The Southwestern Illinois College Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved spending $809,000 toward plans to develop the space between the original campus building and the new liberal arts complex as well as the corner of Illinois 161 and Greenmount Road.
The money, according to SWIC vice president of administrative services Bernie Ysursa, is the school's share of the Illinois Community College Board capital development fund that community colleges across the state share. It has been collecting since the 2010 fiscal year.
"A lot of community colleges hang on to that money for a few years and let it build up so they can use it to do a bigger project," Ysursa said. "That's what we're planning to do."
SWIC spokesman Mike Fleming said the cash will be used for infrastructure work on the area between the buildings where a stage where concerts, plays and other cultural events could be held. It will include grading, improvement of draining and the addition of sidewalks and ramps to make the area compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Ysursa said there isn't enough to build the stage area or do other finishing work. He added that the project, originally presented in June by the Ittner Architects firm, is still in its planning stages so school leaders don't yet have a total price tag for the project.
"We're going to use this money to see how far we can get and then go from there," Ysursa said.
Fleming called the work "the ground floor" of the project. He said it will put SWIC in position to move on to the second stage of the work when plans are finalized.
"We've saved this money and it's available," Fleming said. "So it will be a good first step."
Other features of the proposal include landscaping that would turn a water retention pond into a more natural looking feature and a monument with the SWIC snow leopard mascot perched at the top. At the base of the monument would be a message board with a 4-foot-tall scrolling lighted sign.
In other business Wednesday:
* SWIC President Georgia Costello recognized school public safety officer Sgt. Christie Rasmussen who was named St. Clair County CENCOM Telecommunications Officer of the Month in November for her effort to successfully convince a suicidal teenage girl not to take her life and to meet with police officers who could help her.
* Trustees adopted a policy in wake of Illinois passing concealed carry legislation that bans the possession of firearms on campus. Concealed carry permit holders must keep their weapon in a locked container out of plain view at any college facility or event or in a college vehicle.
* The school's no smoking policy was expanded to ban the use of e-cigarettes or any other objects that simulate "visual, sensory or behavioral aspects of smoking."
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2626.