The provincial government has reaffirmed Red Deer will get a new courthouse building, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am pleased to state that the government has recently opened the Red Deer Justice Centre for contractors to submit their qualifications,” said Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda in a statement Monday.
“This vital project will support construction jobs in the architecture, engineering, the skilled trades and supply chain sectors.”
It was previously announced the estimated $97-million project was to be tendered this winter, aiming for a 2023 completion date.
“Red Deer has been without an adequate courthouse for some time. This project is important for all of central Alberta, and demonstrates our commitment to building vital infrastructure around the province,” said Panda.
The complex will have 12 courtrooms, with the capacity to increase it to up to 16 in the future. It will be built at 4811 49th St. on the site of the former downtown RCMP detachment office, which was demolished last spring.
A lack of court space has long been an issue in Red Deer.
And Mayor Tara Veer has highlighted the need for additional Crown prosecutors to reduce the backlog of cases.
The provincial government has promised to hire 50 new Crown prosecutors, however, it is not known how many, if any, are destined for Red Deer.
There have also been long waits for those trying to schedule multi-week trials or preliminary inquiries. With the courthouse closed to all but the most important matters, likely for months, the pressure on court space is only expected to grow this year.
Panda said infrastructure spending will play an important role in creating jobs and stabilizing the economy at a time when the province is dealing with the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
“This project will support jobs in central Alberta, a region that has seen far too many job losses,” said the minister, who said the government’s capital plan includes $19.3 billion over the next three years.
Red Deer Construction Association executive director Gary Gies said the minister’s renewed show of support was not a surprise, but the news was welcomed all the same.
“We’re encouraged and we’re happy that the government has the confidence to keep some of these projects going.
“It’s good news for us and it’s good news for the community. We’re excited.”
Other public buildings could also provide much-needed jobs. Earlier this month, the provincial government revealed full funding for an 850-student high school in Blackfalds that was first announced in November.
A Grade 6-to-9 facility for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools was also announced last fall.
Construction also remains in full swing at the $28.3-million replacement for the demolished Red Deer Nursing Home. Located at 4736 30th St., the project is expected to be finished in spring 2021.
Meanwhile, the construction industry says it is doing all it can to keep its worksites safe in the face of the pandemic. Associations representing 20,000 companies across Canada discuss pandemic protocols and other issues weekly.
“Our construction sites are very safe,” said Gies. “Our contractors are very wary of what’s happening and following all of the protocols that need to be done.”