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Mayors and Reeves look ahead to 2012

    It’s the start of a brand new year, a time to reflect upon all that has happened in the previous year and look ahead to the times to come. The Drumheller Mail spoke with Mayors and Reeves in the area and asked them to look back and ahead and share their thoughts.

Big Valley
    It will prove to be a big year for Big Valley. The town is in the process of constructing a new subdivision, with lots already available to be purchased.
    Council is looking forward to finishing a few old projects, improving infrastructure, and developing their tourism industry even further.
    “I am looking forward to 2012 with great excitement,” said Gail Knudson, Mayor of Big Valley. “We have a great team to go forward with. We have a unique village and an active rural community, which helps our community thrive.”

    Delia is closing in a milestone. The community is on the brink of celebrating its centennial.
    “I wish everyone a very happy new year. In 2014 Delia will be a hundred, so we’re getting started on the centennial,” said Mayor John Rogers.    
    Mayor Rogers went on to say  that one of the projects on the top of the list this year will be putting together a committee and planning for their big birthday.

    In Hussar the new year will be business as usual.
    “Everybody have a really successful and wealthy new year! As far as the village of Hussar goes, we’ll continue our success into the future,” said Mayor Bruce Kaufman.
    The biggest project occupying the minds of council and staff of The Village of Hussar is working on upgrading infrastructure within the village. Everyone is hoping the upgrades will be successful and make things better for everyone in Hussar.

    The village of Rockyford has finished a big year. The wildly successful Rockyford rodeo in July was one of the best the village has ever hosted. The village also saw the completion of a new water and sewage system through three blocks of the village.
    However, 2012 will prove to be another busy year for the village.
“I’d like to, on behalf of council and staff of the village of Rockyford, extend a very happy new year and a prosperous 2012. In 2012 we’ll see the completion of our new firehall and the municipality will be taking on a $1.5 million expansion of our sewage lagoon system,” said Mayor Darcy Burke.

Starland County
    The County of Starland had a great year as well. The county completed the renovation and modernization of the county office in Morrin.
    The county also became one of the few to achieve the rare feat of eliminating its long term debt.
    The county undertook the ambitious program of assigning addresses to the hundreds of rural properties. Starland finished the task of putting gravel on all the roads in its borders and completing the backlog of previous years.    
    In 2012 Starland is thinking green and undertaking another ambitious project to utilize the sunny summers and get solar power installed in farms throughout the county.

Wheatland County
    Wheatland County is taking time in the new year to redo its municipal development plan. The project began last year and one of the big things to cross off the to do list was finishing a growth management study.
    It is hoped that with a current and up due date development plan, the county will know where it stands and be able to proceed with new initiatives.
    The next biggest topic throughout Wheatland is the acquistion of water. Stable water sources are needed to spur development of hamlets within the county.
    2012 has barely begun, but already Mayors, Reeves, and the remaining staff in the villages and counties in the area are looking ahead to the new year and planning how to make 2012 a momentous year.

Year in Review: The Mail's Top 10 stories for 2011

    Another year has flown by, and to say it was a busy one for our newsroom is an understatement. As the new year dawns, it has become a tradition for The Mail to reflect on the year that was and list its top news stories of the year. 2011 saw controversy, tragedy, and victory.
    We have compiled a list of 10 stories based on a number of factors. They are not ranked in terms of importance, however feel fee to decide what you felt was the biggest story of the year.
    These are the stories that had people talking, arguing and reflecting. Some carried over from the previous year, some are still on going and some will leave a stamp on Drumheller for years to come.

1. Titans
    The Titans marched onto the field this season full of ambition and pride. They lined up against Olds in their regular season opener and were turfed 20-0. The pride and ambition was shaken, but hard work and mental focus quickly brought it back. By the next weekend they gave Strathmore a 34-10 lesson in ball control. They went on to trample Kate Andrews, and the next time they took the field against Olds, they left no doubt they were the dominant team in the league.
    The Titans cruised to a league championship over Bow Valley of Canmore with a score of 64-0. This put them up against the team that beat them out of provincial contention last season. They routed Willow Creek of Clarsholm by a scored of 38-20. The easiest win of the season came when St. Timothy’s of Cochrane forfeited in the semi final, sending the Titans to Lethbridge for the championship.
    It was a grind for the Titans. Determined is the only word to describe the Titans as they tied the game at 34 to force overtime. Braden Scriven carried it home for the Titans, and for the town.

2. Coal Mining Centennial
You only turn 100 once, so why not make it a year long party? That is just what the committee for the Centennial of Coal Mining in the valley planned, and that is just what the community did. All kinds of events were planned and executed from Hungarian fruit dances to the Heritage Ball Classic where names such as Berlando, Wade and Lowry were at the ballpark. Joe Vickers explored his own roots and wrote, produced and released an album in celebration and remembrance. The celebration also gave the valley a chance to shine as it entered a float in the Calgary Stampede Parade. The pinnacle of the year was an emotional march down Centre Street by miners and the families of miners to mark May Day. To leave a permanent reminder of the mark that mining has left on the valley, they continue to work toward erecting a Miners’ Memorial in downtown Drumheller.

3. Drumheller Institution
    While we cannot identify a single story or issue that demands top billing, suffice to say it has been a busy year for news coming out of the Drumheller Institution. There have been a number of assaults and a number of lock downs for various reasons.
    This year there were also two escape attempts by inmates during temporary escorted absences from the Drumheller Institution.
    On March 12, William Bicknell, on a return trip from Edmonton, is alleged to have overtaken the lone correctional officer escorting him and gained control of the vehicle they were travelling in. He took the escort hostage and travelled back to Edmonton and then to a rural residence in the Chipman area. He left the corrections officer at the residence and fled the area. Bicknell was arrested nine days later near Sexsmith.
    On October 18 during the return from an escorted trip returning from Buck Lake it is alleged that Donald Fowler overtook the lone female officer escorting him near Huxley, Alberta. He bound the officer and then left her at the side of the road. He was picked up by Olds RCMP a short time later.
  This summer saw the departure of Warden Mike Hanly after serving at the helm of the Drumheller Institution for six years. He was promoted to assistant deputy commissioner for institutional operations.
    In other news at the institution, a corrections supervisor was charged with theft, possession of stolen property and possession of the proceeds of crime. It was alleged the supervisor stole video cameras from the institution and sold them on e-Bay.  A trial date for Nathan Shandera has been set for May 25, 2012.
    The year ended on a tragic note as three inmates at the institution were found deceased in their cells last month. Dang Akays Dang was discovered on December 12 and Nicholas Whynott and Derek Upton were found on Christmas Eve. The investigation continues.

4. Highway 9
    For years,  a trail of exasperation for residents and  visitors alike, the path to a world-class attraction in Alberta now has a world-class road.
    The construction of Highway 9, is finally complete from Drumheller, east to Beiseker and beyond. Over the last few years, each summer a new phase of the highway was undertaken. Today Highway 9 is a pleasure to drive with wide shoulders, and better sight lines making it safer for travellers and commuters.

5. Generosity
    Again, it is difficult to pinpoint one particular story, but in Drumheller it seems where there is need, there are hands reaching out, and we saw this time and time again this year. The Walsh family is facing challenges posed by the health issues of their youngest daughter, and Drumhellerites have been with them every step of the way. We saw The Salvation Army Food Drive surpass last year’s total and the Kettle Campaign smash their goals. When the community of Slave Lake watched helpless as one third of their town burned, school buses in Drumheller were filled with the necessities of life and were heading down the highway. The annual Christmas Wish List for children and families in Roatan generated nearly two tons of gifts for the poorest of the poor in the western hemisphere.
    The list of examples of residents’ generosity goes on and on, and ask anyone it is truly one of the best things about the community.

6. Ski hill
    While it was a slow and languishing demise, sadly there is no skiing in the valley this winter. The ski hill, once a place for Drumheller youth to spend winter days, schools to visit and out of town guests to enjoy the snow, became embattled in the last few years as debt piled up, foreclosure loomed, societies fell defunct and lawsuits were drawn up.
    There was some optimism in the fall of 2010 as the town and the manager of the ski hill, Zrinko Amerl, worked on hammering out a deal to see skiing last winter. Preparations were being made and ski passes were sold on spec.
    The ski hill breathed its last breath when the manager issued a press release on January 26 rejecting the town offer of a short-term lease that would have seen the hill close. There was much concern in the community as to whether those who invested in ski passes would be reimbursed, however all monies were refunded. 
    In March, Community Futures Big Country, which held the mortgage to properties associated with the ski hill, foreclosed. In August the land was listed for sale with Century 21.

    About this time last year truckloads of furniture and equipment were headed from Central School back to DVSS and right after the holidays the students were in class at the newly renovated facility. The school had its official grand opening with an Open House on February 18. It was a long time coming but the modernization was a success and is serving Drumheller junior and senior high students. The $19.1 million project began in 2008 and saw the expansion of the gymnasium and library as well as modernizing to the rest of the school, which has allowed it to expand and better deliver its programs.

8. East Coulee water
    What was billed as a safe, reliable water source that would reduce insurance costs and allow growth in the Drumheller communities of East Coulee and Lehigh, turned out to be a political hot potato. In the spring the town was approved for a Water for Life Grant, which would see the province cover 90 per cent of the cost for the distribution line from Cambria to East Coulee. A local improvement levy, estimated at over $15,000 would cover the local distribution system.  A presentation was made to residents of the East Drumheller Communities and there was heated discussion with many residents rejecting the proposal.
    The Town of Drumheller followed up the meeting with a short survey for residents and an overwhelming number were in opposition to the project. Council will be making its decision on the project in the near future.

9. Badlands Community Facility
    In just a few short months it is expected the valley will see the opening of the Badlands Community Facility.
     It has been exciting for residents to watch the progress of the facility, which will include a conference centre, new library, field house, wellness centre, and indoor running track.        With the excitement came some frustration as opening target dates have fallen by the wayside. Concerns have also been expressed as to the status of the fundraising progress.
    When the facility opens early in 2012 there will be more information provided about the progress of the campaign.
    Part of the project that is complete is the relocation of the Drumheller Cenotaph. It now sits in a prominent location in front of the Drumheller Curling rink, showing respect for those who gave their lives for our country.
    One of the priorities set by Council for 2012 is to begin planning on the second phase of the facility. Phase 2 will see the twinning of the Drumheller Memorial arena and a new curling facility.
10. CT scan review
 Our final story of the year is  still developing, and came to light less than a week ago. Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reviewing  the last six  months of CT scans interpreted by a radiologist at the Drumheller Health Centre. The physician in question is no longer interpreting diagnostic imaging  for AHS and the doctor’s role in the future is pending on the results of the review. The results of about 1,300 CT scans are to be reassessed and is expected to take most of January to complete.

Radiologist's work undergoes month long review

    A review of CT scans read by a radiologist in Drumheller will take some time said Alberta Health Services (AHS) president and CEO.
    News of an error in a X-ray, followed by a review of six weeks of diagnostic tests originally read by a physician in Drumheller, identified 34 CT scans with interpretive errors, has spawned a review of CT scans done at the hospital over the last six months.
    “It will be about 1,300 CT scans and we believe that process will take most of January to complete … to give you an idea, a radiologist will interpret about 50 CT scans a day,” said Dr. Chris Eagle, AHS president and CEO.
    He said transparency is paramount to the AHS.
    “We are committed to transparency and immediate disclosure and action any time concerns are raised about quality of care,” said Dr. Eagle. “Our physician leaders are taking the right and responsible action – acknowledge when an error has occurred, investigate immediately and keep patients informed as soon as we have information about their care.”
  Moving forward, Minister of Health and Wellness Fred Horne announced examination of imaging and pathology testing in Alberta.
    “It is government, in particular the Minister of Health and Wellness, who is accountable to all Albertans for the quality of services that are delivered in our health care system and for patient safety overall… the government has to look at things proactively and on a province wide basis. That is why I have made the decision to order a system wide examination of medical quality assurance as it relates to   pathology testing and diagnostic imaging testing in Alberta.”
    Dr. Eagle says any patient who has had diagnostic imaging done in the past six months in the Drumheller area can call 1-866-301-2668 for  more information.


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