Education

CWI spent years trying to persuade voters to fund science building. Now it’s backing off

A look at College of Western Idaho’s proposed health science building

This College of Western Idaho video shows how the new building would look and makes a case for its need. Students would be trained for nursing, natural and life science, emergency response and other medicine- and health-related careers.
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This College of Western Idaho video shows how the new building would look and makes a case for its need. Students would be trained for nursing, natural and life science, emergency response and other medicine- and health-related careers.

After voters shot down the College of Western Idaho’s expansion efforts two years in a row, its board of trustees has decided not to pursue a plant levies levy on the May ballot to build a new health sciences building.

“The need is going to continue growing given our aging populating and people moving into the Treasure Valley,” said Mark Dunham, vice chairman of CWI’s board of trustees, told the Statesman in a phone interview. “We’re just trying to regroup and make sure that we’ve made a better case for our medical programs.”

Those who backed the taxsaid the building is needed to train more nurses, surgical technicians and medical assistants, which are in short supply in the Treasure Valley.

In November, the community college asked voters to raise their property taxes to pay for a $39 million health sciences building. The the levy fell just 135 votes short of the 55 percent it needed in Ada and Canyon County to pass. A recount confirmed the tally.

“The board decided the timing wasn’t right to pursue a levy in May,” said CWI spokesman Ashley Smith.

Several factors played into the board’s decision. For one, the college doesn’t have the funds to run a campaign, Dunham said. Ahead of the November vote, CWI set aside $150,000 to educate voters about the measure, and board members campaigned in cities around the Treasure Valley at events like Chamber of Commerce luncheons to gather support.

Campaign consultants told the board that an effective campaign before the May election would cost $100,000. Even with hospitals helping to fund it, “we still don’t have enough money to run an effective campaign,” Dunham said.

Canyon County will also ask voters to fund a new jail in the upcoming May election. “There’s a concern that it would be a sticker shock with our levy and a Canyon County jail bond,” Dunham added.

Smith and Dunham said they didn’t know whether CWI will bring the levy before voters again.

“We’re exploring all the options,” Smith said. “That could include possibly renovating and repurposing CWI’s current buildings.”

That could include scheduling certain medical programs at night at times CWI isn’t using those classrooms now.

Skip Smyser, chairman of the board of trustees, said that the college had hoped to consolidate all of its healthcare training in one building.

“We wanted to get it into one place,” he said in a phone interview. “We wanted to expand those offerings.”

The four-story, 100,000-square-foot building would have been built just north of the Ford Idaho Center.

1111 CWI Bond 01
Certified surgical technologist student Travis Stice, left, hands instructor Biff Boggs, center, material for a simulated appendectomy surgery during his clinical final exam at the College of Western Idaho Boise Center last week. CWI wants to move its health science program to the Nampa campus, but defeat of a bond last week will delay that. Kyle Green kgreen@idahostatesman.com

CWI officials had hoped that voters last November would support financing a narrower project than the $180 million bond they rejected two years ago. That bond would have funded the health science building in Nampa and a Boise campus on the north side of Main Street along the Boise River west of Downtown.

News of the board’s Tuesday decision was first reported by the Idaho Press.

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