Friday, May 7, 2021
May 7, 2021

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State budget invests in Southwest Washington schools, community

WSUV, Washington School for the Deaf, Clark College to receive millions for projects

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The Legislature passed a $6.3 billion capital budget Saturday, cementing a plan that includes major investments in Southwest Washington’s community and schools.

The biennial budget, which passed the House and the Senate unanimously, includes three major line items for local education facilities: $58.9 million for a new Clark College satellite campus in northern Clark County; $52.6 million for a new life sciences building at Washington State University Vancouver; and $55.1 million to the Washington School for the Deaf for a new academic and physical education building.

The Clark College satellite location will be built on the school’s Boschma Farms campus, a 70-acre plot acquired by the college in 2014. According to Kelly Love, Clark College’s chief communications officer, the north campus will be comparable to the school’s existing Columbia Tech Center satellite in east Vancouver.

Once completed, the 70,000-square-foot building will house general education and Running Start students as well as advanced manufacturing classes.

Assuming Gov. Jay Inslee signs the budget, Clark College is ready to break ground in the fall, Love said.

“We’ve already gone through the pre-design phase; we’ve already done the bulk of the work,” Love said. “We’ve been working with our partners in Ridgefield for many years now, and it’s always been a continued act of faith that eventually we would be in a place to receive the funding.”

According to a media release, Clark College’s 50-year plan for the site includes a six-building campus encompassing health and science labs, professional and career training space, faculty offices, study areas and student services.

Washington State Vancouver’s Life Sciences Building was identified as a major priority in 2003, and the institution received $4 million in the 2019-21 biennial budget to start the detailed planning.

The university’s previous request described its vision for a 60,000-square-foot building to house teaching and research labs for STEM students.

“Basic wet labs supporting chemistry, biology, and physics are at or over capacity, which precludes growth in STEM and health-related fields unless there are new facilities,” the application document stated.

The Washington School for the Deaf identified the need for an improved physical education and academic building several years ago. In a 2019 predesign report, the school said that its existing facilities are outdated and as a result the faculty struggled to meet the needs of many students.

“Except for limited projects supporting residential and student life, the campus has had no new academic buildings on campus in over three decades. The available academic facilities on campus are outdated or unsafe and do not adequately support the kinds of instruction envisioned by the Legislature,” the report stated.

In a February 2021 request for bids, the school detailed its plan for the new 60,000-square-foot building.

“The new building will create a new center of campus,” the document states. “The project consolidates all grades in a single building that has purpose-designed learning environments to maximize effective bilingual instruction to deaf and hard of hearing students.”

Other major regional investments that made it into the capital budget include:

  • $4.7 million for the redevelopment of Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1;
  • $2.29 million for restoration of the West Biddle Lake Dam near Columbia Springs in Vancouver;
  • $2.05 million for Family Solutions, a children’s mental health facility in Vancouver;
  • $2.04 million for the Fourth Plain Community Commons project;
  • $2 million for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation in Woodland;
  • $2 million for the Wisdom Ridge Business Park in Ridgefield;
  • $1.75 million for Vancouver’s Tenny Creek Assisted Living;
  • $1.5 million for the Brezee Creek Culvert replacement and East Fourth Street widening in La Center;
  • $1.35 million for the IT3 Discovery Center in Ridgefield;
  • $1.24 million for improvements to La Center City Hall;
  • $1 million for the demolition of the old Red Lion Hotel at The Quay, part of Terminal 1 at the Port of Vancouver;
  • $1 million for the relocation of the Battle Ground HealthCare Free Clinic.

The capital budget that passed the Legislature, Substitute House Bill 1080, was sent to Inslee on Monday. He’s expected to sign it next week.

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