City of Cold Lake council debates funding for Safe Baby Haven Box

The discussion focused on collaboration with Covenant Health and Bonnyville Health Centre, estimated costs, and potential funding sources for the project.

Mary Sara Robichaud a resident of Ardmore attended council’s Jan. 23, speaking about her hopes to help bring a safe baby haven box program to Cold Lake.

During the May 21 corporate priorities meeting, council postponed the proposal of developing the program to direct administration to meet with covenant health and the Bonnyville Health Centre.

CAO Kevin Nagoya opened the discussion on June 18, saying, “The City of Cold Lake had the opportunity to meet with Covenant Health and the Bonnyville Health Centre. His Worship [Mayor Craig Copeland] and I met with them, and there is a lot of interest in implementing a program like this.”

The Safe Baby Haven box will be set up at the Bonnyville Healthcare Centre as part of Covenant Health's initiative. A similar program, the "Angel Cradle Program," is run by Alberta Health Services initiative.

At the April 14 Corporate Priorities meeting, council opted to stay affiliated with Covenant Health for the program.

Nagoya explained the financial challenges.

“There are two other Covenant Health sites providing such a service, and there's a renovation [happening] at Bonnyville Health Centre's emergency room. They’re anxious to start, but there’s an issue with funding and who pays for what. They want to move forward quickly.”

He added, “They have engaged their design consultant and estimated the cost at $100,000,” for the Safe Baby Haven Box.

Coun. Chris Vining questioned the project's cost.

“They’re approximating this at $100,000. How would that work in terms of seed funding? It feels like a lot of money for Bonnyville.”

Vining also expressed concerns about potential ongoing costs.

“Did Covenant commit to the operational costs once it’s started? The report on Strathmore's model mentions monitoring and testing systems, which implies ongoing costs. Did Covenant commit to funding these, or is there an expectation that municipalities will cover them?”

Nagoya responded, clarifying the City's role.

“No discussion has happened regarding operational costs. In Strathmore, the fire hall model is more complex and funded by the municipality. For Cold Lake, administration suggested providing seed funding and letting them handle it.”

Vining sought further clarity on funding guarantees. “If we provide seed funding, and the project is delayed or doesn’t proceed, will we get the money back? We don’t know where Bonnyville stands on this.”

Nagoya noted, “The administration interpreted that council wanted to see this project in the region. If Cold Lake provides seed money, we don’t necessarily have to give the cash now, but we commit to funding if they move forward with construction and service delivery.”

Coun. Ryan Bailey emphasized regional cooperation for the project.

“Several municipalities could join in, like Cold Lake First Nations, MD of Bonnyville, Town of Bonnyville, and Elizabeth Métis Settlement. It’s better to see who else is willing to invest before committing our money.”

Coun. Vicki Lefebvre agreed, highlighting the need for clarity on financial commitments.

“We need to know if the City will be involved in maintenance or ongoing costs. We can work together with surrounding communities.”

As discussions wrapped up, Deputy Mayor Bob Mattice summarized, “The recommendation is to gather more information and discuss this in the next meeting.”

Council decided to postpone the decision to gather more information on operational costs and potential regional partnerships. The motion will be revisited at the Sept. 17 meeting.

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week