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Fort Macleod battles to get college built

Fort Macleod officials are “cautiously optimistic” the province will build the police college here.

A meeting last week with government officials got town council reassurance the college will be built here, but no firm date.

“One of the things that gave us some optimism leaving the room is that Premier Stelmach told them to get this project done,” Mayor Shawn Patience said. “However, there is still no money no commitment. Our position is very cautiously optimistic.”

Patience, councillors Brian Reach and Sharon Monical, Town of Fort Macleod municipal manager Barry Elliott and economic development officer Martin Ebel went Feb. 23 to the Legislature in Edmonton. Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger had arranged a meeting with new Solicitor General Frank Oberle and Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove.

“It was a very frank meeting, very candid,” Patience said. “We felt like we had to say what was on our mind, what was on the minds of people in Fort Macleod and southern Alberta.”

What is on the minds of people in this town and district, Patience said, is a growing sense of frustration the province has not followed through with a commitment it made in 2006 to build the Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre in Fort Macleod.

“It is becoming more than an issue about the police college,” Patience said. “It is becoming a question of integrity.”

The Fort Macleod delegation was blunt in its assessment that if the government does not get construction started before the 2012 provincial election, it will cost the Progressive Conservatives at the polls.

“It will be an election issue,” Patience said.

The Fort Macleod delegation told Oberle and Snelgrove people in southern Alberta are frustrated by the delay in building the college where 1,400 police and peace officer recruits are to be trained each year. When Fort Macleod in 2006 won the bid as the site of the college, the government promised construction would start in 2007.

Patience and the other Fort Macleod officials told Oberle and Snelgrove the town, as well as businesses and individuals, made investments and business decisions based on that promise.

“When we bid and the other 30 communities bid, there was the belief that this project would come to life very quickly,” Patience said.

At the meeting the Fort Macleod delegation rejected the government’s claims there was no money to build the college, pointing out the province found $2-billion for carbon capture and took on $6-billion in new debt for capital projects.

Patience expressed concern the police college was not in the 2010 provincial budget, it is not in the government’s three-year capital plan and is not even mentioned in the solicitor general’s 2008-’09 annual report.

“The fact it is not on the capital list tells me it is not a priority for them,” Patience said. “And it should be.”

During the two-hour meeting at the Legislature the Fort Macleod delegation was told the operational model was not sustainable, and that the province would not subsidize the college.

“We were very surprised to hear that,” Patience said. “We assumed that model was at least basically complete.”

Patience disputed that assertion, pointing out the project was engineered and a project manager put in place in 2005 and curriculum development started in 2006.

After the province made its call for a P3 partner to build the college, it hired Price Waterhouse Coopers from England to adjust the operational model to make it more sustainable, which boosted projected costs to $250-million.

Oberle also raised the issue the province does not have formal commitments from police forces to use the college.

“I don’t know that they’ve ever been asked for a formal commitment,” Patience said, pointing out police chiefs from across the province have been part of the college’s technical and design team, which indicates a commitment to the project.

Finally, the government officials made the point no one was interested in the P3 project.

Once again, Fort Macleod officials disputed the claim, pointing out nine companies submitted bids when the request for proposals went out. The P3 call failed, Patience said, because the government was not willing to put any money into the project.

“That P3 process was doomed to fail,” Patience said. “Under that guise that’s really a P2, isn’t it?”

The Fort Macleod delegation reminded Oberle and Snelgrove that a college where police would receive standard training came out of the 1999 Alberta Justice Summit, and that the project was the government’s idea, not Fort Macleod’s plan.

“It didn’t just fall out of the sky,” Patience said.

Oberle asked the Fort Macleod delegation what it wanted from the province.

“We told him we wanted a commitment that construction will begin on this project before we go back to the polls in this province,” Patience said.

The Fort Macleod delegation came away without a firm commitment and perhaps as many questions as answers, but Patience said there is reason for optimism — even if only of the cautious variety.

“Frank Oberle said he would do whatever he could to get this thing going,” Patience said. “I take him at his word.”

Plans are in the works for a meeting in Fort Macleod at which Oberle will address the public.

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Index of Police College Stories - Listed by release date in Gazette

Apr 24 - Fort Macleod town council is planning for the future

Jan 10 - Province gives Fort Macleod $10.26-million for police college costs

Sep 11 - Wildrose Party will fight for Fort Macleod

Sep 04 - Fort Macleod residents devastated by decision to scrap police college

Sep 04 - Fort Macleod asks premier to reverse college decision

Sep 03 - Fort Macleod calls on premier to reverse police college decision

Aug 29 - Residents of Fort Macleod punished for voting Wildrose

Aug 29 - Wildrose says Fort Macleod victim of Tory fiscal incompetence

Aug 29 - Government cancels funding for police training college

Aug 28 - Council awards police college permit

Aug 01 - Police training facility will be unique in Canada

Nov 01 - Province approves grant for police college infrastructure

Oct 19 - Target schedule is set to build police college

Sep 27 - Stakeholders convene to discuss police college

Aug 24 - Police college sod-turning

Aug 16 - Police college sod-turning Mon. Aug. 22

Jul 26 - Fort Macleod puts more cash toward college

May 17 - Province moving ahead with police college plans

May 03 - Council okays transfer of police college land

Apr 05 - Police college site work could start in summer

Dec 01 - Macleod finds way to build police college

Dec 01 - Macleod pitches co-op to build police college

Nov 30 - Macleod feels positive about police college

Aug 25 - Police college partner possible

Aug 18 - Council works on own plan for police college

Jul 07 - Calgary project no threat to police college

Jun 09 - Mayor pushes solicitor general for collect action

Mar 31 - Macleod’s neighbours support police college

Mar 31 - Mayor says government just has to make college a priority

Dec 30 - MD council writes to support police college

Dec 02 - Southern Alberta backs police college

Nov 25 - Regional group lobbies for police college

Sep 23 - Police college has not been shelved — yet

Jul 29 - Mayor: ‘Police college project not cancelled’

May 06 - Infrastructure minister says college a priority

Apr 22 - Facebook page supports police college

Apr 01 - Council lobbies for progress on police college

Feb 18 - Solicitor General urges police college patience

Nov 04 - Police college discussed during Question Period

Nov 04 - Macleod mayor confident police college is coming

Oct 21 - Fort Macleod ‘anxious’ for police college start

Apr 16 - Province gets nine police college proposals

Mar 12 - Macleod can do business with police college

Sep 05 - Province reviews police college P3 proposals

Jun 26 - Police college Web site created

Jun 06 - Police college project is on track

May 30 - Police college officials visit Fort Macleod

May 23 - Police college headlines open house

Mar 28 - Solicitor General: ‘Police college is coming to Macleod’

Jan 31 - Mayor strikes police college committee

Nov 22 - Steering committee meets to discuss police college

Sep 13 - Opportunity knocking for Fort Macleod

Sep 13 - Macleod prepares to guide growth

Sep 13 - Police college is Fort Macleod’s destiny

Sep 13 - Mayor weathers police college criticism

Sep 13 - Fort Macleod celebrates successful college bid

Sep 06 - Fort Macleod lands Alberta police college

Sep 06 - P3 partners sought for police college

Sep 06 - Police training centre will be world-class

Dec 21 - Council designates land for police college

Dec 21 - Macleod’s police college bid in province’s hands

Nov 23 - Task force builds police college bid

Nov 02 - Council still pursuing college