Saying too much debate remains around Missoula College and where to build it, a Missoula legislator will attempt to strip funding for the project, while leaving intact other building plans requested by the Montana University System.

Rep. David Moore, R-Missoula, said Wednesday he will attempt to add his amendment to House Bill 14 this week.

Building a new Missoula College can wait, he said, until the university system reaches consensus with South Campus opponents, who want to see the school placed at Fort Missoula.

“The general consensus is that we want to upgrade Missoula College, but we also want to preserve the golf course on the South Campus,” Moore said. “Since there’s been so much consternation over this topic, the amendment would remove funding for the project from HB14, and let them work out the differences for the next session.”

The Montana Board of Regents and the Montana University System have identified construction of Missoula College as its top funding priority. The college’s current facility on South Avenue is outdated and overcrowded.

The state named the South Campus as the project’s preferred location. The site-selection process was well-vetted, university officials said, and it included lengthy public input.

“The Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Higher Education are confident that the South Campus location is the viable location for Missoula College,” said Kevin McRae, spokesman for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.

“UM has given careful review and assessment to that, and the commissioner and board have examined that review. We’re not only in support, but we’ve concluded as a board and system that the South Campus is the viable place.”

House Bill 14, introduced by Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena, seeks roughly $87.9 million in appropriations and $87.9 million in general obligation bonds to complete eight building projects, seven of which pertain to the university system.

The bill also allows the state to seek $57.8 million in other funding sources, such as donations, grants and general fund money within state agencies. Those funds would be used to complete nine building projects, eight pertaining to the university system.

***

While most of Moore’s district lies in Missoula County, he said Missoula College and the South Campus location, planned within city limits, was a top concern expressed by his constituents.

“They can see the community value in that open space in the future, 50 to 100 years down the road,” Moore said. “I’ve been contacted by a lot of alumni from out of state who think it would be a mistake for the university to carry forth with its plans.”

Moore had intended to introduce a separate amendment to HB14, stipulating that any funding for Missoula College must be spent to build the project at Fort Missoula, not the South Campus.

He expressed frustration with the current process, saying state legislators had no control over how funding appropriated by the Legislature is spent by the university system.

“I found out we couldn’t stipulate location as a legislative body,” Moore said. “We have zero control over how they spend that money or what they do with it.”

Mick Robinson, deputy commissioner for fiscal affairs at the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, said the university system has vetted its building needs, including Missoula College.

He said the system uses funding appropriated by the Legislature to meet its highest priorities. Requests for money, he said, aren’t made lightly.

“In term of being stewards of the money – we’re very good stewards of those dollars,” Robinson said. “We work closely with the state Architecture and Engineering Division in terms of making sure that structure is appropriate.”

Moore said the Missoula community may never be in full agreement on where to build Missoula College. But he said it was wrong to dismiss opponents of the South Campus plan as a “group of old golfers.”

He believes opposition reaches beyond the core group of opponents, known as Advocates for Missoula’s Future, but extends deeper into neighborhoods surrounding the South Campus.

“If they don’t get funding this time, it’ll be two to four additional years,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of available space to be leased in town if (Missoula College) has overflow and needs. They may not like that, but that’s an option.”

***

The latest bill marks the third effort by the Montana University System to secure legislative funding to build Missoula College.

Bill Johnson, lobbyist for the university system, said every time the Legislature denies funding needed for construction, it’s the students looking to complete their education and find jobs who pay the price.

“The one thing we’re concerned about, this has been a multi-session effort,” Johnson said. “The students at Missoula College are there for one or two years, and every time this is delayed, that’s another generation of students jammed into overcrowded classrooms.”

At several meetings over the past seven months, members of Advocates of Missoula’s Future have threatened a lawsuit if the South Campus plan prevails.

Moore said litigation remains a possibility.

“There’s a possibility that if the money is appropriated, it will be litigated,” Moore said. “There’s a question regarding the intent of the gifters of that land to the state.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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(30) comments

TwiceGriz

I challenge, Mick Robinson, President Engstrom, Clay Christian, Martin Kidston and any and all people who believe that location for the Missoula College has ever been discussed publicly in a meeting in Missoula to produce minutes of that meeting showing location was ever on the table for discussion. Location for COT or Missoula College expansion has not been discussed since 2004 when the West Campus was chosen for COT consolidation and expansion and the golf course location (and 7 other possible sites, including the fairgrounds) were rejected. And they wonder why their is a problem. The chairperson of the 2007 South Campus Master Plan and at least 3 of its citizen-committee members will tell you that location was never discussed. The University chose the athletic fields (they call it the "south campus") and squashed any discussion about alternative locations even though that discussion was attempted in 2007 and continues to be attempted to this day to no avail. Let in 2011 President Engstrom publicly stated in a Missoulian article that the "south campus" location is a "done deal." In other words, not up for discussion. They should find those meeting minutes now because, if this thing gets funded, they will need those minutes when they get slapped with an injunction requiring a showing of public meeting process on the subject (in addition to other grounds). I guarantee that the only discussion they will find on location was back in 1996-2004.

Don't let them wreck this town; its valued, long term income-producing and job creating golf course, its quality of life open space, one of the nation's oldest and best hang gliding sites, local business revenue producing cross country track course (and one of the best in the country), and cross country skiing, soccer, sledding, accessible and affordable golf, snowshoeing, GOOD WILL to UM. Don't let them miss the chance to create one, large consolidated, full service campus for Missoula College students which is not located in one of the most congested areas of town and does not split the college into four campuses.

Why on earth would you destroy all of the good and positive community and University benefits from the athletic fields when there is a more viable option that destroys nothing of value which is located at its current West Campus and serves Missoula College students better in one consolidated location?

I applaud Representative Moore for standing up for Missoula values and bucking the all powerful higher education system which has stepped way out of bounds on this subject and has totally ignored the wishes of the community expressed now and back in 2004; wishes for a West Campus College, expanded, consolidated and updated, and to retain the athletic fields for the use and benefit of all for years to come according to the original donors' intentions.

Wild Rose

Let’s get off of Rep. Moore’s back. Until the placement of this technical school is set in stone there is no need to allocate money to build it. It appears to me that Engstrom, and Dennison before him, was/is set on ramming the golf course site forward regardless of the wishes of the majority of the taxpayers. Given that there is land already held by the University at the present site of the tech school I can see no reason to move it to the “South Campus” site. I applaud Rep. Moore for acting intelligently and suggesting that we should wait until next session, after the PEOPLE have decided where this campus should be built, to allocate the funds.

David1

And, rest assured that Engstrom will move forthwith to start construction on the South Campus when/if funding passes in the legislature. There will be no local discussion where MC should be built if funding is approved.

Kopper

At the at the May, 2005 Montana Board of Regents meeting, UM President George Dennison said that the University of Montana had enough academic building space to “accommodate a student population of 23,000.” The current enrollment at UM, including approximately 2,500 Missoula College students is less than 15,000.

In 1978, the student population at the University of Montana was just over 8,000 students. In over 34 years, the student population has grown by less than 7,000 students. If Montana University System officials insist that Missoula College be close to the main University of Montana Campus, there is absolutely no need to build any new buildings because the student population is over 7,000 students less than capacity.

Based on past growth rates, capacity will not occur until at least 2047 and that does not take into account the projection of substantial growth in online learning which of course will create the need for even less classroom space.

David1

It is Missoula College that's growing, not UM. All the more reason to build MC on the West Campus, thereby consolidating MC's programs & services at one consolidated location, more easily accessible by west & north Missoula residents ( the chief beneficiaries). What business prefers 4 locations to serve its customer base, when one consolidated facility would do it better? Businesses consolidate to reduce costs, esp. when its customers are better served by doing so.

dsrobins

Moore is just another right wing Republican hack who wants to drag Montana back into the 19th century. He will fail.;

David1

You don't know what you're talking about.

old farmer

The students attending the new school will have little in common with the main campus, no matter where it is located. The University owns a lot of Fort Missoula property. They would have room to expand, with heavy equipment classes. They plan a nursing school, well the fort is within walking distance of a major hospitable. The students these classes will attract are students who wan't to learn a good trade. I think it would have little in common with the playboy club below the M.

David1

This is so true. MC serves an entirely different clientele than UM does. These are people of inadequate academic background, lower income, and entirely different social circumstances than the kids entering UM. These are people mainly from the west and north areas of Missoula, not to mention people from outlying areas of Missoula County.
This does not mean they are lower in intelligence or talent. UM is not the home for them; MC is, an integrated, consolidated institution devoted solely to their needs. The UM's handling of MC (former COT) has been shameful, indeed.

Proximity to the main campus is a non-issue; it's irrelevant, and badly mistaken. I can only assume Pres. Engstrom is ignorant of the community college's successful experience in this country. I doubt he has one bit of professional experience in a community college setting before he came to Montana. It's incredible what he wants to do w/ MC.

jima

The enrollment projections were skewed to create this 'window of opportunity' for funding these projects. An investigation is needed to look into the manipulation of statistical data to obscure falling enrollment/higher student loan defaults in the coming years. This boondoggle is being funded under false pretenses.

Greenland

For a community spending millions to preserve open space, Engstrom's grab for cheap land to create yet another separate campus, taking away some of the most sacred open space in Missoula, is not just an affront to the Missoula community, it is becoming symbolic of who he is and how he thinks.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

I usually do not agree with Republicans on much of anything but I do agree with Moore on this issue. As far as the golf course crazies, as one person called them here, even if you don't play golf, the idea of that space next to the mountain has always been kind of a tradition around here. It is a beautiful setting and while administrators may not care about that, many people do and there are plenty of other spots to put the college. Maybe the amount of controversy ought to tell UM to think about another location???? Then again I thought a 5-6 football season last year would have made them think about another football coach....guess I had that wrong too.

Dubs

I think I agree with Rep. Moore, they need to step back and rethink the whole project. If our economy was cooking along, then maybe it would make sense but to spend that kind of money during a period of weak economic growth doesn't make a lot of sense. There is a reason Missoula is dead last in economic growth in the state and the cause is over regulations and bad spending decisions made by our city and county governments.

Aberdeen

Delay is the deadliest form of Denial.

TwiceGriz

Delay caused President George Washington to win the battle for America.

OhReallyPeople

David Moore is not that smart and has a huge ego. Perfect person to be manipulated by the golf course crazies.

MTLiberty

Why would we want to spend 10's of millions of dollars to build new classroom space when A) the current space is not fully utilized and B) the long term trend is towards online learning?

If we must spend more money, let's at least spend it on something that will be used in 10-15 years.

powderbum

Your thought pocesss is wrong a are your facts. The Missoula college is growing at a far faster rate than the main campus and offes more students chances at degees that can be used straight out of school i.e. computer technology, nursing, medic technology culinary arts ect. So in the future please do your research and have some info that pertains to reality before coming on the boards and sounding/looking like a fool.

1missoulian

It seems as though you may need to do a little more research as well. The supposed idea behind the COT expansion was to consolidate the programs to a unified campus to increase departmental efficiencies and foster a better learning environment for both current and future students in the expanding curriculum. This, however, has not been the case in the planning and the U has misappropriated $500,000 in taxpayer monies in the process. The proposed South Campus will not consolidate the programs but will create a fourth separate campus. The technologies will remain at the Fort, the Culinary department still at the Fairgrounds, the Main Campus will remain the same, and the Nursing and Medical Tech programs will be located at the South Campus site 5 miles from Community Hospital! Four campuses is far more inefficient and unattractive to new students than one, and why not locate the Medical Technology facilities within walking distance of a major hospital?

John P Weber
John P Weber

The south campus should be closer to the main campus. When i attended Montana Tech from '99-'03, a large numbe rof my classes where at the south campus a bit more than 5 miles away. For a college student with a car that is a lot of driving and since i lived in the dorms and worked under the work study program gas was very important. While i would prefer to the golf course stay, things change and we as taxpayers must keep an open mind. I don't recall anyone complaining when all those aptss were built close to the golf course. And since there are plenty of other gold coures within decent distance it is not a big deal. Those who live in the area must be afriad that only drunk and rowdy students will attend there. If so then they are afraid of all the students who live also in the area. Fort Missoula is too far from the main campus, and when you have to attend classes at both campus's, that gets expensive, even using a bus. And Rep Moore since he does not represent the area, whouldn't be trying to strip money from this project. If he manages to succeed, then we should strip his pay and per deim for all legislative sessions.

Greenland

Where would YOU put the Heavy Equipment Program?

dave ajou
dave ajou

If it was me, I'd locate it at the city council chambers and then head for the mayor's office and call that a good start.

hellgatenights

seeks roughly $87.9 million in appropriations and $87.9 million in general obligation bonds to complete eight building projects

Right......take my tax monies to build an "Adult" school? NO! You want to tax my kids with your stupid debt financing (bonds)? NO.......pay as you go.

There is plenty of floor space available now in this town ......lease them if you must.

Bottom line......there are plenty of schools in Montana, Idaho and Washington.......let students go there to those facilities. They will be getting their government school loans no matter where they go anyway.

The "Community" does not want this facility so much as "LANDLORDS" do...........think about it.

powderbum

BlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlahBlah....sad how truly ignorant some people are.....

startingover

"The "Community" does not want this facility so much as "LANDLORDS" do...........think about it".
"There is plenty of floor space available now in this town ......lease them if you must."
Strange, from what I see you are contradicting yourself completely in the same post.

hellgatenights

not strange, you are just unable to grasp anything except that joke you call "wedding tackle."

There is ample floor space available to lease now. These are facilities built by investors.......if they get got leaseholds, they are happy. If not....too bad, they loose (As opposed to taxpayers).

Landlords also include the hundreds of apartments, trailor parks and homes leased out to people that move to missoula to attend school. A new facility makes landlords very happy........but not taxpayers.

startingover

"not strange, you are just unable to grasp anything except that joke you call "wedding tackle." " Now there is a finely crafted bit of rhetoric to begin a rebuttal with! I applaud your ingenuity sir!
So I assume these landlords you are referring to are taxpayers as well?
If their bread and butter is renting to students they may feel differently than you do about using their taxes to expand educational opportunities in Missoula. If this is going to bring hundreds of new renters to Missoula, I assume that they will also be supporting other local businesses besides landlords and the college. Places like gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. Doesn't that in itself help stop the local economy from "receding"?

hellgatenights

There are some good thinkers out there.......it is time they demanded to be heard. There is no reason to offer another school for semi-skilled labor. You learn on the job......that is where the school is.

You say "WHAT JOBS?"

Call gRUNKE.........he works at MEP and gets paid serious coin to bring jobs to Missoula. PROBLEM is he is paid salary instead of commission (this is how employment agencies are paid), ergo, Grunke has not produced one single job.

There is an abundance of private schools all over the west for vocational training.......that is where people should go if they want this type of education. This type of training is not needed here as the economy in western Montana is receding and offers very few opportunities for graduates of these programs (Actually, the same problem applies to the university graduates as well).

startingover

Semi Skilled labor? So the nursing program at the missoula college provides semi-skilled labor? What about the other health care related training the missoula college provides, is that semi-skilled labor as well? The computer industry related training,, more semi skilled labor?
So it sounds like you want everyone to move somewhere else to go to school, because it is costing you too much money. Then you complain about the economy receding. "You all need to go somewhere else, because the economy here stinks", oh yeah that makes perfect sense.

GaryTinkSanders
GaryTinkSanders

This would offer a much needed cooling off period and more incentive to come to an amicable solution over the best campus to use. It is the Legislatures responsibility to make sure the cart isn't before the horse, get a plan set in stone then fund it.

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