Thursday , 23 September 2021
Arthur C. Green/Lakeland Connect

$3.2 million dollar building meant for Fire & Emergency Services still sits empty in M.D. of Bonnyville

The Town and M.D. of Bonnyville confirmed last year that Fire Station 5 is on the move to the vacant Kopala building just west of town, along with all emergency operations including ambulance response and 911 dispatch. However, the building still sits empty and no known work has been completed.

The M.D. of Bonnyville purchased the building at 46213 Township Road 612 and surrounding land for roughly $3.2 million, and last year both Reeve Greg Sawchuk and Mayor Gene Sobolewski touted the savings for local taxpayers to buy this building, instead of constructing a new one.

August 2021 was suggested at the time for the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) to be settled in. However, nothing is happening, no work has been completed outside and it seems like a waste of tax payers money at this point. It is unclear if the building has even been touched to prepare for the move.

Lakeland Connect has reached out to the M.D. of Bonnyville several times to inquire about the project. We sent questions to Reeve Greg Sawchuk about the stalled project which were not answered. Reeve Sawchuck did not return any messages concerning the BRFA to Lakeland Connect.

Therefore, Lakeland Connect reached out to Al Hoggan who is the Chief Administrative Officer with the M.D. of Bonnyville. We asked him in there any reason why Reeve Sawchuk won’t respond.

“As the Reeve is the official spokesperson for the M.D., I will leave the decision to respond or not to Reeve Sawchuk,” Hoggan told Lakeland Connect.

Then we asked CAO Hoggan if he could find someone who could answer our questions which relate to the use of taxpayers money and the empty Kopala building.

We received a simple reply via email from Hoggan which read, “I just did.”

Lakeland Connect inquired with Hoggan who he directed us to for the answers concerning the BRFA in several emails with no reply.

On August 25, Mayor Gene Sobolewski from the Town of Bonnyville did a live interview in studio with Lakeland Connect. During this interview we asked Mayor Sobolewski when can we expect the BRFA to change locations.

“A lot of the dialogue and discussions had been occurring in camera at the authority,” Mayor Sobolewski said. “So there’s not much that I can say, because we also at the town are dealing with the issue in camera. But what I can say is that, and further to two other interviews that were done. The M.D. did purchase the building. And so now, essentially, it’s waiting on leases to the authority. And there’s some improvements that need to be done.”

In camera refers to discussions in private, in particular taking place in the private chambers of a council with the press and public excluded.

Lakeland Connect also reached out to Jay Melvin Regional Fire Chief of the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority. We asked the Chief, “Have you received any information from the M.D. of Bonnyville when the BRFA is moving to the empty building that was purchased a year ago?”

“I have no information to provide you with,” Regional Fire Chief Melvin said.

Therefore here are the questions we have for the M.D. of Bonnyville.

1. Concerning the Kopala building- Administration staff will move into the new building first and over the course of the next several months, the transition will begin, with a timeline of August 2021 suggested to be settled in. Has this begun? What’s the progress?
2. The M.D. plans to take possession of the building by mid-November, with work on the new facility to start shortly after.
“Once the groundwork is done outside, there’s a requirement for a little bit of cleanup on the yard and some fencing to be done,” said Sawchuk in a news story last year.
Has any work been completed? If so, what? And how much did this work cost?
3. What’s the projected total cost of the move and the project?
A deadline of Tuesday, at 4:00 p.m. on September 7, was given to Reeve Greg Sawchuk and the M.D. of Bonnyville on Friday September 3 to answer our questions, no reply was received.
-With files from Michael Menzies

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About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is from Whitbourne Newfoundland and graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner!