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Doctors could still obtain funeral home: Chamber

Efforts by local doctors to relocate their practice to a north-end funeral home location are back on. A press release issued from the office of Dr.

Efforts by local doctors to relocate their practice to a north-end funeral home location are back on.

A press release issued from the office of Dr. Almereau Prollius at SpesMed Medical Centre indicates the doctors at that location are asking city council re-visit the application they made in April to located to new office space at the Wilson and Zehner Funeral Home. They say their discretionary use application to take over the funeral home will be revisited at Monday night's city council meeting.

The doctors' original discretionary use application was denied at an April 25 meeting. They wanted to locate medical offices for up to nine doctors at the funeral home building at 2591-99th St., located in a C3 Commercial zone. The C3 zone is currently dominated by car dealerships and other businesses, and administration noted no professional offices were located in the zone.

The funeral home rezoning application was turned down by a 4-3 vote, as council supported administration's position that professional offices be located in the C1 Commercial zone.

Last week SpesMed issued a press release where they seemed to indicate they were moving on to other options. They stated the "funeral home avenue is no longer viable" as an option, citing the strict time line they were under and the need for renovations, and that they were "continuing to evaluate options."

Wednesday, however, SpesMed issued an updated statement where they made clear the Wilson and Zehner Funeral Home was their preferred option after canvassing alternatives in the downtown core.

"We have spent countless hours trying to find suitable premises in the downtown core. Several properties were viewed, none of which would be suitable for a medical office. We still strongly believe that the Wilson and Zehner Funeral Home would be the best solution for our office needs," their release states.

The SpesMed statement goes on to say: "due to the overwhelming support from the Chamber of Commerce as well as the general public, we have requested that council re-visit our application. We have been advised that the discretionary use application will be re-visited and voted on again at the city council meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, May 24 "

SpesMed also said they, "would like to thank everyone who has supported our venture to date, and trust that the public outcry regarding the previous decision will be adequate reason for the denial to be repealed."

Council's decision to turn down the SpesMed zoning application prompted an immediate negative reaction from supporters of the medical clinic, who expressed fears the decision might result in specialists leaving or not being attracted to the community.

Several voiced support for the doctors' position in letters to the Regional Optimist last week. Early Wednesday, one supporter of the doctors' application told the Regional Optimist she planned to march from the Territorial Mall all the way to city hall to deliver a letter supporting SpesMed's efforts.

SpesMed's latest statement comes on the heels of the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce's meeting of the board of directors Tuesday night. The issue of the efforts to locate medical offices at the funeral home came up, and directors at the meeting generally expressed a desire to see the situation resolved and wanted more information.

Chamber president Scott Campbell said he had been in touch with Dr. Prollius of SpesMed earlier in the day on Tuesday. He said Prollius indicated SpesMed was still working with the city towards a resolution to the situation.

"I called again and he said he met with Mayor Ian Hamilton today," Campbell told the board. "They had a very positive meeting. However, it may or may not translate into getting it rezoned and that he would like the Chamber's support."

Campbell said he personally wanted to see the Chamber support them because he felt the funeral home location was "a great spot for them," with plenty of parking in front. He was of the opinion their application was turned down at council because the city "wanted to help the downtown."

He said having the specialists in the community "makes our community stronger."

Chamber director Pat Smith of Battlefords Co-op said he dealt with SpesMed as tenants at Territorial Mall. Their lease is up at that location, he said, with Smith noting the doctors' had been given an extension at their current location to "at least July."

Smith said the SpesMed clinic is looking to double their current office space.

There was also significant discussion by the Chamber directors on the issue of downtown revitalization in general, with Chamber director Malcolm Anderson noting that efforts in Calgary to revitalize a rough area of their downtown paid off through redevelopment.