College board approves environmental study

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

The Cloud County Community College Board of Trustees approved moving forward with an environmental study regarding the wind turbines Tuesday night – provided the bid that has been received is actually the lowest.
Bob Maxson, vice president for administrative services, recommended the Board sign an agreement for $24,050 with HDR Environmental Operations and Construction to perform a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study. The study is required by the Department of Energy so the college can receive its $984,000 grant, which had been put on hold when the Federal Aviation Administration placed a determination of hazard on two of the college's wind turbines. Now that the turbines have been scheduled to be lowered, the college can move forward with the process to receive the grant funds.
Maxson said Kurt Rautenstrauch will be responsible for completing the current NEPA study –  the same person who had initially begun the process several years ago. The study was terminated in 2011 when the turbines were determined by the FAA to be a hazard. Because Rautenstrauch already has some of the information needed for the study, the price tag is much cheaper than it normally would be.
Maxson said these types normally cost between $50,000 and $100,000.
"We expected it to be much higher because normally they are, but because he's done some work on it, it's much less," Maxson said.
Even though the bid was so much less than expected, Trustee Roger Koester said he didn't know if it was a good price because the project wasn't sent to bid.
"I'm still not on board without having bids," Koester said. "I don't feel 100 percent comfortable with it."
Maxson said he would be willing to make some calls to see if there were other entities that could do the work, and how much it would cost.
President Danette Toone suggested the board approve the contract with the condition that staff would seek out an additional bid. If that bid is lower, she said, it would be brought to the board next month for approval. If it is higher, she will go ahead and sign the contract with HDR for the study.
In other turbine news, Maxson said the company that will be lowering the two Northwind turbines will complete the work in mid-January, rather than this week. He said there were manufacturing issues with the new shorter sections of the turbines, and MUTI rejected the parts.
The company will be here the week of Jan. 15 to install the new sections, and Wind Energy Technology students will help with the work.
In personnel items, the board voted to not renew the contract of head volleyball coach Marquis Clark, effective Dec. 31. Clark also teaches, on a part-time basis, and Human Resources Director Chris Wilson, said that is not related to his coaching contract. In not renewing his coaching contract, the board authorized the administration to fill the position.
The board approved renewing the contracts of Steve Ralos, head men's and women's soccer coach, for the 2012-2013 contract year. The contract of David Merica, director of information technology was extended to June 30, 2013.
During her president's message, Toone updated board members on allegations made against the college in a blog on "The Chronicle of Higher Education" web site. Earlier this month, the site published an article detailing how college athletes used Western Oklahoma State College to take 10-day classes to help maintain NCAA eligibility.
The article stated, "A handful of others – most prominently Cloud County Community College in Kansas, and Adams State University, in Colorado – also offer fast-paced courses that help students stay eligible for sports. Players from the University of Maryland, Colorado State University, and many Western colleges have taken online classes from those institutions."
Because Cloud's name was mentioned, the Higher Learning Commission has asked the college to provide information on courses offered in a format of less than five weeks, how many students have taken those classes, and how their grades compared to those received by students enrolled in longer-format classes.
Toone said she has spoken with the author of the article, who said he did not have any documentation for his claims.
"The author did not contact anyone at Cloud County Community College," Toone said. "He had no information about Cloud other than anecdotal information they thought they had gathered."
Toone said the administration will be complying with the Higher Learning Commission's request.
He didn't have information that we were teaching 10-day classes like the college in Oklahoma, and the implication of the article is we were doing that. That is not something we have ever done. Unfortunately, because we have a quality program and people take classes from us, that got our name mentioned."
The next board of trustees meeting will be Dec. 18, due to the Christmas holiday.

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