Iowa Central to seek $25.5M in bonds

Proposed $500,000 in improvements for WC?Campus; vote is set for Feb. 6

Voters in nine area counties will be asked early next year to approve a $25.5 million general obligation bond issue to finance numerous building upgrades at Iowa Central Community College.

The college’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday evening to schedule a Feb. 6 referendum on the bonds.

The money would pay for security and electrical upgrades, changes needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a new biofuels testing lab.

The biggest part of the proposed bond issue is $6 million for the planned Greehey Family Student Success Center on the Fort Dodge campus. It would house enrollment, financial aid, academic advising, counseling and career planning services in one place. Bill Greehey, a Fort Dodge Senior High graduate who was the chief executive officer of Valero Energy Corp., donated $3 million for the center in June.

The investments funded by the bond issue would not be limited to the college’s main campus in Fort Dodge. Improvements are planned at the Eagle Grove, Storm Lake and Webster City centers also.

The bond issue must be approved by 60 percent of those voting in Buena Vista, Calhoun, Greene, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Sac, Webster and Wright counties.

Paying off the bond debt would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 just $12 a year, according to college President Dan Kinney.

The board called for a new referendum less than a year after a similar proposal failed by a slim margin. Voters in the nine counties went to the polls on Dec. 5, 2016, to act on a $29.5 million general obligation bond issue.

That bond issue was approved by 58.6 percent of those who voted, falling just short of the needed 60 percent level.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we did the job we needed to do,” Kinney said of the 2016 vote.

He said college leaders will work hard in the months leading up to the February vote to make the case for approving the new bond issue.

“While we could probably invest much more in improvements, I believe this plan addresses all the critical needs that our faculty and staff identified in our department meetings over the past few months and aligns our current and future budget with operational and infrastructure needs,” Mark Crimmins, the chairman of the college’s Board of Directors, said in a written statement.

Kinney said the college does not get any state money to pay for building needs.

Security upgrades top his list of those needs at Iowa Central.

“What we’re really looking at, No. 1, is safety and security,” he said. “Locks, cameras, security systems at all of our centers. We need to maintain that type of equipment for the safety and security of our students.”

The proposed bond issue includes $3 million for safety improvements.

Electrical upgrades at numerous college buildings at all of its sites are also to be paid for with bond issue money.

“You have to keep in mind that these buildings were built in the ’60s and ’70s,” Kinney said. “We have reached the limits of their electrical systems. We cannot continue to add the technology needed to learn in the classroom without these kinds of upgrades.”

The college has a biofuels testing lab that checks the quality of ethanol and biodiesel sold in 40 states and four foreign countries. That lab is located in the Bioscience and Health Science Building on the Fort Dodge campus. Kinney said the lab has outgrown its space there.

The proposed bond issue includes $2 million to build a new biofuels testing lab off-campus. Kinney said he’s like to see the new lab built at the ag industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation that’s west of Fort Dodge.

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