During the April 18 Wheatland Housing Management Board (WHMB) meeting, representatives from Alberta’s Ministry of Housing were in attendance to present regarding a governance review of the board, and answer questions about the Housing Act. 

Barb Panich, Director of Housing Policy for the Government of Alberta, explained her presentation to the WHMB largely covered the roles and responsibilities of the management body, the board and the municipalities, and the governance and responsibilities of the different parties involved. 

“This is basically a presentation we do whenever we are asked. This was not anything prepared specifically for (the WHMB). We do this to many management bodies and municipality boards when we are asked to come out,” said Panich. “Lots of times when there has been a municipal election, you get a lot of new councillors who do not really understand the program and their roles, so it is this kind of presentation we do to clarify that.”

The presentation at the WHMB meeting follows the approval of a letter from Wheatland County to Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services regarding governance practices of the WHMB. 

Wheatland County expressed in its letter, previously made publicly available, a goal to uphold transparency, accountability, and the best interests of the community. 

Concerns surrounding the governance of the WHMB exist regarding how budgeting has been handled and a lack of concrete numbers about the proposed new Wheatland Lodge, suggested for construction east of Kinsmen Park in Strathmore. 

Panich added her presentation by itself was completely separate from concerns directly related to the new lodge project. Additionally, the presentation was at the direct request from the WHMB, and unrelated to the governance review requested by the county.

In a letter from the WHMB to Nixon, the board stated they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of concerns outlined by the county to the office of the minister. 

In the same WHMB meeting, following Panich’s presentation, a proforma was presented in regards to the new lodge project to better clarify ongoing budgeting processes, and the need for applications for municipal and provincial grant funding. 

“The new lodge, the new build, the structuring of the proforma, there should be no operating requisitions,” said Glenn Koester, director of the WHMB. “The municipal share is what the municipalities are paying and that is like the down payment … they have a yearly (of) around $700,000 because they borrowed money up front to pay (the mortgage). For the lodge itself, once we get the downpayment, we can pay the mortgage on the $30 million.”

Derek Weiss, who presented the proforma to the WHMB, clarified several significant differences in the Class B budget that currently exists, and expenses that were originally anticipated when the project began. 

This included a clarification regarding a currently documented $39 million ask from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation versus the previous $28 million, which was previously a subject of debate among county council during their April 2 regular meeting. 

The change is attributed to rising anticipated costs of the project, which had not previously been communicated openly between the WHMB and the county, as well as fluctuation in what is able to be covered by municipalities and the province.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 24, 2024 at 15:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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