McHenry County College is moving forward with plans to look at the feasibility of a public-private partnership to build a $42 million health sciences center.
The board unanimously voted Thursday night to hire Power Wellness Management, of Addison, to conduct a $50,000 study, including $15,000 to look at whether a vacant building in the county can be renovated for the project. In that case, MCC President Vicky Smith said, the project's cost might be less than $42 million.
The study will identify potential partners, including hospitals, YMCAs and school districts, to build a center that would hold classroom and lab space for health care and biological sciences programs, plus services such as a wellness center, rehabilitation and therapy services, disease management and more.
Trustee Ron Parrish cautioned that he didn't want this to be a "justification study."
"My concern is that this is a big $42 million deal," Parrish said. Parrish was chosen to serve on the study's committee, with Trustee Barbara Walters as an alternate.
"I really don't want this to be a quick pass by," Parrish said. "I don't think anyone wants that here," board chairwoman Mary Miller replied.
MCC spokeswoman Christina Haggerty said the initial proposal for the study indicated tuition would not increase because of the project.
"The goal is to not further burden the taxpayers," adding that possible funding methods include fund equity, philanthropy/donor support, debt certificates, and alternative revenue bonds.
Smith said the college will not ask voters for a property tax increase via referendum. Also, the final cost to the college is expected be less than $42 million after alternate funding sources are identified, she said.
Resident Stephen Willson, of Lakewood, told the board he opposes the notion of using alternate revenue bonds. If the college does that, he will "personally lead the charge" to put the issue on the ballot, and file a class-action lawsuit, said Willson, a self-employed bond analyst.
Willson also questioned whether the health center is needed. "I would call the program a cruel hoax on the students who were unable to obtain jobs after graduation," he said.
But based on data about future jobs, college officials determined that health care programs are needed, Smith said. "There will be jobs. Not only in McHenry County, but in Kane, Cook, Boone and Lake county. We would have some programs that no other community college has in our surrounding area," Smith said.
Centegra Health System is planning to build a 128-bed hospital in Huntley that is expected to take patients in 2016. There are also several health care/hospital expansions and partnerships in progress in northern Illinois, Haggerty said.
Officials anticipate the study will be presented to the board in February.