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MCC authorizes expansion study

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College will spend $50,000 on a study that will determine whether a private partnership for a new $42 million health sciences facility is feasible.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the college’s trustees hired Addison-based Power Wellness to conduct the study.

Before the vote, Trustee Ron Parrish said he wanted to be included in the fact-finding.

“[I want] this not to become a justification study but a feasibility study,” he said. “ ... This is a big deal, $42 million dollar deal. There are some contentious issues, maybe. Maybe not. I don’t think we can resolve that by having a presentation made and a half-hour discussion. I think we need to be connected with it along the way.”

Parrish will serve on a committee that will follow the study as it’s conducted.

The decision to make the study met with criticism. Lakewood resident Stephen Wilson questioned the board’s intent. He called a feasibility study “useless,” alleging that there are not enough health care jobs available in the county to meet the needs of graduates.

“This program is a cruel hoax on the students who enroll expecting to be able to find jobs in health care in McHenry County,” Wilson said.

College officials pointed to Centegra Health System’s new Huntley hospital, It is expected to open by 2016.

“Not all health care jobs are in McHenry County,” the college’s dean of sciences and health professions, Amy Maxeiner, said after the meeting.

Wilson also said he doubted the project would be self-sustaining.

College officials maintain that they will neither go to a referendum nor raise tuition to pay for the health sciences facility. The feasibility study will look into whether private-sector partners could, or would be willing to, shoulder much of the debt on a 120,000-square-foot facility.

Other revenues streams would come from tuition from an anticipated additional 1,400 students taking courses in occupational, physical and respiratory therapies, and other health and wellness education at a new facility.

Besides identifying potential financial partners, Power Wellness also will examine existing building sties.

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