The final decision isn't expected until May 15, but the indication from last Thursday's public meeting is that Neepawa's East View Lodge (EVL) facility may soon be no more.
At the meeting, all five featured speakers – two from the Town of Neepawa and three under government employment – eluded to the fact the EVL property may now be more valuable without the former personal care home’s building on it.
Photos of the building in its present state show the exterior of East View Lodge's building as it has always appeared; a brilliant, well-looking facility which Mayor Ken Waddell rightly refers to as being “the signature building for the town...ever since its inception”.
But images of its interior gave a much different picture, putting the situation in to a more realistic perspective.
Images of hazardous tiles needing removal, mouldy or water-damaged ceilings, a desolate kitchen, damaged piping in the boiler room and an infestation of flies all pointed to the same conclusion; the building is no longer feasibly salvageable.
The poor condition is in part because the building has been largely unattended to in recent years.
Waddell, who led the meeting to a full room at the Neepawa United Church Education Centre, pointed out the building had been costing the province about $15,000-$20,000 monthly when it first closed and heating and and other services were kept up.
In more recent months, heat and other amenities have been turned off to lower those costs, leading to the deterioration issues.
Neepawa's Economic Development Officer Rick Donaldson has been looking for potential developers for the site since about June of 2009 and said as time has gone by, the costs of renovating the building for housing have escalated substantially.
It would cost millions to renovate and, even though Donaldson said he has talked to about 38 developers about varying projects with the building, they have all eventually withdrawn in talks.
“None have ever got close to a return on investment...that would allow them to move forward,” Donaldson said.
“I think the due diligence has been done on this and I would not recommend anything but demolition,”
Donaldson later added he believes about seven developers would have serious interest in the EVL property if the building was removed.
Mayor Waddell echoed Donaldson’s conclusion, noting information indicates, “we would be better off to tear down East View Lodge than to let it deteriorate for another 10 years.”
As part of the talks, Waddell pointed out the Department of Health has told the Town it will fund the full cost of EVL’s demolition at no cost to the Town. The Department of Health would also sell the property to the Town for $1 and allow it to find a proper developer for the land parcel.
No decision has been made yet, but council is expected to consider a resolution to support demolishing the East View Lodge building and purchasing it for $1 for development at its May 15 meeting.
Mayor Waddell pointed out at Wednesday's meeting that no one in attendance gave opposition to demolishing of the building and that will play into council’s decision-making.
In a follow-up interview Thursday, Mayor Waddell told The Neepawa Press he was not able to disclose any information regarding what type of housing potential developers are considering.
The benefits of using the property to offer more assisted living homes in Neepawa was discussed informally at Wednesday’s meeting.
Also at the meeting, MLA Stu Briese commended the Town’s efforts towards the issue throughout this whole process.
“The Town, I think, did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Briese said.
The historic East View Lodge building may not have had to meet its end this way.
At the meeting, Donaldson said the Town had previously been working with a developer for about a year-and-a-half regarding the potential of renovating/reusing the building for housing.
He estimated the development group had invested about $250,000 into its efforts for the development.
The Government instead decided to put the building to tender, the developer withdrew its interest in part because of time constraints, and no bids were accepted through the tender put out.
Other developers showed interest in reusing building after the tender process but none were able to feasibly complete the project.