2013 Year End Jan-April: a time of change in Alberni


Olivia Suzanne Maria was Port Alberni’s first baby of 2013. She was born at West Coast General Hospital on Jan. 1 at 7:27 p.m.

On Jan. 3 at North Island College, an Idle No More flash mob event attracted more than 125 people. Alberni resident Richard Pesik said he hopes the movement doesn’t fracture the same way the Occupy movement did earlier last year. “It became about many different things and it died. I hope that doesn’t happen with this,” he said.

Alberni wrestlers were successful at the end of 2012 at the War on the Floor tournament at Simon Fraser University. They won three gold medals and five silver medals in the Novice Tournament. In the Elite Tournament, they got two silver medals and two bronze medals as well.

This is the first year for Totem 58, the venerable basketball tournament, in the new high school on Roger Street. Both Armada senior girls and boys practiced very hard.

“The excitement has been build all week at the new school and there is going to be as much (spirit) as there ever was,” tournament co- ordinator, Brian Laviolette said.

The community was also mourning the loss of Rob Mooney, who died after a head–on collision in Alberta on Sunday, Jan. 6. He was 53.

A fire of unknown cause ripped through the upper floor of a town home on Jan. 4. Luckily, the occupants got out before the fire spread and nobody was hurt.

Seva Phagura Dhallwal spoke out about violence against women seeking help from community to raise awareness about issue.

Friday, Jan. 12 the ADSS boys basketball team won the Totem 58 title, a first since 2005. The girls team came in fifth overall.

Alberni’s health care underwent a survey to reveal where gaps are to help ensure more appropriate help for children and mothers.

On Jan. 20, the final celebration for the centenial year for Port Alberni closed up, with a wishing pond and a picture taken in the same spot as the first picture 100 years ago.

Brittany Savard, Shay-Lee McConnell and Shelby Clydesdale were selected to play on the Vancouver Island under-16 team for the B.C. cup on April4-7 in Duncan.

The tire dump was finally cleaned up, with all the tires finally being recycled, or turned into a berm.

Fir Park Village underwent changes and upgrades to further improve residents living conditions. They have worked their hardest over the 32 years to change and add programs that benefit residents living there.


The process of closing a school in the Alberni Valley started with the first of three public meetings in February, this one at Alberni Elementary School. A drop in enrollment and budget pressures forced the district to start closure discussions. Gill and Wood elementary schools were considered for closure. Gill is the lowest ranked school in the district in terms of condition. And Wood because it’s a potential location for VAST. “We realize that this is a tough decision. But we have to take the emotion out of this and do what’s best for the school district,” School District 70 chairperson Larry Ransom said.

Kaylum Doherty, the Port Alberni boy who survived a cougar attack in summer 2012, received an award for bravery and special recognition by the BC Conservation Service. Doherty’s father Rick and lady friend Bobi Jo Schaefer were also presented with bravery awards. “I remember when the cougar grabbed me and bit me. I was breathing really hard in the ambulance,” Kaylum said.

The BC Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for Kim Winslow Roghtgordt, the Port Alberni man convicted or murdering a male nurse in 2008.

In other court news, one of two youths involved in an assault that left Port Alberni fisherman Bert McCarthy with a broken leg in August 2012 pleaded guilty to common assault and was sentenced to one year’s probation.

In mid-February, School District 70 trustees did an about face by voting unanimously not to close an elementary school for the 2013-2014 school year. No detailed plan was laid out about how trustees will make up the $300,000 they would have saved by closing a school. “This isn’t over. But we’ve bought some time to make a decision,” trustee chair Larry Ransom said.

The Tropic Ice Hockey team from Russia announced it would play in Parksville, Duncan and Campbell River in addition to Port Alberni from April 5–9. The team was slated to play an crack oldtimers squad from Port Alberni in April. The plan had roots in the friendship between Jim Lawson and Russian interpreter Oleg Norchenko during the World Under-17 Hockey Championship in Port Alberni in 2009.

Gaelle Frey, the straight-spoken critic of school closure in SD70, was elected as a school board trustee, taking 206 out of 694 votes in a Feb. 16 byelection.

City councillors and staff were still mired in buget meetings. Councillors cut and slashed and managed to wrestle the tax rate down to 11.5 per cent from the 13.7 per cent that was originally proposed.

The Port Alberni SPCA A-B-C Spay and Neuter program for dogs and cats was working overtime. The program tamped down what was beginning to be a dog and cat over-population problem, SPCA Manager Irene Towell said. “When you have to transfer 300 cats with no homes out in a year that speaks volumes about a pet population problem.”

The Independent Investigations Office of BC confirmed that it is investigating the case of a woman who suffered a broken kneecap after being arrested by RCMP.

The Port Alberni Port Authority announced it had signed a lease with Victoria’s Independent Seafood Canada Corporation for use of PAPA’s No. 1 shed. ISC planned to bring in a the 44-metre trawler Raw Spirit, which would use the shed to regularly offload its 72,000 pound catch every 10 days.

The ADSS Armada senior girls’ and boys’ basketball teams docked their ships for the season. The girls  went 0-2 at the AAA Island Girls Basketball Championships in Nanaimo, losing to Stelly’s and eventual tourney winner Claremont Spartans. The boys placed fourth at the AAA North Island Championships earning a challenge game to advance to the Island boys final. The Armada boys lost their challenge game against Spectrum 70-61.


Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser wondered aloud whether the apology to the Hesquiaht was a test-run for the BC Liberal “Multicultural Strategy”, a scheme that called for “quick wins”, such as making apologies for historical wrongs to other ethnic groups. Former B.C. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ida Chong, who delivered the apology, quickly defended the apology’s sincerity, but didn’t deny that it was part of the strategy.

City sewer rates went into the toilet after city councillors voted to hike rates by 50 per cent, translating into $134 more on residential utility bills. And residents could also expect to pay eight per cent more in residential taxes this year.

And Ramji Dass, a patriarch in Port Alberni’s South Asian community, got a special present for his 90th birthday - a plaque signed by BC Premier Christy Clark. “This is quite a milestone for you, as you reflect on all that you have done and all that you have experienced over the years,” Clark wrote.

If McLean Mill National Historic Site’s steam sawmill was busier the city wouldn’t have to subsidize it so much, City Coun. Jack McLeman said. McLeman asked logging companies for log donations in exchange for tax deduction so McLean Mill can sell cut lumber.

The second of three people involved in a beating that left Port Alberni fisherman Bert McCarthy with a broken leg last summer was sentenced to one year’s probation for common assault.

Port Alberni’s centennial wrapped up. Among the legacies that were left were a year-long museum exhibit, banners depicting early pioneers, the carved wooden bear at Victoria Quay, a carved stone wishing well and a special DVD.

In business news, two of Port Alberni’s finest were nominated to Vancouver Island’s Top 20 Under 40. Britt Coulson, 26, and a manager with Coulson Aircrane, got the nod. And Sharie Marie Minions, 25, also picked up honours.

The Bulldogs were set to square off against the Nanaimo Clippers in the first two of five games in the opening round of the B.C. Hockey League Coastal Conference playoffs. “We have to get the greasy goals and get inside their house and bang away at the goal,” Bulldogs head coach Kevin Willison said.

Valley optometrist Shaun Golemba and his wife Shannon returned from a trip to Nicaragua. There, they and optometric assistant Lynn Lozinski conducted humanitarian work that included eye examinations, treatment and referrals.

An attack by a pitbull-boxer cross dog on Shelley and Mark Thorpe’s terrier left them with a hefty vet bill and frustrated with the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District. The ACRD doesn’t have a contract with the SPCA to impound stray or vicious dogs. The attacking dog in this case was left free to roam.

Zellers closed its doors for the final time on March 16. The city was trying to find a replacement owner for the three-storey building on Third Avenue at Mar Street. The building’s solid structure and area’s low uptown realestate prices attracted interest from at least one suitor – Wayne Coulson.

The third of three men involved in the beating of Port Alberi fisherman Bert McCarthy was sentenced in Port Alberni Provincial Court. Matthew Labadie, 22, was given a one-year suspended sentence for the beating of Bert McCarthy. Labadie was also given 11 months probation.

Elections were under way for the board of directors for the Alberni Athletic Hall. The new hall was two years old and lost amid the excitement of its opening was the generation of directors who grew old running the hall. “These guys are real legends, but some of them are having a hard time even getting around these days,” board member Larry Spencer said. “We need some new legends.”

In environmental news, the Tseshaht First Nation called on the provincial government to conduct more tests in Barkley Sound following the discovery of high levels of arsenic, selenium and cobalt near Toquart Bay. Tseshaht Chief Councillor Hugh Braker said he was concerned that pollution from the area would spread elsewhere. “This has the potential to turn into an environmental nightmare and economic disaster for the Tseshaht,” he said.

The Bulldogs owned the Victoria Grizzlies in the B.C. Hockey League Coastal Conference semi-final playoff series. The ‘Dogs beat the Grizz 4-3 in overtime to set up a fifth and final game in Victoria.


For half a century, a collection of Aboriginal art work made by Alberni Indian Residential School children sat in a dark store room. On March 30, the artwork was returned to the now adult students in a special repatriation ceremony at the Alberni Athletic Hall.

In an interview with the News, Alberni resident Stephon Dennis said he had plans of finding a job for the summer. Instead, he was spending the next several months recovering from a severely broken leg. Dennis was  one of three people who were hit and pinned by a pickup on Sixth Avenue on March 30. Charged with running Dennis and one other person down was Travis Ford, 19.

ACRD directors passed their $16 million budget on March 27. Regional district residents were slated to see a slightly more than one per cent increase in taxes this year.

The magical ride that was the Alberni Valley Bulldogs playoff run was now over. The Surrey Eagles beat the Bulldogs 5-2 at the Alberni Valley Multiplex to take the BCHL Coastal Conference title 4-0. “The guys gave, gave, and gave and didn’t deserve to be swept,” Bulldogs head coach Kevin Willison said.

Members of the Hupacasath First Nation re-elected incumbent chief councillor Steven Tatoosh to office. Tatoosh defeated former Hupacasath councillor Brenda Sayers 87-57 to win the top seat in the election . Also elected to council were Jim Tatoosh and Warren Lauder.

Mayor John Douglas confirmed that local lumber magnate Wayne Coulson was in the running to purchase the old Zellers building.

Port Alberni city council started playing hardball with Tidebrook Hotel property owner Jack Purdy, Councillors denied Purdy an extension to tear down the burned out restaurant on Gertrude Street.

Fewer letters, fewer stamp sales and less revenue prompted Canada Post to question keeping their Argyle Street outlet open. The postal giant started a community consultation process to guage the move. The measure was moot through. The outlet would soon close.

Maryann McConnell, owner of Alberni Valley Billiards and holder of numerous Canadian snooker and billiard titles, added to her already crowded trophy shelf. McConnell won three national titles at the Canadian Two-Sports Association Canadian Championships in Toronto.

Angel Magnussen said she wanted to help make hospitals a less scary place for children. To accomplish this, the keen 17-year-old started a non-profit company: Hugginz By Angel. The company’s aim was to outfit hospitals across the province with colourful flannel pajamas, gowns and blankets for children to wear during their stay, starting with West Coast General Hospital.

In tragic news, former Port Alberni resident Pat Jordan was found dead in Mexico. He was 64. Jordan, who lived in Vancouver, was on a jewellery buying trip in Taxco, Mexico when he was killed. Jordan was featured in the CBC documentary called ‘Young In A Small Town’.

Port Alberni Buy-Low Foods employee Gene Ray had just completed the Boston Marathon on April 15 just before two pressure cooker bombs exploded at the fish line. The explosion killed three people and injured an estimated 264 others.

Port Alberni realestate man Dave Kozegi put the call out for help to find his late father Bela’s prized possession: a 1968 Mercedes Benz 280SE. Koszegi has been searching for the car for almost five years.

In an interview with the News, Alberni resident Cecelia Bigstone said she wanted answers for what happened to her. Bigstone suffered a broken knee after a struggle with two RCMP officers on Eighth Avenue. The Independent Investigations Office was still investigating the matter.

One person was dead and seven others without a home after fire ripped through a Melrose Street complex on April 22. The fire was likely caused by a cigarette, Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley said.



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