Building conundrum focus of Big Bend CC meeting

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend Community College President Terry Leas (standing) lays out a dilemma facing BBCC officials at a public meeting Monday night.

MOSES LAKE — A conundrum over the design of the proposed professional-technical building on the Big Bend Community College campus prompted BBCC officials to convene a public meeting Monday night to look for a solution.

Big Bend is about halfway through the design process, said Linda Schoonmaker, vice president for finance and administration. The final plan will be submitted to the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. If the design is approved, the project will be included in the capital budget request submitted to the Washington Legislature for the 2017-19 biennium.

Currently the goal is to have the building open for classes by fall 2019, Schoonmaker said. Current plans call for it to be located across Bolling Avenue from the ATEC Building.

The conundrum is the location of the aviation maintenance technology facility. Currently the program has its own building bordering the Grant County International Airport.

It’s one of the buildings dating back to the days when the college was Larson Air Force Base. There’s room outside the current location for planes donated to the program, including a four-engine passenger jet.

Other technical programs, such as auto mechanics and welding, are located in buildings in the same area, dating to the same era. The current building plan moves most of them to the new building including the aircraft maintenance program.

But the funding used to pay for the new building means the college must tear down existing buildings, enough to equal the space in the new building. The aviation maintenance facility is on the list for demolition.

“We know that at least one program, aviation maintenance, would like to be on the flight line. And there are good reasons for it to be on the flight line,” said BBCC president Terry Leas. “The challenge is, how do we go about accommodating that?”

Dan Moore, an instructor with the aviation maintenance program, said the current building, while it’s old, has been remodeled. In his opinion it doesn’t make sense to demolish a building that’s had some remodeling and is still serviceable, he said. In addition, Leas said there’s not enough room to park all the aviation maintenance aircraft next to the new building.

Schoonmaker said the aviation maintenance building might need to be demolished regardless, due to the way state officials evaluate projects. Wayne Doty, director of the capital budget for WSBCTC, said buildings are evaluated about every two years, based on 20 criteria. (The last evaluation for the BBCC buildings under consideration was 2013, Doty said.) Those ratings factor into priority ratings for projects, Doty said.

Schoonmaker said other buildings on the campus could qualify for demolition, but as far as the evaluation is concerned, they were in better condition than aviation maintenance. That would affect the entire project’s priority score, she said. In answer to a question from BBCC vocational director Rick Sparks, Doty said changes in the scoring could derail the entire project.

Leas said the project architect was exploring a redesign of the building, with some parts of the aviation maintenance program in a separate building along the flight line. Moore said in his opinion it didn’t make sense to have classrooms on one side of the street and the lab facilities on the other.

Attendees in the audience expressed support for the aviation maintenance program, and suggested contacting the Port of Moses Lake to see if they would work with the college to find a solution. Leas said there are possibilities for partnerships with aviation companies.

Schoonmaker said whatever decision is reached must be made pretty soon. The budget for the next biennium -where the construction money would be allocated – will be written during the next legislative session, which starts in January.

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