Funds set aside for new long-term care project

by Phil Ambroziak

The long-awaited development of a new Northland Pioneer Lodge will soon receive a financial injection to help cover a portion of its close to $40 million price tag.

During its regular meeting Aug. 11, Meadow Lake city council approved a motion authorizing the use of a trust fund set aside two decades ago for the future construction of a new long-term care facility. According to a letter issued to the city by Prairie North Regional Health Authority (PNRHA) CEO David Fan, the money – which totals $421,446 – will go toward the 20 per cent of overall capital cost (roughly $8 million) being paid toward the project by the city as well as the RM of Meadow Lake.

“When the current Northland Pioneer Lodge was amalgamated with the Northwest Health District in July 1994, a trust fund was established from all non-operating assets in the amount of $243,910,” Fan explained in his letter. “The so-called pre-amalgamation agreement contemplated the establishment of a five-person board of trustees whose sole purpose is to approve the use of the trust fund.”

Fan went on to note the Northwest Health District, and subsequently PNRHA, has never accessed the fund since its establishment resulting in the increase in value to close to half-a-million dollars.

“It is time for us to put this trust fund in its entirety to good use on the construction of a new replacement facility,” he wrote.

While it was suggested the city could appoint a representative to the board of trustees (other members would come from PNRHA, the RM of Meadow Lake, RM of Loon Lake and Northern Village of Green Lake respectively), another option presented to council was to simply approve a motion calling for the use of the funds toward the project.

“I think it would be more efficient just to approve a motion,” stated councillor Annette Klassen. “If the other municipalities don’t do that and choose to appoint someone to the board of trustees, we can always come back and do the same.”

In a subsequent interview, mayor Gary Vidal confirmed the money from the trust fund would be split between the city and the RM to cover capital costs, but added it doesn’t take too much of the financial burden away because it was money the municipalities anticipated would be forthcoming.

“With the new scope of the project (the facility will now house 72 beds opposed to 60), we were presented with some updated budget numbers but we had already kind of factored something like this into the equation,” Vidal said. “We will still have to borrow, but for once we’re ahead of the game. Part of this process for us has been to be proactive rather than reactive.”

As for the other municipalities involved with the trust fund, the RM of Meadow Lake recently appointed councillor Russ Jones to the board of trustees while the RM of Loon Lake appointed community member Arlee Hein. Meanwhile, the Northern Village of Green Lake has appointed village administrator Tina Rasmussen.

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