Local briefs – January 7

Rocky residents will face a two per cent tax increase in 2011 after town councillors approved a $14.2-million operating budget.

Rocky taxes to increase 2%

Rocky residents will face a two per cent tax increase in 2011 after town councillors approved a $14.2-million operating budget.

When applied to a $3,000 annual residential property tax bill, this will mean a $60.60 tax increase — if there are no changes to the education requisition, which has not yet been set by the province.

The new budget maintains existing service levels in Rocky Mountain House and makes some improvements. The operating budget covers fire and ambulance service, police, parks and recreation, snow removal and animal control, among other services.

The town’s capital budget for 2011 is $3.9 million. Among the projects are some road resurfacing, trail upgrades, sidewalk replacement, cemetery upgrades, water and sanitation main replacement, as well as designs and plans for future projects.

Drug charges hearings set

A man charged in two separate incidents of drug trafficking and drug smuggling wants to have trials on both sets of charges.

David Joseph Ellison, 31, of Red Deer returns to provincial court on Jan. 13 to set dates for the preliminary hearings.

In one incident, Ellison is charged with smuggling drugs into the Remand Centre using bedsheets as a rope. He faces three counts of drug trafficking in that incident.

Police said they responded on July 15 to a complaint of a possible escape from a window on the centre’s north side.

A window had been smashed and a rope made from bedsheets went out the window, dangling about 30 cm above the pavement.

An investigation determined the rope was used to smuggle cocaine, oxycodone, marijuana and tobacco into the centre.

Ellison is also charged with several drug trafficking and possession charges following an RCMP bust of a residence in August.

Tagging along with those charges is a sentencing for being in possession of stolen art pieces. Ellison was convicted of being in possession of two valuable Michael Goddard works following a trial in August.

He was also convicted of failing to appear in court. Ellison remains in custody.

Hotel theft suspect arrested

A 31-year-old suspect in a number of thefts at motels and hotels in Central Alberta was arrested in Blackfalds on Wednesday.

A Red Deer Rural RCMP officer observed a vehicle that belonged to the suspect at the Blackfalds Motor Inn.

RCMP allege the suspect was in the process of committing a crime at the hotel and arrested him without incident.

Police also allege the suspect booked into hotels and motels using fake purchase order numbers from various oil companies. The suspect did not work for the companies. He also allegedly stole property, such as televisions, from the hotels and motels.

The suspect now faces charges for crimes committed in Innisfail, Trochu, Red Deer, Blackfalds and Lacombe.

Tyler Gurskey of no fixed address is charged with three counts of theft, five counts of obtaining lodging by fraud and two counts of breaching an undertaking.

Gurskey was remanded in custody to appear in Red Deer provincial court on Friday. The investigation continues.

Drug, gun case back in court

Drug and gun charges against a man could be resolved today after the accused reserved his plea on Thursday in Red Deer provincial court.

Michael Starman, 23, of Whitecourt, returns to court to face charges of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm without a licence, being the occupant of a motor vehicle knowing there was a firearm, two counts of possession of stolen property, two counts of breach of recognizance, and four counts of possession of an illegal substance.

Red Deer City RCMP seized a handgun and drugs after stopping a motorist in Deer Park for a routine traffic violation on Dec. 29.

A traffic enforcement officer stopped a vehicle with a snow-covered licence plate.

That licence plate and vehicle turned out to be stolen, police said, and during a search of the vehicle and its two occupants, police also found brass knuckles, bear spray, oxycodone, marijuana, morphine and methamphetamine.

Both occupants had outstanding warrants and were taken into custody without incident.

Jennifer Courchene, 20, of Red Deer, returns to court on Jan. 14 to have a bail review after reserving her plea on several charges including carrying a concealed weapon in connection with the Deer park incident.

She also faces two counts of possession of stolen property, three counts of failing to comply with court orders and failing to appear in court on unrelated matters.

Sex assault hearing set

A Red Deer man charged with sexually assaulting a severely disabled man will have a preliminary hearing in the fall.

Leo Ducharme, 57, will have the hearing on Sept. 7, it was decided in Red Deer provincial court on Thursday.

Ducharme also elected to be tried by a judge and jury in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench if a judge determines at the hearing that’s there’s sufficient evidence to warrant he stand trial.

Crown prosecutor Robin Fiander said there are just two Crown witnesses but a full day is needed because of the alleged victim’s handicap.

It’s alleged that the mother of the disabled man came home to find a care worker sexually assaulting her adult son last August.

Ducharme was released earlier on $1,000 bail and was ordered not to have any contact with the alleged victim and stay at least five blocks away from his house.

Bee presentation on Saturday

A presentation on bees is being offered on Saturday at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

Eliese Watson, founder of Apiaries and Bees for Communities, an educational organization focusing on the development of urban beekeeping and native-bee habitats, will present on the life cycle of bees and understanding the role of pollinators in nature.

The cost is $5 for adults, and free for children. It will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

The event is presented by Pure Earth Organics and ReThink Red Deer to promote Red Deer’s first Level One Urban Beekeeping Workshop, Jan. 29 to 30 at Pure Earth Organics, and the Pathways 2 Sustainability Conference, Feb. 23 to 25 at Red Deer College.

For more information about the presentation and the workshop, contact Eliese Watson at eliese@backyardbees.ca.

For more information on the Pathways 2 Sustainability Conference, contact Rene Michalak at 403-505-455.

Tattoo contest on Jan. 23

Do you have a dragon across your chest, or a snake running up your leg that you really want to show off?

You can be a contestant on Sunday in Under Your Skin, a tattoo show and contest hosted by the Gasoline Alley Harley-Davidson outlet.

The third annual event that runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the dealership is expected to attract about 90 contestants and about 200 observers, based on past attendance, said Gladys Weiland, events co-ordinator for the local Harley-Davidson outlet.

She’s once again expecting to see a lot of “cool” body art, such as the award-winning planes that one contestant had tattooed onto the tops of his feet. “Dragons are huge and a lot of people have something related to their family . . . one lady had a portrait of her dog on her back,” said Weiland.

Judges will include local artist Jeri Lynn Ing, of Gallery IS in Red Deer, and an artist from Calgary’s Smiling Budha tattoo parlour.

The cost to pre-register is $10 per category, or $75 for all 10 categories, and proceeds go towards the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen and Lunches for Kids. Registration at the door is $12 a category or $80 for all categories.

Prizes include plaques and T-shirts.

For more information, call 403-341-3040 or go online to www.GasolineAlleyHarleyDavidson.com.

Drug charges face man

A 20-year-old man returns to court later this month to enter pleas on drug trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime charges stemming from a 2009 bust in Red Deer.

Shayden Constable of Red Deer, returns to court on Jan. 19 after having a term in his bail release document changed in Red Deer provincial court on Thursday.

Red Deer City RCMP said earlier that on Sept. 24, 2009, the RCMP’s street team and organized crime section executed a search warrant on a residence in the 3500 block of 43rd Avenue.

The search, which was the product of an ongoing investigation, turned up about six pounds of marijuana, $26,000 in cash and quantities of hashish and psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms.

Constable is charged with two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking, one count of possession, one count of unauthorized possession of a weapon, and one count of possession of property obtained by crime.