Se­niors re­joice

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT MCDER­MOTT vm­c­der­mott@post­media.com

Linda My­waart of the Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on Ag­ing, Mayor Don Scott, Joan Furber, Al­berta In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter San­dra Jansen and Mur­ray Craw­ford, se­nior op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for North­ern Lights Re­gional Health Cen­tre pose for a photo with their thumbs up fol­low­ing min­is­ter Jansen’s pre­sen­ta­tion on Wil­low Square progress at the Golden Years So­ci­ety in Fort Mc­mur­ray, Feb. 2, 2018. Jansen re­as­sured res­i­dents of the Prov­ince’s com­mit­ment to see con­struc­tion on Wil­low Square be­gin as early as the end of March 2018.

Con­struc­tion on a con­tin­u­ing care cen­tre at Wil­low Square is ex­pected to start this spring, Al­berta In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter San­dra Jansen an­nounced Fri­day, with a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony pos­si­bly com­ing by the end of March.

Dur­ing an af­ter­noon press con­fer­ence and com­mu­nity meet­ing at the Golden Years So­ci­ety, Jansen pre­sented im­ages and a video show­ing off plans for the build­ing, which is ex­pected to cost $110 mil­lion. It will have 144 spa­ces and room to ex­pand with the com­mu­nity.

Most im­por­tantly, it is at the lo­ca­tion the se­niors have been de­mand­ing for years.

“You have been in­cred­i­bly pa­tient in the wait for Wil­low Square and I think that’s an un­der­state­ment,” said Jansen. “We said we would build this fa­cil­ity and I am here to tell you we’re on track to be­gin con­struc­tion this spring.”

Im­ages and videos showed a build­ing with large win­dows to al­low nat­u­ral light to flow in, while out­side an “in­ter­gen­er­a­tional park” will pro­vide a space for se­niors and fam­ily mem­bers of all ages.

A se­ries of path­ways will make mov­ing around the fa­cil­ity and get­ting to lo­cal tran­sit easy for dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als.

Mod­ern con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als will make it more en­ergy ef­fi­cient, leav­ing a small en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print.

The fa­cil­ity will be de­signed by S2 Ar­chi­tec­ture, which has de­sign of­fices in Cal­gary and Ed­mon­ton. Con­struc­tion will be done by Pomer­leau Inc., which is based in Que­bec City and has of­fices across Canada.

Jansen con­firmed con­struc­tion will be com­pleted by the end of 2019, with peo­ple mov­ing into the fa­cil­ity in the spring of 2020. This was a time­line promised by Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley dur­ing a brief tour of the Ja­pan Canada Oil Sands’ (JACOS) Hang­ing­stone fa­cil­ity south of Fort Mc­mur­ray in Septem­ber.

“I’m go­ing to be keep­ing close tabs on this project,” said Jansen. “It is on time and we’re go­ing to make sure it stays that way.”

Mayor Don Scott said any out­stand­ing per­mit­ting is­sues are be­ing ex­pe­dited so con­struc­tion can be­gin as soon as pos­si­ble. In the mean­time, coun­cil will con­tinue “twist­ing the arm” of the prov­ince on when con­struc­tion of an ag­ing in place fa­cil­ity can be­gin.

“This is re­ally about hon­our­ing those who built the re­gion and many of you were part of that,” he said. “Now you can look for­ward to be­ing hon­oured in your re­tire­ment.”

The spot at the cor­ner of Hospi­tal Street and Franklin Av­enue has dom­i­nated lo­cal pol­i­tics since at least 2006, when for­mer pre­mier Ed Stel­mach first an­nounced the land was a pri­or­ity for this fa­cil­ity.

In 2008, Stel­mach an­nounced plans to be­gin build­ing a $35-mil­lion, 48-bed long-term care cen­tre. The next year, then-health min­is­ter Ron Liepert said the project was no longer a pri­or­ity for the prov­ince, due to Wood Buf­falo’s grow­ing younger pop­u­la­tion.

This sparked a pub­lic feud be­tween for­mer coun­cil­lor Guy Boutilier, who was then an MLA with the PCS, and Stel­mach. The feud ended in Boutilier’s ejec­tion from the Tory cau­cus in 2009.

In Novem­ber 2014, the prov­ince un­der for­mer pre­mier Jim Pren­tice bought the three-quar­ters of the land owned by the fed­eral Canada Mort­gage and Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.

“I am proud of the se­niors in our com­mu­nity who never gave up and want them to know their per­sis­tence has paid off,” said Tany Yao, Fort Mc­mur­ray-wood Buf­falo MLA with the United Con­ser­va­tive Party, in a state­ment.

In a rare show of bi­par­ti­san­ship, Jansen ac­knowl­edged the ad­vo­cacy of Yao and Fort Mc­mur­ray-con­klin MLA Brian Jean; the two posed for pho­tos to­gether af­ter Yao greeted her with a gift bag wel­com­ing her to the re­gion.

Coun­cil­lor Phil Meagher, who is the long­est serv­ing mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lor since first be­ing elected in 1995, joked there was a time he be­lieved con­struc­tion at Wil­low Square would be an­nounced af­ter he him­self had moved into a con­tin­u­ing care cen­tre.

“We’ve been through this be­fore and as soon as we see the shov­els in the ground, we’ll be­lieve it. We’ve been told the sto­ries be­fore,” he said. “It’s good to still be a part of this.”

Joan Furber, pres­i­dent of the Golden Years So­ci­ety, said she was im­pressed with the de­signs and said she was also anx­ious to see con­struc­tion be­gin.

Ide­ally, her hope is many se­niors who wanted to stay in Fort Mc­mur­ray but had to leave will re­turn. Her broth­erin-law, who was born in Fort Mc­mur­ray, is one of those in­di­vid­u­als.

“I’m not sure if a lot of se­niors who wanted to stay will re­turn, but my hope is some will come back,” she said. “Some we never ex­pected may come back.”

VIN­CENT MCDER­MOTT/ FORT MC­MUR­RAY TO­DAY/ POST­MEDIA NET­WORK.

VIN­CENT MCDER­MOTT/ FORT MC­MUR­RAY TO­DAY/ POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

De­signs for Wil­low Square, pre­sented by Al­berta In­frstrucutre Min­is­ter San­dra Jansen at the Golden Years So­ci­ety, Fri­day, Feb. 2, 2018.

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