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Airdrie's top 10 news stories of 2019

Surrounded by cards and flowers, Dawn Warden recovered in hospital after sustaining "life-altering" injuries during a nearly-fatal domestic assault in June. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Assault survivor

An Airdrie woman underwent 14 hours of surgery to address the life-altering injuries she sustained during a near-fatal domestic assault.

Local RCMP and fire crews were dispatched June 9 to a fire at an apartment complex at 700 Willowbrook Road after receiving a call alerting them a woman was “seriously injured,” according to an RCMP press release issued the next day. Following an investigation, Airdrie RCMP arrested a man – confirmed by Warden as a former boyfriend – and charged him with offences including attempted murder, arson and carrying a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Though Warden faced a long road to recovery, with damage to a facial nerve and nine severed fingers – three of which doctors were unable to reattach – she said she intends to heal through local advocacy work. She added she hopes her experience will inspire others in abusive situations to find the help they need.

“Nothing anyone tells you, unless you want to leave, is going to change your mind – I know that,” she said. “But even if you just reach out to somebody, even a friend [so they] know what’s going on, so they can watch you.”

The community responded to the incident with support, with contributions to a crowdfunding campaign and a motorcycle poker ride fundraising effort in August.

Main Street upgrades

Navigating downtown Airdrie was a bit of a challenge throughout the summer, as the municipality began planned utility upgrades under Main Street in May. The project was necessary, according to the City’s Water Services department, as the existing water and sanitary sewer system in the area was deteriorating.

main street construction petitionSeveral local businesses requested financial assistance from the City of Airdrie, due to adverse impacts of the Main Street construction project. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing
However, the initiative meant several blocks of Main Street were closed to traffic for weeks at a time – causing significant impacts to local business owners, who felt the project caused an inconvenience to customers and led to revenue loss.

“If it was an emergency situation, we would not have the luxury of putting detour plans in place and having those four-way stops to avoid accidents a block over,” Coun. Tina Petrow said during a council meeting in June where business owners voiced their concerns.

“We would be immediately shutting down the road, and it would have a much greater impact – and as these lines are at the end of their life-cycle, it would be likely to happen if these were not fixed at this point in time.”

The project wrapped up in October and will be resuming in May 2020 with an improved communications plan and detour routes.

Legion graffiti

The discovery of graffiti scrawled on the side of the LAV III located at Nose Creek Valley Museum March 22 prompted a petition calling upon the House of Commons to increase the penalties in the Criminal Code for defacing a war memorial.

“I just don’t believe somebody would do that,” said Bill Drummond, past president of the Airdrie branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. “It’s beyond my comprehension, to be honest.”

MuseumVandalised1YIRAirdrie woke up March 22 to a large white tag of graffiti on the LAV III memorial at Nose Creek Valley Museum. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing
While the Light Armoured Vehicle was not the sole target – along Main Street between Summerfield Boulevard and the entrance to Nose Creek Park, at least seven street signs, electrical boxes and garbage cans sported a similar tag, including a sign for the Airdrie Festival of Lights – but the vandalism to the LAV III was particularly disrespectful, according to Drummond.

The memorial serves to honour Alberta servicemen and servicewomen as well as veterans living with PTSD, and includes a plaque commemorating 156 Albertans who lost their lives serving in Afghanistan, Drummond said. However, he noted it has also become a symbol of Airdrie’s community spirit thanks to the efforts of the local businesses who contributed the funding to purchase it.

Artificial turf

Airdrie may be home to an artificial turf field in 2021, thanks to the efforts of the city’s football community throughout the course of 2019.

The initiative to bring the $2-million field to Airdrie was led by Christopher Glass, president of the Airdrie Turf Field Project Society, and aims to see the artificial turf installed over the existing grass field at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park – providing athletes with a more durable, safer playing surface.

Additionally, he said, the facility will offer an economic boost to the community as a whole, drawing revenue to local businesses as the city grows as a sports tourism destination.

With $1 million in grant dollars anticipated from the province and the society committed to a number of fundraising efforts held throughout the year, Glass had requested a $250,000 grant from the City – and Mayor Peter Brown suggested he’d like to increase that contribution and “speed up the process, if possible.”

The society will now conduct a feasibility study to determine the best way to move the project forward, and anticipates presenting the results to council in the spring.

ADVAS funding

An increased demand for the services provided by Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society (ADVAS) over the past several years meant the organization spent the majority of 2019 seeking additional sources of revenue.

“We’ve [more than] doubled our files over the past five years, however, we haven’t doubled our staff in order to address the capacity that our organization is seeing,” said executive director Michelle Wagner during a presentation to Airdrie City council in August.

ADVASYIRTo address rising need within the community, Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society has conducted a capital-building study and is seeking to develop a path toward long-term sustainability. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing
ADVAS provides assistance to the RCMP for both criminal and non-criminal files within Airdrie, Rocky View County, Crossfield and Beiseker, but faces a challenge in that government funding only covers its work related to criminal files – the non-criminal files are funded through fundraising efforts.

In May, the society submitted a successful request for additional funding from the Minister of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, to address the growth in Airdrie. Additionally, council provided ADVAS with a one-time bridging grant in the requested amount of $40,000, to ensure the organization can continue operations while it works with a fund developer to build a financial roadmap for its long-term sustainability.

The City also pledged to support the organization as it continues advocating the Minister to launch a “much-needed review of program funding models,” according to ADVAS.

Water schedule

Airdronians had to plan ahead before watering their lawns this the summer, as the new Waterworks Bylaw approved by council in February included a year-round watering schedule.

“We really pride ourselves, as a City, as being sustainable, and a leader in sustainability,” said Erin Murray, communications advisor with the City of Airdrie. “Taking these steps toward water conservation is going to ensure that we always have water available.”

The decision sparked some concern among residents who worried they couldn’t fill up the kiddie pool or allow children to run through the sprinkler, but Murray said the greater impacts of the bylaw would only be experienced in the case of a water shortage.

Other initiatives introduced by the municipality to save water, she added, included using sensors that turn off the sprinklers if it starts to rain, remotely-monitored metered irrigation sites, xeriscaping (planting drought-tolerant and native plants) and employing sprinkler systems that use recycled stormwater.

And not only is water conservation better for the community and the environment, according to Murray, but homeowners will see another benefit – lower utility bills.

Provincial election

Following a record turnout at advance polls, the United Conservative Party (UCP) captured a majority government April 16 – taking 63 of the 87 seats in the Legislature. The party took an early lead, making it quickly apparent that the New Democratic Party (NDP) had been defeated.

polling stationYIRAlbertans turned out in droves at advance polling stations this year, voting in the United Conservative Party as a majority government in the provincial election April 16. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing
"What a great day for the province of Alberta," said premier-elect Jason Kenney in his jubilant victory address, declaring, "Alberta is open for business."

Locally, Peter Guthrie (UCP) easily won his seat with 66.2 per cent of votes, and will be the first MLA to represent the new Airdrie-Cochrane riding. In Airdrie-East incumbent Angela Pitt (UCP) easily held on to her seat with 67.3 per cent of votes. NDP candidate Roxie Baez Zamora followed with 20 per cent of votes.

Kenney promised the lowest taxes, a deep culture of enterprise and innovation, and a renewal of the “Alberta advantage.” Since taking office, however, his government has drawn some criticism – particularly after tabling its 2020 budget, which saw significant cuts to the public sector, education and health-care industries.

Genesis solar project

Airdrie is now home to the largest commercial rooftop solar panel system in Canada, according to the City, after the installation on the rooftop of Genesis Place Recreation Centre was officially unveiled July 10.

The system, made possible through a partnership with ENMAX, will meet up to 30 per cent of the facility’s electricity needs, the municipality said – reducing costs by up to $80,000. Though residents are unlikely to see savings passed on in Genesis Place membership fees, according to Shannon Shindeler, City manager of Treasury, they are likely to see the cost reduction offset the tax base.

LN_AirdrieSolar2YIRMayor Peter Brown admiring the new solar system on Genesis Place Recreation Centre at an unveiling July 10. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing
The solar array consists of 3,800 panels and, a City release stated, will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 1,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 275 cars off the road. The overall cost of the project came to $2.8 million, according to the City, with 82 per cent funded through grants from the Federal Gas Tax Fund and the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre.

“I think, moving forward, this is something that we can definitely have a look at every time we’re building new infrastructure,” Coun. Tina Petrow said. “It’s important to be energy-conscious.”

Canals homicide

A shooting in the Canals neighbourhood Sept. 7 that resulted in the death of one man left many in the community shocked and traumatized.

According to RCMP, the incident was a “planned and deliberate” assault – the victim, 57-year-old Daniel Macdonald, was the neighbour of Michael Antony Roebuck, 59, who was arrested at the scene and charged with first degree murder.

"Initially, I think a lot of people were very scared because it's not something that happens every day," said Cpl. Gina Slaney, Airdrie RCMP media relations officer.

While police stressed there was no further threat to the public, the incident was the first homicide in Airdrie in 2019, and Community Links offered extended drop-in hours to support anyone looking for a safe space.

"Going through a homicide is completely different than any other grief," said Sandra Joe, Support Service manager at Community Links.

She added such incidents not only impact those who were witness to it, but the community as a whole – “if it affects us as individuals, it's going to affect us as families.”

CrossIron Shooting

In September, reports of a shooting at CrossIron Mills mall drew a heavy police presence and left one man with serious injuries.

Airdrie RCMP and Calgary Police Service (CPS) responded to a report of an active shooter at the shopping centre around 7 p.m. Sept. 16. Upon arriving at the scene, police found one man had been shot in the parking lot near the mall’s food court. The victim was transported to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

CrossIronShootingYIRPolice cordoned off the southeast parking lot at CrossIron Mills Mall following a shooting Sept. 16. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing
Following the shooting, the mall was secured store by store. Around 600 employees and several thousand patrons were evacuated, and the facility was cleared shortly before 1 a.m. The investigation was subsequently handed off to the Southern Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit (SAD CRU).

On Nov. 10, three suspects – Calgarians Dakota Brandon Bolton, 25; Carle James Schuyler, 35; and Jari Erkki Manner, 37 – were taken into custody and charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, among other charges. A press release Nov. 12 announcing the arrests indicated the shooting was a targeted incident.

Another arrest warrant was issued Nov. 14 for Michael Keith Caseley, 42, in connection with the shooting. He was later apprehended following assistance from the Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit (CAD CRU).

“Information was shared amongst the two crime reduction units, and the CAD CRU was able to locate Caseley in the company of two other males,” an RCMP press release stated. “All three were arrested without incident in downtown Edmonton.”


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