OPINION: Proposed learning centre a boon for Ponoka

Exciting things will come with Ponoka’s learning centre, in this week’s editorial.

Want to see something exciting happen in the Town of Ponoka? Watch what happens when this proposed learning centre is built.

This new building brings with it more than post-secondary curriculum to the town, although that’s something to be excited about; it provides an opportunity for growth and development.

Let’s not kid ourselves, that old hospital has become a weight too heavy to hold onto and it’s bringing the community down with it. The closest thing to major development in the Town of Ponoka in recent years is the Calnash Ag Event Centre, which has provided some positive development on that south end of town.

Along with a new truck wash and the John Deere dealership across from the ag event centre is the new motel.

The south end of Ponoka is starting to look pretty darn shiny. It’s only fit that the north end of town become another anchor point to be proud of.

Benefits from the ag centre have come to local businesses, which in turn has spurred a need for products and services.

Imagine what happens with a building like the learning centre. The land is ideal for other development and already in the works are plans for new development in the location.

Building a new town hall and providing a space for the Ponoka Jubilee Library and Campus Alberta Central (CAC) does two things: it removes the old hospital and brings additional education to the community.

Just think, local kids who are leaving the community to further their education may just stay in town to continue to enhance their skills. Other kids will come to town to learn and the process will continue.

Certainly the $575,000 annual lease cannot be taken lightly but if there’s anything that will bring development in this community it’s this building. A new RCMP building, while needed, won’t do that (with respect to the RCMP members who use the current detachment).

Town planners are looking at ensuring the public space is one with parks, distinct designs and where learning can occur. It’s location is ideally suited to walking to the north pedestrian bridge along the Battle River trail and it’s expected to be a signature location for CAC.

There’s risks, however, and that may be worrisome to folks. That fear is understandable, especially considering the town hasn’t done anything in the way of real development for decades. No one has any real understanding of what it means to put something on the line and make it work.

There has also been some pushback. And it is here where it becomes clear why previous councils didn’t really do anything by way of major development in Ponoka; people don’t like change. Any time something new came to Ponoka, there was discontent.

A look at the implementation of the new garbage and recycling program is just one example. But while this change is worth proper thought and consideration, we must be careful we don’t sit too long and watch the opportunity pass us by.

The question people need to ask themselves is this: Do we want to see the old hospital stay in its place for years to come?

If not, then seriously take into consideration the benefits of this building. Sure, the town could build it, as some opponents have voiced, but there’s no way it could be done for the same price.

Another benefit of the lease agreement with Landrex, the company developing the space, is the town can opt to buy it at any time.

This is certainly worthy of consideration. Getting the lease organized now can give the town time to plan out its debenture and borrowing process of the building in the future.

We still come back to the question of this project taking out the old hospital and bringing something new into the community.

That’s the first consideration. And again, if the answer is a desire to see the old building gone, then we have the beginning. The rest will fall into place.

The jump residents will need to make before this project becomes a reality is to use their imagination to see its benefits. The costs and risks are high, but so are the rewards.

Ponoka News editor Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye is a member of the Ponoka Jubilee Library board of directors.