A GOCC transformation begins
CENTREVILLE — A major project launch more than three years in the making and the completion of another renovation project were unveiled to the community at Glen Oaks Community College Thursday morning.
In two presentations dubbed by the college as “Transformation X2,” Glen Oaks officially launched its long-awaited capital outlay project to renovate the north side of the college and cut the ceremonial ribbon on its newly-renovated automotive and welding labs to a group of around two dozen stakeholders, donors and business leaders.
The college’s estimated $7.3 million capital outlay project aims to renovate nearly everything in the E and F wings on the north side of the school, including the E.J. Shaheen Library, the art studio, classrooms, restrooms, and foyer, with new lighting, updated IT infrastructure, new entrance steps, new windows and doors, new fire alarms, a new electrical instruction lab and new metal siding to replace the current skin of the building. Almost half of the project – $3.475 million – is being paid for by the state, with the other $3.825 million being paid for by the college.
The project went out for bid on Oct. 10, with bids scheduled to be opened on Nov. 17.
“This project we’re launching has been three-plus years in the making,” Glen Oaks President Dr. David Devier said. “There’s been times when I really wasn’t sure we’d ever get here, but we’re here.”
In 2017, Glen Oaks’ Board of Trustees originally approved applying to the state for a capital outlay project to renovate both the original facility and the college’s technical building, which houses the welding and automotive labs. Devier said there were difficulties early on, including eliminating the south side of the building from the plan due to the state not wanting to support work on non-instructional facilities including the Nora Hagen Theater and many athletic areas, then having the original project vetoed along with a supplementary state budget bill in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latter issue Devier called the “biggest disappointment” in the process.
When it was approved again by the state in December 2020, the college hired Miller Davis, who had built the original facility in 1968-69, to be the construction management firm. The initial cost estimate the college got was $2.5 million more than their original estimate due to rising material costs, which caused the technical labs to be taken out of the scope, with the new scope having to be re-approved by the state legislature, which happened in late September 2021.
Devier noted that the new skin for the building would be the “most impressive expenditure” in the project.
“They’ve lived with bowed walls for more than 50 years, and it’ll be a wonderful feeling to have that not be what people recognize when they come to see us,” Devier said.
Board President Bruce Gosling and State Sen. Kim LaSata pulled back the veil on the renderings for the project, which showed what the outside of the building would look like, as well as multiple renderings of the new library.
Devier estimated the capital outlay project could take about a year to complete once it starts.
“I can assure you, you will be delighted,” Devier said. “I’m excited, and I hope you are too.”
After the ceremony for the capital outlay project, the group made its way down the hall to the automotive and welding labs for the ribbon cutting ceremony, which also marked the 50th anniversary of its original dedication. The labs, and the wing that houses them, were originally opened in 1971, a short time after the main college building opened.
The $350,000 renovation, which began in May, brought a new exterior of insulated metal panels provided by James Ware Construction of Sturgis, a completely re-painted interior and brand-new auto and welding classrooms. In addition, the renovation brought in 20 all-new welding booths and vacuum systems, new work bay tool cabinets, new student lockers, and new storage cabinets.
The welding booths and vacuum systems were installed using more than $87,000 in donations from local businesses, including TH Plastics, Morgan Olson, Sturgis Bank and Trust, Century Bank and Trust, and from other sources, including the Sturgis Community Foundation and retired St. Joseph County engineer Mike Elliot. HiTech Electric of Kalamazoo handled the updated electrical work.
“I’m so appreciative of the donors,” Devier said. “Without them, it would’ve been a huge stress for the college. For doing this for $350,000, we really got ‘er done.”
Devier reiterated how the particular project came to be in the first place.
“We removed this structure from the scope of the state project. So, we said we still can’t wait, we have to do something, we have got to improve it,” Devier said. “We got our heads together and started to figure out what it would take and how can we do it the Glen Oaks way using our own resources.”
Devier said work on decommissioning the two labs began right when the 2020-21 academic year finished in May, and called the overall project a “dramatic change.” The machining lab that used to be in the wing was moved to Sturgis High School in the process.
The ceremonial ribbon was cut by Larence O’Dell, the former secretary of the GOCC Board of Trustees when the wing was originally dedicated in 1971. Along with him on the ribbon were representatives from the different donors, as well as two students from the automotive program.
Overall, Devier said the tech wing renovation will help out the Career and Technical Education program in the county.
“This investment was made to help support CTE in St. Joseph County, and I think you’ll be impressed with what you’ll see,” Devier said. “It’s still a 50-year-old building, but it looks pretty amazing.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or email@example.com.