Recent History – 1998
Condensed from feature articles appearing in the Peace River Block News between December 24, 1998 and January 5, 1999.
- Mikaela McKay, daughter of Amanda Jones and Rob McKay is the New Year’s baby
- Net value of property rose 1.3% over the past year, according to the assessor
- Hart Hotel owners await word on their application for a casino licence in Pouce Coupe
- Farm Crisis Committee prepares draft for a presentation to government about the inadequacy of current aid programs for hard-hit area farmers.
- Farmington area grain farmer Nick Parsons packs up his combine, the Prairie Belle, and sets off on a 1,300 km drive to Victoria.
- Tumbler Ridge reels in the wake of notice by Teck Corporation that approximately 700 employees will be getting layoff notices at the Quintette Coal Mine.
- Disastrous harvest of 1997 has added another $31 million in losses to Peace River area farmers.
- Fifty farmers protesting lack of adequate financial help arrived home Jan 29 after lobbying politicians in Victoria
- Dawson Creek council awards final two contracts for the rebuiliding of the Memorial Arena — the front end and the sound system.
- City council passes a bylaw making it illegal for panhandlers to ask for money or to loiter on streets
- Third floor of Rotary Manor seniors’ home closed because of concerns for safety in the aging buliding.
- Nearly 2,000 athletes arrive (February 5) for the Northern BC Winter Games
- Louisiana Pacific delays its bark composting plans, citing prohibitive costs resulting from environmental regulations.
- The Hudson’s Bay Company announces it will close Kmart and move the downtown Zeller’s store into the old Kmart location at the Dawson Mall. It is unclear how many employees will be losing their jobs in the change.
- The South Peace Health Council announces it has been given the go-ahead to replace Rotary Manor. The council will first explore the possibility to locate the 44-bed multi-level care facility near the hospital at grounds owned by Northern Lights College.
- Dawson Creek’s Rotraud Lopp is to be given the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in two days. The prestigious award is given for her work to promote choir music and operas during many decades. The prize will be presented to her by the German consul general in Vancouver, Peter Maier-Oswald.
- A hefty discussion broke loose in city council when councillor Dave Martin proposed to double the financial rewards for mayor and councillors. The proposal was referred to the city’s finance committee and salaries remained at $10,800 annually for councillors and $26,400 for the mayor.
- A week of speculation comes to an end when the Peace River Regional District debates and puts to rest a report outlining the regulations of the separation of the Peace from British Columbia, possibly joining Alberta. Several large media were present at the meeting, among which was CBC’s The National.
- The B.C. Grain Producers announce they’re going to start variety trials for different hemp varieties, cleared for growing by Health Canada just days earlier. The tests will determine the viability of a commercial hemp crop for the Peace region.
- The community police station will leave the Dawson Mall and make a move to the station museum at NAR Park. Financial savings are cited as the mean reason for the move.
- Dawson Creek senior Beatrice Horrill blames underfunding for a two day delay in having her broken wrist to be properly set. The orthopedics program at the hospital is running a $267,000 deficit this year, the hospital reports.
- The Peace River Regional District will resume its weed control program after Minister Corky Evans promised to reinstate the weed control grant. The regional district’s new budget spells out lower taxes for regional district functions for area residents.
- The first of seven meetings leading up to the referendum on cost sharing for Memorial Arena is held in Rolla. Rural residents are not eager to pay for Dawson Creek’s arena, despite the fact about 30 per cent of the arena’s users are rural residents.
- The Lake View Credit Union starts construction of its new building on the corner of 102nd Avenue and 9th Street. Completion is expected for as early as November this year.
- Oil and gas revenues for the B.C. government continue to drop significantly, compared to 1997’s record prices. The March sale netted $3.2 million, compared to $24.5 million in March 1997.
- After a year of planning, Dawson Creek developer Tom Kurjata announces he will start building the Evergreen development at 108th Avenue and 17th Street this month.
- School District 59 will get a funding increase of $387,000 for its operating budget. The money is to cover the one per cent wage increase for teachers implemented March 1.
- The Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce launches its Business Crime Watch program, designed to curtail thefts from businesses.
- The annual art auction nets close to $20,000 in funding for the art gallery.
- A study done during the Northern B.C. Winter Games reveals athletes, visitors and others spent an estimated $604,000 in Dawson Creek during the three-day event in February.
- BC Hydro has settled with 36 of the 41 properties if offered to buy in the South Taylor area, the company says. Hydro wants to buy out all the residents currently living in the flood plain of the Peace River in South Taylor.
- There’s $16 million available for upgrades to South Peace roads, $26 million for the Peace in total, says Highways Minister Harry Lali in a festive announcement made at the city’s traffic circle.
- The number of seniors in the Peace is expected to increase by 168 per cent in the next 25 years, says David Baxter, executive director of the Urban Futures Institute, and the region should be planning for it.
- Farmers could qualify for provincial disaster relief to pay for repairs on farmland such as ruts and other deterioration, says Bob Kelly, northern B.C. regional manager for the Provincial Emergency Program.
- School District 59 gets $1.6 million in minor capital funding for renovation projects
- The Peace River Regional District renews its fight for Fair Share money after breaking off talks with the province a few days earlier. The PRRD claims Victoria is stalling the project that should give the region access to oil and gas money for infrastructure upgrades.
- Disappointment of Dawson Creek officials was clear after the region defeated the referendum that should have given approval for rural funding for Dawson Creek’s Memorial Arena. Three of the four areas voted against. Only Dawson Creek voted in favor.
- City clubs working on the creek path say they will have the path paved to 17th Street before the end of the year and lights will be installed along the path as well for safety.
- More than 100 college students from Dawson Creek and Chetwynd walk the walk to receive their graduation certificates at the annual ceremony, this year at the George Dawson Inn.
- The 23rd annual Kiwanis Trade Show is held at the Kids Kin Arena and Curling Rink and attracts thousands of area residents.
- Oil and gas sales are low still in April, netting only $4.6 million in revenue for the government, compared to last year’s $19.8 million. Energy and Mines Minister Dan Miller says the revenues continue to play a significant role in the provincial economy.
- The Peace region will be getting $113.5 million from provincial oil and gas revenues for infrastructure renewal, Premier Glen Clark announces in Dawson Creek. The region has been lobbying for many years to achieve this ‘Fair Share.’ Dawson Creek’s share will be about $40 million over 10 years.
- Though Peace region officials had asked for taxing powers of $15 million annually, they attested that a $12-million reallocation grant per year was almost as good a deal, they said in a reaction to the announcement of Fair Share April 30.
- Ground and airborne crews battled fires in log and bark piles at Dawson Creek’s Louisiana-Pacific oriented strand board plant into the night on May 2. Fire fighting efforts on the long-smoldering piles were not helped by high winds which drove the flames sky high and started spot fires in neighbouring fields.
- The 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first white man in the Dawson Creek area was proclaimed in Pouce Coupe council chambers. In 1898, Hector Tremblay settled in the Pouce Coupe Prairie, the hunting grounds of the Beaver Indian Chief Pouce Coupe of Grande Prairie.
- Dawson Creek will replace 45 of its 400 water hydrants in the city this year and the contract is awarded to Pipe-rite from Vanderhoof for $230,000.
- The rail deal between BC Rail and Canadian National Railway in Dawson Creek, aimed at stimulating grain transports through the city, may be too little too late, says Dawson Creek grain farmer Brian Haddow, as Rycroft is in the midst of building three large grain terminals.
- Canadian National Railways put its rail line from Dawson Creek to Hythe and Grande Prairie up for sale. The move will have no effect on the reciprocal access agreement signed with BC Rail during the same week.
- The Citizens’ Advisory on Environmental Research (CAER) celebrates the conclusion of a long environmental battle to have the former Domtar site, behind Louisiana-Pacific, cleaned up satisfactorily.
- There won’t be a casino in the Hart Hotel in Pouce Coupe after all. The proposal by hotel owner Del Folk was not among the three approved May 15 by Employment and Investment Minister Mike Farnsworth. Hart Hotel owner Del Folk says his bid to bring a destination casino to Pouce Coupe cost him $30,000. That’s now mostly lost money after Victoria approved three destination casinos on May 15 elsewhere in B.C.
- Dawson Creek’s Tyler Marion, a carpentry student at Northern Lights College, is in the spotlight after winning the silver medal at the National Canadian Skills competition in Vancouver on May 15.
- After getting an early start on spring seeding, area farmers are optimistic they’ll be getting a much better crop this year than the past two years.
- The Northern Development Act, intended to give northerners a bigger voice in Victoria through the appointment of a Northern Development Commissioner, is introduced in the legislature on May 25.
- A renovated Memorial Arena sees its first use after the roof collapse in January 1997 as country singer Paul Brandt is in town for a concert.
- A proposal for a skateboard pad at Kin Park was taken to city council. The cost is estimated at $14,000-$20,000 depending on whether asphalt or more-expensive concrete is used. Dawson Creek has a lot to offer local youth, but there’s room for more, according to s survey that accompanied a proposal to city council for a skateboard park. Speaking of youth, 170 South Peace Secondary School students prepare for the weekend of their lives – graduation.
- In a bid to get local residents to come out to scheduled hearings, the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission says the Peace could lose one of its two MLAs in an amalgamation of Peace River North and South.
- A recent Northern Alberta Development Council report points to Dawson Creek as the cheapest route to ship grain to Prince Rupert. The report was greeted as good news for Dawson Creek, but not for Rycroft, Alberta, where three large grain handling terminals are under construction.
- The Peace River Regional District called on the B.C. government to eliminate the provincial sales tax and to decrease income tax in a five-year project. The measures were billed as the next logical step in making the B.C. Peace competitive with Alberta.
- The Bullmoose coal mine announced it will lay off 91 employees, sending a further shock through Tumbler Ridge after Quintette laid off 276 earlier in the year.
- June oil and gas sales are only a quarter of those of June 1997, but industry representatives say they’ve just shifted money to drilling activity, which is at an all-time high in the Peace.
- With a push and a shove, six strong men maneuvered the long-awaited CT scanner into place at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital, marking the end of many years of fundraising and lobbying to bring the equipment to the Peace.
- The City of Dawson Creek announces it will donate 17 acres of land to the South Peace Community Health Council for the replacement of Rotary Manor.
- Angry Prince George fishermen unveil plans to blockade the Alaska Highway in their protest at the start of the 1998 fishing season.
- The Canada Day celebrations in Pouce Coupe are once again a big success as large numbers of people are drawn to the July 1 parade and the barbecue afterwards.
- Mayor Blair Lekstrom says the city needs a new $2-million pumphouse and water main. The request comes just days after the city imposed water use restrictions.
- A boom year in oil and gas also meant a boom year for hotels and motels in northeast B.C. local owners and managers said. That, and the low Canadian dollar has meant an increase in business, they say.
- Local resident Jim Bacon had the honour of being the first patient ever to undergo a CT scan at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital.
- Ray Kitchen of Fort St. John is among five people being awarded the Star of Courage by Governor General Romeo LeBlanc. Kitchen died when he tried to stop an attack by a black bear on a U.S. Mother and her son in Liard Hot Springs provincial park in 1997.
- The Dawson Creek and District Horticultural Society kicks off its 60th anniversary celebrations by opening a Diamond Jubilee Garden on July 17 with a ribbon cutting.
- City council gave three readings to a bylaw to borrow $2.25 million for construction of a new pump house at the Kiskatinaw River and a water main to go with it after a sprinkler ban was imposed for the second summer in a row.
- More than $1.7 million in federal funding is announced by Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief for road improvements in the Peace region.
- The first payment of $6 million in Fair Share money was presented to the Peace River Regional District in Fort St. John by Municipal Affairs Minister Jenny Kwan.
- Dawson Creek Beverages celebrates its 50th anniversary in Dawson Creek. The ‘Coke Plant’ was started in 1948 by Jim Thompson, but the actual bottling of Coca Cola ceased in 1972.
- The Dawson Creek Exhibition and Stampede was a success according to exhibition president Toni Krantz, thanks in part to a new ticket system that allowed patrons to go to either just the exhibition or the exhibition and stampede for a higher price.
- The local Hire-A-Student office received 212 job orders, 25 per cent more than last year’s total.
- John Denison, a former Dawson Creek resident was named to the Order of Canada for his work in opening up the far North in the 1960s.
- The Saulteau First Nation set up a roadblock near Chetwynd, protesting intrusion onto what they say is a sacred area by BP Amoco, which was establishing an oil field development.
- B.C. enjoyed a larger wave of American tourists this year, and Dawson Creek was among the communities that was benefiting. According to Tourism British Columbia statistics, the number of overnight visits to the province were up by 9.4 per cent. Dawson Creek shows a 9.3 per cent increase.
- Dawson Creek’s skateboard park is in the construction phase. A fence is already completed and ramps will be added soon.
- Bagpipe players and a ribbon cutting were part of the festivities when the second phase of the Kin Park walking path was opened.
- South Peace farmers benefitted for $745,000 from the B.C. government’s $10 million Whole Farm Insurance program, the Ministry of Agriculture reports.
- Fire protection officials warn the fire danger in the Dawson Creek Forest District is still extremely high. The hot and dry weather, which has halted logging and welding operations, will soon be at an end when predicted showers and cool weathers will hit the area.
- A sluggish local economy is blamed for Calgary-based Genesis Land Developers’ decision to put on hold its 300-house development along the Dangerous Goods Route (Adams Road). A 17-home project on 92nd Avenue will be started, however, as well as the building of a Super 8 Motel on Alaska Avenue.
- The housing market in Dawson Creek continues a slow slide, and the world market is partly to blame, says Blaine Nicholson, president of the Northern Lights Real Estate Board.
- In front of 421 listeners, singer Keith Hall performs a benefit concert for himself. Hall is raising funds for surgery to remove his second kidney in an ongoing battle with cancer.
- Three weeks early and 80 per cent of the Peace’s crops are in the bins. Agriculture officials call the early harvest “exceptional” and the quality of the grain “extremely high.”
- There’ll definitely be no curling this winter at the city’s Curling Rink, city council tells a disappointed curling club. The city closed the curling rink as the structure is not safe for public use.
- The City of Dawson Creek wins its court battle with insurer Zurich Canada and hopes to start negotiating a settlement within 30 days.
- Not even the threat of rain could dampen the spirits of people marching through downtown Dawson Creek with the city’s first Take Back The Night women’s rally.
- City council removes the requirement for new businesses moving into existing premises having to pay $1,000 to the city per parking stall they’re not able to provide. The move comes after one potential but unnamed business would be faced with a $25,000 bill.
- City council votes to allow upright grave markers in portion of Brookside cemetery.
- The City of Dawson Creek takes over ownership of the Silverado Hotel as a result of the hotel owing the city $154,000 in back taxes.
- Canada Post confirms Dawson Creek is made the region’s central hub for processing and transferring mail. The decision was made on flow of mail, not population, Canada Post says.
- With an official ceremony, Dawson Creek opens its Memorial Arena, some 21 months after its roof collapsed. After the ceremonies, the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks played the Slave Lake Lake Wolves, a game the Canucks won 8-7.
- The Peace River Alaska Highway Tourist Association changes its name to Northern Rockies Alaska Highway Tourist Association and votes, at its AGM, to keep its office in Fort St. John.
- A series of natural disasters have decimated the hemp on trial plots maintained by the B.C. Grain Producers. Despite the apparent failure, trials are slated to continue next year.
- Zurich Canada, the city’s insurer for Memorial Arena when its roof collapsed, says is it going to appeal a court ruling in the city’s favour that says the insurance company should pay up for the damages.
- Author Elaine Breault Hammond reads from her new book, Explosion in Dawson Creek. The writer, with family ties to the city, wrote the children’s book as part of a series about time-travelling children.
- The City of Dawson Creek announces it has sold five lots of its Heritage Industrial Park to Peace Tractor, only weeks after selling four lots to Arbutus Environmental. The industrial park has sat empty for more than 15 years.
- There is record-drilling in the Peace, so far a 31 per cent increase over 1997, and oil and gas industry spokespeople predict that, with the current high gas prices, there will continue to be record drilling in the B.C. Peace, the least explored portion of the western sedimentary basin.
- Tumbler Ridge’s Bullmoose Mine says that only one hour after public bidding began in the sale of 22 of its vacant houses, the seven houses not previously sold to employees were all snapped up by local residents.
- Dawson Creek celebrates the official opening of the CT scanner, about four months after installation. The official opening was a tribute to all those organizations and individuals who contributed in the fundraising for the scanner.
- The old Rotary Manor has met the standards of the Canadian council on Health Services Accreditation, the South Peace Health Council reports. Short-term solutions to safety issues have gained the care home the right to stay open until the new Rotary Manor is built.
- Dawson Creek officially opens the Christmas season November 19 with the traditional tree light-up at the Mile Zero Post… err… Mile Zero Tree.
- The Canadian portion of the Alliance Pipeline Project is given the green light by the National Energy Board, causing local politicians and industry representatives to cheer as it means increased industrial activity.
- Oil and gas sales remain low as the November sale brought in $3.9 million in revenue, down from $13.8 million in 1997. A Ministry of Energy and Mines spokesperson says the industry is not acquiring, but developing properties it has acquired in previous years.
- Another city building, the riding arena at the Fall Fair grounds, has been condemned by the city as structural problems are discovered that have made the building unsafe for use.
- There won’t be a referendum on the Curling Rink, Mayor Blair Lekstrom says. Instead, South Peace directors at the regional district have chosen for a capital funding pool to pay not only for the curling rink, but for the swimming pool as well.
- Mayor Blair Lekstrom is given a $7,500 annual pay raise by council. His salary is now $34,200.
- Yvonne Elden becomes the new school board chair for School District 59, following Patrick Michiel who stepped down as chair because his trustee term is ending in November 1999.
- Peace residents are elated about the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission that recommends leaving the two Peace ridings largely intact. It was feared the commission would recommend amalgamating the ridings.
- While B.C.’s unemployment rate has fallen below eight per cent, Dawson Creek’s continues to outshine the province’s with an unemployment rate hovering at about [4?] per cent, according to provincial statistics.
- Proposed boundary changes between the Peace River South and Peace River North electoral districts have local officials shaking their head as it places the North Peace Airport in the South Peace riding.
- Olympic speedskater Tom Overend gets a place on the South Peace Senior Secondary School Wall of Fame. The SPSS graduate was on the national speedskating team from 1971 to 1978.
- The Lake View Credit Union announces it will have moved into its new building by Jan. 15, 1999. The grand opening is set for Feb. 6.
- Aboriginal people join forces to bid on construction of the Alliance Pipeline in a meeting at the Nawican Friendship Centre that sees the creation of a lobby group called the North Aboriginal Council.
- World renowned tenor Ben Heppner, who grew up in Dawson Creek, is profiled on the Maclean’s magazine 1998 Honour Roll.
- Falling coal prices will mean another blow for Tumbler Ridge, a municipality already plagued with layoffs in the mining sector. Japanese steelmakers have unilaterally cut coal prices by 18 per cent, and that blow will eventually be felt in Tumbler Ridge, say mine officials.
- Victoria announces large cuts to municipal grants. The damage to Dawson Creek will be about $130,000, Mayor Blair Lekstrom estimates.
- A movement has started to build a downtown senior citizen condominium complex in Dawson Creek. Developer Paul Kurjata says he’ll have to gauge serious interest first before deciding on the project.
- The Mile Zero Metis Society has a new office and many plans for the future, among which is an all-native radio station in Dawson Creek.
- Chetwynd hospital has been given more than $900,000 in funding to establish long-term care beds at the hospital.
- Dawson Creek’s assessment rises with nearly two per cent, causing Mayor Blair Lekstrom to say council may drop the mill rate to hold the line on taxes.
- Nick Parsons is chosen as Newsmaker of the Year 1998 by the Peace River Block News editorial staff. Parsons drove his combine to Victoria in January to press the government for help for the farmers.
- At the Chamber of Commerce New Year’s Eve Gala Ball, Giles Dudley and Judi McGowan are chosen as Citizens of the Year 1998. Chosen as Businesses of the Year are Picture It!, Hug-A-Mug and Lake View Credit Union.