WATERTOWN — Jefferson Community College officials discussed approaching county legislators to support the college’s building project while they wait for approval from the state for $7 million.
“We hoped at this time to start making the plans,” said Treasurer Daniel J. Dupee II, college vice president for administration and finance. “If we went forward with the design piece the county would put in the $500,000 they have already bonded for and we would ask for another $500,000,” Mr. Dupee said. He said the if the state doesn’t approve the bill in 18 months, the county would risk being out $500,000.
The college’s capital building project was not approved before the closing of the state legislative session in June, leaving the ground breaking for the college’s $14 million collaborative learning center at risk of being delayed a year. The project was among several inside the cleanup bill, a collection of proposed bills that needed language clarifications before they could be approved.
College President Carol M. McCoy said the bill could be brought to the table this fall or as late as January for the 2015-16 session. If the bill isn’t approved by fall, the project could be delayed a year.
“Unless they get called back they won’t go back into session till January,” Mrs. McCoy. “We have determined it is possible to go forward with the project with an element of risk.”
The learning center project is projected to cost $14 million. Jefferson County has agreed to pay half the bill, and the state is to pay the other $7 million.
Jefferson County Legislator Scott A. Gray, chairman of the legislature’s Finance Committee, said he would not recommend that county officials extend funding for a project without confirmation that the state will reimburse the county later.
“I can tell you the county will not play with luck with a $7 million bond,” Mr. Gray said.
Local and State University of New York representatives have stated the funding is not in jeopardy but there is no official authorization.
Mrs. McCoy said the college Board of Trustees had anticipated the community college capital building project would be approved, allowing for plans to be drawn for the new learning center now. The board discussed going to the county for help to pay upfront for the planning portion, in hopes that the state approves the project within 18 months.
Mr. Dupee said trustees hope to meet with county officials to discuss the possibility of covering the state’s portion of the $1 million cost for construction plans.
“The risk is the county wouldn’t get reimbursed for the ... $500,000, but we would still have a design,” Mr. Dupee said. “We would have a design but the construction would be on hold till the state approved the bill.”
The downside of waiting a year, board members said at Wednesday’s meeting, would be that students could miss out on the educational benefit of the learning center.
Mrs. McCoy said the school is running short on classroom and study space and assigning classrooms is a constant struggle at the beginning of the year. She said the addition of new students will increase the need for more space.
Mr. Dupee said the board must decide if the lack of space is reason enough to push forward and risk the funding not being approved by the state on time.
“We are not going to make any decisions yet, but we wanted to discuss our options,” Mrs. McCoy said.