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Mayor voices frustration with stalled police college

SCOTT SCHMIDT
GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Shawn Patience has run out of his last name.

More than four years have now past since Fort Macleod successfully won the bid for the construction of a police college, which has yet to be built, and Mayor Shawn Patience is through with diplomacy. After countless failed attempts with the provincial government to kick-start the project, he is flat out angry.

“We got into this to win, make no mistake,” Patience said. “We put everything we had into it. Other small communities paid more than $200,000 just for a consultant to help with their bids.”

Now, according to Patience, the government not only won’t build the facility, they won’t say why.

Patience said since Fort Macleod won the bid, his council has not been given a single straight answer from anyone, including Premier Ed Stelmach.

“We have been over and over this with the government, with our new MLA, and yet in 2010 we have nothing,” Patience said. “We have become increasingly frustrated with the process.”

When the project was first introduced, it was scheduled to break ground in 2007, no matter where it wound up.

Patience said the government is now saying there isn’t the money for the project but he and his council aren’t buying that.

Patience said the original estimate in 2005 was $50-million, and that grew to $100-million by ’07. In 2010, the estimate is over $250-million and climbing.

Patience said more than enough money was in place in the beginning and the reasons for not starting are personal.

“I firmly believe had Red Deer won the bid, there would be students in there right now,” Patience said. “Understand that by the time the bid request came across my desk, the provincial government had spent six years developing this. They went to 340 communities asking for bids. “The chances of winning were slim-to-none and I guarantee you no one on that board looked at us and thought we were going to win.”

But Fort Macleod did win, and now the community wants their school. And not just because it has cost the town thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours, but also because statistics show Alberta is in dire need of more police.

However, what was once a triumphant feeling for Fort Macleod is now one of false hope.

“Last November, we were hearing bad rumblings,” Patience said. “We had just been at a recent convention with ministers of the provincial government and I had some personal discussions with some very high-powered cabinet ministers that were leading me to believe we were in serious jeopardy with this project.”

“We are flabbergasted at that because we did not start this thing. While they have been dilly-dallying, we have invested thousands of dollars in engineering to facilitate the growth we expect.”

“We have a $9.3-million sewage treatment facility almost complete, which was (partially) built to house this project.”

Patience requested a meeting in Edmonton with the finance minister Iris Evans and was blown away by what he learned. It turns out many members of the government think the college was Fort Macleod’s idea all along.

“There are some serious misconceptions about this project,” Patience said. “The feeling we were getting was this was Fort Macleod going to the province saying, ‘Why don’t you do this?’”

“We’re baffled by this strategy, because they were the ones who came to us.”

Patience said the Town of Fort Macleod will continue to do everything possible to ensure Fort Macleod gets the college.

Almost every household in town should have received the brochure drawn up by the council describing the entire process thus far.

A second, similar brochure was made and sent to every MLA in the province and Patience has been appearing on TV, radio and in various newspapers trying to spread the message.

“Our MLA has a significant challenge in front of him,” he said. “Because this community will not, while I’m it’s mayor, and should not ever, despite who’s leading it, give up on this.”

“It was a perfect fit in a perfect place, where it would do the most good. That’s why we won it in the first place.”

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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