The idea of building a multi million dollar police training centre in Fort Macleod was the provincial government’s idea.
Four years after the province said it was going to build the Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre, Fort Macleod town council is working on a plan to show the government how to get it done.
“We are very actively working on an option for the province to consider to not only fund but operate that facility,” Fort Macleod Mayor Shawn Patience said. “I think our efforts are paying off.”
In August 2006 the province said it planned to build a $110-million facility in Fort Macleod where 1,400 recruits would be trained each year. Four years later the sod still has not been turned as the government struggles to find a way to fund the project.
The project is stalled because the government can’t find a private partner to build the facility in the southeast corner of Fort Macleod. Fort Macleod council felt inclined to help.
“We just felt that even as the province continues to move forward, we felt it prudent that we cover all our bases,” Patience said. “It’s a bit of a different role for us but we have been diligent in our efforts to bring this project forward.”
Patience did not release any details about the plan council is developing but said it was important residents know work is going on behind the scenes.
“The fact people are not hearing a lot about the police training centre does not mean we haven’t been very industrious,” Patience said.
The alternative to build and operate the college that council is developing does not involve doing the project in phases or scaling back its scope.
“Myself and my council have never been in favour of a scaled-back version of this project,” Patience said. “The important thing at the end of the day is that the project gets built to everyone’s satisfaction.”
The mayor said he has had productive meetings with Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger this summer.
“I certainly have a higher level of optimism than I have had for a while,” Patience said.
Members of Fort Macleod council also met recently with Premier Ed Stelmach to discuss the police college.
“We had a very candid discussion about the training centre,” Patience said. “The premier is not only conscious about our efforts to help bring this project to reality, he is also conscious of our frustration.”
Fort Macleod made a huge investment in winning the bid for the college over 30 other Alberta communities and providing a 320-acre site in southeast Fort Macleod where the college is to be built. Construction of the college was to begin 18 months following the announcement in August 2006.
“I came out of the meeting with the premier very optimistic,” Patience said. “I’m hoping we hear something from the government very soon.”
Council has also been in contact with Solicitor General Frank Oberle, whose department is in charge of the police college project. Oberle has responded in writing to recent queries sent by the mayor on council’s behalf, and remains committed to the project.
“I hope that soon there is something tangible to announce,” Patience said. “I believe we’re getting there. We’ve certainly got our foot on the pedal.”
Patience said while the number of questions he fields each week about the police college has declined, there continues to be strong interest in the project.
The mayor has talked to police officials from Alberta and other provinces who support the project and are following developments. Even if an announcement is forthcoming soon, Fort Macleod residents are still years from seeing the first recruits come to town.
“It’s not going to happen in the blink of an eye,” Patience said. “The important thing is to get funding and commitments in place.”
It is expected that once the money is in place it would take three years to get the college built.
The mayor knows there are people who believe the project is dead.
“Ever since he beginning of this project there were people who were pessimistic . . . I’ve never been one of those.”
Patience wants his town to share his optimism.
“I have always believed this thing is going to happen,” Patience said. “I have never faltered from that.”