By Andy Mitchell
On Sept. 12, voters approved a $60 million bond referendum to assist Kirkwood Community College and other Kirkwood campuses around eastern Iowa.
The referendum adds five more years to its current bond, and generates higher property value, Kirkwood marketing assistant director Justin Hoehn said in an email to The Daily Iowan.
Kirkwood is planning to use the bond money for a number of projects to both renovate existing buildings and construct new ones. The projects will not only affect their campus in Cedar Rapids but the one in Iowa City as well.
The projects include improving Kirkwood’s Washington Hall, home of its Agricultural Sciences Department, adding 24,000 square feet to its Iowa City campus, building a new student center, improving its recreation center, and renovating facilities in its Animal Health and Technology Building, Hoehn said.
He said the projects will give students state of the art technology and better equip faculty members to help students prepare for their careers.
Some of these Kirkwood facilities have been waiting for improvements for years, and the Iowa City campus is no exception.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Ann Valentine, the Kirkwood executive dean of the Iowa City campus.
The Iowa City campus is made in part from an old hardware store and could be made more suitable for a classroom environment, she said. Kirkwood plans to overhaul that facility into a brand-new learning space.
Valentine, however, said she does not expect the Iowa City campus’ renovations to happen before Kirkwood’s Cedar Rapids campus receives attention. Kirkwood’s Iowa City campus has a smaller student body.
Scott Erner, the Kirkwood dean of Agricultural Sciences, said renovations to Washington Hall have been on the radar for a while.
“We’ve worked for the better part of two years to assess what’s needed,” Erner said.
With the money from the bond referendum, Kirkwood intends to address the limitations of Washington Hall and better equip it for the present day.
These changes go beyond fixing the old plumbing and electrical system from a building constructed in the 1970s. Erner said Washington Hall needed to better accommodate programs such as the Diesel Technology Program by adjusting ceiling height, room size, and door space.
“The new technology hasn’t necessarily gotten smaller,” Erner said.
The renovations will take some time, he said, even after Kirkwood decides the project building order. He estimated that it would take months of specific planning and around a year for actual construction.
In the wake of the bond referendum, Kirkwood’s officials expressed their gratitude. Valentine said by voting “yes,” Johnson County’s voters put their trust in Kirkwood’s ability to put their tax money to good use.
“Anytime the general public invests in education, it shows they know the relationship between education and an economically healthy and knowledgeable community,” Hoehn said.