FORT KENT – On Wednesday evening, nearly 30 Fort Kent residents braved blowing snow and wintery road conditions to determine the fate of the Fort Kent Seniors Citizen’s Centre.
Immediate action by community members is needed if the current building, previously operated by the Senior Citizens Society and owned by the MD of Bonnyville, will keep its lights on and its doors open to the public.
The entire board of directors for the Senior Citizens Society has made the decision to step down and turn over the keys to a new group.
If a new committee of volunteers does not come together to take over the management of the facility, the keys will be turned over to the municipality that owns both the land and the building.
“There is a small group of older adults, almost all of whom are over 80. These volunteers have been [running] the Senior Citizens Society for many years,” said Davide Beale, speaking to residents attending the Future of Fort Kent Hall meeting.
“They are not able to continue. They have served the community well but need a much-needed retirement from their volunteer service.”
The Fort Kent Hall was built in 1986. Based on information gathered from old meeting minutes, the building was used as both a community hall and the seniors’ hall for some time, said Beale.
Eventually, the group running the community hall side of the facility disbanded and the Senior Citizens Society took over the management and operations of the building.
Josh Crick, MD of Bonnyville councillor for Ward 1, told residents that the municipality wants to see another society take over the operations of the hall in order to keep community events up and running.
“This is such a beautiful facility, and it has been taken such great care of by the seniors’ society and Grace (Hebert). The MD doesn’t want to take it over. We want it to stay a community asset,” said Crick.
Al Hoggan, the CAO for the MD, added that the municipality would gladly hand over the keys to a community committee that intends to move forward with forming a society and take over the operations of the facility, while promoting community spirit and community sustainability in Fort Kent.
“We are happy to see the hall succeed. We’re happy to see a society take over. We support a community hall, and we want to help,” Hoggan told residents.
Options for the hall
Beale followed by listing the options on the table for Fort Kent residents to consider regarding the hall's future.
“Option A) Dissolve the current society and close the hall. This will happen if nothing happens,” said Beale.
The second option put forward was to renew the Senior Citizens Society with a new group of seniors that are 55 years and older, based on what is believed to be the society’s current bylaws. “This is not seen as a sustainable option,” noted Beale.
The third option proposed is to keep the society operational, but with changes.
“Change the name, society objectives and the bylaws,” outlined Beale, suggesting that the name of the Senior Citizens Society could be changed to the Fort Kent Community Hall Association, or another name agreed on by new board members.
The benefit of changing the name and bylaws of the current society would be that moving forward the hall could focus on events for all ages in the community, not exclusively seniors. Also, all the funds currently held by the Senior Citizens Society could stay with the hall rather than donated if the society folds.
“Lots of good things happen when neighbours help neighbours,” said Beale. He added that if a new community led society took over, it would mean a real commitment is needed from residents.
Following the formal meeting, residents of Fort Kent voiced their eagerness to work together to move forward with a committee and host a variety of community activities in the space.
More than a dozen people at the meeting signed up to be on an interim Fort Kent Community Hall Committee.
Any Fort Kent residents that were unable to attend the Nov. 2 meeting can reach David Beale at [email protected] for more information or to sign up for the interim committee.