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Current renovations of the Hinton Training Centre (HTC) are not expected to affect operations or regular work at the centre.
Premier Jason Kenney visited the HTC on Aug. 4 to announce a provincial funding investment towards the HTC updates and improvements.
Renovations are isolated to one residence building, and as a result this is not impacting staff offices or regular work run out of the academic building, stated Derek Gagnon, provincial information officer, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF).
“The timing of current renovations are not impacting business, as we are maintaining very-low occupancy levels to comply with Alberta Health Services COVID-19 requirements,” Gagnon said.
The first phase of the HTC updates and improvements is underway with the exterior of the Mountainview and Valleyview residences.
The other two phases, which are expected to begin this fall, involve upgrades to the interiors of residences, as well as replacements of major parts of the physical plant of the centre’s main academic building.
The timing and impact of future interior renovations are unknown at this time, as the scope of work and contracting process is not complete, stated Gagnon.
All non-essential training onsite was postponed and resulted in limited training use of the centre this wildfire season.
This has permitted the Centre to be used as bunk houses for Edson Forest Area wildfire crews, to meet COVID-19 requirements of single occupancy.
Alberta Infrastructure owns and maintains all facilities at the HTC, and establishes needs for renovations, maintenance.
As the client, AAF is in regular discussions about needs and challenges, Gagnon added.
“Updates and renovations do improve the comfort and security of staff and clients attending training onsite,” Gagnon said.
The $3.8M in updates to maintain the HTC are not a part of the proposed Hinton Training Centre Renovation and Expansion but are necessary for ongoing maintenance and renewal of the facility, stated Premier Kenney.
The Hinton Training Centre Renovation and Expansion has been included in the list of unfunded capital projects, Gagnon explained.
These are projects that have been presented by departments because they meet priority criteria, but have not yet received funding due to the limits of available funding.
When the renovation plans were completed for the HTC in 2015, the early estimate was $75M.
Each year an assessment is done to update costs based on any new building code or construction changes. The latest figure for the renovation plan is $101M, stated Justin Laurence, press secretary for AAF. Currently there are no timelines for implementing additional HTC renovation plans, according to Laurence.
Programming at the HTC will continue to meet the needs and priorities of Alberta’s government, stated Laurence, adding the government will continue to explore ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in delivering all programs.
Eliminating the rappel program this past spring resulted in a reported annual savings of $1.4M in operating costs for Alberta’s government, but these savings did not result in a loss of operating funds for the HTC. The Training Centre develops and delivers technical and safety training programs for forest and wildfire management, providing services to more than 10,000 clients each year.