By VERNA MURPHY, Connect Contributor
Willow Square has once again been designated by the province as the chosen spot for a long-term care facility for the seniors of Fort McMurray.
In an announcement on November 20, NDP Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said, “The people of Fort McMurray have been clear that they believe the Willow Square site will give seniors access to the supports and care they need, and they are willing to share additional costs and take the time to adjust plans for the new location. This government has said it will listen to Albertans, and we are doing that by partnering with the community to give seniors who will call this facility home the best care possible.”
Hoffman said that the decision came after hearing the concerns of residents about the distance from the Parsons Creek location.
On October 20, Wildrose MLA Tany Yao had presented a report to council where he said the seniors of Fort McMurray had been “right all along, and that the best location for the facility was at Willow Square”.
Both Yao, and MLA Brian Jean had said during their campaigns that the Willow Square issue would be their very first priority if elected to office.
During that same council meeting, Councillor Tyran Ault had made a motion to give the province 10.5 million dollars if the Willow Square site was developed, and council unanimously supported the motion.
“Willow Square was the very first item I raised with the Premier upon her election and I am delighted that the Premier took the concerns of our community seriously,” said MLA Brian Jean.
“Willow Square was the very first item I raised with the Premier upon her election and I am delighted that the Premier took the concerns of our community seriously. Building an aging-in-place facility in the heart of Fort McMurray is the right decision. I also commend the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo for their financial contributions to this project,” said MLA Brian Jean.
This decision comes after ten years of debate, and on and off again plans for the development. Over 11 million dollars was put into the Parsons Creek development, and the province said that it hopes they can find an alternative use for the land. The cost and scope of the Willow Square project is still unknown, but the province said the budget will be larger because of flood mitigation and the design for the site considerations.
Hoffman also indicated that the development at Willow Square would not be completed for four years. CW