Work not completed

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn says many people played a part in the successful announcement of the hospital demolition. Left-right are a few of the people involved: Town of High Prairie Councillor Brian Gilroy, High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi, Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk, Big Lakes County Reeve Ken Matthews, High Prairie Health Complex site manager Janet Farney and Peace River MLA Dan Williams, on site at the old hospital.

MLA vows to lobby for local contractors

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn is “absolutely thrilled” that the Alberta government has listened to constituents and agreed to demolish the old High Prairie Hospital.

“It is important [the government] has seen the need for it,” says Rehn.

The Feb. 3 announcement was greeted locally with enthusiasm and saw to fruition the lobbying efforts of several years by many people.

Rehn says a lot of effort went into seeing the demolition project proceed including the ruling government, many letters and meetings from the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County councils, the High Prairie & Area Chamber of Commerce, and constituents.

Rehn thanks Barry Sharkawi and James Waikle for organizing and presenting the petition. The petition, signed by 527 area residents, was presented March 6, 2020 to Rehn by the High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce.

It all helped Rehn as he attended countless meetings with the government including Minister Travis Toews and every member of the Finance Committee including UCP MLAs Grant Hunter, Matt Jones, Ric McIver, Doug Schweitzer, Nate Horner, Rebecca Schultz, and Jason Stephan.

“All those people were wonderful,” says Rehn, adding they recognized the “urgency and priority” of the project.

“[Health Minster] Tyler Shandro was really helpful,” says Rehn.

The only problem, says Rehn, was “learning the ropes” when it came to moving the demolition project forward. As a rookie MLA, he was shuffled from office to office, meeting after meeting, before connecting with the right people.

“It didn’t happen in the last week or so,” says Rehn.

“It had to go through the appropriate departments.

“It was like a hot potato! Me, I was chasing it around. It was time consuming and a painstaking process to get to the right people in government.”

The project includes the demolition of the old hospital, J.B. Wood Nursing Home, and the old EMS station and garage.

Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government will continue to explore options with town council and other local stakeholders to discuss the future of the site.

“It’s a beautiful spot,” says Rehn. “What future plans can we have?”

Alberta Infrastructure, which is leading the project, will issue a request for proposal in the coming weeks for consulting services for the work.

Demolition of the buildings and remedia- tion of the land are expected to take about 10 months to complete.

Rehn attended town council’s meeting Feb. 9 and spoke about the project.

“Now I will make sure to stay on them and get a timeline,” he said.

“I’ll push to use local contractors to get it done.”

His statement should be welcomed by BLC Reeve Ken Matthews who said in an earlier interview, “Hopefully, it will provide much-need work for local contractors and suppliers.”

Until demolition work begins, AHS will continue to implement and monitor security measures to deter vandalism on the vacant buildings.

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