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Fort Macleod council approves office project

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A former school will be renovated to become the new joint offices of the Town of Fort Macleod and Livingstone Range School Division.
Council voted last week to tender the $4.3-million renovation project and formalize a legal partnership with the school division.
“It has been created with the intent to be a win-win for each party,” Town of Fort Macleod chief administrative officer Sue Keenan said.
The town and school division will split the cost of renovations.
Ian Westwood of FWBA Architects, school board chairman Brad Toone, trustee Martha Ratcliffe and Mike Mahaffy, who will manage the renovation project, appeared as a delegation at the June 26 council meeting.
Westwood presented drawings that showed how the building will be laid out, with the Town of Fort Macleod occupying the main floor and Livingstone Range School Division on the second floor.
The main entrance of the building will open into a shared reception area.
The two organizations will share other spaces, including a conference room and council chambers.
“When you’re inside, the building will look like a new building, and it will operate like a new building,” Westwood said.
Westwood told council the renovations to G.R. Davis school are about half the price of a new building.
“I think it’s money well spent,” Westwood added.
One of the advantages to the Town of Fort Macleod is Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) will move to the new office, from its rented space on Second Avenue.
FCSS will have its own entrance from the street into its offices at the east end of G.R. Davis school, which became surplus when W.A. Day and F.P. Walshe schools were modernized.
Westwood told council the building’s west wing will not be renovated, but will be used to house the Crossroads Outreach Campus and other agencies.
The Town of Fort Macleod has received a $1.1-million Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant and will borrow $1.15-million, with the remainder coming from other sources including land sales.
The agreement will also see the Town of Fort Macleod donate an $88,000 parcel on First Avenue, where the school division will build a maintenance shop and school bus barn.
Regarding the historic courthouse that is the Town Office at present, Keenan told council discussions are ongoing with Foothills MP John Barlow regarding the federally-designated building.
“We’re going to look at options,” Keenan said.
Mayor Rene Gendre said while he supports repurposing G.R. Davis school, he wanted taxpayers to vote on the project in a referendum.
Coun. Gord Wolstenholme favoured proceeding with the agreement and renovations.
“I think this is a really good idea,” Wolstenholme said. “It shows we can work together with the school board, the school division.”
Wolstenholme said holding a referendum on every major project is time-consuming and unnecessary.
“We’ve done a lot of background on this,” Wolstenholme added. “We’ve done a good job on that.”
Coun. Michael Dyck agreed.
“This is a positive move forward,” Dyck said.
A new town office has been discussed for years, by this and previous councils, and G.R. Davis school is the best option.
“The other thing I very much like is getting FCSS into a shared office,” Dyck said, noting there will be a cost savings.
Coun. Trish Hoskin also favoured moving forward.
“This is something we’ve taken our time with,” Hoskin said. “Administration especially has worked very hard to ensure a good agreement for both parties.”
Hoskin noted the public had the opportunity to attend a June 13 open house and comment on the project.
“I haven’t heard anybody say they’re opposed to it,” Hoskin said. “What I’ve heard is the opposite, and they say this is a positive move for the town.”
Gendre stressed he also believes it is a positive move, but would have preferred to wait until a referendum in conjunction with the October municipal election to make a decision.
Deputy Mayor Brent Feyter said he attended the June 20 school board meeting where Livingstone Range trustees approved the agreement and voted to tender the project.
“They all very much support the opportunity to work with the Town of Fort Macleod,” Feyter said.
The school division will relocate its central office to Fort Macleod, from Claresholm.
Council voted unanimously to approve the executive summary presented by Keenan, and to tender the project.

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