Tue, July 23

Commentary: College needs comprehensive five-year plan for Verde Valley

Bob Oliphant

Bob Oliphant

Behind the scenes, there are ongoing discussions by Yavapai College officials concerning the fate of Building “L” on the Verde Campus. Poor Building “L”, which I refer to as the Rodney Dangerfield of College facilities. It gets no respect.

The building has been kicked around since it was built in 2004. The original vision was to use millions from a federal government grant and a voter-approved bond to create a major Career and Technical Education (CTE) training Center on the Verde Campus in Building “L.”

Unfortunately for Building “L” and the 70,000 residents living on the east side of Mingus Mountain, that vision was pretty much abandoned when the politicos on the west side of the County decided in 2006-07 to build an entirely new CTE campus at the Prescott airport to serve the residents over there.

Since that fateful decision by the Prescott folks, Building “L” has been struggling to find a proper use. It has been renovated for enology labs and modified in part for the Verde Campus nursing program.

In the December 2013 college development plan, Building “L” was to play a central role of the shift in agriculture when the Chino Valley Campus was closed and many of its operations transferred to the Verde Campus. But that plan landed with a resounding thud in Chino Valley and has no chance to materialize.

To add to the woes of Building “L,” current discussions are taking place in a vacuum in terms of a written, serious, comprehensive, understandable five-year development plan for east-county post-secondary education. I suspect there may be something about a “strategic” five-year plan dumped into the discussion pot by the college. However, those of us who have carefully looked at it find it lacking in vision and clarity.

The sad fact is there is no effort on the part of Yavapai College to produce a serious post-secondary development plan for the 70,000 residents on the east side of Yavapai County. And there never has been.

What I’ve seen over the past two decades is a piecemeal approach to any development on this side of Mingus Mountain. Just enough to keep the folks from too loudly raising their voices in protest of the second class treatment afforded them by the college.

In sharp contrast is the serious, focused development that has taken place on the west side of the mountain. Over the past 18 years the west side Yavapai College politicians and presidents working under their influence have delivered the following to Prescott and Prescott Valley residents: A new professional tennis complex, swimming pool, therapy pool, 1,100 state-of-the-art dinner theater, two renovated residence halls, renovation of all parking lots and every campus building, a new CTE Campus, a huge athletic program, baseball field, softball field, leased soccer fields, major sized gymnasium, music program, theater program, new four-year bachelor’s degree with ASU, a new Allied Health facility, new police training building, and much more. Meanwhile, east side residents have either slept through all this selfish development for one part of the county or have been politically marginalized.

To illustrate the enormous commitment of the west county politicians to developing the college on that side of Mingus Mountain, college documents show that almost $60 million (maybe more) of the $69.5 million 2000 bond went to west County development.

In addition to the bond money, the College spent other funds to build an $11 million Prescott Campus heating plant, a $20 million Career and Technical Education Campus at the Prescott Airport, and around $7 million to renovate two dormitories on the Prescott Campus. If that doesn’t take your breath away, recall that in 2013 the Governing Board approved in concept spending another $100 million on the west side of the county for additional construction and renovation. That has since been reduced to something around $65 million.

Meanwhile, the college spent $18 million to replace the infrastructure, renovate and replace the 40 year-old falling down wooden buildings on the Verde Campus and about a half million for the poorly designed outdoor pavilion. After citizens put a halt to the idea of selling the Sedona Center, and after it was essentially closed for over two years, the college has finally and reluctantly invested around $5.5 million in renovation, a new parking lot and building a street.

It is time for a serious comprehensive community college five-year development document for the 70,000 residents on the east side of the County.

Without it, any discussion of how Building “L” should be used in the future seems pretty useless.

Robert Oliphant is a former member of the Yavapai College Governing Board.