Mar 15

Bad grass leaves lawn customers livid after Toronto landscaper charges more than $500

Roma and Anthony Sapijonis of Etobicoke say they feel scammed after a Toronto landscaper contractor accepted more than $500 cash to prepare and re-seed their front lawn, which remains a weedy mess.

“He’s not a doctor or lawyer, he doesn’t deserve that kind of money,” said Roma, frustrated that the de-thatching and re-seeding didn’t take hold last month.

The soil used to root the grass is designed for gardens, not to reseed lawns.

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The retired couple say they were approached at their door by a sales representative from Five Star Lawn Care run by Mike Frustaci.

His website banner reads “sending students to school one lawn at a time” because it utilizes college and university students to sign up new customers and service lawns.

In an online recruiting video, several young people boast about how much money they can earn working at Five Star: one man claims he “earned $300 to $500 a day” with the company.

The Sapijonises say they called Five Star repeatedly to complain when the grass didn’t germinate.

They say Frustaci refused to give his last name when they threatened legal action in small claims court, at which point they say Frustaci hung up the telephone.

Global News approached Frustaci to ask why he didn’t respond to the couple’s frequent calls. Frustaci said he did return to their home at one point to add additional lawn seed and try to deal with the complaints. He admitted he did stop accepting the couple’s phone calls.

Following an interview with Global News, Frustaci went back to the couple’s home, apologized for the service they received, offered to re-seed the lawn and provide a $200 refund.

Global News intends to follow up and see if the work is actually performed.

Roma Sapijonis says she is unlikely ever to buy lawn care services at her door again after her experience with Five Star. She says she wants to warn others about the importance of checking out a company before paying for services.

“You feel like a fool and I don’t want others to feel the same way.”

Mar 15

Parents urged to communicate with their kids on National Missing Children’s Day

MONTREAL —; The Missing Children’s Network is launching a program called “Together for Safety” in an effort to stem the increasing number of missing children in the province of Quebec.

Pina Arcamone, the director of the network, said the incidents of missing kids jumped drastically in 2015.

“There is a 19 per cent increase [in missing children in Quebec] compared to the previous year,” she told Global News.

According to figures from the RCMP, about three-quarters of all missing children are runaways, and most are found within 24 hours.

To keep children from running away, the network is telling parents to keep in touch with their children.

Specifically, the network recommends watching their Internet use carefully, encouraging children to walk with a buddy, and using a family password in case of emergency.

The Missing Children’s Network speaks to students at École Barthelemy Vimont Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Caroline Lachance, mother of David Fortin, is seated left.

Billy Shields/Global News

Arcamone said that a recent alleged attempted kidnapping that occurred at Jeanne-Mance Park on Saturday is an isolated incident as most missing children are runaways, and most do return home.

But, some parents aren’t so lucky.

Caroline Lachance, the mother of David Fortin, 14, who’s been missing since February 10, 2009, told Global News she’s certain her son is alive, and said she still holds out hope she’ll see him one day.

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Mar 15

Palliser Regional Schools announces names of review panelists

The Board of Trustees of Palliser Regional Schools has announced the two individuals selected to conduct an independent, organizational review of the school system.

Dr. Terence Weninger resides in Lethbridge, while Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt is from Calgary. The two have agreed to conduct the review, set to start June 1 at the latest, and end Oct. 31 at the latest.

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    Dr. Weninger spent many years working in the Saskatchewan education system.  He has also served as Vice President of Administration and Acting Vice President, Academic at Medicine Hat College.  He has lived in Lethbridge since retiring as President of Yukon College in 2011.

    Dr. Williams-Whitt is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Management at the University of Lethbridge.  She has both an MBA and PhD from the University of Calgary and has an extensive background in issues such as conflict resolution, human resource management and workplace diversity.

    The board-approved budget for the work can not exceed $74,500.

    Superintendent Kevin Gietz requested the review back in January. He asked the board to approve an independent review of the school system in order to reduce distractions caused by numerous online allegations and rumors about him.

    READ MORE: Palliser superintendent takes leave amid delayed review into ‘culture of fear’

    An online petition started by a concerned parent group that gathered over 400 names is what prompted Gietz to ask for the independent review of  the Palliser board.

    The board agreed and formed a committee to recommend candidates to conduct the review.

    More information on the review process will be provided as it becomes available.

Mar 15

Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder spends day in wheelchair to raise awareness

Chris Schamber suffers from a spinal cord injury and now relies on a motorized wheelchair to get around. He faces accessibility challenges on a daily basis.

“I had my [accident] 29 years ago, and when I was walking around I didn’t notice things people in wheelchairs faced,” he said.

The 4th Annual Chair-Leaders Event is hoping to increase awareness of accessibility, or lack thereof, for people living with mobility issues.

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    “Barriers can be as simple as a curb or a step,” Dylan Adkins, regional coordinator for Spinal Cord Injury Alberta said. “For someone in a wheelchair, that’s something that is really difficult to get around.”

    To increase awareness, community leaders have volunteered to spend a day confined to a wheelchair, including Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder.

    “I think for me, this is an opportunity to really put myself in their shoes, so to speak,” Harder said.

    “I have the chance to go out into the community and really experience Lethbridge through the eyes of someone who relies on a wheelchair to get around on a day-to-day basis.”

    Schamber said by getting policy makers, like Members of Parliament and MLAs involved, things are more likely to change.

    “If we can get the people in charge to recognize things that need to be adjusted in the future, then the whole society will benefit,” Schamber said.

    WATCH: Tetra society helping people with disabilities

    Schamber took Harder on a tour of the city in a motorized wheelchair to demonstrate old and new infrastructure that is both helping and hindering those with mobility issues.

    Harder said it is important for her and other community leaders to see firsthand what barriers people in the community are facing.

    “I don’t think the common person understands exactly all of the barriers that are in place with regard to mobility in Lethbridge,” Harder said. “[That prevent those from] being able to access those community resources, which allow people to participate and really feel a part of our community.”

Mar 15

Amid economic downturn, suicide attempts in St. Albert spike to 1 per day

EDMONTON – An alarming new statistic was brought to St. Albert city council earlier this week. In the first three months of 2016, there was an average of one suicide attempt every day in the bedroom community north of Edmonton.

The information was supplied through a report put together by St. Albert Community and Social Development. The information was compiled using a number of sources, including St. Albert RCMP, local counsellors and community partners.

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    While the number is shocking, it doesn’t come as a surprise to Nicole Imgrund, founding director of Rivers Edge Counselling Centre in St. Albert. She said the centre has experienced a spike in calls in recent months and receives a couple of calls per day from people who don’t have access to insurance or the finances to pay for mental health services.

    “A lot of our current clients have experienced job loss or underemployment because of the economy and we get a lot more calls every day from people who don’t have the resources to pay for private care services either,” Imgrund said.

    READ MORE: Tracking the layoffs in Alberta’s oilpatch

    In some cases, the loss of a job comes with the loss of a sense of identity and purpose, Imgrund explained. That can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiousness and depression, she added.

    “Any major stressor like unemployment challenges people’s internal coping mechanism. Sometimes people just don’t have the internal resources to cope with that and when you put that together with not having high-quality relationships and support, and again that feeling of helplessness… it’s very difficult for people’s mental health and wellness.”

    READ MORE: 7 common suicide myths

    Chad Miller knows the struggle all too well. The father-of-three was laid off from his job in the oilfield last January. While he’s worked for a few weeks here and there, he’s really struggled to find steady work in Alberta’s current economic climate.

    “The downturn has affected me quite a bit for a number of reasons,” he said from home Wednesday as he tended to his 14-month-old daughter. “We’re sitting here at the end of the year and it’s time to pay the tax man: do you pay him or do you use it to live? And that’s when a lot of people are finding out how far in trouble they are.

    “There’s some trying times where you think, ‘you know what? Maybe the insurance on myself would be best and my family would be better off if something happened to me.’”

    READ MORE: One-third of Canadians at ‘high risk’ for mental health concerns: poll

    Knowing he couldn’t be the only one thinking these thoughts, Miller started the website oilfielddads长沙桑拿 in hopes of connecting with people in similar situations. He quickly learned he was not alone.

    “One of the first objectives for me, or first mission I guess, was to build a link for suicide prevention,” he said. “The realism is a lot of people think of that. Everybody in this situation has felt you know, ‘I might as well cash in.’ What’s the point in hanging around when you’ve got so much debt, so much taxes owed and there’s no way to get out of it?”

    READ MORE: Alberta suicide rate up 30%, province looking for answers

    In a video he put together on his website, Miller – now known as “oilfield dad Chad” – recognizes that everyone is fighting a battle. He hopes his website can be a place for people to come together and share their stories. Miller said he will make himself available to anyone who wants to talk about what they’re going through.

    “A lot of people might think they’re better off without them and nobody will notice. But you’re here for a reason,” he said. “It’s baby steps. It’s not like you’re going to come out of anything and just be 100 per cent.

    “Keep smiling and one foot in front of the other.”

    READ MORE: Laid-off oilfield dad becomes ‘Mister Mom’

    In a statement to Global News, Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said “accessible, effective mental health supports for at-risk Albertans is so important.”

    “The feedback we received during the mental health review showed there is a lot of work to do in this area. We want to see better access and more seamless treatment for people suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness.”

    In 2014, there were 531 suicide deaths in Alberta. In 2015, there were 547.

    If you are in need of immediate counselling or support, please contact the 24 hour Distress Line at 780-482-HELP (4357).

    Follow @CaleyRamsay