The Blue Mountain Community College board proceeded Wednesday evening with preliminary plans to place a $26 million bond measure on the November 2013 ballot.

During the monthly meeting, the board approved paying expenses for a bond campaign, but won’t make the final call about putting a bond on the ballot until the community embraces the measure, said BMCC President John Turner.

“We want a significant amount of community input as we move forward,” Turner said. “The next step is forming a blue ribbon panel of Umatilla and Morrow county citizens to review the college’s tentative plans.”

The bond would fund a series of renovations to four BMCC campuses with Baker County, the only location with no planned improvements.

A recent poll by the Portland public opinion research firm Moore-Info revealed Baker voters wouldn’t support the measure, while it would likely pass in Umatilla and Morrow Counties. Robin Kreger of Moore-Info flashed graphs and pie charts onto a screen and explained the numbers to the board.

Kreger said the poll initially showed a lukewarm response among Umatilla and Morrow County voters, as well, with only 44 percent approval. However, once the voters learned the bond obligation would continue at the same rate as a bond that expires in 2014 — 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — the approval rate jumped to 60 percent. Baker County wasn’t part of the $15.75 million bond approved in 1998, the likely reason 46 percent of Baker respondents rejected the idea, Kreger said.

In Umatilla and Morrow Counties, money was an issue for the 40 percent of respondents who said they would reject a bond measure.

“The main reason people said no was overwhelmingly economic,” she said. “Fully 60 percent who said ‘no’ say they are against higher taxes and can’t afford it.”

The plan includes about $3.3 million for a proposed animal sciences center that would allow the college to become only the second Oregon community college to offer a veterinary technician program. The state would provide another $3.3 million in capital construction bonds.

Another $4.5 million would transform Pioneer Hall into a student oasis with an array of services and a variety of nooks and crannies for studying and socializing. The college library, theater and pool would also get makeovers. Bond proceeds would fund about $9 million to update aging air handling units and refurbish electrical, natural gas, water and energy management systems. The Hermiston campus would receive a $1 million upgrade that would increase safety by creating one main entrance and corridor to replace separate outdoor entrances to classrooms.

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0810.

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