Family violence calls on rise in Hinton: RCMP

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Spousal abuse and family violence related calls have increased with Hinton RCMP responding to and investigating 137 incidents between April 1 and July 31.

Hinton RCMP’s quarterly report stated that increase equals approximately 25 per cent. 

Hinton RCMP participate as a member of the Domestic Violence Committee, which is organized by the Hinton Friendship Centre and includes Hinton Victim Support Services.

“Victim Services has also noticed the increase, the majority of our referrals come from the RCMP,” stated Natascha Thoennes, executive director of Hinton’s Victim Support Services (VSU).

All VSU staff are back to working regular hours and are able to provide support and referral assistance to anyone who contacts their office or is referred by the RCMP. 

“A good portion of the increase we have seen has been domestic arguments. Clients are looking for someone to talk and referral agencies/information,” Thoennes said, adding that VSU is making a lot of referrals to counsellors and to programs offered in the community, such as YES for Women. 

“A goal for the Alberta RCMP is to make sure all crime is reported, no matter how small. This provides the most accurate crime data and allows our resources to be deployed appropriately in the areas that need it most,” reads the quarterly report.

Suspicious person and vehicle complaints continue to rise, with 194 suspicious complaints between April 1 and July 31.

Citizens are able to report crimes online, including damage and mischief to property under $5,000, theft of bicycles under $5,000, theft under $5,000, theft from vehicles under $5,000, and lost property.

To be reported online, incidents must have no witnesses or suspects, items lost or stolen must cost less than $5,000, vandalized property will cost less than $5,000 to repair, and no items involving personal identity, firearms, licence plates, or decals.

Statistics from April 1 to July 31, 2020 show a 14 per cent decrease in person’s crime, 17 per cent decrease in property crime, 45 per cent decrease in other criminal code, 59 per cent decrease in break and enters, 18 per cent decrease in theft of motor vehicle, and 21 per cent decrease in theft under $5000.

Hinton RCMP have investigated 17 missing person complaints, all who have been located.

Throughout the pandemic, members of the Hinton RCMP continued to respond to calls while additional measures were implemented.

Hinton RCMP reported a 59 per cent decrease in reported break and enters as of July 31, 2020 compared to the previous year. The quarterly RCMP report to council noted that the initial goal was to reduce break and enters by seven per cent.

The clearance rate of break and enters is at 36 per cent as of June 30, which the report explains that RCMP are solving these crimes and holding individuals accountable.

Other items in the quarterly report include that search warrant training and judicial authorization tracking are ongoing within the detachment and that hot spots continue to be identified on a weekly basis, while foot and bike patrols are occurring in strategic locations.

The report also stated there has been a 33 per cent decrease in traffic collisions, totalling 80 from April 1 to July 31.

All municipal positions at the Hinton RCMP detachment are occupied. A joint mock exercise with Hinton Search & Rescue is being planned for this fall.

To report a crime online, go to

Coalspur applies for judicial review

Masha Scheele

Coalspur Mine Operations LTD, the company that operates the Vista coal mine located just 10 kilometres east of Hinton, applied to the federal court for a judicial review of the Vista mine designation for a federal assessment.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, recently reversed his decision not to designate the Phase II expansion of the Vista mine.

“The Designation Order is an unlawful, incorrect, unreasonable and/or unconstitutional exercise of ministerial discretion and should be quashed or set aside,” stated the Notice of Application from Coalspur.

Among other issues, the notice put into question why the two proposed Vista mine projects were combined to make the decision to designate the mine, why the minister departed from his previous decision, and why he strayed from the Impact Assessment Agency’s recommendation.

Under the federal Impact Assessment Act, Minister Wilkinson has the discretionary authority to designate projects to require a federal assessment even if they don’t meet the legislatively prescribed thresholds. Those thresholds include increasing the area of the mining operations by more than 50 per cent.

The Impact Assessment Agency and the Minister agreed in December 2019 that the proposed Phase II expansion of the Vista mine does not meet the 50 per cent threshold and that a discretionary designation order was not appropriate.

At the time, the minister stated that the potential risks to the environment and Indigenous rights would be dealt with appropriately by the provincial approval process.

With the addition of an underground mine project within Phase I, the minister said that the two Vista mine projects combined may result in adverse effects of greater magnitude than previously considered. However, the notice of application stated he did not explain how areas of federal jurisdiction would be impacted, why the projects are considered together, and how the underground mine project would cause Phase II to be a designated project.

The Impact Assessment Agency re-confirmed on July 30 that the combined proposed expansions did not meet the 50 per cent threshold.

Various Canadian environmental, Indigenous, health, civil society, and faith groups, were behind a letter sent out this spring that called out the Canadian government for hypocrisy following its failure to designate the expansion plans for an environmental assessment.

On July 30, Wilkinson designated the Vista Underground Test Mine Project and the Vista Coal Mine Phase II Expansion Project as reviewable under the federal impact assessment process.

“The Minister fettered his discretion by unlawfully proceeding on the basis that the requesters’ combination of the underground test mine and Phase II required that he consider both together for the purpose of the designation order,” stated that notice of application.

The document added that the minister failed to take into account relevant facts, including that the underground mine will not cause adverse effects of federal jurisdiction, and that the two projects are completely independent of each other.

It stated that the minister impaired the core of provincial legislative power over local works and undertakings, property and civil rights, and the development, management, and conservation of nonrenewable natural resources. 

“Injecting politics into a rule-driven process that had been until now guided by well-understood federal and provincial assessment regimes is wrong and a terrible disappointment to all of Vista’s employees and Indigenous partners. A halt to plans and operations is bad for Yellowhead County and unwarranted by the facts. Our mine provides well-paying jobs on-site and through the supply chain and can continue to make an important contribution to Canada’s economic recovery in the years ahead.  With double-digit unemployment, we urge government to carefully consider its action as livelihoods are at stake,” stated Vista Energy Resources in a press release.

The designation could delay the construction and expansion of this mine by six to nine years, stated an executive with the company that owns Coalspur Mine Ltd in a meeting with the Hinton Rotary last week.

Vista Coal Mine is an open-pit surface coal mine for the extraction and export of thermal coal. 

Phase I of the mine is designed to produce six to seven million tonnes of coal per year and employs more than 300 people. In 2018, Coalspur proposed to expand Phase I westward through Phase II, using existing infrastructure for transport, processing, and disposal.

Construction of Phase II is proposed to start in January 2022.

The underground mine was proposed in 2019, which would increase the production of coal by about 1,200 tonnes per day.

Construction was proposed to start in 2020.

Its owners have invested over $700M to date with the understanding that expansion would be reviewed under the Alberta environmental review process. Each project must be approved by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to proceed.

No application has been filed for Phase II, while an application for the underground mine was filed in 2019 and resubmitted on Feb. 5, 2020.

The underground mine is located entirely within the current surface mining operation and would not require a provincial environmental impact assessment report.

The expansion would be supported by existing infrastructure of the mine.

Respondents listed on the notice of application included the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the attorney general of Canada, Keepers of the Water Council, Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Society, and the West Athabasca Watershed Bioregional Society.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald to play Hinton under the big tent as part of his Farm Tour

Masha Scheele

Live Music Returns

Singer songwriter Michael Bernard Fitzgerald begins his Farm Tour on Sept. 1 and is taking his venue with him on the road.

MBF will be in Hinton on Sept. 11, performing on private land in a large but cozy tent that allows for physical distancing and roughly 20 concertgoers.

“There’s blankets, there’s canvas cloths, and things like that that make it feel really good inside,” said MBF.

The intimate space allows for conversations between him and his audience but it still feels like a real venue when the music starts. It was important for him to connect with people face to face even if that meant really bringing the numbers down.

“You can have a conversation with people and talk about my favourite song or their favourite song or take requests and things like that,” he added.

He hopes to add to the tent over the next couple of years and eventually bring it to fun festivals and venues along the way as the world navigates its new normal. When things changed in mid-March, MBF was just finishing up his fifth record called ‘Love Valley’.

The final step of making that record was mastering, which is typically done by correspondence and wasn’t impacted in a big way by the restrictions of the pandemic.

“My first step was thinking if I was still going to release this music and if so, when?” he said.

Once he determined his plan, he went back to this tent idea he thought of prior to the pandemic.

After years of touring and performing in different cities, he said it all becomes very similar, and creating his own venue would change things up and allow for a bit more control of his performances.

The atmosphere of the tent and the calm sounds of his new album mesh perfectly for a unique experience. The capacity was already going to be lower due to the tent, but with the pandemic it was brought down even more.

His travelling tent venue is called “The Greenbriar,” and it started in the backyard of his Calgary home this summer.

He sold out fifty shows in five hours and an average of six people attended his micro backyard concerts each night.

“I started playing those and we looked at the tour again and we thought the tent could get bigger and the capacity could grow slightly and we’d start travelling the country again,” MBF said.

Figuring out how to safely host concerts within the guidelines of each province, while remaining adaptable to future changes, made it possible to organize the tour.

Most of his concerts will be set up on private farms or land near the towns and cities.

“I’ve never played in Hinton, it will be another nice thing of this tour is that we get to go to places where we’ve never been,” he said.

MBF took a bit of a break prior to writing his new album, and he spent it renovating a home in Calgary.

“I gave myself a little bit of time away to reassess and as soon as I was done with the house I went to work,” he said.

Together with Calgary producer Josh Gwilliam at OCL Studios he slowly ticked away at recording an album and writing every song throughout the past year.

“I wanted to paint this picture of where I wanted my life to go and I think that’s relatable to people,” he said.

Previous albums spoke to current or past experiences he’d gone through, but this album speaks about future aspirations and he allowed it to sort of be a prophetic tool, he explained.

“I just let my mind run with it and paint this picture with the lyrics and music that I really wanted to see and I thought you know if I’m going to be singing these songs hundreds and thousands of times, why not sing about that,” he said.

These songs could have the power to forecast and talk about what he’d like to bring into his life, he further explained.

He released his first song from the album on May 15, called ‘Our River’ and the second track came out July 10, called ‘I love that sound’. 

Our River was his most successful digital release across his career so far and he said it has been really fun to watch those songs come out this summer. Another two songs will be released Sept. 9, and the full record will come out Oct. 9.

His favourite song on this album is called ‘Heart Of It,’ he shared, a track that hasn’t been heard by the public yet.

Going back to his first song, ‘Love Valley,’ which looks at life as a mountain with challenges and adventures, and on the other side of that mountain is this calm valley that’s home, called Love Valley. ‘Heart Of It’ writes about that same place, Love Valley, as if he’s already there, he explained.

“I have some friends who had a listen and I said put the thing on from tip to tail and go out for a slow drive or take a big cup of coffee early in the morning and listen to it. It’s 45 or so minutes. And I think that’s the best way to take it in,” he said of his album.

In the Greenbrier, he noticed that people would hear songs for the first time and relate to his lyrics in their own personal ways.

“This is such a cool way to play music and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Tickets are sold in packs of four for households or cohorts, and they have sold quickly for his Farm Tour, which is set to begin on Sept. 1.

His team is calling everyone who purchases a ticket to check on how many individuals are in their group to ensure for the proper distancing.

Go to his website for more information,

Women in municipal government series aimed at diversity

Masha Scheele

A free three-part online lunch and learn series about women in governance is starting this September with the goal of working towards diverse representation at the municipal level.

The sessions will cover challenges women may experience and how to overcome them, real experiences of women in municipal positions, and how to build a campaign.

“It’s so important for everybody’s voice to be heard. This is one demographic that has been identified as being underrepresented,” explained Jenna Altrogge, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) assistant manager.

The series will take a broad look at why it is important to have different people around the table with diverse opinions, backgrounds, and lived experiences. 

“The focus is on women because it’s been a big gap that has been identified on that national level. In our region, only 33 per cent of municipal councilors are women and the statistics are pretty equally low across Canada,” said Altrogge.

With another municipal election just over one year away, this is a great opportunity for local women to learn more about campaigning and to set themselves up for success.

“The goal is just to encourage people who might not have otherwise considered running, giving them the tools and resources and ultimately working towards a diverse representation at the municipal level,” Altrogge said.

Nominations for the upcoming Hinton municipal election open on Jan. 1, which allows for some time to get organized. Once individuals have put in their nomination, they can start campaigning.

“This is kind of the ideal time for people to start thinking about building their 2021 campaign,” Altrogge said.

The first session will review the value of gender parity and will overview the role of women’s voices, the challenges women may experience, and how to overcome those challenges.

The head of the Edmonton Women’s Initiative, Marian Bruin, will speak at this session.

“One of the things that’s really exciting is that we have some really good speakers,” Altrogge mentioned.

CAO Emily Olsen will also speak about the municipal side of the issues brought up in this session.

“That’s kind of the orientation session. [We will discuss] maybe some things you didn’t think of, why is it important for women to be represented in municipal governance, and what are some barriers you might face and how can you overcome them,” Altrogge added.

The second session will include a panel discussion, featuring women who are currently holding seats as council members in the region.

Councillors from Hinton, Jasper, Edson, and Yellowhead County will share their experiences with leadership, including the opportunities, challenges, and successes they have encountered. 

The third and final session will focus on building a campaign.

Participants can learn to map out a campaign plan, advertise, and have one-to-one discussions with community members and leaders.

Speakers for this session include strategic marketing expert Jacqueline Delisle, as well as Jasper Coun. Jenna McGrath, who leverages social media to keep her public informed. This session will offer tips and tools to build an effective campaign.

Community Futures and the Town of Hinton worked together to apply for a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to offer this series. 

Through the Women and Gender Equality Canada initiative, the Town was offered a grant. 

“Nancy [Robbins] from Community Futures and Emily Olsen in her previous position worked together and put together a plan and submitted an application and they were successful in receiving the grant,” Altrogge explained.

Although the series was originally scheduled to run in the spring, it was postponed due to the pandemic and is now being held virtually for safety reasons.

The sessions run on Sept. 16, Sept. 23, and Sept. 30.

To register for free, head to

35th Annual Toy Run going ahead this year

Masha Scheele

Bikers are still being welcomed to come ride in Hinton’s annual toy run this month.

What would have been an exciting 35th toy run for the Foothills Road Riders Association, will now be downscaled to just the ride and no barbeque or post-toy run events due to the pandemic restrictions.

Most importantly, the ride is still going ahead to collect toys and donations for the kids during Santa’s Anonymous, said Randy Fidler, one of the Foothills Road Riders Association founders.

“After talking to the Kinsmen, they were a bit concerned about having to cut back on their baskets and the support they give to people. We’re a big part of their annual plans for 35 years now,” Fidler said.

The fire trucks will be part of the ride again and Fidler wasn’t sure if anyone would be dressing up as Santa this year.

Last year’s ride was done under short notice, and with this year’s restrictions, it was put together under even shorter notice.

“It’s for the kids, plain and simple, it’s for the kids,” Fidler said.

Roughly 85 bikers attended the ride last year and they collected a trailer full of toys and $800 towards Santa’s Anonymous.

The Hinton Kin Club have provided Santa’s Anonymous to the community for 62 consecutive years and the Foothills Road Riders joined to help raise funds and collect donations 35 years ago.

Through Santa’s Anonymous, local families that have applied for the program receive Christmas hampers with toys for the kids and enough groceries for two weeks in December.

“I’m pretty confident we can put Santa’s Anonymous on this year. We had the summer off so we haven’t had a meeting, but obviously with COVID-19 we will have some adjustments,” said Bill McLaughlin, president of the Hinton Kinsmen.

The Kin Club receives sponsorship money for the program each year from companies and individuals.

They haven’t started the fundraising yet this year, but funds have been down the past few years.

“We’ve taken a small loss on Santa’s Anonymous. We are concerned this year with things being even worse that we might get less money in,” McLaughlin said.

He added that while the losses weren’t big, the group hasn’t broken even in the past three years in regards to Santa’s Anonymous.

“I’m sure there will be more demand and less donations, but hopefully not,” McLaughlin said of this year’s event.

Part of the campaign this year is making people aware that it takes money to put together the baskets of food and toys.

McLaughlin added that there are some ideas floating around but that decisions need to be made on how it will be organized this year.

The Kin Club has been asked to run the Toxic Roundup in the morning on Sept. 12, which will likely bring in some funds for Santa’s Anonymous.

The Toy Run itself will run similarly to last year’s event, other than the post-ride barbeque.

“After talking to the health inspectors, we thought it’s better just to do everything outdoors and don’t feed anybody and follow the rules as best as we can,” said Fidler.

Bikers will still gather in the parking lot of the Parks West mall in Hinton at 11 am, prior to the ride leaving at 1 pm. The same route will be followed as last year, which worked out well, Fidler added.

“[There are] rules like you have to be out of the same household to ride on the back of a motorcycle,” he said.

The Toy Run used to be followed by big events with live music and food, which hasn’t happened for many years now. Last year the crew hosted a small barbeque at green square.

“Last year we talked about getting the association back energized because it was down to just the toy run for quite a few years. We’re trying to make it a little more high profile with more events but covid shut all of that down,” Fidler said.

Despite the diminishing events, bikers from across the province continue to support the Hinton toy run every September.

“With the lack of a BBQ, I don’t know what kind of effect that will have. I hope they keep their eye on the point of getting donations for the kids,” Fidler commented.

The Foothills Road Riders Association is currently made up of roughly 30 members and they usually gain more at every toy run. 

This year, organizers won’t be asking anyone to sign up due to restrictions around physical distancing.

Join the toy run or come drop off donations to Santa’s Anonymous on Sept. 12 at the Parks West mall before 1 pm. More information will be released in the coming months on how to apply for Santa’s Anonymous.

Quiet summer leading to Oil Country Barrel Challenge

Masha Scheele Photo

Alexa Parker makes the turn during a barrel racing run at the Alberta Barrel Racing Association jackpot ride Aug. 19 at the Mary Reimer Rodeo Grounds. The grounds will host the annual Oil Country Barrel Challenge from Sept. 11-13.

Masha Scheele

Hinton’s rodeo grounds are usually busy each summer with weekly barrel racing jackpots, rodeo competitions, and people practicing their skills.

Alberta Barrel Racing Association (ABRA) and River Valley Riding Association (RVRA) both use the facilities for weekly events, but were shut down until the middle of July due to the pandemic.

ABRA was given permission to run a scaled down version of their regular jackpots, and are making sure to follow the provincial pandemic regulations.

“We’re limited to 100 people outdoors and that includes the spectators, judges, timers, etc.,” said Cathy Barber, who runs the ABRA jackpots at the Mary Reimer Arena.

Less people are attending the jackpots as well as participating. On an average night prior to the pandemic, about 15 adults would participate, whereas this summer their biggest night saw 10 adults, Barber explained.

The reason less people are entering could have something to do with the cancellation of the finals, she noted.

Members of ABRA have to run in a certain amount of jackpot events to qualify for the finals, which would have been held in Ponoka this year.

“They figured why should they buy a membership for [more than] $100 and ride all year and have nothing to ride towards,” Barber said.

Members can ride in any ABRA sanctioned event, which would count towards their qualification for finals. 

Adults have to ride nine events to qualify, while youth have to ride six. They don’t need to place in the events but must participate.

Each participant pays an entry fee, which is paid back to the riders at the end of the jackpot within three divisions.

“A group of girls originally started this 25 years ago, so everybody had a fair chance at barrel racing from beginner to novice up,” Barber said.

Finals would have been held at the end of August and generally sees 700 to 800 adults running, approximately 200 intermediates, and 100 peewees aged five to eight.

After the finals, ABRA normally hosts two jackpots in September and two in October, depending on the weather.

“Generally we quit after that because we don’t have an indoor arena. A lot of the girls may go to Edson, Edson quite often holds them in winter, not always,” Barber said.

While ABRA has been in the arena every other week, RVRA has been able to host a small barrel series, The River Valley Summer Series.

“It’s been a quiet season for us at RVRA. We cancelled our auction in April and our annual rodeo in July,” said Shauna Cruden, a member of RVRA.

As a board, RVRA decided to allow no outside bookings such as weddings due to COVID-19 as well.

“Aside from that we have Oil Country Barrel Challenge coming up and the arena has been used for open riding,” Cruden added.

Hinton’s biggest barrel racing event, the Oil Country Barrel Challenge, will be limited to 150 entries this year. The limited entries will ensure the number of contestants, spectators, and grounds crew stay below restriction limits.

Two members of the local River Valley Riding Association (RVRA) started the Oil Country Barrel Challenge nine years ago.

The event quickly became known for its big payouts and nice prizes as both aspects go over and above what is normally seen at a jackpot race event. 

However, this year there will be no short go and slot races or prizes due to the current pandemic and economic circumstances, according to the RVRA Facebook page.

Instead of slot races on Friday, there will be “Time Only” runs from 2 pm until 8 pm.

A 3D format for barrel racing is used for the event, allowing riders at any level to compete.

The 2020 Oil Country Barrel Challenge runs from Sept. 11 to 13 at the Mary Reimer Memorial Park in Hinton. For more information, go to Oil Country Barrel Challenge on Facebook.

Town reports on COVID-19 impacts

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council took a look at the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey and Economic Recovery Strategy Report during the regular meeting of council on Sept. 1.

Hinton’s economic development officer, Scott Kovatch, explained that administration began assessing the potential impacts of the pandemic in early March.

“It became clear that COVID-19 would impact the local economy, specifically the tourism and hospitality sectors,” said Kovatch.

An initial Economic Recovery Support Response Strategy was developed and a COVID-19 Business Impact Survey was conducted. Recommendations were implemented immediately with some remaining in place.

Based on the survey in which they spoke to local businesses, they provided immediate recommendations including promoting health and safety protocols through established means such as the website and social media, encouraging local purchases and promoting local shopping, addressing concerns identified by local businesses and working with federal and provincial officials to promote the support available to them, and preparing for a second wave by monitoring efforts and presenting updates.

Long-term recommendations included creating a cross sector task force planning group to address challenges facing local businesses, and creating fiscal measures that include an emergency reserve fund.

Factors that impacted businesses during the pandemic included Provincial and Federal government restrictions, The Town of Hinton’s State of Local Emergency measures, and COVID-19 business supports developed by all levels of government including those generated by the Town of Hinton.

The Strategy employs clear communication, outreach and individual business case support, economic support during COVID-19, and post-COVID-19 preparation.

The strategy is meant to help businesses remain informed to maintain confidence, help businesses plan for recovery and resilience, assist in reducing immediate strain on local businesses, and mitigate the long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Business Impact Survey spanned 90 days during April to June and involved reaching out to 100 local businesses. 

“The COVID-19 business survey summarized the local results and compared those results to the Economic Developers results from across the province. The survey has been shared with the local economic partners such as the Hinton Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Yellowhead, and Alberta Labour and Immigration,” said Kovatch.

The comparison to the Economic Developers Association of Alberta data provides greater statistical accuracy based on the size of the sample. Once feedback has been received, recommendations will be generated and acted upon.

Once the province and Town of Hinton entered Phase-2 of the re-opening of the economy, a follow-up to the initial survey was conducted with a sample of seven local businesses in July.

Key findings from the initial COVID-19 business impact survey showed that the majority of businesses contacted for the survey are locally owned, are represented by physical location, had been in business 10 years or longer, and would only be able to manage current operating and business expenses for one year.

Council approves new bins for waste program

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council discussed and approved three action items during the regular council meeting on Sept. 1.

Those items included the bin options for the solid waste management program, the naming policy, and the borrowing bylaw renewal for an ATB line of credit.

Waste program bins approved

Council approved the purchase of new regular toters with a DuraLatch lock for the solid waste management program, which will replace the old bins.

“We’ve discussed this at length, we are in a better position today than we were months ago. This is a better bin for our residents,” stated Mayor Marcel Michaels at the regular council meeting.

He added that many communities have much smaller bins than the 96 gallon bin that will be available in Hinton.

“I really appreciate that citizens are going to have options for different sizes,” added Coun. Dewly Nelson.

Administration will proceed with implementation of the modernized waste collection and retrofit existing Toter bins with the DuraLatch locking system.

The new bins with the simple-to-use latch stand up to rain, wind gusts up to 65 miles per hour, animals, and the day-to-day use of curbside waste collection. 

The gravity-based lock allows the lid to open automatically when the garbage truck tips and empties the cart, and then latches when the cart is set back down.

All bins have a 12-year body warranty and include hot stamping of Town of Hinton logo and shipping. 

The estimated Capital cost of replacing 3000 96-gallon bins for Single Family Households will be $270,000.

The 96-gallon and 64-gallon bins are available for council and the public to look at in the foyer of the Hinton government centre. The  48-gallon bin will be another option for residents.

In the future they will be displayed in other areas in Hinton for the public to look at and decide which size works for their household.

Naming Policy approved

Council approved Naming Policy DR-6105 and rescinded the old naming policy.

The new policy provides a process for the naming of development areas, roads, parks, and public facilities that recognizes and commemorates significant persons, history, heritage, and natural features of the community.

This Policy outlines where authority will be delegated, including Council’s roles and responsibilities. A Naming Procedure and Civic Addressing Procedure was also included in the Naming Policy.

Borrowing Bylaw Renewed

Council gave first, second, and third reading to the Borrowing Line of Credit to Finance Operating Expenditures Bylaw #1149.

This bylaw allows the Town of Hinton to borrow certain sums of money to finance operating expenditures to maintain contingencies required by its bank. 

“In 2020 the passing of this bylaw was not achieved due to changes in Town administration as well as issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to those circumstances [Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB)] has allowed an extension of the bylaw until such time a new bylaw is passed,” said CAO Emily Olsen.

The bylaw was passed in 2018 for the purpose of authorizing a borrowing line of credit to finance operating expenditures within the Town of Hinton.

Over the past three years, the line of credit has not been accessed or utilized, said Carla Fox, director of corporate services.

“There is no need to utilize the line of credit based on the current circumstances for the remainder of the year as far as finances go. We typically rely on our reserve fund balances and we manage funds back and forth as needed through those reserve funds balances,” Fox added.

Most tax payments have come in over the last few days and reserve balances are at a healthy limit. The limited capital projects, gas tax, and MSI is also allowing a good level of cash flow, Fox added.

The tax deadline was Aug. 31, and administration is looking at the numbers to determine the outstanding taxes and utility payments that could create issues next year.

The line of credit from ATB is set up with a limit not to exceed the principal sum of $2,000,000. 

The revolving line of credit includes $1,236,891.40 of credit, a Mastercard limit of $100,000.00 and a letter of Credit in the amount of $663,108.60.

This amount is repayable upon demand at a rate of interest per annum not to exceed the Prime Lending Rate established by ATB, and such interest is calculated daily and due and payable monthly on the last day of each and every month.

The Mayor and the Chief Administrative Officer are authorized on behalf of the Town to apply to the ATB for the loan/line of credit and arrange with the ATB the amount, terms and conditions and security to be given.

Weekly missed calls due to vacant CPO position

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Hinton’s third Community Peace Officer (CPO) position remains vacant since June 2020 when it was vacated and will remain vacant pending a decision in the 2021 budget.

This reduced the number of CPOs from three full-time positions to two full-time positions.

To adapt to the CPO vacancy, changes to the level of service, including hours, and reduction in proactive enforcement have taken place. 

Only emergency calls are responded to outside of work hours, stated the Bylaw and Community Peace Officer High Level Service Review Report that was presented to council at the standing committee meeting on Aug. 25.

“This is actually a good opportunity, this could somewhat be treated as a bit of a pilot project to see what our community looks like with two CPO’s on a permanent full time basis. It’s going to give a lot of good relevant background information to council during the 2021 budget discussions if the third CPO position again comes back to us as a highly prioritized item in the budget,” stated Coun. Albert Ostashek.

With only two CPO’s since the end of June, there have been approximately 15 calls per week that could not be immediately responded to as there was no officer on duty. The files get delayed until the next officer is on duty. 

Service level complaints have been received from the public due to the reduction in service.

Protective services manager, Todd Martens, added that they have received roughly five complaints per week about the lower service levels and questions about why certain services aren’t available anymore.

“Nobody can come out and deal with anything on the weekend as well as past 8 pm in the evening,” Martens said about the change of hours with two CPO’s.

Calls for CPO services have increased from 593 in all of 2015 to 2090 in 2020 so far, and last year, there were 2209 calls for service.

Proactive policing and residential patrols have been significantly reduced relying on a complaint-based model rather than a proactive enforcement model. Once the school year begins, the school zone patrols will continue to take place. 

Staffing at this level and the changes to scheduling has removed assistance to public complaints on weekends and evenings, which has resulted in a backlog of work at the beginning of each week. 

The report stated that it is often difficult to follow up on bylaw files, delivering notices, and making contact that cannot be done during regular Monday to Friday office hours when residents are often working.

To manage sick time, vacation, and training, at times over the last two months there have been one, or no CPO on duty. 

Calls for assistance are transferred to the RCMP or complaints followed up on once a CPO is available or on shift.

Collaborative partnerships and working relationships with certain services may also be reduced as needed, including Emergency Management Services (EMS), Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE),Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Alberta Parks, Fish and Wildlife, Department of Transportation, Sheriffs, and CN police.

“This marks a notable change in service, and one that will be communicated to the public should this vacancy be determined to be permanent through the budget process for 2021,” stated the report.

The Hinton Protective Services department has grown and evolved as the needs of Hinton have changed, stated the report.

The most recent data from 2016, showed Hinton with a stable population of 9,882 and a land area of 33.52 square kilometres and eight patrol zones in the community.

Currently the department has two vehicles for Peace Officers and these vehicles also are used for animal control.

The primary role of the CPO is the ongoing management of the Town of Hinton Municipal Bylaws, but there are numerous other tasks they are responsible for.

The two CPO’s work hours have been revised to morning shifts starting at 7:30 am until 3:30  pm and afternoon shifts starting at 12 pm until 8 pm every Monday to Friday.

This item will come back during the 2021 budget discussions.