FAIRFIELD — Maine Community College System officials are hoping voters will support Question 5 on the Nov. 6 ballot, which proposes a $15 million bond to upgrade facilities at each of the state’s seven community colleges, including Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield.

“In the past, we’ve been successful with the voters,” Maine Community College System President Derek Langhauser said. “I think the voters understand that the community colleges are a very good value: the low cost access to the education, and the high quality of the education, and then its high return. Our graduates get jobs, and they get jobs at a higher wage rate than if they did not pursue the education. And everybody wins.”

Langhauser’s comments came Wednesday after a celebration on KVCC’s Hinckley campus, where the school and Central Maine Power welcomed a new, expanded home for the longstanding electrical lineworker technology program.

According to a Question 5 overview provided by the community college system, the $15 million bond, if approved, would be divided among Maine’s seven community college campuses. Kennebec Valley would receive nearly $2.2 million to renovate and expand industrial trade classrooms and laboratories, along with information technology infrastructure, heating, and ventilation upgrades and energy-efficiency investments.

Anne Lagassey, KVCC’s dean of finance and administration, said the bond proceeds would allow the school to re-evaluate and renovate the space on the Fairfield campus vacated by the lineworker program in its move to Hinckley.

“All of the KVCC trades programs have crucial roles in readying students to enter the workforce with specific knowledge and skills that are highly sought after by employers,” said Lagassey, who noted that the newly available space in KVCC’s Frye Building provides new opportunities for the school’s other trade programs, including welding, precision machining, plumbing and energy, electrical technology, applied electronics and computer technology.

“We’re going to build out that industrial trade space, and welding space and HVAC space, and use that for occupation education,” Langhauser said about KVCC’s potential share of the bond. “Those are high-demand jobs in the state, good-paying jobs. And we’re going to work hard to try to produce more graduates, so more graduates have the benefit of that economic opportunity, and more businesses have the benefit of getting more skilled workers.”

The bond’s $15 million would be shared by each of Maine’s seven community colleges on a pro-rated basis determined by enrollment, according to Langhauser. The community college system’s Question 5 overview outlines how those funds would be distributed.

Central Maine Community College, in Auburn, would receive more than $2.5 million for renovations, expansion and improved energy efficiency, including upgrades to its nursing simulation laboratories and automotive technology wing and classrooms.

Eastern Maine Community College, in Bangor, would receive more than $2.2 million for IT upgrades and a conversion of heating systems to natural gas, along with other energy measures.

Northern Maine Community College, in Presque Isle, would receive nearly $1.2 million to expand its diesel hydraulics laboratory, renovate classrooms and make IT and energy upgrades.

Southern Maine Community College, in South Portland, would receive more than $4.2 million for repairs, renovations, IT upgrades, library services and energy efficiency measures.

Washington County Community College, in Calais, would receive more than $885,000 to renovate and expand laboratories, upgrade IT, and make investments in instructional technologies.

York County Community College, in Wells, would receive more than $1.7 million to support the school’s Sanford Instructional Site, home to YCCC’s precision machining program, along with IT upgrades.

Langhauser said the community college system last came to the voters for a bond in November 2013. That bond, which totaled $15.5 million, passed easily, with 65 percent voting for it.

“We come up in a bonding cycle about every five years, and the last time we went to the voters was in 2013, for just about $15 million,” Langhauser said. “We had a very successful outcome that year.”

The Maine House of Representatives voted 135-8 in July in support of the bonding bill, which set the stage for Maine’s two education bond questions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“The community colleges have long enjoyed — and justifiably — broad bipartisan support,” Langhauser noted, saying that support has come from both the current Legislature and the LePage administration.

Langhauser, who previously served as legal counsel for the state community college system, is optimistic about his ability to secure continued support for the system from Maine’s next governor, no matter who emerges victorious in the race for the Blaine House.

“You can develop relationships, but it’s the merits of the argument,” Langhauser said. “And I like my case.”

None of the three remaining gubernatorial candidates needs any convincing on Question 5. The campaigns of independent Terry Hayes, Democrat Janet Mills and Republican Shawn Moody have signaled support for the community college bond question in written statements to the Morning Sentinel.

Hayes, who is Maine’s state treasurer, said she supports Question 5 and called it a “win-win” for the state’s workers and employers.

“Our community colleges offer a wide variety of opportunities for workforce training at a very reasonable price. Employers across Maine are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill existing positions,” Hayes said. “This investment in the facilities at the community colleges will improve the quantity of programs they can offer and the quality of the training the students will receive. This investment will result in a win-win for Maine’s workers and employers.”

Mills, who is Maine’s attorney general, cited a “serious workforce shortage” facing the state and said the Maine Community College System “will play a critical role in solving it by training students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“I support Question 5 because it will provide important funding to improve classroom infrastructure, to strengthen much-needed voc tech programs, and, ultimately, to help ensure that Maine students get a high-quality education that leads to a good-paying job and grows the economy,” Mills said. “From the trades to computer sciences, our state needs to expand educational opportunities and that is what I will do as governor, beginning with supporting Question 5.”

Moody campaign manager Lauren LePage said the Republican candidate and businessman supports Question 5, which LePage called “a worthwhile investment in programming for Maine students” that will “help with our efforts to grow Maine’s economy.”

“Shawn is the only candidate in this race with over 40 years of executive experience creating jobs and growing Maine’s economy. He knows that one of the biggest challenges facing Maine is growing our workforce. Shawn Moody supports question 5,” said LePage. “These funds will provide investments to expand the industrial trade programs across Maine in our community colleges. The investments will better equip our students with the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs upon graduation. We need to focus our efforts to expand our trade programs, beginning in middle school, to educate students about the great career opportunities available in the trades.”

Moody was on the board of trustees for both the Maine Community College and University of Maine Systems after being nominated by Gov. Paul LePage, Lauren LePage’s father.

The governor supports all four bond questions on the November ballot and sees them as good capital investments for the state, according to his press secretary, Julie Rabinowitz.

In addition to the community college bond, Question 4 asks voters to weigh in on a proposed $49 million bond for facilities and infrastructure improvements at Maine’s public universities. Questions 2 and 3 deal with wastewater treatment and transportation bonds, respectively.

“In particular the education bonds are also investments in our workforce and in keeping and attracting young people to the state,” Rabinowtiz said in an email Thursday.

Langhauser wouldn’t make any predictions Wednesday about whether Question 5 will pass next week, but he hopes the longstanding and bipartisan support for the community college system carries over to the polls.

“I’m hopeful that the good people of the state of Maine will continue to recognize the value of a community college education: that it’s low-cost, high-quality, directly related to getting not just a job but a career,” Langhauser said.

Matt Junker — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @mattjunker

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