City looking for transit feedback

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The City of Prince Albert is looking to generate discussion as it moves forward with a plan to make transit ridership more appealing.

On Wednesday, April 25, the city will host a public consultation with local residents to hear what’s working and what’s not.

“Just talking to people about transit is always beneficial” said the city’s transportation manager, Keri Sapsford. “You get to hear the good things and the bad things, and you’re not just getting complaints … you would get normally on a day-to-day basis. You’re actually getting a full picture.”

In particular, the city is looking for feedback on its rush hour service, known as the 15th street shuttle. City statistics show the route is underused by the public, and past city councils have considered putting it on the chopping block on more than one occasion.

“Right now it accounts for our lowest ridership,” Sapsford explained. “We have options to either modify it or remove it.”

For the rest of this story, please see the April 8 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Reader revolt

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Gail Anderson was stunned when she first heard the provincial government was cutting roughly $4.8 million in regional and city library funding.

Anderson has spent nearly 30 years working in the provincial library system, the last 14 of which where as acquisitions manager at the Wapiti Regional Library Office. For her, the announcement was a bit puzzling.

“It’s so hard to believe that they would take a system like this and cut it so drastically, not knowing the ramifications of it,” she explained. “You cut everything that much, you’re going to have branch closures (and) you’re going to have layoffs.”

Anderson said she’s had a rewarding experience working in Saskatchewan Libraries, but now she’s concerned about the future. On Friday, she was one of more than 75 people who gathered in front of Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave’s office protesting the government’s decision to cut funding for libraries across the province.

“We’re wishing we were here for a better reason, but we’re trying to make a statement to the present government, and to the local MLA, that we’re not happy about the recent drastic cuts,” she said.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 8 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Bringing a little JOY to life

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Local partnership aims to kick start new Prince Albert seniors program

A pair of Prince Albert organizations are partnering together to create a new program that will ideally help seniors struggling with loneliness and depression.

The Heart of Seniors church and the New Horizon for Seniors Program have secured funding to start up Just Older Youth (JOY), with the goal of helping seniors become more active in the community.

“We need to come up with programs that will break the cycle of isolation, to talk about isolation, loneliness and depression within seniors, and we need ways and means to deal with that,” Heart of Seniors pastor John Fryters said.

The two groups received a federal grant to start up the program, which will officially begin operation in May. The program will focus on independent seniors who live outside nursing homes and retirement residences, although all our welcome.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 7 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Going blue

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Provincial government allows tow truck drivers to mount flashing blue lights to increase visibility

For tow truck drivers like Mel Leveque, responding to calls for service on the highway can be an unwanted adventure.

Leveque owns Eagle Towing in Melfort and is one of six directors with the Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan. He said every time a driver helps a customer on the highway, they’re taking a huge risk.

“You can have three or four (vehicles) slow down and pull over, and then one will go by you at 110, and they’ll only give you a couple feet,” he explained. “We’ve had members actually get grazed by mirrors on vehicles. We just have to draw attention to how dangerous it is.”

On Thursday, the provincial government did just that. MLAs from both parties came together to pass legislation that will allow tow truck drivers to mount flashing blue lights on their vehicles. All trucks already have amber lights, but the blue lights are designed to give them some extra noticeability.

Leveque was at the legislature to see the bill pass. He said it’s a good start, but while he praised the government for the decision, he’s not sure if it will be enough.

“If people slow down to 60 and move over into the other lane to get by us, that’s perfect right there, but I can’t see that happening,” he said. “Sometimes you might have to get in with signage to warn people ahead of time … or maybe have the police enforce the rules.”

For the rest of this story, please see the April 7 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Property assessment raises questions

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A Prince Albert church facing a $375,000 tax bill wants the city to take a second look at how city officials have assessed their property.

Embassy Church, located at 888 Central Avenue, currently owes the City of Prince Albert $200,000 in taxes, along with an additional $175,000 in penalties. The backlog stems from the churches construction period between 2012 and 2014, when they purchased and started renovating the old Co-op building.

On Monday, Embassy Church senior pastor Meghan Mayer made a formal request to Prince Albert city councillors, asking for the city’s financial department to give the issue another look.

“There is no historical precedent in our province for a church being taxed while under construction,” Mayer said during the meeting.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 6 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Moving to a different beat

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It’s been more than two hours since school ended, but the halls of the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) are still filled with students.

Most are chowing down on freshly baked bannock and stew, but a select few are just finishing up a final drum session with facilitator Wacey Lavallee. The group of boys ranges from teenagers all the way down to the odd five or six year old, but they all have one thing in common: they have to practice a song for next week.

“You can’t be here just hitting the drum all the time. You’ve got to learn how to sing now,” Lavallee says with a chuckle during an interview afterwards. “They were kind of scared to take that next step, but it’s a learning process and it should be all right.”

Every Tuesday afternoon, Lavallee meets with Prince Albert students to teach a little bit about aboriginal drumming. It’s part of the After School Powwow Dancing and Drumming Group, a free community program that first started running in January, and every class he has a few more students.

The goal is to develop a positive atmosphere that helps students from all walks of life learn about indigenous culture, which is something Lavallee says is badly needed.

“I’m really hoping that they’re getting positive living experiences, and also embracing our native culture, because a lot of the urban youth nowadays are getting lost with drugs, alcohol and gangs,” he explains.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 6 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Flag raises issues at City Hall

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For nearly a decade, a Prince Albert pro-life group has raised a flag at City Hall as part of Celebrate Life Week, but that tradition may come to an end this year.

On Monday, Prince Albert city councillors heard a presentation from concerned residents asking for the city to take a closer look at its flag policy, and reconsider their options.

“It is a very clear case of these discriminatory symbols not belonging in front of the municipal government (building),” said Lana Wilson, who spoke to councillors during Monday’s executive committee. “The Prince Albert city council does have a flag policy that they can simply choose to enforce, or not, as the case may be,”

In 2016, Wilson helped spearhead a protest to have the flag removed after it was raised on May 9, 2016. She also helped circulate a petition that gathered more than 600 signatures from people inside and outside of Prince Albert asked that the flag be taken down.

On Monday, Wilson wondered why the decision to raise the flag was not brought to a vote before council. According to the City of Prince Albert Flag Protocol Policy, flags can only be flown to help increase public awareness for charitable and non-profit organizations, or to honour organizations that have achieved national or international distinction or contributed or enhanced the community in a positive manner.

According to section 6.05 (c), all requests from commercial, political or religious organizations require the approval of city council.

“It in many ways is my hope that some issues like this will go to full city council (meetings), because clearly there is a disagreement between the mayor and certain councillors on this issue,” Wilson said. “It will be interesting to see whether the councillors assist the mayor in complying with their own flag policy on this issue.”

Wilson added that she doesn’t use the term discrimination lightly, and said the flag is harmful and intimidating to women in Prince Albert. She also forwarded notes from R V Morgentaler, a 1988 Supreme Court decision which ruled that prohibiting abortion was unconstitutional, and in violation of section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mayor Greg Dionne objected to Wilson’s argument, saying the issue is one of free speech.

“I am Canadian, and I strongly believe in freedom of speech and freedom of rights,” he said. “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. There are lots of things that I see out there in the world that I don’t like, and I just ignore it.”

Dionne acknowledged that the situation was a touchy one, but added he would be just as willing to raise a pro-choice flag too.

“If they want to put their flag up, bring it up and we’ll put it up,” he said.

Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller, and Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha were the two most vocal critics of the mayor’s flag stance.

During the meeting, Miller constantly questioned why the mayor was not willing to enforce the city’s own flag policy. Dionne said the flag opponents had an incorrect definition of discrimination.

Botha added that while he respected people beliefs on the matter, he felt the city had no legal standing to fly such a flag.

“I think the fact is … that it’s the law of the land,” Botha said during the meeting. “It’s the same as if somebody wants to come fly a Confederate flag or an Aryan brotherhood flag in city square to celebrate European Heritage Week. We’ve got to turn them away.”

According to the city’s flag policy, the Director of Community Services is responsible for ensuring compliance with the policy. On Monday, city administrators confirmed that application had been filed to raise the flag on Celebrate Life Week in 2017.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca

Speeding through school

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Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski said he’s concerned about the amount of speeding in Prince Albert’s school zones, and wants to see proposals brought forward that will curb the problem.

Zurakowski made the comments after the February bylaw report was presented at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

The report shows that three of the nine speeding tickets issues in the month of February came in school zones, which the city councillors said is way too high.

“This yet again is another bylaw report where we’re seeing, month after month, when it comes to traffic, the speeding that’s going on in school zones throughout our city. We’ve seen this now for a number of months, a number of years.”

In the past, the City of Prince Albert has sought to curb speeding through the use of traffic calming devices like raised crosswalks, which force drivers to slow down.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 5 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Looking to grow

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After a prosperous first year, volunteers with the Prince Albert Food Coalition are looking to build on their successful garden box program.

The program is designed to give low-income residents access to locally grown vegetables by building garden boxes around the community, and this year organizers say they’re looking to take another step forward.

“People are still being programmed to (plant) flowers, not realizing they can put out … some vegetables and different things,” said Stan Dignean, one of two volunteer organizers heading up this year’s project. “People can eat it if they’re on the street or homeless, that’s kind of the idea.”

The process is called guerilla gardening, and it’s becoming more and more popular in areas around the province. Dignean said the practice has really taken off in Saskatoon, and they’re hoping to cultivate the same mindset in Prince Albert.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 4 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.

Rally to save the STC

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As a retired Saskatchewan farmer, Stanley Wichorek is used to dealing with hardship, but even he’s getting a little worried.

Wichorek, who moved to Prince Albert after he retired two decades ago, spent his Friday lunch-hour in front of Crown Investment Minister Joe Hargrave’s office, protesting the end of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC).

He said he’s worried about the direction the province is heading, and doesn’t think cutting services like the STC will help.

“It’s been recognized as a great service to those in need,” he said. “Maybe (maintaining) every bus run would be asking a lot at this time, but the basic structure of the STC should remain.”

Wichorek called the recent provincial budget cuts “draconian,” and he wasn’t the only person who was worried. The retired farmer was one of more than 60 people who came out to the noon-hour rally and questioned the wisdom of the decision to wind down the service, which has been operating in the province for more than 70 years.

“Here we’re back into that same scenario as we had in the ‘80s, and maybe even worse,” Wichorek said.

No STC union leaders or employees spoke during the roughly 40 minute protest, but CUPE Local 4195 president John Kenard and Service Employees International Union West vice-president Neil Colmin were on hand to lend their support.

For the rest of this story, please see the April 1 online or print edition of the Daily Herald.