Province announces millions for senior safety, uncertainty continues to baffle managers

Seniors’ safety may be looking up in Alberta after the province announced $70 million in funding last week to enhance fire safety

  • Tue Nov 11th, 2014 4:00pm
  • News

Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin

Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

BLACK PRESS

Seniors’ safety may be looking up in Alberta after the province announced $70 million in funding last week to enhance fire safety and install sprinkler systems in aging seniors’ buildings.

But determining how that money is delivered poses a problem, says Paul McLauchlin, chairperson of the Rimoka Housing Foundation.

“This is a very expensive announcement,” said McLauchlin “It’s a positive announcement.”

McLauchlin feels $70 million is not enough to cover all the buildings in the province that may need a retrofit. He has seen some costs so high that tearing down a building and starting over is sometimes a cheaper option.

He says issues such as removing asbestos and abatement in an older building are factors that will raise the cost of the retrofit.

“It’s a major undertaking. It depends on how they do it,” said McLauchlin.

All assets owned by Rimoka, including those in the towns of Ponoka and Rimbey, fall under this announcement. Buildings constructed between 1960 and 1990, before sprinkler systems became mandatory, could see safety improvements.

Parkland Manor in Rimbey would be considered eligible, however, as construction for a new lodge has been approved by the province, the manor would not receive a fix. Ponoka’s Golden Leisure Lodge and Reid Manor, a senior self-contained building, are eligible.

In a press release, Jeff Johnson, Minister of Seniors, says this will take some time. “This is a first step. We need to know about the status of the buildings, what their needs are, and the kind of community emergency response available to ensure facilities meet current requirements,” Johnson was quoted as saying in the press release.

He added this will help determine a long-term strategy for the province.

“Projects will be prioritized based on these assessments to ensure seniors lodges and apartments facing the biggest safety risks are addressed first,” the press release adds.

McLauchlin attended a meeting of the Central Alberta Senior Housing Association Friday, Oct. 31 to hear how this plan will unfold. He says representatives consider this as first part in a multi-phase project, but how, where and when the money is divided up remains uncertain.

Housing management bodies are asked to submit operations assessments before Dec. 1.