Esterhazy receives more funding for new hospital

Esterhazy Town Council

April 1, 2024, 10:35 am
Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

St. Anthony’s Hospital in Esterhazy.

The new St. Anthony’s Hospital in Esterhazy will once again see an extra quarter million dollars coming their way, thanks to what the provincial government has touted as “the largest investment ever” in health care capital. Up some $180 million over last year, a total of $516.8 million will go to support ongoing projects across Saskatchewan.

“We have another $250,000 for planning dollars,” said Melville-Saltcoats MLA Warren Kaeding of the Esterhazy commitment. “So that’s huge.”

The announcement reassures the importance of a new facility in the community, even if the project is still in development.

“What that basically says to us is that it’s money that allows them to go to the next level in terms of their planning stages, which is to make the site selection as well as continue on with the needs assessments,” said Esterhazy Mayor Grant Forster. “We know that it’s good news for us.”

The community has been fundraising for over 15 years on the new hospital project, with an estimated $11 million worth of cash and commitments to date.

“In the last two [provincial] budgets, we’ve got a total of $500,000—that’s money that they’ve committed to us,” Forster said.

In last week’s council meeting on March 27, CAO Tammy MacDonald mentioned receiving such an amount back to back is rare. Now that the project is in the second phase of development, future meetings with SHA are imminent.

“They did say they were going to call to have a meeting with us after the budget was released,” she told council.

RCMP looking for recruits
As with the majority of RCMP detachments across the country, Esterhazy could use a few new recruits. In her regular report to Town Council, Sgt. Meagan Stringfellow noted there are two vacant positions in the Esterhazy Detachment with no plan right now to fill those spaces.

The recent provincial government budget commitment of $4.5 million towards policing could help meet the need, but an increased presence locally will likely still be a few years away.

“That’s supposed to cover about 300 new positions in the province for training,” Sgt. Stringfellow said of the budget announcement. “So hopefully, the big push is going to be recruiting.”

She also told Council that local recruitment presentations will be coming soon, reaching out to schools in Esterhazy and Langenburg.

The provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba have the greatest shortages of RCMP members, due in part to how recruiting at the national level operates. A side effect in how recruitment procedures in Ottawa are meant to attract more officers has seen the opposite trend for the prairie provinces.

“What they have done in order to attract people to come join the RCMP is they’re giving them an option of where they can be posted,” explained Sgt. Stringfellow. “What our CO is trying to do is try to get recruiting back to Saskatchewan. When we recruit our own people, we find that they want to come back to Saskatchewan.”

Public works equipment approved
Keeping up with maintaining roadways is an endless job, but a couple additional tools will help make the task easier to manage. Acting Director of Operations Ron Ferris approached Council with quotes for a plate packer and walk behind concrete saw. Crack sealing work is slated for this week, but the packer and saw would be essential tools receiving a lot of use very soon.

From his research, Ferris informed Council that the used price on a plate packer was $2,200 with new options coming in at $3,350 and $3,500. As for the concrete saw, he secured a deal sufficient to the needs of Public Works.

Councillor Randy Bot made motions to approve the purchase of a concrete saw for $2,400 from United Rentals and allocate up to $3,000 for Ferris to purchase an appropriate packer.

Bot also asked about the possibility of planning out streets that need roadwork, which Ferris replied has already been done. He’s developed a map of areas in town, using a traffic light system to denote areas requiring various levels of attention.

“Red is terrible, yellow is iffy and then green is good,” he explained, adding “there’s quite a bit of yellow, and there is some red.”

In Bot’s view, the roadways are a priority that need addressing immediately.

“I think we have to start thinking about putting as much as we can towards paving this year because I don’t think I’ve ever seen our roads this bad,” he said.

A meeting with Public Works to explore the issue was set for April 8.

Regional park loan approved
During the March 13 Council meeting, a motion was approved for administrative paperwork to go ahead on a loan to the Esterhazy Regional Park and Campground. The park is keen on purchasing an $81,000 Toro GreensMaster mower to tame the greens on the golf course and asked the town for a loan to purchase the unit.

Public notice was given out with town staff noting no inquiries brought forward regarding the proposed loan.

Before Council was Lending Bylaw 783-24, which received three readings and was unanimously approved on Wednesday.

“That will make some very happy golfers,” noted Councillor Tennille Flick, who brought the request before Council initially.