Four firms in running to build new courthouse

SAINT JOHN - Three announcements by the provincial government, which will have an impact on the future of the city, were made Wednesday.


                                        Ed Doherty

* Supply and Services Minister Ed Doherty announced four firms were shortlisted to submit proposals to build the new courthouse at Peel Plaza.

* Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault announced $250,000 for a new training program in workplace-essential skills to be delivered by the Saint John Learning Exchange.

* Environment Minister Roland Haché announced $400,000 for Saint John Transit to develop three new park-and-ride lots to support three new bus routes.

The four companies shortlisted for the courthouse project are Armco Capital Inc. of Halifax, Forum Equity Partners Inc. of Toronto, Integrated Team Solutions (Ellis Don Corp.) of Halifax and SNC-Lavalin Inc. of Montreal.

"Engaging a private-sector partner to get the Saint John courthouse project underway will not only meet the facility needs of the provincial court system and deliver the best value for taxpayer dollars, it will provide a significant number of employment opportunities during the construction period, which will begin later this summer," Doherty said.

The courthouse is to be built as a public-private partnership and the shortlisted companies will be invited to respond to a request for proposals, to be issued in the coming weeks. One developer will be selected to finance, construct, operate and maintain the facility, which will be owned by the province after 30 years.

The 13,536 square-metre courthouse will be energy efficient, with 13 courtrooms, a barristers' lounge and office space for the judiciary, court services, public prosecutions, sheriff services, Department of Public Safety and policing. Construction is expected to be complete in 2011.

The conceptual drawing, prepared by Architect Malcolm Boyd of Murdock Boyd Architects, was unveiled a year-and-a-half-ago showing a building with columns and a staircase in front, lots of windows and an angular design that avoids the boxiness that has caused controversy at other developments.

The $250,000 in training money, announced by Arseneault, will be provided over three years as part of the TIES 2 Work program.

"TIES 2 Work is a new employer-specific training approach that matches employers and potential employees through workplace-essential skills training," Arseneault said.

"By focusing on specific, practical skills needed by employers, this program will train and place up to 24 individuals each year in positions with various local companies."

Employers will benefit from this program with reductions in the cost and risk of bringing on new employees. There is also the possibility of increased productivity as a result of having trained and screened employees. The program is an investment in the recommendations from the Benefits Blueprint Report.

The third announcement of money for Saint John Transit is part of the province's effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

"This project is consistent with the commitment made in the New Brunswick Climate Change Action Plan to develop a public transportation strategy to ensure that both urban and rural New Brunswickers have convenient alternatives to their private vehicles," Haché said.

"Since the transportation sector accounts for 25 per cent of New Brunswick's greenhouse-gas emissions, improving public transportation options will contribute to significant reductions in those emissions.

It is anticipated that the expanded service will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 297 tonnes annually.

"The Saint John Transit Commission is committed to facilitating public transit options for urban and rural residents of the Saint John area," said Chris Titus, chair of the transit and parking commissions.

"By creating these new park-and-ride lots to support three new bus routes, greenhouse-gas emissions will be reduced significantly, which will contribute to a greener Saint John and a more sustainable environment for New Brunswick."

The money for Saint John Transit comes from New Brunswick's portion of the federal government's Canada Eco-Trust for Clean Air and Climate Change. It provided $34-million for the New Brunswick Climate Action Fund, which will be used to support projects that are in keeping with the goals of the New Brunswick Climate Change Action Plan.

The three-year fund is dedicated to public-sector, private-sector and not-for-profit initiatives that will result in reductions or avoidance of greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution throughout the province.

Published Thursday May 7th, 2009 - Telegraph Journal