Kneehill County will move forward with the process to support the Town of Trochu’s proposed $20 million seniors housing project. The decision was made by a 5 to 2 vote at the Feb. 8 regular meeting of council and broadcast on youTube.
After staff presentations and comments from Mayor Barry Kletke and Trochu Housing Authority’s Sam Smalldon, councillors passed a motion from Coun. Ken King that Kneehill County proceed with a process that would allow completion of bylaws required to support the Town of Trochu to borrow up to $20 million for up to four years for a seniors housing project.
Conditions included capital grants being received, that life lease units be 90 per cent pre-sold and a four year commitment from the date the town and county sign an agreement.
Coun. Faye McGhee and Glen Keiver were opposed.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen stated staff recommended turning down the town’s request based on the risk to county taxpayers.
“The town does not have the capacity to finance this borrowing themselves without ministerial approval, and have asked the county to provide financial backing to allow financing to occur and provide cash flow during project construction, should such be needed,” stated Haugen in his report.”
Haugen noted the Municipal Government Act (MGA) allows such a request in a number of ways, but they all require a bylaw and public hearing process before third reading could be approved.
“The Town of Trochu is proposing a senior’s living complex be constructed within the Town of Trochu…If the project were to move forward and the objectives of the business case were not met, there may be negative consequences that threaten the viability of the Town of Trochu,” stated Haugen.
Haugen stated councillors should keep in mind if they approved the request, it may encourage other groups to come forward with similar requests.
Coun. Wade Christie stated he was disappointed with the tone of the staff memo and stated he contacted a number of people in his division and found the rural community is very much in favour of a project like this.
He stated he felt the public hearing process would illustrate this.
Kletke and Smalldon answered a number of questions from Coun. King, including the county wouldn’t be borrowing money, simply guaranteeing the town’s efforts to borrow money and there is demand for this service in the Trochu draw area.
A survey showed over 60 people voiced interest in this project and a timeline of five years was proposed to accommodate the provincial government grant process.
Other points made were the pre-selling 90 per cent of the life lease units, design, construction of the facility, and that newer facilities are more attractive to residents than older ones and that the project would not proceed without government capital grants.
Smalldon stated Covenant Health has voiced interest in a facility in Trochu.
Coun. Keiver asked how long it would take to pre-sell 90 per cent of the life lease units.
Smalldon stated, for this project, perhaps six months.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock asked if the total $32 million budget was an engineer’s estimate, to which Smalldon responded the figure was an estimate including inflation from 2016.
CAO Haugen noted that any motions put forth by council would be to proceed with the process of passing bylaws to accommodate a support request, not approving the request, as obligations such as bylaws and public hearings must be met.
Coun. McGhee stated she liked the project but wondered why county ratepayers would be involved in what appears to be the download of provincial responsibilities.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter