Jon Lefebure says hopes of replacing the aging Cowichan District Hospital with a new facility will take longer than recently announced.
Speaking to a gathering of business people at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting, the North Cowichan mayor, who is also chair of the CVRD and the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District, appeared to backtrack on an earlier statement that the new hospital was only three years away.
“The province will decide when it will be built but even if it moves along smoothly, it could be six years before the doors open,” Lefebure said.
Despite the longer time frame, Lefebure was upbeat about progress on the project and says the process is moving along well with the concept plan close to completion. The development of a business plan is the next step, he said.
The cost of the estimated $400 million hospital will be shared with the province, committed to 60 per cent of the investment. Local governments will pick up the balance.
In October 2016, the hospital district purchased land totalling 22 acres on Bell McKinnon Road on which the new hospital will be built.
Lefebure told the business gathering that Cowichan Valley residents will also have to be patient when it comes to two other long-anticipated projects.
“We don’t have any firm commitment about replacing Cowichan High,” Lefebure acknowledged.
“The challenge is that across the province there are numerous schools that are as old or older and we’re competing with that.”
Lefebure says a new high school and a trades school would the last piece of the puzzle for Cowichan Place, the education and recreation hub that already includes Vancouver Island University, the Island Savings Centre and the aquatic centre.
As for a new RCMP detachment, Lefebure said “we’re in a bit of a no man’s land” after the previous provincial government put the brakes on any plans for a new facility until it determined what the regional policing model should look like.
“The new government is faced with that situation as well,” he said. “We’ve talked to the RCMP and they support us and we expect to hear more from the RCMP in a couple weeks but we’re on hold.”
North Cowichan has been talking about replacing the Canada Avenue detachment for more than a decade and purchased land on Drinkwater Road for a new building in 2014.