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Town Council double booked, mayor stays for Dreeshen visit

Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors Devin Dreeshen made a stop in Elk Point on April 24, following his visit to Bonnyville earlier in the day.

ELK POINT – April 24 proved a very busy day and evening for Elk Point town council, with Mayor Parrish Tung, CAO Ken Gwozdz and all of council joining County of St. Paul Division 2 Coun. Kevin Wirsta and the Aarbo family at the Outrider Truck Stop on Highways 41 and 646 for a meeting with Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors Devin Dreeshen.

The minister, who had been in Bonnyville and made an announcement regarding Highway 28, was delayed, and when council's meeting time approached, Deputy Mayor Tim Smereka, Gwozdz and the councillors headed back to council chambers to meet with three delegations that were on the agenda.

Mayor Tung, Coun. Wirsta and former area MLA Ray Danyluk remained to greet the minister, which Loree Reynolds, speaking on behalf of her parents, Harvey and Elaine Aarbo and brother Aaron, said was “a rare opportunity to have a provincial minister in the area.” She told the minister and MLA Dave Hanson that the Aarbo family is “looking at giving the historic truck stop a modern upgrade” which would be part of a beautiful southern gateway to the town that is included in a soon-to-be-released area structure plan.

However, although the renovation, which would include a marketplace where local products could be sold, and electric vehicle charging stations, would be allowed through a grandfathering provision, continued access to the site is proving a problem for permission.

The truck stop site shares access with Kings Energy’s fueling station, with the truckers leaving the site east of the truck stop and turning onto Hwy. 646, and has asked for an access agreement for that, but “Alberta Transportation wants us to fence across the whole north side,” which would make access to both Outriders and Kings difficult.

The roadside along the north side of the Aarbo property is used by RCMP and the Department of Transportation for check stops, Aaron noted, “and we want it to remain like it is.”

The request to fence off the site’s second access had Dreeshen shaking his head. “It’s silly to grant you only one access. You will design it with traffic patterns in mind, and I will talk to the department, and when it’s finished, I would love to come back and see this. ”

Having a government that supports growth and development “is so important,” Harvey Aarbo said, after thanking Mayor Tung, Minister Dreeshen and MLA Hanson for their visit.

Acres for Ice

The display of the site plan and drawings of the proposed renovation also included the logo of another project underway, Acres for Ice, which caught the minister’s eye. Reynolds explained that the group “put together by a group of awesome farmers” to raise money to replace the aging ice plant in A. G. Ross Arena, led her parents and Aaron to donate the use of the land north and west of the intersection, which was offered to sponsors in one-acre and half-acre blocks, almost all of them sold, with the proceeds going to seed and harvest the crop to raise the required funding.

“It was just a small group of us,” said Aaron. “Johnnie Grykuliak came up with the idea. Our arena is in a state of disrepair, with the ice plant the biggest issue. Fifty years ago, a group of hardworking men built that arena, which will shut down if we can’t put an ice plant in. If the arena closes, there will be no incentive for families to be here, and youth are the lifeblood of our community.”

He added that Acres for Ice “is turning into a major success” with seed, fertilizer, most of the chemicals supplied and agricultural equipment dealers offering to do the work.

“We won’t have to lift a finger… and we hope we can get a decent crop," he said, adding, “It’s been a successful little project, everyone in the community has stepped up. We’re committed to a three-year project and could extend it to five. Our real dream is to have a new arena, and to build a legacy. None of this happens without support like Ray Danyluk gave us at the Provincials tournament,” referring to the record number of loonie stick purchases he sold to swell the repair fund.

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