2017: The Year That Was

By rdnewsNOW staff
December 31, 2017 - 11:59pm Updated: January 1, 2018 - 12:14pm

JANUARY

Patrick Wasson of Red Deer was the grand prize winner in the 2016 Red Deer Kinsmen Dream Home Lottery, a $740,000 home in Laredo.

The Red Deer Regional Hospital welcomed their New Year's Baby into the world on January 1 at 5:44 a.m. Aleah Mae was born to parents Stacie Bishop and Clinton Sadek of the Blufton area, weighing five pounds, two ounces.

Stan Schalk, a local pastor, escaped jail time and was given a 90-day conditional sentence on a charge of sexual assault. He was convicted for touching the breast of a woman who worked for him without her permission.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced a $2 million expansion of the Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre.

Following 46 hours of debate over nine days, Red Deer city council wrapped up the 2017 Operating Budget with a 1.52 per cent property tax increase. 

The City of Red Deer celebrated the opening of Fire Station #4 at its new location in Timberlands.

Cory Lavallee was sentenced to nine years in prison in a drug-related shooting near Pine Lake. Donald Brown was shot twice in the face with a .22 caliber rifle, but managed to run to a nearby property for help.

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FEBRUARY

Red Deer recorded its first homicide of the year when Lyndon Olsen was charged with manslaughter in the death of Randee Stewart.

Census numbers showed Blackfalds as the fastest growing Canadian non-metropolitan community with a population of 5,000 or more. Blackfalds population grew by 48.1 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

Red Deer’s population climbed back over 100,000 residents. National census data pegged the city’s population at 100,418, up from the 99,852 head count from the 2016 Municipal Census.

The United Way of Central Alberta announced a little over $2.1 million was raised during their latest campaign.

Inspector Lorne Blumhagen became the new Chief of the Lacombe Police Service, taking over from Steve Murray.

Two years ahead of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, one of the marquee projects for the event was given the green light. The Municipal Planning Commission approved the plan to turn Central School into the Canada Winter Games Celebration Plaza.

Nathan Desharnais, a Red Deer man who admitted to killing a Calgary area woman in our city in February of 2012 was sentenced on a charge of second degree murder, to life in prison with no chance of parole for 13 years. The body of Talia Meguinis was found in a recycling bin.

A student-led initiative at Hunting Hills High School resulted in its first ‘All Gender Restroom.’

Alexander Michael Talbot was sentenced in the death of Dawson James (DJ) Wegner-Cramer, a Red Deer man who was killed in 2016 while trying to prevent his work truck from being stolen from behind his home in Normandeau. Talbot was charged with manslaughter but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death and sentenced to a 3.5 year prison term, a three year driving ban and lifetime firearms prohibition.

Hundreds of fed-up people filled a conference room at Red Deer's Baymont Inn and Suites for a "State of the Hospital" meeting. The turnout was so large, a second meeting was held.

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MARCH

A teen caught on camera writing a hate message in the snow at the Red Deer Islamic Centre back in February turned himself in to police. The incident was resolved through restorative justice between the teen and staff at the centre.

$800,000 in provincial dollars was divvied up between the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, Parkland Community Living and Supports Society, Piper Creek Foundation and Red Deer Housing Authority for building upgrades.

It was a sentence of four years in prison for Brian Haberman, a former Blackfalds man charged with several child porn offences including travelling to Pennsylvania to have sex with a 16-year-old girl he met online.

Former Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling was named the new Chair of the Red Deer College Board of Governors through March 2020.

A video with the familiar voice of Red Deer's own Ron MacLean read out the official brand for the 2019 Canada Winter Games in our city - "This Is Our Moment!" Games officials say it was a natural evolution to the "Red Deer is Ready" motto that led our city's bid to land the Games.

The province announced it is onside with divesting Sylvan Lake Provincial Park to the Town of Sylvan.

After five years of lobbying, it was announced Red Deer would be getting a new courthouse. The provincial budget included $97 million over four years for the facility.

Dr. Bill Hollingshead, a long-time Red Deer dentist, was killed in an auto accident in California.

The provincial government announced $9 million in funding for modernizations at St. Patrick's Community School.

Three years after the roof of the beloved Sylvan Lake Arena collapsed, its replacement, the $33.5 million NexSource Centre, was officially opened.

Red Deer recorded its second homicide of 2017. A 26-year-old man was found in an apartment in medical distress following a "severe assault." He died later in Calgary hospital.

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APRIL

Another longtime fixture in the hamlet of Mirror was destroyed by fire. Firefighters from Alix, Bashaw, Clive, Lacombe and Mirror were called in after Mirror Lumber and Farm Supply went up in flames. At the time police called the cause of the fire suspicious.

Servus Credit Union purchased the naming rights for Red Deer’s new Downtown Arena. The sponsorship agreement is worth $1 million dollars over 15 years.

 The ribbon was cut on two brand new obstetrical operating rooms at the Red Deer Regional Hospital. The $9.7 million project was first announced in January 2014.

Expedia.ca has named Red Deer "A Most Breathtaking Place in North America" to visit. Red Deer came in at #26 on the list. Maskepetoon Park was named a local favourite along with the area along the Red Deer River including Bower Ponds.

The 2017 Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off raised over $750,000 for the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre and the Sexual Assault Support Centre.

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MAY

Red Deer city council set the 2017 property tax rate at 1.1 per cent for residential, multifamily and non-residential property owners, about $32 more a year for the owner of a home assessed at $325,000.

Red Deer city council approved the city-wide implementation of green carts.

The federal government officially came on board with the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Ottawa will contribute $11.2 million over three years with $3 million going to the redevelopment of Great Chief Park. The remainder will be spent on operating costs.

A man convicted in a New Year's Day 2013 murder in Red Deer was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. The body of 25-year-old Lloyd Robert Sarson was found in a vehicle in an Eastview alley. He had been shot eight times.

Carlee Ryski, a graduate of the Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts program won the Best Performance by an Alberta Actress at The Rosies awards. Her award-winning performance was for her role as Grace in the film "On the Rocks."

 The official ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the NexSource Centre in Sylvan Lake.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony was also held for the nearly $10 million Red Deer Airport runway extension.

The bodies of a six-year-old Camrose girl and her 39-year-old Red Deer father were found inside a home in the Lancaster neighbourhood.

Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie made the surprising announcement that he would not be seeking a third term.

A disturbing case wrapped up in Red Deer as a local mother in her mid-40s was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for sending pornographic images of her four-year-old son to a man in Idaho.

Twenty-three police dog teams and their handlers from Cape Breton to Vancouver were in Red Deer for the Canadian Police Canine Association spring seminar.

The province announced $37 million in funding for the $41.2 million Sylvan Lake Regional Wastewater line.

Stuart Cullum was appointed the new President and CEO of Olds College.

The City of Red Deer Municipal Planning Commission approved a new residence building at Red Deer College. The 145-unit building will be used primarily for student housing but will also house athletes when they come to Red Deer for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

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JUNE

Red Deer resident Roy Wiggins stopped at the 7-Eleven in Blackfalds on his way to work to buy a muffin and a coffee. He also bought a Scratch 'n Win lottery ticket. He won $2.5 million.

An unwanted appearance in our city for the first time came in early June when Red Deer RCMP confirmed that a drug seized in a March bust was the lethal opiod Carfentanil.

Robin Bobocel was named CEO of the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

On June 8, a powerful storm rolled through Red Deer. If your area did not lose power, you were one of the lucky ones. At various times throughout the evening the power went out in parts of the Downtown, Michener, Clearview, Deerpark, Rosedale, Riverside Meadows, Eastview, Grandview, Normandeau and Kentwood neighbourhoods. The vast majority of the outages were caused by branches or trees falling onto power lines.

The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal application by Brian Malley, convicted in the bombing death of Vicky Shachtay in Innisfail in 2011. Shachtay died instantly when a pipe bomb disguised as a Christmas present exploded in her apartment. Malley was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. (NOTE: The case is now headed to the Supreme Court of Canada).

After being closed for the entire 2016 season for upgrades and enhancements, Discovery Canyon re-opened to the public.

Following a tremendous windstorm the night of June 20, The City of Red Deer declared a local state of emergency in response to numerous power outages and fallen debris across Red Deer. “Red Deer experienced an extreme storm last night, one that doesn’t compare to any I have ever experienced in Red Deer,” City Manager Craig Curtis said at the time. The windstorm would go down in the record books as causing the most complex widespread power outage in the Red Deer community since 1986.

Sears Canada announced it was closing nearly 60 locations and cutting approximately 2,900. Among the closures was the Sears store in Bower Place.

Shoppers delight, Giant Tiger, a Canadian-based discount store chain, officially opened in Red Deer.

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JULY

The Hamill family-owned downtown Red Deer Dairy Queen celebrated 50 years of providing central Alberta with hot eats and cool treats.

Red Deer's Safe Harbour Society celebrated its ten year anniversary of helping and supporting the less fortunate.

The City of Red Deer announced it was bringing in a herd of goats to fight invasive species of weeds to help restore one of its natural areas. The goats fed on the weeds such as Canada thistle at the Piper Creek Gardens on the city’s southeast outskirts and provided an economical, environmentally and safe method of weed control.

Many areas of central Alberta including the Red Deer region were under heat warnings for a number of days in early July. Temperatures in the low to mid 30's were recorded. The hot streak would return near the end of the month.

Eighty-three members of the Red Deer Royals packed their bags and headed the 2017 World Music Competition in the Netherlands. The Royals scored high enough to be awarded a gold medal.

The wicked wind storm that blew through Red Deer and central Alberta on June 20 caused more than $30 million in insured damage, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The storm was the result of a low-pressure system and produced hail and winds of over 100 km/h in parts of central Alberta including Red Deer, Innisfail and Pine Lake.

The 2017 edition of Westerner Days drew 90,553 visitors over five days.

As a rain and hail pelted Red Deer on July 23, Stephen Ross decided to make the most of it in a uniquely Canadian way by grabbing a canoe and paddling around the neighbourhood.

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AUGUST

Sean McIntyre announced he would be seeking a second term as mayor of Sylvan Lake. He was re-elected by acclamation in October.

Dignitaries and guests were on hand for the official ground breaking for the newest facility on campus at Red Deer College, an alternative energy lab. The lab will benefit approximately 1,000 students per year at RDC and provide opportunities for teaching, demonstrating and researching alternative energy opportunities.

For the ninth year in a row, the Town of Blackfalds continued its trend of above average growth as one of Canada’s fastest growing municipalities with a 4.27% increase in population. The results of the 2017 Municipal Census showed the official population at 9,916.

For the second year, Red Deer had a pair of rainbow crosswalks painted in the downtown area for pedestrians and motorists to enjoy as a kickoff to Central Alberta Pride Week.

Singer Gord Bamford raised a total of $393,534 at his 10th Annual Gord Bamford Charity Golf Classic. The tournament and gala have now raised over $3,000,000 for Bamford's foundation.

Calling it an honour to serve the community she grew up in, Tara Veer announced she would seek a second term as Red Deer's mayor. She was re-elected in October.

Three men suffered serious burns in a workplace accident at Lazer Car Wash in north Red Deer. The three were transferring a chemical between containers when a flash fire occurred. However, the exact cause of the fire remains unknown.

The Invictus Games National Flag Tour made a stop in Red Deer. Central Albertans were invited to a flag signing and to take pictures with athletes at the Red Deer Legion.

Alberta's police watchdog said two RCMP officers were justified when they shot and killed a central Alberta man after he went on a rampage with a front-end loader. The unidentified 37-year-old died on Dec. 25, 2015, in Red Deer.

Ground was broken at the site of a future community square in the Capstone at Riverlands district. The space, located where the end of Alexander Way meets the river walk, will be called Canada 150 Square.

Joel Ward, RDC President and CEO, confirmed Omar Khadr was accepted into RDC’s four-year Nursing program.

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SEPTEMBER

Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools began the month with the opening of two new schools - St. Joseph High School in east Red Deer and St. Gregory the Great Catholic School In Blackfalds.

It was announced that Red Deer College would be getting $205,000 per year for the next three years from the province to address mental health issues. The funding is to be used specifically for initiatives at RDC to assist students dealing with stress, depression, helplessness and other issues.

A Red Deer woman who was behind the wheel of a school bus when it struck a tree in Vanier Woods with students on board admitted to being impaired at the time of the crash. Shelly Kolodychuk, pleaded guilty to one count of operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level over 80mg. She would be sentenced to 45 days in jail to be served on weekends.

Michael Dawe retired from his role as historian with the City of Red Deer after 38 years. Shortly after, Dawe announced he would be seeking a seat on Red Deer City Council. He would win that seat in the October municipal election.

Dignitaries gathered at Mattie McCullough Elementary School to cut the ribbon on the brand new Access for All Barrier-Free playground.

Local help headed to southern Alberta to assist with wildfire response efforts. Red Deer County Protective Services sent six individuals to aid the RCMP Special Tactical Operations team with logistical support. The Ponoka Fire Department was also called upon for help.

Intersection speed cameras started issuing warning tickets at 10 intersections in Red Deer. Regular tickets and fines started on November 1.

A Calgary man was sentenced to seven years behind bars for the stabbing death of a Red Deer teen at a party in a Calgary apartment. Jesse Sky Copenace, was originally charged with second degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Levi Marance. He pleaded guilty to a downgraded charge of manslaughter.

Former NHLer Curtis Glencross presented a cheque for $190,000 to Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta and the Hockey Alberta Foundation. The money was raised through the 6th annual Glencross Invitational Charity Roughstock Rodeo.

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OCTOBER

A Red Deer man and his wife were among the lucky survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Jason Beisick and his wife Tina and two other friends were taking in the three-day country music festival in Las Vegas. 58 people were killed including four Canadians, hundreds others were injured.

We met "Waskasoo" the official mascot for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Waskasoo was created by 12-year-old Mackenzie Van Damme of Lacombe. Her entry was chosen from over 300 others submitted for across the province.

A sod turning ceremony was held for the new Westpark Middle School. The $15.3 million school is set to open in September 2019.

Tara Veer was easily re-elected as Red Deer's mayor in the Oct. 16 municipal election. Two newcomers were elected to city council in Michael Dawe and Vesna Higham. Richard Poole was elected mayor in Blackfalds along with Grant Creasey in Lacombe and Mike Yargeau in Penhold. 

The first degree murder trial began for Jason Klaus and his friend, Joshua Frank. The two men were accused of killing three members of the Klaus family. Klaus's parents, Gordon and Sandra and sister, Monica, died in the blaze that erupted in their Castor area home in December 2013. A verdict will be announced in January.

The Town of Sylvan Lake signed off on its side of the deal to acquire Sylvan Lake Provincial Park. Now it is up to the province to do the same. The Town states its main reason for acquiring the park is "to preserve and maintain the future use of the lands for public access and recreation."

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team began investigating the fatal shooting of a 33-year-old man by RCMP officers east of Red Deer. The shots were fired during an incident near Highway 11 southwest of Alix.

The path towards reconciliation with Indigenous people in Red Deer gained a new stepping stone. Elders, dignitaries and other community members joined together for the grand opening of Asooahum Crossing.

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NOVEMBER

The ribbon was cut at Red Deer’s newest public school, Don Campbell Elementary, home to more than 350 students.

MP Earl Dreeshen announced he would seek the federal Conservative nomination again in the Red Deer - Mountain View ahead of 2019 Election.

Kurt Stenberg, a local firefighter was later recognized by the Royal Canadian Humane Association for his bravery shown during the incident involving an impaired school bus driver. 

Correctional Service Canada began investigating the death of an inmate at the Bowden Institution. Cody Adams, 34, was found in his cell and immediately taken to hospital. He died the following day.

The local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) marked two significant milestones – the 30th anniversary of its Red Ribbon Awareness Campaign and their 25th annual Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance and Hope.

Red Deer County’s Protective Services unit was recognized for its help with the Waterton National Park wildfires in September. The six members received a District Commander's Southern Alberta RCMP Certificate of Appreciation.

The Royal Canadian Legion began an investigation into a possible Remembrance Day imposter in Red Deer. rdnewsNOW reported that a man known as Peter Toth was accused of impersonating a U.S. Military veteran at Remembrance Day ceremonies at St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, G.W. Smith Elementary and Aspen Heights Elementary.

A seven year sentence was handed down in a Christmastime homicide in downtown Red Deer. Chad Alexander Kulba, 35, was originally charged with second degree murder and indignity to a human body. Instead, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter this past September. The body of Thomas Braconnier, 46, was found near the entrance to the Buffalo Hotel on Dec. 25, 2015. He had been stabbed 30 times.

Westerner Park and the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce are going the full eight seconds and beyond to prove Red Deer is ready to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo. The two organizations hosted an event at the Enmax Centrium to share some of the details from their proposal to host the CFR for 10 years beginning in 2018.

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DECEMBER

Stats Canada numbers showed the November unemployment rate for the Red Deer area was 5 per cent, the lowest in Alberta. The unemployment rate for the Red Deer area at this time a year ago was 7.6 per cent.

Red Deer is ranked fifth by Maclean's magazine on its latest list of most dangerous places in Canada. Last year, Red Deer was #2.

A Red Deer charity that provides medical equipment for those who need was recognized with a 2017 Premier’s Council Award. The Lending Cupboard received an Award of Excellence from the Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Red Deer City Council approved 20-court pickleball facility during Capital Budget debate. The cost is pegged at $1 million, with $100,000 being contributed by the Red Deer Pickleball Club and could be open by 2019.

The new speed skating oval and other amenities at Great Chief Park will be known as Setters Place. The site which will be a venue during the 2019 Canada Winter Games is named after sponsor J.T. Setters & Sons Construction.

Red Deer City Council approved Safe Harbour Society's application to add an additional 20 overnight shelter beds this winter.

RCMP announced details of a pair of busts in Red Deer in November. A man and woman face nearly 200 weapons, drug, and stolen property charges. Items seized include 29 guns, four crossbows, and stolen property including dirt bikes, identification and electronics. Andrew Scott Charpentier, 25, faces 100 charges and  Kelsey Pearl Torpe, 25, faces 98 counts.

UPDATE: Purse returned to Sylvan Lake widow

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