BARRHEAD-The County of Barrhead has taken the next step in determining whether the old Alberta Distance Learning Centre building could be repurposed as a combined town and county municipal building.
County of Barrhead councillors, following an in-camera session during their Nov. 15 meeting, directed administration to apply for an Alberta Community Partnership (ACP) grant. It is expected that Town of Barrhead councillors will make a similar motion during their Nov. 22 meeting.
Since the ADLC ceased operation in June 2021, the provincially-owned building, which opened in 1984, has sat mostly vacant, with only the Ministry of Education print shop still operating in the basement.
The county first discussed the possibility of potentially using the building as a joint municipal building during a budget priority meeting in early October.
After the meeting, county manager Debbie Oyarzun said the town and county discussed the potential of applying for the grant at an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) meeting between the two municipalities on Nov. 14.
ICF agreements are established between neighbouring municipalities on a variety of issues that impact both communities, such as recreation, shared water and sewer to joint land planning. These agreements were made mandatory under the province’s revised Municipal Government Act (MGA).
"The (ACP grant) will allow the municipalities to commission a feasibility study to determine whether the ADLC would be suitable for a joint municipal facility," Oyarzun said. "We want to understand the operating costs, the infrastructure, current and future capital costs of the building, such as its life-cycle and how we could utilize the building to its fullest as it is much larger than either facility needs."
In addition to the physical condition of the building, she said the municipalities are especially eager to identify the potential costs of renovating the building, changing its layout to meet municipal needs and exploring what additional opportunities the facility holds.
The deadline to apply for the ACP grant is Dec. 16, and an announcement of whether they were successful is expected sometime in the first quarter of 2023.
Oyarzun said she is confident the application would be successful. She explained there are two funding streams for the ACP grant. The county, and more than likely after Nov. 22, the town, would be submitting under the municipal collaboration stream.
"The province wants municipalities to collaborate .... and this is a perfect example of two municipalities, a rural and an urban, who want to collaborate on a project that potentially, depending on what the feasibility study says, could see efficiencies and cost-savings for the taxpayer," she said.