CALMAR — The continuing need to modernize Northeast Iowa Community College’s facilities and technology will be on the ballot Sept. 11.
Voters across NICC’s 13-county service area will decide on a $39 million bond issue that would be repaid by continuing an existing tax levy at the current rate. The levy of just less than 29 cents per $1,000 of taxable value was first approved in a bond issue referendum almost 11 years ago. It would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $150,000 about $23 a year in property taxes.
“When we passed the original bond in 2007, our needs were identified at $65,000 and our bond was for $35,000,” said Rhonda Seibert, the college’s associate vice president of operations. As a result, officials prioritized needs knowing they would not be able to finish all of the necessary renovations.
There are four areas in which work would be done if voters approve a new bond issue: educational programming and services, infrastructure, security and technology.
Passage will require approval of the measure by at least 60 percent of voters who come to the polls that day. Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties are within the college’s service area along with portions of Bremer, Buchanan, Jones, Jackson and Mitchell counties.
Infrastructure needs across the college district are the largest expense. Renovations of the 40-year-old Peosta campus’ main building have an estimated cost of $19-$20 million.
“That includes everything from replacing the windows to replacing the (metal) sleeve on the building, which has reached the capacity on its lifespan and is failing,” said Seibert. Heating and cooling systems, water lines, plumbing, electrical — “they all are original on that building and all are in need of upgrading. The goal of that is to get it more user-friendly, more energy efficient and get it to last another 40-50 years.”
With the last bond issue, infrastructure work was focused on the Calmar campus, which is 10 years older than the Peosta campus. But improvements still remain at Calmar’s Max Clark Hall.
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Interior renovations are planned, including making restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with updates to plumbing, heating and cooling systems. Estimated cost of the work is $5 million.
Infrastructure work is planned at some of the centers too. Heating and cooling systems would be replaced at the National Education Center for Agriculture Safety in Peosta and at the Dubuque Center, where work also would be done on parking lots. At the Town Clock Business Center in Dubuque, restrooms and stairwells would be renovated and some roofs would be replaced.
Security priorities include installing cameras and entry locks at the two campuses and all the centers. “Currently, we have very limited cameras on both of our campuses,” said Seibert. The college would also integrate communication systems on the Calmar campus “so that we can have the wireless connectivity between our buildings.”
Technology priorities include replacing network servers, upgrading the phone system across the district and installing a print management system. Updates to instructional technologies are also planned, “ensuring that we have the capacity to meet the changing needs of our students,” said Seibert. Among those needs are good wireless internet access and an interactive videoconferencing system.
Educational programming priorities include updating classrooms and labs and creating flexible and collaborative learning spaces. “The students coming in today, the emphasis is teamwork and collaboration,” said Seibert. Changes are planned to classrooms spaces “so that we can use them for multiple purposes; so that we can convert them from a small room to a large room” as needed.
If the bond issue is approved, the new levy would start in the 2019-20 fiscal year. It could continue for as long as 17 years, although officials said it’s possible the bonds would be paid off within 12 to 15 years.
The timeframe to complete the work using those funds would be shorter, though. “I estimate it will take three to seven years,” said Seibert.