Build college now or risk losing funding, warns Vandermeulen

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

If Northern Lakes College doesn’t start building its new campus in High Prairie as soon as possible, they risk losing funding.

It was the warning NLC board chair Dan Vandermeulen delivered to town council when he appeared Oct. 10.

Funding is too perishable,” he said, adding it was a long-standing position that when NLC received funding they would build as quickly as possible.

He also explained to council the reason they chose to build on land just east of High Prairie Elementary School instead of the old hospital site.

The land must be free, the land must be clean, the land must be timely,” said Vandermeulen.

The old hospital is not torn down, nor has the Alberta government set aside money to tear it down. It could take as much as two years to get the site ready.

It’s not free and it’s not clean,” said Vandermeulen. “It’s not timely.

We want to get the project completed in three years before the next [provincial] election. That’s what we’re pushing for.”

Vandermeulen also announced that NLC was three weeks away from choosing a designer for the new $21.6 million campus, adding he hoped private donations would boost the figure to $25 million.

Councillor Michael Long was angry that town council was not consulted during the process, citing future traffic concerns and safety.

You’ve overstepped your authority,” he told Vandermeulen. “Do you not see that’s a legitimate concern?”

Vandermeulen was not concerned.

I would suggest the parking can be flexible.”

Vandermeulen also chose to respond to the earlier stand taken by Mayor Linda Cox that “a good project” will always have funding.

All government money has shelf life,” he said.

If you think government [money] doesn’t have a shelf life, you’re misguided,” he added.

Cox said the initial funding came together shortly after town council lent its support. After that, they were forgotten with the education partners going their own way.

When did the hospital land go off that table?” she asked. “I’m a bit ticked we were left out of the partnership. I thought we were your partners.”

You made your deal and you didn’t consult with us,” added Long.

If worse comes to worse, Vandermeulen proposed an option he did not want to see happen.

If there is vehement resistance, we’ll build on our land, but it doesn’t have the partnership potential.”

It would mean the proposed Integrated Campus would be dead due to lack of space.

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