Public private partnerships
Bids open for qualifications to build Aurora College

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Sep 04/98) - With school freshly under way for many students at Aurora College, many may be feeling the pinch for classroom and study space.

An addition to the college is planned, though construction and completion dates are far from being set.

Private companies have until 2 p.m. on Oct. 2 to get their bid in to show they are qualified to draft a proposal to design, construct, finance, operate and maintain an addition to Aurora College in partnership with the GNWT.

Northern businesses will obtain an edge as part of the process to determining which firm is qualified.

Federal funding cuts have forced the GNWT to reduce spending on infrastructure, from $200 million annually to the current level of $140 million.

An additional $40 million has been lost through the reduction in federal social housing funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The response to this situation has been public and private partnerships, often referred to simply as P3.

Public and private partnerships tweak the government's interest because the private sector contributes equity and assumes the debt obligation of the proposed operating lease.

"It's something that's been evolving over the past many months," said Public Works superintendent Brian Lemax of the P3 process.

"This first phase is just looking for firms that are interested to express their interest in their qualifications."

As for time frame, Lemax said construction will likely not start until next year.

Aurora College requires the new facility to replace the aging Father Ruyant building the college currently occupies.

This replacement is expected to include a mix of program administration, support and single-student accommodation spaces all housed in the one facility.

This site is shared with a large gymnasium and classroom complex that is expected to continue to be used by Aurora College for its recreational leadership program.

Once the qualification stage and the proposal stages have passed, there will be more certainty.

Public Works is managing the initial stages, such as request for qualifications and preliminary design, but the whole project involves many GNWT departments such as the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, the financial management board and even the Department of Justice.

In this case, teamwork between government and the private sector will likely mean construction jobs and improved access to education.

Some risks include a negative public perception of the transfer of ownership, asset transfers may contravene existing legislation and the public may lose control over certain aspects of the facility's construction and operation.