the publication of the proposed terms of reference (PTOR) on Nov. 3, a public engagement period commenced. The current project stage allows for public comment to be submitted to the director by Jan. 3, 2023. The director in this case is the Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEPA).

After many years of planning and development, the Town of Coaldale’s offices will soon be fully operational on the second floor of the new Civic Square building at 1801, 20th Avenue.

While planning dates back several years, the Civic Square project, built in collaboration with the third-party private developer, Shift Real Estate Investments LP, initially broke ground in June 2021. The completion of Phase 1, is part of a three-phase economic development project and will serve the community with indoor and outdoor spaces, including a seasonal outdoor rink, and provide needed commercial space and parking to businesses along main street, in addition to housing the new council chambers.

Coaldale’s residents will have more opportunities in 2023 to discuss the issues that matter directly with Town staff and members of council.

The first council meeting of the year on Jan. 9 heard council discuss the meeting schedule for the “Quarterly Coffee” meetings in 2023. The meetings are a public engagement project, which was approved by council in 2022 and will provide an opportunity for residents to engage in meaningful dialogue with members of council and various departmental staff.

Two reports have been released outlying key issues with EMS service in Alberta opportunities to improve EMS services.

New provincial policies are in effect in hospitals across Alberta to reduce paramedic “idle” time and allow stable patients to be transferred from paramedics to urgent care teams and emergency rooms, to allow for EMS crews to move quickly and respond to a higher number of emergency calls and spend less waiting time in hospitals. Parliamentary secretary for EMS reforms and co-chair of the Alberta Emergency Medical Services Provincial Advisory Committee, RJ Sigurdson, said this can impact the mental health of EMS staff by creating “moral injuries” to paramedics unable to respond to other calls.

The Town of Nobleford has released its Report to Community (RTC) for 2022.

The document is the first RTC to be put out by the Town and provides an overview of what was accomplished in 2022 in Nobleford.  

Nobleford town council had approved a new Strategic Plan which came into effect in early 2022. Among the plan’s objectives was a commitment to improving communication with residents by communicating clearly, positively, and consistently.

Coaldale town council has passed first reading of the domestic animal bylaw and will consider allowing a limited number of goats in town on eligible residential properties larger than one acre.

The issue was brought forward during the Jan. 23 regular council meeting. The existing domestic animal bylaw was amended in recent years to include annexed parcels and the new proposed bylaw would amalgamate previous updates into a singular document to provide more clarity. 

February

The Holy Spirit Catholic School Division (HSCSD) board heard enrolment projections for 2023-2032 during the Jan. 25 board meeting.

Secretary treasurer for the board, Lisa Palmarin, presented a complete Enrolment Projections Report from now until 2032. The report noted the impact COVID-19 has had on predicting enrolment numbers since 2021 for both short and long-term projections. 

A camera registry program is being investigated in Coalhurst.

During Coalhurst town council’s regular Feb. 7 meeting, Coun. Scott Akkermans requested a motion to have town CAO Jeff Coffman investigate establishing a CAPTURE program in Coalhurst, with consideration for involving neighbouring municipalities in the project. 

CAPTURE, or Community Assisted Policing Through Use of Recorded Evidence, is a program that creates a directory of cameras, such as doorbell and external cameras, in a community. If there is an incident in the community, the RCMP could then look up in the database who has a camera in the area that may have captured the incident, and can contact the individual/business to ask if they would be willing to volunteer to share their footage.

Four flags now wave proudly at the recently completed Civic Square building in downtown Coaldale. 

The customary Federal, Provincial, and Municipal flags were raised for the first time on Feb. 13, alongside Ukraine’s national flag which currently occupies the community flag pole.

Barons and District Agricultural Society celebrated everything agriculture during their annual Celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day on Saturday.

The Agricultural Society has been celebrating this day since 2017, when the day was established nationally, but had to forgo the event in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Guided Journeys Foundation is working to improve access to person-centred end-of-life care through the construction of a new palliative care and hospice facility on the fringe of Lethbridge.

A committee representing the Guided Journeys Foundation led a delegation as part of the Feb. 13 Coaldale council meeting.

March

Picture Butte has approved the final draft of the 2023 capital and operating budgets. Council reviewed the document during the previous week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The Town’s draft operating and capital budgets were passed in December 2022 after deliberations. 

 Palliser School Division has received funding to further assess educational needs and infrastructure in the Town of Coalhurst. 

As part of the Province’s 2023 budget, 58 projects are to benefit students including the funding of 13 full constructions projects, 14 planning, and 11 pre-planning projects. According to the Government of Alberta, these projects will add nearly 25,000 new and upgraded spaces for students in the coming years. 

 Coaldale town council has approved a new IDP between the Town of Coaldale and Lethbridge County. 

During Coaldale town council’s regular March 13 meeting, a public hearing was held for Bylaw 861-P-01-23, or the Lethbridge County and Town of Coaldale Intermunicipal Development Plan.

 The Town of Coalhurst has announced Shawn Patience will be the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, effective May 2023. 

Mayor Lyndsay Montina said, “We are thrilled to have Shawn joining our administrative team. His experience as both an elected official and a Chief Administrative Officer was very appealing to Council because he has a great understanding of both governance and operations.” 

April

 Lands relating to the Civic Square project in Coaldale have been rezoned to Direct Control.

During the regular March 27 Coaldale town council meeting, two public hearings pertaining to Civic Square rezoning bylaws took place.

The bylaws – Bylaw 863-P-02-23 and Bylaw 864-P-02-23 – aim to rezone two parcels of town-owned land located south of the existing Civic Square building from Residential (R-1A) to Direct Control (DC), to allow for the development of the Civic Square Outdoor Space.

Policing and the new school were topics of interest from Coalhurst council to their local MLA. 

During their regular April 4 meeting, Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow appeared before Coalhurst town council over Zoom to provide an update. 

Noting that the legislative session just ended and they didn’t have the “typical large volume of bills” however, three bills they did have – a budget limitation bill, a red tape omibus bill and the Alberta Firearms Act – were ones Schow said were important to pass before the UCP call an election in May. 

 MLA for the Taber-Warner riding, Grant Hunter, officially announced his candidacy for re-election as an MLA for the United Conservative Party (UCP) last week. 

“After eight years as your MLA, I’m putting my name forward once more,” Hunter told supporters at his campaign office in Coaldale on Thursday. 

As part of his campaign launch Hunter addressed supporters in Coaldale, highlighting several points concerning the Province’s fiscal standing under the UCP’s leadership, including the $13.4 billion in debt reduction commenting that the Province’s “sound financial trajectory (…) didn’t happen by chance.”

 A designed, yet natural space is what Coalhurst residents would like to see for The Wetlands development. 

During their regular April 18 meeting, Coalhurst town council discussed The Wetlands Public Engagement Report. The report was on the town’s public engagement regarding how the town could best develop the land surrounding the stormwater management ponds on the east side. 

May

Following the announcement of the historic McCains investment, Lethbridge County Council is considering a new borrowing bylaw which would assist the municipality in the funding of water pipeline infrastructure in the County between the Town of Coaldale and the McCain Foods potato processing plant in Chin. 

Council passed first reading of the proposed bylaw during the April 20 regular meeting of Council. The discussion was held during the closed portion of the council meeting and was protected from public disclosure under Section 25 (Disclosure Harmful to Economic and Other Interests of a Public Body) as per the Province’s FOIP Act. 

 A number of adjustments have been made to the Town of Coalhurst’s 2023 budget. 

During their regular May 2 meeting, Coalhurst town council discussed a series of amendments to the 2023 budget. 

The first budget motion pertained to the addition of $2,000 for Online Facility Booking Software in the 2023 budget. The software would allow facility users to be able to easily access and book facilities in Coalhurst, helping to increase office efficiencies and free up staff time. 

 With the provincial election heating up across Alberta, two election forums will be happening locally to help voters make a choice for their next MLA. 

For the Cardston – Siksika riding, there will be an election forum in Picture Butte at the Community Centre (607 Hwy Avenue N.) at 7 p.m on May 16. Candidates for the riding include Colleen Quintal (NDP), Joseph Schow (UCP), Angela Tabak (Independent), Par Wantenaar (Solidarity Movement of Alberta), and Terry Wolsey (Independence Party of Alberta). 

 The Town of Coaldale has accepted an offer to enter into an extended payment plan with the federal government to pay back $345,798 owed for RCMP retroactive pay. 

The Town experienced sticker shock in March 2023, when they received an invoice for the RCMP back-pay which had tacked onto it $85,000 more than was budgeted for. 

 Voters of Cardston-Siksika have re-elected Joseph Schow of the United Conservative Party as their MLA for the next four years. 

Unofficial election results showed Schow received 70.3 per cent of votes cast in the riding, with NDP candidate Colleen Quintal trailing 17.9 per cent. 

June

 Green Acres Foundation CEO Dawna Coslovi and Board Chair Jeff Carlson recently appeared before Lethbridge County Council as a delegation to provide an annual update during the June 1 regular council meeting. 

The delegation touched on tax requisitions, recent acquisitions, and the continued advocacy for a rebuild of the Picture Butte Piyami Lodge.

 Coaldale stakeholders, businesses, and municipal officials heard from one of North America’s leading “destination” experts with ideas and feedback on how to propel Coaldale as the leading place to live, work, and play. 

Roger Brooks has helped transform over 2,500 ordinary places into extraordinary destinations and has extensive experience in guiding municipalities on how to brand and market their town or city and develop themselves as a destination. 

 After over a decade of planning, phase 1 of the Link Pathway had its long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony on June 13 at the construction site in Coaldale. 

The $5 million project has been in the works for over 12 years. Phase 1 of the bike path will see the paving of the 3.4 km stretch of pathway running from the Malloy Drainage basin toward Highway 512 (Jail Rd). Once complete, phase 1 will be a roughly eight kilometre out-and-back trail linking Coaldale’s existing bike pathway network with what will eventually lead into phase 2 of the pathway. The remaining 11 km will pick up at the Jail Road toward the City of Lethbridge. 

 Local MLA (Cardston-Siksika) Joseph Schow will be taking on a new cabinet position within the provincial government. 

The MLA was sworn in as the Minister of Tourism and Sport on June 9 during a ceremony which saw the swearing in of the Province’s new cabinet following the UCP’s re-election as a majority government on May 29. 

 The Village of Barons has a new mayor. 

Following the June 5 by-election where Clinton Bishop was elected as a councillor, an organizational meeting was held on June 13 where council determined Bishop would move into the role of mayor. 

July

 Dr. Maryse Bourgault shared her expertise on the subject of cover crops during Farming Smarter’s Field School on June 15. 

Cover crops are traditionally fast-growing plants that offer benefits to farms through enhanced soil health, and as a strategy to improve biodiversity, control pests, and prevent or mitigate erosion. They differ from a farm’s cash crops insofar as cover crops are a strategy in farm management used to increase the conditions for more profitable cash crops. 

 The Town of Picture Butte will see the return of a Terry Fox Run this fall. 

For many years, the event has not been held in the town, however a delegation was made to council during the June 26 regular meeting requesting Council’s support in bringing the event back to town. 

 Resident and event organizer, Sarah van Gunst told council the run, which occurs as a means to fundraise for cancer research, has not been run in Picture Butte, “in quite a long time,” adding, “we are really interested to bring it back to Picture Butte.” The proposed date of the event is Saturday, Sept. 23. 

Further readings for an Area Structure Plan bylaw have been postponed pending further information. 

A public hearing for Bylaw 875-P-06-23 was held during Coaldale town council’s regular July 10 meeting. 

 The Malloy Drain Steering Committee recently heard updates from the project’s technical committee regarding the status of the project. 

A project overview was presented to the Committee and provided a summary of how the project has evolved since the last phase was completed and also included a revised cost estimate outlining the “significant” increase in projected costs since the original estimate was completed in 2017. Included in the presentation was also a revision of the project’s original scope of work as costs have increased. 

 Finalizing other projects throughout the province has resulted in a delay for the construction start of twinning Highway 3, says Taber- Warner MLA Grant Hunter. 

In Phase 1, 46 kilometres will be twinned between Taber and Burdett. In June, Hunter told Southern Alberta Newspapers that construction was “imminent” but has since tempered that prediction. 

August

Nobleford Heritage Day promises to have something for everybody. The day-long festival is a “fun-filled, community event celebrating our small town”, according to Nobleford Mayor Joan Boeder. 

 Joining in on the electric celebration of Coaldale’s rich history and sweet traditions, the esteemed Canadian Country music trailblazer, Ron Sakamoto, is set to lead as grand marshal of the town’s iconic annual candy parade at the upcoming 2023 Summer Fest celebration on Saturday, August 12. 

 The Link Pathway Committee is $200,000 closer to their fundraising goal for the Link Bike Path which will provide a direct connection from Coaldale to the City of Lethbridge once completed. 

The donation the McCain Foundation made will support the construction and development of the project and will, “play a pivotal role in bringing this community-enhancing project to fruition,” reads a press release issued by the Link Pathway Committee on Aug. 3. 

 Alberta Health Services (AHS) has announced the permanent closure of Piyami Health Centre’s ambulatory clinic in Picture Butte effective Oct. 15, 2023. 

A statement issued by AHS indicated the closure of the clinic will not affect other AHS services at that location such as laboratory services and diagnostic imaging, and that the ambulatory clinic, “is only a portion of the overall facility, which also includes seniors housing, supportive living, home care, allied health and public health.” 

 The Town of Coalhurst is considering ways to engage residents for future budget consultations. 

Town administration has been working on a new annual budget process which includes residents in a consultation process, rather than providing residents with an informative campaign after the budget has been passed. They presented Coalhurst town council with two possible platform options they could utilize for this during their regular Aug. 15 meeting: Citizen Budget and SurveyMonkey. 

A new business in Lethbridge County is leading the way in innovation with its sustainable farming practices using vermicompost, and inclusive hiring practices. 

“The Venue for New Hope” was one of the many hosts in the southern region to participate in this year’s Province-wide Open Farm Days on Aug. 19-20, which gave participants a behind-the-scenes look into various farm and ag-related ventures. 

September 

 Alberta Health Services (AHS) has announced the date for an upcoming “public engagement session,” regarding the closure of the Piyami Health Centre’s ambulatory care clinic (ACC) in Picture Butte. 

AHS made the announcement of the closure on Aug. 10, citing October 15, 2023 as the official closure date. 

 The Town of Coaldale has broken ground on Phase 3 of the Civic Square project. 

Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony marks the start of construction of the highly anticipated year-round outdoor gathering space which will be located on the vacant land behind the Town’s recently completed Civic Square Building. 

 The September 13 “community engagement session” with AHS in Picture Butte to discuss the decision to close the Ambulatory Care Clinic (ACC) in Picture Butte saw over 170 people in attendance. 

Town officials, residents, and local EMS staff say they were shocked on Aug. 10 to learn of AHS’s decision that the ACC at Piyami Health Centre was slated for closure Oct. 15. Following the announcement, AHS issued a media release informing residents of an upcoming public engagement session scheduled for Sept. 13, nearly one month after AHS announced the news of the closure. 

 The town of Coaldale has been confirmed to host for the 2024 Southern Alberta Summer Games (SASG). 

This year’s games will mark the return to normal programming for the first time since 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the games could not be held due to COVID-19 restrictions. In 2022, various competitive events were held across multiple municipalities rather than by one municipal partner, which has historically been the case. In May of 2023, the Southern Alberta Recreation Association (SARA) was unable to secure a host community for the games. 

October 

 Mark Sayers has been elected to serve as the 57th president of the Lethbridge & District Exhibition’s (LDE) board of directors. 

He will serve in this role for one term, until February 2025, which coincides with his 10th year of service on the LDE’s board of directors. 

 Coalhurst council has passed first reading of Bylaw 445-23, which includes amendments to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) 354-12. 

Discussion took place during the Oct. 3 regular council meeting. 

The proposed changes seek to redefine uses and updates definitions regarding renewable energy development within the LUB. 

 Two candidates have stepped forward to run in the upcoming by-election for the vacant town councillor seat in Picture Butte. 

Following the resignation of Coun. Scott Thompson earlier this year, the nomination period for the upcoming by-election officially closed Oct. 10. 

Following the by-election, the elected councillor will serve on council for the remainder of the current term for two years, with the next civic election set to take place on Oct. 20, 2025. 

 As the upcoming by-election looms, candidate Mike Davies said he is excited to see there is a renewed interest in municipal politics lately. 

Born and raised in Picture Butte, with over 30 years as a local business owner in town Davies said he decided to put his name forward for a few reasons: 

 Picture Butte’s mayor, said the Town has, “a lot of work to do,” to get a partnership with Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RPAP) off the ground. 

During the Oct. 24 regular council meeting, Lynsey Robinson of the southern Alberta RPAP gave a delegation, providing information on how the RPAP program can provide resources to better equip municipalities in ongoing attraction and retention efforts for health care professionals. 

 Some accessibility improvements will be coming to Town facilities in Coaldale. 

During their regular Oct. 23 meeting, Coaldale town council discussed recommendations from a local accessibility group. 

 Founded in December 2020, Access Coaldale is a community group with the goal of improving accessibility within the town. They completed an audit of Town-owned buildings in 2021, identifying accessibility upgrades for infrastructure and facilities. 

November 

 Thanks to a passionate group of 4H children, and the generousity of communitiy members, the Turin 4H club presented the Chinook Regional Hospital’s Cancer Centre with a $53,000 cheque on Nov. 3. 

Dr. Andrea Graner, an Oncologist at Chinook Regional Hospital said, “anytime a community group or family group is able to donate money the funds typically go towards patients supports, largely, but it can also go toward funding new resources within our cancer centre. the idea is that funding that comes in stays in the community,” helping current and future patients being treated in the centre. 

 For the first time in several years, residents of Picture Butte were able to cast ballots in a municipal election, and have selected Crystal Neels as the Town’s newest councillor. 

Mayor and council were acclaimed to their roles in 2017 and 2021. A by-election was held Nov. 7 to elect the Town’s new councillor, following the resignation of former councillor Scott Thompson in August. Crystal Neels secured 218 votes, followed by Mike Davies with 146 votes. 

 Rebuilding Piyami Lodge remains a top priority for Green Acres Foundation and Picture Butte Town Council. 

During the recent Nov. 14 town council meeting, deputy mayor of Picture Butte, Cynthia Papworth, explained the process to rebuild Piyami Lodge has been ongoing for close to a decade. 

More information is needed before the Town of Coalhurst takes steps to enter a provincial clean energy program.

During their regular Nov. 21 meeting, Coun. Jesse Potrie asked council to approve the creation of a bylaw on clean energy.

The bylaw would allow the town to participate in the province’s Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP), a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)-style program that aims to help people make energy efficient upgrades to their properties without having to put money down. 

December

Coaldale is now allowing childcare facilities in more areas of town as a discretionary use.

A public hearing for a bylaw amendment allowing for more child care facilities in town was held during Coaldale town council’s regular Nov. 27 meeting. 

Land Use Bylaw Amendment 880-P-11-23 would change Schedule 2, Land Use Districts, specifically for the Highway Commercial (C-2), Industry (I), and Light Industry (I-2), within the LUB, by adding ‘Child Care Facility’ as a discretionary use within those districts. Currently, Child Care Facilities are not allowed in those zonings, and the amendment would allow for more areas such facilities can go in, while giving the Municipal Planning Commission the discretion to determine appropriate locations and conditions of approval, such as fencing, onsite parking and loading requirements and landscaping.

An annual borrowing bylaw has been passed for Coalhurst.

During their regular Dec. 5 meeting, Coalhurst town council discussed a borrowing bylaw for 2024.

Bylaw 448-23 – or the 2024 Annual Borrowing Bylaw – would allow for the town to borrow funds, as needed, to meet their expenditures throughout 2024. Under the bylaw, the town would be able to borrow up to $350,000.

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