P3 arrangement brings questions to WCPS

The planning and construction of Blackfalds new school is happening in a process the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees

The planning and construction of Blackfalds new school is happening in a process the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees has never faced before.

Secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson says, in the past, the board would have hired an architect and hold meetings with the pubic to determine what amenities and layout was wanted. “Terrace Ridge and Iron Ridge were both done in that fashion.”

The board is usually given a budget to support that process and they would have been in charge of procuring the architect, handling the working drawings of the project, tendering the project and hiring a general contractor. “And at the end of the day we own a school.”

Now, WCPS won’t own the school being built for Blackfalds for 30 years.

“The difference now is we’re into a P3 (private-public partnership) procurement process, where we have two or three choices,” said Henderson, referring to layout designs.

A bridging architect was appointed to determine what changes could be made within the chosen floor plan.

Design changes can include moving interior walls and increasing or decreasing certain space usage, such as administration or the library.

However, Henderson says they were still limited to the plan selection and, unlike past schools, a feeling of starting out and creating the school they wanted wasn’t there.

“We are not involved in the procurement of the building, at all. That is done by the Province of Alberta infrastructure,” said Henderson.

“At the end of the day we are given a school we can operate. We will put education programs in it, we’ll pay for utilities, we’ll pay for custodial but the running of the building, the physical structure, remains with the proponent of the P3.” he added.