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November 3, 2021 - 6:43pm

Genesee Community College president asks county for up to $1.7 million to help fund five infrastructure projects

Categorizing five potential projects as “long-standing critical needs,” Genesee Community College President Dr. James Sunser today requested that Genesee County enter into a 50-50 agreement with New York State to fund up to $3.4 million that would be required to complete all of the work.

Speaking at the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Sunser outlined five projects that he said are part of the college’s Facilities Master Plan approved by the GCC Board of Trustees, and submitted to the Genesee County and to the Dormitory Authority of New York State.

“They’re all under that plan that would allow for 50 percent funding from the state should our local sponsor, Genesee County, approve those plans and commit a similar amount,” he said, adding that the five plans fall into the college’s “deferred maintenance type of issues.”

Under the college’s proposal, the county and the state each would contribute $1.7 million upon completion of all five projects.

Sunser said these projects aren’t new construction, but items that “we have long-standing need for that we’re looking to work on.”

Specifically, the five initiatives proposed are as follows (with the county, if approved, paying for half of the total cost listed):

-- Replacement of the soccer/lacrosse turf on the field adjacent to the Richard C. Call Arena (Total cost $950,000).

Sunser said the field was part of a previous capital project sponsored by Genesee County.

“What we're talking about replacing is not the facility itself, not the underpinnings of it, not the lighting and the electrical, it's merely the covering -- the surface of the field that is now going on 13 years old and had the expected lifecycle of about 10 years,” he said.

He noted that the field will be used for a women’s national soccer tournament starting next Wednesday – an event that will include the GCC squad.

-- Replacement of the cooling tower (Total cost $410,000).

Sunser said the cooling tower handles the cooling for all of the college’s original buildings -- through the original buildings and into the Conable Technology Center.

“That cooling tower is well past its useful life … and that does need replacing at this point. And we're asking for some assistance in doing that,” he said.

-- Renovation of a connective corridor (Total cost $180,000).

Sunser said the corridor connects the original buildings from the cafeteria areas into the fine arts building and theater, adding that he believes the initial design was “flawed.”

“And it's been a long-standing issue where the entrance on both sides of that connecting corridor is below the building levels,” he said, causing water backup and icing in that area. “That’s been one of the areas that we find that we have slip and falls periodically throughout the winter.”

-- Replacement of the Conable Technology Building parking lot (Total cost $800,000).

“That’s our oldest lot now on campus, and it also has an area that is prone to some icing and some issues, and another area we have documented claims against the college for slip and falls,” Sunser said. “The drainage is much like what was in the drainage and the other lots before we've made those improvements during the last major capital plan on campus.”

That particular lot measures 95,000 square feet and is approximately 17 years old.

-- Complete roof replacement on the Technology Building (Total cost $1,060,000).

The structure was built in 2000 and the 26,000-square foot roof has been developing leaks due to end of life failures in stress points, according to the project justification report.

When looking at the big picture, Sunser said if the projects are approved by Genesee County, they can be submitted to the state in the current budget cycle.

“It has been indicated from SUNY (State University of New York) that there would be receptivity to those at this point,” he said. “If they’re approved, then we can work along with the county and the legislature in the future to determine when they'll actually be handled as far as the work being done.”

When asked about the impact to the county’s 2022 budget, Sunser said, “I would imagine that traditionally the counties when they've gone up for bonding on projects, that this would get incorporated into that plan as well.”

Legislator Gary Maha brought up that the county has already committed to spending $70 million for a new jail and that another nearly $2 million is “kind of hard to swallow in one year.”

Sunser said he could “appreciate” that, adding that GCC leaders are “working as hard as we can to take as much pressure off the county as we can – in terms of critical maintenance.”

“These are all long-standing critical needs as far as the infrastructure of the campus. And one of the things that we've been really focused on over the past year is that everywhere we've had the ability to use appropriately (specialized) funds to reinvest in the facilities of the campus, we’ve done that.”

However, he said he viewed the projects as investing in a county partnership facility that you can, I hope, rest assured that the college has been investing in -- in good faith right along -- to try to make sure that we don't have these kind of going back to the old Fram oil filter and pennywise, pound foolish type of mentality. And we've done quite a bit over the course of the summer -- investment in the facility wherever we could to take pressure off the county and not have to make these kind of requests.”

At that point, Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said lawmakers were not prepared to make a decision today, but would discuss it further.

“We do have your numbers,” she said. “We appreciate the fact that you're here, and if you have any other questions, we will get them (answers) to you.”

This summer, the legislature approved a $2.6 million contribution to GCC for 2021-22 -- an amount that represents about 7 percent of the college's $37.4 million budget. County Manager Matt Landers said that percentage is one of the lowest in the state for counties that support community colleges.

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