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Kitwanga continues campaign to build emergency services building

Online auction this week will bolster effort
The Kitwanga ambulance station is now in a former and inadequate forest service building. (Photo courtesy Kitwanga Community Association) Kitwanga and area residents want to construct an emergency services building to replace an older structure now housing the community’s ambulance. (Photo courtesy Kitwanga Community Association)

Efforts continue to build an emergency services building in Kitwanga to replace an aging and inadequate building once used by the forest service.

That building, now privately owned and leased to the provincial emergency health services commission, holds one ambulance but a new building would contain two bays, one for the ambulance and one for a fire truck.

A new building would have proper crew quarters and office space as well, said Cathy Morgan from the Kitwanga Community Association, which is the main organizing behind the building drive.

“Renovations have not been done — still single pane windows and insulation of the standard of a building built in the late 40s,” said Morgan. The ambulance service has been in the building for more than 35 years.

Beginning in 2015, approximately $120,000 has been raised and more is to come in this week thanks to an online auction being organized through the community association.

Construction costs have been pegged in the neighbourhood of $1 million and that does not include the value of a half-acre lot donated in 2018.

That cost does not include an apartment for a nurse practitioner, a position now posted in Hazelton.

Beginning in 2015, an annual Humpy Run in which people buy numbered wooden fish which are then floated down the Kitwanga River has been a prime way of raising money. Lookouts call out the first fish (“humpy” is the popular name for the pink salmon) to be spotted and netters then identify the numbers of the first fish crossing a line so that their purchasers can be awarded prizes.

“Many of the funds have been raised by generous donations of prizes from area businesses and individuals. Neighbouring First Nations communities have contributed funds since the onset and lend their support to the project,” said Morgan.

Raffles and memorial feasts for elders have also contributed to the effort.

The Kitwanga community has had less luck in convincing various levels of governments to aid the cause.

“We have been seeking grant funding for three years but few if any infrastructure grants cover emergency buildings,” said Morgan.

The list of agencies and programs which have told Kitwanga their project does not qualify includes the Prince George based Northern Development Initiative Trust, a federal program sending gas tax revenue to local governments for capital projects and $150 million sent by the provincial government to northern local governments for capital projects in 2019-2020.

Morgan did say the Kitimat-Stikine regional district is now making its grant writer available to help apply for grants.

Corporately, Seabridge Gold this year has provided a grant of $5,000.

And a major commitment has been made by another mining company, Pretivm Resources, which owns the Brucejack gold mine.

Just last month it said it would match what money the association had raised until then, approximately $120,000, once the association could provide the assurance the rest of the money needed for construction was in hand.

The online auction via Kitwanga and Area and community groups on Facebook begins Nov. 27 and lasts until Dec. 4. Last year’s online auction had more than 300 people joining the auction site.

About the Author: Rod Link

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