It’s flurry of activity at site of the Northern College’s new Integrated Emergency Services Complex.
Tradespeople are welding, laying blocks, pouring concrete and more inside the facility, which is expected to be ready for students in September.
Building the $20-million project that the college hopes will boost enrolment in the police foundations, paramedic and firefighting programs at the South Porcupine campus has presented a few challenges for the team of workers.
The bones of the 40,000-square-foot structure, for example, went up during the bitterly cold and windy winter weather.
“It’s not just annoying, when it’s -45 and a chill factor of -55 or -60 and you’re up 30-feet in the air, you can’t stay there very long. So what that does is already a compressed schedule becomes more difficult to maintain. Those men, they took the minimum breaks, they went right back at it, they dressed warm, unbelievable boys,” said project manager Fred Trembinski.
With the scale of the project, it would normally be an 18-month construction period. This facility, however, is being built in 12 months. That means that workers have been on site seven days a week, and on holidays.
“Your trades have to gear up, instead of having four men they got eight men; instead of one shift they do two shifts, and that’s what’s going to keep this project on schedule. And we don’t have a moment to lose, you can’t rest on your laurels and say ‘well we’re doing all right’, every day is a grind,” Trembinski said.
The project is also on budget, according to Northern College president Fred Gibbons.
“The only surprise, and it came within our contingency for the project, had to do with additional fire suppression that the building may require,” said Gibbons. “Apparently there isn’t sufficient water flow at this particular juncture here, if the building were engaged fully in fire, we’d have some challenges, the pumper truck would run dry before they would be able to deal with the building. So we’re looking at some options, one of which would be a dry hydrant system pulling water in case of an emergency from the lake, another is potentially in-ground storage tanks.”
The $20-million price tag is a larger figure than has been talked about before, however Gibbons said the early numbers didn’t include the soft costs for features such as video conferencing, simulation equipment, or furnishings.
All levels of government have contributed, with the provincial and federal government each giving $5.5 million, and the City of Timmins $2 million. Gibbons said the college has received a $1.5 million Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation as well.
“We’ve been enjoying a lot of success in the last couple of years particularly with the number of international students that we’re attracting, so we’ve seen some growth in a revenue stream that we weren’t seeing before and that’s going to help us to fulfill our equipment. The building will be fully paid for when it’s turned over to us, there will be no mortgage on the building whatsoever,” he said.
Inside the complex right now, it’s a maze of steel posts. Moving in and out of the different rooms, Gibbons explains what each area will be used for.
There’s a fully-functioning courthouse, jail cells, fingerprint facilities, interview rooms, and a $1-million simulation unit that Gibbons said is also used by Homeland Security.
One of the scenario labs will be a functioning apartment, which will allow police, fire and paramedic students to do interdisciplinary work in that setting, while teachers can observe from a platform above.
By offering state-of-art facilities, the college is looking to grow its enrolment.
“It’s really going to bring our game up in these particular programs, and the objective really is with the equipment, the refresh of the curriculum itself and the building itself is to distinguish our programs so that it becomes a destination centre for students from around the province and we are forecasting enrolment growth as a function of that too,” Gibbons said.
Right now, he said there about 85 students in the police, fire and paramedics program. The goal is to increase that to 125 students by 2020.
“That may not sound like a lot but we’re constrained by some of the community agencies, all of those programs have placement components with agencies and they have limitations on the number of students and the duration of time that they can take those students for,” he said.
The other key component of the complex is the community partnerships.
On the east side of the facility, which will be the last section to be completed, is where the Whitney Fire Station will be housed, along with the Cochrane District EMS, and the Health Sciences North Base Hospital, which is a new tenant recently added.
The fire department will have a four-bay garage, three of which will be drive-thru, gear storage area, meeting hall, offices, washrooms and storage area.
For paramedics, there will be a two-bay drive-thru garage capable of holding four ambulances, as well as a paramedic work area, offices, and storage area.
The base hospital will have an office and training room.
For first responders, the entrance and exit from the new facility will be through the service entrance that is already being used right now just east of the lights at the Porcupine Mall. Students and staff will use the existing exits and entrances to the school.
While there was discussion at one point to have the entrance at the lights, Gibbons said there were complications with that and it would have added to the project cost.
Right now the focus for workers is to complete the academic wing of the complex, however the facilities for the community partnerships should be done a couple months later.
“The rest of the facility we expect to see completed probably no later than the beginning of October,” he said.