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Shuniah is getting a new ambulance base and a multi-purpose pavilion

The municipality plans to get both projects underway this year as it marks its 150th anniversary

THUNDER BAY — As it enters its 150th anniversary year, the Municipality of Shuniah plans to start two significant capital projects in 2023 – a new ambulance base and a multi-use pavilion.

The longstanding need for a proper ambulance base is expected to be addressed this year with the groundbreaking for a new facility for Superior North EMS paramedics.

The $2.2 million building will be constructed across from the McKenzie Inn on Highway 11/17 at a site where a helipad is already located.

Paramedics currently work out of a leased trailer behind the Shuniah fire hall on Lakeshore Drive, and use an ambulance that is parked inside near the fire trucks.

"The conditions in the trailer aren't really good for people to be staying in when they're on duty," Shuniah Mayor Wendy Landry said.

Superior North EMS Chief Shane Muir agrees that it's far from ideal.

"The trailer has outlived its use. It's on the older side now, is a little bit run-down, and needs a lot of continuous maintenance. This will help increase our response times [as] we'll have all the paramedics in one building. They'll be able to get into the ambulance and respond rather than having to go to a separate building," Muir told TBnewswatch in an interview.

He described the available space for the ambulance in the fire hall, which is right in front of a fire truck, as "very tight."

Among numerous shortcomings identified in a facility review, there's not even enough room to remove the stretcher or properly clean the vehicle.

The current accommodations don't meet regulatory or functional requirements for an EMS service.

Muir said Shuniah-based paramedics responded to 633 calls for service last year — including 555 "Code 4" or major calls — and that the number of calls has been trending steadily upward in recent years.

Staffed by four full-time paramedics and two part-time paramedics, the base also serves Dorion and several unincorporated townships.

But some of the increase in calls, Muir said, is due to the necessity of providing backup service in the City of Thunder Bay when all available ambulances are tied up and a "Code Black" is declared.

A tender for the project was issued last month and remains open until the middle of January.

The new base will be constructed and owned by Shuniah but leased back to the City of Thunder Bay, which administers paramedic services throughout the District of Thunder Bay.

Landry said the municipality will finance the project through a loan.

Shuniah is also planning to erect a multi-purpose, year-round pavilion that would cost about $1.4 million.

The mayor said the municipality is reviewing submitted designs for a roof over the existing skating rink at the MacGregor Recreation Centre.

It's applied for $700,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, which would leave Shuniah covering the balance from federal gas tax revenues, municipal reserves and corporate donations.

"We're just trying to make sure that we do it right the first time, so that we're not going back and having to spend money afterwards," Landry said. "It's a timber design, and there are a couple of options for the type of posts we put in, and how we put those in, and the size of the rink. We'll have to alter the size of the rink that fits under the pavilion." 

She called the project "a good news story" for the community because having a shield against the weather will significantly increase the usability of the facility.

"Our skating rink melts early in March if it gets warm because there's pavement under the ice. But it's a multi-use thing. We can have our July yard sale under the pavilion with protection from the sun or rain. It gives us a lot more opportunities for residents to use it for different events."

The pavilion — which should be completed this year — will cover a larger area and will be higher than the roof that was installed over the the Township of Conmee's community rink in January 2021.

It's one of the projects that have emerged from the municipality's 2019 Recreation, Parks and Facilities Master Plan.

Officials say that besides extending the skating season, it will expand and complement programming already provided at the rec centre and at Wild Goose Park, offering opportunities for an artisans' and farmers' market, a variety of courts for sporting activities, fitness/active living courses, concerts, youth group and day camp programming and other community functions.

Landry noted that — having been incorporated in 1873 —Shuniah is one of the oldest municipalities in Ontario.

"We have a lot of planning to do. We hope to do a lot of things this summer. We're gearing up to celebrate."

Shuniah originally extended as far south as Pigeon River, and included what is now the City of Thunder Bay, Neebing, and parts of Oliver Paipoonge. 

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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