A longstanding community project in Lac La Biche County is coming close to finishing.
Rich Lake Hall has been under construction since November 2014, and almost seven years later, the total project is about 75 per cent complete, said Brigit Vezeau, Rich Lake Rec & Ag Society president, but two of the three main structures are done.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s something that the community has needed for so long. They haven’t had a place to have anything, no funerals and weddings, no community suppers. We’re really lacking a community feel without it. So I’m glad and I can’t wait to have that back,” said Vezeau.
The initial problem was flooding. Water ran for multiple days at the old hall, and when those repairs began, mold was discovered underneath the building.
When the cost estimates for repairs came back at $300,000, the society decided to do construction from the ground up.
Vezeau said originally the construction was just going to be a new riding arena after receiving grant funding from the provincial government. But when they found the mold, they decided to go towards a whole facility.
“They found pre-existing mold that was down in the cellar, and underneath the frame. So they [insurance] would only cover a portion of the cost,” said Vezeau.
“It was really expensive, so we decided that we should start looking at a new facility.”
Fast forward these years later, the biggest portion left to do is in the main hall.
“The riding arena is finished. That probably opens Friday [March 12]. For youth, the small hall is finished. It’s just the main hall with the commercial kitchen. And so I guess we’re 75 per cent done. The main hall is huge, that’s where we would have weddings and stuff, right, so it’s probably 75 per cent done, but there are parts that will be usable,” said Vezeau.
Darrell Lessmeister, Lac La Biche County’s associate Chief Administrative Officer of Recreation and Community Services, said the county stepped in about two and a half years ago to manage the project.
“In 2019 and 2020, Lac La Biche County allocated $725,000 to remove the old community hall and complete work on the new community hall. To complete this work, Lac La Biche County Administration managed the project and worked closely with the Rich Lake Recreation and Agricultural Society throughout the process,” said Lessmeister in a written statement.
In the Day After Debrief, Mayor Omer Moghrabi said these sorts of projects are important for the county.
“We will try to finish the hall part portion of it. So it’s crucial for us to keep our rural communities being able to connect, they have a place to have small weddings, funerals, those type of things,” said Moghrabi.
However, with public health orders in place limiting the amount of events and fundraising opportunities for the Rich Lake Rec & Ag Society, Vezeau isn’t sure when exactly the project will be fully complete.
“We don’t really have an income. So we’re hoping the arena will generate income, but COVID is really putting…because we can’t have events,” she said. “Right now, we’re just actively applying for granting. So hopefully, we are successful in some of those applications.”
“We would like to thank the Lac La Biche County for their support. Because if they wouldn’t have given us the financial aid, we would not have anything open. So we are very appreciative of all the work that they did.”