L'ANSE - The fate of the former Baraga County Memorial Hospital building has been debated ever since BCMH opened its new hospital in May 2011, but the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College is inching closer to formally acquiring the vacant building in downtown L'Anse.
"It'd be a wonderful deal for us rather than us spending half a million to tear it down," BCMH CEO Tim Zwickey said. "We're not going to heat it another winter."
The door opened for the KBOCC to more aggressively pursue acquiring the building after Baraga County voters twice rejected a millage proposal to move county courthouse functions to the building.
"We're hoping to acquire the hospital by the fall," KBOCC President Debbie Parrish said. "Right now we're working on a base plan from all of our departments. Once we get those plans, then we can take a look at what we would actually be using in the former hospital and looking to renovate the hospital to meet those needs."
The KBOCC currently enrolls 119 students, but it hopes to grow to 300 in the next few years with the addition of business, fine arts and Native American studies two-year associate's degrees.
At its regular meeting Thursday, the college's board of regents started to put together a budget for possibly taking over the building and discussed bid proposals for replacing the boiler at the former hospital. The tribal college, which has $875,000 in U.S. Department of Education Tribal College and University Title III program grant funding to use, also expects to complete an environmental assessment on the building.
"We're just trying to make a decision based on budgetary concerns," Parrish said.
BCMH is doing the same: Zwickey is comparing the costs of demolition with the market appraisal value of the building.
"We have no costs back on those yet but (the building) is going to be given to (the KBOCC) if they want it," Zwickey said.
Discussion has also surfaced at public meetings about KBOCC leasing space to Gogebic Community College and other interested entities, though, according to Zwickey and Parrish, no formal discussions have taken place.
"Those were just discussion points at a meeting with the county, the village of L'Anse and other interested parties," Parrish said. "We haven't even contacted Gogebic until we know what our space plan needs are."
KBOCC is potentially interested in pursuing a business incubator option, similar to the Michigan Technology Enterprise Corp. SmartZone. Parrish and other KBOCC representatives toured the MTEC SmartZone's Jutila Center to get ideas, but until space needs are known, condominiumizing is just an idea.
While the college hopes to have the hospital by the fall, boiler replacement could take several months.
"We probably won't be looking at occupying it until next spring," Parrish said. "Then we wouldn't move all of it until after final renovations, which will probably be about two years."