Helping Hands cooking up some Christmas cheer

Masha Scheele

Tickets for this year’s Community Christmas Eve Dinner have been going quick, with early indications that the event will draw significantly more people than in 2018.

Last year the free dinner welcomed 90 community members, but organizers with Hinton’s Helping Hands hopes to see at least 150 people come through the doors this year at The Venue in the valley.

Taking on a different approach when it comes to distributing tickets, the Hinton Library, the Share Shop, and FCSS were instructed to only give out tickets to those who asked in order to attract the people who plan to attend.

“We have space for 170 people, we put out a 150 tickets. We asked people to not give them out to anybody and wait until they ask,” said Tia Weber, 

Hinton Helping Hands has organized the dinner for three years in a row now, raising funds for the event through their second mud run on June 8 this year.

“This year we really didn’t have to do much fundraising at all because the mud run generates a lot of money for it. That’s why we call it Hinton’s dirtiest fundraiser,” said Weber.

Families were asked to register their children’s ages and names in order to provide appropriate gifts for them at the dinner. Gifts are then labelled so that Santa Claus and his elf can give each child the right one.

Last year, the food bank received around 80 packages of leftover food to give out and any extra food will go to the food bank again this year.

Hinton’s Helping Hands was also able to provide Santa’s Anonymous with some extra gifts.

Entertainment will be part of the evening and a full turkey dinner will be served for the community. Jo-Ka Taxi is providing rides home for anybody that needs one.

Doors open at 5 pm and dinner is served at 6 pm. Hinton Helping Hands is solely run by a group of volunteers and they’re always looking for more. For more about the community dinner and about the group in general, please visit their Facebook page.

Funds for 2020 golfing society season approved

Masha Scheele

Operating funds for the Hinton Golfing Society to head into the 2020 season of $86,501.57 were approved by council under ongoing conditions, oversight and support by the Town of Hinton.

Council approved the transfer of assets from the Hinton Golf Club to the Town of Hinton on Oct. 29, as well as a conditional advancement of up to $250,000 to the Hinton Golfing Society.

“The remaining funds from the $250,000 that was approved in October is just over $86,000. Immediate oversight will be provided through a letter to the society to outline the approved uses for the funds that include things like payroll, fuel, power, maintenance, incidentals, and supplies,” stated Emily Olson, interim CAO at the regular council meeting on Dec. 17.

The Society provided an overview of regular expenditures for the first three months of the year, including payroll, benefits, fuel, power, equipment repair/maintenance, incidentals and possible hiring costs.

New purchases, sales and revenue generation will be reviewed by the acting CAO or corporate services director for approval. 

The town will provide approval for decisions around hiring of a manager and staff, rental of facilities, sale of any assets, and any expenditures of incidentals to maintain the golf course into the first three months of the 2020 season.

The report from Dec. 17 also stated that amounts incurred by the Hinton Golf Society from the approved $250,000 have been captured in the Town’s accounts receivable for potential repayment if the Golf Course sees a profit in 2020. 

“I’d like to say that the golf society through Mr. Howard Nowicki has been very cooperative over the last two months with continued communications with the town and due to this good working relationship we can work together on additional support and oversight with an ad hoc group comprised of admin, Coun. Maguhn as a position on the golfing society board and Mr. Nowicki,” added Olson.

Administration is still working on an arrangement for the transfer of assets between the Town and the Hinton Golfing Society. 

The report on Dec. 17 stated that an anticipated additional $50,000 – $60,000 will be required to cover what has been anticipated to be required until the end of December, leaving unspent funds from what was approved on Oct. 29.

“This is procedurally part of the process to ensure we have some longevity, stability, and sustainability with the golf course,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

Members of Hinton’s golfing society initially made administration aware of its poor financial projections in June of this year, which was followed by a letter to council in October indicating that the society was no longer able to manage its financial commitments.

Interim budget for 2020 approved

Masha Scheele

An interim operating budget for 2020 was approved based on the operating expenditures from 2019 of $31,261,055.

Council also approved to carry-forward capital projects from 2019, that were approved in the 2019 budget process but not yet completed.

“As we work on budgets, legally we have to have one to move forward to do the business of the town while we work on the next year’s operating budget,” stated Coun. Ryan Maguhn at the regular council meeting on Dec. 17.

According to the report in the agenda, the approval of an interim budget delays the 2020 Capital Plan, and could result in 2020 capital projects to be put on hold pending final approval of the five year plan.

The five year plan will impact administrations ability to meet commitments and timelines. 

By the end of January 2020, administration will bring back a report and recommendations including a taxation requirement reduction no less than $1.6M of the previously presented budget.

Council asked administration on Dec. 3 to provide a report and recommendations for the 2020 operating budget with at least one third of the recommendations coming from operations besides transfers to reserves. 

If the approval of the three-year operating budget is delayed past March 2020, the approval of the tax rate bylaw could also be delayed. 

Tax notices are traditionally sent out by May 15 and the taxation collection due date is at the end of June. 

The Interim Operating Budget will allow for Town business to continue until the final 2020- 2022 Operating Budget is approved.

The five-year Capital Budget and 2020 Capital Budget were not presented for decision at the regular council meeting on Dec. 17, as administration requires more review to meet the direction set by Council.

During four public meetings in November, administration presented a draft 2020 budget of $2 million dollars more than the 2019 budget, representing a 16.64 per cent overall increase.

During these meetings, administration explained that $14.7 is required to cover current service levels, pay into reserves after years of depletion and to cover unplanned expenses that occurred in 2019 that will carry over into 2020.

After taking into consideration last year’s half million dollar surplus due to increased property assessments, the budget represented an actual 8.24 per cent taxation increase to citizens.

Three new positions approved in 2019, legal costs of more than half a million dollars, reserve fund increases, a total reserve reduction, and inflation were responsible for the jump in the budget. 

The 2020 interim budget will allow for additional time to review budget 2020.

Impact dominate for ringette gold

Ringette file photo

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton Impact U14 ringette squad capped off a perfect weekend Dec. 6 – 8 in Calgary with a 6-1 win to garner gold in the South Calgary Ring In The Holidays tournament.

Maggie Kempin and Danica Hills led the way with two goals each, while Paityn Best and Meghan Gallagher had one goal each. Dakota Bishop, Logan Sweet and Ashlyn McDougall had one assist each in the win.

The final was a rematch of an earlier round robin contest that saw Hinton win 10-2. Hills had a hat trick in that one, Bishop had a pair and Addison Klaver, Makena Hills, Best, Kempin and Gallagher had one goal each. Paige Pero and Ayla Goupil had one assist each.

  Kempin had the hat trick to lead Hinton to a 10-3 win over the Sherwood Park Sizzle to open the tourney. Kempin and Klaver had a hat trick each. 

Hinton’s closest contest was a 6-3 win over the SC Toxic Rampage. Kempin had four goals and Klaver had the other two.

Silver medals in Hinton boxing debuts

Hinton boxers Caleb Dircks and Jace MacPhee spar at the Hinton Boxing Club.

Masha Scheele

Hinton boxers Caleb Dircks and Jace MacPhee brought home two silver medals from a Sub-Novice Tournament in Cochrane this November.

Coach Chris Murphy stated they represented Hinton proudly in what was the first sanctioned event for competitors from the Hinton Boxing Club.

“It was lots of fun and I learned a ton. It was the first tournament. We both won one fight and lost in the finals, we came home with silver,” stated MacPhee, who boxed in one weight class below Dircks.

MacPhee’s first match was against Damian Lexington from the Rival boxing club in Cochrane. Lexington came out super fast against him for the first minute and gave some hard shots.

“It was pretty much smooth sailing for me after that, he was pretty tired for the rest of the fight,” said MacPhee.

Each boxing match has three two-minute rounds, which are scored by three judges on a 10-point scale. Judges scored in MacPhee’s favour unanimously and he advanced to the finals the following day.

“Jace used his boxing skills and no quit attitude to win a unanimous decision over the hometown boxer,” stated Murphy.

Dircks also had a great first match against Levi Stafford of the Shadowbox Boxing Club in Lacombe. 

Dircks admitted he had a lot of nerves leading up to the fight, but was only in the ring for eight seconds when he won by way of a technical knockout, advancing him to the finals.

In the finals on the following day, MacPhee was up against an opponent from the Calgary Boxing Club, Alejandro Flores.

“Jace showed grit through the entire match coming up a bit short and losing a decision,” said Murphy.

Dircks matched up against Laurence Trayhorn from the Goldenstars Boxing Club in Calgary for his final match. 

The decision could have gone either way after a really close fight, stated Murphy.

Dircks fought through all three rounds and lost a split decision to Trayhorn, meaning two judges voted in Trayhorn’s favour. All the boxers at the tournament were brand new to competitions, creating a perfect venue to be introduced to competitive boxing. 

During a Sub-Novice Tournament, each boxer has up to two fights with a maximum of one fight per day as per the rules for amateur boxing.   

MacPhee explained that the two boxers hope to go to another tournament in January, but that it isn’t confirmed yet, but both plan to head to provincials at the end of January.

Brule evacuated after natural gas leak

Masha Scheele

Brule residents were free to return to their homes mere hours after an evacuation of the hamlet due to a natural gas leak on Friday, Dec. 13.

A contractor working on the Brule Community Hall redevelopment project inadvertently struck and ruptured an unknown gas line around 9:30 in the morning, stated Christopher Read, director of community services for Yellowhead County.

“It was a construction incident, unfortunately that can occur. It was a calm response but it was a measured response,” said Read.

Fire departments from both Yellowhead County and Hinton, alongside RCMP members, responded to the call to evacuate the community.

Gas to the hamlet was turned off for safety while crews isolated and repaired the leak.

An emergency reception centre was set up at the Dr. Duncan Murray  Recreation Centre in the meantime where residents could register, in accordance to the emergency response plan between Hinton and Yellowhead County. 

An emergency evacuation registration and information line was also established.

“I made two calls and all of the Town of Hinton staff were immediately responsive. The reception centre was set up so quickly with incredibly happy staff who were knowledgeable and knew what to do,” said Read. 

“It is very much a gold star for the Town of Hinton response and Yellowhead County appreciates and thanks them extremely.”

Read later confirmed that half a dozen people registered, and that the whole hamlet was evacuated. 

The order was lifted amid reports the leak had been contained at 11:45 am. Once residents returned home, emergency services personnel and Yellowhead Gas Co-Op Ltd. personnel made themselves available to help relight furnaces and water heaters.

One resident, Kate Hanson, said it took about two hours for the furnace to come back on once the order was lifted.

Neither she nor her husband were at home during the evacuation but Alberta Emergency Response staff was in contact with Hanson about her dogs still on the property.

Most residents didn’t have their gas back on until later that afternoon.

According to reports by the Edmonton Journal, Yellowhead Gas Co-Op Ltd. confirmed a contractor was installing new services for the Brule Community Centre when the low-pressure gas line was struck.

Leadership change required: Council

Masha Scheele

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Martin Taylor, was put on immediate leave of absence with pay following a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 4. 

The topic of the meeting was the future of the town’s leadership and five motions were made regarding the beginning of a process to terminate Taylor’s appointment of CAO.

More than two thirds of council agreed to the meeting in writing, which according to the municipal government act (MGA) allows them to hold a special meeting of Council with less than 24 hours notice and without public notice.

Following the meeting, a notice of intent to terminate appointment and employment without cause was given to Taylor in writing.

“We want to share that we have a strong administrative team here in Hinton and we look forward to this new leadership that we’re setting up,” stated Mayor Marcel Michaels in a Facebook video posted on Dec. 5.

Motion one states that notice in writing must be given immediately to CAO Taylor, of Council’s intention to terminate his appointment and employment with the Town of Hinton, without cause, due to a change in leadership being required.

The town did not comment about what next steps will be made.

According to the town’s Town Manager Recruitment Policy, a Personnel Committee made up of councillors and the mayor can begin the process of replacing the vacant position.

This process can be done internally using Town of Hinton staff or by retaining the services of an outside consulting firm, states the policy.

In the meantime, strategic services manager, Emily Olsen has been appointed as the acting CAO with all of the powers, duties and responsibilities of the CAO, as stated in motion five.

The other three motions clarify that Taylor is immediately put on a leave of absence with pay, that Michaels is authorized and directed to sign and deliver the notice on behalf of Council, as well as authorization to engage the services of legal representatives and other agents to assist in all matters covered in this resolution and related to the employment of the CAO.

Over the past five years, the town has made announcements of hiring four new CAO’s and four interim CAO’s.

Bernie Kreiner lead the town for 21 years from 1993 to 2014, and when he retired from his position, Mike Schwirtz took on the role of CAO.

Schwirtz worked as the CAO in Hinton for two years until he moved on to a new position in another community on June 16, 2017.

Laura Howarth, the town’s director of community services, took on the role of interim CAO while the town worked with a recruitment firm to hire a new CAO.

CAO Stephane Labonne was hired on Oct. 5, 2017 and announced his resignation four months later due to unforeseen family circumstances.

His last day was March 16, 2018 when the director of corporate services at the time, Denise Parent, took over as interim CAO.

Denise Thompson, the previous CAO of Grande Cache, then became the interim CAO shortly before the town announced that she would become Hinton’s permanent CAO in July 2018.

However, Thompson never took on this position and instead moved on to another role.

Mike Koziol, a professional engineer, then acted as interim CAO until CAO Martin Taylor was hired and started in January of 2019.

CAO Taylor came to Hinton with almost 30 years of senior leadership experience in municipal government, and nearly 16 of those years as CAO.

His most recent role before Hinton was spent as the CAO in the Town of Barrhead for 7.5 years.

In the Town of Hinton staffing announcement made on Dec. 5, the town stated that additional public information would be shared over the next week.

CRO job losses to peak in summer 2020, says Teck Coal

Tyler Waugh

Teck Coal Ltd. will see a staged reduction in its estimated 400 person workforce at Cardinal River Operations between January and November 2020.

Company representatives told a crowd of around 75 people at a Dec. 5 town hall meeting that the largest workforce reduction will take place between June and September as the site finishes production and processing operations.

“We will be wrapping things up between June and August of next year and at that point we will be moving toward care and maintenance,” said Matt Cole, general manager of CRO.

“We will be moving toward closure towards at the end of 2021 or 2022, but that is very early numbers. We are going to work through those details and get a better feel for what will happen.”

CRO had a shutdown date of 2019 for a number of years, said Cole, but as 2019 approached the company took a look at a number of their pit areas and found an opportunity to continue mining activity for another 10 months into 2020.

Cole also spoke to the decision not to pursue a potential expansion that would have extended the CRO active operations for several more years. CRO began looking at expansion at Redcap in 2016-2017, said Cole, and presented the plan to the board of directors for consideration.

“We worked hard at having the best look at it that we possibly could,” Cole said.

“At the end of the day after several meetings, it came down to what we think the long-term price of coal was going to be. It wasn’t an easy decision, it was one of those business decisions that were right on the bubble. It actually took three separate board meetings to make the final decision, but the final decision at the end of the day was that we wouldn’t proceed with Redcap.”

Cole said that the coal quality was ‘pretty good’ at Redcap with an estimated quantity of 13 million tonnes. He added that the price point for Redcap’s coal would not have been great and added that one of the primary challenges for viability was the distance from CRO’s base of operations at 35 km away. In comparison, he said the haul from the Cheviot mine was considered long by industry standards at around 23 km.

Teck announced in May 2019 that it would not pursue Redcap and that CRO would be working toward the shut down of operations in the second half of 2020.

Teck said at the meeting that it will retain an estimated workforce of between 30-60 people for the care and maintenance phase. About 40 jobs were slated to be phased out in January 2020, but Cole said that number wouldn’t be as high due to the number of workers who have already moved on to other companies. He said that most of the employees who have moved on have found work that will allow them to remain in Hinton.

Please see next week’s edition for more information from the Teck town hall.

Poverty simulation sheds light on tough realities

Masha Scheele

Conversations around poverty in Hinton and how to approach certain issues the community faces were lively following a local trial run of the Poverty Simulation in November.

The simulation was hosted by Hinton Employment and Learning Place (HELP), which placed participants in the experience of people living in poverty.

Candace Pambrun and Mandy Crespeigne from HELP learned about the simulation when they took part in a session hosted by United Way in Wildwood. 

United Way brought the simulation to different rural communities but lost their funding for the program, which prompted Pambrun and Crespeigne to find a way to purchase the simulation and bring it to Hinton.

“We want to bring the poverty simulation everywhere. We want to do it with the schools, with the teachers not the students. With our agencies, anybody who ever interacts with people in poverty. The person who says ‘just go get a job’,” said Pambrun. 

With help from the Hinton Kin Club and the Hinton Rotary, HELP purchased the simulation and had an extremely successful pilot run, explained Pambrun. The simulation is like a life-sized Game of Life and each participant is given a specific role, family dynamic, and a list of expenses and tasks to be carried out each week for four weeks.

Besides the participants who make up the families, volunteers take on the roles of bosses, bankers, utility collectors, police officers, social workers, and so on. These roles are given instructions on how to deal with each individual, and are bound by policies.

“It gave me a real feel of the struggles people go through when they don’t have support,” said Mayor Marcel Michaels, who participated in the role as a single parent with two children.

“People were asking for rent, and utilities. I had to deal with theft because my car was stolen, so I had to take the bus and deal with transit and had to buy passes on a limited budget. If I didn’t have funds I had to leave my kid at home. It did a great job of feeling the stress.”

He added that the exercise was a great way to appreciate what not-for-profits and other organizations do to help out people in challenging circumstances. Crespeigne added that Michaels eventually got fired by his boss in the simulation because he was late for work and wasn’t able to bring in enough income.

“So many scenarios that could happen in real life they implemented and really made you feel it,” Michaels said. 

The simulation demonstrates that when people are working, they can still struggle to make ends meet, added Pambrun. Afterwards, many of the participants said they felt frustrated throughout the simulation and struggled with possible real life scenarios. 

Participants would work at completing their tasks when problems would crop up, preventing them from getting ahead.

“Which is true to life and when you’re in a precarious position those things can put people right over the edge,” said Crespeigne.

Some volunteers who took on the community roles have faced poverty in their own lives before and it was tough for them to play the side of the institutions saying no to families. Pambrun added that they are careful about including those who live, or have lived, in poverty before, not wanting to retraumatize people. 

One big issues that was brought up through the session was access to transportation as you couldn’t get anywhere without a pass.

At the end of the session they talked about what services are available in the community, and how this affects those in poverty.

“We had great conversations with everyone afterwards on both sides, what did it feel like to deliver the ‘no’, what did it feel like to take care of a family,” said Crespeigne.

Crespeigne played the role of the community service agency, which is HELP in Hinton. 

That agency was used very little throughout the session because nobody knew what it was, which is reflective of many communities, added Crespeigne.

Pambrun expects to bring another simulation session to Hinton in the spring with the hopes of running it twice per year. 

Nighthawks triumph, Warriors earn silver at home

Griffin Lepage of the Hinton McDonald’s Nighthawks streaks into the offensive zone during a Dec. 7 game against the Devon Drillers during the Hinton Minor Hockey Association atom tournament held Dec. 6 – 8. Lepage scored at least once in each of Hinton’s four games and the Nighthawks went undefeated for a gold medal.
Sarah Burns Photo

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton McDonald’s Nighthawks atom hockey team built a 4-0 first period lead and never looked back in a 6-3 win Dec. 8 to earn gold at their host tourney.

Ty Kapatch had a pair of goals in the game, while Griffin Lepage, Chance Thompson, Forrest Kilthau and Kai Brettner had the other Hinton goals in the championship win over the Edmonton Bruins. Axton Aspell, Kapatch, Brettner and Thompson all had one assist each.

The gold medal win wrapped up an undefeated weekend for the Nighthawks that included a 4-2 win over the Spruce Grove Thunder.

Lepage was lights out against Spruce Grove, notching a hat trick, while Chase Jahnke and Nicholas Johnson had one assist each.

Jahnke was all over the scoresheet for the Nighthawks in a 9-2 win over the Devon Drillers, posting a hat trick and one assist.

Nathan White also had a four-point game with a goal and three assists. 

Reece Couture, Ryker Michie, Brettner, Kapatch and Lepage also scored for Hinton. Kilthau, Thompson and Brettner had one assist each.

Hinton opened the round robin schedule with a 3-1 win over New Sarepta. New Sarepta actually built a 1-0 lead over the home team, but Kilthau scored the equalizer with 5:16 remaining in the second period and Lepage did the rest with two goals in a less-than four minute span in the third period.

Michie and Aspell had assists for Hinton in the win.

The Hinton McDonald’s Warriors atom hockey squad also had a great run on the weekend, going undefeated in the round robin with wins of 8-2 over the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers, 3-2 over St. Albert and 7-3 over the Edmonton Hawks. 

Hinton met its match in the gold medal game, losing a hard-fought battle against the Clearview Colts.

The Warriors are not scheduled to play at home again until the new year, but the Nighthawks are back in action this weekend with a Dec. 14 game against Westlock at 12:30 pm and a 1 pm face off against Mayerthorpe on Dec. 15.