COLLEGE FACILITY AT TOP OF BOARD'S LIST

February 23, 2001 11:00 pm

Pressing ahead on plans for a Brookings facility for Southwestern Oregon Community College is high on the boards priority list that should be approved next week, two incumbent board members said at a candidates forum Thursday night.

Six of eight candidates for the Southwestern board attended the League of Women Voters forum, along with two candidates for the Port of Brookings Harbor Commission and two candidates for the Brookings-Harbor School District Board.

The forum drew only two dozen spectators; ballots for the election were mailed to voters Friday.

Two incumbents on the Southwestern Board, David Bridgham and Marcia Jensen, reported that at a recent board retreat, moving ahead in Brookings was chosen as a top goal. The priorities are expected to be ratified at the regular board meeting Monday night in Coos Bay.

They also said the board should move with the funds in hand to purchase property for the Brookings center. A million dollars in state funds was allocated to Southwestern for the Brookings site, but some was used to purchase the building now used in Brookings.

We want to show the community and the college that the board does fully intend to develop a campus here, Jensen said. We want to buy the property and develop a plan, so you have something to hang your hat on.

Funds to build a Brookings facility were included in two Southwestern bond proposals last year, both defeated by district voters.

Bridgham said the board will back up and reconsider whether property tax bonds will even be necessary. Profits from a planned Culinary Arts Institute on the Coos Bay campus or extra tuition fees in Curry County might be used to fund revenue bonds for the Brookings construction, he suggested.

Neither of the incumbents opponents Clara Radcliffe challenging Jensen, and Scott Frasieur opposing Bridgham were able to attend the Brookings forum.

The only Curry County candidate for the Southwestern Board, Mike Murray of Gold Beach, said the college should go ahead with the property purchase, but put this on hold as far as development.

He said school districts within the college district have more pressing financial needs than the college.

His opponent, Scott Malby of Coos Bay, said the board needs wait a year before any new bond proposal for Curry County. He said the board should spend the time meeting with community leaders to win endorsements provided theres a real demonstrated need for it.

In the fourth race for the Southwestern board, Carole Oelke endorsed going ahead with the property purchase to let people know were serious, but said there are still questions about how to get further funding for construction.

Her opponent, Gary Marconi, said that since he is running as a representative of organized labor, he would reach out to labor to pass a bond issue. He would also go ahead with the property purchase.