An open house has been scheduled for March 12 at 6 p.m. as directed by council during the February 11 meeting, in order to help discern the level of involvement that the M.D. should commit to in regards to the two new early learning centres being constructed in the Town of Pincher Creek.
Council decided to schedule the open house to find a definitive answer to how M.D. residents think the municipality should be involved with the project.
The Town of Pincher Creek has gone forward with the construction of the facilities, but the M.D. council is still caught in debate as to whether they should support the project through a capital contribution.
Reeve Brian Hammond said having one final opportunity for M.D. taxpayers to have their say on the matter would help form a conclusion to the dilemma.
“The last time we had talked about this, I was hoping that we could come to some kind of agreement about one more opportunity for our ratepayers in our district… to come forward in a public setting and offer their wisdom about this project,” said Hammond.
“We’ve always gotten information that seems to be second-hand from somebody else’s efforts or someone else’s initiative. I think that there’s a segment of the population out there that perhaps has an idea about it, or a feeling about how we should be involved, to what extent, and so on,” he said.
“Not to take months, but what does another two or three weeks to a month matter if we take that time to provide an opportunity to give the public a choice.”
Deputy Reeve Rick Lemire said that a decision needs to be made in the near future because of the timeliness of the Town’s project.
“I think time is of the essence for this. We have discussed it, and (the ratepayers) have come to us,” said Lemire.
“We’re at the stage right now where this will be open in May.”
He said that what he’s heard from Division 2 residents has been in support of and M.D. contribution.
“In my area I do get a lot of chatter about (the early learning centres). Most of (Division 2) is for (M.D. involvement)… we have young families, and young professionals,” said Lemire.
“Nurses that work at the hospital (live in Division 2), and if they didn’t have (an early learning centre), would we have the nurses? I think it affects the whole community as such,” he said.
“We’ve talked about it enough, and public consultation is very important, but as far as my hearing goes, I’m hearing that it needs to happen.”
Councillor Bev Everts observed that an M.D. contribution would be a one-time capital investment, and said the M.D. has done the same thing with similar projects in the past.
“We’re struggling around this council table with making a decision about whether we can support a potential capital investment. Not operational, because the operation is self-sustaining”, said Everts
The amount that the M.D. is considering investing would be $1-million of the $4-million project. The amount was deciphered because it’s estimated that about 26 per cent of people who utilize the facility would be M.D. residents.
Everts said the needs of young families have to be prioritized, as observed in the on-going Social Needs Assessment.
“At the social needs focus groups, the question came up about which group of individuals should be given priority. Number one in our community was seniors, and number two was families with young children,” said Everts
“I see it as wellness and safety for our young families. I’ve heard stories where there isn’t an option in this community—there has to be an option,” she said.
“I see it as our responsibility. It’s absolutely the goodwill of our greater community.”
Hammond said having one more opportunity for public feedback would provide the information needed for council to make a definitive decision.
“I’m just asking for an opportunity to see what that response is. One of my concerns was that enough people knew about it, to be able to be in a position to come and say how they feel about it,” said Hammond.
While M.D. residents can share their ideas with council directly at the March 12 public hearing, they can also convey their thoughts to the M.D. through an online survey at surveymonkey.com/r/Z5733Q3, which can also be located on the M.D. website and facebook page, or by emailing their ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.