Chamber presents petition to MLA

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, left, accepts a petition from High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi urging the provincial government to demolish the old High Prairie Health Complex, The petition was presented March 6 with the former hospital site in the background.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A petition urging the provincial government to level the old High Prairie hospital was presented to the local MLA on site.

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn accepted the petition with 527 names March 6 by High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi.

“The petition will provide ammunition to stress the urgent need to clean up the site and concern by residents,” Rehn says.

“We’re going to try to get it done as soon as possible.”

He says he has been asking the cabinet ministers about a plan to clean up the site.

No funding was allocated in the provincial budget Feb. 27.

Rehn says the site has potential for future development.

Alberta Health Services’ “most recent estimates to demolish and remediate the site are in the range of $8.5 million”, says a report from Rehn’s office, South Peace News reported on Dec. 18, 2019.

James Waikle initiated the petition that was supported and led by the chamber.

Sharkawi and the chamber thank those who signed the petition.

“We’re sure more people are concerned about the site for the safety of everyone,” Sharkawi says.

He says the land along Highway 2 is prime location for development.

“A large derelict building on the main thoroughfare in town does not give potential investors confidence that High Prairie is a town that wants to grow and that people want to invest in,” Sharkawi says.

Rehn said in December AHS advised hey do not currently have money to demolish nor is there an identified use for repurposing.

“We’re exploring all options to see what makes the most sense,” Rehn says.

A fire in the old hospital complex last Sept. 18 reignited steps to plea the government to demolish the old building.

After the fire, Mayor Brian Panasiuk said he hopes the incident adds fuel to the fire to convince the government to level the old building.

“The building is an eyesore, it’s taking up prime land and it’s a hazard,” Panasiuk says.

“That fire and several break-ins prove that.”

Two male youths, both 15, were charged with arson in the incident.

The complex has been vacant since the new High Prairie Health Complex east of town opened in April 2017.

The old hospital is located on 10.46 acres of land.

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