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Fort Macleod ‘surprised’ with $7.25-million to replace Macleod Pioneer Lodge

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Maryanne Sandberg, Macleod MP John Barlow, Mickey Sloot, Gord Wolstenholme, John Connor, Ailsa Kotke, Alberta Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson and Pam Young at Macleod Pioneer Lodge

Willow Creek Foundation board members knew they were going to get some money to upgrade Macleod Pioneer Lodge.
But the $7.25-million awarded Friday by the federal and provincial governments was beyond the board’s expectations.
“It’s quite a surprise,” board chair Maryanne Sandberg said. “A welcome surprise.”
The foundation had submitted a three-year capital plan to install a sprinkler system and renovations to the 35-unit seniors’ residence.
Macleod MP John Barlow and Alberta Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson instead delivered $7.25-million under the Investments in Affordable Housing Agreement.
The money can be used to build a new 37-unit lodge, although the foundation has no plans in place for such a development.
“This was on our radar perhaps five or 10 years down the road,” Sandberg said, explaining the foundation planned to survey residents at the trade fair in April on seniors’ housing needs.
“It’s excellent news,” Sandberg said. “We’ll take the money any day to make things better for our seniors.”
The foundation must raise $1.8-million as its contribution to the project.
Earlier that morning Barlow and Johnson announced $9.8-million to build a new, 50-unit lodge to replace the 47-unit Crest View Lodge in Pincher Creek, which was built in 1965.
Crest View Lodge will be demolished once the new facility is completed in late 2017.
Johnson said through the provincial-federal partnership there is $160-million to modernize, renovate or renew rural lodges across Alberta.
“Both Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod were selected because these were lodges that were built in the ’60s,” Johnson said. “They’re some of the oldest in the province.”
“We could look at renovating, we could look at seeing what we could do to upgrade them to current standards but really it’s far more prudent just to replace them.”
Macleod Pioneer Lodge was built in 1960 and is owned by the Willow Creek Foundation, which is also responsible for Chinook Arch Manor in Granum and the Colonel Macleod Manors 1 and 2 in Fort Macleod.
“If at the end of the day they decide they would much rather renovate or modernize this building that’s an option for them,” Johnson said. “But we believe we have enough money in the budget to replace it.”
Johnson said one of Jim Prentice’s first moves after being elected premier was to establish the ministry of senior with three priorities: upgrading all seniors’ housing to current safety standards, renewing old lodges and adding supportive living in rural area.
A call for proposals and business plans was made in December and the ministry spent January assessing the submissions.
Johnson stressed seniors remain a priority for the government in the budget announced last week.
“Once thing that I can assure people is that low income, the vulnerable and seniors are completely protected in this budget,” Johnson said. “They will be better off tomorrow than they are today.”
Barlow said the funding announcement reflects the priority the federal government has placed on seniors and rural communities.
“These facilities are such an integral part of these communities,” Barlow said. “It’s important for us as a federal government to make sure seniors can stay in the communities they call home. They built these communities and it’s important they have the opportunity to stay.”
Barlow and Johnson met over a period of months to establish priorities for the riding.
“I was very pleased to see that Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod were two projects chosen under this program,” Barlow said. “The age of the buildings was one of the deciding factors. They’re more than 50 years old. There are other facilties in the riding but these were two that were among the oldest and higher priorities to have the work done.”
Barlow said it is up to the foundation to determine what is needed for Macleod Pioneer Lodge.
Deputy Mayor Brent Feyter welcomed the news.
“I think it will definitely help families see that they can keep their seniors in the community, rather than looking outside for options,” Feyter said.
Feyter said the infusion of $7.25-million in Fort Macleod will be good for the community.
“It’s huge,” Feyter said of the investment of $7.25-million in Fort Macleod. “That will do a lot. Short of that (investment) I don’t think something like this would ever have been possible.”
In the last four years, the Alberta government has allocated more than $220-million towards seniors’ housing, including $144.5-million in federal-provincial funding to renew and expand 14 lodges.
The government of Canada, through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, each year invests about $2-billion in housing.
The announcement was made in the Willow Room at Macleod Pioneer Lodge with residents in attendance.
“You folks built this province and it’s time we built something for you,” Johnson told the seniors.