Monday, June 29, 2015

Irricana-Beiseker Trail Development

Today, Beiseker CAO Jo Lambert and I met with Alberta TrailNet officials and representatives from the Town of Irricana to discuss the development of a trail between Irricana and Beiseker, along the abandoned CPR trackway.

I was very impressed with the preparation and design work which has gone into the project so far.  It calls for the building of two foot bridges, a culvert and the surfacing of the pathway between the two municipalities.  The Irricana Lions Club is improving the section of the trail which passes through that town, and they have some great plans for the future of the trail as it passes through that town.

Here in Beiseker, I know there are some folks here trying to re-establish our Trail Creation Group.  Councilor Dave Mackenzie has been keeping council informed of their progress to date.  I understand that at present, they are re-applying for society status. 

All of the Alberta TrailNet land here in Beiseker has been leased to the Centennial Railway Museum Society.  That society appears to have 'disappeared!'  I indicated to those present at the meeting today that Beiseker Council could not support a trail connection between the two communities as long as the Bassano Station and the train yard sits abandoned without a plan of action and a solution! 

I think everyone around the table this morning understood Beiseker's frustration and disillusionment over the TrailNet land here in our village.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Making Bassano Station 'Lemonade'

You've heard the old adage; When things come up lemons, make lemonade!

Well Beiseker has been given a whole pile of lemons!  It's called the Bassano Station.  I'm sure you know the history of this building and its relocation to Beiseker, but now it sits basically abandoned.

It's not going anywhere.  It's here to stay!  Over a half a million dollars has been spent on the project so far.  The Railway Museum folks appear to have disappeared into the mist!  So we're left holding the bag, or in this case a station building and a bunch of railway memorabilia. 

The Village of Beiseker cannot support the project in any way at this moment.  We just can't afford it!

So where do we go from here?  Museums of this sort can flourish and they draw tourists into the community.  We already have tourists stopping to look at the rail cars and locomotive.   There is huge potential there to build a great railway display.  But how do we do it?

My question; How do we make Bassano Lemonade?

Friday, June 19, 2015

To "Pho Chu Yeung"

I am answering "Pho Chu Yeung," who criticized the Village of Beiseker quite severely through the Village's Facebook page.

I was hurt by the accusations made by this (supposed) Beiseker resident, whom I have yet to meet.
  • "[Beiseker] has no full time fire department."  I think we've addressed this first concern in my blog post a few days ago.   One anonymous commenter and I have discussed that a little further on that blog post, too - please scroll down to get those comments.
  • "[Beiseker] has no ambulance service."  Beiseker is in the same situation here as every other Alberta municipality.  The ambulance services right across Alberta have been taken over by the province!  The service which we joined (The Kneehill Ambulance Service in Three Hills) was disbanded and is now part of the huge mega system run by Alberta Health ServicesWe have little or no say on how this new entity operates.  Please refer this concern to the provincial government.
  • "We haven't fixed a "hole" in the middle of town for a year."  Over the past few days I have driven every street and laneway in Beiseker, and I have yet to find the hole to which you refer.  Please give us an address of the nearest property so we may check out your concern.
  • "The Town should be audited."  Actually, the Village of Beiseker is audited every spring by an independent auditor.  Those findings are published in a report presented to council usually in April.  The provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs is also informed of the results of that audit.  More information about the annual audit is available to all rate payers at the Village Office.
I hope this clarifies a few of the issues brought forward by Mr. or Ms. "Yeung."   Remember, every council meeting is open to the public.  They are held every second and fourth Mondays of each month in Council Chambers.  The meetings begin at 7:15 p.m.  If you wish to address council at one of those meetings, you must register as a delegation a few business days before the meeting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Q&A: Taxes and Services (and Community Schools)

I've received some questions over the last few days - most of them involved property taxes and what we get for our money in the Village.  Here's the questions and my answers.

Q:  How come the mill rate went down, but my taxes went up? 
A:  Beiseker's mill rate did actually drop by a small amount, however our overall assessment rose.  That means that some of the properties in the village actually went up in value from last year.

If your property was one of those, your taxes increased.  Most increases were small (less than $10/month), but a few of us took a bigger hit.  Tax payers can contest their assessment but they cannot contest their taxes.  Contact the Village Office (403-947-3774) for more information.

Q:  What do we get for our tax dollars, anyway?  
A: A small municipality must provide the same basic services as a large one.  Beiseker must provide its citizens with most of what Calgary provides. Your tax dollars pay for streets, roads, sidewalks, street lighting, road maintenance, water and sewer services, a fire hall, garbage pick-up and disposal, parks and recreation, public buildings, and parks along with a host of other things to keep this village running smoothly.

Q: We don't even have a fire department, do we?
A: On the contrary, our volunteer fire department is, in my opinion, one of the best in Canada!  That opinion is shared by others who know more about fire departments than I do! Our fire hall is open and manned twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for more than 340 days a year! I am very proud of our Beiseker Fire Department!

Q: You said Beiseker Community School was the only community school in Rocky View. What about Springbank Community High School?
A: To my knowledge, Beiseker and Springbank both were declared community schools.  That means they could go ahead with the process of becoming a community school.  But Beiseker was the only one to complete that process, so it became the only Rocky View School to be designated a Community School by the province.

Q: Is the village going to do anything about repairing or repaving the rest of the streets and sidewalks  in Beacon Heights?
A:  After we replaced the pavement on Chinook Crescent, the other streets in the subdivision showed their ages too.  We have a fair bit of grant money, but we have many improvement projects ready to go, too.

Council will have to crunch the numbers and see how much they can do with the funds we have and our priority list.  Those who are very concerned about the street of sidewalk in front of their home should.  If you're one of them, please, write a letter to council detailing your concerns.  It can be addressed to council via the Village of Beiseker (Box 349) or delivered directly to the Village Office.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fabulous Weekend at the Beiseker Country Fair!

What an absolutely fabulous weekend in Beautiful Downtown Beiseker!  That has got to be one of the very best Beiseker Country Fair (formerly Sports Day) weekends I have attended in my forty-plus years living in this community!  What an amazing job done by a small army of volunteers!

One again the Beiseker Lions Club needs to step up and take a bow.  They are a relatively small club but they are able to accomplish giant things!  They had help from other clubs in the area, but the success of the Beiseker Country Fair 2015 is clearly theirs!  Lions, be proud!

Beiseker Car Show, photo via Facebook
The weather held off for the parade and car show along Main Street!  There was a mix-up in communication so the Mayor's car didn't arrive.  No worries, I had the pleasure of riding with Parade Marshalls Mary Litke and Norman Schmaltz.  Chris Heighton's Beiseker Car Show was awesome again this year with a huge turnout of cars and motorcycles from all over! 

Shelly Schneider and Harry Reding, co-chairpersons of the Beiseker School Centennial Reunion Committee with all of their volunteers, accomplished the impossible!  Beiseker's population more than doubled as hundreds of former Beiseker Community School students, parents, and staff flooded into town.  The huge tent set up in the Community Centre & Arena parking lot was a Godsend!  It became a focal point for the thousands of mini reunions which took place over the weekend. 

photo courtesy Elvis Chow, via Facebook
How many times did we hear:
  • Oh my God, it is you! 
  • I haven't seen you since we graduated!
  • You didn't have grey hair last time I saw you.
  • What ever happened to ..........?
  • I've got to tell my (wife, mom, sister, brother, etc.) that I saw you!
  • No, that wasn't me, that was my younger brother (or sister)!
  • I was a real rotten kid school, wasn't I?
  • Jeez, we were young back then!
  • When did they change the school colors?
  • You know, Mr. or Mrs. (fill in a teacher's name here) really hated me!
I know many of you were taking photos. I hope to see those shots come up on social media in the next few days.  Good memories of a great weekend.

After clean-up, all those hard working volunteers are going to collapse into a soft chair (if only for a few minutes) and be proud of the work they did to make this weekend such a memorable one!  Well done, all of you!  

I'll be mentioning more about the events and encounters of this past weekend in the coming days.  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 5, 2015

History of Education in Beiseker, Part III

I joined the staff of Beiseker School in the fall of 1969.  I had been teaching in the City of Calgary but I didn't like it.  I was greatly disillusioned.  I thought it was far too impersonal.  I was pretty much ready to quit teaching and do something else.  My move to Beiseker changed that.

Beiseker was a small school then, actually it had a population similar to today's; 383 students. It had one classroom for each grade.

I found the kids, their parents, and this community to be friendly and straight forward.  I worked in Beiseker School for 17 years, and I was saddened when I was transferred to Crossfield. 

The staff and students have done some amazing things over the years!  Here are just a few;

The Bi-Campus & Tri-Campus;  To offer a larger program of courses to high school students, Beiseker School paired up with Kathyrn School and offered high school courses in each school.  Later Beiseker and Kathyrn joined with Acme School to form a Tri-Campus, offering different high school courses and programs in all three buildings.  To my knowledge, this was the first and possibly the only Tri-Campus program to operate in Alberta.  What is even more amazing was that it also involved two school divisions (Rocky View and Golden Hills)!

The "E.O.F." Program;  The Elementary Opportunities Fund was set up by the provincial Department of Education and given to individual schools to offer different programs to their elementary students.  Beiseker School received such a grant.  Here the grant was used to give any student a short little boost in learning in one small area of either Math or Language Arts.  The Girls' Boot Room in the basement of the original school building was converted into a classroom and a teacher (Miss W. Abbott) was hired.  Our E.O.F. Room ran very successfully for three years until the government pulled the funding for the entire province-wide program.

The Sports Programs;  I think Beiseker had Rocky View's first (and perhaps only) cricket pitch!  Mr. S. Wallace was a champion Cricket bowler (pitcher) and played on the Canadian National Cricket Team.  While teaching in Beiseker, he taught cricket to his students! The Bi-Campus (and later just Beiseker School) has fielded many top sports teams over the last 50 years!   Many of those championship banners proudly hang in the Gym now.  Next time you're in there have a look at that impressive display!  Remember: Once a Beiseker Bandit, always a Beiseker Bandit!!

Industrial Education;  Beiseker School was the first school in this entire area to offer an Industrial Arts Program with a full shop!  The shop was constructed in a temporary prefab building immediately south of the original main building.  It offered welding, photography, graphics, woodworking, automotives, and metal working.  That shop was replaced by a more permanent structure more than 10 years ago.

The Community School Program; In the early 1980s, Beiseker School was one of over 100 schools from across Alberta to apply to become a Community School.  A Community School was one that worked much more closely with the community around it.  Programs and the curriculum were tailored to the needs of that community.  Instead of a school being open just 200 days a year, a Community School could be open more than 300 days a year!  Of course that costs money, so the provincial government set up a large fund to help offset those extra costs.   Beiseker was the only school in Rocky View to attain Community School status!  Unfortunately the provincial Community School project funding was terminated in the late 1980s but the Beiseker Community School moniker proudly remains.

These are just five programs which made Beiseker Community School just a bit more special.  Teachers, Administrators, and students, past and present have much to be proud of.  I hope you all get a chance to visit Beiseker Community School during the reunion set to begin on Friday, June 12 and continue over that weekend.  Check out those banners in the Gym, search for a familiar face or name on the grad photos in the hallway, leaf through the old yearbooks.  Be proud!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gladys Taylor Passes

I was saddened to read that Gladys Taylor passed away on May 31st.

Gladys and her family created and operated Tall Taylor Publishing in Irricana for many years.  She was a successful author, publisher, editor and businesswoman.  In the mid-1980s Gladys gave me the chance to first publish my views and opinions in the original "Write, Ray" in the Five Village Weekly (now the Rocky View Weekly).

My column ran in that weekly paper for over a decade.  We didn't always agree, because we knew we were both right all the time, but she was fair and was always willing to listen.  I respected her for that.  Gladys was a major player in the Canadian publishing industry.

With her passing comes the end of a publishing era dominated by mavericks and risk takers.  My condolences go to her many friends and family.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The History of Education in Beiseker, Part II

While the rural school districts were gearing up and flourishing around Beiseker, students who lived in the village had no school to attend.

Village students had to attend the Odessa School District school, located about 4 km. northeast of Beiseker.  In 1913 there were too many kids for Odessa to handle so a school district was set up in Beiseker. The first schoolroom was set up in part of F. A. Lount's farm machinery dealership warehouse.  A year later the schoolhouse was built.

That school provided the same rudimentary education as did the rural one-room schools.  In 1918, Odessa School District and Beiseker School District joined to form the Beiseker Consolidated School District #55 and the new Beiseker Consolidated School was constructed on a site now occupied by St. Mary's Catholic Church.  That district operated until 1950. 

In 1951, the new school building under the control of Calgary Rural School Division #41 was finished on its present site across Second Ave. from the Consolidated School.  The Consolidated School was demolished and construction of St. Mary's began in 1955.

The present building has served this community well ever since.  There have been many additions and renovations to the building starting with the Gymnasium, then the south east wing which has been added to at least twice.  Then came the East Wing beyond the Gym.  Meanwhile the basement of the original school building was renovated to serve as classrooms.

In 1967, a huge community and school project was undertaken to create the Centennial Mall, in front of the school.  The project director was then-Principal William Hansell.

Six hundred bags of cement, a mountain  of sand and gravel, and plenty of muscle power went into building the Centennial Mall!  The Mall featured a circular raised flower garden, and park benches.  It also had a large Canadian Centennial Symbol embedded in concrete.

We were told that every effort would be taken to preserve the Centennial Mall during renovations, but I see no evidence of it today.

Beiseker had a number of teacherages for staff members to live in while working here.  The first were actually teacherages brought in from the now-defunct rural school districts.

At least one was placed on the school grounds while three were placed along Fifth Ave., across from the fire hall.  The teacherage in the school yard was eventually sold, moved and renovated.  It is now a private residence on Ninth Street.

The second round of teacher homes were built in the late 1950s & early 1960s. Two were constructed on Fifth Street and two more were built on Seventh Street.  All have been sold by the school division to become private residences.