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Year in Review 2019

Posted on December 27, 2019 by Taber Times
OVERLORD: Local dignitaries mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019 at Cenotaph Park. TIMES FILE PHOTO

As we now close out 2019 — along with the present decade — and our topsy-turvy globe begins to spin for another 365 days, editorial staff at the Taber Times took a look back at all the news that was in our region of southern Alberta.

January 2: With cannabis becoming legal in Canada this past October, the Municipal District of Taber is continuing to make amendments to their bylaws. M.D. of Taber Bylaw 1941 — Cannabis Retail Store and Production Facility, has seen further changes after receiving first reading passed unanimously during their October 9 regular meeting.

January 9: The New Year’s Baby born at the Taber Hospital came in a little earlier than expected for his parents. The first child of Alex and Kimberlee Aitken was born on Jan. 4 at 11:53 a.m., where Parker Barratt Aitken weighed in at six pounds and 12 ounces. “He was early. Our due date was actually Jan. 15,” said proud mother Kimberlee.

January 16: Rolling out more than $28 million in various projects for the community over the next two years, town council has finalized the 2019-2020 capital budgets. Throughout deliberations in late 2018 much of town council’s focus has been in formulating changes to the 2020 capital budget, which now totals $8,576,900. The 2021-2023 capital budgets are being left unapproved by town council in anticipation of changes in future years.

January 23: As part of an affordable housing report from the Taber and District Housing Foundation (TDHF), that organization is pitching the potential construction of a new mixed-market design affordable housing complex for the community. In September 2017, previous council had transferred up to $35,000 from operating reserves into the Planning and Economic Development budget to partially fund TDHF’s Housing Needs Assessment and Project Feasibility Analysis. The Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) was retained by TDHF to complete the project, which was jointly funded by the M.D. of Taber. The total project cost for ARDN to complete the study came to $22,293, of which the town contributed $7,431.

January 30: Reflecting on the past year for the Cardston-Taber-Warner riding, MLA Grant Hunter is excited about the prospect of a provincial election in early 2019. “We’re coming into an election this year. I think there will probably be an election called after the speech from the throne, which is going to be on March 18. It could be the day after, it could be a week after. I don’t know that there will be any legislation that will come forward. So the election is going to be the big issue, the big focus that we’re going to see for this year.”

February 6: Town council will be re-examining the federal government’s elimination of a one-third tax exemption for elected officials and its subsequent salary implications, but it won’t be an open discussion in full view of the public. Under previous federal tax law, such an allowance amounting to more than one third of the official’s salary plus allowances qualified for a federal exemption. Introduced in 1946, the exemption was extended to municipally-elected officials in 1953. Federal legislation (Bill C-44) passed in 2017 eliminates this tax exemption effective Jan. 1, 2019, and has resulted in “substantive changes to after tax compensation” for elected officials.

February 13: Multiple charges have been laid thanks to the efforts of multiple departments spanning two countries, stemming from 10 bomb threats. Thirty-six-year-old Justin Bagley of Elkville, Illinois has been charged with 11 counts of felony disorderly conduct in connection to a series of bomb threats made in the Town of Taber that spanned over three days. Class 3/4 disorderly conduct felonies can carry sentences ranging from one to five years in prison in the state of Illinois. A joint investigation got underway on Saturday when police in Taber contacted the Jackson County Sheriff’s office in Illinois.

February 20: In a new Alberta Municipal Spending Watch Report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Municipal District of Taber is rubbing shoulders with rarified company after securing a top 20 ranking. The report compared the operational budgets of cities, towns and counties in the province. Out of 182 ranked municipalities with populations of 1,000 or more, the Municipal District of Taber comes in with the best grade at 17, the Town of Taber is ranked at 71 and the Town of Vauxhall follows at 85.

February 27: As part of its regional mandate, Lethbridge College offers programs in Pincher Creek, Vulcan and Claresholm. It could soon welcome students to a Taber campus as well, depending on public response to an online survey. “Part of Lethbridge College’s mandate is to support educational opportunities throughout southern Alberta,” said Sandra Dufresne, the college’s director of external relations and community engagement.

March 6: As a deepening scandal in Ottawa surrounding the SNC-Lavalin affair continues to rock Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, Bow River MP Martin Shields expressed disgust over what he considers a gross abuse of political influence. “As a Canadian — I’ll put it that way first — one, I’m disappointed, I’m saddened, sometimes a little angry. You sort of think, as details seep out, ‘No, this is Canada, I believe in the rule of law and people following the right way of doing things,’ and it doesn’t look like that’s what happened in this case,” said Shields.

March 13: While past efforts at relocating the town’s fire hall have been stymied by public opposition, town council has taken another stab at the issue targeting vacant property east of the post office on 49th Avenue. Following in camera discussion at council’s Feb. 25 meeting, a motion put forward by Coun. Joe Strojwas and passed by council directed administration to purchase Lots 1-6, Block 1, Plan 5638L (the post office and adjacent vacant property to the east on 49th Avenue), subject to a satisfactory tender as a condition of the purchase contract, for an emergency services building to be awarded by July 1, 2019. According to the minutes of the Feb. 25 meeting, council’s vote was not unanimous.

March 20: Reversing a previous decision to take no action, town council has now voted to compensate themselves in full for the federal government’s elimination of a one-third tax exemption for elected officials. Following initial discussion on Dec. 17, town council had voted 6-1 to take no action and accept the change in one third federal tax exemption. Upon the request of individual councillors, the issue would later resurface for discussion at their Jan. 14 meeting, where council voted 6-1 to re-address the federal tax exemption for elected officials with a two-thirds majority vote. On Jan. 28, council would vote 4-1 to bring back the matter for closed session discussion at a subsequent council meeting. At the conclusion of closed session at the Feb. 11 meeting, council passed a resolution to compensate elected official’s salaries in full. According to the minutes of the meeting, the vote was not unanimous.

March 27: With the Town of Taber now targeting property on 49th Avenue for a fire hall relocation, citizens gathered for an information session last week to learn new details about the controversial project. Hosted at the Heritage Inn on March 21, the evening was billed as an “information session” rather than an “open house” and featured round-table discussions between citizens as part of the process. Despite earlier promises about public consultation prior to finalizing their decision, council has again pushed forward with selecting a location.

April 3: Rural Crime Watch in the Municipal District of Taber is coming closer to reality. After a pair of RCW meetings in both Taber and Vauxhall, the strong turnout gives reason to believe the organization will be implemented in the region sooner, rather than later. “For Vauxhall, we had 10 come out and Taber we had 20. We had additional names come forward even beyond the meetings. As far as the turnout, I couldn’t be more pleased. And to see so many members of council come out and show support and sit in on the meetings, it made me very happy to see that. I’ve said right from the get-go, this is going to be a community thing. It is not about me or any one other person, it is about the community as a whole,” said Sgt. Gord Yetman at the M.D. of Taber’s regular meeting on March 26.

April 10: All four candidates vying for an MLA seat in the upcoming provincial election for the Taber/Warner riding took time out of their busy campaigning schedules to speak at a student forum on Friday that saw a packed house at Central School gymnasium with approximately 350 students. The Alberta Party, NDP, United Conservative Party and Liberal all answered six prepared questions by students, while also outlying their platforms to the youth as part of the federal Student Vote Initiative which W.R. Myers School helped spearhead alongside Taber Mennonite School. Each question also featured a five-minute general discussion period past each candidate’s answer to the question.

April 17: The Taber-Warner riding mirrored the 2019 election sentiment, with the United Conservative Party winning a healthy majority for the next four years. Grant Hunter was reelected in a landslide to his MLA position with the revamped electoral boundaries in tow, featuring areas such as Taber, Barnwell, Warner, Coaldale, Foremost, Milk River, Stirling and Raymond. Hunter was winner early in his riding having 13,511 votes (as of 11 p.m. Tuesday) with 78 out of 80 polls reporting. NDP candidate Laura Ross-Giroux came in second place with 1,874 and Alberta Party’s Jason Beekman earned 1,137. Liberal candidate Amy Yates was fourth with 173.

April 24: Several local schools participated in the 2019 Student Vote program, and while their votes did not officially count in the provincial election from last week, the results of the mock election had some similarities to the official count for April 16’s Alberta election. Both adults and kids alike were in favour of a United Conservative Party majority, although the Student Vote netted a stronger opposition for the New Democratic Party. In the Student Vote results, the UCP won a majority government with 49 seats. the NDP would form the opposition with 35 seats. The Alberta Party won three seats.

May 1: Alarming drug enforcement trends throughout the community in 2018 have been highlighted in the Taber Police Service’s annual report card on crime statistics. Prepared by Sr. Cst. Dave Gyepesi and administrative assistant Arlene Wong and presented to the Taber Municipal Police Commission at their April 17 meeting, the 2018 crime report is the 12th year of the annual crime analysis. “Methamphetamine usage has surfaced amongst Taber’s illicit drug users. Until late 2017, meth usage in Taber had been relatively non-existent,” reads a statement in the Gyepesi-Wong report. “This increasing meth use in Taber can be explained as this same trend has been observed across the province. Meth has recently become the drug of choice among illicit drug users within those communities.”

May 8: April 28, 1999 will forever be etched in stone as a day that helped shape the current form of the Taber Police Service. It has been 20 years since a then 14-year-old former student walked into W.R. Myers High School with a .22 calibre semi-automatic rifle and fired at three students randomly in the hallway, killing 17-year-old Jason Lang and seriously injuring Shane Christmas. The shooter had previously dropped out of school and according to court documents, had suffered severe bullying throughout his school years, including having been doused with lighter fluid and threatened to be set alight when he was in the first grade, showing signs of depression throughout his childhood. “The impact on us as a police agency was significant, but the impact on the victims of this matter are life long. The impact cannot be minimized. There were many victims other than unfortunately the deceased and other victims that were directly involved,” said Graham Abela, chief of the Taber Police Service, who was a constable at the time of the shooting.

May 15: Funds released by town council to allow the Baseball-Softball Enhancement Society to push forward with construction of a fourth ball diamond at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park have now been cancelled. Following debate at a special meeting on May 9, council had passed a resolution to “authorize administration to pay the bills for parts and services for phase one of the fourth ball diamond at KMMSC, following the proposed budget, and subject to auditor approval.” “With the estimates that we have, we’ve been able to cut the costs of building that diamond by about $100,000 already,” said society president Suzanne Peters on May 9, prior to the passing of the motion.

May 22: The Pride flag will be flying once again at the Provincial Building in Taber, but not before further controversy has swirled around the decision. Petitions both supporting and wanting the flag banned from being flown at the local Provincial Building during Taber Pride celebrations on June 1 started up on the website Change.org. While the petition does not seem to be present on the website as of Monday, early last week a petition initiated by someone identified as ‘Alberta Citizen’ asked Taber-Warner UCP MLA Grant Hunter to disallow the raising of the Pride flag at the Provincial Building, and had broken the 1,000 signature barrier at its peak.

May 29: Firefighting crews from all over the province have descended on the High Level area to fight the wildfires a mere few kilometres away from the town that has seen approximately 4,000 residents evacuated as a precaution. Local volunteer firefighter Cole Swarbrick has answered the call, as the Taber Fire Department got a request, where a contractor (Arctic Fire Safety Services) was looking for firefighters to fill spots. Swarbrick has been in High Level since early morning on May 21. “We have a lot of different departments up here from around the area and down south. It’s a lot of teamwork between not only contractors and the local fire department, but a lot of municipal fire departments as well, and business owners all coming together,” said Swarbrick.

June 5: The scourge of crystal methamphetamine is making its presence felt on Taber streets, and local law enforcement is sounding the warning bell about the potential implications for life in the community. During a review of monthly crime statistics at the Taber Municipal Police Commission’s May 22 meeting, Comm. Martin Sorensen drew a correlation between a rise in petty thefts and an escalating addictions problem in Taber. “You’re exactly right. Unless I’m totally out to lunch, this is a trend that’s coming. And there’s only one thing driving it,” said Taber Police Service Chief Graham Abela.

June 12: With myriad protocols and procedures to be followed before community volunteer groups interested in completing projects on town property can move forward, Coun. Mark Garner has suggested the creation of a checklist document. Referencing recent problems involving the Baseball – Softball Enhancement Society and the construction of a fourth ball diamond at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park — a situation which saw a funding resolution passed and then rescinded by council in a matter of days — Garner argued the necessity of creating a document to give clear direction to community groups. “I’d like to see if we couldn’t investigate, or look into, the formation of some kind of a document that we could give to community groups that come to partner with us on projects, in light of some of the misunderstandings we’ve had with a fourth ball diamond,” said Garner at town council’s May 27 meeting.

June 19: Taber and District 4-H is continuing to celebrate and remember one of their biggest supporters for the past few decades, Bruce Milliken. After passing away this May, people from the 4-H community have pointed to Milliken’s unwavering support of the program throughout his entire life. On top of that instrumental support, those from his 4-H days remember Bruce as not only a 4-Her but as a community-minded individual who put others before himself.

June 26: The Taber Police Association and the Town of Taber have inked a new three-year collective agreement that will see officers receive a total 5.25 per cent salary increase by 2021. Following closed session discussion at the April 23 meeting, council voted unanimously to accept the changes put forth to the collective agreement between the town and the association for Jan. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2021, and authorized CAO Cory Armfelt to sign the agreement. “It’s in the appropriate range that you would expect across the province, as I understand it,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop.

July 3: After a decision to construct a new Emergency Services Building sparked months of fiery debate among citizens, the Town of Taber has moved to extinguish further controversy by awarding a tender for the project that has come in significantly under budget. At their June 24 meeting, town council voted unanimously to award the Emergency Services Building tender to VHL Construction Ltd. for $3,075,490, exclusive of GST, and directed administration to remove conditions from the purchase contract (Lots 1-6, Block 15, Plan 5638L). “Three (bids) came in under budget,” said fire chief Steve Munshaw.

July 10: Municipal District of Taber community peace officers got a bit of a surprise early last week when an off-path weather balloon touched down in the municipality. Hailing from Stanford University in California, the weather balloon was en route to eastern Canada when it had to make a crash landing in the M.D. on July 2. “We got a phone call on Tuesday night from Stanford University, a woman by the name of Paige Brown. She said ‘this is going to sound strange but we have a weather balloon travelling between California past Alberta. It is designed to collect information and is very expensive and part of a trial program,’” explained Kirk Hughes, director of community safety and CPO sergeant.

July 17: Horizon School Division has further closed the gap in their budget as the board has approved a $424,915 deficit for the 2019-2020 school year compared to last year’s shortfall of $895,491. “There is an overall deficit of $424,915. All of that comes from a decision that schools have made with their cumulative savings over the years to spend for next year and you have allowed them to make that decision. As far as the board side of reserves go, the budget is balanced,” said Phil Johansen, associate superintendent of finance and operations at the Horizon board’s regular meeting on June 26.

July 24: Progress to getting the Horsefly Spillway project underway is continuing to move in the right direction. With discussions around the project coming often, a delegation from MPE was in Municipal District of Taber chambers to update councillors on the progress at their regular meeting on July 9. “This started approximately six years ago after the flooding in 2013. The government at the time and Minister of Alberta Environment asked the M.D. of Taber to spearhead a committee to look at drainage problems in southern Alberta from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat. Specifically, the area that drains into the SMRID (St. Mary River Irrigation District) main canal system,” explained Ron Hust from MPE and South Regional Stormwater Committee.

July 31: The Taber Times made its presence felt at the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Competition held in Red Deer earlier this year, celebrating submissions from the calendar year of 2018. Among the accolades were The Times winning for Best Fire Prevention Week supplement in its circulation category, alongside Lamont Leader (2501-5000 circulation) and Wainwright Star/Edge (5001 and over circulation). “The one thing we have prided ourselves over the years with our special fire section is original content with pictures and stories. I can’t recall a time in all my years at the paper, being less than 90 per cent original content with some years being 100 per cent,” said Greg Price, managing editor of the Taber Times and Vauxhall Advance.

August 7: If you ain’t afraid of no ghost, small-town southern Alberta has something just for you. Local residents from Fort Macleod and media descended on a town hall meeting last Thursday night to find out details about the shooting schedule in the area for the latest Ghostbusters movie (Ghostbusters 2020), which is tentatively set for six days of shooting over 11 days in the town of approximately 3,000 people. “We are really excited to be bringing this $170 million dollar-plus production into the town of Fort Macleod. It goes a long way into helping our economy as well as putting the town of Fort Macleod on the map,” said Sue Keenan, CAO for Fort Macleod.

August 14: After a devastating hail and wind storm swept through the Taber-Barnwell area last week, producer groups are still assessing the damage to fields and crops. Corn, potatoes, sugar beets and other crops were affected to varying degrees across a huge swath of southern Alberta as the ‘Great White Combine’ wreaked wrath on the agricultural industry. “Nearly every acre of beet in the Taber west growing area and a significant acreage in Picture Butte was affected with up to 100 percent defoliation in many cases,” said Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen, president of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers.

August 21: While agriculture and weather are never certain, barring some unforeseen circumstance, Taber corn will be available for the Cornfest-specific events along with some available for consumption at vendors in the aftermath of a severe hail storm that engulfed Barnwell and surrounding areas. That being said, consumers who look forward to the summer treat every year are encouraged to get their fill early depending on how long supplies will last. “People have been asking obviously because of the hail (Aug. 6). We had some stuff that was down enough where the hail hit it, but 85 per cent of it was perfectly fine and then there would be 10 or 15 per cent of the cob where the hail stones hit it. They just won’t develop, they’ll be a little white. The kernels won’t develop fully,” said James Johnson of Johnson Fresh Farms.

August 28: After much debate around the Off-Highway Vehicle Bylaw, the Municipal District of Taber has finally passed third reading. During council’s regular meeting on Aug. 13, councillors once again had a chance to raise any issues around the bylaw which had the first two readings passed at their July meeting. In the time since their last meeting, council had received a variety of different resident opinions through letters and their Facebook page around the bylaw. Many of those residents were in favour of adding the bylaw as it would allow farmers in the M.D. easier access to their fields on ATVs, though recreational riding would still be prohibited.

September 4: Taber town council has never been opposed to cowboys on the streets, but after passing a recent resolution that may not apply to the horse they rode in on. On June 10, council had discussed concerns about riding horses within town limits along 80th Avenue, and had unanimously passed a motion directing administration to bring forward Traffic Control Bylaw 6-2005 for review on June 24. At that meeting, council voted 6-1 to direct administration to draft an amending bylaw for Sec. 15.09 to allow the riding of horses within town limits. Section 15.09 currently states “no person shall ride, drive, walk, any horse or any other animal, with the exception of small pets on a leash, in or on any sidewalk, trailway boulevard, park, highway or any other public place within the Town of Taber.”

September 11: With the Taber Public Library requesting a six figure increase to their annual allocation from the Town of Taber in the 2020 budget, several councillors have expressed strong reservations about the organization’s direction and the programming that is being offered to the public. The library’s approved amount in the town’s 2020 budget is $229,463, and the proposed amount is $354,875.20, for an increase of $125,412.20. In 2021 the library is seeking a town allocation of $365,250.15, and $372,958.94 in 2022. “In 2015, we got rid of membership fees because it is seen as a barrier to access, and since doing that, our membership has grown,” said library manager Heather Martin-Detka at town council’s Sept. 3 special meeting. “So that shows that membership fees were indeed a barrier to access…we’ve had growth of about 22 per cent since doing away with those.”

September 18: Questions surrounding who will be included as part of a Town of Taber twinning delegation to Higashiomi City, Japan in 2020 has resulted in a split 5-2 vote following closed session. Due to the issue being debated behind closed doors, the nature of council’s discussion is only speculative as closed session is not open to the public and no formal record or minutes of the discourse are usually kept. However, prior to the adoption of the agenda at town council’s Sept. 9 meeting, Coun. Garth Bekkering questioned the inclusion of Item 9.3 – Town of Taber and Higashiomi, Japan: Delegation 2020 for closed session discussion. “Before we proceed with the adoption of the agenda, I would like to ask a question of administration regarding Item 9.3 closed session. Why is it in in closed session?” CAO Cory Armfelt explained through consultation with Mayor Andrew Prokop prior to the Sept. 9 meeting, it was decided Item 9.3 would be discussed in closed session.

September 25: The battle lines have been drawn for the nation’s future, and the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce is helping local citizens become more informed with their vote in the upcoming federal election in October. The Chamber is hosting a Federal Election All-Candidates Forum at the Taber Legion on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. and will be moderated by the Sugar Town Sweet Talkers. “We’ve hosted other debates (municipal and provincial), it’s to get people out to vote. It’s a federal election and a lot has happened in the last four years,” said Rick Popadynetz, president of the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce. “As a chamber, we advocate for all businesses and with good governance comes good business.”

October 2: With the MacKinnon Report released earlier this fall, many signs are signalling a shift in how policing costs are paid for around the province. One of those municipalities preparing is the Municipal District of Taber who have been exploring how those changes may affect them. “Yesterday (Sept. 23) we had a conference call with RMA (Rural Municipalities of Alberta). Basically, I got that municipalities under 5,000, M.D.’s and counties under 5,000 don’t pay (for policing) because it is covered by the province,” said Reeve Merrill Harris at M.D. council’s regular meeting on Sept. 24.

October 10: With less than two weeks now remaining in the 2019 federal election, local voters were given the opportunity to challenge candidates vying for a seat in Bow River during the election forum hosted at the Taber Legion Hall last Wednesday. Organized by the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce and facilitated by the Sugar Town Sweet Talkers, questions to candidates were handled through a panel of four local volunteers including Jack Brewin (Town of Taber councillor), Chris Gallagher (Taber Irrigation District manager), Merrill Harris (Municipal District of Taber reeve) and Pat Bremner (Holy Spirit Catholic School Division trustee). A crowd of around 50 attended the 7 p.m. forum, which saw candidates field questions from the panel and floor for two hours.

October 16: Barnwell is marking the loss of the village’s chief administrative officer, Wendy Bateman, and village council issued a statement last week honouring the long-time administrator’s contributions to Barnwell. “With heavy hearts, the Village of Barnwell is saddened to announce the passing of our CAO Wendy Bateman. We ask that you please be respectful of her family at this time and please be patient with the village office as things are sorted out.” Bateman, 67, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 6. “Wendy gave many great years of service to this community, and she will be greatly missed.”

October 23: Following an incredibly tight race to the finish line on the national hustings, there were few questions about who was on top in Bow River as incumbent Martin Shields and the Conservatives cruised to a landslide re election victory in the riding on Oct. 21. “It was tremendous support across the riding, it’s humbling to win by that percentage,” said Shields in an interview with the Times on Tuesday morning. “It’s been great being out in the campaign, knocking on doors, doing forums, meeting the people. There was such tremendous support out there.”

October 30: The United Conservatives hope their budget as the provincial government is the first stepping stone to getting Alberta back on track financially. As part of the UCP treasury board, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction and Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter was part of budget discussions and he is confident it will bring financial stability back to the province. “I was excited to be able to work on this budget, as I was on the treasury board. What we did was, we struck the MacKinnon panel so we could have an independent third party take a look and validate what we were doing in the treasury board. We worked independently but came up with pretty much the same information that we spend more than we make. That is something we have to rectify and we’re working hard to do that,” said Hunter in an interview with the Times on Monday afternoon.

November 6: After 16 years of being charged maximum franchise fee rates of 20 per cent by the Town of Taber, town council is finally providing local utility consumers with some tax relief after voting a two per cent drop across the board. The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has established maximum percentages for franchise fees at 20 per cent, and historically the town has maintained its rate at that maximum. In 2013, council established a capital reserve fund where 7.5 per cent of franchise fee revenue is directed into a fund to support energy conservation projects. Following discussion at their Oct. 15 meeting, council had instructed administration to study the financial implications of a reduction in franchise fees from a range of 12 to 16 per cent, as well as a corresponding reduction in the energy conservation reserve transfer of between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent.

November 13: A resolution has come to fruition on complaints filed against three Municipal District of Taber councillors in accordance with the M.D. of Taber Council Code of Conduct Bylaw No. 1935. Following an in-camera session at M.D. council’s meeting last Tuesday, and after examining the results of an investigation, it found councillors John Turcato, Brian Brewin and Tamara Miyanaga in breach of the Code of Conduct. Back in late August, M.D. council passed a resolution at the conclusion of an in-camera (closed) session, to appoint Shari-Anne Doolaege of SAGE Analytics Inc. to investigate and report on complaints filed against the three councillors, at a rate of $5,000 plus costs per complaint. “The investigator found that some, but not all the allegations had merit,” said Merrill Harris, reeve for the M.D. of Taber, in response to inquiries from the Taber Times into the resolutions by council.

November 20: Taking advantage of the region’s amenities for economic investment, the Grasslands Taber Collaborative broke ground last week on a facility designed to be Canada’s first craft cannabis, hemp and agri-food premium supply chain. Grasslands Taber Collaborative (GLTC) will be a craft cannabis and hemp cultivation, extraction and value-added premium supply chain housed on a 60-acre premium park in partnership with the Town of Taber. The park has been envisioned to become a “centre of excellence for the incubation and acceleration of cannabis, hemp and agri-food entrepreneurs.” According to GLTC CEO Lindsay Blackett, the new facility could represent a $100 million investment in the community with the potential for more than 200 jobs.

November 27: The cost-cutting ripple effects of October’s provincial budget has been impacting school divisions across the province, and locally, the news is just as grim as in other jurisdictions for Holy Spirit Catholic School Division. The Oct. 24 budget funds enrollment growth for 2019, but freezes K-12 operating spending over the next four years, which could have a corresponding effect on per-student investment if enrollment grows. “Like any other school division we want to grow. Our rural schools are static for growth, but our urban schools are growing,” said Pat Bremner, Ward 5 trustee with Holy Spirit. “It’s hard enough to manage no funding for growth, but when you’ve already put funding in very crowded positions, in crowded areas, it makes it hard.” Cuts to various grants and initiatives have had a cumulative effect, and the division’s bottom line will be suffering a seven-figure impact.

December 4: The Municipal District of Taber council has gotten their first look at next year’s interim operating budget. At their regular meeting on Nov. 26, councillors got an in-depth look at changes being proposed for next year’s budget. The 2020 proposed preliminary operating budget projects a $175,791 operating budget deficit compared to 2019’s $535,422 deficit. The 2020 interim operating budget also includes a non-cash expense of$4,438,414 for amortization. “Municipalities are allowed to budget deficits up to their amount of amortization. Our amortization is over $4 million,” explained Bryan Badura, director of corporate services. With oil and gas linear changes, the 2020 budget includes a projected decrease of $790,468 in municipal property tax revenues.

December 11: After identifying a suspected drug house in the community, the Taber Police Service was able to utilize
provincial legislation to end criminal activity at that location. The service’s actions were assisted by the province’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) legislation, which helps keep communities safe by dealing with problem properties that are being used for specific illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and child exploitation. “We were able to successfully utilize SCAN legislation, the Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation that exists within the province,” said Chief Graham Abela at a Taber Municipal Police Commission meeting.

December 18: As part of sanctions levied against three Municipal District of Taber councillors, apology letters directed to council were released to the public. During the M.D. of Taber’s regular meeting on Dec. 10, the letters addressed to council written by Councillors Tamara Miyanaga, Brian Brewin and John Turcato were a part of open session as agenda items. Brewin and Turcato were required to write letters of apology to the complainant and to council, were removed from council appointed committees until the M.D. of Taber 2020 organizational meeting, and associated committee remuneration has been reduced until the 2020 Organizational meeting. Miyanaga was required to issue a letter of apology to the complainant, a letter of apology to council, removed from council appointed committees until March 1, 2020, and associated committee remuneration is reduced until March 1, 2020. The three councillors issued their concerns with the letters being released for public viewing.

December 25: As the end of the year approaches, the Municipal District of Taber is preparing for a rollover of equipment. M.D. councillors were presented with the 2020 capital budget and list of items incoming for the new year during their regular meeting on Nov. 26. With a fairly tight budget presented by the new United Conservative government earlier this fall, it has left many municipalities searching for a way to reduce spending. For the M.D., initial total capital costs were set at $4,093,000 which has since been trimmed down to $1,732,000. Disposals are now at $749,000 (initially at $4,093,000) and net capital is $983,000 ($3,011,000). “Initially back in September, the capital budget proposed capital purchases was just over $4 million with disposals of over $1 million for a total net of just over $3 million,” explained Bryan Badura, director of corporate services.

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