Privately built schools to save $12M: Graham

Premier Shawn Graham has unveiled plans for a new middle school as part of a broader push to use a private company to build two institutions in areas desperate for added classrooms.

Premier Shawn Graham unveiled plans for a new middle school Wednesday as part of a broader push to use a private company to build two institutions in areas desperate for added classrooms.

Graham was in his hometown of Rexton, discussing the government's plans to pay for a new Eleanor W. Graham Middle School and another school in Moncton via a public-private partnership.

Though some people don't like the idea, Graham said, private companies can build schools more quickly and cost-effectively than the government.

Under the current arrangement, the New Brunswick government will pay Brunswick Learning Centres Inc. $7 million a year for the next 30 years to build, operate and maintain the two schools, which will cost a combined $40 million to construct.

"For the people of this community, where in the past some of their schools become dilapidated over time, this is good news," Graham said.

"They're going to have a state-of-the-art building for the next 30 years. It's going to save taxpayers approximately $12 million."

The new middle school will carry the Eleanor W. Graham name from the current institution of that title, which is itself named after the premier's grandmother, the first female principal in the area.

Schools to open September 2010

The new schools were announced in March's provincial budget and are slated to open by September 2010.

The quick turnaround between the first announcement and the first day of school, Graham said, is possible only because of the private-public partnership approach to financing the school.

Supply and Services Minister Ed Doherty said the province calculated the savings after considering how much the schools would cost to build and maintain publicly over the same period of time.

Graham said public-private partnerships are a cost-effective way of undertaking major projects, and he's considering financing other significant infrastructure this way.

"We're currently investigating now a P3 model for the twinning of Highway No. 11, which is going to be instrumental in twinning of this highway between Shediac Bridge and the Miramichi," Graham said.

As well, the province has contracted a Nova Scotia-based company to build two new nursing homes in the province.