The former Collège d’Alfred buildings are for sale, but there is still interest in using the site as a local hub for education and training.
The French-language agricultural college closed in 2014. Originally operated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), it became a campus of the University of Guelph in the 1990’s. In 2015, the south portion of the campus became the property of the Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO) where it has its FERCA research farm and offices.
The remaining Collège d’Alfred buildings fronting St-Paul and St-Philippe Streets, which are still owned by the Province of Ontario, total 124,223 square feet, and are currently listed for sale with commercial realtor CBRE for $299,000. A local OMAFRA office is in one of the buildings and Collège La Cité offered some courses at the facility until 2019.
Alfred and Plantagenet Township Mayor and 2021 United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) Warden Stéphane Sarrazin said he was hoping the province would reconsider selling the buildings because there is still interest in offering trades courses and job training at the site.
Sarrazin prefers an arrangement where the province would continue to own the buildings for another three years with an agreement to have them managed by the UCPR. He said that the partners which could provide further educational programs in Alfred include UCFO, the Employment Services Centre of Prescott and Russell, the Eastern Ontario Training Board, school boards, Algonquin College, and Collège La Cité.
“We’d like to bring back some programs there,” said Sarrazin.
“There’s a lot of potential, really.”
Under the new plan, training in various trades, not only agricultural occupations, could be offered in Alfred.
In 2020, Ontario Minister of Agriculture Ernie Hardeman visited the Alfred site and recommended that the local agencies make a feasibility study of their plans. However, the property has since been put on the market. Sarrazin would like to see if something can be done to keep the buildings available for educational use.
At the recent 2020 Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, a delegation from Prescott and Russell met with MPP Randy Pettapiece, who is Hardeman’s Parliamentary Assistant. Sarrazin said that unfortunately, Pettapiece, who represents Perth-Wellington in Southwestern Ontario, was not familiar with the Collège d’Alfred property and the local plan for it. Sarrazin said that he was hoping for further answers in the week ahead on if there are any other options for the future of the property besides it being sold.
The provincial government does not pay property taxes to local municipalities on land it owns. Instead, the province pays an amount in lieu of taxes each year to the municipality. If the land were to be sold to the private sector, the new owner would have to pay property taxes. Sarrazin said that the Collège d’Alfred buildings have an assessed value of $4.5 million and about $11,000 per month in potential tax revenue.