ELIZABETHTOWN - Two separate funding requests from North Country Community College were met with mixed responses from Essex County supervisors this week.
NCCC interim president Fred Smith visited the Essex County Ways and Means committee June 29 to introduce the college's recently approved budget and the plans for its next big construction project.
While part of the increase in next year's budget would be offset by higher tuition, Smith explained that the college would need an additional $50,000 each from both Franklin and Essex counties to offset an anticipated loss in state aid.
Several supervisors spoke in approval of the increase, noting the success of its new Registered Nursing program at NCCC's Ticonderoga branch.
"They've added curriculum that helps keep people in our area," said Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas, commending the college for trimming its budget as much as possible.
Smith said one limitation to the new RN program was that it could only take in up to 30 students because each student needed a medical facility at which to complete their clinical experience. Still, it was certainly contributing to the goal of raising enrollment in Ticonderoga.
Smith mentioned other new programs in the works at NCCC, such as a proposal for an Environmental Science program and possible reinstitution of an inmate education program in nearby prisons.
The committee set July 20 as the date for a public hearing on the increased budget contribution. The funds could then be approved at the Aug. 3 board meeting or at a special meeting held immediately following the public hearing.
In contrast, a request for $55,000 to help fund the architectural design of an upgrade to the Saranac Lake campus was met with less enthusiasm.
"The college has been neglectful in doing the kind of things that should have been done over the years," said Smith, who said initial estimates of the construction ran as high as $33 million.
Smith stressed that the commitment to help fund the full project would likely be at least a year away.
"My guess is it would be 2011 before you see any shovel in the dirt," he said.
Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston expressed opposition to funding additional construction at the college when so many county residents were already struggling financially.
"I think the timing couldn't be worse for this right now," said Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava, noting the radio system update and other large-scale projects the county would soon be undertaking.
Most spoke in favor of funding the construction planning, even if they were wary of the cost of the project.
"Nobody's going to know what the real cost is until you have some sort of professional study," said County Manager Daniel Palmer.
Schroon Lake Supervisor and board chair Cathy Moses said having a plan ready for construction might position the project for more state or federal funding.
Douglas and Ticonderoga Supervisor Robert Dedrick noted the need to consider renovating a campus they said was "literally falling apart."
"We will lose students if we don't maintain facilities that are competitive," said Dedrick.
The committee ultimately voted to approve the $55,000 allocation with Preston as the only member opposed.