Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Governor presents $1.3M to Montgomery College

State check completes funding for new Cultural Arts Center at Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) talks with Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter during a Thursday press conference announcing funding for the final phase of construction on the college’s Cultural Arts Center to be located on the Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) presented a nearly $1.3 million check to Montgomery College on Thursday afternoon to complete funding for a Cultural Arts Center on the Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus.

The presentation also marked the end of the search for funding sources for a decade-long, $143 million campus expansion project that resulted in four new buildings and a pedestrian bridge joining the Silver Spring and Takoma Park campuses.

The last piece, the Cultural Arts Center, will be located near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and East West Highway and is expected to open for classes by early 2009.

‘‘We’re not here to mark the end. This is just the beginning,” O’Malley said, adding that despite ‘‘budget battles” on the horizon, the state was heading toward a ‘‘much brighter future.”

The funding, totaling $1.275 million, will pay for furniture and equipment, said college spokesman Steve Simon. The total cost of the center was $31.3 million, jointly funded by the county and the state. The 58,000 square feet of space will include two performance arts venues — one 500-seat music and dance auditorium used primarily for rental space, and one 100-seat theater used mainly for classes — an art gallery, multimedia classrooms and faculty offices.

The only project in the expansion not funded by the county and the state was the $33 million Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Art Center, which was paid for by revenue bonds, student fees and the college’s foundation. That center will be completed later this year.

‘‘To what was once the oldest campus ... it is now in some ways the newest campus,” college President Brian Johnson said Thursday.

College officials reminded the governor and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) that the campuses in Rockville and Germantown needed money to start their own much-anticipated projects.

The Rockville Science Center, which Johnson called a ‘‘sorely needed, well-planned project,” requires $30 million to begin construction; $5 million is needed for the initial design of the Bioscience and Education Center in Germantown, which could cost up to $60 million, said Elizabeth Homan, a spokeswoman for the college.

Brad Stewart, vice president and provost of the Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus, said he looked ‘‘forward to continuing to work with the governor, and the state legislature, to fund other needs of Takoma Park,” including the renovation of the aging buildings on his campus. Stewart said he hoped to see a significant renovation of the college’s Commons Building within the next few years. The funding request for that project has been before the County Council unsuccessfully numerous times.

‘‘It’s an aging college, but it’s one that continues to grow in enrollment. ... It has a lot of needs as far as capital projects,” Simon said.

Stewart said all three of the campuses were ‘‘on the same team” as far as asking for more funding from the county and the state. He has also been open to joint funding opportunities with Takoma Park.

At a City Council meeting April 23, Stewart came to Takoma Park officials with a suggestion to both renovate Falcon Hall, the college’s gymnasium, and provide another usable space for the community.

‘‘There’s been all this discussion about how you can’t afford a gymnasium. Well, we have one, and it needs renovation,” Stewart told the council that night.

Following the check presentation Thursday, O’Malley said he would rely on Montgomery County delegates to the General Assembly to determine priorities on the three campuses.

‘‘Every college, every community college in Maryland, has an extensive wish list,” he said.