NEO A&M College is about to embark on a $13 million facility improvement project for several of the campus' older buildings.
MIAMI — It’s Plan B for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, according to President Dr. Jeff Hale.
And that’s not entirely bad.
FEMA’s new proposed flood plain maps will move the base flood plain level up an additional five feet which will effectively halt new construction on the main campus.
That doesn’t mean projects will completely go on hold.
All of the new projects over the past several years on the east side of the campus (fronting Tar Creek) — the Miami Multi-Purpose Sports Complex at Red Robertson Field upgrade, two new housing units, Glen Wolfe Student Activity Center, the wrestling and baseball/softball facilities and the Nursing Science building — had been built on elevated pads in an attempt to avert the flooding that wreaked havoc in 2007.
“We’ve made the commitment, made the decision, over the course of the next three years to take our main classroom buildings (Shipley, Able, Copen, the D.D. Creech Library-Administration buildings and Fine Arts Center) and reequip those because these are our main classroom buildings,” said Hale, who is heading into his 11th school year.
He said every December for the next three years, one or two of those buildings will be closed down and new heat and air units, roofs and windows installed as part of a $13 million plan.
Hale said security measures for those buildings will be a primary focus of attention.
The Fine Arts Center will be the last to be overhauled since faculty, staff and classrooms can be relocated there.
However, the FAC will be getting a new roof within the next 30 days, Hale said.
The first project tackled will be Copen Hall.
Hale said each project is expected to be completed in time for the start of the new school year.
Each overhaul will be done during the spring semester and summer since there are fewer students in the spring semester.
“That gives us a chance to manage the relocation of our faculty and students,” Hale said.
“For the next two or three years, we are really going to focus on getting those old classroom buildings back up to speed because we will need them for another 50 years,” he said. “Unless we take care of the infrastructure in those buildings, eventually we will render them useless and they will turn into an old Kah-Ne Hall, which was a document storage building when I arrived in 2008.”
However, Kah-Ne-You-Ah Hall was completely refurbished in 2012 and now is home of the Charles Banks Wilson Art & Cultural Center and the NEO art department.
He said the Dobson-Harrell dormitories receive almost yearly attention.
“We know we are just going to have to continue to chip away on the old dormitories, because now we are not likely to build any more on the main campus,” Hale said.
In the master plan, another three units were to be constructed on the southeast corner of the campus.
“Our growth, if there is a need for additional classroom or dormitory facilities, is likely to be out at the farm (Harry Synar Farm east of the campus),” Hale said. “You can create a campus center out there for sure. There is a lot of room and none of it is in the flood plane. We do have a backup option. I wouldn’t say it is ideal, but it’s not insane. You could put dormitories and classroom buildings out there. A great deal of planning and coordination would be required since Synar Farm is a working farm and home to the NEO Aggies and heavily used by the surrounding communities.”
Also on the horizon are construction of a soccer complex and an upgrade to Homa Thomas Field, home of the Golden Norse baseball team.
An athletic honors plaza in the south end zone at Robertson Field, anchored by a statue honoring Steve Owens, will be nearing completion during the fall semester.
A statue honoring Owens, a former Miamian who won the Heisman Trophy in 1969 as a senior at the University of Oklahoma, will be dedicated Nov. 2.
NEO will kick off its centennial campaign in March 2019.
Details on that will be announced at a later date.
Adding to the positive news is that Northeastern A&M is one of only four community colleges and three universities in the past decade that has shown a growth in its 10-year comparison of annual full-time equivalent by institution.
From the 2007-08 school year to 2016-17, NEO has had a growth of 214 FTE (13.9 percent) under the report compiled by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
Connors State College at Warner, OSU-Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Community College were the only others among the state’s 14 two-year schools that had upward ticks.
“No rural school in the last decade grew their ‘business’ more than NEO,” Hale said. “Out of the 25 schools in two categories (regional and community college) NEO was third behind OSU-OKC and UCO (University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond), both big metropolitan areas.”
Hale said those numbers show that the vision, strategy and effort have worked better than all of our rural peers in Oklahoma over the last decade.