Editorial – Absolutely shocking

Jeff Burgar

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it really fall?

If a bombshell explodes in front of your face, and you just ignore it, did it really go off?

Those are questions one may well ask of High Prairie movers and shakers as they stroll about their respective duties and jobs.

Hey, you sleepy heads! Did you just hear the bombshell news Northern Lakes College won’t be building their new campus on the High Prairie School Division [specifically, the High Prairie Elementary School] site?

As in, “Wow, once again an opportunity to really make a difference in High Prairie jumps up and hits you smack in the noggin!”

Are you going to sleepwalk through it?

For those nice folks who just moved to the area, let us recap. A few years ago, NLC, which operates 25 different campuses across northern Alberta, decided it was time to build a better base in High Prairie. The present base is located right north across Highway 2 from A&W and Keys Inn.

An idea was to build an Integrated College Campus with the new hospital. That didn’t work. So, enterprisingly, NLC worked with HPSD and Holy Family Separate School Division on building a “tri-school” multi-purpose building. Some people hoped it could be built on the now vacant, old hospital site right north of St. Andrew’s School.

As time went on, and not in any order of timing, money was promised by the Alberta provincial government. There were some off the record meetings. The HPSD last year made empty land available beside the present HPE.

Last October, this became one of the election issues in High Prairie. Many people didn’t like the elementary school site. They pushed for extra effort by local government to get the now abandoned hospital site cleaned up and the new joint school facility built there.

Meanwhile, NLC warned that, no matter what, they were going to start building in 2018. This, in case their government money disappeared if the project was delayed and government started belt-tightening.

It was also made clear the existing site, much of which is empty land, was just too small for future growth.

Well, the election is long over. Those in favour of the HPE site won. And now the bomb has exploded with the HPSD pulling out of the deal. Can that site be saved? Is there a Plan B?

NLC can be a huge driver in the local economy. Most students come from the local region. There is empty land everywhere, including the HPE site. Enough not only for a new campus, but for student housing too. Moving from west to east, there is the west area by Big Lakes County offices, conveniently owned by the Town of High Prairie. There is Shybunia land. Husky or Loblaw land. The old hospital site. Peavine subdivision. Even farmland north and south. Deals can be made if the will is there.

Trees fall. Bombs go off. Opportunity knocks. Is anybody in our local governments listening?


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