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RANGELY I Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Rector Building renovation, which includes a 120-seat lecture hall expansion, is on schedule and on budget, facilities director John Bottelberghe said last week.
The Rector Sciences Building, with naming rights still up for grabs for the state-of-the-art lecture hall, is slated for a March 19 finish by Grand Junction general contractor Asset Engineering Limited. Instructors will begin teaching courses there in the fall.
“This is the largest series of projects — actually, at this level, it’s called a program — I’ve done in my career,” said Bottelberghe. “Overall, I think things have gone very smoothly so far.”
The 51-year-old building, which has never undergone substantial remodeling, houses more than 30 percent of the classes on campus each year, from science and math to business and history courses.
While administrators and the Rangely Junior College District (RJCD) Board of Trustees have discussed overhauling Rector for years, even beginning design work for the project as early as 2008, other projects have taken priority, among them the Studer Building renovation and construction of the new Craig campus.
Last fall, the college decided to move forward with the $3.8 million capital construction project, channeling capital funds long held in reserve for a wellness center into the sciences building instead.
“Everyone on the (RJCD) Board said, ‘It’s time, let’s do this,’” CNCC President Russell George said. “The capital account had been holding around $3 million in reserve for a number of years. The board said, ‘We’ll pledge that now, let’s hustle and find the rest of the money however we can.’”
Repurposing approximately $300,000 of a Shell Oil grant, along with funds donated by Chevron Corp. and pledged at last year’s CNCC Foundation Dinner Dance, have helped bridge the funding gap.
Mike Melneck, the college’s grants administrator, is working with a number of foundations to bring in additional monies with an innovation grant from the state system available for information technology-related costs.
“The money’s not all in place yet, so we will continue to fundraise,” George said. Should it need to, he said, the college will pay for the project’s remaining costs with a portion of next year’s budget, replenishing those funds as grant money filters in.
With the Rector Building undergoing renovations for the 2013-2014 academic year, workers have repurposed the Cramer and Striegel buildings for multiple science courses normally taught in Rector. That meant more than just moving Cramer’s old geology, astronomy and physics lab equipment to the Striegel Building and installing new paint, tile and carpeting in Cramer. The biology and chemistry departments’ lab equipment — including a cadaver cooler, lab tables requiring gas and electric lines, new sinks, and a fume hood —had to be installed in Cramer, too.
“There are so many moving parts in this project,” Bottelberghe said. “To renovate Rector, it kind of became a three-year strategic plan for the college.”
While Cramer will become the National Park Service Academy’s new home next fall, administrators hope that the Rector Sciences Building will attract more students geared toward the sciences, whether in pursuit of an associate of science degree or to complete prerequisites for programs like dental hygiene and nursing.
“We also have grant money in the pipeline that will apply expressly to allied health students,” Melneck said. “We think FTSE (full-time student enrollment numbers) ought to be growing.”
Starting next fall, the 1,140 student hours averaged in Rector each week will happen in approximately 4,500 more square feet than was available a year ago. The space will include one more classroom, separate chemistry, biology and dissection labs with shared prep and storage spaces, student study and lobby areas as well as new faculty offices.
The lecture hall itself, a tiered, 120-seat space intended to accommodate company training and community gatherings as readily as student courses, can be divided into two separate 60-seat spaces via a drop-down sound-blocking wall.
Crestron automation equipment and the software Lecture Capture will also enable the Rector classrooms to stream content locally or remotely and broadcast it simultaneously on up to three projectors. Students or audience members can access lectures, presentations and related content via tablets, phones or laptops, whether individuals are in the classroom itself, at home or on the road to an away game.
“One thing this college really utilizes well is a robust capacity to deliver content through the virtual classrooms,” Melneck said.
Now, more than half way into the renovation, with approximately half of the electrical work complete and more than 75 percent of the plumbing installed, Bottelberghe said he can breathe a little more easily. The program is well beyond initial challenges like mandatory asbestos abatement —the presence of non-friable asbestos still entailed state-mandated removal — and early, more expensive building redesign due to Rangely’s soil type.
Now, he said, finishing the project means showing current and future students, faculty and staff how the Rector Sciences Building will benefit CNCC in future decades.
“This is probably the most activity this college has seen since it was built,” Bottelberghe said. “The (Rector) project demonstrates that we don’t accept mediocre results and that we will provide the students with the best we can possibly offer them.”