Expansion plans move ahead at CMC in Rifle
By Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE – Colorado Mountain College is one step closer to establishing a new, larger Rifle campus.
Monday afternoon, Bob Howard and Chris Leverich of Airport Land Partners announced a gift to CMC of 13 acres between the Rifle Super Wal-Mart and the Garfield County Airport. The land, estimated to be worth $1.75 million, is part of a 300-acre parcel the developers purchased in 1999.
“This gift is a springboard for an exciting and aggressive plan to help bring a new, state-of-the-art college campus to western Garfield County,” said Alexandra Yajko, CMC’s dean of college relations. “We are grateful to Bob Howard and his partners for sharing this vision and for helping us make this dream a reality.”
Old to new
The college currently leases a 90-year-old school building in downtown Rifle from Garfield School District Re-2.
Rifle campus dean Pam Arsenault said western Garfield County’s growing student population – the Rifle campus serves more than 2,000 students a year – requires a larger, more modern building.
“The present facility cannot meet our needs permanently,” Arsenault said. “It is doubtful that even an extensive redesign of the current building could bring the facility into full compliance for those with disabilities.”
In addition, Rifle Middle School, which surrounds Rifle’s CMC building on three sides, is currently undergoing a major renovation, eliminating parking spaces used by CMC.
Bob Howard said Airport Land Partners recognizes CMC’s “value to the community as a stepping stone to higher education and a venue for technical training.
“Rifle has more single family home building permits and visible growth than any other town on the Western Slope,” said Howard. “A small college campus is consistent with what we are doing.”
“We are so appreciative of this generous donation,” said CMC dean Bob Spuhler. “Our lease with the school district expires in 2007, and though we could probably extend that lease another eight or nine years, having this land available to us gives us alternatives.”
Not a done deal
Spuhler said the college has been looking for a new Rifle campus site for a number of years. College administrators inquired about Clagett Hospital, but the Grand River Hospital District has its own plans for the building. CMC also asked about the former Columbine Market space – though the renovations necessary to turn a grocery store into a college building didn’t make financial sense, Spuhler said.
Spuhler said he’s aware of recent discussions about moving the Garfield County Social Services offices into town, next to the Garfield County Fairgrounds, after residents resisted moving the operation out of town, to the airport.
But he said he’s already had preliminary discussions about extending a future bus route three or four miles from the new Grand River Medical Center and Wal-Mart to the new CMC campus.
Spuhler noted that Airport Land Partners’ donation doesn’t allow CMC to sell the donated land and use the money to purchase proerty elsewhere.
Spuhler said CMC has a long way to go before construction begins on a new facility.
“We’ll need a capital campaign for building costs,” he said. “We’ll need some major contributions from some fairly healthy donors. We’re not there yet.”
Still, Spuhler is enthusiastic about Rifle campus’ future.
“This land has a lot of plusses,” he said. “Having land donated to us gives us the ability to proceed with plans. It’s a great opportunity.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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