The year 2016 has come and gone but not without leaving its mark. Here are the top ten stories for 2016 for the Grande Prairie Area.
Tim and Bethani Webb welcomed four baby girls into the world on May 6th, 2016. Quadruplets Abigail, Emily, Grace and McKayla were born about seven weeks early at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton via c-section. At last update, the four girls were growing happy and healthy. The odds of naturally conceiving quadruplets are one in 67 million.
Parking Lot Fatality
A 30 year old Grande Prairie man will be back in court in the new year for charges in connection to Grande Prairie’s second homicide of the year. They stem from an altercation in the Home Hardware parking lot when Michael Ginter was confronted by 34 year old Nikkolas Steenhuisen. Ginter had allegedly been rifling through Steenhuisen’s truck. The 30 year old attempted to drive off and when the truck hit a parked car, it pinned the 34 year old. Steenhuisen died of his injuries and Ginter will appear in court March 15th to 17th, 2017 for a preliminary hearing.
SPCA closes down
The Grande Prairie & District SPCA was forced to close its doors in the summer of 2016 after the CRA froze its bank accounts. The organization was in debt around $250,000 with $120,000 of that owed to the government. The city and county refused to help with the debt but took over their place in the community by creating the Grande Prairie Regional Animal Care Facility. A new SPCA board is in the process of forming for 2017 and the group is looking to weigh their options in hopes to open up once again.
Death in Bear Creek Pool
It was a sad day for the community when a search for a missing four year old boy ended with his body being found in the deep end of the empty Bear Creek Outdoor Pool. The boy had gone missing in Muskoseepi park at around 7:00 pm on a Monday in July. There were officers, police dogs, the fire department and local search and rescue looking for the boy for about 2.5 hours before he was found. Foul play is not suspected and it is possible that he had crawled through a hole in the fence before falling in.
The facility had not been running since the summer of 2013 but the city of Grande Prairie will be beginning renovations on the pool in the summer of 2017 with a re-opening date set for June 2018.
Grande Prairie Storm Need Saving
A group of investors stepped in to save the Grande Prairie Storm from debt after the team started a campaign to raise $100,000 to #SaveOurStorm. They announced in January that they were surviving on a week-to-week basis due to debts, needing $200,000 to cover unpaid debts and reach the end of the season.
The city felt that the team had a strong business plan going forward and forgave them roughly $90,000 owed for the use of Revolution Place and Coca Cola Centre.
Meanwhile, Kevin Higo was let go as head coach of the Junior A hockey team in December 2016 and replaced with Matt Keillor, coach of the Midget AAA Storm. Mark Bomersback was named the new head scout and associate GM in December as well. The team will visit the Sherwood Park Crusaders on January 4th and host the Spruce Grove Saints on January 6th.
On top of the Storm, the ANAVETS received help from the city in the form of a loan of $26,820.63 to put towards their utility bills. The Phillip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum was turned down by the city for a request for $150,000 to cover operating costs and $150,000 to help finish the Devonian exhibit.
Prairie Mall shooting
The Prairie Mall was evacuated in September after a shot was fired in the food court. There were three people injured including two bystanders that were grazed by a bullet. There were five people allegedly involved and will be appearing in court in 2017.
The men were supposedly in a disagreement when Liban Musse reportedly shot the gun. Musse will be in court in May. Tevin Watson will be in court in March while Kyle Tyler-Ross will appear in January. In June, Richard Vaillancourt will be in court for a robbery charge.
Clownpocalypse hits Grande Prairie
After popping up around North America, clown sightings started happening in Grande Prairie in early October. The trend was called “clownpocalypse” and consisted of people dressing up as clowns to scare children, stalk pedestrians and sometimes carry weapons. This trend also triggered others to start a new trend that spread on social media called “clown hunting”. There were no reported incidents to RCMP in the city.
A 16 year old boy in Prince George was facing charges for their involvement in the trend after an instagram post of cartoon clowns was posted with threats to schools in that area of BC.
The city of Grande Prairie began the Downtown Rehabilitation Project in the summer of 2016. There were a few bumps in the road when it came to being on schedule but roads remain open over the winter of 2017. Phase one was meant to be complete in 2016 but the remainder of the work will go into the next summer. Phase two includes work on infrastructure on 101st Avenue from the Golden Age Centre to 100 Street. The third and fourth phases of the project are set for the future.
The carbon levy goes into effect on January 1st, 2017 and will bring changes to Alberta. Revenue from the levy will be reinvested to reduce emissions and support economic diversification. It will be charged on all fuels that emit greenhouse gases when combusted at a rate of $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 per tonne in 2018. Municipal Districts and Counties voiced their concerns with the change at a convention in November. County Reeve Leanne Beaupre voiced her opinion and said she wanted the levy to be cancelled. The government says a 33 per cent small business tax rate cut will help offset costs for small businesses.
Fort Mac Fire
A fire that ripped through Fort McMurray in May also ripped through the hearts of people in Grande Prairie. The wildfire ripped through the neighbouring city destroying approximately 2,400 homes and buildings. It also forced the largest evacuation in Albertan history. Although it was a disaster, the people of Grande Prairie stepped up. Fundraisers like the Grande for Grads and XFFC events were set up in order to help the people displaced from their homes. A few families made their way to Grande Prairie but many ended up in Edmonton while they waited until they could get back to their city.