At a recent Town of Strathmore council meeting, Councillor Jason Montgomery presented a report on the proposed Wheatland hospice and lodge build.

Montgomery started his presentation by explaining to council what the new lodge would offer residents.

"The new lodge will provide rooms, meals, housekeeping services, and recreational opportunities for independent seniors."

The Wheatland Lodge development project was estimated to cost $52,739,184.

Montgomery then said that according to the Government of Alberta's website, applicants must be 65-years-of-age or older and be functionally independent, with or without the assistance of community-based services.

Councillor Brent Wiley expressed during the presentation that residents seemed to misunderstand that these services would be offered at the lodge, so Montgomery was asked to clarify a few things.

"Just to clarify, this is just for people without assistance?"

Montgomery responded by saying this is what the Alberta government's website states.

"What you're referring to is the different levels of care, such as supported living and then supported living D, which is Dementia, and those are provided at facilities that will not be the lodge."

Montgomery explained that the proposed lodge is around $60 million and will be paid for by potential provincial grants, including the Affordable Housing Partnership program.

According to the Wheatland Housing Management Body, it was not successful in its recent grant application to the Affordable Housing Partnership Program (AHPP) for its new build project.

"Last year, the WHMB came to council asking for a letter of support because they were going to be applying for around $7,000,000 for that grant. They're now up to asking for $8,000,000 for that grant," says Montgomery.

Montgomery said during the meeting that the new lodge is expected to cost that much. This amount is for the lodge alone and does not include the construction of the hospice portion. 

"The land contribution from the town is expected to be worth $1.4 million, and the WHMB will contribute $800,000. The municipal contribution will be $4.65 million, and the provincial grant that was applied for is $18.8 million."

Montgomery said that if the grant does not come through, they will run into problems.

"The projected operating expenses for years one to three, which includes debt servicing, will be $1.4 million per year."

Wiley interjected, saying he was still trying to get around Montgomery's numbers. 

"The thing that's stuck in my head is that operating this lodge will cost the residents of Strathmore no more than a pizza a year. That number just stuck with me. So, we were talking about a tax increase of $55 per resident," Wiley said.

Montgomery told council that the Town of Strathmore and Wheatland taxpayers are responsible for covering the Wheatland Housing Management Body's losses for the preceding year.

"However much that may be, and covering this loss is not optional, we are bound to do it. They give us a bill," said Montgomery.

Councillor Denise Peterson spoke up, explaining that funding the lodge was voted on long ago.

"We don't say we fund the loss, and it's not optional, so my question to you, Councillor Montgomery, is, do you support the lodge?"

Montgomery refused to answer Peterson's question and continued with his presentation, much to the dismay of residents watching. 

An unnamed resident stood at the council meeting to address Montgomery and his presentation. 

"We've all stayed here and waited this out to say that you have a responsibility with your platform to provide a balanced view." 

The resident then says that it is extremely disappointing to her as a citizen to see Montgomery present his view on the lodge according to "his 'cherry-picked' data."

"It's upsetting to see how you conducted yourself and framed this information, which is not one that people will not pay attention to because of your position. And I would encourage you to be mindful of that in the future," the resident left off with.

Montgomery said he feels sorry that she feels the way she does.

"This presentation was very balanced and was intended to be very neutral. The numbers that I portrayed are all from the subject matter experts, and they're from the consultants hired by Wheatland Housing by the Hospice Society." 

According to a Facebook post made by Denise Peterson, WHMB approved updates on the funding model on the WHMB & WAHS websites.

The next update will be posted after June 27, once the board has examined and approved the lead consultant's latest data.

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