South Peace News
In less than a year, Whitefish Lake First Nation will be enjoying the comforts of a brand new $2.3 million community hall.
“It’s a momentous day, a wonderful day,” said Chief Albert Thunder. “It’s been well over 20 years since we had a community hall.”
The band turned sod on the new building Oct. 2 at Atikameg, on the south side of Highway 749 about 2 kms after entering the reserve from the southwest.
The building measures 70 x 100 feet, or 7,000 square feet. It includes a full commercial kitchen, designed to blend in with shared space to an attached arena to the east, if later built. The washrooms will also be shared.
Seating capacity is 600 for events, with capacity of about 350 for seating and dining.
Seko Construction, of Edmonton, will construct the building. President/Partner Kurt Ostermann says they will start building within a “few weeks” with a completion date targeted for the spring of 2019.
Thunder says the hall will mean the community will no longer have to use the school, which hindered education. Classes were stopped during usage for wakes and funerals.
“We’ve been using the school for funerals,” he says. “In 5-10 months we will have a ribbon cutting and be enjoying a beautiful venue.”
Thunder, as well as other councillors present, praised the work of the previous band council and former Chief Robert “Jessie” Grey for their work in starting the project.
“I appreciate all the hard work the previous council did,” says Thunder.
“We need to do that. Pat someone else on the back when they do good.”
He also alluded to the recent Cows and Plows money received by the band, and promised it was all being used for the betterment of the band.
“Everything we’re doing is for the community. We want to continue working together. I see the community coming together. It can be strong if you make it happen.”
Councillor Darren Auger agreed and also praised the work of Grey. He said the community would not have to “cut into school time” by using the school for funerals.
“We wanted to build a community hall. We’ve needed one for a long time.”
He also noted the 5,500 square-foot common area would be larger than the school’s.
Councillor Hughie Tallman was pleased to see sod turned for the hall.
“We used to talk about this a lot,” he said. “I’d like to thank Jessie Grey [for] his vision of a hall for the community.”
Councillor Richard Laboucan was last to speak.
“We’ve needed something like this for a long time. This is Whitefish’s building. Be proud of it. It’s part of your community. I’m happy for Whitefish.”
The celebration was the second in less than three months. The band also officially opened the Whitefish Lake First Nation Children’s Park July 8 by the ball diamond.