By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — Even if city and Ivy Tech Community College officials can reach an accord on an alternate location for its proposed new Anderson campus, state budget experts will want to weigh in on the change, a key state lawmaker said Thursday.
If a decision to change locations is made, “I don’t think they could proceed without going through a review,” said Republican state Sen. Luke Kenley, who chairs the powerful State Budget Committee, a bipartisan panel comprised of legislative fiscal leaders and the state budget director.
In July, the committee released $20 million Ivy Tech needs to begin construction of its proposed new 76,000-square-foot campus on 40 acres of land along 60th Street adjacent to Interstate 69.
Since early spring, city officials have been working behind the scenes to convince the college’s executive leadership to consider other locations for the new Anderson campus. Those efforts have focused primarily on the former Edgewood Plaza shopping center on Nichol Avenue, and a downtown site in the 300 block of Jackson Street.
”The approval from the budget committee was for the location as proposed,” Kenley said. “I don’t think we could move this location without another review by the budget committee,” the state budget director, possibly the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, and almost certainly the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
How extensive that review would have to be is a matter of debate.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said on Thursday that he’s spoken with both Kenley and higher education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers about the possible relocation and came away from those conversations with the impression an extensive review would not be necessary. “They want to know that everybody would be agreeable to it.”
But state Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, is worried that any delay could put the entire facility at risk. The college’s first obligation is to serve the needs of its students.
”We do not want to put this project at risk, nor delay it any longer,” Austin said.
While Austin said she supports efforts to revitalize downtown, a new Ivy Tech campus off I-69 should be thought of as an “opportunity to create a premier gateway to the community.”
A big part of the push to move the campus from Mayor Kevin Smith’s perspective, however, is cost.
Anderson already bought the 60th Street property at cost of nearly $900,000, and made a commitment to spend $1 million to improve roads and provide water, sewer and electricity to bring the campus to life, about $300,000 of which has already been spent.
A cost study made by City Engineer Mike Spyers, however, puts the actual site development costs at about $8 million.
City Council President David Eicks, who has participated in many of the meetings with Ivy Tech officials, said that sum, if accurate, is worrisome because it potentially could make it impossible for Anderson to invest in other redevelopment projects.
The downtown location would provide Ivy Tech with adequate space for facilities and parking, and cost a lot less to develop, according to Interim Economic Development Director Greg Winkler.
Andy Bowne, chancellor of Ivy Tech’s East Central Region, believes infrastructure costs necessary to open the campus could be completed for about $1 million.
While Ivy Tech officials are open to discussions regarding the location of the new Anderson campus, he noted, a downtown location would not fit with the college’s current philosophy of locating campuses along interstates for accessibility and visibility.
In addition, he said a location in downtown Anderson could make it difficult to draw students from Pendleton, Daleville, Fishers and other areas.
Bowne also said plans for the new campus have to be ready for approval by late September to meet the projected 2015 facility opening, leaving little time to shift plans for the location of the campus.
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