NIC building plan wins funding

BOISE - A major renovation of Seiter Hall at North Idaho College won support from the Legislature’s joint budget committee on Tuesday, which made it one of just three specific projects to be funded in the state’s capital budget for next year.

The capital budget proposal cleared the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on a 19-1 vote; it still needs approval from both houses and the governor’s signature to become final, but budget bills rarely are changed after they’re set by the joint committee.

“That’s awesome, that’s great news,” said John Martin, vice president for community relations at North Idaho College. “We had been told that it had a very good chance of going through. We had very good support from our North Idaho legislators, several of whom are on JFAC.”

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said, “Times are tight, but I think these are important projects. The money is in the permanent building fund, it’s not in the general fund - it’s not money that can be used for education or anything else.”

The 1974 building on the Coeur d’Alene community college campus was a state-of-the-art science lab building when it opened, but it’s now sadly out of date. “It has just outlived, other than the shell of the building, its useful time,” Martin said. The heating and ventilation system are in their “final throes;” the configuration doesn’t match modern classroom set-ups; and there’s no access to technology. “It’s kind of in a sad state, because you can only patch things so long,” he said.

The project won support in an extremely tight budget year in part because it’s not construction of a new building - no new building construction projects were approved in the state’s capital budget. Instead, the three projects that won approval are the $4.3 million renovation of Seiter Hall; $2 million toward fixing life-safety problems at the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome; and a $312,000 land purchase for the Department of Lands in St. Maries, where a state-owned $1.1 million building is now on land leased from the city. If the state didn’t buy that land by June of 2010, it’d have to remove the buildings, under the terms of the lease.

Martin said the renovation will essentially give NIC a new, modern classroom building, at a fraction of the cost of actually constructing a new building. “This is really going to help us, to modernize the building so we can handle the enrollment increase we got this past semester of 10 percent,” he said. “We’ll have a brand new building for about 25 percent of the cost.”

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, vice-chairwoman of JFAC, said, “The Seiter Hall renovation was desperately needed. … The work in that project will also help provide some construction jobs in that community, which are important.”

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