MD receives land for training centre

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Foothills: Facility for emergency personnel education to be on former Saddlebrook land

A piece of land once used for emergency homes after the 2013 flood will soon be used to train personnel who can assist in an emergency.

The MD of Foothills officially received 20 acres of land in the Aldersyde area from TransCanada on Feb. 21 to be used as an emergency training centre.

“The whole purpose is to use it as a training centre for firefighters and emergency personnel for the County,” MD of Foothills Reeve Larry Spilak said at the Feb. 21 council meeting in High River.

The land was used in 2013-14 to build Saddlebrook, a temporary living facility for High River residents displaced by the flood.

While the MD of Foothills will own the land, the future project is a joint venture with the Town of High River.

The facility will be constructed in stages and expanded as needed. Long-term uses include a new fire hall, emergency services office space and emergency co-ordination centre for during large-scale emergencies.

The facility will provide opportunities for both practical and classroom training to first responders that will not only benefit fire departments, but also police and bylaw enforcement services, emergency medical services, public works and private industry.

The MD did not announce a price tag for the proposed centre. But, the facility could also be a revenue generator as it can be used as a training facility by other communities

It may be a year or two before construction starts.

An Alberta Communities Partnership Grant is in place to hire a consultant to create a business plan and a site development plan for the training centre, said Ryan Payne, MD deputy CAO and director of community services.

Okotoks is not a partner in the project, but the proposed facility will still benefit the community and surrounding area, said Fire Chief Ken Thevenot.

“We don’t know exactly what is going to be there, but I imagine we would use it if I find exactly what they have been approved for — I just don’t know what the general uses will be,” he said.

At present, Okotoks firefighters train at the fire hall in town, at Calgary facilities or old houses on acreages that can be used.

High River Fire Chief Len Zebedee agreed the facility is most welcomed.

“It’s a great location for training our staff,” Zebedee said. “Trying to arrange to go to Lethbridge or Calgary or some other training facility with a bunch of guys is very difficult. To have it in our backyard is absolutely great for the MD of Foothills and surrounding area.”

He said he hopes the facility will include a live-fire training building on site and an enclosed vehicle excavation area where emergency personnel can practice on cars.

TransCanada initially announced in 2016 it would transfer the land.

“The MD came back to us saying they didn’t need the size and the scope of the land we were going to donate to them,” said TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha. “Today (Feb. 21) was officially when we donated the land.”

He said the donation was “a commitment to working with the communities in which we live and operate. It’s something we believe strongly in… We thought it was a great opportunity to work with the MD and provide the land they require for this facility.”

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