Regrets or no regrets?

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk and most councillors are expressing no regrets over their decision to not purchase the old hospital land and resell, which could have profited over $1.6 million for town taxpayers.

South Peace News reached out to mayor and council several times last week asking for their personal opinion if they regretted their decision. Only Councillor Sacha Martens replied.

“. . .as a council, we voted to not purchase the old hospital lands. And we respectfully stand by that decision.

“Regrets?” she adds. “Certainly. If (and that’s a big if) we all had crystal balls and knew that the lands would definitely net us a big profit, I doubt any of us would have sensibly turned it down. We made the best decision given the information in front of us.”

Because discussion occurred behind closed doors to the public in the name of land negotiations, council is not disclosing who provided the information to them on which their decision was based. Nor are they required. The land, however, was severely undervalued by council and by whoever gave them that opinion.

Mayor Panasiuk and councillors Donna Deynaka, John Dunn, Judy Stenhouse, James Waikle, Therese Yacyshyn did not reply to repeated emails.

Last year, council decided to not purchase the old hospital land for $148,000. The land eventually sold for $1.75 million meaning council potentially passed up on a $1.6 million profit had they purchased and resold. Such profit may have been used to not increase water rates as planned or future tax increases.

Council issued a news release Jan. 27 citing concerns over liability and other concerns.

“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.”

“May” but still not guaranteed council would have sold and generated a huge profit.

Council has no explanation why they undervalued the property so much during deliberations.

South Peace News has also asked for how each councillor voted on the purchase. No one but Martens offered any insight.

“I can only speak for myself and do not recall such a vote taking place,” she texted.

Still, discussion had to take place to reach the decision. If anyone wanted to buy the land, council is not disclosing who.

In its Jan. 27 news release, council also stated, “Council strives to maintain an open and transparent disclosure of information to our ratepayers.”

However, council never disclosed to the public Alberta Health Services’ $148,000 offer instead choosing to go behind closed doors in secret and calling it negotiations. Even after council refused the offer, they did not let the public know of its decision.

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