State budget approval paves the way for new West Hills site in Firebaugh

From West Hills College
Rendering of the new West Hills College facility in Firebaugh.
Rendering of the new West Hills College facility in Firebaugh.
Courtesy West Hills College District

When Gov. Brown signed the 2017-18 budget on Tuesday (June 27), it brought more positive news to the West Hills Community College District. The state’s budget passage meant that a shovel-ready West Hills building project in Firebaugh now has the funding it needs to move forward.

The long-anticipated project means students from the norther-most part of the local community college district will have new classroom space in their own back yard.

A total of $16.9 million in Proposition 51 bond funds was budgeted for community college facilities projects as part of the 2017-2018 budget, including the building of a brand new 28,000 sq. ft. North District Center in Firebaugh.

The new building would replace the current center, a former bowling alley purchased and extensively renovated by the West Hills Community College District in 1998.

“I would like to thank the taxpayers for their continued patience and faith in this project,” said Dr. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District. “We are dedicated to expanding educational opportunities and thank the community for its continued support of our efforts in Firebaugh and the surrounding communities. I would also like to thank Governor Brown for approving the state budget and allowing our project to move forward.”

State budget approval paves the way for new West Hills site in Firebaugh

The funding for the new center is thanks to the passage of Proposition 51 by voters during the Nov. 2016 election and the passage of Measure Q in 2008. A new center for Firebaugh has been planned since 2008, when the $11.8 million Measure Q was approved by 70 percent of voters, but was delayed by several factors including the 2008 recession.

The new North District Center would be double the size of the current 11,764 sq. ft. center and offer a variety of new opportunities for students and the community. The spacious new center would include state-of-the-art science, art and computer labs, study areas, expanded classroom space, a library for students and the community and community gathering spaces.

Several local universities have also expressed interest in participating in a university center at the new facility.

“We are a forward-thinking district that is committed to providing the best educational opportunities to our service area,” said Dr. Stuart Van Horn, WHCCD Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Workforce Development. “We’re innovative and forward thinking and all of that will be reflected in this new state-of-the art facility.”

The new center, most importantly, would also expand the educational opportunities available in Firebaugh with more space for new programs and training.

The new center would be located on land already secured by the district on Ninth St. in Firebaugh.

“This is a win-win for the entire Westside of Fresno County,” said Jack Minnite, WHCCD Board of Trustees member for Area 2, which includes Firebaugh. “This is huge and has been a long time coming. It will be a real economic and education contribution to Firebaugh and the surrounding areas. The impact of West Hills College is just going to continue to grow.”

Minnite also said the building of a new center could be an economic boon for the community as well, generating construction jobs and potentially attracting new businesses and companies to the area.


Comments powered by Disqus