The timeline and cost for Phase 3 of Assiniboine Community College’s relocation to Brandon’s North Hill are still up in the air.
Erin Selby, the province’s minister of advanced education, said in a statement to the Brandon Sun that the project remains a goal of the government, but has significant costs associated with it.
"Any development must be done bearing these costs in mind, particularly in a time of fiscal restraint," Selby stated.
"In due course, the government will begin discussions with Assiniboine Community College regarding how and when the project might move forward, but no decisions have been made at this time."
ACC president Mark Frison said the sooner Phase 3 is completed, the better.
"Certainly from the perspective of our staff and students, they’d like to be reunited as soon as possible," Frison said.
"Obviously from the government’s perspective, they’ll be weighing this against their larger budgetary challenges, so hopefully they can see their way clear to make those investments ... sooner rather than later."
The NDP government completed Phase 1 of the college’s move in the fall of 2007 with the opening of the $7.5-million Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts.
Phase 2 was completed in the fall of 2010, with the opening of the $46-million Len Evans Centre for Trades and Technology.
The final phase will be the complete relocation of its main campus on Victoria Avenue East into the site’s Parkland Building.
"A good portion of the students we have in Brandon are now already on the hill," Frison said. "Just a little more than half of the post-secondary students are still up at Victoria Avenue."
In June 2011, the province doled out $5 million to be used to improve and upgrade roads, parking lots, bus routes, outdoor lighting, security, signage, and sewer and water services on the sprawling site, the former home of the Brandon Mental Health Centre.
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell said the government wants to ensure the relocation is completed as efficiently as possible.
"It’s a long process," Caldwell said. "It’s a several hundred million dollar project … The government is committed to it, and we want to make sure we do appropriate due diligence and analysis so that it is done efficiently and with the highest level of integrity."
Stuart Briese, Progressive Conservative MLA for Agassiz and critic for advanced education, said the NDP government "should be getting on with it."
"There’s obviously increased costs when you’ve got a split campus," he said.
"And certainly from what I’m hearing from students especially is one site is certainly more attractive to students and staff … There must be some real logistical nightmares to running two separate campuses."
Frison said the college is engaged in regular conversations with the Manitoba government, making sure they express their goal of reuniting the campus as quickly as possible.
"Obviously in order to have the kind of student experience that we want to give students, having everybody in a single location is ideal," Frison said.
"From a cost point of view, obviously having a single location is more effective in terms of operational costs than operating multiple locations."
The programs already housed on the North Hill campus are experiencing great success, Frison said.
"The campus itself represents an enormous opportunity. It’s a setting that most colleges in the country can only dream of," he said.
A sustainable greenhouse will be opening this fall, which will be used by the horticulture program, as well as agribusiness, land and water management and the culinary arts program.
"It illustrates ... what can be done on that site, we could never have done at Victoria Avenue," Frison said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 24, 2012