Efforts continue to demolish old hospital

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, left, accepts a petition signed by 527 people, 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.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

So far, no luck, but there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Efforts by local authorities to have the old High Prairie Hospital demolished continued at a conference call meeting July 14 which included Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“It is a shovel-ready project that’s been put forward,” Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk told council during his report July 14.

“Put forward” means to the treasury department for consideration.

However, still no firm announcement as many have hoped.

Local area politicians, especially those on High Prairie town council, and High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce, want the unsightly and potentially dangerous building demolished. A petition started by the chamber in December 2019 drew 527 signatures. It was presented to Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn March 6.

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

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

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.

The petition cited three main areas of concern.

  1. The site is a significant liability to the Province of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, and the Town of High Prairie. Despite the Province of Alberta and Alberta Health Services being made aware of the safety and liability hazards, no action has been forthcoming.
  2. The site is a hazard having been broken into several times and on one occasion a fire was started.
  3. The site has been secured improperly and constitutes a significant safety hazard to any volunteer firefighter entering the premise.

Barry Sharkawi, president of the chamber, wants to avert danger before it occurs.

“People are aware it’s an eyesore and how dangerous it is…the safety of our community is at stake. There are kids running around. Someone will get hurt.”

A fire in the old hospital Sept. 18 reignited pleas to the provincial government to demolish the building. It also brought to light the dangers local firefighters face while fighting a fire in the building.

Sharkawi adds the site on Highway 2 is also prime location for future 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,” he says.

Rehn said in December AHS advised they do not currently have funding to demolish nor is there an identified use for repurposing the facility.

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

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