The Niagara County Community College board of trustees Wednesday voted to proceed with constructing dormitories with 250 beds adjacent to the NCCC campus at Saunders Settlement and Townline roads.
Bassam M. Deeb, vice president of student services, who gave an overview of the plan to about 20 residents in October, said dorms could become a reality as early as August 2007.
"I think it's a major step for the college. I think we have quite a bit of work to bring this to fruition," Deeb said of the $12.7 million project.
Board Chairman Marvin E. Maziarz said, "I think this is a proactive move. Niagara County Community College needs to stay competitive . . . There are 17 institutions of higher learning in the Western New York area and we need to be competitive with those institutions, and I think this is one way to help up maintain and increase our enrollment."
When asked whether he thought local students would pay more to live on campus, Maziarz said, "Kids from North Tonawanda go to Niagara University and pay to live in the dorm. . . . We visited Genesee Community College, and a lot of the students from GCC [who live in the dorms] are from the local area."
Rose Mary Warren, who lives on Griffin Street near the campus, spoke up before the vote, saying she thought the trustees should be cautious about the project.
"I'm still a little interested in who's going to pay for your access roads," said Warren. "I'm saying you're going to have to make a contract with these people and leave them no wiggle room."
After the vote, Warren said, "I really assumed that it would pass. . . . I'm still concerned that it will end up costing the taxpayers money."
Trustees have said the college will not own the facility, but instead the board will create a limited liability corporation to own the dorms. If the project fails, then the college and the taxpayers would not be liable for any losses.
The dorms, which will be built on the northeast corner of the campus, also need approval from the State University of New York. The Niagara County Legislature also needs to give approval to the trustees because the county owns the land, Maziarz said.
The board vote was 8-0, with trustees James C. Roscetti and Mary R. Neilans absent.
The board of trustees has been considering on-campus student housing since Antoinette J. Cleveland was president. She received a proposal from a developer in November 2000.
The board had commissioned Anderson Strickler to conduct a marketing study during the spring of 2004. The study included focus groups, an off-campus market analysis, a student survey and a demand analysis.
The Anderson Strickler study also found the potential demand for student housing could rise from 285 beds initially to 520 beds in future years.
"It's a win-win for the community. Students benefit from the housing experience, and the community benefits from the jobs created and materials purchased to build the housing facility," said trustee Ronald J. Winter. "This project not only keeps NCCC competitive, but makes it even more attractive."