New lodge discussed

Wheatland County Coun. Glenn Koester, representing the Wheatland Housing Management Board (WHMB), spoke to seniors at the Happy Gang on Nov. 17 regarding the current state of the planned new hospice lodge.

Discussions for a new lodge have been ongoing since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the new facility is constructed, it would relieve pressure on the existing lodge for local senior populations who are no longer able to live independently.

“Before Sagewood was built or even thought about, we had the lodge. It was added on in the 80’s and 90’s … and we had a waiting list there of 20 to 30 people, and that waiting list was consistently like that, it didn’t vary much,” said Koester, introducing the topic. “We decided we should look into building a larger facility. In talking to the government and meeting with everybody, the government decided to use a (public private partnership) … and they got a partnership with a private individual from the town once the new office was completed.”

Another suggestion was to have the new lodge adjacent to Kinsmen Lake on the undeveloped property. This prompted an environmental survey, but no construction took place. According to Koester, that location remains the current vision for the new lodge.

With regards to the waiting list for senior living facilities, Koester explained the only time the waiting list went down was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when everything was locked up and people were not actively seeking to move in.

The Wheatland Hospice Society also remains adamant about being independent from AHS in order to specifically serve the communities within Wheatland County, as opposed to taking in potential residents from outside the local region.

Berry Architecture, a firm operating out of Red Deer, was engaged to create a schematic plan, and presented a design proposal for a five-storey building, featuring 165 beds.

During engagement sessions hosted by the WHMB, the community had made it known that a pub or similar communal meeting place was desired to be integrated into the design, which was not originally present.

“It is a building, but most importantly it is your home and it can be whatever you want it to be. You have to live with everybody else, but it is still your home,” said Koester.

Plans for the building currently also leave room on the lot to add 60 more beds following the initial construction if it becomes necessary.

Koester estimated the hospice has raised roughly $2.2 million for the project, out the projected $6 million necessary to build the facility.

“We have a ways to go, but I’m confident that when people see a hole in the ground, the money will come a little easier,” he said. “We are waiting for the government to come and say ‘put your shovels in the ground,’ and in six weeks to two months, we could have blueprints and we could be going full tilt.

To help speed up the process, Koester recommended for those interested in supporting development to be in touch with their local MLA. Currently that is Leela Aheer, then whomever will be replacing her post-election in the spring.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times