Congressmen announce support for local campus

by: Submitted illustration - Artist's conception of proposed Madras facility by WEGROUP.

   When the Bean Foundation donated land for a Madras campus for Central Oregon Community College, it came with a caveat: build the first phase of the local campus within five years.
   Last week, three years after the land was donated, Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith announced that the 2005 Veterans, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill contains $200,000 earmarked for the Madras campus -- the first monies secured for the project.
   "The development of a campus in Madras to serve students and the work force in the northern part of the COCC District is one of the top priorities of our board of directors," COCC President James Middleton said. "This brings us one step closer."
   The COCC Board of Directors originally accepted the donation of 47 acres of land on Oct. 17, 2001, and the clock started ticking. In May and November of 2002, COCC attempted to pass a bond levy which would have helped fund the Madras campus. The May vote was favorable, but failed to turnout the required 50 percent of the voters, and the November vote failed.
   Because of statewide cuts in funding for community colleges, instead of the college expanding its presence in Madras, in June of 2003, the Madras COCC Community Education office was closed, as well as centers in Prineville and Sisters, and directors were moved to a single office on the Redmond COCC campus.
   A sign identifying the future site of the Madras campus -- across B Street from Jefferson County Middle School's soccer fields -- and a computer lab in the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council's office on S.W. Third Street was all that remained in Madras when last week's announcement was made.
   Those connected with the project now have a renewed sense of optimism.
   "This is the beginning of post-secondary educational opportunities for residents of Jefferson County that will energize our economy," said Don Reeder, who has served on the COCC Board of Directors for the past eight years. Reeder is also the attorney for the Bean Foundation.
   "Getting that first commitment of money is often the toughest," said Madras Mayor Rick Allen, who looks forward to the campus as a place for county residents to advance their education.
   Allen said that he considers it one more asset for the community. "It's exciting; all of these pieces are coming together," he said, mentioning the pool district that was recently passed by voters, the funding for the new flight services building added to the same omnibus bill, the skatepark, renovations at the hospital and high school, the J Street extension, and the north Y interchange.
   Plans call for construction of an 8,500 square foot building in the first phase. "The Bean Foundation will give us land in three stages, when we construct the buildings," said Ron Paradis, director of public relations for COCC.
   In order to construct the first phase, COCC will need between $1.5 and $2 million, Paradis noted. "We're looking at different options: federal, state, private, or college money," he said.
   The facility will serve all of the Warm Springs Reservation, Crooked River Ranch, Culver, and Metolius, in addition to Madras.
   "Each of those communities has different needs," said Reeder, who expects that the college will offer English Language Learner classes (formerly English as a Second Language), adult basic education classes, and community corrections classes when a prison is built in the Madras area in the next few years.
   "We may have the ability to take some classes here for a four-year degree," said Reeder.
   Paradis hopes that the Madras campus can be completed as quickly as the Redmond campus. "The land was donated in 1994, and the first building was opened in 1997," he said. "Now, we have three buildings."
   The land for the Madras campus is part of about 400 acres acquired by the late Louis "Al" Bean in the Madras area in the 1940s.
   Bean and his wife Velva didn't have children, but were bothered by the lack of recreational and educational activities for young people in the Madras area. The Beans established a foundation in the early 1980s to improve the quality of life for local youths.
   The Bean Foundation has donated land to city and county parks, an early childhood center, Jefferson County Middle School, COCC, and the recently approved aquatic center. The foundation also donates cash to youth-oriented projects, such as the skatepark fund, which received $20,000 from the foundation.
   "Al was a staunch Republican," said Reeder. "He wanted to see private enterprise forming partnerships with public entities to get things done."
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