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Fort Macleod asks premier to reverse college decision

Mayor Shawn Patience will ask Premier Alison Redford to reverse the government’s decision to scrap the police college project.
In the event the premier refuses to put the $122-million project back on track, council instructed the Town of Fort Macleod administration to seek legal advice.
“The question to our premier today is this,” Patience said at noon Thursday at a news conference in Fort Macleod. “Do you believe our leaders need to be credible, do you believe that Albertans expect you to fulfill your commitments?”
With crews and heavy equipment working in the background installing the $7-million in utilities to service the Alberta Public Security and Law Enforcement Training Centre, Patience called on the premier to intervene.
On Wednesday, Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis announced in a news release the project was cancelled due to lack of support from police chiefs in Calgary and Edmonton.
“Premier Redford, here is your chance to lead,” Patience said. “Does your government’s word mean anything? Does your commitment to law enforcement mean anything? Does your commitment to the Safe Communities Strategy mean nothing?”
“Premier Redford, do the right thing,” Patience added. “Reverse this decision.”
Council views Redford as the potential saviour for a project on which Fort Macleod has been banking for seven years.
However, on Friday Denis said he did not act in isolation.
In a telephone interview, Denis said he consulted the premier in the decision to scrap the police college.
Patience called the news conference following an emergency council meeting Thursday night.
Denis also would not discuss the town’s potential legal action.
“I do not respond,” Denis said. “When someone threatens legal action I take that seriously and if they want to make a court case that’s up to them and their council. If that’s where he’s going to go we’ll defend the action.”
Reading from a prepared statement, the mayor cited the project’s long history for reporters and about 100 Fort Macleod residents gathered near the waste water treatment plant.
The idea of one site for standard training of police and peace officers came out of the 1999 Alberta Justice Summit.
A committee of MLAs was struck in 2002 to investigate the idea and two years later the recommendation to proceed with a training centre was approved in the Alberta Legislature.
The government in 2005 issued a request for expressions of interest from communities that would like to be home to the police college.
That led to a call for proposals, which in turn led to Fort Macleod becoming a finalist along with Camrose, Red Deer County and Lac La Biche.
On Aug. 30, 2006 at a news conference at The Fort — Museum of the North West Mounted Police, then-Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko announced Fort Macleod was the province’s choice.
The project stalled for several years as the government failed to attract a P3 partner, but gained new life in February 2011. Then-Premier Ed Stelmach came to Fort Macleod to announce the government would honour its commitment to build the police college and put money in the budget.
Patience said the Alberta Public Security and Law Enforcement Training Centre has long had the support of both government and police forces.
The mayor pointed out that as recently as last spring, at a RCMP Regimental Ball held in conjunction with the opening of the new RCMP detachment, Denis pledged support for the project.
“The solicitor general came to Fort Macleod this spring to open the new RCMP detachment — the oldest in Canada — and spoke publicly about the need for the new facility and spoke to his support of the project,” Patience said.
The mayor told reporters the need for the police college is as great today as it was when the idea surfaced in 1999.
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, of which Fort Macleod is a member, reported in 2009 Alberta was about 1,000 peace officers short of the national per capita average.
“The need for this project has been well-defined and the decision made yesterday to accept the status quo to protect existing training regimes will not meet our needs as a province as proven by the shortage of officers in this province as well as rising crime rates,” Patience said.
Patience pointed out Edmonton was one of the original bidders for the police college, and that Calgary tried to use $90-million in provincial money to build a new police training facility.
“Apparently the City of Edmonton is now planning on building their own new facility,” Patience said. “We now wonder how many government funds will support that effort.”
“We will certainly be watching, considering this is being portrayed as a financial decision,” Patience added. “If we can’t afford one training facility, how can we now fund two at the taxpayers’ expense to appease two cities?”
Council called an emergency meeting Wednesday and decided to take legal action.
Patience did not go into details about a potential law suit, but said town administration has contacted a law firm.
“Last night our council met and decided that should this decision not be reversed, based on the fact that we are already in mid-construction of the service lines to the centre for which we are committed to almost $4-million, we will seek legal assistance to deal with this issue,” Patience said.
“We will explore all options on behalf of our taxpayers to not only recover our financial losses, but to mitigate potential future losses as a result of this decision. We will do everything necessary.”

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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