Four years after Central Oregon Community College opened a technology center at its Redmond campus, the school is asking the Oregon Legislature for $8 million for a new general-purpose classroom building that will prepare the fledgling campus for a boost in enrollment.

“The growth in Central Oregon of college-aged student population will continue to expand, so there’ll be a greater demand, and we need to be anticipating that,” said COCC Vice President of Administration Matthew McCoy. “We’re trying not to play catch-up.”

McCoy, who works with the Legislature on behalf of the college, said the economy is skyrocketing, meaning community college enrollment drops.

However, he’s expecting the economy to eventually falter again, meaning COCC will need more dedicated general-purpose classrooms on its Redmond campus.

According to McCoy, the building will have mostly general-purpose classrooms serving a variety of subjects, along with advanced-course science labs and much-needed faculty offices. He said the goal is to expand the number of classes available in Redmond to accommodate the city’s growth and to serve students from Madras and Prineville, for whom Redmond is a shorter commute than Bend.

The first building on COCC’s Redmond campus was built in 1997, with two more added next door near the turn of the millennium. A tech center opened in September 2014. Because of a solar array just north of the four buildings, McCoy said a fifth Redmond building would likely be located west of and adjacent to the campus.

The eventual plan is to have a large COCC campus in Redmond similar to Bend’s, complete with a student center, food services and more — although many of these additions would come in a future building.

”As Redmond grows, we want to be able to offer the services to the students that are complementary to the academic services that are provided,” McCoy said.

McCoy said in a best-case scenario, construction would begin in 2020 or 2021, with a completed building open for students in 2023-24.

But before the building is built, the college needs money.

McCoy said when asking for state funds, the Legislature makes up to $8 million per project available for community colleges, and the school must match those funds. If the project’s price tag exceeds $16 million, the college covers the additional costs. The request will be one of many in a capital construction bond package presented to legislators, typically at the end of the legislative session in May or June.

The college has not decided on a source for its $8 million matching funds, McCoy said.

State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, whose district includes Redmond, said COCC’s Redmond expansion was one of his two top capital-project priorities for the 2019 session, along with an OSU-Cascades project. He said if both colleges’ requests aren’t in the eventual capital bond package, “there’s a reasonable chance I might vote against the package.”

“Redmond is such a growing hub of activity, both in terms of economic and educational activity,” he said. “It’s important that we give more opportunities closer to where people live, to be able to get an education or get retrained for the jobs of the future here in Central Oregon.”

Representative-elect Jack Zika, R-Redmond, said although he wouldn’t give a firm “yes” or “no” until he sees the plan’s details, he was “very excited” about the idea of COCC expanding its Redmond campus.

McCoy said he’s hopeful that the Legislature will approve the $8 million.

“I think they’ll see the wisdom of making an investment in Central Oregon and Redmond.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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