ARDMORE, OK - There's a new plan to expand college facilities in Ardmore, but this one will need taxpayer support.
Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill to re-make the Ardmore Higher Education Center into a "branch campus" of Southeastern Oklahoma State University last April.
Now city leaders are taking a different step to upgrade the Higher Education Center. This time, the plan involves a new building and possibly a new YMCA on Veterans Boulevard.
"We think it's a great move, a move forward," Mayor Keith King said. "They still have a need out there, particularly for their nursing program."
City commissioners voted to commit $4 million to help build both a new science building and a gym that could become the new YMCA.
The two buildings would be located on Veterans Boulevard just northeast of the Highway Patrol office. King said the current idea is to pay for nearly half the estimated $25 million cost with a 3-mill property tax increase that Carter County voters would have to approve in November. Another $10 million would come from private donations.
Meanwhile, a five-year-old nursing program with about 60 students is in a separate building downtown. Spaces above the walls in the converted grocery can create some problems.
"When we have to counsel students individually and privately, that can be a problem," program coordinator Dr. Peggy Miller said. "The heating and air is not equally distributed, so in one classroom you freeze and another you get very warm."
The nursing program would move to the new building, in a location that could allow for a second college building in the future, if a governor's support were to come through.
"Maybe next time we'll show there's a broad community support for the project and this community wants to have a college," Higher Education Center director Dr. Steven Mills said.
One neighbor says he is not ready to see all the changes nearby.
"I feel like the south end of town where the traffic is less congested and there's more room for things that go with a college such as bookstores, restaurants, would look better," Tony Simon said.
If all the funding comes through, Mills said construction on the new science building could start by next fall.