College lays out improvement plans

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s campus has evolved over the years, and more changes are in the works, according to the college’s 2012-18 Master Plan.

The plan calls for a wide variety of structural, design and technological improvement projects, and while FM President Dustin Swanger says the timeline is not set in stone, laying out a vision is paramount.

“When we put together the master plan, it is based on what we needed. We will worry about the funding after,” Swanger said. “It is important to just put the plans and vision down in an organized package so it can be referenced in the future.”

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Capital Projects Committee recently reviewed a proposed $800,000 technology upgrade project for 2014 that is also a part of FM’s master plan.

Swanger said the computer servers at the college are starting to fail, including the one that provides email services to faculty and staff.

He said the campus needs a major $800,000 technology upgrade. State and federal aid is expected to fund half the project, while the other half requires $200,000 contributions from each of the two sponsoring counties.

According to the capital plan technology upgrade project submitted by FMCC, phase one of the work is replacement and upgrade of a variety of campus technology and network equipment. Upgrades would occur in these areas: disaster recovery; classroom, laboratories and library technology; infrastructure and administrative computing. The project includes an upgrade of the FMCC Network Core and Datacenter and installation of a new desktop system.

The plan notes the college wants to “improve FM’s competitive positioning among a younger demographic, which tends to be web-oriented in their shopping and purchasing habits as a result of being highly connected and involved in social media in general.”

Swanger said students today often use the web for a variety of projects and presentations, so it is important the college is online, secure and well supported.

Swanger said the college hasn’t had a major project like this in 10 years, and the bandwidth has had to be increased three times since he came to the college about five years ago.

He also said he is aware funding is going to be tight in the next few years, but it is important for the college to move forward and envision the future.

Classroom changes

One of the projects that was originally a capital priority was design of Classroom Building renovations, but FM couldn’t receive grant funding for that proposal, so it has been postponed.

Included in those renovations are asbestos removal, updates to the science labs, lecture halls, bathrooms, office spaces and classrooms.

Swanger said the science labs have become extremely outdated, so the college hopes to bring them up to modern standards soon.

Several classrooms are too small for today’s class sizes, but fortunately these spaces are side by side so they could merged into larger classrooms by eliminating walls, according to the master plan.

The college is also looking to improve the lecture halls on campus by providing aisles that will make it easier to access the tables and power outlets so students can plug in their laptops during class.

As a safety precaution, the college wants to update its door-locking system as well. The campus now has a problem because many of the classroom doors can’t be locked from the inside in case of emergency, Swanger said. And those responding to a campus emergency might seek a master key, which currently doesn’t exist.

The college is planning to address the issue by developing a master key and installing classrooms with push-to-lock options on the inside of the door, Swanger said.

One of the bigger projects in the master plan is the renovation of the Evans Library.

The library design would be developed by an architect, but plans likely would consolidate the tutoring and learning center, provide more complete electronic resources and additional group or individual study spaces.

However, Swanger said, because of the magnitude of this project, the construction would take about a year, and the college would have to establish a temporary library location for that period.

He said the college is working to make the administrative building a one-stop location to meet all the students’ needs, and that could include moving the president’s office out of the building to create more space.

“I have a lot of space in there that may be better used,” Swanger said. “We also don’t have a whole lot of space on campus for large meetings or events.”

He said the college’s plan is to build a welcome or foundation house in the vacant field next to the administrative building.

He said the building would house the FM?Foundation office and the president’s office and would include a large room where a divider could be placed for board meetings and large community events.

Swanger said the building would have the appearance of a house to provide a welcoming feeling.

More signs

Another project the college will be working on is developing signs that will be placed throughout the campus to direct those not familiar with the college where certain buildings or venues are located.

The campus currently has a building directory along the front entrance off Route 67, but often when students or visitors come onto the campus for the first time, they find it difficult to navigate because of the lack of signs, Swanger said.

Also, lighting on the quad would be updated for safety after sunset. Swanger said the original lighting probably was designed for aesthetics rather than for the practical safety concerns of today.

He also said the plan will address the crumbling sidewalks in the quad because they pose a safety hazard.

The college also plans to change and redesign the college bookstore.

The bookstore is currently in an out-of-the-way spot:?the basement of the College Union. The plan calls for moving the bookstore to the larger space now used as a board meeting room in that building.

A larger bookstore could have more retail space for general supplies, FM memorabilia, shelves on wheels for the short book season and a technical support area for students having trouble with their laptops.

He said the present bookstore would become meeting space for the various clubs on campus.

The bulk of the work for these projects would have to fit into a May 15-to-Aug.-15 construction timeline because that is when the campus is least busy.

Many of the projects will need funding from the two sponsoring counties while others will be paid in part by the FM Foundation, state and federal grants and the Fulmont College Association.

Levi Pascher can be reached by email at [email protected].

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