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NWC looking to plan for future building needs

Work on the new Yellowstone Building north of Seventh Street at Northwest College is progressing. In this view from the east, the large meeting room is on the left, and entrances into the building from the east and west are visible between the meeting room and the classroom section of the building on the right. Sheldon Flom, interim vice president for administrative services, said the contractor, Sletten Construction, reports that the work still is on schedule for completion by July 31. Work on the new Yellowstone Building north of Seventh Street at Northwest College is progressing. In this view from the east, the large meeting room is on the left, and entrances into the building from the east and west are visible between the meeting room and the classroom section of the building on the right. Sheldon Flom, interim vice president for administrative services, said the contractor, Sletten Construction, reports that the work still is on schedule for completion by July 31. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

Master facility plan will address reallocation of space, maintenance needs for next five years

The anticipated completion of the Yellowstone Building at Northwest College next fall will create something of a domino effect on the campus.

When the nursing, criminal justice, education and speech forensics programs move to the new building, the space those programs use now will be available for other purposes.

To help them make the best decisions about that space use, NWC administrators will turn to the college’s master facilities plan.

That plan will get an overhaul this fall and winter. The Northwest College Board of Trustees on Nov. 11 authorized Sheldon Flom, interim vice president for administrative services, to accept a bid up to $125,000 from one of five firms that have submitted proposals for creating a new facilities master plan.

NWC President Stefani Hicswa told the board the state of Wyoming requires all seven community colleges and the University of Wyoming to update their master facilities plans every five years, and Northwest’s is due this year.

In the hopes of saving money, the board anticipated hiring a company just to update the plan existing created in 2008 by Gould Evans at a cost of $145,000. But Hicswa said it appears the firms that submitted bids are not willing to base their work on a plan they didn’t create.

Several board members said they hope to be more involved in the planning process this time around.

In 2008, the board didn’t see the plan until it was nearly complete — far too late to make any substantive changes, said Trustee John Housel.

“Their draft had a whole bunch of pictures of the Tetons,” he said. “It showed they were completely disconnected from campus. They had a bunch of information that was not applicable.”

Housel commended Flom for the information he provided and the process he established for picking a firm — a process that also involved the board. That didn’t happen last time, he added.

Flom said the new plan “should direct us on where we need to go to tie in with the future building and current buildings, with space coming open and where we’re going with that. It will complement the Yellowstone Building.”

The plan also will look at auxiliary facilities, such as residence halls and the DeWitt Student Center, and it will take a look at anticipated major maintenance needs on campus.

Hicswa asked if there are adequate facilities for existing programs, and whether facilities are needed to address unmet workforce needs.

“Hopefully this master plan will help with that,” Flom said.

Flom said Thursday he was working to finalize a contract with A&E Architects of Billings, which will work jointly with Pointe Architects in Cody and Brailsford and Dunlavey, a national firm, to develop the master facilities plan.

They had agreed on a price of $101,760, but a couple of small add-on options will increase the price slightly, he said

Work will begin by December, and could start as early as this week, Flom said. The planning process was extended by about a month to the end of February to allow more time for interaction with the campus and the community, he said.

In other business, the board also learned that the college already has paid $35,000 toward a multi-sports court that was planned to replace the tennis court that was demolished to make room for the new Yellowstone Building. However, after the estimated cost for the sports court escalated, the board tabled that discussion pending completion of the facility master plan.

Trustee Rick LaPlante noted the payment in a report in the board’s packet.

“I thought we said no,” he said.

Flom said the $35,000 was half of the $70,000 bid accepted for the court’s concrete surface, paid up front as agreed in a contract.

“Do we get our money back?” LaPlante asked?

“I don’t believe so,” Flom said. But he added that he wasn’t sure what the process was, since that occurred under the leadership of former Vice President Kim Mills, who retired at the beginning of the school year.

“We’ve spent $35,000 for something we won’t get?” LaPlante asked.

Hicswa reminded him that the board hadn’t said no to the sports court; it had deferred that decision until the master facility plan was completed so it could provide more guidance on the matter.

In other business, the board:

• Received a clean draft audit report with no findings, down from two findings two years ago, and one last year. Both of those related to NWC failing to reimburse the federal government for financial aid given to a few students, not realizing that those students had stopped attending their classes.

“We did not identify any problems or issues,” Auditor Wayne Herr told the board. He commended Flom, who also is the NWC director of finance, and the staff in the business and financial aid offices.

Herr said the improvement in this year’s audit “wasn’t because things got easier; actually, they got more difficult. And it wasn’t because we weren’t trying to find anything. ... It was a tremendous amount of work on the part of the Financial Aid Department.”

• Heard a report about work underway by the Unpaid Student Debt Task Force, which was formed last summer by Mark Kitchen, NWC vice president for public relations, while he was serving as interim president.

Hicswa said the task force’s appointment “created a placebo effect,” with people working to anticipate and prevent unpaid student debt when possible.

She said the task force has identified three key actions needed to prevent unpaid student debt: reviewing college policies and practices, student financial education and maximizing points of contact with students.

Hicswa said she will provide another report when more information is available.

• Approved spending $18,000 for a microscope for biology students participating in the Wyoming INBRE (Idea Networks Biomedical Research Excellence).

• Heard a report of progress on an emergency notification system being installed on campus.

The system, nearly complete, will provide emergency notification about ongoing incidents on campus, such as a possible shooting, as well as timely warnings about things people need to know to help them protect themselves and their property, such as incidents of sexual assault or vehicles broken into.

The college will have two ways of notifying students of an emergency. One is through loudspeakers in academic buildings and outside on campus; the other is through text messaging.

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