Rosthern residents have grown accustomed to hearing the sounds of heavy machinery around town this winter.
“I don’t think the community has ever seen this value of construction in the coldest months of the year ever before in its history,” said Rosthern Mayor Dennis Helmuth. “There are two very large projects on the go right now. It’s very exciting and I think it bodes well for the future of the community.”
The steel-girder skeletons of both the Cervus John Deere dealership and the new K-12 school are taking shape this month, as construction on both projects is proceeding on schedule despite the cold weather.
The new Cervus building will replace the dealership’s former facility that was destroyed by fire in the summer of 2018.
Helmuth said the company’s decision in the wake of that devastating fire to rebuild, with an expanded and updated facility, was welcome news for the community.
“It’s a big employer in town,” said Helmuth. “But this is also an important part of the company’s overall operations. Percentage-wise, it’s not that far behind the Saskatoon location in overall sales and service.
“In fact, last year, in July, the Rosthern branch won the award for best Cervus outlet throughout western Canada. They are the leading edge when it comes to sales, service, and repeat customers. So that’s pretty impressive.
“When the fire happened, it was very devastating, but the company let it be known right away that they were committed to this location and they would rebuild bigger and better. So everyone is looking forward to seeing that project completed.”
The sod was turned for the new K-12 school in the fall of 2018 and the facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020. It will replace the existing Rosthern High School and Rosthern Elementary School, both of which are structurally questionable.
Helmuth said both existing schools are “bursting at the seams.”
While the population of Rosthern has remained relatively stable about 1800 people for many decades, the demographics have changed as more and more young families have moved into, or returned to, the community.
“It’s a great place to raise a family,” said Helmuth. “It’s far enough away from Saskatoon that it has its own identity, and all the amenities including good recreational facilities; but it’s also close enough that you can get your ‘city fix’ with just a short drive to either Saskatoon or Prince Albert.”
Helmuth noted that with the completion of a new lift station last year that services about 90 per cent of the community, Rosthern is gearing up to gradually accommodate a population of about 2500. But before that can happen, he noted, the town’s existing 60-year-old water treatment plan will have to be replaced.
“That’s the next monster project on the list,” said Helmuth. “We have very high-quality water that we pipe into town from eight shallow-aquifer wells east of here near the river. It’s an excellent source of water but we have to ensure we have good infrastructure to properly treat it. That’s going to be the next big challenge.”
Helmuth said the town wants to be “shovel-ready” to begin on the water treatment plant as soon as grant application opportunities open under federal-provincial infrastructure funding programs.
He noted the town was well-prepared when it came time to apply for infrastructure funding for the lift station project.
“We had our ducks in a row and were able to have the work done for less than anticipated,” he said. “Our share of the funding for the new lift station was covered through an infrastructure reserve levy we’ve had in place for several years.”
Helmuth said there was a $200,000 surplus left over at the completion of the lift station project.
The surplus federal-provincial funds from that project were matched by the town, and are being used for expanding infrastructure connections to a property east of 4th Avenue that will be the site of the new Saskatchewan Valley Hospital. In total, the town is contributing $600,000 to the new regional health care facility, which will replace the aging Rosthern Hospital.
Helmuth, who’s served on Rosthern town council since 1997, said it’s a “balancing act” when it comes to allocating funds for new projects while maintaining existing infrastructure.
“We designate some money every year to pavement improvements,” said Helmuth. “I wish we could do more, but it’s a question of budgeting and priorities.
“Rosthern has an asset management plan, and that’s a very important and useful tool that helps us plan for the future.”