Town council debates future use of Parkland Manor

A heated discussion around the council table concerning the future of the Parkland Manor, if and when it is vacated

A heated discussion around the council table concerning the future of the Parkland Manor, if and when it is vacated, finally ended amiably.

After a lengthy debate, council, at its Wed., Oct. 10 meeting, voted unanimously to accept a motion by Coun. Jack Webb to express support to the Rimoka Foundation of their intention to be involved in the future redevelopment and reuse of the property made vacant by the Rimbey Rimoka Foundation seniors’ housing project.

After council expressed strong opposition, Webb withdrew his original motion which was to instruct the Rimoka Board that council supported the manor being used for affordable housing once the residents were moved to a new location.

“Our only part of the application (to the Province for an aging in place facility) that isn’t complete is having some use for the manor,” said Webb, who also sits on the Rimoka Board.

Webb said an email from MLA Joe Anglin to Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson and council confirmed that time was of the essence regarding a decision about the future use of the manor.

“To reinforce Rimoka’s application for a new lodge, it now appears the ministry will give greater consideration (all other criterion being equal) to an application that contained a definitive request pertaining to the continued use of the old facility that satisfied a local need,” Anglin said in his email.

“That makes sense to me,” said Webb. “I don’t want to see anything happen so this will be denied.”

However, council remained opposed to the suggestion that the future use of the manor be for affordable housing.

“We need to provide input, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting we decide on the building’s future,” said Ibbotson. “Rimoka is the lead group on it. If we make a proposal here, we’re out of line.”

Coun. Gayle Rondeel said she could not support the motion.

“It supposedly has asbestos, it is old and in need of repair. I agree that our co-operation is essential, but we need to ask more questions. Maybe the health of the building means it will be demolished.”

Coun. Paul Payson said he doesn’t feel qualified to make such a decision.

“I’m not an architect. I don’t know what the building would be the best suited for.”

Coun. Scott Ellis, who attended the meeting via Skype, said he understood the importance of council’s involvement.

“I’m not against the idea, but couldn’t we change the language a bit?” he questioned.

After a lengthy discussion which did not result in a solution, council took a short break. Webb’s new motion was then passed unanimously.

In his email, Anglin said the manor is within the jurisdiction of the provincial government and any decision will ultimately be that of the ministry, not the town, or the Rimoka Housing Authority.

“It is my recommendation that you convene a meeting of the town council at your earliest convenience for the sole purpose of passing a declarative motion that instructs the Rimoka Board of the town’s need and recommended use for the old lodge once vacated,” he said.

Anglin suggested the library may want to move to the manor, once it became vacant. However, librarian Jean Keetch said that was not an option she was considering.

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but I need some place to move immediately. And moving to the manor (which would need extensive renovation) involves a lot more money than we would be able to raise.”

Keetch said a library expansion within the building it is now housed in is a more viable option.

Ibbotson dismissed Anglin’s suggestion that the Outreach School may wish to use the manor once it had become vacant, noting that that decision is the responsibility of Wolf Creek’s Public Schools

Although Anglin encouraged council to take a stand regarding a future use of the manor, he stressed the final decision rests with the ministry.

“It will take at least two years to complete the lodge once construction begins and needs can change drastically over a couple of years,” he said.

Rimoka Housing is waiting for a proposal now before the provincial government asking for approval to go ahead with a multi-million dollar aging in place facility for Rimbey. The proposal is in the hands of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Doug Griffiths.