Province increases funding for Bonnylodge phase three

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Renovations at Bonnylodge got another boost from the province.

In early January, the Lakeland Lodge and Housing Foundation received a letter from Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson announcing that they’re increasing funding for phase three to $13 million.

“It was imperative that we got a bit of an increase to build the lodge as planned,” said Ray Prevost, chair of the Lakeland Lodge and Housing board. “With $13 million we can probably get exactly what we wanted, so we’re pretty ecstatic about it for sure. A couple weeks before that, it was starting to spell trouble because we were trying to figure out how we were going to get it for $10 million, but now that it’s increased to $13 million, I see no reason why it wouldn’t go ahead as planned.”

The original provincial investment for the third and final phase of the lodge was $10.4 million, and came during Sigurdson’s visit to Bonnyville in June 2016.

“We always questioned those dollars in the sense of were those 2011 dollars and was there an escalation factor to it,” noted Prevost.

The money is part of the Government of Alberta’s 2016 capital plan, of which the province committed $582 million for the sustainable housing renewal – rural and urban initiative.

In a letter to Prevost, Sigurdson stated, “As part of this increased provincial investment, this facility will be fully funded and owned by the Alberta Social Housing Corporation. The costs relating to furniture, fixtures, and equipment will remain the responsibility of and will be owned in it entirety by the housing management body.”

In addition to the extra funding, the province has also eliminated the 20 per cent that was to be paid back by the lodge and housing foundation over four years. While it was never solidified in a contract, they agreement was “done on a handshake” with the former assistant deputy minister of seniors that they would owe the government 20 per cent of the total project cost. Those dollars were then to be set aside and used for repairs or replacements in the future.

“That’s a huge relief, because if we exceed the $13 million by $7-$800,000, it won’t be hard to pay that debt back. It’s a lot less than the 20 per cent it would have been,” explained Prevost. “When we got the phone call I was expecting something a little more contentious, and when she gave me that news I was pretty excited.”

Renovations at the aging facility have been ongoing since the first phase started in 2012. Constructed in the late 1950s, the updates are badly needed as demand for the local seniors live-in centre is on the rise. Once the project is complete, there will be a total of 180 rooms at the Bonnylodge – 60 in the seniors self-contained area and another 120 in the lodge.

“With respect to phase three, we are in the design stage now, well-advanced in the design stage. By the way things are going, I would expect June we should be in the ground. Maybe I’m a little optimistic, but if we could be in the ground no later than July that would be pretty exciting,” said Prevost, adding that it will be a little harder to complete due to the fact they’re attaching new facilities to an existing structure opposed to building a brand new building.

“The best case scenario, for me, is if we start June 1, 2017 I would like to see it complete June 1, 2019, so a 24-month construction period.”

As for the construction that’s currently underway, Prevost said it’s about 98 per cent finished with just some small details to be touched up, such as ensuring the elevator is working properly. The work had a few hiccups along the way, after the general contractors went into bankruptcy over the summer. However, they managed to get back on track and are expecting to get an occupancy permit shortly.

“It’s been a long haul, but we’re not going to give up until the darn thing is done. They’re mandatory, it’s a must that we have these units. We still have around 60 people waiting for a lodge room,” expressed Prevost. “It can’t be suppressed in any way, it has to move forward. We’re excited about it, our committee is committed to it, and we made a promise to the seniors some years ago and we’re going to see it through to the end.”

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