Some supervisors object to the proposal because Finger Lakes Community College has not yet spelled out how it will pay for the expansion.
Although they didn’t commit any money to the project, the Ontario County Board of Supervisors last night approved a $58 million building plan for Finger Lakes Community College.
Supervisors only agreed to the concept of the plan, which needs to be in Albany by Jan. 31 to be eligible for state aid.
The board voted 14 to 6 to include the project in its capital plan, along with other big projects such as the renovations of the Ontario County Court House and former county jail at 74 Ontario St.
Concerns about how the college is going to pay for the plan — especially how much will be expected to come from county taxpayers — fueled debate before the vote.
“I don’t want to see this fall through,” said Supervisor Bill Eddinger, D-Manchester, who heads the board’s Financial Management Committee and voted against the plan. He applauded the college’s concept because it focuses on the basics and academics, but took issue with approving the idea without a financial blueprint.
“Where are the finances coming from?” he asked.
Earlier this month, the college Board of Trustees approved a long-range plan with the first phase to be $58 million worth of building improvements to be done in five years. It includes construction of a 67,000-square-foot student center — essentially a one-stop hub for student-enrollment services — and renovating the college’s existing building to create more academic space. It also includes upgrading parking lots and roadways to improve access.
Eddinger and other supervisors voting against the plan cited concerns over how the county could manage two multimillion-dollar projects at once — the college plan and renovations for the courthouse.
“We did a wink and a nod on our office needs and then you get this,” added Eddinger.
Last month, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas M. Van Strydonck, administrative judge for the county’s Seventh Judicial District, told county Adminstrator Geoff Astles the courthouse needs immediate renovation due to “grossly inadequate courtrooms” and other security concerns. Now, county officials are hustling to put a plan in motion that has been discussed for years.
“We have been putting off this courthouse for years,” said Supervisor Charlie Evangelista, D-city of Geneva. “We must do it, and we don’t have enough money in our capital plan for our college.”
The courthouse project involves creating space in another building to free up room for a new courtroom and other changes. A renovation of the former jail is likely, with the entire project estimated to cost about $8 million.
Also voting against the college plan were supervisors Frank Duserick, R-Naples; Donald Jensen, R-Seneca; Lloyd Kinnear, R-Canandaigua; and Donald Ninestine, D-city of Geneva. Supervisor Dodie Huber, R-East Bloomfield, was not at the meeting.
But the majority of the board agreed the college project needs to move forward.
“It’s a vision,” said Richard Calabrese, R-Gorham, who heads a joint committee of college and county officials overseeing the plan.
“There is not a commitment of one dollar to this plan,” he said, adding that after it goes to the state, then “we can sit down” and figure out what “we can afford.”
“If you don’t have a road map, you might want to go to Mexico but you’ll end up in Alaska,” said Calabrese.
Before the vote, college President Barbara Risser cited statistics from an economic impact study done by EMSI/CCbenefits Inc. Among the findings: 80 percent of FLCC students remain in the community, and for every $1 of $21.3 million that government invested in the college in 2007, taxpayers will get back $2.20 over the course of the students’ careers in the form of tax receipts and other benefits.
Robert Joy, president of JMZ Architects and Planners P.C., which designed the plan, also tried winning over the supervisors by saying the plan is focused, balanced and long overdue.
“FLCC is a gem that needs to be polished,” said Joy.
He said he recently spoke with an FLCC graduate who went on to become an architect. The former student remarked that the college must be very different from when he graduated from there 12 years ago, but Joy replied, “No, it pretty much looks the same.”
Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at firstname.lastname@example.org