Year in Review (2017)

January

The lead story of the first 2017 edition of the Lakeside Leader had to do with town council voting against the approval of a back-yard poultry experiment. It was one of those rare issues that split council right down the middle, with three strongly in favour and three strongly opposed. Unfortunately for supporters of backyard chickens, the seventh councillor was away. According to the rules, a tie equals a defeat, and that was the end of that.
The Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission made news in January, announcing that it would be looking at the riding boundaries and asking for submissions from interested parties. The speculation – as always – was that Lesser Slave Lake might be tinkered with, to try to solve the dilemma of its well-below-average population.

The Slave Lake Winterhawks’ season ground to a halt in January, when the team forfeited its final three games of the season due to a shortage of players. ‘Is this the end of senior hockey in Slave Lake?’ The Leader asked.

Slave Lake town councillor Diane Smith, citing work and family demands on her time, resigned three years into her first term. A byelection to replace her was called for March 1. Mayor Tyler Warman, making the announcement, said Smith had been “an excellent addition to council.”

Slave Lake got another fast-food franchise in January when the Dairy Queen opened in the Cornerstone shopping area.

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee lost her job as Minister of Municipal Affairs and gained a new one as Minister of the newly-created Department of Children’s Services.

February

Featured in the first issue of the month was Father Ephrem Thomas of St. Peter Celestin Catholic Church in Slave Lake. Originally from Kerala in India, Fr. Thomas had previously spent five years as pastor of St. Martin’s parish in Wabasca.

Slave Lake’s New Year’s Baby was Adrienne Shannon Reid, born on Jan. 16 to mom Lindsey Beaudoin and dad Kyle Reid.

The results of the 2016 federal census came up in February and they did not make municipal officials happy. Slave Lake was down 131 people since 2011, said Statistics Canada, and the M.D. of Lesser Slave River’s population fell by 126.
“The town’s going to have to look at doing its own (census),” said mayor Tyler Warman.

Winning the Ladies’ Bonspiel at the Slave Lake Curling Club in February was the Pam Morrison rink, with third Rhonda Wizniak, second Robyn Coimbres and lead Bev Arsenault.

Water Pure & Simple was named Business of the Year at the annual business awards gala put on by the Slave Lake & District Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 25. The company was cited for ‘outstanding involvement in the community.’

Slave Lake’s Bantam Thunder hockey team qualified for the provincial championships with a comeback win over Sexsmith.

March

Slave Lake voters chose Brice Ferguson to be the newest member of town council in a byelection to replace Diane Smith. Ferguson defeated Rebecca King by 432 to 184 votes. King vowed she would run again in the October general election.

Slave Lake had a rare treat when Ballet Kelowna performed at the Legacy Centre, courtesy of the Stage North Association. The house was packed for the show.

The Danny’s Picker Service rink won the 2017 Oilmen’s Bonspiel in early March. Skip Dion Poitras and teammates Steve Gladue, John Bradley and Cruz McGregor defeated the Pyramid team in the final.

With just a week to go before a provincial hockey tournament, the timing of an electrical fire in a transformer box at the multi-rec centre in Slave Lake wasn’t good. Half the power was cut to the building. The fix would take a while, but the good news was the hockey tournament would not be interrupted.

Big news in March was a ‘selective blockade’ on provincial highways running through the Bigstone Cree Nation. Chief Gordon Auger cited a lack of consultation and surface and groundwater issues among others. He talked in interviews about charging tolls. The band also published a list of companies that would be allowed through and one of companies that wouldn’t be.
However, the roadblock was abandoned almost as soon as it was set up and no reason was given.

Slave Lake’s Midget hockey team hosted the ‘C’ provincials March 24 – 26, which was won by the LaCrete Lumberjacks. The host team won 0 and 3.
In other sports, news, the Bantam Thunder won their league, defeating Westlock 3 – 2 in the final game.

April

‘Whiz kid gets perfect score on provincial math exam,’ said a front-page headline in the first edition of April. The whiz kid was Campbell Rea, a Grade 12 student at Roland Michener School in Slave Lake. Rea said he planned to study engineering at the University of Alberta after graduating.

Local boxer Carl Knight won a Golden Gloves fight in Pocatello Idaho, in the 119-lb. Jr. C division. The boxer he defeated was the Utah state champion.

‘Most residents will see a minimal change on their property tax notice,’ Jason Warawa of the M.D. of Lesser Slave River was quoted as saying in an Apr. 19 front-page story. He was speaking on the occasion of the passing of the 2017 budget and the tax rate bylaw. ‘Expenses are more or less in line,’ he added. This was accomplished despite a drop in tax revenue of almost a million dollars over the previous year.

People with what looked like movie cameras were seen around the area a lot, starting in April. According to a story that appeared in the Apr. 26 Leader, they belonged to Hillside Media Productions of Toronto, and were riding along with the local fire department. The idea was to turn it into a ‘reality’ TV series, tentatively called ‘Hellfire Heroes.’

On the economic diversification front, local company Dog Island Brewing started setting up its new, much-larger brewery in April. Ben Fiddler and Chad Paulson hoped their new system would be producing suds in about three months.

Tina Marie Ritter was named Slave Lake’s Citizen of the Year at the annual volunteer appreciation banquet at the Friendship Centre on April 22. The Lifetime Volunteer Award went to Gordon Ferguson.

May

Bad news for a local lumber mill in early May, with a new 20 per cent duty on Canadian softwood lumber being shipped to market in the United States.
“Any extra costs couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Vanderwell Contractors general manager Ken Vanderwell.

Chantelle Hole, 25 was found dead in a residence near Smith. ‘Investigators do not believe this was a random incident,’ said the RCMP in its release. Hole had been the manager of a liquor store in Slave Lake.

Police issued a serious caution in mid-May about opioid use, after three incidents in two days, one of them fatal.
‘There may be something very dangerous circulating in our community,’ said Sgt. Marlene Brown in a news release.

Foreshadowing inter-municipal disagreements to come, M.D. council chose to not spend the requested amount to replace a decaying waterline along the north end of Main Street, running out of Slave Lake and into the M.D. Okay, said the town, we’re abandoning that line and servicing our customers from the new line we’re installing along Tamarack Road. This left several M.D. customers in a precarious position.

Slave Lake’s Bantam Heat boys’ baseball team was off to a great start. On the last weekend of May, they beat Grande Prairie twice and Parkland once. The Heat were undefeated after the first round of league play.

June

Municipal officials couldn’t wipe the grins off their faces after learning that Slave Lake’s airport had been chosen for the lion’s share of provincial funding for its much-needed asphalt overlay project. With only $2 million for such upgrades for the entire province, Transportation Minister Brian Mason surprised everyone involved with the announcement that $1.4 million would go to the Slave Lake project.

Logger sports returned to Slave Lake on June 3. A full day of activities put on by the Lesser Slave Forest Education Society, with plenty of help from local companies and Alberta Ag & Forestry, plus nice weather, made it a successful event. Professional logger sports competitor Kat Spencer was on hand to give lots of advice.

Competitive power lifting also came to Slave Lake with an event at Champions Health and Fitness. One of the competitors, Kaeden Ottenbreit, set a national record in the bench press. Locals Kathy Reid-Soucy and Winston Teichroeb also broke national records, as did several competitors from out of town.

The team of Ken Carpenter and Tracey Crain took top spot in the 2017 Anglers Cup walleye tournament, based out of Slave Lake. They earned a cool $25,000 for their efforts.

The Town of Slave Lake got an early start on promoting the October municipal election, unveiling its ‘marketing strategy’ in late June. The strategy included a Facebook page devoted to the election. The goal is twofold – to encourage people to run for public office and to stimulate voter interest.

July

Clint Carpenter, of Canada Post, explained to the M.D. of Lesser Slave Lake council that online shopping is a main reason the post office moved away from box numbers in Widewater and Canyon Creek. The change affects 339 residents but mail pick-up was not to change. The changes were scheduled to be in place by October, 2017.

The Gilwood Golf Club reported that their junior golf program is popular. Club manager Tom Tippin said so many kids were participating that it created scheduling issues. In total there were 55 participants that golfed in the nine-and-under group, 10-to-12-year-old group and the 13-and-up group.

The former Slave Valley Motors site was rezoned to Council Direct Control. The rezoning was done to accommodate the owner of the property, who had found someone interested in leasing the property for the purpose of opening a recreation vehicle dealership. There was opposition to the rezoning, citing possible noise complaints.

Slave Lake town council approved a patio for the Dog Island Brewing Company. A bylaw change was required since Dog Island Brewing is located in an industrial area.

The Slave Lake Chamber of Commerce reported that the 2017 Riverboat Daze was a success. Chamber President Frankie Giroux explained the chamber was looking to bring back community spirit around the event. The activities proved popular as 1,000 people attended a block party and 500-600 people participated in the sand sculpture contest.

The Wildrose Rodeo Association’s Spruce Point Park Rodeo saw 100 participants and drew a crowd of 1,000 on the first day. The rodeo had returned after a 15 year absence.

Barbed wire wrapped around trees and nails planted in the ground were found on the trails near the hamlets of Canyon Creek and Widewater. The local ATV club reported these findings and expressed safety concerns.

Tragedy struck on the lakes east of Smith. The RCMP reported a teenage male drowned and another swam to safety after their canoe capsized on Chain Lake. Days later, a 44-year-old man who was scuba diving was found dead on Island Lake.

August

Students from the Mistassiniy School in Wabasca-Desmarais spoke at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference in Toronto. The students presented results of research they had done from January to June, 2017. The research covered their elders’ experiences in residential schools.

The Town of Slave Lake’s Devonshire Beach survey saw over 400 responses. Town communications co-ordinator Christopher Brown said this was one of the more popular responses to a town survey.

The community was in mourning after longtime resident Stella Boisvert died. She was 89. She was remembered for her years of volunteerism and philanthropy. She had been volunteering for over 50 years and was a founding member of community groups, such as the Slave Lake Hospital Auxiliary group.

Local campgrounds reported a high volume of campers this past July. Big Fish Bay manager Willy Driedger said there were over 600 campers in his campground. Other campgrounds in the area reported similar results.

Two local baseball teams did well at provincials. The Slave Lake Junior baseball team won gold during the provincials in Edmonton. The Slave Lake Bantam ‘AA’ Heat took home silver at the ‘AA’ provincials in Strathmore. Both tournaments took place during the August long weekend.

Renovations began in August at the old family care clinic as the building would be the new base for the Slave Lake Parent Link and FCSS. The plan called for Parent link to take over the upstairs portion of the building. Parent Link program lead Jaime Norberg said moving into this new building would mean parent and kids would be able to access more services during a visit to the centre.

Police charged two people in the death of 21-year-old Nicole Robar. Her body was found in Lesser Slave Lake River on Aug. 5. The two people charged are a 34-year-old man from Slave Lake and 27-year-old from Spruce Grove. The two are facing second degree murder and indignity to human remains charges.

The Old Smith Highway proved to be a strain on M.D. of Lesser Slave River transportation department. Transportation Director Bill Klassen filled council in on the details, saying road maintenance has already been maxed out as overtime numbers had already matched the entire 2016 year. The wet summer caused the extra work to make sure the road is passable. The road in question has already taken up 20 per cent of M.D. resources. CAO Allan Winarski asked council if it was time to consider paving the road.

Firefighters from the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Fire Service spent 37 days helping fight wildfires in British Columbia. The time was spent in the area of 150-Mile House. Slave Lake firefighters were in Miocene, Pioneer Crescent, Alexis Creek, Riske Creek. The Slave Lake sprinkler trailers were on the scene and stayed back to continue efforts when Slave Lake crews left. Firefighters that helped out included, Ryan Coutts, Logan Skahl, Patrick McConnell, Jake Zacharias, Lee Green, Kim Romaniuk, Alex Pavcek, Shane Whiteford, Dustin Seghers and Thomas Lougheed.

September

The results of the Town of Slave Lake survey of Devonshire Beach were made public. Town communication co-ordinator Christopher Brown said 472 surveys were completed and over 80 per cent of respondents said they would visit the beach more often if it were better maintained. When asked if they were willing to pay more taxes for beach clean up, results were the contrary but a majority reported they would be willing to participate in a clean-up event.

The 2017 Ice Breaker Hockey Game proved to set a record for attendance. Event organizer Shawn Gramlich said that over 700 people turned up for the banquet portion of the event. Attendance was so high that people had to be turned away. People came from all over Canada and the U.S. and had special guest Wayne Gretzky and country music star Gord Bamford played a set.

Slave Lake town council gave the green light for work to start on the new waterlines for the north end of Main St. along Tamarack Road. The cost of project is $1.378 million. The town will be self-managing the project. Project manager Doug Baird reported that this could save the town $600,000 but town manager Brian Vance said the town is taking on more risk than if a contractor was hired. The M.D. of Lesser Slave River will contribute $227,000 to the project.

The Slave Lake Minor Hockey Association (SLMHA) reported that there were not enough kids registered in the older age groups to make two teams. SLMHA president Jerod Hartman said natural attrition is part of the reason as well as the recent formation of the Red Earth/Loon Lake minor hockey program. The SLMHA had almost 50 kids from that area the previous year.

The presence of a sow bear and cubs on the ‘bear trails’ in Slave Lake was troublesome for Fish and Wildlife. Tape was put up and traps were set. Fish and Wildlife warned people to stay off the trails for safety reasons and threatened to ticket people found using the trails during this ban.

Former mayor of Slave Lake Gerald Allarie died on Sept. 10 due to prostate cancer at age 65. Allarie served on council for a dozen years as a councillor and two terms as mayor in the 1990s. It was during his time in office that the paved trail system was put in place and the 1994 Arctic winter Games took place in Slave Lake. His son Bruce said his dad was instrumental in getting both these things done.

As the dust settled after nomination day in Slave Lake it showed that there would be seven cadidates running for the six town council seats. Those candidates were Khadim Hussain, Rebecca King, Shawn Gramlich, Darin Busk, Joy McGregor, Brice Ferguson and Julie Brandle. Incumbent mayor Tyler Warman was acclaimed as no other candidates came forward. In the M.D. of Lesser Slave River there were no acclamations as candidates came forward for the six council seats and the reeve position.

October

The East Mitsue Road is in need of pavement repairs. The M.D. of Lesser Slave Lake was looking into the matter but found out the first two kilmetres of the road is not even registered. Council decided to apply for permission to do the repairs. Since the portion of road is unregistered it belongs to Alberta Agriculture Forestry. Council decided to lobby Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee to get provincial funding for the work. Both the province and the M.D. thought the road belonged to the other party.

Former Slave Lake resident and Roland Mitchener High School graduate Kalsey Kulyk won the County Music Association 2017 discovery artist of the year award. She said she found the whole experience surreal and will be spending the rest of 2017 in the recording studio working on an album set to launch sometime this year.

The candidates forum in Slave Lake was tame and roughly 70 people attended it. Candidates fielded questions about the use of photo radar and where the money goes, how to combat homelessness and how the M.D. of Lesser Slave River contributes less to the town. At the M.D. candidates forum it became more heated when discussing the relationship between the town and the M.D.

The first ever volleyball court classic took place in October at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy and St. Mary of the Lake in Slave Lake. The Misstassiny Mustangs were the big winners as they walked away with first place in senior girls, senior boys and junior girls. The St. Francis senior girls place third.

Slave Lake town council has taken steps to get back into a regular street rehabilitation program. Town staff prepared a list of streets needing work based of priority stretching out over 10 years. The plan will be to do at least one road per year. Contracts for work on Fifth St. And Fifth Ave. NE have already been awarded.

The 2017 Alberta municipal election results are as follows. In M.D. of Lesser Slave Lake incumbent reeve Murray Kerik won the mayoral race. The winning council candidates were Sandra Melzer, Becky Peiffer and incumbent Robert Esau in Div. I and Jeff Commins and incumbents Brian Rosche in Div. II.
In Slave Lake Rebecca King, Shawn Gramlich and incumbents Julie Brandle, Darin Busk, Brice Ferguson and Joy McGregor won. There was no mayoral race as no one ran against incumbent mayor Tyler Warman.

November

The M.D. of Lesser Slave River CAO, Allan Winarski, feels the Town of Slave Lake had discrepancies in their financial reporting regarding fire services. The town and the M.D. were in the process of negotiating a new cost-sharing agreement on fire services. Winarski said there was incomplete disclosure. He stressed that this was not a criticism of the day-to-day operations of fire services and felt an agreement would be made.

A fall hazard reduction burn was the last of the season. Approximately 110 hectares of heavy dry grass were burned. The plan targeted 150 hectares. Wildfire Information Officer Leah Lovequist said 500 hectares in the Slave Lake Forest Area had grass-burning. This capped off a fairly quiet fire season due to frequent rain.

Relations between the Town of Slave Lake and the M.D. of Lesser Slave Lake improved following a 14-hour inter-municipal meeting. Town manager Brian Vance reported that an agreement was reached on most aspects up for renewal. This meant the M.D. agreed to pay the full invoiced amount for the 2016 cost sharing agreement and the town rescinded their Dec. 15 deadline on the payment.

The new Slave Lake RCMP detachment commander is a familiar face, Staff Sgt. John Spaans. He first came to Slave Lake as a rookie officer in 2005. Spaans would go on to serve in Elk Point, St. Paul/Saddle Lake, Boyle and Lac La Biche, where he served as detachment commander. He said the grass is pretty green in Slave Lake.

Live theatre productions returned to Slave Lake after a 16 year absence. The drought ended with the presentation of the play 100 Lunches at the Legacy Centre. Director David Symington addressed the history before the play began. The Slave Lake Musical Theatre Association is planning to do more productions in the future.

The Canyon Creek Arena has turned into an open can of worms for the M.D. of Lesser Slave Lake council. The arena is not up to code. The M.D. was considering replacing doors but that project is now looking to encompass much more. Council debated what renovations could be done without triggering inspections.

December

Sidewalk snow-clearing complaints were piling up. Slave Slake senior peace officer Mark Becker said there is a lack of resources which makes it tough for them to issue warnings to people who do not clear their sidewalks. That said, peace officers were taking a hard line on the issue when warnings are ignored. This includes a $500 ticket.

The Mat Program is up and running again. The program was brought back in late November. Barb Courtorielle of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre said there were two people that used the program and expects to see more use. Funding was available to keep the program running for two-and-a-half months.

Seven Roland Michener High School Rams wrestlers from Slave Lake qualified for the Alberta Winter Games and the Alberta Arctic Winter Games. These wrestlers were Courtney Reason, Karl Koester, Corbin McCann, Ty Kubel, Ethan Drake, Charlotte Stockholm and Reuben Burton. They qualified after competing in a tournament in Grande Prairie on Dec. 8.

The M.D. of Lesser Slave River ratified the inter-municipal cost-sharing agreements with the Town of Slave Lake. The Fire Services Agreement formula has changed to a 50/50 split. Reeve Murray Kerik said this means the municipalities do not have to revisit this for the next five years.

Andy Assaf, a long time men’s wear store owner, will be leaving Slave Lake for Edmonton to be closer to his family. He owned Maga’s Head to Toe for 35 years.

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