NWACC revising plan for facility
Washington County Center to be built next to ballpark
BENTONVILLE — Plans for Northwest Arkansas Community College’s Washington County Center are evolving, as officials explore programming changes and a smaller, less expensive facility than what has been discussed in the past.
Evelyn Jorgenson, college president, gave an update on the project Friday at the annual summer retreat meeting of the Board of Trustees.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind we’re going to be able to start construction next year,” Jorgenson said. “I really feel good about being able to do that.”
The college owns 20 acres next to Arvest Ballpark in Springdale where the center will be built. A fundraising effort is underway to pay for construction.
The vision for several years has been a building of about 50,000 square feet that would cost $15 million. The college has raised $3.6 million for the project.
Jorgenson said Friday, however, the current curriculum plan would require only between 25,000 and 35,000 square feet at a cost of between $10 million and $12 million.
The college had been planning to put its construction technology program in the building, but that program instead will be housed in another new building the college has planned for its main campus in Bentonville.
“That will allow us to really pare down the size of the [Washington County Center], decrease the cost of it and be able to move much more quickly on this project,” Jorgenson said.
The college intends to put nursing and other health-related programs in the center, something officials didn’t think was feasible until recently. That’s because the college had been told by its accrediting body nursing classes couldn’t be offered at the center without hiring a nursing director specifically for that campus, Jorgenson said.
The accrediting body now says the college may offer those nursing classes
under the direction of its director on the main campus. The arrangement is ideal because the Arkansas Children’s Northwest hospital, expected to open next year, will be a short walk from the center, Jorgenson said.
The majority of the center’s space will be dedicated to general education classes. Tim Cornelius, the college’s vice president of career and workforce education, said only about 15 percent of the space will be for health professions.
“We know the demand is there” for nurses, Cornelius said.
Classes for emergency medical technicians and health information management also will be held at the center, Cornelius said.
The college’s foundation is raising money for construction. The amount raised has remained at $3.6 million since November.
Meredith Brunen, the foundation’s former director, left for another job last fall. The college “lost momentum” on the fundraising campaign when Brunen left, Jorgenson said. Annetta Tirey, who had worked for Tyson Foods for 22 years, was hired to replace Brunen.
The foundation’s board recently approved hiring a consultant to help “re-energize and jump-start” the campaign, Jorgenson said.
The college is soliciting bids for architectural services for the center. Bids are due July 28. Jorgenson said she expects an architect will be chosen by the end of August.
“It will be nice to have the actual drawing of a building that we can go out and talk to donors about, and show them what that building would look like and what would be involved,” Jorgenson said.
The college enrolled 7,761 students during the fall 2016 semester. Of those students, 2,841, or 36.6 percent, lived in Washington County, according to college figures.