March 18, 2009 in Idaho

Renovation at NIC still on track

Seiter Hall project clears committee
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

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 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.”

State Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said, “Times are tight, but I think these are important projects.”

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Coeur d’Alene community college campus was a state-of-the-art science lab building when it opened, but it’s now sadly out of date. 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, Martin said.

“You can only patch things so long,” he said.

The project won support in an extremely tight budget year in part because it’s a renovation – 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 Seiter Hall project; $2 million toward fixing 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 doesn’t buy that land by June of 2010, it will 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 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.”

State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, vice chairwoman of JFAC, noted that the Seiter Hall renovation also will “help provide some construction jobs in that community, which are important.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com.

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