rather have had
Just a few months after being "Grinched," the Town of Fort Macleod has received a belated Christmas present.
The town announced Thursday it had finalized a deal which will see the provincial government pay $10.2 million to compensate Fort Macleod for money the town had spent on infrastructure preparations for the long-promised but since cancelled police college.
The town had been investing in projects since 2005 to prepare for the proposed Alberta Public Safety and Law Enforcement Training Centre. That included projects the town likely wouldn't have spent money on had it not been anticipating the police college coming to Fort Macleod - projects such as a new wastewater treatment plant, land surveys, construction contracts and electrical, water and sewer service to the intended site.
All those efforts went for naught when the province pulled the rug out from under the planned police college last August, stunning Fort Macleod residents who had been anticipating the training centre and the economic benefits to the town that would surely follow. Fort Macleod Mayor Shawn Patience said at the time the province's about-face was a "kick below the belt."
Indeed it was. The town's residents had been kicked around plenty enough already as the police college project endured delays and uncertainty. The training centre was originally proposed by the Alberta government in 2004, and Fort Macleod was officially chosen as the centre's future home in 2006. But the project was left out of the province's 2009 budget and residents sought assurances from the Alberta government that the police college would still be built. Finally, in February 2011, then Premier Ed Stelmach announced the project was getting the green light and ground was broken on the long-delayed training centre in August 2011.
About a year later, the province reversed its stand and cancelled the project, citing that existing police training facilities in Calgary, Edmonton and Regina are sufficient.
That could lead one to ask, if those facilities are sufficient now, weren't they sufficient when the province was making plans for new police college? And if that's the case, why string along the residents of Fort Macleod for six years before deflating their dreams? Fort Macleod had been counting on the training centre to spur the town's economy.
"This will be the anchor for the sustainability and growth of Fort Macleod," Gordon MacIvor, the town's economic development officer, told The Herald in 2006 after the province chose Fort Macleod over three other sites for the police college. "The 3,000 residents of Fort Macleod are all smiles because their future is secure. This is not going to go away."
Well, unfortunately, it did go away - or rather, was taken away.
The $10.2 million in compensation from the province - along with the return of the 320-acre parcel of land that was to be home to the training centre - may help Fort Macleod recoup its costs, but it's a consolation prize at best. The town and its residents would rather have had the long-promised police college - and the brighter future it promised.
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