It seems a dollar can still go a long way.

During the regular meeting of Meadow Lake city council held Jan. 23, a motion was carried authorizing mayor Merlin Seymour and city manager Diana Burton to sign an offer to purchase the former Northland Pioneers Lodge building from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) for $1.

“In late 2019 when the city formally entered into an agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority for our portion of the capital costs for the new lodge construction, there was a line item in the budget that included significant costs for the demolition of the current facility,” Burton explained in her official recommendation to council. “Both the Rural Municipality of Meadow Lake and the city agreed to pay their share for the cost of the new construction, but both organizations also formally objected to the costs for demolition. In the fall of 2020, the city then indicated an interest to the SHA in purchasing the property for $1 so council could ensure the city is the one to govern the redevelopment of this property. The intent is for the city to take the initiative to issue a development tender to make sure the process of selling the property would be open, transparent and fair, and the future use of the building contributes in a positive way to our community.”

In November 2022 the SHA provided the city with a draft agreement of sale, as well as the assignment of lease for the seniors’ activity centre which is located on the same parcel of land as the old lodge. As the lease is registered as an interest on the property, by agreeing to purchase the property, the city is also agreeing to continue the lease of the Senior Citizens’ Activity Centre to the Pensioners and Senior Citizens Organization Society Meadow Lake #31.

“The documents have been reviewed by legal counsel and are now being brought forward to council for approval,” Burton’s recommendation continued. “Administration is recommending a closing date of March 31, 2023 to accommodate a less costly transition for the city (the SHA would have liked the transfer to take place immediately after sending over the purchase agreement). Accepting title during the winter months would mean increased costs for utilities and maintenance, so postponing it to the spring is more economical for the city.”

Discussion pertaining to the motion took place in-camera, while the motion itself was approved during open council.

“Now, administration will work on issuing a development tender that will guide how the property will be redeveloped,” Burton told Northern Pride following the recent council meeting. “We will also work on having the Senior Citizens’ Activity Centre subdivided off of the main parcel with the old lodge so we can maintain the terms and conditions of the long-standing lease with the Pensioners and Senior Citizens Organization Society #31 for that facility.”

The future of the Northland Pioneers Lodge building has been a topic of interest for some time. When it was discussed by council back in February of 2020, local developer Chris MacFarlane said it would be nice to see the building sold to a private developer, but he also noted at the time it would cost a lot of money to repurpose the building.

“Some sort of community outreach would have to be done to see what exactly is needed,” MacFarlane said in a Northern Pride story from two years ago. “I don’t think apartments would be the way to go with a building like this. The lodge itself is very institutional in its design, so it would probably work best if it were repurposed as a halfway house, a group home or some sort of seniors’ centre… It would be a shame to tear it down and there’s definitely a world to explore there.”

by Phil Ambroziak