A big announcement was made for Red Deer during the unveiling of Thursday’s provincial budget. The city will see nearly $100-million in funding dollars for a new Justice Centre.

Mayor Tara Veer said the decision is a big win for the city. “Community safety has been identified for us as a priority for citizens in Red Deer, and a new court house helps to ensure that more local charges are upheld.”

Over the next four years $97-million will be dedicated to the project.

“They were holding court proceedings, in terms of traffic court, in a hotel. So that's obviously, that's a concern. Central Alberta has experienced an enormous amount of growth in the last few years and this has been highlighted as a priority,” said Minister of Justice Kathleen Ganley at the Legislature, Thursday.

While it isn’t official yet, city staff said the old RCMP Headquarters downtown may be the new site for the courthouse.

The city has been footing the bill to maintain that building - which has been kept vacant for over five years at the anticipation of this announcement. Staff estimated it costs them between $40,000 and $80,000 annually to maintain.

But, the wait for a new courthouse has been a long time coming.

At a press conference at City Hall Friday, Veer said a movement to see expanded judicial services in Red Deer was spearheaded by a grassroots movement of local Crown Prosecutors in 2006. She explained: “And the 2017 budget finally resolved a decade of community advocacy regarding the courthouse.”

Officials say the current courthouse was built over 30 years ago, to serve a population a quarter of the size of what it is now. “It has had a dramatic effect on the length of trial, and the length of time for applications to go to the courthouse,” said Jordan Snider, President of the Red Deer Criminal Defence Lawyer Association.

Snider explained that while the announcement is great news for the future, the demands on the judicial system and pre-trial delays will remain for years.

“Cases have been stayed, or not pursued for a variety of reasons. Including that they just could not be brought to trial in a reasonable amount of time, and those problems will continue to exist until the increase in court capacity is done.”

Snider says he hopes the government follows through with not only building a courthouse that will serve the needs the city and surrounding areas have now, but needs that expand well into the future.

Mayor Veer also says many details and specifics still need to be worked out. She explained updates can be expected as they enter into planning talks with the provincial government.

Officials said at Friday’s press conference in order for the court house to be operational in the next four years, they expect they’ll need to start building in early 2018.

Veer also mentioned there are many similarities between the campaign that started in 2006 to get a new Justice Centre, and the movement being made by local doctors to gain redevelopment funding for the Regional Hospital now.

While there was no funding allocated for improvements to the hospital in this budget, Veer is hopeful it will be recognized soon.