Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker today announced state funding to advance construction projects at two community college campuses in western Massachusetts.
Baker announced $2.5 million and $3 million to Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College, respectively, to modernize and repair a building on each campus. The funding awards are part of a “fix it first” strategy announced by the administration in June for dealing with the state’s infrastructure needs.
" You begin the design work with the assumption that you will have something worth investing in," said Baker. " I think ( the funding) is a statement we think the work is important."
The governor made the funding announcement after a brief tour of the campus center building at Holyoke Community College, where he had to sidestep buckets placed throughout the building to collect water leaking from ceilings. College officials said the building has been plagued by water leaks since it opened in 1980.
Three cabinet secretaries accompanied Baker along with several state legislators and mayors from Holyoke, Chicopee, and West Springfield.
Baker said he strongly believes in the role the state’s community colleges play in training a workforce that is aligned to the needs of local employers.
" I believe in the skills gap," said Baker. " I believe the skills gap is a significant and real problem not just here in the Commonwealth but in many places."
State Education Secretary James Peyser said the administration is committed to modernizing the state’s community college campuses.
" When it has come to capital spending ( community colleges) have tended to be at the back of the line, and I am pleased with today's announcement we are beginning to change that course," said Peyser.
HCC President William Messner said planned improvements to the 3-story campus center building include all new electrical work, lighting, heating and cooling systems, doors and windows.
" Our student services center is vitally needed. It is 35 years old and in desperate need of attention and this is a major first step for us and we hope there will be second and third steps to come," said Messner.
STCC plans to use the state funds to design a student assistance center in a vacant building, according to college president Ira Rubenzahl.
"Thank you Gov. Baker for you confidence in us," said Rubenzahl.
The building at STCC where the Student Leaning Commons is planned is a 19th century brick building that was part of the Springfield Armory. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.