Looking toward the future: AC’s campus master plan and May 4 bond election
Early voting begins in bond election:
Funds needed to carry out campus master plan
By STEVI BRESHEARS, editor in chief
Amarillo College, along with help from architecture firm Parkhill, Smith and Cooper, has developed a ‘master plan’ of projects to improve the AC campuses.
“It was developed as the precursor to the next strategic plan,” AC President Russell Lowery-Hart said. “The master plan gives us economic and employment projections and data. It assesses future needs and with it we can build a new strategic plan and ensure our physical spaces allow us to meet future needs. No Excuses 2020 is our current strategic plan that ends next year.”
The master plan addresses issues based on current and future enrollment and the things needed to serve those students efficiently. Changes such as additional parking, technology upgrades, building upgrades and renovations to ensure Americans with Disabilities Act compliance are all a part of the various projects that make up the master plan.
“One thing led to another, one discussion led to another,” Mark White, the college’s executive vice president, said. “The board of regents has a long-term vision about things and determined that we should simply have an entire master plan done instead of just looking at one thing, so it became one large, comprehensive project.”After about eight months of planning, the board came down to a figure of approximately $110-120 million to finish all the projects that need to be completed. White said that there are three options for funding — charitable contributions, reallocating money within the existing college budget or issuing bonds.
According to White, bonds are “investment vehicles” for investors to purchase. AC would make money by selling the bonds to investors. The college would then repay the investors plus interest, which would be funded by an increase in property taxes.
The regents placed a master plan bond measure on the ballot for the upcoming May 4 election. Amarillo citizens will have the opportunity to vote on the bond, which is set at $89,206 million. If it passes, AC will have the authority to issue bonds for up to $89, 206, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will and especially not all at once. “It would be done in fairly small increments over a number of years,” White said.
In the event that the bond passes, property owners would see an increase in taxes. In total, the property taxes would increase approximately $40 for every $100,000 in property valuation. Essentially that means if you own a $100,000 home, your taxes would increase $40 over a span of several years.
While passage of the bond would supply a major source of funding for completing the master plan proposals, it isn’t the deciding factor in whether or not all the projects will be completed.
“All of these things, they’re not emergencies,” White said. He explained that if the bond doesn’t pass, it will take longer to complete all the upgrades included in the master plan.
“At the end of the day, AC wants to do what the community wants,” he said. “After all, it’s their college.”
For the complete bond election notice announcement, see https://www.actx.edu/files/filecabinet/folder4/BondNoticeOfElectionPacket2019.pdf
ADA compliance requires investment
Master plan addresses accessibility for people with disabilities
By MEGHAN HOLLAND, Staff Reporter
Imagine showing up to campus for an education, but you cannot make it to class easily, so showing up requires setting aside extra time out of your day. That is the case for many students at Amarillo College who require assistance in their daily activities.
The AC disAbility Services staff has a goal of providing appropriate accommodations and accessibility for those students, however, AC is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 in numerous ways according to Wes Condray-Wright, the director of communications and marketing.
Condray-Wright said that AC is making ADA compliance more of a priority. Whether or not the upcoming bond election is passed,
AC will focus on making the campus more accessible because many of the changes are necessary.
“AC is really ahead of the game in my opinion, but still lacks all the necessary things for its students like handicap buttons on all doors,” Jacob McGee, a social work major who uses a wheelchair, said.
McGee said he believes that in addition to equipping doors with buttons, AC should inspect the elevators more regularly to ensure they do not break down and examine the ramps for accessibility.
Many of the ramps on campus wind back and forth, and McGee pointed out that Dutton Hall has a wheelchair ramp that is blocked by the automatic door when it opens. He said that he has to go past the first ramp to the ramp on the other side to be able to use the door.
Although McGee has his frustrations, including having to shift the desk and chair arrangement in many of his classrooms each time he enters, he said he realizes that AC is working to improve the facilities and help assist students in getting to class.
“I don’t know much about the ADA guidelines, but I feel like there are more people with disabilities going to school and going after careers,” said Chancey Miller, a psychology major who uses a wheelchair.
Miller said she believes the college should work on being ADA compliant to provide greater accessibility so that people with disabilities can be more productive citizens.
Miller pointed out that the college bathrooms could use some improvements to accommodate wheelchairs.
“The bathrooms could use the buttons to open the doors because someone would have to accompany me as it is now, or I’d get trapped inside,” she said.
AC recognizes many of the problems and will work to make the necessary changes, Condray-Wright said.
Changes may be as simple as moving around furniture or as complicated as reconstructing and installing certain measurements intended to assist students.
To find out more about ADA guidelines, visit the website www.ada.gov and to learn about how the disAbility Services office assists students, visit www.actx.edu/disability
Ordway Hall could get update
By JEREMY STITSWORTH, Staff Reporter
Amarillo College’s Ordway Hall is home to the English department, the Writer’s Corner, the Conservatory Theater and the Amarillo Museum of Natural History. Ordway is also the oldest building on campus.
Built more than 80 years ago back in 1936, Ordway Hall is not up to 21st century standards and needs renovations to meet the requirements set by the American Disability Association.
These renovations are also a part of the AC Master Plan.
Margie Netherton, an English professor with an office in Ordway Hall, said that many things needed to be updated. “Many of the doors, particularly the bathroom doors, are too narrow or heavy to open and get through. We also need to get some new fire alarms because some of them are out of order.”
Netherton also said when making updates to Ordway, college officials should ensure that the historic integrity of the building that needs to remains intact.
Objects such as the doors, the carvings of the gnomes on the corners of the building and even the doorknobs are all historic value and give Ordway Hall that glint of the past, she said.
Along with the upgrades to become ADA compliant Ordway could also get what many of the faculty and students are excited for, improved heating and air conditioning.
JT Yellowtail, a computer science major and student lab worker, said that he is glad that Ordway Hall may finally get better air conditioning. “In the summer we usually have to open all the windows and doors to get any air ventilation in this room.”
Mary Dodson, an English professor whose office is also in Ordway Hall, said that it gets cold during the winter and sometimes her space heater just isn’t quite enough sometimes. “I’m usually huddled up by my heater, but with improved heat and air conditioning possibly going in, it might be a little bit more comfortable.”
AC has made a “Plan B” should the the voters decide against the bond issue. Wesley Condray-Wright, AC’s Director of Communications and Marketing, said that some of these changes are necessary and will be made, regardless of the bond election outcome.
Master plan helps first responders
New combined academy at East Campus proposed
By FAYTHE REEVES, Staff Reporter
Within the Amarillo College master plan, AC staff plans to build a new first responders academy on the East Campus to combine firefighter, law enforcement and EMT students into one building.
Although there are not many details available at this time, Wesley Condray-Wright, director of communications and marketing, said that they do have a location in mind. “There’s a building out at East Campus that does not meet current codes. It’s going to be taken down and, in its place, will be the first responders academy,” Condray-Wright said.
While AC currently offers the fire, law enforcement and EMT academies separately, Condray-Wright said that, in reality, these three professions work together all the time in real world situations. “Many of our police and fire academy graduates will need EMT training according to our industry partners.
Greater alignment of these programs will ensure our graduates are more competitive in the hiring process and hopefully force increases in pay for EMT professionals, whom are historically underpaid,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, said.
According to Lowery-Hart, AC workforce data projects indicate that the community will have an increased need for first responder graduates.
He also mentioned that AC needed to have a greater alignment with current first responder programs. “Any time we can be more responsive to our community partners and employers, we are helping improve job prospects for our community, while serving the community more effectively,” Lowery-Hart said.
Parking problems may be solved
Master plan poses some possible solutions to vehicular flow and parking issues on Washington Street Campus
By MARIA VALLES, CAROLINA BARBA and MEGAN MINSHEW, Staff Reporters
Amarillo College’s proposed master plan could potentially create more parking spaces on the Washington Street Campus.“Right now, there’s a deficit of spaces for students to park, about 255 spots, and that’s causing overflow into the neighborhood,” said Wesley Condray-Wright, director of communications and marketing. He said that because of the overflow of vehicles AC receives several complaints from the neighborhood residents.
AC also receives complaints from students, according to Condray-Wright “I definitely think that AC needs more parking spots because it’s really hard to find some in the mornings,” Sierra Flores, a social work major, said. “Students are having to come early just to try and find a good parking spot and I’ve personally been late trying to find one,”
Bob Austin, vice president of enrollment, agreed that the Master Plan offers benefits. “Adding more parking is an advantage for the students and for the people who live in the neighborhood,” Austin said.
AC has a plan to renovate old parking lots and potentially create new ones. “What they’re doing is that parking lot nine will resurfaced and make it to where it’s a little more functional to park in and also make it ADA compliant because it is not up to code,” Condray-Wright said. “They’re also proposing that we talk to the city about maybe taking over a portion of Memorial Park and connecting Washington Street to Jackson or maybe even building a parking garage,” he said.
Some students and community members are opposed to the idea of giving up park space to get more parking. “I don’t think taking away from the park to make more parking is the right move. The park is used for a lot of things like sports and just enjoyment,” Hector Rivero-Figueroa, a mechanical engineering major, said.
Innovation Hub proposed
By JAKE DAY, Staff Reporter
The plans for renovating Amarillo College’s Downtown Campus focus on innovation. The remodeling proposals focus on improving and installing new technology and building a facility to be known as the Innovation Hub.
The idea behind the Innovation Hub is to encourage the creation of local businesses and jobs through the use of robotics and other engineering creations or “innovations.”
“The Innovation Hub will be open to the public and designed similar to a makerspace,” Wesley Condray-Wright, director of communications and marketing, said. “There are plans for 3D printers as well as space to work on robotics.”
AC officials say this proposed facility is projected to have a high impact on the community and businesses that use it.
“The Innovation Hub is AC’s investment in the future of the community,” Mark Nair, a business administration instructor, said. “The only significant way for economies to grow and add new jobs and opportunities is through technological advancement.
The Innovation Hub should both inspire new businesses to grow and hire as well as help current businesses in the community expand and hire new people.”
The Hub may house robotics and engineering-based technology. Artificial Intelligence, drones, 3-D printing and chip printing are possible technologies that could be on site, college officials said.
AC leaders say they are waiting to see the outcome of the bond election before finalizing plans for this facility.
“The Innovation Hub is more conceptual,” Steven Smith, vice president for business affairs, said. “It will be open to the community and could help better businesses.”
“We want to create an opportunity for businesses to implement technology and so people of the community can learn about the technology.”
Learn more about the proposed master plan at https://www.actx.edu/files/filecabinet/folder4/Master_Plan_Presentation.pdf
Bond’s impact on property taxes
If the proposed AC bond passes, it will increase property taxes per $100,000 of taxable valuation by $40 annually, or $3.33 per month.