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Willow Creek MD turns down funding request for Fort Macleod Kids First family centre

MD of Willow Creek council turned down a request Wednesday from Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre for $250,000 for a family centre at W.A. Day school.
“We are both surprised and disappointed particularly in light of the large number of MD children and families that take advantage of our various programs and
services,” Kids First
executive director Susan Simpson said. “Nonetheless we feel confident that we will be able to raise all the necessary funds to build our new centre for kids and of course we will continue to serve MD children and families, simply because it is the right thing to do.”
Council made the decision after discussion and another visit by Niesje Vanden Dool and Susan Simpson of Kids First.
Simpson explained since their last visit on Aug. 13, Fort Macleod town council met and agreed to take ownership of the centre for the duration of the grant.
Livingstoneā€ˆRange School Division wants eventual ownership.
Simpson said town council agreed to support the project to maximize the grant if the MD of Willow Creek did the same.
“Your decision is really pivotal in terms of maximizing the grant,” Simpson said. “It’s a domino.”
The Town of Fort Macleod and MD of Willow Creek would both contribute $250,000 over two years.
If the two municipal governments support the project Kids First would be eligible for $1-million from the province.
The total cost of the centre is about $2-million.
The MD of Willow Creek’s contribution would equate to 12.5 per cent of the centre.
Simpson said the centre serves at least that many people from the municipal district.
Reeve Neil Wilson asked why the cost was $2-million.
Simpson replied there would be rooms for play, and an eight-station kitchen to teach cooking and how to make the most of every food dollar.
Coun. Glen Alm asked the Blood Tribe or Piikani Nation band councils had been approached to partner on the centre.
Vanden Dool said the band councils have been approached in the past, have provided a few thousand dollars, and it is a relationship that will continue to be developed.
Simpson has spoken with Macleod MP John Barlow and Ron Casey, one-time chair of the provincial Progressive Conservative caucus, and both have indicated their support.
Coun. John Kroetsch asked about the kitchen and whether those skills are being in taught in school.
Vanden Dool said the family centre’s kitchen is actually modelled on the new kitchen going into the modernized high school in Fort Macleod.
However, Kids First teaches additional skills, and use the kitchen for other activities such as assembling the Good Food Boxes.
Coun. Maryanne Sandberg later asked if the centre could use the school’s kitchen.
Simpson responded they looked into that and the school’s kitchen is booked solid.
Coun. Earl Hemmaway asked where Family and Community Support Services fits into all this.
Simpson responded the centre looks after services for young children, allowing FCSS to focus on older children and youth.
This way funding can be leveraged as the two organizations work together.
Wilson asked if the school division’s contribution was in the right spot.
Simpson said the division’s offer to cover all overhead in perpetuity, such as utilities, allows the centre to be sustainable.
Wilson wondered if the school division is going to own it they should put more funding into it.
Coun. Henry Van Hierden later noted that by covering the overhead in perpetuity, the school division ultimately will invest more than the initial $2-million to build the centre.
Coun. Ian Sundquist asked if Kids First could rent Fort Macleod and District Community Hall’s kitchen.
Vanden Dool replied being in the school provides opportunities for growth and sustainability and additional synergies.
Sandberg then asked what Kids First’s timeline is and if it has explored other partnerships.
Vanden Dool said the goal was to submit the application by that Friday, and they had gone to Granum town council the previous night to discuss the project.
In discussion later in the meeting, Van Hierden said this project should be treated like the health clinics in Nanton and Claresholm which the MD of Willow Creek is financially supporting.
Van Hierden also said he was against a special levy on Fort Macleod area ratepayers to fund this project.
Hemmaway said the project should be funded by the school division.
Hemmaway also said he received complaints from his ratepayers when council provided $38,000 to Fort Macleod for a spray park, when a lot of roads in the municipal district need attention.
MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti had no opinion either way on the issue.
Vizzutti pointed out the municipality has between $600,000 and $800,000 in reserves for a joint-use facility in Fort Macleod.
Council defeated a motion to support the project out of general revenue with Van Hierden voting to support it and the rest of council voting against supporting it.