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Olympic College will bid Poulsbo branch

POULSBO — Poulsbo’s Olympic College branch campus has been skating on thin ice for the past several years. But, it seems that every time a proposal is about to fall through, supporters manage to avert disaster, execute an impossible leap and land the campus project safely on its feet.

The Olympic campus proposal has been in the works for over a decade, but the uncertainty may be coming to an end this spring. OC officials expect to bid the campus on May 14 and award an approximately $8.6 million construction contract July 2. If all goes well, the college could be “out of the ground” by November, completed by Nov. 2003 and start classes in winter 2004.

Earlier this week, college officials met with city staff and representatives from property owners at Olhava Associates to secure much-needed easements to the 20-acre parcel that is slated to house the new building.

“We finally have the signed and recorded easements to the project,” Poulsbo Mayor Donna Jean Bruce said Thursday. “The college didn’t want to go out to bid without that assurance.”

Olympic College Vice President Mike Connolly confirmed the good news Friday morning during a presentation to the Poulsbo-North Kitsap Rotary. Connolly, who said he actually came to the meeting to pay off an old gambling debt, came bearing a gift.

As soon as he took the podium, he presented Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern with a large bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey — paying a friendly wager between the two on whether or not the branch campus would ever get to this stage in the game.

“This is better than getting an Oscar,” Stern said with a smile, admiring the bottle before thanking the many people who helped remove the various obstacles that blocked the branch campus’ progress.

Connolly, who has been no stranger to these obstacles, said even if Olhava Associates and developers from First Western experiences a delay in providing legally required fire flow, Poulsbo has offered its assistance to assure the project will progress.

But while the campus is definitely moving forward, Connolly said it has not come this far without sacrifices.

The scope of the $13 million Poulsbo branch campus has been scaled back twice since its inception. An originally planned library and day care services have been eliminated. The new college building will also proceed without a science lab and student services center. Both could be added at a later date.

“There have been lots of modifications,” Connolly explained, noting that primarily computer and business-oriented classes will be offered to meet the changing needs of students. “Maybe some day science classes and all the others needed for student to receive a degree in Poulsbo will be here, but not for openers. We want to begin with the classes the community wants most.”

Even after the structure is built, completion work at Olympic College Poulsbo will be an ongoing process, he said.

If construction bids come in high, some planned additions and amenities might have to wait.

“It’s not an easy building to scale down,” Connolly admitted.

Any required redesign will depend on the bids, he added, explaining that even with all the budgetary support the college had received from the “godmother of this project,” Sen. Betti Sheldon, additional financial leeway on the $13 million in state money is no means a certainty in the Legislature.

“We’ve shaved it twice and we feel the bid climate now is as good as it’s going to get,” Connolly said.

While Rotary members agreed that partnerships would assist the branch campus in the future, the vice president was clear that even with plans finally on track, the future of the Poulsbo college is still a little uncertain.

When asked if he was rejoicing at the easement news and good standing of the project, a cautious Connolly responded, “We’ll celebrate when the bids come in.”

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