With OSU-Cascades moving out, COCC is working to resolve the debt and get the building

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As OSU-Cascades expands, the question remains, what will happen to Cascades Hall?  Photo by Molly Svendsen | The Broadside.
As OSU-Cascades expands, the question remains, what will happen to Cascades Hall? Photo by Molly Svendsen | The Broadside.

 

The current lease of the Oregon State University-Cascades building could be an obstacle in the upcoming expansion.

OSU-Cascades currently rents Cascades Hall from Central Oregon Community College; this lease was originally for 30 years and at the time of the expansion would have 17 years remaining. However, they now hope they can resolve that lease before the expansion begins.

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To resolve this, OSU-Cascades and COCC are looking to Oregon legislature, according to Representative John Huffman (R-) The Dalles.

“Getting the funding wrapped up for COCC and OSU Cascades is my number one priority for the February session,” Huffman said.

In order to resolve the debt created by the remainder of the lease, COCC would require $5.26 million. Currently, there are plans that $3.63 million of that would come from a matching bond from the state. To match that, COCC is trying to get an additional $1.63 million from state lottery funds that would not require being matched. The remaining $2 million would then come from COCC’s coffers, according to Jim Middleton, president of COCC.

“The allocation would be to COCC. However, Cascades Campus would get a major benefit from that,” Middleton said. “We think we are in a better position to look at a proposal that would be a technical fix. This would recognize funds such as $2 million set aside for renovations and would count that as part of the project which would help cover part of the match.”

Effects on OSU-Cascades

Without this funding, the OSU-Cascades expansion would have to be divided among three campuses: The graduate center, Cascades Hall, and the site of the new campus. This would mean that for the next 17 years, OSU-Cascades would not be able to have a single contiguous campus, according to Becky Johnson, vice president of OSU-Cascades.

“We would still go ahead with the expansion but would have to scale it down as we would still have Cascades Hall,” Johnson said. “Our faculty, administration, and students would be spread over three different campuses. It wouldn’t necessarily stop expansion; we’d still go ahead with it but for 17 years we’d be stuck with this lease.”

Receiving the money required to resolve this lease would be “a win for the state, a win for OSU-Cascades, and a win for COCC,” Middleton said.

For OSU-Cascades, being freed from the remainder of that lease would mean they would be able to forge ahead with the current plans for the expansion.

Effects on COCC

Approximately five years ago, COCC submitted a list of projects that would require additional funds from the state. The top three projects were the Health Careers building and Science Center, next was the Redmond Technology Center, and third was plans for a Student Services Center. All of these plans were submitted before plans for Cascades Campus had been started, according to Middleton.

The first two projects have already been completed, and the plans to build a Student Services Center have now been resolved in light of the Cascades expansion. If COCC gets the funding to resolve the lease with OSU-Cascades, COCC could would then be able to transition that building into a student services center.

“By using Cascades Hall for that purpose, it would cost COCC half of what it would cost to fund a new building,” Johnson said. “It might not be like the building they would have planned it through the construction phase but we’ve been working really closely together to make sure this is something that works for both parties.”

This building was slated to specifically focus on student support services. COCC has looked at which services would be the best to move into a separate building; two possibilities were tutoring services and the Careers And Personal counseling center.

“There are also part-time professors at COCC who currently struggle with office space, with an additional building we would be able to open up offices for them,” Middleton said.

An additional building would be able to accommodate for future enrollment growth, Middleton explained.

“Even though we are in a little decline just with the economy and people deciding to go back to work we do anticipate long-run enrollment growth,” Middleton said.

Effects on the community

On the state level, legislators would be able to save $5 million in community costs. If COCC decided to go ahead with construction for an additional building, most of that cost would be covered through bonds. With funding needed for a new building there would also be a potential for a tuition increase.

“This would mean significant savings for the community and for students,” Middleton said.

Overall, resolving the OSU-Cascades lease would be a positive step for both colleges as well as the community.

“It makes more sense to transfer use of Cascades to COCC,” Middleton said. “This is a way of setting an example of not doing this the standard way and of using taxes and student funds more efficiently. It is a great example of collaboration to bring things together.”

Though it is not certain that funding will be granted to release OSU-Cascades from the lease, the outlook is promising, according to Huffman.
“Though we have no guarantees that we will receive the necessary funding in February, I am optimistic that we will get it done,” Huffman said.

 

Molly Svensdsen
The Broadside
msvendsen@cocc.edu

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