An “approximate $150,000” offer from Alberta Health Services (AHS) to sell approximately 10 acres of prime land where the former High Prairie Health Complex stood for many years was refused by town council last month after four months of consideration.
And after refusing to buy the prime land in the centre of town along Highway 2 at a far reduced price below market value, council decided to submit another bid at its meeting Sept. 12. The figure council is bidding cannot be released.
AHS made the offer to town council in April 2023, says Diana Rinne, senior communications advisor, AHS, North Zone. Neither town council or AHS released publicly they were potentially trying to reach a deal on the land.
The offer is actually believed to be $148,000 from sources wishing to remain anonymous.
News the land was up for sale broke Sept. 8 when a Grande Prairie realty firm listed the property at $500,000. South Peace News made inquiries to AHS about the land, seeing there was a clear desire the land be returned to the community before the listing.
Meanwhile, town council never made it public they refused the offer, choosing to keep the matter a secret, even after negotiations ended.
However, AHS was ready to talk.
“AHS offered to sell the old High Prairie Heath Complex property to the Town of High Prairie; however, no agreement was reached,” emailed Rinne Sept. 12.
“AHS has listed the property on the market in hopes of selling it at market value. Funds from AHS property sales are used to support health care needs.”
After further inquiries by South Peace News, Rinne elaborated.
“AHS offered the property to the Town of High Prairie in April 2023 for approximately $150,000. The Town of High Prairie was notified on Aug. 11, 2023 the property would be listed for sale in the near future. The property was listed for sale Sept. 8, 2023,” emailed Rinne.
In effect, the $150,00 offer was off the table.
Town council met Sept. 12 and decided to submit a bid for the land, after refusing the approximate $150,000 offer.
A request on which members of council who may have voted for and against buying the land at $150,000 is being refused by council. Mayor Brian Panasiuk replied in an email Sept. 15 that the “Town must adhere to the “legal protocol. . .under the Municipal Government Act and the Town’s policies and bylaws.”
However, the refusal to let the public know how they voted follows the policies set out by the same council refusing to release the vote.
Panasiuk added the following.
“Unless a recorded vote is requested by a member of council in the public session of council, the voting record is not maintained. The Code of Conduct further states that members of council shall accurately communicate the decisions of council, even if they disagree with council’s decision. It would be a violation of the code of conduct for an individual member to discuss their personal views after the decision of Council is made.”
However, a request to divulge personal opinions was not requested. Only which members of council voted for and against AHS’s offer.
At council’s meeting Sept. 12, in a closed session to the public, they directed CAO Bill McKennan “proceed with the potential land acquisition”. Since the subject being discussed was the old hospital land, Panasiuk could not be referring to another matter.
Panasiuk answers the decision to refuse the AHS offer despite the land being offered at far less than market value.
“With any major financial consideration, council reviews several factors such as: affordability, operating and capital requirements, life cycle costs related to the infrastructure expenditure, community need, potential funding partners, municipal vs. provincial/federal responsibility and accountability, timing, etc. Decisions cannot be made in isolation of all the social, financial and service challenges the Town has. All these factors and challenges were considered and discussed in relation to the hospital land.”
Panasiuk does not address the potential of Town had buying the land and reselling for a profit.
Residents of the town have indicated for years they wished the land be returned to the town for future needs. Panasiuk did not address keeping the desire of the residents in his response.
by Chris Clegg