Trochu Housing Corporation Public Consultation held

Trochu Council Cooper Kurek

June 28th was a big day for the Trochu Housing Corporation as they held a Public Consultation for the proposed Senior’s Housing Facility planned to be built in Trochu next to the Arboretum. A regular meeting of Town Council would follow the Consultation.

The Consultation got started at 6:00pm and was held at the Trochu Baptist Fellowship Centre. In attendance were special guests MP for Battle River–Crowfoot, Damien Kurek, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Nathan Cooper, members of Trochu Town Council, three members of Kneehill County Council, and members of the community at large. Attendees were distanced but the turnout was fulsome. The buzz of a crowd was a welcome sound at the end of a year and a half of gathering restrictions.

Trochu Mayor Barry Kletke chaired the event, and opened by explaining that the purpose of the meeting was to determine whether there was community support for the proposed project, so that the Board can speak on behalf of the community, with one voice, when advocating for the project to the Government. As well, funds will need to be borrowed during the construction phase and Council needs to know whether to approve borrowing bylaws; without community support, demand for the project, and approval of government grants, the project will not proceed. The Consultation and community support was the first step in this process.

Mayor Kletke introduced the platform guests, and handed the floor to MP Damien Kurek.

Both MP Kurek and MLA Cooper presented remarks at the beginning of the presentation. Kurek mentioned the inspirational ability of rural Alberta to withstand challenges, and the asset this facility would be in the community, to make Trochu a destination.

MLA Cooper thanked everyone for attending. He noted that six months prior, the Minister of Health toured St. Mary’s and realized the need for another facility in the community. Cooper will press for the Minister of Seniors to also visit because “decision makers 300km away have their eyes opened when they come see the situation with their own eyes.”

Cooper said, “After working in government for a decade, I’m more certain than anything that a small group of well-meaning individuals will outperform government every day of the week. This project would never have gotten off the ground if you had waited for the government. This opportunity only exists because of the Board and the people on the ground here. Thanks for having us here so we can advocate for you.”

Sheli Murphy, of Covenant Health, also gave opening remarks. She noted that she is so happy to be part of this project moving forward, to meet with this team and work hard to get this needed project completed for the seniors in the community.

Lastly, Marek Otwinowski, the designer and architect of the project, told those in attendance that this project is the outcome of their input, the product of teamwork, and is being designed for them.

Sam Smalldon, President of The Trochu Housing Corporation Board, gave a presentation explaining the project’s history, purpose, structure, and timeline. Smalldon worked on the Sundre senior’s facility, upon which this project has been loosely based, with input from the Trochu Senior’s Advisory Committee.

The main reason for this project is that the local seniors want to stay in this community; they don’t want to have to move away just because they require a different level of care. This desire was ascertained by completion of a demand study; without this demand, there would be no project. It’s a people-driven project and AHS also identified Trochu as a priority community in 2018; not only because the St. Mary’s facility is becoming a hazard, but also because there is new demand for independent living, a lodge area, and new supportive living. While the project does not currently have a manor space, there is a corner of the building onto which a manor could be built in the future. There is also room to expand the space if necessary; the life lease and 24/7 care spaces could both be doubled without moving to a new plot of land.

The facility will have 80 total units: 40 will be reserved for 24/7 care, replacing the 28 units at St. Mary’s and adding 12 new units; 16 will be lodge living accommodations; and 24 units will be independent living spaces, which are the life-lease units currently for sale (of which, 18 have been pre-sold). The beauty of the building is that residents can age in place; there will be a full campus of care including palliative care. This project is expected to add 30 FTE jobs to the community. Smalldon noted that the business case supports viability at 85% occupancy and above.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $32-$37 million. Of this amount, $9 million will be generated from the sale of the life lease units, $15 million – $20 million will need to be borrowed and re-paid through capital grants from the Government, and another $8 million will be borrowed but paid back through mortgage payments on the life leases.

Kneehill County has agreed to conditionally back and provide assurance for risk coverage on the $20 million, as borrowing for the project will exceed the Town’s debt ratio. Grant funding to fund the $20 million borrowed will be sought from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and on the Provincial side, from Alberta Senior’s Lodge Replacement initiative and the Alberta Supportive Living Initiative. If grants are not procured, this project will not proceed. Covenant Health has agreed to provide assurance for risk coverage on the $8 million.

The project has a five year timeline, starting with a three year planning stage which began in 2018. After a show of community support, the Trochu Housing Committee is close to applying for funding grants. Once funding is approved, there is a nine-month design period, then one year (or less) of construction, and lastly a three-month commissioning stage where it is ensured that staff are in place and knowledgeable of policies and procedures, and to ensure that all is functioning properly before the doors are opened. It is hoped that ground can be broken in the spring of 2022.

The Trochu Housing Corporation will own and manage the facility, and Covenant Health will provide the health care under AHS, as they have done at St. Mary’s.

Mayor Kletke wrapped up the Consultation at the conclusion of Smalldon’s presentation. He noted that Covenant Health first brought a proposal for a facility like this to Council in 2008. That project was not successful at that time, and Kletke said “it breaks my heart to see people who have built this community, before me, having to move away” because the care they needed was unavailable in the community. He again reiterated the importance and potential of this project for this community.

By show of hands, those attending the meeting were able to demonstrate their support for the project. There were no votes in opposition to the project.