Little announces retirement: Estevan Comprehensive School Mike Little announced his retirement in late February, ending a 10-year tenure at the school, and an education career that spanned more than three decades. Little is the longest-serving principal in ECS history. He was replaced by Pat Jeannot, who had been the vice-principal at the Oxbow Prairie Horizons School.
Laintons win prestigious award: The Lainton family was recognized for their dedication to the agriculture sector, and the community, during the Estevan Farmer's Appreciation Evening, as they were the Farm Family of the Year Award recipients. Not only do they have a mixed farming operation northeast of Bienfait, but they have found many ways to be involved in the community, through municipal politics, health, recreation, culture and other activities.
Komarnicki won't run in 2015: Souris-Moose Mountain MP Ed Komarnicki announced in late February that he won't seek another term as MP in the next federal election in 2015. Komarnicki was first elected in 2004, and was re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2011, gaining a greater share of the vote each time. He said he wants to spend more time with his family.
Mercer comes to Pleasantdale: Canadian television personality Rick Mercer, who hosts “The Rick Mercer Report” on the CBC, was at Pleasantdale School in Estevan in March, after Pleasantdale won the national elementary school component of the “Spread the Net” student challenge. Pleasantdale raised $5,439 through “Spread the Net,” which installs mosquito nets in Africa to reduce the spread of Malaria. Mercer spoke to students, and footage of the community was shown on the “Rick Mercer Report.”
A winter to remember: The winter of 2012-13 was one for the record books. Estevan received about 183 centimetres of snow from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013. A record 57 centimetres fell in March alone. Sub-zero temperatures lingered until late April, and so snow drifts remained until early May.
The heavy snow led to concerns about a repeat of the floods of 2011, but those didn't materialize, thanks to dry weather in April and May. Releases into the Souris River never exceeded channel capacity.
Pilot reduced crash’s impact: A plane carrying six people was forced to make an emergency landing eight kilometres north of Kisbey at the end of March. Two of the people aboard, including pilot John Erickson, suffered back injuries, while the other passengers sustained minor injuries. RCMP said that the crash could have been much worse if not for Erickson’s efforts.
Upgrades at North Portal crossing: The federal governments in Canada and the U.S. announced upgrades for the North Portal border crossing in March. The project involved the expansion and modernization of the Canada Border Services Agency commercial facility; expansion and re-alignment of the commercial staging area and traffic lanes; and re-configuration and expansion of the border crossing roadways. Construction is slated to be finished in 2015.
Pink shirt walk: For the second straight year, a pink shirt walk was held in Estevan in April. Over 1,000 people walked through downtown Estevan to send a message that they won’t tolerate bullying in schools or in the community.
Spectra members approve partnership: Spectra Credit Union members voted 94 per cent in favour of a partnership with Affinity Credit Union and Melfort-based Advantage Credit Union in April. The other credit unions’ members were also overwhelmingly supportive of the three-way partnership. The proposed partnership between Spectra and Affinity was announced in 2012, and Advantage’s involvement was revealed in early 2013. The partnership took effect on July 1, and Spectra is now operating under the Affinity Credit Union banner.
Awards for local police: Estevan Police Service Constable Steven Enns was recognized twice in 2013 for rescuing a family of four from a burning house on Sixth Street the previous year. He received the Award of Valour from the Saskatchewan Police Chiefs Association in April. Enns was also presented with the Carnegie Award by the U.S.-based Hero Fund Commission. He was one of only two Canadian recipients.
Estevan Police Chief Del Block was presented with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by the provincial police chiefs. Block has been Estevan’s chief since 2009, and he has been with the police force for 38 years.
Four outstanding women recognized: The contributions of four local women were recognized during the Quota International of Estevan/SaskPower Women of Today Awards in April. Shannon Leibel captured the SaskPower Outstanding Contribution to the Workplace Award; Judy Istace won the Ida Petterson Memorial Award for Outstanding Entrepreneur; Taylor Roy took home the Shirley Orsted Memorial Award for Outstanding Young Woman of Today; and Valerie Paulson won the SaskTel Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award.
Hammett served in many ways: The southeast lost a dedicated leader when Garry Hammett was killed in a vehicle collision on Highway 13 west of Carlyle in May. Hammett was a former Bienfait mayor who also spent many years on school boards, first at the local level, then with the Estevan Rural School Board and finally with the South East Cornerstone Public School Board. He was the representative for Subdivision 4 on the Cornerstone board at the time of his passing. Hammett was involved in many other aspects of the community.
Relay supports cancer society: The 2013 edition of Estevan’s Relay for Life in June raised more than $60,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. The money pushed Estevan’s relay past a significant milestone: more than $1 million has been raised for the fight against cancer since the first relay in 2006.
The annual mini Relay for Life, held a week earlier at Sacred Heart School/École Sacré Coeur, set a new record by raising more than $12,000.
Business leaders recognized: The Estevan Chamber of Commerce recognized business leaders in the community during the annual Estevan Business Excellence Awards (EBEX) in June. Turnbull Excavating was named the Business of the Year, and it won the Growth and Expansion Award. The company’s founder, Ed Turnbull, was a finalist for the other big award, the Business Leader of the Year Award. That honour went to Warren Waldegger of T-Bird Oil.
Hall of Fame inductees: The importance of family in business was the recurring theme for the three inductees into the Nick and Verna Morsky Estevan Business Hall of Fame. Ray and Doris Frehlick (Frehlick Farms, Prairie Petro Chem and other ventures), the Symons/Pierson Family (Days Inn and other ventures) and the Sereggela family (Tower Café and other ventures) were enshrined during at the EBEX Awards.
Students win awards: Students from the Estevan Comprehensive School’s Business 30 class cleaned up at the provincial awards ceremony in June. Those who operated the Truffle Shuffle business won the most prestigious award, for company of the year, while the owners of First Class Baking won for having the best shareholders' report. Several students won individual awards, too.
Progress continues on geothermal project: The effort to construct Canada’s first geothermal power plant near Estevan continued in 2013. Former Estevan resident Kirsten Marcia, who is the CEO of DEEP Earth Energy Production, is hopeful that a five-megawatt plant could begin production in 2015.
Milestone year: The Estevan Art Gallery and Museum (EAGM) celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2013. Among the highlights were a community event in June that attracted several different bands, and a sold out dueling pianos cabaret in October that proved to be the EAGM’s most successful fundraiser in many years.
A privacy breach at St. Joseph’s: An employee at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Estevan was let go following a privacy breach. A regular audit of pharmaceutical information found that the employee inappropriately accessed the records of seven individuals. The breach was detected in mid-June, and within a couple of weeks, the employee was fired.
Woodlawn celebrates grand reopening: Woodlawn Regional Park celebrated its grand reopening during the Canada Day long weekend. The event featured a ribbon cutting ceremony, park tours, children’s activities, live music and fireworks. The park’s new logo was unveiled, and country music singer Codie Prevost provided entertainment.
Dresses for flood victims: More than 300 dresses were collected locally after Estevan Comprehensive School teacher Tanis Savill issued a plea for donations of grad dresses for students in High River, Alberta. High River sustained significant damage in the southern Alberta floods in late June. The dresses were donated to graduates and to others in the community.
Front yard pick-up begins: After years of contentious debate, front yard garbage pick-up finally arrived in Estevan in late July. Many remain steadfast in their opposition to front yard pick-up – even though it is common in other communities across the country. Some areas of the city retained back alley pick-up due to traffic volumes or street design.
New long-term care centre opens: Residents of the Redvers Health Centre moved into a new long-term care wing at the end of July. The long-term care ward has 23 individual rooms separated between two connected houses. Each house has its own air-conditioned dining room, kitchenette and living room with a fireplace. The residents’ rooms and individual bathrooms were larger than the previous long-term care area. A grand opening happened in October.
A triumphant return: The Souris Valley Theatre made its return in 2013, after missing the two previous seasons while recovering from the floods of 2011. Three plays were offered: “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline” in June, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” in July, and “Rider Girl” in late July and early August. The theatre offered several other events during its renaissance year, and its two summer students travelled to different schools to promote the theatre, and acting in general.
Beach bash a big hit: The second annual Beach Bash at the Woodlawn Regional Park’s Boundary Dam Recreation Site proved to be a big hit, as it attracted hundreds of people. There were activities for people of all ages throughout the day. Beach volleyball courts – which were completed just days before the festival – were used for one of the first times. Live music was offered throughout the afternoon and the evening. And the bash ended with a spectacular fireworks show.
New agreement with CUPE: The City of Estevan reached a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 726 – the union that represents City employees. The pact is retroactive to January 1, 2013, and it carries a 10.5 per cent wage increase over three years.
Chamber releases long-term plan: The Estevan Chamber of Commerce released the details of its long-term economic development plan in August. It’s a comprehensive document that will provide the chamber with guidance in the years to come. There are three overarching priorities: investment, attraction and promotion; labour recruitment and retention; and business growth, development and retention.
Name change for events centre: The partnership between Spectra Credit Union and Affinity Credit Union resulted in a name change for Estevan’s events centre. It was previously known as Spectra Place, but effective January 1, 2014, it became known as Affinity Place.
Morris family gets their vehicle: Lampman-area farmers Edwin and Alison Morris, and their eight children, finally have their 10-person vehicle. The modified truck and SUV had been parked at the North Portal border crossing for about two years, after it was deemed that it couldn’t enter Canada, despite previous assurances to the Morris family that it could. The family was on the verge of losing the vehicle, and losing thousands of dollars. But Premier Brad Wall intervened, and the family finally possessed it in September.
Curbside recycling has arrived: Curbside recycling arrived to Estevan in September. Residents who reside in the northwest quadrant of the city had the service on a trial basis in September, and the other subdivisions in the city gained the service in October. Residents place all their recyclable materials together in a blue cart, so they don’t have to sort cardboard, paper and containers into separate bags. Tonnes of materials have been recycled in the last four months.
STARS helipad is in service: St. Joseph’s Hospital in Estevan became the first in the province to have a helipad for the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) Air Ambulance. St. Joseph’s received certification from Transport Canada for the helipad in early September, and a grand opening happened three days later. Estevan was able to proceed with the helipad because it had the requisite funding and contractors; other helipads in the province have been shelved due to government funding. STARS had performed more than 20 landings in an area to the west of the hospital before the helipad opened. The helipad is expected to ease landings and patient transportation, and it will reduce the amount of time it takes to transport a patient from the hospital’s emergency room to hospital in Regina.
Fire at the water treatment plant: The City of Estevan issued a conserve water advisory in September following a fire at the water treatment plant. The fire was contained to the electrical room. The motor starters and electrical switch gear sustained damage. Residents were asked to avoid all unnecessary water usage, so that Estevan would not run out of water.
Collage and Showcase partner: The Collage Cultural Festival returned in 2013, and it was partnered with the Estevan Showcase Business Expo. Collage featured entertainers, food vendors and crafters from different national, religious and cultural groups. Showcase offered booths at Spectra Place and the Lignite Miners Centre. The two events attracted thousands of people.
Some progress on housing front: Construction has started on new homes in several subdivisions. Houses, duplexes and a condominium building have been built, or are under construction, at Trimount Developments’ subdivision in north-central Estevan. Three new subdivisions have also been approved: Essex Developments’ the Meadows subdivision in northwest Estevan; Solid Rock Developments’ work in the Trojan subdivision; and West D Construction’s The Ridge modular home project in south Estevan. A couple new apartment buildings are also under construction.
The City also received the report for its long-awaited housing plan in late September. It indicated that Estevan will need 1,000 new housing units over the next five years to meet the community’s needs. It also urged incentives and programs for affordable and entry-level housing.
Puffalt’s tenure ends: City manager Jim Puffalt was dismissed in early October, ending a 12-year tenure with the City of Estevan. City council wouldn’t divulge reasons for Puffalt’s departure, and Mayor Roy Ludwig only said council wanted to go in a different direction. While numerous major projects happened during Puffalt’s tenure, there were many controversies, too. City treasurer Jeff Ward has been serving as Puffalt’s interim replacement; a permanent replacement had yet to be announced as of December 29.
Agreement with police officers: The Estevan Police Association and the City’s police board announced a new three-year collective bargaining agreement in mid-October. Much like the pact with City employees, it’s retroactive to January 1, 2013, and it carries a 10.5 per cent wage increase over three years.
Provincial recognition for Wilhelm: Estevan’s Nathan Wilhelm was presented with the provincial Growth and Expansion Award at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce’s Achievers in Business Excellence (ABEX) Awards in October. Wilhelm was honoured for the growth that his business, Wilhelm Construction, has shown since it opened a few years ago.
Filipinos affected by typhoon: Members of Estevan’s burgeoning Filipino community spent the final few weeks of 2013 fundraising for relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan struck parts of the Philippines in early November. While Haiyan didn’t score a direct hit on the capital of Manila, there were densely populated areas that sustained severe damage, and many local Filipinos have family and friends in the worst-hit areas.
Hub program arrives in southeast: Southeast Saskatchewan is home to the first Regional Community Mobilization Hub program in the province. Hub brings together representatives from police services in Estevan and Weyburn, along with the health region, school divisions, social services and provincial agencies, to immediately find solutions for individuals and families in at-risk situations. Meetings happen on a weekly basis in either Estevan or Weyburn.
Hospital milestone: St. Joseph’s Hospital celebrated its 75th anniversary in Estevan in 2013, and it marked the milestone by hosting a series of events in late November. The hospital honoured current and former employees and board members, and the hospital’s auxiliary hosted events, too. There was also a community celebration.
Former hospital executive director Sister Therese Roddy returned to Estevan for the celebration. She marveled at the current hospital, and the amenities that have been added over the years. Roddy was the executive director in 1991, when the hospital moved from its former location on First Street to its current home off of Nicholson Road.
Grand opening of new water reservoir: The grand opening for Estevan’s new water reservoir happened in late November. The new reservoir will expand Estevan’s water capacity, giving the community enough water to last 48 hours in the event of an emergency. It will also enhance water pressure in the northern half of the community, and allow for new residential developments in northern Estevan to proceed.
Progress on truck route: Construction is in the very early stages for Estevan’s new northern truck route. The provincial government moved into the expropriation stage to secure the necessary land for the bypass, but some neighbouring landowners are still concerned about the project and the money they’ll receive for their land.
A second year for Warm Welcome: The Warm Welcome shelter opened for its second year on December 1. In its first year in 2012-13, the shelter was open four times a week, and attracted an average of three people each night. In the second season, the shelter is open seven nights a week – with the shelter at St. Paul’s United Church and the Estevan Salvation Army – and organizers are hopeful it will attract more people. It will remain open until March 31.
Council takes a first look at budget: Estevan City Council took a first look at the 2014 financial plan in early December. The budget is short on new capital spending, as council will instead focus on completing outstanding projects, and starting to pay down debt. Council will finish its budget deliberations in early 2014.
Rental vacancy rate improves: Estevan’s rental vacancy rate improved slightly in 2013, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing’s semi-annual reports. The spring report, released in June, showed that Estevan had zero rental vacancies. But the fall report in December indicated that the rate was at 1.8 per cent.
Credit unions approve merger: Members of the Torquay Credit Union and the Ogema-based Radius Credit Union approved a merger. Torquay’s members were 99 per cent in favour of the amalgamation, while Radius members were unanimous in their support. The partnership will take effect on March 31. The Torquay Credit Union has branches in Torquay and Tribune.
Istace submits resignation: Councillor Chris Istace submitted his resignation from Estevan City Council in December, after spending four-plus years on council. Istace and his family have moved to Chemainus, B.C., and while he will be returning to Estevan regularly, he didn’t feel he would be able to handle a councillor’s responsibilities while living in B.C. A by-election will take place in April of 2014.
United Way tops goal: The United Way Estevan topped its $350,000 goal, although it was a little later than normal. The organization raised about $336,000 during its telethon in October – the first time that the organization has not reached its goal during the broadcast. Donations continued to come in following the telethon, and the goal was eclipsed about six weeks after the broadcast. Kingston, Ontario, was the first United Way in Canada to reach its goal in 2013.
Campaign eclipses $7 million: The Hearthstone Community Campaign, which is raising funds for the construction of a new regional nursing home in Estevan, continued to move closer to the $8 million that is needed before the project can proceed. The campaign is currently sitting at $7.1 million; they eclipsed the $7 million plateau in early December. Hearthstone needs to raise 20 per cent of the new nursing home’s estimated $40 million price tag.
Estevan’s population is increasing: Estevan’s population is on the rise, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s annual tabulation of health card numbers. Sask. Health indicates that there were 13,115 residents as of June 30, 2013, an increase of nearly 700 from the year before. Many other southeast communities grew in 2013, too, with some enjoying a double digit percentage increase.
A busy year for the Salvation Army: The Estevan Salvation Army had a busy year in 2013. In addition to the programs that they offer throughout the year, they had several special projects. They were involved with the Warm Welcome shelter; they had a spring food drive to stock their shelves; they launched a mobile food bank to reach out to the homeless in the community; and they participated in their annual campaigns at Christmas time. The Salvation Army has also been busy preparing for its 100th anniversary celebrations, which will happen in June.
Sherritt sells Saskatchewan holdings: Sherritt Coal announced just prior to Christmas that it was selling its coal investments in Saskatchewan and Alberta – including the Boundary Dam and Bienfait mines – to the Westmoreland Coal Company. Also included are a char plant and a 50 per cent stake in an activated carbon plant, both of which are northeast of Bienfait.