College of Western Idaho survey finds that Treasure Valley residents support its growth

Ada and Canyon county residents appear to support an expanded College of Western Idaho presence, but not in sufficient numbers to meet a two-thirds vote required to sell tax-backed bonds for new buildings.

A poll of 300 likely voters March 29-30 showed that more than 60 percent would approve a bond of up to $180 million to pay for the school’s expansion. The sampling error in the survey is plus or minus 6 percent. Moore Information, of Portland, conducted the survey for the college.

CWI’s board of trustees sought the survey to test residents’ support for a bond. The 6-year-old college is considering three new buildings: a health sciences center and a student center on its Nampa campus and a permanent campus on 10 acres it bought last week for $8.8 million in Boise’s West End.

The survey said:

• 61 percent would definitely or probably support a $180 million bond that could cost $23 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

• 61 percent would definitely or probably support a $140 million bond that could add $17.75 per $100,000 of assessed value.

• 63 percent would definitely or probably support a $100 million bond that could cost $12.94 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

“I was frankly pleased with the outcome of the survey, and I am very optimistic,” said Mary Niland, CWI’s board president. “We have increased demand for health science fields, and I think that was also confirmed in the survey.”

Eighty-three percent of those responding supported construction of a health sciences building and more nursing and medical classes.

Trustees will create a steering committee to answer questions and build support for a bond, Niland said. The committee will be patterned after the group of business and community supporters that successfully campaigned for voters to create the two-year community college in a 2007 vote.

CWI will have to be specific about its plans to secure the two-thirds majority, said Guy Hurlbutt, the board vice president. “We are in the embryonic stage,” he said.

The college last week announced that it is buying the site of the old Bob Rice Ford dealership property at Main Street and Whitewater Park Boulevard. Boise officials said the purchase would spawn development in that area.

CWI did not do an appraisal on the property. The Ada County Assessor’s Office estimated its value at $3.6 million, less than half of the price CWI agreed to pay. Years of looking at properties for sale around Boise convinced the college’s board members that $8.8 million is a fair price, CWI spokeswoman Jennifer Couch has said.

CWI wants a permanent campus to get out of more than $1 million a year in leases it pays at the Blackeagle Center at Overland Road near South Maple Grove Road.

The survey included 220 people in Ada County and 80 in Canyon County. Forty-seven percent were male and 53 percent female. Forty-one percent classified themselves as either very or somewhat conservative, 32 percent said they were moderate and 22 percent identified themselves as liberal.