Heart River’s plan endorsed by Big Lakes

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Big Lakes County has thrown its support behind a $7.4 million expansion project to add 20 units onto High Prairie Pleasantview Lodge in 2021.

Council agreed unanimously at its July 22 meeting to write Heart River Housing a letter of understanding to that effect.

A second part of Heart River’s proposal would also add 10 units onto Villa Beausejour at Falher at a cost of $3.64 million.

In 2020, Heart River added about $1 million to its budget. It increased Big Lakes County’s requisition to about $425,000 from $220,000 in 2019, said Heather Nanninga, director of corporate services.

High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Don Charrois immediately asked about the future impact on the taxpayer.

“They [Heart River Housing] determine the budget,” replied Nanninga. “They basically send us a bill and we kind of have to pay it.”

The only control Big Lakes County has is through their representative on the board, which is currently Ken Matthews.

However, he represents only one of 11 member municipalities.

“It’s the same as school taxes,” said Matthews of Heart River’s power to requisition. “We don’t have a whole lot of choice.”

Matthews added; however, that studies and stats show the need is there for the two additions. Heart River reports the waitlist at Pleasantview Lodge is 50 while future seniors’ housing needs in the Smoky River region shows a “major increase” in housing is needed in the next 25 years.

“So the burden at the end of the day falls on our taxpayers?” asked Charrois.

“Yes,” replied Matthews.

Heart River proposes to borrow $11 million to build the additions. Heart River’s 11 member municipalities would each pay based on equalized assessment. All 11 members are being asked to support the plan.

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