Yavapai College takes 10-year plan campaign to Clarkdale Council

New District 3 College Board Member Al Filardo emphasized that the 10-year plan is just a concept, with some of its biggest projects, like the nursing center on the west side of the mountain, still subject to change in the next six to seven years. VVN/Jon Pelletier

New District 3 College Board Member Al Filardo emphasized that the 10-year plan is just a concept, with some of its biggest projects, like the nursing center on the west side of the mountain, still subject to change in the next six to seven years. VVN/Jon Pelletier

CLARKDALE - New District 3 appointee Al Filardo joined Yavapai College official Clint Ewell and Governing Board Member Herald Harrington in presenting the Clarkdale Town Council with 10-year plan information.

Filardo said he wants to move forward with the governing board by implementing an institutional line of communication between the college and the communities it serves. He gave examples of instances when the "community was asleep at the wheel" to some changes the college made in its communities in the past.

"The college engaged pretty well, but initially no one paid attention because that's just how it is," Filardo said, pleading for community involvement.

Councilman Bill Regner said he and fellow members of the recently evolved Verde Chapter of the Yavapai College Foundation saw resistance from the college.

There is a lot of mistrust "on this side of the mountain," which has been a barrier in trying to gain community support for college programs and decisions. Regner said he encountered people who would "never write a check as long as the decision for how it's spent is made on the other side of the mountain."

"Let's embrace that reality," he said. "Let's stop denying that these things exist."

During Filardo's presentation, he emphasized that the 10-year plan is just a concept, with some of its biggest projects, like the nursing center on the west side of the mountain, still subject to change in the next six to seven years.

He said education has bigger problems to deal with, so the community needs to "get off the 10-year plan."

Many community members have talked about how shifting Verde campus programs to the Prescott and Prescott Valley campuses creates a transportation problem for students. Filardo said this is a problem, but it is also a problem with a solution.

Councilman Rennie Radoccia said agreeing to a 10-year plan sustains the big picture.

"I can see that you're a big-picture thinker," Radoccia said to Filardo during the meeting. "I would agree that we as a community or as a group need to get past that, but before we can get past that, we need that plan."

Harrington gave the presentation that he and Ewell have been taking around the Verde Valley. He talked about the college's plan to turn the Verde campus into the agricultural education hub with the closure of the Chino Valley campus.

Councilman Richard Dehnert said that seems to be "the carrot that's being dangled at the end of the stick for the Verde campus," and asked about how this would be sustainable.

Harrington said the rapidly changing agriculture industry is starting to leave room for small, one- to two-acre farmers who produce organic, non-genetically modified foods that require low water use.

The college is also in talks with the University of Arizona to partner in agriculture education. West side campuses have a four-year degree program partnership with Northern Arizona University.

Ewell and Harrington said the college would likely spend the next year taking the 10-year plan on tour and soliciting public input. Harrington's presentation mentions SmithGroup JJR, the consulting firm that researched and solicited public input for the 10-year plan.

Councilman Richard Dehnert said the consulting firm failed to fill rooms and engage with people who could provide meaningful input.

"I would say, ask them for your money back," Dehnert said.

Harrington said the college received some valuable input from the researchers, but now it's a matter of fine-tuning the plan over the next year.

Filardo mentioned Ruth Wicks, one of the founding members of an exploratory committee to create an administrative district for the Verde campus, similar to the Maricopa County Community College system.

"In this process, we have to find a way to take care of the children that Ruth is talking about," he said.

Wicks was there to present the Verde Valley Community College Advisory Committee's findings so far, and started to present the argument that the community could put more of its tax dollars to direct use at an "administratively independent" Verde campus.

Von Gausig said he wanted to schedule Wicks on a future council agenda to allow her more time to speak.

Follow the reporter on Twitter @ymgonzal and Instagram @VerdeValleyNews

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