McHenry County College trustees dismiss off-site expansion

CRYSTAL LAKE – An off-site facility to house expanded health science and fitness programs at McHenry County College has been effectively eliminated as trustees look to push past sticking points that has kept the proposed $20-plus million project in neutral for months.

Trustee Linda Liddell urged fellow board members to at least come to a consensus on whether a potential facility would be on or off campus so other issues such as current building utilization, funding and scope of the project could be decided.

"We need to move on ... we need to figure out how to get beyond these stall points," Liddell said. "We don't have another full year. The next trend is already starting and we're not there yet."

Chairman Ron Parrish was the lone holdout on ruling out an off-site expansion, remaining firm in his belief enough had not been done to fully vet vacant buildings throughout the county. When asked by Liddell if he could support an on-site expansion, Parrish responded with a definitive no, saying he needed to be sure better off-site options did not exist.

He criticized the initial feasibility study, noting most of the locations studied were within a 5- to 10-minute drive and still in Crystal Lake boundaries.

"We're not the City of Crystal Lake College, we're McHenry County College," Parrish said. "I still believe there are other approaches we could use."

Trustees Cynthia Kisser and Molly Walsh defended on-site expansion and said going off site would be more expensive.

Kisser said the college would have to worry about purchasing land when they already have some available and need to staff mandatory supplementary services such as libraries that the satellite location would need by law.

Walsh said it could break synergy, with students and teachers needing to go back and forth.

"An off-site location provides a lot of different problems and they always feel marginal," Walsh said.

Trustee Mary Miller also supported an on-site expansion.

Trustee Tom Wilbeck remained unconvinced an expansion of any kind is needed, whether it on or off campus. He said he believes current space could be used more efficiently and more online courses could be offered.

The proposed health facility – with most estimates in the $20 million range – is the first step in a $278 million expansion plan in the next 10 years that also includes a fine arts building and student center.

The price tag could continue to shrink as some trustees push for more limited growth. No funding source has been determined because trustees first want to know the scope of each individual project.

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