The $110-million Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre will be built in Fort Macleod, the Solicitor General promised Friday.
Solicitor General Fred Lindsay made it clear that rumours and opinions to the contrary the project is continuing on schedule.
“We made the right decision,” Lindsay said. “As I told the Edmonton Police Commission when they asked me if I would reverse it I said, Not a chance’.”
Lindsay delivered the news Fort Macleod wanted to hear during the annual meeting of the Livingstone-Macleod Progressive Conservative Association.
Lindsay and project manager Bill Meade said plans to start construction in late 2007 or early 2008, with the first class of recruits arriving in the fall of 2010, have not changed.
“Six months ago I asked that very question,” Mayor Shawn Patience said. “I’m very buoyed by the fact they are maintaining that same schedule.”
Livingstone-Macleod MLA Dave Coutts also welcomed Lindsay’s reinforcement of the decision to build the police college in Fort Macleod.
“Thank you for that message,” Coutts told Lindsay. “It’s good news for southern Alberta, good news for Alberta, and good news for Canada.” Lindsay, who is MLA for Stony Plain, was on the four-member MLA committee that endorsed the recommendation the college be built in Fort Macleod.
“Knowing the proud history and tradition of policing in this town, coming down here and seeing the dedication and support of the community . . . it didn’t take long to convince me this was the right decision,” Lindsay said.
Nothing has happened since the Aug. 30 announcement to change the government’s direction.
“We’re going to move onwards and upwards and the facility is going to be built here in the very near future,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said building the police college in Fort Macleod represents the government’s commitment to rural sustainability.
“The police college will hopefully be the seed that germinates this community,” Lindsay said.
The police college is also part of the government’s plan to create safe and secure communities through standardized training for police and peace officers.
“I’m certainly excited about that,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay also addressed concerns the province plans to replace the RCMP.
“They are the best in Canada and they are known as one of the best across the world,” Lindsay said of the RCMP.
The province plans to hire and train more sheriffs to work in such areas as traffic enforcement and serving warrants.
“We need our RCMP officers doing higher levels of work,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said there is the possibility RCMP recruits will receive basic training at the college in Fort Macleod before moving on for specialized training at depot in Regina.
Lindsay told the audience the government has a $17-billion backlog of capital projects, which makes the private-public partnership (P3) key in development of the police college.
“I think this is just an excellent opportunity for a private-public partnership,” Lindsay said.
Police college design work is being done up-front to accommodate the P3 process.
“We need that police college today,” Lindsay said. “Not five years from now.”
Calgary-Hays MLA Art Johnston, who spent 25 years with the Calgary Police Service, agreed.
“The police college is something that we really need,” Johnston said.
Project manager Bill Meade said it is vital to ensure there is value to the taxpayer before the request for P3 proposals is made.
“We have to do a lot of work on the front end,” Meade said.
That work, which includes architectural and engineering design, is being done at present.
Work has also been done with chiefs of police and leaders from the peace officer groups to develop a common curriculum.
Engineers, architects and land developers working on the project are at the point, Meade said, where they can come to Fort Macleod to meet with the mayor and council and liaison committee.
“We want to ensure our plans are meeting your needs and your expectations,” Meade said. “There’s things that we want to make sure as a 30- or 40- or 50-year community partner with you that make sense for you.”
That includes the theme and look of the building, areas of the college that will allow public access and things the community can do to support the college.
“There is a whole bunch of things that we think we could do in partnership with the local providers,” Meade said.
Meade said a meeting within a month is anticipated with local officials, before the request for P3 proposals goes out.
“I’m convinced the police college is going to be a big boost for your community and I’m sure you are too,” Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said. “I can hardly wait for the day I can come down and cut the ribbon.”