By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief
The Board of Trustees of Grand Rapids Community College called a last minute meeting on December 5 to discuss the future funding needed for campus-wide renovations.
“The college will ask the public to approve a 20-year bond worth close to $100 million,” said Grand Rapids Community College President Steven Ender.
The plan calls for an additional
.35 mill increase that would raise yearly taxes for those with a $150,000 house by $26.25.
Lisa Freiburger, VP for Finance and Administration at GRCC, presented the plan calling for $98.6 million that would be for improvements to the Main Building ($30 million), the Music Building ($6 million) and the Early Childhood Education Pre-School program ($6 million).
The remaining money would be used for general renovations to buildings across campus ($32.42 million) and for improvements to technology on campus ($22.7 million).
“I am convinced that these changes need to be made,” said Board of Trustees member Bert Bleke. “You cannot walk around the campus and not see that these changes need to be made. There are long-term structural needs.”
Ender explained that there is a lot of work needed in the Main building that the $30 million would be used for.
“All the windows in the Main Building are single pane and the main building alone needs around $12 million to replace all those windows,” Ender said. “The other $18 million will be used to improve student academic departments such as the nursing and dental departments.”
Through the years, GRCC has been forced to use different methods to get by until the appropriate money could be raised.
If the proposal is passed, it would help relieve the pressure the school has felt to fix problems with limited resources.
“The challenge has been that if everything we are working on has a priority one next to it, which one do we work on?” Ender said.
If passed, the school has planned to set aside money so they can stay ahead and on top of future issues the school may encounter.
“The steps we have already taken will not solve the major issues we have,” Ender said. “It has helped solve the current problems. We are at a point where we need to replace things in the ATC building. We no longer can just patch things up.”
The school has been using temporary fixes for problems in the heating and cooling systems but that is no longer an option for the school.
“The school is getting to the point where we need major repairs in our heating and cooling systems but the parts are no longer even available,” Freiburger said.
A portion of the money raised will go toward the renovation of these two systems that were constructed between 1960 and 1990.
Freiburger said the improvements to the Music Building are needed because when the building was originally built, it was a gymnasium for a junior high school.
The renovations are being done to help better support musical instruction and performance.
Ellen James is a member of the Board of Trustees who has seen the decline in appearance for the school.
“When I looked around at the area high schools our students are coming from, it’s like being in another dimension,” James said. “This is an issue that deserves our support. I want this place to be something we can be proud of. ”
The school will also be looking to use a portion of the money to improve the pre-school program to create appropriate learning spaces for the children.
Currently, the program is being held in an area church that needs to be re-arranged each week to ensure the space is ready for church events.
The college lastly would improve the computers, servers, networking infrastructure and enterprise storage and backup on campus.
Ender explained that the major renovations would take place during a seven-year period but also said that the only planning that has taken place has been internally through the school.
“This investment is an investment in the service District of Kent County,” Ender said. “Also, the $100 million we spend will provide a boast for the Grand Rapids economy. That’s $100 million that will be spent at different businesses throughout Grand Rapids.”
The next step in the process will be a meeting on December 12, which will provide the Board and the public more specifics into the plan and another chance to voice its opinions.
After that, the Board will hold a meeting in January to decide if the plan will be placed on the ballot to be voted on by the public in May.