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SCC Breaks Ground for New Building -- And New Direction

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Jason Parrott
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Tri States Public Radio

Southeastern Community College President Michael Ash said the groundbreaking ceremony for the school's new Health Professions Center on the West Burlington campus was about more than just "moving some dirt."  He said it was about establishing a new vision for SCC.

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Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio
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Tri States Public Radio
SCC President Michael Ash addresses the overflow crowd at the recent groundbreaking in West Burlington.

"This is a new day," said Dr. Ash.  "We are moving into the 21st Century.  We are upgrading our facilities, our programs, our attitudes.  We are heading in a new direction."

Nearly 200 people turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony, including students, faculty, administrators, politicians, and community leaders.

The two-story building will house all of the health care-related programs offered by SCC and feature interactive classrooms.

Ash said one room, for example, will have the back half of an ambulance built into a wall to train future EMT's.

Board of Trustees President Janet Fife-LaFrenz said none of this would have been possible without the community support for SCC's plan to borrow $15 million for infrastructure improvements.

"We thank you for your confidence in SCC and your foresight," said Fife-LaFrenz.

The new building is expected to open up classroom space in other buildings, allowing for the addition of new programs or the expansion of others.

Ash said crews have started relocating utility lines in anticipation of construction, but it will be months before crews start building the facility.  The delay is due to the fact that the college has not hired a firm to do the construction.

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Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio
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Tri States Public Radio
SCC used a custom backhoe to unveil the new Health Professions Center.

The groundbreaking event was held just a couple weeks after the Board of Trustees rejected the first round of bids for the project, saying they came in too high.

Ash said the estimated $8 million project would have cost about $10 million if the initial bids had been accepted.

He said the college will put the project back out for bid after making a few adjustments.

"We were probably a little aggressive with our timing," said Ash about SCC wanting to start construction this year.  "Contractors, we have learned, generally do not like to start a project going into winter.  They would rather start after winter so we have corrected that."

He said the college has also clarified some of the bid language in the hopes of generating more interest.

Ash said the goal is for construction to get underway in the spring and students to be using the new facility about one year later.

SCC also plans to build a new industrial technology facility on its Keokuk campus in the next year.  That project is expected to go out for bid soon.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.