In the late 80’s the
government decided that the old hospital in Blairmore was no longer efficient, effective and needed to be replaced. So the Crowsnest Pass got a new hospital the province then gave the old hospital and the seven acres it sat on to the municipality. A prime piece of property along side one of Alberta ’s major highways they also provided $150,000 to knock the building down. Alberta
Around that time a group of people saw the opportunity to develop in the
our very own version of the “Banff Centre” what an opportunity. You can imagine the thinking lets take that money hire a consultant to come in and do a “strategic study” which we can then use to move this community forward. Crowsnest Pass
Well the “study” was done a report provided that said take an old decrepit hospital pour $4-5 million into the building in capital improvements, subsidize for 3-4 years then we will have an attraction that will draw people here for many years to come and pay for itself.
Lots of people jumped on board and decided to move ahead, with several exceptions to the consultants report they did not put the $4-5 million up front into the building they did not subsidize it for 3-4 years, it ended up being 20 years. Worse of all at the end of that 20 years of trying to do our very own version of a convention centre on a nickel and dime budget, did we end up with a mini version of the Banff Centre or did we just have an old decrepit hospital?
During the last term of council 2007-2010 there was a majority of councilors that had the common sense to see that we could not afford the centre, and that we could not afford to not utilize that space for commercial opportunity. A majority but not all, I can remember the fight waged by Mayor Irwin, Councilors Taje and Mitchell to put a stop to what the vast majority of people in the Pass felt was the right thing to do.
We all heard the out cry the food bank will be out on the street, we will lose our education consortium, where will the people go when the highway is closed.
Time marched on the education consortium moved to the
MDM, the Food Bank is having its Grand Opening tomorrow of a brand new debt free building that will serve our community for many years to come. We had the highway closed just a short while back nobody froze to death, everybody was taken care of and three days later it was like it never happened.
Politically a new council was elected in 2010 with only one carry over from the Crowsnest Centre debate that being Councilor Mitchell an ardent opponent of getting rid of the Centre what impact would he have on this issue with the new council.
Well November 9 at the town hall meeting we got our answer surprisingly Mayor Decoux stood up and stated the following. “We has a community can not afford the Crowsnest Centre and we certainly can not afford to miss the commercial opportunity that site offers”.
What a vindication for myself and the other three councilors that had the intestinal fortitude to work through all the crap, the procedural stone walling, the lies put out to inflame the community, to do the right thing for this municipality.
Feb 21,2012 the following motion was moved by Councillor Saindon
“That Administration develop or have developed an Expression of Interest for a hotel development on the Crowsnest Centre property. This document and a
Press Release will be distributed to recognized developers and the public. Both documents will be presented at the
March 6, 2012 Council Meeting for Council approval and release”.
Even Councilor Mitchell an ardent supporter of the Crowsnest Centre who fought every step to get rid of this decrepit old hospital building agreed.
Now I turn to my concern on this issue 5-6 years ago administration recommended that council approve a new town shop in Coleman it was going to cost $3-400,000 but it would be financed by using grant money and reserves that would be replenished when the municipality sold the old Coleman shops.
Well as administration provided us with more information on the shop the cost ballooned to $1.3 million I kept pressing for an answer to how we would put the dollars back into reserves, well the theory was that those two old Coleman shops would be sold for $6-700,000 more than enough to build those reserves back up.
Thankfully Council based on the large price of building that shop and the believe that those shops would be up for sale for a long time had the sense to put a stop to the Coleman shop.
I see that administration is suggesting that council take money from reserves to demolish the Old hospital, our reserves are at $1.3 million its going to take a good chunk of that to demolish it. In this economy how long is it going to take to sell that property? It could be a while, do a Google search and see how many hotels are being built in rural Alberta outside of the prime tourism areas or in communities serving the oil and gas industry. Not many, why not offer the land for sale as is, if it costs $600,000 to rip the building down a buyer will just discount the price by that much. Do a conditional sale ABC hotels will buy the land Jan 1st 2013 subject to the building being gone prior to that date, those are just a couple of suggestions. There are many options that could be negotiated without cleaning out the reserves.
Never the less I do applaud “all” of this council for recognizing and confirming that this community could not afford the old hospital and for moving forward to bring commercial opportunities that will create jobs and pay taxes on that site. Just as I applaud former Councilors Cole, Macleod and Salus for having that same vision and the guts to stand behind it.