by Phil Ambroziak

The City of Meadow Lake and the Saskatchewan Health Authority are looking to amp up their efforts in the fight against COVID-19.

During its regular meeting Tuesday (April 14) – which took place via the video conferencing application Zoom rather than in the traditional council chamber setting – city council authorized entering into an agreement with the SHA to exclusively rent the Meadow Lake Civic Centre at a rate of $420 per week as needed for the duration of the pandemic period.

The motion was brought to the table by councillor Glen Winkler and seconded by deputy-mayor Conrad Read.

“Have we had any conversation with the health authority regarding fees?” Read asked.

City manager Diana Burton said she did have a preliminary discussion with SHA officials.

“I posed the fees and they had no issue with them whatsoever,” Burton replied. “There are places that are charging more, but we took our hard operating costs, figured out what it costs to run the facility on a weekly basis and we’re trying to break even on covering those costs. Considering it’s the health authority and there are going to be patients in there for what will be a new assessment and testing site, they bring in their own infection control person so even our caretaker won’t be doing any cleaning. We felt this was a fair number to offset the cost of operating the facility.”

As part of its pandemic response, the city cancelled all short-term recreation bookings and closed its facilities – including the Civic Centre – to the public. However, the SHA has since approached the city about using the building as one of its COVID-19 response sites.

Burton said the health workers have been operating at the Civic Centre since last Thursday.

Mayor Merlin Seymour, meanwhile, said Premier Scott Moe along with the province’s chief medical officer recently announced – with the exception of Saskatoon and Regina – Meadow Lake was the first community to open a COVID-19 assessment and testing station in the province.

“I believe with this site they’re going to be able to turn around and have test results in four hours,” he said.

Seymour also said, during a recent conference call with the SHA, he asked about the need for security at the Civic Centre to assist with the SHA’s operations. He was told security would not be necessary at this time.