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Proposal 1 Gives Washtenaw County Voters Rare Opportunity

It’s not very often that Washtenaw County voters get to weigh in on what happens at WCC. For the most part, the WCC Board of Trustees no longer approaches voters for capital project support. As a result, we now get buildings we didn’t ask for, don’t need and didn’t approve. Ironically, the existing buildings – many of which we did approve don’t receive adequate care. Proposal 1, which is on the ballot on Tuesday, gives voters the opportunity to weigh in on the WCC administration’s spending patterns.

The notion that investor interest governs what does and doesn’t get built on campus is troubling. As taxpayers, we have limited resources, so it’s important to take care of what we have and build only what we genuinely need. In the past 10 years, the WCC administration hasn’t done a good job of taking care of the facilities on campus. This isn’t because we didn’t provide WCC with enough funding to care for the buildings – we have.

Funding for building maintenance as continually been diverted to other priorities. The Health and Fitness Center – which was not intended for student use –requires an enormous amount of maintenance. (This was one of those buildings the taxpayers didn’t ask for/need/approve.) Over its operational history, we’ve spent millions in bond payments on this building, and millions more on the non-stop stream of expensive maintenance. Worse, the Board of Trustees has not demanded that President protect WCC’s assets as a condition of her employment.

Trustees need to refocus WCC on its mission

I don’t know how the Board of Trustees rationalized their approval of this building, but they’ve designed a similar boondoggle into the Master Plan. The WCC Master Plan Update calls for the construction of a hotel and convention center. This is yet another example of a facility the taxpayers did not ask for, do not need and will not be given the opportunity to approve, but we’ll certainly be expected to pay for it. The Master Plan also suggested that WCC could make office space available for rent – yet another bad idea.

Facilities like the Health and Fitness Center, a hotel, convention center and rental office space will act as a major drag on WCC during recessions. The Board glibly expects all of these facilities to function as cash registers for the College. They will not. They represent huge, painful and unending expenses for the College; unforgiving upkeep; regularly required remodeling; and unused space when the economy tanks.

Proposal 1 represents an opportunity to send a clear message to the Board of Trustees. We built WCC to educate people. Spend your time and our money focused on the mission of the College, and stop working around the voters.

Photo Credit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos , via Flickr