It has been nearly a year since Erie Community College solidified plans to locate its new Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math – or STEM – building on ECC’s North Campus, but a freshman county lawmaker is hopeful that colleagues will agree to revisit the matter.
Democratic Legislator Patrick B. Burke of South Buffalo is calling for a hold on the county’s $7.5 million investment in the proposed $30 million STEM building expansion.
“I’m just following through on my campaign promise,” he said.
“I have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Erie County to ensure that we’re not doubling down on yet another historic mistake,” he added.
Burke this week submitted a resolution requesting the County Comptroller’s Office conducting its own analysis of report by academic consultant JMZ Architects and Planners. The Glen Falls-based consultant’s study on the college’s space and programs needs concluded that ECC City campus was unusable as a STEM building site because of the high cost of acquiring downtown parcels.
Burke charged that the report seemed to ignore two large county-owned properties – one a block from ECC City Campus at 100 North Division St. and another at 45 Oak St. – that could be viable sites for the proposed STEM building. He also questioned why, when some of the courses offered at the STEM building will be related to medical fields, it should be placed so far from the downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“We need this STEM building project, but we need it built right,” said Burke, who is hopeful that the Legislature will vote on his resolution when it meets in session at 2 p.m. today.
However, that appears unlikely, according to Legislature Chairman John J. Mills. “I don’t think it’s got any legs,” he said.
“We’ve vented for four or five years about this,” Mills added, noting that the ECC board of trustees, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and a majority of the Legislature have expressed support for locating the STEM building on the ECC North Campus.
ECC first raised the issue of constructing a new building three years ago, and set its sights on the North Campus at Main Street and Youngs Road in Amherst. It consists of eight buildings that were constructed in phases between 1953 and the late 1960s.
College officials are hopeful that updating the North Campus will help stem the tide of Erie County residents going across the border to attend classes at Niagara County Community College.