State funding uncertain for H Building renovation

MCCC had high hopes of receiving state assistance to make some $16 million in renovations and additions to the H Building.

The college was ranked fourth out of 22 community colleges for its $8 million request. 

However, President Kojo Quartey reported to the Board of Trustees in June that a state legislative committee chose other schools over MCCC to fund their projects. The college submitted that request back in 2019.

So, Quartey wrote a letter to the governor on May 31, pleading for her support.

“Unfortunately for us, as highly ranked as our project is, we have been overlooked by the JCOS (Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee), as they selected seven institutions, only one of which was ranked higher than MCCC,” Quartey wrote. “I understand that you may be reluctant to fund capital outlay projects this year; however, I also know you are a fervent advocate for education. I humbly beg for your support, and I invite you to our campus to see firsthand the urgency of my request.”

Joe Verkennes, director of marketing and communications, said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not respond to the letter. 

The funding is needed to make $16.1 million in improvements and expansions to the H Building, which currently houses the college’s nursing and respiratory therapy programs. The growing criminal justice program would also move into the building.

The project entails adding two nursing classrooms, three skills labs with six beds each, a computer lab, a simulation lab, a lecture room, two new faculty offices, a staff lounge, and two new unisex ADA restrooms. 

MCCC invited lawmakers, law enforcement officials, regional healthcare leaders, faculty and students to a roundtable luncheon on Sept. 22 to make a case for this money.

Two of the lawmakers who attended had mixed reactions after the meeting.

District 31 Rep. Reggie Miller was optimistic about the potential state funding.

I’m hopeful that we will be able to secure this funding, but it will require support from many other legislators,” Miller said in an email. “I’m fully supportive of the proposed projects and will advocate for them to my colleagues in Lansing.” 

Sen. Joe Bellino, of the 16th District, was more pessimistic.

“I am not hopeful that we will get the funding because, as a Republican representative, I cannot control appropriations, and it will be difficult to secure the funding for this district,” Bellino said. 

Josh Myers, executive director of The Foundation at MCCC, said the college has $8 million in millage funding to match a state appropriation. Without the government funding, Myers said the scope of the project will not be as large and would likely be divided into phases. 

Myers said the renovation plan includes space to expand the criminal justice program into an accredited police, fire and paramedic academy. He said this could lead to changing the building’s name to the Welch Center for Health and Public Safety.

Dan Wood, associate professor of criminal justice, said students could use a driving simulator and virtual reality systems to simulate situations in the real world. 

“We would need space for a defensive tactics room, a weight room, a gym and a room for students to practice CPR,” Wood said.

He said this program will allow for more diversity in policing, corrections, law and social work.

Construction for the building is estimated to take place July 2024 and go until December 2025.