WESTLOCK – The Town of Westlock is hoping to cash in on the province’s Northern and Regional Economic Development (NRED) Program for $400,000-plus worth of planned work at the Heritage Building in 2023.
Following an in-camera discussion at their Jan. 9 meeting, councillors voted 6-0 (Coun. Abby Keyes was absent) to approve an HVAC energy efficiency project at the Heritage Building, along with an exterior upgrade, pending the approval of a grant application through NRED — the grant will provide up to $200,000 of the expected $423,000 cost of the project.
Town CAO Simone Wiley said the new HVAC system, along with updated insulation and exterior siding, plus new interior and exterior doors along with some other work, is just a continuation of the $381,000 they spent on the building in 2021 that saw Westlock & District Family and Community Support Services move in and join the Westlock Municipal Library and town council chambers.
Work on the roughly 2,600-plus square-foot project, which included $125,000 for renovation of the building’s washrooms, as well as $256,351 worth of renos to accommodate FCSS, started in late February of that year and wrapped at the start of June 2021.
“You pay 50 per cent of the costs, so that’s why we needed the resolution of council to say that we are committed to funding the project,” Wiley explained in a Jan. 10 follow-up interview.
Originally the Heritage Building was part of three separate wings of Westlock Elementary School and in the 1970s was home to Grade 3-4 students — the current FCSS office takes up four of the old 610-square-foot classrooms.
In the 1980s, WES moved to its current location in Eastglen — that building, constructed in 1970, had been the junior high — while the other two elementary school buildings near the Heritage Building were eventually levelled. The junior high, in turn, then became part of what’s now R.F. Staples School.
According to the province, NRED funds initiatives that support economic development and will achieve “tangible and impactful results” in investment in economic development infrastructure; business supports; labour force attraction and retention; tourism planning, capacity building and infrastructure and economic development capacity building.
While approved applicants are eligible to receive between $20,000 to $200,000 to support eligible project costs, the province says grant funding will not exceed $200,000 per project.