SARANAC LAKE -- Expansion plans at North Country Community College are looking like a four-year project here with eight new buildings.

The campus would remain where it is off Lake Flower Avenue but with a complete overhaul.

A new student center, theater, covered walkway, parking garage, administration building, field house and gymnasium additions are in early stages of concept development.

The "very preliminary" overview presented to county lawmakers Monday had a $61 million price tag.

FOUR PHASES

Shane Chatelle, assistant dean for facilities and grounds, outlined the four-phase plan in a question-and-answer session.

Each phase represents a year's construction, Chatelle said.

Phase 1 includes building a $5 million student center.

Phase 2 adds a field house.

Phases 3 and 4 would involve

demolition of Hodson Hall, formerly Saranac Lake General Hospital, for a cost near $245,000.

Existing nursing-school facilities at Clermont Hall would also be torn down to make room for a $2.2 million, 700-seat theater to allow the college to add a performance art, music and theater program.

College officials said the Humanities Department designed the arts major two years ago, but it has no place to go.

NEW TRAFFIC SETUP

New traffic patterns work around the revamped campus, complete with covered walkways.

A new street, called Ring Road, would encircle the college, which sits wholly inside a residential neighborhood.

A new college green would connect a relocated library with the new student center and classroom buildings.

The existing college library would be converted into a new Allied Health facility for nursing, massage and radiology programs.

All current buildings would be updated to maximize energy efficiency, and all new construction would require a minimum silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, utilizing alternative energy for heating and cooling.

The proposed field house would serve multiple functions, Chatelle said, as classrooms and facilities for wilderness recreation programs.

And the multi-level garage with indoor parking would be designed to reduce maintenance.

TIMING

The concept is a product of problem-solving in the Master Plan, Chatelle said, looking for ways to tackle complex issues of cramped and antiquated space.

It also addresses the need for expanding programs and amenities to attract and retain the growing number students.

Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) asked when the college is looking to begin construction.

"Spring 2009 at the earliest," Chatelle said, "if everything went smoothly."

Lawmakers also tried to grapple with debt load from the "very preliminary" picture presented.

SUNY would assume half the proposed $61 million cost; Franklin and Essex counties would split the balance near $15 million each.

The state Dormitory Authority bonds for funding in phases, explained college CEO Bill Chapin.

But the whole capital plan has to be approved before it begins.

Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand), who applauded the college's effort to rework the Saranac Lake campus in place, asked if the current county allocation of $1,140,000 apiece would double.

"I don't think it would," said Tom Finch, vice president for academic affairs.

Initial estimates put additional costs to each county near $850,000.

Some of the capital expense would be offset by chargebacks from incoming students.

And some of it could be reduced further by income from theater and sporting events, Chatelle said.

"These are not the best of times to be talking about major capitol improvements," Scozzafava said. "I'm not saying it's not needed, but you have to live within your means."

Supervisor Randy Douglas (D-Jay) tried to get more certain dates for county action on any appropriation.

Chatelle said the dollar amount likely won't change.

"Should we start mulling it over?" Douglas asked.

"Yes," Chatelle said.

County support is necessary before SUNY will consider any capital expansion plan, Finch said.

Pending detailed financial analysis, lawmakers expect to consider expansion plans sometime in August.

kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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