Editorial – History repeating itself?

Jeff Burgar

Every so often, somebody throws a monkey wrench into things and the whole machine of good intentions and wonderful possibilities collapses.

High Prairie’s new hospital? A great project combined with a continuing care facility that is second to none.

Back in the day, 15 years or so ago, then High Prairie mayor George Keay refused to take “maybe” or “no” or “let’s renovate the old hospital instead.” High Prairie people lined up to piddle on Keay’s idea of a new hospital. There was no end of experts from Edmonton and the Government of Alberta visiting to tell Keay, and other citizens, a new hospital would never happen. He was told again and again to “Play ball” or “Join the team” or “Be a good citizen and shut up, otherwise we will never even get the old hospital fixed up.”

The results of Keay’s, and all the other people who got off their particular bandwagons and joined him, are as big as daylight, and a credit to the entire region, on the east side of High Prairie.

Now, take another interesting project – The High Prairie Sports Complex. Uh, say what? Residents of the region may remember the “Live the Dream – Join the Team” from years back. Yes, there was a dream. An integrated dual arena, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, running track and just about anything else one could imagine in an integrated facility to be built on land to the north of High Prairie’s Provincial Building. There were questions, of course. Why build two new arenas when the Sports Palace seems perfectly good? The answer for that was simple – it’s a 50-year-old building that needs work. Probably best to just tear it down. And of course, there isn’t enough parking. Etc. Etc. Add to that what every out-of-town expert brought in who said, “Never, ever, ever build a swimming pool all by itself. The operating costs of a stand alone facility are enormous.” So, the whole community got behind “The Dream.” It was not a matter of “If.” It was a matter of “When.”

The first monkey wrench was tossed by then mayor John Brodrick. He announced that ground would be broken on Phase One – an indoor pool. The second wrench came when mayor Brodrick announced a deal with the High Prairie School Division. The pool would be part of E.W. Pratt High School, sharing mechanical and a whole bunch of other stuff. This would keep costs down. Remember, “Never ever build a stand alone swimming pool” But, that’s exactly what happened in the end.

People are now familiar with the excellent Gordon Buchanan Recreation Centre. And guess what! That “old” Sports Palace sure looks good for an old gal.

Such history comes to mind as local governments work on what started out as an Integrated Northern Lakes College Campus. It was a great idea being joined with the new hospital. Then it got joined with the school districts. Now there is a panic in some quarters to just get dirt moving.

Good things happen when people work together. When they are heading off with their own agendas, or coming up with boogymen catastrophes that might happen, or for heaven’s sakes, meeting behind closed doors like a few weeks ago, well, these things can easily come to not the best of results.

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