New B’lodge firehall still awaiting funding

·2 min read

Beaverlodge’s 2021 budget may include funding for the new firehall, said Jeff Johnston, town chief administrative officer.

The location on the former UFA property was announced in 2019 and Stan Metcalfe, Beaverlodge fire chief, said then he hoped the building could be open by the summer of 2020.

“We have the property, but the (project) is very much in its infancy,” Johnston told the News this week.

“It’s a matter of how we fund it, with other commitments in front of us.”

Still, Johnston said the hall is “on the table” for this year, and considering budgeting the project is included in his priorities for the next six to 10 months.

“Similar firehalls have been built in Sexsmith and La Glace, so at a high level I’m working through that process and understanding the lessons learned,” Johnston said.

The Sexsmith firehall was built at a cost of $1.3 million and had a grand opening in September 2019. The La Glace firehall was built for $1.9 million and became operational last June.

He said he met with the engineers who built the La Glace firehall two weeks ago and hopes to visit the hall, but he hasn’t had a chance yet with COVID restrictions.

“There’s some work that needs to be done - we need a formal land survey and a geotechnical investigation, and regardless of who we use as an engineer, that process needs to occur,” Johnston said.

This pre-planning is needed before administration goes to a design process, and he said this can be done before the budget is finalized in March.

Johnston said he can draw on fire department reserves to fund this “pre-planning” but would need council approval to use the money.

He said he is unable to speculate on the cost of the pre-planning, and the hall may cost $1.5- to $2 million overall. Funding would likely be derived from a debenture, he said.

The County of Grande Prairie has committed to supporting half the costs of the new hall, up to $1 million, Johnston said.

Construction could potentially begin this year, but Johnston cautioned “that’s a big if.” “Council has to deliberate on all priorities, and there’s several,” he noted.

If the hall breaks ground this year, it may be finished in 2022, but Johnston noted there’s no construction company yet in place.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News