Editorial: Huffman ensures COCC and OSU get their money

Published Mar 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

It’s no secret that building a new four-year university is likely to be a spendy proposition. Legislators know that, and last year they awarded money to Oregon State University-Cascades Campus and Central Oregon Community College aimed at helping the process along the way.

Unfortunately, the form in which the money was allocated made the award unworkable for COCC. Now, lawmakers have made the adjustments needed to keep the project on track.

The 2013 the Legislature awarded COCC $5.26 million in bonds to pay off the mortgage on Cascades Hall, which houses most of OSU-Cascades’ current facilities. Once that was done, the university would be freed of its lease with the community college.

The problem was, COCC would have had to match the $5.26 million dollar for dollar, and that would have left it with double the money it needs to retire the mortgage and remodel the building. The school decided not to accept the bonds.

That left OSU-Cascades back at square one. It was stuck with a lease it soon won’t need, and the money spent on that lease could not be used on the university’s planned expansion.

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, who represents Jefferson and a small portion of Deschutes counties, the error has been straightened out.

No longer will the state send $5.26 million in capital construction bonds, which must be matched, to COCC to pay off the mortgage. That amount was reduced to $2.63 million. In addition, COCC will receive $1.63 million in lottery bonds that need not be matched and will kick in $2 million of its own money. The latter two amounts give COCC the match it needs to use the $2.63 million in capital construction bonds.

Finally, OSU-Cascades got $3.85 million in bonds for an academic building. That chunk was available because Oregon State University had $4 million in unused bonds that it traded in for the bonds that will come to Bend.

Though the changes sound complex, they are, in a way, more of a bookkeeping issue than anything else. The money that both OSU-Cascades and COCC need to move forward wouldn’t have been available unless that issue was fixed. Huffman ensured that it was.