CMC delays decision on Eagle sale |

CMC delays decision on Eagle sale

Kathy Heicher
Kathy Heicher/Enterprise

Don’t sing a swan song for Eagle’s Colorado Mountain College center just yet.

The CMC Board of Trustees have delayed until May a decision that would authorize their administration to explore the sale or lease of its building on Broadway in Eagle.

The trustees had been scheduled to make that decision at their March 1 meeting, but asked for more details after a couple of citizens and the town of Eagle raised questions about the center’s future. Specifically, the trustees asked for more information about how much the CMC building at Eagle is utilized, the college’s commitment to growth of the Eagle facility (such as number of classes offered) and current public opinion about the value of the site.

“On behalf of the citizens of Eagle there is a strong, strong desire to keep CMC’s presence and educational opportunity,” Eagle resident Lisa Patterson told the board. Patterson is a former counselor for CMC and now works as a part-time teacher for the college.

CMC is in the midst of building a new $5.5 million, 35,000-square-foot college facility in Edwards. When that facility opens, college administrators have indicated they intend to close down their facility in Vail; and move the administrative aspects of the Eagle center to Edwards.

Peggy Curry, dean for the Eagle and Vail campuses, said arrangements are being made to continue offering evening and early morning classes in Eagle and Gypsum.

Central questions

CMC President Bob Spuhler and Vice President David Borofsky said the college staff is merely seeking permission to enter into discussions about sale or lease of the building. About 30 years ago, CMC purchased the building from the Eagle County School District and that entity has the right of first refusal. Borofsky said the two entities have had “very preliminary discussions” in which the school district indicated some interest in using the facility for its alternative high school.

Both administrators said the Eagle building, while busy at night, is under-utilized during the day. They indicated an interest in a future arrangement, involving either the sale or lease of the building, that would allow CMC to continue to use the premises in the off-hours.

“From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. there’s really not a lot of folks in the building. Let us go forward, figure out what we’re doing and come back with a plan,” Borofsky told the board. Spuhler said a decision to centralize facilities was made when CMC committed to the Edwards site. He said that if the college needs to add facilities in the Eagle Valley in the future, it would be at the Edwards site.

Spuhler cited a report by the North Central Accrediting Committee that concluded the Eagle CMC building was underutilized.

Some board members, however, expressed concern about CMC giving up ownership of the Eagle building. Trustee Jacque Whitsitt of Basalt said in the Roaring Fork Valley, CMC has established several campus facilities that are about 10 miles apart. She said the physical presence of the facility in Eagle is important.

“I have a hard time saying to downvalley people where the population is growing that they should expect to centralize,” said Whitsitt, “… why would we want to treat the Eagle Center different than Carbondale or Aspen?”

“Social need’

Trustees expressed some concern that the Eagle center had been “starved” suggesting that some past administrators deliberately reduced the number of classes offered at the facility.

Trustee Helen Weiss of Edwards questioned Spuhler’s figures, saying the study that concluded the Eagle building was underutilized was 10 years old.

“There is tremendous growth downvalley. Are we going to undercut our future?” Weiss asked/ “We need to be careful. This is a big step for the county, and the community.”

Spuhler said consolidation-type decisions do typically create political pressure.

“I’m not hearing so much from the public. What are the real issues in serving the community?” he asked. Patterson said when the centralization issue was discussed two years ago, over 400 downvalley residents signed a petition urging CMC to keep its Eagle center.

“There has been an implicit idea for the past two years that the Eagle center is out the window. It is disturbing to the staff, and to the larger community,” said Patterson.

Last week, Eagle Mayor Roxie Deane sent a letter to CMC administrators reminding them of a 2-year-old promise to evaluate the needs of the Western Eagle Valley before making a decision concerning the sale of the Eagle site. The town asked that any decision about the sale be deferred until the college and the town can discuss the findings of needs.

“I do not believe that CMC has communicated the needs analysis to our constituency,” Deane wrote.

Trustee Doris Dewton of Edwards said issues such as the visibility of the college in Eagle could be worked out.

“Ownership is the tail wagging the dog. Utilization is what this should be about. I don’t care who owns it. Utilization is the key,” Dewton said.

Board members said they will take up the topic again at their May 3 meeting in Steamboat Springs.

“We don’t make all of our decisions based on economics, we base it on what is the right thing to do, what is the social need,” said Whitsitt.

How downvalley classes would operate

How will downvalley residents be affected if CMC sells or leases out it’s Eagle center building?

Peggy Curry, dean of the Vail-Eagle campus, offered this information to the CMC Board of Trustees on March 1:

– Arrangements have been made to continue offering English as a Second Language classes at Gypsum Elementary School. GED and Developmental Education classes would also be offered in Gypsum starting in the fall.

– CMC counselor Larry Dutmer has indicated he will go where needed to do student advising and placement testing in Eagle and Gypsum.

– In-person class registration will be offered in Eagle and Gypsum for three weeks prior to the start or classes in local facilities. That would most likely take place in public schools or town halls at times convenient to working adults (evenings, weekends). Services would be advertised in advance through the CMC bulletin and the local newspapers.

Continuing students can register via telephone, mail or fax to the main campus in Edwards. Online registration is also anticipated in the future.

– If the Eagle building is purchased by the school district, administrators are indicating they are amenable to allowing evening classes at the facility. Curry also said it “may be possible” to continue to run early morning and evening exercise classes at the Eagle location, although negotiations have not been completed

– The Western Eagle County Ambulance District will continue to make their facility available for EMT basic classes; and possibly Fire Science classes. Curry indicated the ambulance district will waive charges for use of space.

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