Local briefs – March 1

Red Deer residents will soon have an opportunity to watch the federal debt rise before their eyes.

Debt clock to visit

Red Deer residents will soon have an opportunity to watch the federal debt rise before their eyes.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is on tour with a 135-kg clock that shows the real time increase of the federal debt and the cost per person. The clock will arrive in Red Deer on Wednesday.

“The goal is to try to raise some awareness of exactly what’s going on with our national debt — how much it’s growing, how fast it’s growing and what it is per person,” said Scott Hennig, who helped organize the tour.

When the clock left Mile 0 of the TransCanada Hwy in Victoria on Feb. 22, the debt was just more than $559 billion. Already that amount has climbed to more than $560 billion and the figures are distressing to some.

“These numbers are going to drive me to drink,” exclaimed one Vernon, B.C., resident who saw the clock when it stopped at a local pub last week.

But Hennig said the point of the tour is not to dishearten people. He said he hopes increased awareness of the debt will encourage Canadians to push back against the government and demand change this budget season.

So far, no indoor venues have been confirmed for the Red Deer leg of the tour but Hennig said the clock will be visible as it is driven up and down city streets in a modified horse trailer. People are encouraged to approach the clock to take photos and ask questions.

The tour will wrap up at the end of March in Halifax. This will be the clock’s first tour since 1997.

Museum society gets $20,000

Bentley Museum Society’s expansion plans has been given a $20,000 boost from Lacombe County.

The museum is planning to build a new $115,000 display building for a growing collection of historical artifacts from the town and surrounding area. The site at 4929 51st Ave. also serves as the tourist information centre.

Fundraising efforts have already been launched and about $84,000 has been collected for the project, including a $45,000 provincial grant.

Ralph Scarlett, chairman of the museum’s fundraising committee, said they have run out of space to display the wealth of artifacts that have been collected over the years. It is hoped that Remembrance Day items pulled out for viewing only once a year can be put on permanent display. There are also many items rescued from a former hospital that the museum has not had room to put out for the public.

“We just have so much stuff,” said Scarlett. “We just need a place.”

The museum society intends to approach local service clubs and businesses to raise the remaining $31,000 needed to complete the project.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring and it is hoped the 12-metre-by-18-metre building will be ready by the end of the summer. The museum is open daily during July and August and by appointment or for special events during the rest of the year.

The museum has been around since 1992 when the historic Pico House was moved to the site from a farm about two km west of the town. Built in 1924, the house was turned into a showcase for artifacts.

In 1996, the museum underwent its first expansion when a heated display building was constructed next door. A storage area was added to that building a few years ago.

Trails studied

Lacombe County will address the pros and cons of trail development at an upcoming open house.

The rural municipality has embarked on a project to create a paved trail linking Blackfalds and Lacombe. Last June, a $300,000 pedestrian bridge was opened over the Blindman River. A two-km stretch of trail was built from the river to the edge of Blackfalds.

A similar bridge over the Battle River was put in place a few months earlier near Ponoka and last December, the county approved $700,000 to build a six-km paved link between Blackfalds and Lacombe. The bridges and trails are part of a long-term plan to build a 70-km trail between Ponoka and Penhold as part of the Trans Canada Trail Network.

County commissioner Terry Hager said the April 13 open house will bring residents up to speed on the progress of the Central Alberta Trail System. The event is also meant to provide a forum to discuss the advantages and pitfalls of developing trails.

Not all landowners have been enthusiastic about the prospect of a public walking area next to their land. Concerns about trespassing, littering and unleashed dogs have been raised, said Hager. There have also been questions about what liability landowners face if they allow a trail on their land.

The county has had to alter its trail route in some cases after running resistance from landowners. The trail to Lacombe was to run up the west side of Lacombe Lake but had to diverted to the east side because of property owner opposition. An east side trail will allow an unused day area to become part of the system.

The final route has not yet been determined and the open house will allow for public input.

The meeting takes place on April 13 at Lacombe County Council Chambers on Hwy 12 about four km west of Hwy 2. It begins at 6 p.m. and the county will make a half-hour presentation at 7 p.m. to be followed by discussion.

No one injured in multiple crashes

No one was injured in a chain-reaction collision that occurred after a semi jack-knifed on Hwy 2 south of Bowden early Monday afternoon.

The southbound lanes of Hwy 2 were closed for more than two hours, but reopened just after 3 p.m.

The cause of the collision is still under investigation but poor visibility and motorists driving too fast for the road conditions were factors, said Const. Christopher Warren with Innisfail RCMP.

The accident involved at least five other vehicles in addition to the semi.

“It was lucky that no injuries were sustained during this collision considering the poor visibility and how fast people continued to travel despite the poor conditions,” Warren said.

Only one motorist was charged with driving too fast for road conditions but Warren said there is always the possibility that more charges could be laid as the investigation continues.

Emergency crews shut down the southbound lanes of Hwy 2 at the Hwy 2A exit between Bowden and Olds.

A few of the vehicles involved were written off and had to be towed from the scene.

Olds RCMP, Innisfail RCMP, Innisfail Integrated Traffic Services, Red Deer County Patrol, Olds Fire, Bowden Fire, Olds EMS and Alberta Highways all responded to the collision.

Police were not recommending travel along Hwy 2 from Red Deer to Didsbury on Monday due to poor driving conditions that included blowing snow and zero visibility. Warren asked all drivers to travel with caution and slow down.

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