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June 17. 2014 7:55PM

Community College System seeks money for facilities

CONCORD — A new state-of-the art $7 million facility to train students at the Manchester Community College is included in the Community College System of New Hampshire’s $28.4 million capital budget request.

College officials, the commandant of the NH Veterans Home, and other agency heads explained their requests on Tuesday before the Governor’s Capital Budget Hearings.

The Veterans Home wants to add a third floor to its dementia and Alzheimer’s unit to increase capacity from 100 to 150 beds.

Total state agency requests for projects are $376.5 million over the next biennium, with $227.3 million from state general funds.

The Community College System also seeks $5 million to improve and update its IT and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) laboratories, $4.5 million for IT updates systemwide and $5 million for a new facility to house its mobile equipment technology program now at its Berlin campus.

During the hearing, Ross Gittell, chancellor of the CCSNH, said the Manchester facility for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and electrical technology programs is out dated. He said they are the only programs of their kind offered in the state with enrollment up 23 percent since 2009, but with no capacity to grow.

“The programs are well below the capacity needed for New Hampshire’s workforce pipeline, with a large percentage of (the) workforce nearing retirement age,” Gittell said. “These are good-paying jobs.”

At the Technical Institute in Concord, Gittell said the demand exceeds the lab space for both IT and STEM programs and limits future growth.

He said IT enrollment has grown 54 percent and engineering technology course enrollment has increased 18 percent since 2009.

The $5.5 million for the school will also help develop new online courses and create an online center for counseling and advising students.

The Lakes Region campus would receive $5 million under the system’s proposed capital budget. The mobile equipment technology program is currently at the Berlin campus, Gittell said, but industry leaders believe the program has limited impact at that location and should be more centrally located for access to more employers.

The new facility would also house the marine technology and small engine technology programs.

The Nashua campus would receive $2.3 million to expand the culinary and hospitality program facility and to begin renovating the main building on campus.

“Our objective is to have the right programs at the right locations doing the right things,” Gittell said. “We seek to meet the needs of local employers and students.”

Veterans Home Commandant Margaret LaBrecque said the facility’s 202 beds are filled, including the 100 beds for dementia patients at risk of wandering.

She said of the 64 applications pending to enter the home, 11 of those already approved are dementia patients and about half of the other applicants are as well.

“We are trying to offer beds for those most in need,” LaBrecque said.

She said the state needs to approve the $2.5 million for its share of the project before the veterans’ administration will even consider its $4.5 million share.LaBrecque said the process can take a year to complete, noting that if the request is approved in the capital budget next year, the extra beds would be available sometime in 2017.

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The biggest item in the current capital budget was a new women’s prison in Concord, a project that had been a priority for corrections officials until last year when lawmakers declined to fund.

This biennium’s capital budget totals $125 million in state general fund spending.

Monday, when she opened the hearings, Gov. Maggie Hassan warned state agency heads their requests were going to be reduced.

“We will have to work together over the next year to rigorously vet these requests and to pare down this list to ensure we continue to use taxpayer dollars as judiciously as possible,” she said, adding while new building garner headlines, maintaining existing facilities has to be a priority.

grayno@unionleader.com


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