Brian Panasiuk, Mayor,
Town of High Prairie
Council attended the Alberta Urban Municipalities Conference in Red Deer Oct. 26-18. During the conference, council was able to attend many educational sessions, plus we also met with many ministers and government departments to ensure the concerns of High Prairie are heard. Below is a summary of the ministers we met with and the concerns raised.
Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman, regarding health needs of the area including the need for dialysis, chemotherapy and Level III care for seniors. The minister confirmed the opening of obstetrics and is excited to come to High Prairie to the opening of the maternity ward In November. We also discussed the demolition of the old hospital site and explored options of working with the Province to find a timely process. The Minister shared that a review of the High Prairie Hospital operations is being conducted currently and the minister will be sharing the findings with council soon.
Met with Minister Brian Malkinson, Service Alberta, to discuss Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County broadband initiative and the upcoming pilot projects in High Prairie and Joussard scheduled to start in spring of 2019. The committee is looking for financial support from the ministry that will allow access to federal infrastructure dollars.
Met with Jennifer Massig, Principal, MAGNA Engineering Services, to discuss options for the High Prairie pilot broadband project that will go forward in the spring. The committee would like to proceed with as much of the High Prairie business core as possible to enhance broadband to as many local business properties.
Met with Alberta Transportation, received confirmation that the intersection upgrade requirement for the Husky Oil development permit has been approved and an extension on the Tim Hortons development permit was also granted. The current permit expires prior to the construction start date of spring 2018; therefore, an extension was needed.
Met with Minister Sigurdson’s staff to ask for support to decommission part of the 55 social housing units currently held by Heart River Housing as part of a total strategy to shift from single family social housing to a multi-unit build to improve efficiencies and costs as well as allow current residents in some of the single family homes to become owners with a supported housing purchase program. Our current inventory of 55 social housing units far exceeds most other communities of similar population and size, and units are not taxable causing increase costs to the local taxpayers. Council thanked the ministry for the funds they supplied to do a needs assessment for senior and social housing in High Prairie.
Met with RCMP regarding the Dog Handler position that is supposed to be coming to High Prairie. They have had problems filling the positions so they will be changing the position from a corporal to a constable position to secure younger or new members who have expressed interest.
Met with Minister Richard Feehan, Indigenous Relations, regarding concerns with issues about providing infrastructure for our surrounding First Nations and Metis communities with limited tax base and no additional support. We live in an area that is home to 40 per cent of Alberta’s First Nation and Metis and wants to introduce the minister to the funding challenges we have to support infrastructure of a trading area approximately 30,000 in population with approximately 1,200 tax paying residents. Minister Feehan has offered to facilitate a meeting to discuss a collaborative approach to infrastructure funding and assist us with presenting that collective support to the federal government.