By Matt Youngfrau
LOCH SHELDRAKE December 14, 2001 Sullivan County Community Colleges (SCCC) much-publicized and anticipated on-campus dormitories, long billed by county and college officials as a key to the colleges future success, may be in trouble.
In documents obtained exclusively by the Sullivan County Democrat, the Sullivan County Community College Dormitory Corporation has decided that the project is not economically feasible at this time. The decision was made unanimously at a Dormitory Corporation meeting held on Thursday, November 15.
According to the minutes of the meeting, the eight board members present decided that they had reached a point where they could no longer pay for the $12 million project, even though an anonymous donor had contributed $2 million to the project, with a pledge of $1 million more if the colleges fund-raising efforts would match it.
The main problem cited in the minutes was the delay caused by bids that came in as much as 100 percent over what was budgeted. Other holdups were caused by litigation and authorization procedures.
If all had gone as originally planned, the two four-story dormitories would have opened in time for the Fall 2002 semester, with room for about 320 freshmen. Approvals had already been secured from the Town of Fallsburg, the County Legislature and the SUNY system.
But with a current debt of up to $1 million and a need for at least $3.3 million more in funding, a motion was made by corporation board member Susan Keiser that "all the principals concerned in this project be notified that we are canceling the project because it is no longer economically feasible for us. The donor will be notified first." It was seconded by Francis Williams and passed unanimously.
When contacted for comment by the Democrat, SCCC Director of Public Relations Judy Eurich spoke with President Dr. Mamie Howard Golladay and stated, The college's official stance is that this has nothing to do with the college. It is a Dormitory Corporation issue, and thus the college has no comment.
However, Dormitory Corporation Board Chair Ken Klein told the Democrat that the project is not dead, and they are exploring options on how to proceed.
The colleges Dormitory Corporation was formed in the mid-1970s when SCCC initially investigated on-campus dormitories. Although comprised of college board members and attended by top SCCC officials, the corporation is a separate entity that meets in private after the regular public monthly college trustee meeting.
The Sullivan County Legislature and other county officials are apparently aware of the situation, as the minutes said County Attorney Ira Cohen asked what the county could do to help, and a conference was held between the corporation and the county. A board member suggested that the Dormitory Corporation try to sell the land back to the county, but it is unclear if legislators would agree to such.
After being contacted by the Democrat, college administrators held a meeting with the faculty and staff on Tuesday, December 11. According to several sources speaking on condition of anonymity, Golladay announced that the press had seen the Dormitory Corporations minutes but that they were misinterpreted. The dorm project is not cancelled, she allegedly stated, but it will be different. The sources added that administrators said the project is $4 million over budget, but they are exploring options and working with the county to get the project done.
The matter is scheduled to be discussed further at the next Dormitory Corporation meeting on Thursday, December 20, which is not open to the public.