Not a moment too soon, Missoula College is in the process of being reinvented and reinvigorated.

It already has a new name and a new, more comprehensive education strategy in place. All it needs now is a new campus.

Actually, the educational institution formerly known as the University of Montana College of Technology has been in need of a new campus for a long, long time. That much, nearly everyone agrees on. The sticking point has been over where to locate this new campus.

With the 2013 Legislature in full swing and state legislators actively considering whether to approve funding for a new Missoula College building, it’s high time to bury this last bone of contention. The Missoula community needs to come together in support of the new Missoula College, including its location on the university’s South Campus.

This location was not chosen lightly or without due consideration of other options. In fact, the university has taken pains to describe its planning method to the public in a series of community and neighborhood meetings. The planning process itself began more than 10 years ago with master planning for the main campus. The final plan received approval from the Montana Board of Regents in 2007.

Yet Missoula College is still struggling to meet the needs of thousands of students in long-outdated facilities designed to hold only hundreds. It needs new classrooms designed to provide today’s generation – and future generations – with the kinds of learning experiences they need in order to become successful graduates.

That’s why the college has won the support of such organizations as the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, which earlier this month announced that funding for a new Missoula College will be its top legislative priority. The local chamber, which was joined by six others in Montana, describes such facilities as “critical for our business community’s economy.”

The funding request for Missoula College is contained in House Bill 14 and asks for the state to provide $29 million to pay for construction costs. It also asks legislators to authorize other fundraising methods for the remainder, including bonds, which means a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature is necessary for passage.

Unfortunately, a small but very vocal group of opponents is threatening to lobby legislators to stop any possibility of development on the South Campus. Legislators, in turn, should also hear from the majority of Missoulians who understand that this truly is the best possible place to build the new Missoula College.

It’s true that plans for developing the South Campus will mean using a portion of the space currently occupied by the UM Golf Course. However, university officials have gone out of their way to accommodate the local golfing community in preserving the golf course, if not for the foreseeable future, at least for the next few years.

The plan also preserves a great deal of open space, and community meetings are ongoing to collect suggestions on which other amenities Missoulians would like to see included in the South Campus site plan.

UM should be commended for so diligently working to include the community in its development plans. Such inclusion hasn’t always been the case, but under UM President Royce Engstrom’s direction, the university has very visibly gone out of its way to accommodate the concerns of the larger community.

Its critics, however, have not been nearly as willing to acknowledge that the university, too, has needs – and foremost among these is providing a quality education for its students.

It’s plain to see that the university, which has experienced growing enrollment in recent years, is running out of space on its main campus. The South Campus plan is designed to meet the university’s future expansion needs while integrating current student services today. That makes a lot more sense – both logistically and financially – than planning all future expansion for an area located in another part of town.

Funding for Missoula’s two-year college facilities has been identified as a priority for the past two legislative sessions. This marks the third time funding for this important educational institution will be up for a vote. This time, it must pass.

This time, Montana’s legislators must demonstrate their understanding of the critical role two-year colleges play in higher education by approving a new Missoula College.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Publisher Jim McGowan, Editor Sherry Devlin, Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen

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(7) comments

snoweyowl
snoweyowl

I find it odd that UM claims be to taking the long view on the Missoula College matter with the South Campus. If the need for the expanded Missoula College is so great, why would they want to confine it to the small area of the South Campus? It doesn't really sound like the long view to me based on the confines of that space. They say there has been deliberation about this space, but it makes me wonder why they tanked all the work and evaluation that went into the space out by Fort Missoula.

Also, if UM and Missoula are anticipating such growth because of this higher education "jobs" move, seems like the perspective may need to shift that the UM campus is the center of this ecosystem. A longer view might actually tell us that Missoula will continue to expand toward the airport. That would actually put the Fort location of Missoula College closer to anticipated growth and job locations.

Mark Kayll
Mark Kayll

Really, Missoulian! Did you simply take a University of Montana press
release and publish it as an editorial? It certainly reads that way. Moreover,
your "editorial" was then broadcast to the entire university community by our
new Vice President for Integrated Communications, Peggy Kuhr, who happens
to have a journalism background. If she did not list "propaganda" on her resume
before, now would be a good time to add that credential.

SpringValleyPhil
SpringValleyPhil

This is a letter I sent to the Education Board Subcommitte


Education Appropriations Subcommittee

RE: HB14 Amendment for separately funding for MCUM.

This letter expresses my support for separate funding.

As an alumnus of Montana University, I am writing to voice my concern over placement of a new campus for Montana College, University of Montana (MCUM).

Although the idea of establishing MCUM at the present Athletic Fields of the University seems like a “no brainer,” it is short sighted in the long run.

1. 120 years ago, what seemed like an enormous piece of property in 1893 when the University was established, has no place for further expansion without changing the open-space “Quality of Life” character of the present Montana University.

The same constraints will express themselves in the future because residential property (and a rather sizeable mountain) will prohibit expansion 120 years from now.

2. Parking was a problem in 1967 when I graduated and on subsequent visits to campus, has gotten only worse. The same effect will have a negative impact on the Missoula community, of which Montana University is not its only citizen.

3. Limiting expansion rules out the possibility that Montana College could, at some point, offer curriculums that are not on the drawing boards now. For example, a Medical College could be needed in the future (in partnership with a teaching hospital) and there would be inadequate room if MCUM ‘s location at the athletic fields.

4. The very “Quality of Life” character of the City of Missoula would change by building-over what is now open space that is enjoyed by the people of the city. Even though the University owns the property, the University of Montana has a responsibility to be a “good citizen” in its host city, Missoula.

5. Especially when there is other property, such as Fort Missoula, that would allow for further expansion, and lesson the negative impact on Missoula, I think that there needs to be more consideration given to the placement of MCUM. I am certain that Missoula would welcome a new campus, but not at the expense of junking up a prime asset, the MU athletic fields.

I live in the Milwaukee, WI metro area and have seen the vitality of that city that comes from a park system that was established many years ago. Also, the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee campus in one that grew out of a very old small college and is now a campus that has absolutely no room in which to expand.

BobbyLee
BobbyLee

Looks like a bought and paid for editorial.

This paragraph is completely priceless:

"It’s true that plans for developing the South Campus will mean using a portion of the space currently occupied by the UM Golf Course. However, university officials have gone out of their way to accommodate the local golfing community in preserving the golf course, if not for the foreseeable future, at least for the next few years."

Oh, "for the next few years." Terrific. That's all okay then. How old are you? Five?

Time to show the same contempt to the Missoulian as the Missoulian routinely shows for the residents of Missoula. For it is now little more than a propaganda tool for a handful of city "leaders." Do the reporters/editors also get a property tax break now? Because if anyone has ever looked into how the property tax system works in MIssoula, you'll quickly see how Missoula works; it stinks. You'll quickly see how the 'elite' of Missoula get their property tax reduced while yours goes up 30+ percent - so long, of course, as they say and do the right 'progressive' thing and don't rock the boat, which is all you have to do to get along in life these days.

truelimegreen
truelimegreen

It’s disappointing that the Missoulian is taking the position of using the UM golf course for the COT. One of the statements in the editorial that I found to be objectionable is that the editorial board believes that it is a ‘small but very vocal group of opponents’ that is against the golf course locatoin. This does not jive with what I’ve noticed. It seems to me that the majority of Missoulians are for saving the golf course.
What is dumbfounding to me is that the Missoulian has had access to so much of the dialog around this issue that they must surely understand why Missoulians object to this location. They must surely have read about the problems of the decision process. Or does this not bother them? They must have read about the logistics of locating the COT in this congested area that does not have the proper infrastructure. They must have read the dozens upon dozens of letters to the editor from their fellow citizens about many more problems with this space. They must have read about how much this piece of heaven with multifaceted uses means to their neighbors and fellow Missoulians.
Missoulian editorial board – it appears to me that you are out of touch with your city and do not care about their views on this matter and most likely others.
I would like to thank so many Missoulians who have done so much research into this issue, for example, looking into deeds, looking into the costs, looking into the original plans at the fort, etc, etc. (Isn’t this research a newspaper is expected to do?)
As a 50+ year resident of Missoula and having grown up around the golf course I have seen firsthand what this prized area means to people – the UM golf course is more than a golf course – it is part of our Missoula heritage and its traditions that needs to remain just as it has for so many decades.

Editors - One part of this issue that would be beneficial for you to investigate is the whereabouts of $4.5 million dollars from a past grant. Un Missoulians would appreciate knowing this information.


Fairisfair
Fairisfair

Dear Truelimegreen,

Its seems hypocritical that you criticize the Missoulian for not properly researching or presenting the subject while you continue to use the out-dated acronym "COT" instead of the correct and accurate name, Missoula College.

This indicates to me that you have not taken the time to educate yourself on the changes and updates of the Missoula College; including why South Campus was chosen as the best possible location.

As a Missoula resident and UM alum, I fully support the use of the space for the Missoula College. Indeed we have an entire mountain to recreate on. While I have hiked, ran, played, and enjoyed Mt. Sentinel and Pattee Canyon, I have never once felt drawn to the golf course, either for its sports opportunities or beauty. We live in Montana, worry about saving mountains, forests, and plains before getting your hackles up over a man-made ecological system.

truelimegreen
truelimegreen

Dear Fairisfair,

When I wrote my comment I knew that the name of the college was wrong, however, I used the COT abbreviation as I did not remember the exact new wording. I felt that people would know to what I was referring.

I think the name "Missoula College" sounds silly, anyway. The College of Technology sounded much better. Being a long time Missoulian and a UM alum I remember when the Missoula College was named the Vo Tech. In my opinion, that name even sounds much better than Missoula College.

There have been many changes in the last few months in regard to the name of this facility, however, I do feel that I'm fairly up to date about what is going on in other areas of this issue, i.e. the location of the Missoula College.

I've been reading articles about what the UM has had in mind for this area since 2005 when they had a retirement community planned for the golf course. The regents voted to deny the university of going forward with the plan. Only a few short months later the university decided that the COT would be located on the golf course. Doesn't this change of plan sound a little strange to you Fairisfair? Especially when there were previous plans that were in the works for years to locate the COT near the Fort. (I'm not sure when the name College of Technology was put in place as I'm not sure when the South Campus was put in place. It all seems a bit sleezy.

I read the letters to the editor every day. Most weeks there is a letter against the location of the MC on the golf course, and many weeks more than one. I read the guest editorials on this topic. The letters in support of the golf course staying as is far outweighs the opposite view.

In other words - I think that I'm fairly up to date about Missoula College and the controversial topic of where it will be located.

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