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Mt . Hood Community College will ask voters for bond

$58 million will be used to repair and improve

East County voters will soon be asked to repair run-down buildings on the Mt. Hood Community College campus.

The Mt. Hood Community College Board of Education voted this week to put a $58 million bond on the November ballot, the bulk of which would upgrade the 30-year-old college's facilities.

'What we are looking at is taking care of the taxpayer's investment in this institution,' Mt. Hood President Dr. Robert Silverman said. 'We need to repair leaking roofs, upgrade electrical and mechanical systems that are obsolete, and deal with structures that do not meet seismic codes.'

The bond measure includes:

• $28.9 million for facility improvements

• $9.9 million to enhance campus security

• $2.2 million for a new early childhood education building

• $13.7 million to enhance educational programs for East County residents and high school students and expand the college's new partnership with Eastern Oregon University, which provides four-year degree opportunities

• $4 million to refinance college debt, which would save $10 million in general funds over the next 20 years.

The bond would cost property owners about 17 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $34 per year for a property with an assessed value of $200,000.

Last year, an exploratory committee recommended the college board go out for a bond measure, but said the board should stick to the college's most basic needs - such as replacing a roof that frequently requires costly repairs and making safety upgrades.

The board says the college's buildings 'are in various states of disrepair,' with leaky roofs and obsolete mechanical and electrical systems.

Making renovations now would save costs in the future, they say.

Fred Bruning, co-chair of the exploratory committee that recommended going out for the bond, described it this way to The Outlook in late 2005: 'After 35 or 40 years, when roofs get to the point where they can't be repaired, it's cheaper to replace it. I think voters can understand this if they think about the types of things they do to their own homes or businesses … what we're looking for is to protect the community's investment in the college.'

This isn't the first time the college has asked for voters' financial support.

In 2002, voters rejected a $68 million bond by nearly 60 percent.

That bond measure would have spent a similar amount on structural improvements, but included $15.6 million for an allied health center and $27 million for a four-year degree university center.

The board hopes a paired-down bond measure, which concentrates on facility improvements and safety, will appeal to voters.

If approved, the bond measure would give the college better standing when it goes after a state program that funds capital improvements.

The state program could provide as much as $13 million to help expand the college's four-year degree partnership with Eastern Oregon University.