05/10/13 — Albertson: College needs land, energy

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Albertson: College needs land, energy

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 10, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne Community College requires two things in order to grow -- a new energy plant and more land. It doesn't have the money for either.

The plant and land dominated discussion during Thursday afternoon's meeting between the Wayne County Commission's Facilities Committee and the WCC Buildings and Grounds Committee called to review the college's 2013-18 master plan and its top priorities.

Facilities Committee members appeared to question the priority listing and suggested the college might consider new buildings or additions that rely more on traditional heating and cooling instead of a power plant-based system.

Facilities Committee Chairman and county Commissioner Ray Mayo also wanted to know if there was a timeline for the college's projects.

"The reason I am asking that is that it is going to depend on when you are going to need your new energy plant. Is that correct?" he said.

"Here is the very first consideration that has to be taken with this," said WCC President Dr. Kay Albertson. "Wayne Community College has no money for any facility building. None. Zero. The only way we could build even an addition to a building is either through state funds, and that is only going to come if there would be a higher ed bond referendum, or county funds.

"Since we have absolutely not projected that, and we understand that. It is the economy. It is the times. We could not put any dates on any of these capital improvements."

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said he understands and that the county is in the same situation. However, the county has to project and set some timelines because of the number of county departments and facility needs.

The county also looks at how projects may be packaged together if looking at a bond referendum, Smith said. It is important that the county help to educate the public as to the importance of a bond vote.

It is important to educate the public that it reaches a point that if something is not done, there are still cost and program impacts, Smith said.

"We do have to prioritize, but we do need to look at time though we know that it is moving (target)," he said.

It requires caution and it must be made very clear that the timeline is for planning purposes only, he said.

"What I am asking as a manager is that as we develop this we are really going to have to say, if the energy plant is first, we really need to look at alternatives for financing," he said. "Is it necessary, and you are saying that it is. We need to look at times."

The college can do that, Mrs. Albertson said.

Commission Chairman Steve Keen, who also sits on the Facilities Committee, said that the college should be prepared to shift priorities in case funding became available to do a smaller, and less expensive, project that might be lower down on its list.

There also is a need, Facilities Committee members said, to look at alternative funding methods.

The top priority is the new energy plant, possibly during 2015, not to replace the existing one, but to complement it, said Don Magoon, the chief of administrative services for the college. A new plant would allow the college to shift some of the load off the existing plant to set the stage for future growth, he said.

WCC Trustee Andy Evans said he liked the idea of alternative financing and asked Mayo if the county had figured out how it was going to buy the city-owned property between the campus and New Hope Road.

"Once the current (master) plan is complete the college is out of space and any growth would have to be to the north," Magoon said.

"We will get to that," Mayo said. "We don't want to buy it. We want them to donate it."

"You asked me if we need it. Right now, no," Evans said. "But will we need it in a hundred years? There is no question. We are landlocked. Everywhere we go we are cut off except for that one spot, really. We need it badly."

Trustee and WCC Building Committee Chairman Tommy Jarrett said that 25 years is probably a more realistic number.

"How do we as community address that issue and establish the importance of it?" Smith said. "Obviously the city is driving that particular train."

The Facilities Committee has met with WCC and research is ongoing, but the city has not yet been heard from, Mayo said. There is no decision to be made until more details are known, he said.

Smith noted that development associated with the nearby U.S. 70 Bypass will affect the property and will make Wayne Memorial Drive the new gateway into the city.

"It is better for us to use it than for a commercial piece," Keen said.

Commercial development could "torpedo" what the college is trying to do, Jarrett said.

"There is a way to do this," Evans said. "I don't know how, but over a period of years and negotiations and trade-offs between the city and the county it is a no-brainer. I think that we ought to go ahead and do it."

It won't happen that fast, Mayo said.

"We have to look at the big picture," Mayo said. "We have so much money to spend in our county. We are going into a new budget year and these things do not happen just because we snap our fingers and say we want it to happen. It has to be done in a methodical way.

"Right now the board of trustees of Wayne Community College and the city, the ball is in their court. We have not heard anything about what they (city) would do. We would like to see the city convey it. But the key is that there has been zero communication from the city."

Mrs. Albertson said the college needs to involve more trustees in the communications with the city.

"We have got to take that next step. We are going to have to push," she said. "If you will give us a little more time I think that can be accomplished. I am not promising any end, but what I think needs to happen is another meeting with our buildings and grounds and the leaders of the city."