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DMACC plans improvements at crowded campuses


It will be several months before Des Moines Area Community College’s leaders and students formalize a plan for how to spend $8.8 million budgeted for improvements at its Ankeny campus, and DMACC officials have much more to consider before then.

The college, which is currently expanding the culinary arts and automotive technology buildings on its main campus in Ankeny, also plans to hold two open houses at that campus this month for two recently completed laboratories, one being the state Division of Criminal Investigation forensics lab and the other an electronic crime lab used by investigators in Greater Des Moines.

In addition, DMACC is in the process of completing a $5 million expansion at its Boone campus, finalizing plans for a $4.8 million career academy in Story County and exploring the possibility of expanding its services into underserved areas. It’s a lot for DMACC President Robert Denson to keep tabs on.

“There is $8.8 million identified in the facilities construction budget for the Ankeny campus, but it’s not something that we’ve been able to give much time to at this point,” Denson said. “We are basically out of space in Ankeny, so we need to get after it.”

Since 1999, DMACC’s six campuses have set enrollment records each year. Two-thirds of its more than 15,000 students attend classes at the Ankeny campus, and this past fall, classroom space was so scarce that the school moved some of its classes offsite into leased space atUpper Iowa University’s new Ankeny center.

“Most of the vocational programs are full,” Denson said. “Our ag department needs better space, and the nursing program needs more space because there is such a demand for health-care workers. And auto repair and auto body and more lab space for science courses are also needed.”

Relief will be coming to some programs on the Ankeny campus in the near future. DMACC has received a grant from General Motors Corp. for an addition to Building 13, which houses automotive courses, and Building 7, where the culinary arts program is located, is undergoing a $1.5 million renovation. Also, the state Future Farmers of America Foundation recently made an agreement with the college to build its 72,000- square-foot headquarters and FFA Enrichment Center on the Ankeny campus, which will provide classroom space for DMACC students.

“The FFA is planning to raise all the money themselves, and we’ll be able to use some of the space during the week when they’re not using it,” Denson said. “It’s a great cooperative venture.”

One suggestion for improvements to the Ankeny campus was presented in February by Kim Linduska, DMACC’s vice president of academic affairs. Linduska shared ideas that originated from a deans’ group retreat earlier in the year, which included suggestions for connecting some of the buildings located in the central part of the campus.

“It’s an idea that would be very popular in the wintertime and might allow some good use of space, but it’s still too early to say if this is the direction we’ll take,” Denson said.

The possibility of purchasing some of Iowa State University’s 1,100-acre research farm when it goes up for sale also gives DMACC leaders more to consider. The city of Ankeny is currently working with a planning firm to decide on the best use of the land, which is north and west of the DMACC campus.

“We are interested in exploring the purchase of some of that land, if we can afford it, so that we would have it available if we ever really wanted to expand,” Denson said. “We do a lot of programs with the (Ankeny) high school, and that would be a good space for us to do a joint career academy on that land.”

Denson said DMACC is also watching its Urban and West campuses closely, and expects the latter to be full by 2007, Denson said.

“We also have $3 million in our 10-year plan for expansion on the West campus, and we’re hoping to do some private fund raising and hopefully be able to build out of that,” he said.

Shortfalls in state funding have created challenges for DMACC and other Iowa community colleges trying to keep up with the growing demand for their offering, Denson said. Eventually, he would like DMACC to add more programs in underserved parts of its service area, including Perry, Indianola and the south side of Des Moines.

“We have 6,556 square miles in our territory, which covers all or parts of 23 counties,” Denson said. “There’s a lot more that we would like to be able to do, and there are some very hopeful signs this year between state aid, the (Grow Iowa) Values Fund and other legislation, that we will have more funding after this session.”

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