The mayor of Fort Macleod remains convinced the province is committed to building the Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre in his town. Shawn Patience said there is no indication from Premier Ed Stelmach the police college project is delayed.
“His crime reduction plan, his desire to get gangs off city streets, all hinge on having foot soldiers on the ground,” Patience said. “The need for the training centre is even greater now than it was in 2006 when we were awarded it.”
Patience’s comments came at the Oct. 27 council meeting following outside media projects speculating the province was shelving the police college due to rising costs and the lack of interest from private investors. Patience spoke recently with both the premier and project manager Bill Meade and received assurances the police college will be built in Fort Macleod, and that the first class of recruits will arrive on schedule in the fall of 2010.
“There is no one who is saying the police college has been delayed,” Patience said. “What I am told by the premier, what I am told by the project co-ordinator, is the police college is not delayed.”
Patience was deluged with calls from outside media as well as Fort Macleod residents following the premier’s speech at a Conservative Party fund-raiser in Lethbridge.
“His comments were clearly that because the economy has slowed down, there was an opportunity to build the police college at a lower cost than had been put to them in the spring,” Patience said.
Originally projected to cost $110-million, the police college price tag had risen to an estimated $260-million due to escalating construction and material costs brought on by Alberta’s hot economy. Stelmach was noncommittal when asked by reporters when construction would start on the police college, at which 1,400 police and peace officer recruits will be trained each year.
“When I spoke to the Premier I suggested I was a little disappointed he had not mentioned the police college,” Patience said. “He said that was a speech he would give in Fort Macleod.”
The government is reviewing a short list of potential investors in a public-private partnership to build the police college, and Patience said he was told the project will likely be brought before the finance department prior to development of the province’s 2009 budget.
“There is nothing to indicate the project has been stalled,” Patience said.
Fort Macleod is not the only community keen to see shovels in the ground at the police college site in the southeast corner of Fort Macleod.
“There is no one south of Calgary who isn’t anxious to get this going,” Patience said. “This is not just a Fort Macleod issue. There are a lot of people in Lethbridge and southern Alberta that are pursuing this.”