Beating caused brain damage: trial

The victim of a downtown beating testified in court Monday that the last thing he saw before losing consciousness was a two-by-four about to strike his face.
Edward Demas, 55, was testifying before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Jim Foster at the York trial of Timothy Knowles, 20.
Knowles is charged with aggravated assault and robbery.
Demers touched the right side of his face several times as he spoke, explaining that he still had no feeling there.
His speech is slurred and he suffers short-term memory loss.
“My doctor says I have brain damage,” he said.
Demers’ right leg was also injured in the attack and he now limps.
He said he suffers severe headaches and is under a doctor’s care. He cannot work and receives AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) from the province.
Demers said the day …

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Business concerned by city tax hike

The steep increase in this year’s city budget is likely to stir mixed responses in the business community, says the president of the York Chamber of Commerce.
“I guess my reaction is it’s high,” said Don Oszli, said of the 6.7 per cent municipal tax increase approved by city council Monday night.
The chamber had pencilled in the inflation rate as a reasonable increase.
“I think you’re going to see a mixed reaction. I think you’re going to see some thinking that it was probably inevitable.”
It was probably unrealistic for people to expect the city to continue to bring back no tax increases as it did for a number of years in the 1990s, he said.
The size of the increase may not sit well with some who will prefer that it be spread over two years.
Oszli said …

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Council pay review set for April

York city councillors unanimously approved a 3.25 per cent raise for themselves and managers Monday.
The increase — which matches last year’s — will boost councillors’ annual wages to $16,765 from $16,240.
The mayor’s salary will increase to $68,490 from $62,845.
The city’s top wage earner, city manager Norbert Van Wyk, will see his salary increase to $133,400 from $129,200.
About 75 non-unionized staffers will receive the increase, which will add $220,000 to the city’s $117 million operating budget.
Some councillors spoke in support of the formula tying councillors’ raises to that approved for managers, superintendents, supervisors, directors and some specialists.
But others have questioned whether councillors’ workloads have grown to the point where it’s time to boost paycheques.
“It should be $30,000 to $36,000,” said Councillor Jeffrey Dawson.
In the last 25 years, council has gone from a one-third …

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Drugs, sex and safety

Club Safe York isn’t the newest lounge in the city but members are very familiar with local raves, the after-hour club and the bar scene.
Club Safe is a group of about 10 volunteers, age 18 to 27, promoting safe sex and providing information on the serious health risks of street drugs.
They’ve visited clubs and music festivals since summer, distributing condoms, and suckers with drug warnings labels.
Club Safe co-co-ordinator Michelle Lewis said it’s all about harm reduction.
“We see the big picture on how it will affect the community in the long run,” Lewis said. “York is getting to be a bigger centre and it’s getting to see the problems of Calgary or Edmonton.”
People are ignoring many dangers — AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and drug overdoses, she said.
“There’s also a lot of kids mixing …

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Mission of faith

Nearly 200 York children would be seized by mid-day hunger pangs if they didn’t get a free brown-bag lunch each school day from Loaves and Fishes.
The York Christian charity that spooned out its first Thanksgiving dinner for the needy 12 years ago is still trying to meet the basic need of providing food for the hungry.
So, as well as serving three hot meals a week at its 54th Avenue mission, Loaves and Fishes volunteers deliver more than 30,000 lunches to needy kindergarten to high school students each year.
The lunch program started in 1999 after a school liaison worker noticed several youngsters were coming to school without bringing anything to eat, said Loaves and Fishes director Gerry Hunt.
Word spread quickly, and now Loaves and Fishes lunches are taken to hungry students at almost every city school.
While …

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School buses crash, one man hurt

Sixteen students were shaken up after back-to-back school bus accidents occurred Thursday morning at the same fog-bound rural intersection.
The Innisfail-area students were not injured. Neither were the two bus drivers.
But the collisions, which, involved a third vehicle, left a 53-year-old male with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
According to the Innisfail RCMP Freeway Patrol, the front end of a southbound school bus with two students on board went off the road. The bus was attempting to turn at the T-intersection of Range Road 272 and Township Road 350 just before 8 a.m.
Visibility was poor and roads were snow covered when a one-ton pickup truck stopped to try to help move the bus, which partially extended across the road.
At about 8:05 a.m., a second school bus carrying 14 students was travelling westward toward the same foggy T-intersection.
The …

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Teacher job cuts, class size growth predicted by board

Grappling with a nearly $1-million shortfall, the York Public School District is forecasting teacher job cuts and growing class sizes unless the province provides more money.
“We’re looking to see what’s on the horizon, and it looks bleak,” said school board chair Cindy Jefferies, who called a press conference Wednesday to sound the alarm for education.
Jefferies said York residents should know the school district was already forced to freeze eight teaching positions, cut $300,000 from classroom resources, and defer maintenance projects to get by in the current fiscal year.
Without additional provincial dollars for the coming year, Jefferies warned York public schools will likely face a deficit, necessitating further staff cuts and growing teacher-student ratios.
“This year’s shortfall has had a major impact, and next year’s will be even greater, unless more government funding is provided,” she said. “It’s …

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Mills gets riding boundary changes overturned

Central Alberta communities set to be excluded from the York riding should remain, according to a federal government election boundary review committee.
The committee announced its recommendation Thursday.
The Alberta Electoral Committee has 30 days from the date of the announcement to review the recommendation and make the final decision on whether Rocky Mountain House, Eckville, Blackfalds and Caroline will stay in the riding.
In 2013 the commission proposed the size of the York riding be reduced. It wanted it to run east to Hwy 2, skirting the edge of York, north to Hwy 11, west to Secondary Hwy 766, and south just past Innisfail, excluding Bowden.
York MP Bob Mills doesn’t want to see Rocky Mountain House, Eckville, Blackfalds and Caroline added to other ridings.
“It will make a larger (York) riding, but I can reach all those populations …

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Lightning’s jolt lifted janitor off his feet

Janitor John Rozik was quietly going about his business on the third floor of the four-storey Michener Centre administration building when something lifted him off his feet.
That was Wednesday night, when lightning was believed responsible for a devastating fire that destroyed the roof and seriously damaged the third and fourth floors.
“I was cleaning up there on the third floor and the lightning struck so hard, it kind of threw me against the wall.”
In retelling the experience Thursday, Rozik admits he’s not sure if it was the force of the lightning bolt that picked him up or if he jumped in fear.
He could smell smoke almost immediately, and headed out of the building.
He told a fellow employee who was on her way in to work to go home, and the only other person in the building, …

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