By Justin Seward
Despite 2021 being a year dominated by the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were still some good to come out of the year.
Bow Island’s Lions Club Meals on Wheels Program had seen a positive impact through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commentator spoke to Meals on Wheels program coordinator Char Brocklesby about how the program is doing.
“After we left Pleasant View Lodge for our in-town clients—the ones that live in their own home—it’s been working wonderfully because Peter’s Restaurant came on board with us,” said Brocklesby.
“We sat down and designed the menu choices that they could make for them. So they (clients) each get a checklist and they tell me definitely what they don’t like—so I don’t give it to them—and then I do a weekly menu from the consistent choices for Peter’s weekly.”
The program used to serve four clients in the Pleasant View Lodge’s downstairs apartments, but because of COVID, those seniors now get served by the Lodge’s dining room.
Meals on Wheels moved to serve their three in-home clients at this current time.
“We just sat down around (last) Easter and just figured, ‘Hey we talked to Peter’s—our club president did—and they said they’d help us out.’ We just talked to the clients and they were happy to change. It’s been going great since because they like the variety they can get from Peter’s.”
After a tumultuous stretch of being in and out of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic, students were informed on Jan. 7 that they would be returning to the classroom on Jan. 11.
Jan. 11 was the first time that students were back in classes since Nov. 24, 2020.
“The first thought I would give you is fantastic,” said Roger Clarke, then Prairie Rose Public Schools superintendent.
“(We’re) really happy that our kids back into school. Obviously ,we’re not when we see any disruptions to kids’ education. We’re ready.”
Clarke says one of the things that concerns PRSD with the anxiety part is the school division not knowing where COVID goes.
“We’re happy to have them in school and we’re going to progress and get back to the learning piece as close to normal as we can. But we always have that anxiety about whether this will happen again as we go through to June.”
The Bow Island Elks Club had to cancel their annual auction and supper fundraiser and were uncertain with future funding avenues.
“That’s definitely going to put a damper into our donations, not having this fundraiser,” said Shane Lane, the Club’s past president.
The annual fundraiser is normally held in late January and the proceeds are usually distributed to community organizations.
“We decided that there is no possible way to ask people for funds, when people are having a hard enough time day-to-day,” said Lane.
“We decided once things open up, maybe we can change our date or something. But more than likely, it’ll be postponed until next year.”
Lane anticipates the community support will be there again once things open up.
“For right now, the present time, I think we’re going to be in the process of giving funds out. I have a feeling once society comes back to normal,” said Lane.
The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association asked Alberta Health to have firefighters included in the emergency responders class during the first phase of the vaccine roll out.
The AFCA says it is in full support of Alberta Health including paramedics and other emergency medical personnel as people of priority for the vaccine, but firefighters need to be included as well.
In a statement, the AFCA said about 70 per cent of the calls that municipal fire departments respond to include medical emergencies.
“Many of these are to the vulnerable populations, group home settings, seniors care facilities and motor vehicle collisions,” the statement says.
Brian Stauth, fire chief in Medicine Hat, agrees and says both the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association and the Alberta Fire Fighters Association have lobbied the provincial government regarding vaccinations.
“Firefighters across the province including those here in Medicine Hat respond to medical calls in support of AHS, and these can be COVID related calls,” said Stauth.
Especially in rural areas it is the fire department that is often first on scene without prior warning about whether there are cases of COVID-19 present.
“Firefighters are at grave risk of contracting the virus. The risk to their communities also increases as more firefighters go into isolation, often leaving a department short of trained personnel,” the AFCA statement says.
-With Files from Gillian Slade, Southern Alberta Newspapers
Alberta Newspaper Group group publisher Ryan McAdams spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the newspaper industry.
“COVID-19 continues to be challenging for all businesses, and our newspapers were no different,” said McAdams, in a January interview
“It is impacted every aspect of our business. One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic is the uncertainty, not knowing what next week will bring.”
McAdams says he can’t think of a department that has not been impacted in some way.
“Whether it’s increased costs due to COVID safety measures; reduction in hours or even layoffs, all staff and managers are doing extra duty to maintain our publication schedule.”
“But in terms of the biggest hit where it’s impacted any business, is the ability of the business to generate revenue. It’s across all sectors, not just newspapers; and it has resulted in reduced cash flow and operational closures, we chose to close our offices when the case count spiked before Christmas—out of an abundance of caution for our staff and our community.”
January 2021 marked the 10th month of the COVID-19 pandemic and the County of Forty Mile has been enthused the response.
It was due to the county’s low dense population that the county sat at only two active cases as of Jan. 21.
“The low density of our population within the County has helped limit the spread significantly,” said Stewart Payne, the county’s director of emergency management.
“However, when positive case numbers arrived and began to rise, our communities responded well to increased efforts to curb and reduce them.”
There were 46 attendees from Bow Island Minor Hockey that participated in a province wide ‘Let them Play’ rally on Jan. 26.
Teams hadn’t participated in games since November 2020 after the government announced that indoor sports were prohibited due to the uptick in COVID cases.
Hockey Alberta had set a deadline of Feb. 1 to determine plans for continuing competitive league play.
“We were approached by (the) Bentley Minor Hockey president on Saturday to say that this is what they were planning and did we want to be a part of it and at that point we said ‘Yes’,” said Chantel Timmons, BIMH president.
“The more people, the more faces we had, and just doing it peacefully with all the COVID restrictions in place—and following all those restrictions —and we thought collectively we could take a picture, and each association that was doing it takes pictures and we can send them in as one group (and) minor hockey speaking on behalf of all youth sports in Alberta.”
Hockey Alberta made the call on Feb. 2 to cancel remaining league games for the 2020-2021 season.
The decision meant that seasons were over for the Tiered, AAA and AA hockey due to the pandemic.
“Obviously I was upset, but I guess you can’t really do anything about it except just working hard at home,” said Orion’s Julian Laqua, who played for Medicine Hat’s SEAC Tigers U16 AAA team this season.
Laqua’s team only played two cohort games before shutdowns came into effect.
“When we were playing as a team, it was definitely hard preparing, but you’ve just got to take every practice like it’s your last practice and be ready for whatever is coming for you,” said Laqua.
“We’re all pretty frustrated and upset about not being able to practice or play. I was just hoping to see my teammates and play again.”
Local municipalities were on board for a regional approach by sending Premier Jason Kenney an open letter to further ease restrictions in the areas with lower numbers in the province.
“Chantel (Timmons) has done quite a bit of the work and she drafted the letter and I think we were going to forward it right away to Edmonton and then just ratify (this) week at the council meeting,” said Steve Wikkerink, County of Forty Mile reeve.
“Well then why not let the regions of your province that have proven to be able to keep their numbers low, (and) let those parts of the province get opened and at least get some of the Alberta economy going,” said Wikkerink.
“In my mind, don’t struggle that you’re not making any money because oil and gas is poor and yet on the other side, you’ve got parts of your province that wants to go back to work and start generating cash—which then goes back into the economy—and the government so far is stifling areas of the province that could be working again.”
The South Zone of Alberta Health Services reached 12,000 COVID-19 doses administered. The total amount of doses administered across the province at that point was over 124,000.
The County of Forty Mile signed off on the Yellow Lake agreement on Feb. 1.
“The only time the county will be at the table is in an event—so either a big snow melt in the spring (or) a big storm during the summer that may raise the lake suddenly and to an unsafe level, then the County will be at the table to help cost share the pumping costs to make everything safe again,” said Steve Wikkerink, County reeve.
There were 55 of 60 Pleasant View Lodge residents that received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as of Feb. 4.
Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds expressed how impressed he was with the community’s response to COVID-19 in a February interview.
“I think people have been cooperative and patient and we certainly appreciate that,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds noted that town staff took measures to prevent COVID from coming into the work place and impact the municipality’s ability to serve the public.
“I don’t think it’s been a tremendous hardship on the town operations,” he said.
The Alberta government announced its annual budget on Feb. 25. An area of concern was the MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding and the 25 per cent less municipalities will receive over the next three years.
The Town of Bow Island will receive $439,906 for 2021 and 2022.
“It’s a key source of project funding for us. It has been since 2007 when the program started,” said Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds, in a March interview
“This coming year we will actually see an increase of 16.2 per cent in funding from that program. However, following this year they’re predicting a 25 per cent reduction over each of the following two years—that’s given us some concern.”
Reynolds said MSI is slated to be replaced by a new municipal framework that was in place by the previous government with no details.
“There was no negotiation on that with this government until just recently and now it’s been postponed until a couple more years,” said Reynolds.
“We just aren’t sure what we’re looking at for predictable infrastructure funding in the future.”
After an open house on March 13, Bow Island officially was named the newest location for the Willie Desjardins South Alberta Hockey Academy.
Short Grass Library systems have been faring well through the pandemic and has meant being flexible and innovative.
Susan Andersen Library librarian Kathryn Van Dorp said all of the libraries are very innovative through the pandemic.
“We have dealt with the changes very quickly, try to adapt to keep the services going in our communities to the best of our abilities,” said Van Dorp.
“Up until two weeks ago we were very busy doing the curbside services. A lot of people were still accessing that, so yeah behind the scenes, very busy. Some silver linings—yeah some services have come out of this that are quite positive—like even curbside pickup. We are continuing with that for those that would like to do that.”
Burdett School teacher Brittney Peters was named Prairie Rose’s Edwin Parr Teacher Award nominee.
Peters was one of six nominees in the province that was up for the award to a first-year teacher that displays outstanding efforts.
Enbridge Alberta’s Solar One farm west of Burdett came online.
The 36,000 panel, 10.5-megwatt solar farm will supply the equivalent energy needs of about 3,000 homes and offsetting 12,000 tonnes of carbon annually.
Bow Island’s Servus Community Arena operator Doug Conquergood just finished his 33rd Season at the rink.
“The best thing would be watching the enjoyment of the kids being able to play in their sports,” he said.
Alberta Sugar Beet Growers and Lantic Inc. reached a new agreement.
The agreement will see growers get paid upon arrival of the beets at the time of harvest and for the sugar percentage in those beets.
The Province of Alberta announced April 12 that they’re on pace to administer 300,000 of the COVID-19 vaccine per week as more than 1,300 pharmacies and 103 immunization sites now have are distributing the vaccine.
Prairie Rose Public Schools decided to establish a committee to review the K-6 draft curriculum that was announced by the province in March. The curriculum has a renewed focus on literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills.
“There are many aspects of the draft curriculum our educators find concerning and require further investigation,” said Roger Clarke, PRPS superintendent.
Bow Island’s Reid Hintz was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC).
April marked a month closer to summer where Hintz would be receiving an assisted living exoskeleton from the student-sponsored project that was conducted by University of Calgary students.
Foremost School Grade 12 student Jordan Kurtzweg was announced as one of 100 students to win an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship . The scholarship is awarded to students who have chosen to pursue a career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program. Kurtzweg will use the funds over the next four years in science degree, with a major in physics.
Bow Island’s Roc Modular announced they were going to be a part of the first ever prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) project in North America in Seattle.
The project is located near downtown Seattle at North Beacon Hill and was a seven-unit urban infill project that was constructed with large scale prefabricated CLT panels.
This type of home is seismically sound, well-insulated home with features that include real wood walls , floors and ceilings.
The benefits included low utility and maintenance cost for homeowners.
ROC Modular premanufactured the modular units beginning in October and delivered them to the project site for the Seattle company to install by early next year.
Bow Island’s Bodie Weiss signed with AJHL’s Bonnyville Pontiacs, beginning in the 2021-2022 season. The netminder played for the SAHA U18 Prep team at the time of his signing.
Prairie Rose Public Schools superintendent Roger Clarke announced his retirement, effective Nov. 1.
Albertans 12+ were eligible for their COVID-19 vaccines as of May 17.
HALO Air Ambulance launched its 50/50 Cash Draw fundraiser on May 14.
The fundraiser was HALO’s second of 2021 after the successful Cattle er’Cash Lottery—which sold out in 36 days .
St. Michael’s School students participated in the Youth in Philanthropy program in conjunction with the Community Foundation of South Eastern Alberta .
East chosen school was given $1,800 through CFSEA’s YiP Program and it was up to the group students to decide how the money was dispersed.
The group of six students decided to split the amount in half between HALO Air Ambulance and the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society.
“It’s a way for students to get involved in philanthropy and community development,” said Sydney Ratzlaff, CFSEA’s office and project coordinator.
“We just feel it’s really important for students to learn these skills about giving, about what it feels like to give out money and just the pride they have in making their community a better place.”
Bow Island town council approved for the municipality to enter into a five-year curbside recycling service with Medicine Hat’s Environmental 360 Solutions.
Jeremy Mitchell was named new Bow Island Minor Hockey president on May 26.
The County of Forty Mile council decided on June 9 that changes needed to be made to its ditch cleaning procedures.
Ditch cleaning had become more costly than initially anticipated and were filling up with soil erosion and interfering with drainage.
Then Reeve Steve Wikkerink compared the 2021 costs of $55,0000 to spending between $13 and $15,000 in 2002.
Wikkerink was worried that the County could reach $100,000 to deal with ditch cleaning and soil erosion.
The Foremost School Rodeo Program began in early June and gave students the opportunity to learn about horsemanship.
The idea initially stemmed from the Foremost Ag Society’s dream of having a rodeo program in their proposed outdoor arena.
Alberta announced an Open for Summer Lottery and Premier Jason Kenney noted the lottery was meant to encourage every Albertan to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Long-time Foremost School athletic director Glen Magneson entered the Alberta High School Sports Hall of Fame for a second time under the Athletic Administrator Category.
He was inducted in the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2010 as a coach.
Bow Island Health Centre residents have been able to enjoy the garden area a bit more during the nice weather as Jayco Builders came in and constructed raised garden beds.
This month marked the return of a couple of popular events including the Chili Cook-Off in Foremost to kick start rodeo weekend on July 23, the Friday Market started on July 9.
The Morgan Family of 4M Farms Ltd., won the annual Farmer of the Year Award for the County of Forty Mile.
Medicine Hat PainterGirl Christy Vance painted Tammy’s Sunflower Wall outside the Rainbow wing at the Alfred Egan Home in Bow Island.
Norm and Gale McFarland’s daughter, Tammy, is a resident at the home and wanted to do something for her July birthday this year. Vince painted a rainbow on top of the wall to depict the Rainbow apartments and sunflowers on the bottom—which is Tammy’s favourite flower.
The Foremost Flyers majors baseball team won the league championship, making it back-to-back titles for the club.
The Foremost Rodeo committee has a quick turnaround, but was still successfully able to hold a successful event.
“With word finally coming Alberta was fully open on July 1, it left rodeo organizers with a small amount of time to get things together.
But despite this hurdle, organizers are reporting nothing but good news.
“We had great success this year. We were happy to be able to host an event and we put it together on pretty short notice because July 1 was the go-ahead for things to open up. So, we had that date picked out and once we had the go-ahead, we threw it together in three weeks,” explained Stacey Barrows, ag society treasurer.
Bow Island’s own Makayla Gross was named Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede Queen on July 30.
-With files from Cole Parkinson, Southern Alberta Newspapers.
Environmentatl 360 rolled out its curbside recycling program in Bow Island on Aug. 10.
Westfield Project celebrated 25 years of contributing to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank on Aug. 14 with its annual harvest.
The harvest is meant to help CFB with tackling worldwide hunger.
“Success for this, I would say is the faithfulness on the part of the community and definitely on God’s part,” said Deiryk Schussler, Westfield Project manager.
“Without him in this, this is our Christian way of helping people (and) we provide money so they can use those gifts to fund farming projects around the world. So, this is our way of giving back.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an election on Aug. 15, a move local incumbent MP Glen Motz said was unexpected unfortunately.
“But it was just selfish,” said Motz.
“His main motivation to me was, he doesn’t like accountability and he thinks he’s delusional to believe that he’s going to win a majority government, and he wants a majority government because again it’s a lack of accountability. He’s not accountable then right—he doesn’t have to seek approval from anybody to do anything—they just go do it. As Canadians, we can’t let that happen.”
Aug. 27 marked for the first time in 18 months that the Blues at the Bow had a live performance from Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne.
St. Michael’s School began its new school year on Sept. 1 and with the return was hoping to create an ‘upbeat atmosphere.’
“The atmosphere I would argue is entirely different than it was with the restrictions and the lockdowns and everything else,” said Chris Sumner, school principal.
“I see a vibrant community that includes not only the students, but the teachers as well. There is an anticipation of things that have been regrettably taken away—but we understand why they were taken away. We’re talking about athletics and inter-school athletics, drama and welcome back barbecues. I think there is a real excitement about that with the cautionary phrase, ‘You know this for now and hope it’ll continue this way.’”
Foremost Historical Society hosted a grand opening on Sept. 12.
County of Forty Mile Reeve Steve Wikkerink informed council on Sept. 8 that we would not be seeking re-election in the Oct. 18 general election after eight years on council.
The nomination deadline came and went for the Oct. 18 municipal election and Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds found out he would be returning for his fourth term as the town’s mayor and would be joined the next four years with Couns. Roberto Ficiur, Terrie Matz, Dave Harrison, Kim Mitchell, Shannon Strom and Denise Curliss—who all got in by acclamation.
Incumbent MP Glen Motz won the Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding in the Sept. 20 federal election.
The Troy Loney Charity Golf Classic was held at the Bow Island Golf Club and raised an estimated between $425,000 to $500,000 for the Kale Porteous Memorial Splash Park.
It was confirmed in December the event exceeded the estimated numbers by bringing a final total of $585,000.
Prairie Rose Public Schools decided to table vaccine mandate talks until after the October 18 election.
Superintendent Roger Clarke stated the proposed policy would require any adult working in the division to either show proof of vaccination or undergo regular COVID testing. The policy would not be applicable to students.
Several trustees raised concern over the fact there will be a new board voted in on Oct. 18.
“I do believe this is something that the new board should be making decisions on, not outgoing board members,” said trustee Lucille Hartz, for Ward 1.
Graeme Dennis, of Ward 3, agreed, stating, “I think it would be wise to table (the proposed vaccination policy) for now and see what the new board brings forward.”
With Files from Kendall King, Local Journalism Intiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News.
Alberta held its municipal election on Oct. 18 and the County of Forty Mile held an election for Division 6 (Burdett and area).
Incumbent Coun. Chantel Timmons was outvoted by Don Drake for the seat.
Couns. Joan Hughson, Diane Harty, Stacey Barrows, Craig Widmer and Al Kuizenga were all acclaimed prior to the election.
Widmer was named reeve at council’s Oct. 25 organizational meeting.
Bruce Hillis was the lone new member of Foremost council to get voted (148 votes) in by the public as the rest of council was acclaimed.
Joining Hillis for the next four years included incumbents Blake Klatt, Lorne Buis, Larry Robinson and Tyson Ormann.
The Colin James shows at the Blues at the Bow sold out in a half hour when tickets went on sale Nov. 1.
“All the and hard work since the cancellation of the original Colin James Blues Trio in March of 2020 is finally paying off, and we can’t thank everyone enough for all their patience, too,” said Jason Riddell, Blues at the Bow president in a November release.
“Selling out this fast feels like we’re maybe rounding a corner from all the challenges that have come along with COVID-19 . It almost feels like a dream, and we definitely don’t want to wake up.
The month marked the return of Christmas Markets in Burdett and Foremost.
The Rural Community of Forty Mile reported to Bow Island town council on Nov. 8 that since its inception in 2019, that a total of $123,000 in grants received have been dispersed to 23 local charities.
A GoFundMe page was set up by Kim Mitchell and mother Ronda Noble for two-year-old family member Ace Noble, who suffers from Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria.
BPP is a rare neurological disorder that affects the outer surface of the brain (cerebral cortex).
The funds will go to the family to assist with modifications to the family home to accommodate Ace’s needs.
The new 22,000 square-foot Burdett Western Tractor dealership opened on Dec. 20.