Editor’s note: At council’s request, the news release is published unedited.
Council for the Town of High Prairie strives to make decisions with the best interests of the Town in mind based on the information that we have available at the time. At the time of the original decision not to purchase the old hospital land, Council had concerns that the acquisition of these lands would have exposed the Town to significant risks.
First, the land has a culvert that runs through the property, which is old and will need replacing. Council did not want to purchase the land and then be responsible for the costs of replacing the very long culvert. Secondly, we did not know if we could sell the land and recoup the cost of the land plus the costs of replacing the culvert. There were also concerns as to how quickly the land would sell, given there are properties along the highway at both the east and west end of town that have not been sold. If we held the land, there would have been additional costs associated with maintaining the site. Lastly, several other risk factors such as the large initial expenditure, potential uses and increased costs, loss of future taxation revenue and limited internal capacity to undertake a large development project were also discussed by council.
Council strives to maintain an open and transparent disclosure of information to our ratepayers. However, there are some legislative requirements set by Provincial legislation that restricts items from being discussed or disclosed in a public meeting of Council. Potential land acquisition is one such item. These provincial rules may seem to restrict public information however they are meant to protect the interest of the ratepayers.
Some residents of the town had indicated they wished the land would be returned to the town for future needs. The specific future needs or new services may all have merit. However, these potential “new costs” must be balanced with the costs of maintaining the Town’s existing infrastructure. Unless this balancing of current and future need is managed further significant financial challenges and affordability for the current and future ratepayers will continue.
All these risks could have had a cost to the Town and ultimately the ratepayers. Looking back at our concerns, they turned out to be non-issues. The land sold quickly and for an amount that would have made it worthwhile. If we knew then what we knew now, the decision may have been different. Acquiring and flipping the lands would have provide a one-time gain, this should be weighted against the potential loss of new revenues that new development would provide to the Town.
Overall given the risks associated with the land acquisition, redevelopment costs, likely future tax increases to fund new Town services at the site any new services and the existing challenge to maintain the Town’s existing infrastructure Council abandoned the potential and acquisition.
Council is thrilled that the investor views our community as worth investing in. We are all hoping the next phase related to this parcel of land will bring positive impacts for the Town. Council and Administration will be working diligently to this end.