County grant brings college closer to goal

Red Deer College is $1 million closer to its $88-million fundraising goal.

Red Deer College is $1 million closer to its $88-million fundraising goal.

Lacombe County council approved the cash to help the college with its project to build a new Health, Wellness and Sport Centre, which is also seen as a key component of a bid to become a polytechnic university.

Approved by a 5-2 vote, the grant to be spread over five years falls short of the college’s $1.275-million request, which was based on the $115-per-capita level of support from the City of Red Deer.

However, it is double what Red Deer County council approved in April.

Lacombe County councillors were united in their desire to help the college out financially. However, there were disagreements over how much to give and how to earmark the money.

Coun. Barb Shepherd was among councillors to question the $115-per-capita standard.

“As far as pegging it to $115 per capita, I’m not sure that’s where we need to go.

“I’m very supportive of doing something.”

Coun. Dana Kreil urged council to pick a smaller number, pointing out that ratepayers expected their taxes to go towards roads, bridges and other more pressing expenses.

Cutting a large cheque for a college outside the county might hurt relations with urban municipalities within the county, which have seen funding requests turned down previously, she added.

“I think we should be considering what Red Deer County gave and I don’t think we should give more than them.”

Red Deer County was approached for a $5-million donation in March. The request was later reduced by the college to $2.3 million. However, college officials walked away with only a $500,000 commitment after a special county public hearing on the issue.

Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law, who with Kreil voted against the grant, also wanted to see a smaller donation.

Law said providing a smaller amount now for the Health, Wellness and Sport Centre could leave the county more financial leeway in future to provide additional funding — if requested — specifically aimed at the college’s efforts to become a degree-granting polytechnic university.

Coun. Rod McDermand favoured making it clear from the start that the money was to go towards the centre and the 2019 Canada Winter Games as one component, and the polytechnic plan as another, by earmarking half of the $1 million to each.

That was not supported by a majority of council.

The money will come from a $5.6-million reserve fund built up from fees paid by local gravel and sand companies and meant to go towards projects of benefit to the county.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com