Highlights of 2019, as selected by the Humboldt Journal

HUMBOLDT — We've reviewed our most popular online stories and the sports highlights of the year. Now here's what the Humboldt Journal sees as some of the big highlights of 2019.


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The aftermath of the crash continues

The consequences of the April 2018 collision between the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus and a semi-truck continued into 2019.

On Jan. 8 at Melfort Provincial Court, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary pled guilty to 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.

Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in jail on March 22.

In late March, the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation gave $1.15 million to east central communities. Humboldt received $800,000; Tisdale, Melfort and Nipawin $100,000 each; and Zenon Park $50,000.

Coun. Lorne Pratchler of Humboldt said the city appreciated not just the money from the foundation, but the thoughts and prayers given by people all over the world.

The one-year anniversary of the collision on April 6 focused on moving forward.

“I just don’t want people to be stuck,” said Céleste Leray-Leicht, the mother of player Jacob Leicht, who died in the accident.

“I think it’s important that we recognize that and in order to truly honour all 29, I think we need to live our lives to the best of our ability.”


Little change after election

For east central Saskatchewan, not much changed after the Oct. 21 election.

The Conservatives swept the region – and the province as a whole, while the Liberals remained in government – albeit in a minority situation.

“I’m overwhelmed, really overwhelmed with gratitude to the constituents of Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek who once again put their faith in me and voted for me to be their voice in Ottawa,” said Kelly Block, the MP for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek.

Randy Hoback, the MP for Prince Albert, predicted a rough ride ahead for Saskatchewan.

He said a Liberal government, supported by the New Democrats, would have a huge impact on Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector, and resource sector.


Highway 5 plans

Over the next six years, the provincial government will be adding new passing lanes and twinning portions of Highway 5 between Saskatoon and the intersection of Highway 2.

The project will be done in three segments, with work expected to start in the spring of 2020 and be completed by fall 2025.

Work will begin in spring of 2020 on a 10 kilometre segment of highway between Blucher Road and Old 27 Road. Plans include adding new turning lanes, leveling out hills and valleys, and widening shoulders. The goal is to complete work by fall 2020.

The second segment, a 30 kilometre stretch that goes from the Highway 2 intersection to Blucher Road, is expected to begin spring 2021. Improvements will include passing lanes,  realigning the St. Denis access, adding turning lanes, reducing the number of access points to the highway, leveling out hills and valleys, and widening shoulders. That is expected to be done by the fall of 2022.


HSD opens new office

Right at the beginning of 2019, the Horizon School Division moved into its brand new, $6.2 million, 22,780 square feet office building.

Located in east Humboldt on Highway 5, it houses 43 staff and features offices, a new boardroom, storage space, lunchroom and maintenance shop.

On Nov. 15, the division hosted a grand opening.

Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said the new office makes it easier to develop the skills of its teachers and other staff.

“With less than a year in this building we’ve already been able to host a great number of professional development opportunities and meetings for our staff are across our system and from across the province,” he said. “In previous years, we were required to rent meeting space from an outside facility if we wanted to offer those opportunities.”


BHP sets date

BHP is expecting its board of directors to make a final decision on its Jansen Potash project by February 2021.

The date was announced in the company’s quarterly operational review released on Oct. 17.

“In order to make a final investment decision, work on engineering to support project planning and on finalizing the port solution is required, and the Board has approved US$144 million for these activities,” said the report.

Jansen would be BHP’s first entry into the potash market. The company finds the commodity attractive because the world’s population is projected to grow – with demand for fertilizer to grow with that.


Good neighbour

Humboldt’s Terry Saretsky has been awarded the Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centre’s (SARC) Good Neighbour Award.

The province-wide award recognizes a person born with a developmental disability who makes a difference in their community through exemplary volunteer efforts.

“Terry loves this community. He’s loved this community for years – right from the time he was born,” said Beverly Trach, coordinator with Futuristic Industries and group homes, where Terry lives and works. Regardless of whether he was recognized by SARC, “He’s the winner of the Good Neighbour award for us. We knew it,” she said.


Potash trouble

It was not a rosy year for the area’s potash industry.

Nutrien decided to temporarily close its Lanigan mine for up to eight weeks starting in November due to weakness in potash demand.

Nearby, Mosaic has announced that it will temporarily close its Colonsay potash mine in August.

The fertilizer giant told the Canadian Press it has issued 395 layoff notices to hourly workers as it indefinitely idles the Colonsay mine, but expects 52 of those workers to stay on to keep the operation on standby in case market conditions improve.


Crematorium controversy

After a long period of deliberation and public consultation, Humboldt council voted 4-1 in favour of allowing a crematorium at the Malinoski and Danyluik Funeral Home.

The issue was first brought to the July 22 council meeting. At the next meeting, council decide to host a public meeting on the issue.

At the Sept. 12 meeting, residents gave support and opposition to the proposal. Those against were concerned about air pollution from the facility while those for supporting having a crematorium closer to better serve the families those that choose the process.

The final decision was made on Oct. 4.

“This has been probably the most time and energy that myself – and I think a lot of the councillors – have dedicated to any question or any vote that’s come across our table,” said Rob Muench, Humboldt’s mayor.


St. Dominic School’s 60th

Sixty years ago, St. Dominic School was built in the southern part of Humboldt to service a rapidly growing population.

Murray Kopp was one of those students. In 1959, he was in Grade 7, being taught by Sister Melanie Limacher, who was also the first principal.

“There was four classrooms. That’s it,” he said at the school’s 60th anniversary celebration on Oct. 26. “There were five or six boys, or five or six girls in each class.”

Annette Cales, who was in Grade 4 in 1959 and being taught by Agnes Casey, said there were two grades per class.

“The school has really improved and expanded,” she said. “We had a library that was two rows of books, probably eight by eight. The principal’s office was on the other side of the library.”


Humboldt hosts curling provincials

From Jan. 22 to 27, the Humboldt Curling Club hoted the  2019 Viterra Scotties Women’s Provincials.

The event was won by Team Silvernagle.

Robyn Silvernagle, the team’s skip, said winning the provincials has been a dream of hers since she was little.

“It’s been a long time and then losing the last two finals has been absolutely heartbreaking, but you know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so we just kept chugging along.”

Winning was also a long-time dream for Kara Thevenot, the team’s lead.

“It’s phenomenal. It’s what we’ve been working so hard for,” she said.


Fiber optic internet

 Fibre optic high-speed internet is coming to Humboldt.

Construction on SaskTel’s infiNET service began in Feburary. The plan is to have service in select areas of Humboldt, Melfort, Tisdale and Nipawin in March 2020.

“Council and I are very excited that SaskTel is bringing this upgrade to Humboldt,” said Rob Muench, Humboldt’s mayor. “Upgrading to a fibre optics backbone and connecting homes and offices is a very positive economic influence for our community and for those looking to relocate here.”


Citizens honoured

Al Hingley, a retired United Church reverend, received the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal along with 14 others at a ceremony in Regina on April 9.

“It is a high honour,” the he said. “I’m very much aware and appreciative of those who appreciated what I tried to do in volunteering and also for my nominators who took the effort to nominate me.”

Hingley wasn’t the only citizen to be honoured.

Tim Graf was inducted into Humboldt’s business hall of fame.

Graf, who’s the owner of Tasko Developments and the former owner of Home Hardware, said he wasn’t expecting to be nominated but was happy to be recognized for his years of hard work.

“They actually put my application in and told me later, so yeah, I was surprised.”

Nathan Tremblay was the junior citizen of the year.  Tremblay, who was a Grade 12 student at Humboldt Collegiate Institute, is active both in his school and community.

“If everybody put in just a little bit more positivity and a little bit more effort into what’s happening around them instead of just focusing on themselves, I think we’d be way better off just as a whole,” he said.

“I just like to do my part, just try to get involved as much as possible, keep people from having too much on their plates and try to help out in any way I can.”

Humboldt’s citizen of the year wasn’t a single person. It goes to all who offered support, assistance and comfort in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy.

“It was just a concerted effort across this province and across the country, across the globe, that really helped us navigate, in some ways, one of the worst tragedies anyone can imagine,” said Kevin Garinger, the Broncos’ past president.


Golf club marks 75th

While the Humboldt Golf Club (HGC) celebrated 75 years of business, the relationship between the community and the sport go further back.

According to Dave Hill, a HGC board member, the city received their first golf club in the 1920s at Waldsea Lake.

“Back in, I believe it was the 1930s, the green fees were 25 cents [around $4 in 2019 dollars] to play a round of golf, and a year pass was $7.50 [around $130 in 2019 dollars],” Hill said. “The very first tournament was called the President Versus the Vice-President Challenge.”

To celebrate the 75 years in their location, the HGC held an anniversary party to celebrate on Aug. 28. The celebration included a meat and cheese platter and cake with beverages at old-fashioned prices, as well as a ceremonial tee off followed by presentations and a social hour featuring the unveiling of a 75th anniversary photo.

The ceremonial tee off had one of their oldest club members, Mike Sowtis, as well as young golfer Jack Unrau. Unrau is three years old.

“Golf is a lifetime sport. Certainly when Jack was teeing off, I was thinking of the first times my sons teed off and they were all golfers here – our whole family is. We’re all still enjoying it and we’re hoping to still be enjoying it when we’re Mike’s age.”


100 years for St. Therese

A century ago, seeing a rapid growth in the need for education, the Ursuline sisters moved into their permanent motherhouse in Bruno. That place today remains a place of learning for youth.

“These walls, they do not make us Christian, but these walls make a bold statement,” said Vicky Serblowski, the executive director of the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission that now occupies the 100-year-old building, on Nov. 9.

“They make a bold statement to others, that this is our sacred space, our sacred culture and our sacred traditions.”

On Nov. 9, 1919, Abbot Michael Ott blessed the completed building, an action that Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen would repeat 100 years later.

In 1922, the facility, as the St. Ursula Academy, began boarding and teaching female students.

At its height in the 1960s, there were more than 100 Ursulines sisters at the location.

In 1982, due to a lack of sister personnel, the school closed.

In 2007, the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission starting operating in the building.

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