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A look back at 2017 headlines


Like most years, 2017 will be remembered fondly by some while for others, it will be 365 days better forgotten.
In the Dauphin area, the past year had its ups and downs.
Here is a look at some of the stories that made healdines over the last 52 weeks.
Early on in the year the community took a step toward becoming a tourist hotspot with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP).
With no specific project in mind, the agreement recognized a shared desire to promote tourism opportunities and development in what is referred to as the North Node - an area extending from Moon Lake in the south, north to Dauphin for several kilometres on either side of Hwy. 10.
“I would look forward to a time - the train comes up and back - and if people could bring their bikes up on the train, you could accommodate them for a couple of days. I have got this idea in the back of my head that if we are sort of a quasi Canmore at the end of the day, if Riding Mountain becomes more of a thing, then what community around Riding Mountain has the resources to be the gate? It is us,” former Dauphin Mayor Eric Irwin said at the time, adding his time as a board member with Tourism Manitoba taught him the community is going to have to take responsibility for developing the area as a “must see” destination.
In late January the Dauphin business community took a big hit with the closure of Signal Industries.
Workers at the sign manufacturing company were greeted by locked doors and security guards when they showed up for work Jan. 25, as the company made a decision to permanently close its Dauphin operation.
Economic realities made the tough decision necessary, said James Plastow, executive vice-president of operations for ATS Traffic, which owns Signal Industries.
The closure affected seven employees.
City council took aim at vacant buildings with a new bylaw focussed on encouraging occupancy and ensuring as many local buildings as possible are occupied.
“There is a number of buildings in Dauphin that are vacant and have been vacant for some time,” city CAO Brad Collett said.
“And when you push the owner on it, there is no incentive for them to do anything, because the taxes are minimal. Because they have been vacant for so long, basically you are just paying taxes on the land.”
The bylaw institutes a fee on vacant buildings, as well as requiring owners to provide the city some sort of plan for eventual occupancy.
An arson case dating back to 2013 was concluded in Dauphin Court of Queen’s Bench.
In an incident which sent a teenager to hospital in critical condition and injured other residents, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sandra Zinchuk found Sean Barry Douglas Nepinak, 27, and Seamus John Nepinak, 25, guilty of all four counts of arson, Feb. 24.
The brothers were charged with four counts relating to intentionally or recklessly causing damage or bodily harm by fire to a house and the people residing in it.
Justice Zinchuk dismissed the final charge, that the Nepinak brothers committed the indictable offense of arson, in association with a criminal organization, the PK Mobsters.
Sentencing was set for June at which time Zinchuk reserved her decision. In August the two men were sentenced to 15 years incarceration.
There was some good news for recreation in the community when the RM of Dauphin made official a new recreation services funding agrreement with the City of Dauphin.
Under the agreement, the RM guaranteed $250,000 of operating funding for 2017 and $250,000, plus a Manitoba Consumer Price Index percentage increase in 2018 and 2019.
The resolution ensured funding for Dauphin Recreation Services (DRS) for three years, allowing for more accurate budgetting.
As part of the agreement, DRS will continue to separate city-only expenditures from joint expenses.
Post-secondary education in the city got a boost when Assiniboine Community College made its Parkland Campus the permanent home of the Practical Nursing program.
The lab was built at Parkland Campus in 2010 and had a few programs rotate though Dauphin.
Boxes of Love, a project to send supplies to orphanages in Ukraine, marked its first decade of existance.
Under the direction of co-chairs Nicole Yunker and Lindsay Rubeniuk, over the past 10 years the the charitable effort has raised more than $150,000 in monetary donations and supplies.
Money needed for important infrastructure renewal continued to flow to RMNP.
Close to $6 million in federal money to support projects such as the restoration of iconic heritage buildings, the exhibits, lobby and theatre of the Visitor’s Centre and new technologies for the multi-purpose theatre was announced.
The funding is in addition to a previous $5 million earmarked for the renewal of Hwy. 10 through the park.
Residents of Grandview received a shock when they learned their ambulance station was one of 18 EMS stations in rural Manitoba slated for closure.
Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the changes were based on recommendations in a 2013 report.
In the Parkland, stations will be closed outright in Ethelbert and Grandview while the station in McCreary will be consolidated with a new station in Alonsa.
At a meeting organized by Grandview’s three physicians, more than 500 members of the community and surrounding area overwhelmingly supported the service while denouncing the 2013 report.
The community, partnering with Tootinawaziibeeng Treaty Reserve vowed to fight the decision to the end.
Dauphin’s Storefront Improvement Program proved to be a hit.
Targetting businesses in the city’s core, the program proposed to provide up to $5,000 in matching funding for eligible, approved projects within boundaries beginning at Memorial Boulevard in the south and travelling north to Fifth Avenue N, including businesses up to one block on either side of Main Street.
The program started with a $40,000 pot of money with a goal of identifying up to eight business partners.
“We were hoping to get eight applicants with a maximum of $5,000 or something around there,” Economic Development Officer Carissa Caruk-Ganczar said.
In the end, 21 applications were received with a total ask of over $90,000 and a total amount of work valued at around $250,000.
Some funding programs were not as positive, however, as Dauphin Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (DNRC) learned the Community Housing Improvement Initiative (CHII) was discontinued indefinitely.
The program offered grants to lower-income families for exterior home improvement projects.
DNRC received funding of $25,500 each year for CHII, executive director Mary Myhre said, in 2013, 2015 and in 2016.
Over the three years, DNRC was able to fund 47 projects, affecting approximately 200 individuals in the community.
After a renovation spanning several years, work on MacKenzie Middle School came to a conclusion.
The redesign was undertaken to breathe new life into the building and accommodate the move of Grade 6 students from elementary schools throughout the community to the middle school environment at a total cost of more than $12 million.
The division has now received design authorization for the classroom wing of the Grades 6 to 8 school. The work is expected to cost around $3.5 million.
Other city infrastructure received a big boost of capital as the City of Dauphin spending on roads was in excess of $1 million of asphalt road repairs, pothole fixes and road reconstruction.
The spending did not stop there, however, as the redevelopment of the Emergency Department at Dauphin Regional Health Centre hit full stride.
Construction of a temporary Emergency Department was completed allowing for the demolition and $17 million redevelopment of the existing department, expected to take until mid-2019.
The ramp up to the front entrance of DRHC was barricaded and became an entrance for ambulance crews only.
A temporary public access to the facility was constructed off Jackson Street at the rear of the hospital, between the hospital and community health building, complete with a small drop off area and four handicap parking spaces.
The community was shocked to learn of the death of Mayor Eric Irwin while on vacation with his family in Florida.
An estimated 1,200 people said goodbye to Irwin at a moving celebration of life in Credit Union Place
At a special meeting, councillors voted unanimously to appoint deputy-mayor Allen Dowhan to the position left vacant with Irwin’s death.
Under provisions of the Municipal Act, council has two options when a seat becomes open with less than one year until the next general election.
One option is to hold a byelection to fill the vacancy, while the other is to fill it from within council.
In an effort to make the transition in city operations as seamless as possible, council chose the second option.
Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival (CNUF) stumbled a bit in 2017, announcing a deficit of $126,023.
Expenses for publicity in 2017 jumped to $73,957 in 2017, compared to $38,096 in 2016, while entertainment expenses were also higher with performer fees, accommodation and travel costs all increasing.
Grandstand expenses increased to $180,396 in 2017 compared to $135,910 in 2016.
In 2017, CNUF had a small increase in ticket sales of about 500, board chair Kayla Gillis said, compared to 2016.

Staff Writer