PRESTONSBURG — If a request by the Big Sandy Community and Technical College Board of Directors is approved and funded, the college’s dental program could move from Prestonsburg to the Mayo campus in Johnson County in a few years. 

During a meeting on Dec. 4, the board unanimously approved a strategic needs analysis to seek funding and approval from the state for that move, as well as several other projects BSCTC officials hope to complete over the next few years. The plan was approved as part of the college’s biennial budget request process. 

Collectively, the funding requests for these projects are expected to total more than $28.2 million, with the projects scheduled to span from 2020 through 2023.

Chief Financial Officer Michelle Meek presented the proposals ranked in order of priority for the college’s needs.

The first request was a $1.5 million plan to upgrade and renovate the welding shop on the Mayo campus, a project that the college plans for the 2020-2021 budget cycle.

Meek said the shop is “very outdated.” 

“The current facility is inadequate,” she said. “The shop was constructed in the 1950s and has had no facility upgrades since its construction.”

Documents provided to the board say that the welding shop is inadequate in regards to space, ventilation, lighting and electrical availability, making it difficult to accommodate current and anticipated enrollment there.

The dental program expansion ranked second on the list of priorities and it’s slated for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Meek said the college is seeking a $3 million grant for the project. She said moving the dental program from Prestonsburg to the Mayo Campus would provide more space to expand the program and upgrade equipment. 

Documents provided to the board say that expansion would provide adequate space, updated equipment and other needs that are required by federal laws and the college’s accreditation guidelines.

The dental program change was the only needs assessment proposal that prompted questions from board members. Myra Elliott, dean of academic affairs, told them that the Mayo campus has the infrastructure needed.

“We’re wanting to expand it to a teaching, I mean, a testing center as well, and the facility at Mayo already has the water supply and things under the floor, so it was a cheaper way for us to build there, for one thing. But the space is just perfect,” she said. 

The third project on the list of priorities is a proposed $20 million project for preventative maintenance and preservation of facilities at BSCTC. 

If state funds are awarded for this project in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, BSCTC plans to upgrade HVAC systems on all campuses, replace six roofs and make other renovations and repairs. The plan also calls for upgrade to the sewage waste disposal plant and filtration system at Hager Hill, Meek reported.

The final project approved as part of the needs assessment is a plan to upgrade infrastructure, safety and technology at BSCTC. The college will seek $3.7 million in state funding for this project in 2022-2023. If approved, the funds will be used to upgrade infrastructure, sidewalks, parking lots, security systems and technology at all campuses. 

BSCTC programs, accomplishments highlighted

During the meeting, the board also approved seeking approval to add the Mountain Arts Center and local high schools as off-site teaching facilities. The college plans to offer a certificate program in recording, sound engineering and related industries at the MAC and certified nurse aid programs at local schools. 

BSCTC President/CEO Dr. Sherry Zylka gave an update on several programs and accomplishments BSCTC has realized since her tenure began in January.

She said the college will be offering new programs in its sustainable agricultural certificate program, beginning next in the spring, with the first course being a dual credit program with Johnson Central High School. 

She said the SkillsU grant has expanded into two counties, with Elliott saying the department has just opened on the Pikeville campus, with staff interviews underway, and is fully functional now in Magoffin County.

The SkillsU program is an adult education program that also helps people who are working to obtain their GED get into the workforce. Elliott said participants will be employed and getting their GED at the same time.

The board recognized Kelli Chaney, head of the college’s workforce program who was recently hired as president of a college in Tennessee.

“So, we’re sad to see her go, but we’re proud of her and all that she’s accomplished,” Dr. Zylka said.

Chaney talked about the Digital Careers Now program, for which BSCTC, Southeast Community & Technical College and Hazard Community & Technical College received a $3.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. The program is geared to train people for remote jobs in healthcare, information technology and other careers.

Several other programs were also highlighted, including the college’s CDL truck driving program, which Zylka said had a 100 percent pass rate.

Zylka also praised student services staff for reducing the college’s default rates.

She explained that community colleges risk losing federal funding if they have a default rate of 30 percent or more for three years or more. She reported that Southeast Community & Technical College “was in that position” but got assistance from US Senator Mitch McConnell “so that the school wouldn’t close down.”

She said BSCTC’s default rate at has been “hovering” at 28 and 29 percent, and she challenged student services staff to get it under 25 percent.

The default rate is now 24.3 percent, she reported, saying, “A lot of hard work went into it; a lot of attention was paid to it.” 

Board members commended the effort.

During the meeting, John Herald, dean of IT and facilities, talked about a consulting group that evaluated emergency and utilities services at the college. He reported BSCTC could save $406,000 annually to make energy efficiency improvements that include upgrades to lighting, HVAC and other areas at all campuses. As part of the project, solar panels will be installed on the Johnson Building on the Prestonsburg campus, he said. BSCTC will use the savings it realizes from the program to repay a $5 million loan over a 14-year period, he said.

Meek presented a financial report, detailing the college’s unrestricted fund balance — highlighting funds used for operations at BSCTC. 

The report shows the college gained 60 percent of the revenue it has budgeted for the 2019 fiscal year and spent about 42 percent of it. The balance was more than $21.8 million as of Nov. 30, Meek reported, and the college has received more than $13.7 million in revenues and spent about $8.8 million. 

“I think we are on target. We’re doing well,” she said. She expressed concern about a decrease of about $600,000 in fall tuition revenue, saying that it’s too early to tell what the enrollment in spring will be.

Meek also reported that the college has about $2.4 million in it’s prior year fund, and officials spent more than $435,000 of those funds to address some non-recurring instructional needs that were not addressed in the BSCTC budget. 

Explaining how the college determines its funding priorities, Zylka said “money’s still tight,” and talked about how officials are looking at the how population declines and outmigration in the region could impact enrollment. She said programs like SkillsU will help address the issue, as well as other programs the college offers.

Zylka presented a request to the board of regents this week to get approval to name the new technology center in Pikeville in honor of Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers. She said a ceremony probably won’t be held until Feb. or March, depending on Rogers’ schedule.

Johnson County resident Kayla Rice, who works in the college’s admissions and records department, was sworn in as a new board member at the meeting. Philip Elswick was re-elected as chair; Karen Sellers was elected as vice chair and Lisa Kirk was elected as secretary. 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.