Wheatland County Council unanimously voted in support of building a new seniors' lodge in Strathmore. Wheatland County was the last municipality to officially give its support, meaning the seniors' lodge project can move forward.
The Wheatland Housing Management Body (WHMB) has partnered with the Wheatland and Area Hospice Society (WAHS) to bring a new seniors' lodge to the community, which will be built near Kinsmen Lake in Strathmore. Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link said she and County Council are happy to support this, especially after hearing an overwhelming amount of community members who wanted to see this lodge built.
"This is a very important service and I have heard consistently from my colleagues so much that they value our seniors and caregivers in our community," Link said.
As it stands right now, the financial contributions in the form of a one-time capital requisition would be as follows
- Wheatland County contributing approximately $4 million
- Strathmore contributing approximately $2 million, which is a combination of an approximate $500 000 cash contribution and a land donation valued at approximately $1.4 million.
- Rockyford contributing approximately $30 000.
- Standard contributing approximately $45 000.
- Hussar contributing approximately $16 000.
Several questions and potential concerns by council were raised as well, meaning this support is conditional and could be retracted under certain circumstances. This isn't exclusive to Wheatland County though, as every municipality that gave their support has the option to pull away from the project if they feel that's necessary. With that being said, Reeve Link said she didn't want the County to be the reason this project was held back.
"For the most part I have heard very strong support for the Lodge, but at times I have heard concerns expressed as well about certain issues, so I will acknowledge that we do have further work to do in the future, but that doesn't need to stop this at this point."
"I was trying to strike the balance between doing our due diligence and not hindering the progression of operations for this proposal and for any other funding available from potentially the CMHC or through the developer."
One key point brought up by several councillors was that these are not hard numbers and are subject to change. The numbers changing could be a reason why the County or any party may want to pull their support, but that doesn't automatically mean that an increase to the new lodge's cost would result in pulled support.
For example, if there was a situation where the County's budget increased in the future and the costs for the lodge also increased, it's possible the County would be willing to support additional costs. This is all speculative though, as Reeve Link and the council made it clear that they support a new lodge and don't want to hold it back, but will continue going through the process of gathering specific information.
The idea of increasing costs was specifically addressed by Councillor Rick Laursen, who objected to the line of "the capital requisition not exceeding $3,985,914," in the motion of support, as he said this offered no flexibility were costs to increase.
"That's a pretty hard statement, we're saying that's absolutely all you're going to get, if budget changes and the project exceeds $3,985,915 then we're not doing it. So I think that's handcuffing us and I think that could be problematic in the future. That's going to have to cause us to open this up for no particular reason other than it may have changed by a few dollars," Laursen said.
Other factors to take into consideration are potential environmental concerns surrounding the land the new lodge is set to be built on. If environmental remediation is required and the costs of this are so great it devalues the land, this may be an important topic of discussion in the future.
Regardless of these concerns, at the moment County Council is unanimously in support of a new lodge, meaning the WHMB can move forward in trying to secure funding from other parties like the Alberta Government and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
The full motion passed by Wheatland County Council is as follows:
WHEREAS Wheatland County's Strategic Plan has identified that Council will evaluate the social, economic, and environmental fabric of County communities and will address any findings in a collaborative and engaging manner, incorporating strategies and outcomes in policy to improve and enhance the quality of life for ratepayers;
AND WHEREAS Wheatland Lodge provides needed accommodations for seniors in our community;
AND WHEREAS Wheatland Housing Management Body (WHMB) is proposing the development of a 120-unit Wheatland Lodge for a total cost of development of $52,739,184;
AND WHEREAS WHMB will be applying for the Province Partnership Program Grant for the amount of $7,140,000;
AND WHEREAS WHMB is requesting a one-time capital requisition from the following municipalities:• Wheatland County for the amount of $3,985,914 • Town of Strathmore for the amount of $1,966,625 in a mixture of monetary and non-monetary contributions, • Village of Rockyford for the amount of $30,224 • Village of Standard for the amount of $45,463 • Village of Hussar for the amount of $16,571
AND WHEREAS Council understands that the WHMB operating requisition will not increase due to the strengthened revenue stream model, which removes operational requisitions for the new lodge as presented on February 21, 2023;
AND WHEREAS the WHMB Board and Wheatland County Council will work towards a communication plan that conveys a mutual joint position on the project;
THEREFORE, be it resolved that:
Council commits to the development of a new 120-unit Wheatland Lodge contingent on:• the capital requisition not exceeding $3,985,914, to be implemented during the construction phase of the project, • the donation of non-monetary contributions taking into consideration any environmental mediation required, factored into the market valuation of the lands for the project, • the operating requisition not increasing due to the strengthened revenue stream model, which removes operational requisitions for the new lodge, • WHMB lobbying the Province for support and resources for the proposed development, • WHMB receiving the Province Partnership Program Grant in the amount of $7,140,000, • the proposed development receiving full regional support in the amounts provided for the one-time capital requisition, • the establishment of a communication strategy between the WHMB Board and Wheatland County Council that conveys a mutual joint position on the project;
AND THAT Council authorizes the Reeve to sign the attached letters to Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation and the Government of Alberta regarding the development of the 120-unit Wheatland Lodge, with the approved attached resolution for clarity and transparency of Council’s position.
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