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JCC’s $14M learning center project not approved in state budget

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WATERTOWN — A Jefferson Community College capital building project was not approved before the closing of the state legislative session last week, leaving the groundbreaking for the college’s $14 million collaborative learning center at risk of being delayed a year.

“We knew when the state passed the budget in April that the community college capital building project had been left out and added to the cleanup bill to add in some technical language,” JCC President Carole A. McCoy said.

Mrs. McCoy said when she received the email from representatives at the State University of New York that the legislative session had ended without the project’s approval, she was very surprised and disappointed.

“It took the wind out of the sails here on campus,” Mrs. McCoy said. “What could happen, I don’t know, but I won’t be comfortable till I can find out the status of the funding.”

The project to build the collaborative learning center and make renovations to the college’s library would add classroom and office space to the campus. It was to be made possible with a $7 million contribution from SUNY’s Community College Capital Program, matched by $7 million from Jefferson County.

Community College Capital Program projects at eight community colleges were added to the cleanup bill, which contains items that needed corrections before being entered into the state spending plan. College officials are waiting to hear if or when Albany will approve those projects.

Karen J. Freeman, JCC’s marketing & public relations officer, said the corrections never made it into the final state budget, even though state representatives agreed on that funding.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said of all the measures in the cleanup bill, the college project would have the biggest significance for people in the north country. She said it isn’t uncommon for bills to be addressed months after the legislative session has closed or even held until the next session begins in January.

“The projects aren’t cancelled,” Mrs. Russell said. “It just might take a little bit to tighten up the language in the budget documents.”

Mrs. Russell said her office will try to work with SUNY to see if there is a way to go forward with planning while the funding is waiting approval.

Mrs. McCoy said messages from SUNY didn’t have definitive answers about when the measure could be approved. However, she said, representatives from SUNY and Mrs. Russell have said the community college project continues to have lawmakers’ full support.

“I’ve been told everyone is in support of this project, but there is no budget language authorizing it,” Mrs. McCoy said.

The college needs the funding if it is to stay on schedule and start building the center next spring.

“We can’t move forward without the funding,” Mrs. Freeman said.

According to an article printed on June 19, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said during an interview on “The Capitol Pressroom” that there would be no consequences from the bill not being passed.

“What failure to act?” he said. “No, there was no technical cleanup bill. We had talked about a number of issues that we could technically correct for the budget. … If we had to get it done, we would have gotten it done. There was no imminent need to get it done.”

“Until we know what is going on, there is not much we can do,” Mrs. McCoy said. “So much of our construction is weather-related; a few months’ delay could be a year delay.”

She said the delay would take experience away from students.

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