Location confirmed for Pioneer Lodge

by Phil Ambroziak

“You can’t compete with free land.”

That was Flying Dust First Nation project manager Richard Derocher’s reaction following a recent decision by the Prairie North Regional Health Authority to develop the new Northland Pioneer Lodge on a parcel of land located near the city cemetery on Highway 4. The decision came last week, shortly after Jake and Eve Danilkewich donated the property to the health region. Prior to this, PNHR had been in discussions with Flying Dust to build the new lodge on property leased from the First Nation.

“We were in discussions with the health region for close to two-and-a-half years and we thought the deal was close to coming to a finish,” Derocher continued.

Derocher went on to say he can relate to the health region’s decision, adding his outlook on what the project could have meant had it been built on Flying Dust land.

“In our mind there was a bigger picture,” he said. “The municipality of Meadow Lake, Flying Dust and the health region were all partnering to make something bigger for our community rather than just a building. It would have been an opportunity to build inroad relationships. This decision is a little disappointing, but I understand the economics of business – it’s difficult not to understand where the health region stands.”

PNHR vice-president of development Lionel Chabot said due diligence was used to determine which site would house the new facility. He also said a geo-technical survey and environmental site assessment will be conducted on the donated property in the near future.

“Hopefully we will go out to tender by late summer and have shovels in the ground by fall,” Chabot said. “This is an ideal site economically because the Flying Dust site would have been three times farther away from the city’s water and sewer service.”

Chabot concluded by expressing how well negotiations were with Flying Dust, adding he hopes the health region and the First Nation can work together on future projects. These sentiments were echoed by Derocher.

“We’re all here for the long haul,” he said. “We definitely have to do things together to move forward.”

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