A major project in Coaldale, Alta. officially broke ground Friday, with government officials, community members and stakeholders in attendance.
Crews are now working on land in northwest of Coaldale, as part of a new school and recreation facility, created through a partnership between the Town of Coaldale and the Palliser School Division.
“I think that it’s extremely important to recognize the support (for) this program is huge,” said supt. Dave Driscoll.
“When we move forward in this building, it’s going to be something that’s accessible to the whole community.”
The division received funding for the school as part of the Alberta government’s 2021 budget, which outlined $1.6 billion for a total of 14 capital projects.
According to Palliser, it will be attached to the recreation centre, and can accommodate 855 students from grades 7 to 12, replacing the current 60-year-old Kate Andrews High School.
Coaldale residents concerned about proposed location of school and rec centre
That building’s future has yet to be decided.
“As we move forward, senior highs need to have something completely different than they had 15, 20, 30, 40 years ago,” said Driscoll. “We need to modernize our facilities so that students of today can learn for tomorrow.”
“It’s a really great opportunity to be able to expand, (and to) bring some more programming and more events and activities that people in the town and community will be able to enjoy,” said Twister Steel Fitness owner Jordan Sailer, who will be operating the fitness facility in rec centre.
However, the location of the site has been a contentious issue in the community, with some residents worried over safety crossing the busy highway and train tracks.
As well, 16 Avenue will be expanded, which isn’t sitting well for some living nearby.
Colin Weird, the managing director at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre located just east of the construction site, doesn’t feel enough consultation took place.
‘Long-awaited’ school project approvals excite Coaldale and Lethbridge divisions
He believes the project could negatively impact the nearby wetlands and affect the centre’s ability to expand.
“It just seems a little bit irresponsible and premature for the school to be built, without (making our facility) a priority, or even a remote consideration,” Weir said.
“It’s very disillusioning, (because) we’ve worked on the (Alberta Birds of Prey) site in cooperation with the town and the province for 40 years and this is basically being imposed on us at the last minute.”
According to a report from WA Environmental Services from Nov. 28th, 2018, an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) was conducted on the site.
“Based on the information gathered and on observations made during this investigation, the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment has revealed no environmental contamination associated with this site,” the document read.
“No further environmental investigation of the site is recommended at this time”
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Mayor Kim Craig, who is serving his final term with the town, said there have been studies conducted, and this location makes the most financial sense, with more homes expected to be construction in the area in the coming years.
“We have exhaustive work on the town website, a 640-page document, and all sorts of documentation that shows this is the best site,” he explained.
“This is a great time for Coaldale and a great time for myself. I have no regrets and I’m proud to end on a very high note.”
“(We) had to overcome some of those hurdles but I’m hoping that as people see the vision of this and the long-term gain for the community and for the young people in this community, it will be a winner for everybody,” Driscoll added.
Craig said the project will bring an estimated $50-million in economic growth to the area. He expects the facility to be completed in roughly one-and-a-half to two years.
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