CWI Campus expansion

A billboard, outside the College of Western Idaho’s main campus in Nampa, shows an artists rendering of a health science building that was part of an expansion project that was halted when voters denied a plant facilities levy in 2018.

NAMPA — Instead of deciding how to fund a campus expansion project, the College of Western Idaho’s board of trustees held off in favor of looking through the history of the college’s expansion efforts.

The lack of decision could jeopardize $10 million from the state’s permanent building fund, as state officials are expecting to hear a clear direction of CWI’s direction by Oct. 1.

In August, Vice President of Operations Craig Brown discussed with the board three options for campus expansion, all of which incorporated the $10 million from the state. He said he wanted board members to give him direction by their September meeting, which was Tuesday, before he presented to the state Oct. 1.

The $10 million was originally granted to help fund the construction of a new health sciences building on CWI’s Nampa campus. Plans fell through when voters did not pass a $47 million plant facilities levy needed to cover the rest of the project cost. The funding was supposed to expire June 30, and legislators told college officials they would keep the offer available, though not indefinitely, according to CWI spokesman Mark Browning.

When Brown presented the board with the funding options in August, many of their questions took a broader tone. Questions were focused on how CWI got to this point, why the campus needed expansion and why health science was the top priority.

“We struggled just a bit about where we were going to go, and what we were going to be,” Brown said Tuesday.

Brown said he realized the questions were so broad because many of the acting board members were not around when CWI started its expansion efforts. Trustees Molly Lenty and Annie Hightower were elected in November.

CWI’s effort to expand its health sciences department started in 2012, Brown said, and reviewing all of the history in between is not going to be easy.

“Looking back at that history makes me really tired,” Brown said.

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Brown recommended the board not decide at the meeting, and plan a work session after their regular meeting on Oct. 15 to review how CWI got to the place it’s in. He suggested holding a follow-up presentation after the session, as well as issuing surveys and holding town hall meetings to gauge community input.

The board supported his plan. Brown said holding all of those meetings would likely take at least until the end of the year.

“This is going to take some time,” he said.

Trustee Mark Dunham, who has been active with CWI since the beginning of the expansion efforts, said he thinks it’s a good idea to look back at CWI’s history before deciding how to move forward. Though he’s been in discussions since the start, he said he’s not ready to decide, so he thinks the work session will benefit all trustees.

Lenty said she appreciates the opportunity to hold a work session, and values the trustees’ willingness to work together on the issue.

Brown said he does not know how this move will affect the $10 million from the permanent building fund. He won’t hear from state officials until Oct. 1.

MASCOT

At the end of the meeting, board Chairman C.A. “Skip” Smyser said he planned to appoint two trustees to join an ad hoc committee to develop a proposal for a CWI mascot. He said someone mentioned to him that CWI does not have an official mascot, and he would like to change that.

Smyser requested that the committee present their decision to the board by December.

Erin Bamer is the Nampa/Caldwell reporter. Contact her at 208-465-8193, or ebamer@idahopress.com. Follow on Twitter @ErinBamer.

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