Planners for the DCCC merger into FHSU say there wouldn't be enough time to hold a public vote on the issue before the Kansas Board of Regents needs to set its budget requests.
If the plan for Dodge City Community College to become a Fort Hays State University campus is to be included in university budget requests this year, Ford County voters will also have no direct say in the issue.
Kansas Board of Regents member Shane Bangerter, a Dodge City resident, said he wrestled with the issue, but the consensus among planners was that the DCCC Board of Trustees was elected to represent the interests of its constituency.
Channels for public concern, criticism, support or ideas exist through the trustees and through the public and private agencies being consulted on the decision, Bangerter said, including the school district, city and county governments, the Ford County and Dodge City Development Corporation and the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I think the community will have a very broad opportunity to communicate with their representatives... and could certainly make their voices heard through those channels," Bangerter said. "Obviously you can't have a vote in the next few months."
"If this is not something the community wants, if we don't want this $50 million opportunity, someone else will take it up," he added.
Bangerter spoke of the merging plan at the Board of Regents April meeting last week. Response was positive, according to the Board of Regents communications staff relaying information through the official Twitter feed.
"It's important for these kinds of decisions to be driven locally," Chairman Fred Logan reportedly said.
Bangerter followed up by confirming that the DCCC Board of Trustees had voted unanimously for the proposal.
DCCC Trustee Jeremy Presley said it would be impossible to set an all-county election within the coming months and even if they could, he said the board was better equipped to make the decision than the voters, as they might not understand the issues.
Under the DCCC and FHSU agreement, Ford County taxpayers would continue to pay a mill levy to the DCCC taxing entity, though the property tax could be reduced from its current level of 32.310 mills per thousand dollars of property value. If the planners have estimated a tax reduction, they have not said it publicly.
Ownership of the campus will remain with the DCCC taxing entity. Academic and administrative functions would be handled by FHSU.
DCCC would also be responsible for expanding the campus, aside from the $10 million sought from the state to build the technical institute.
To meet the housing need for the influx of students, Rep. Bud Estes said it would be unlikely the school would need to fund the construction. Property developer Tim Volz of Volz Builders said he would be eager to build apartments for the guaranteed clientele. Another prominent Dodge City property developer, Ric Marboeuf of MR Builder, has also attended public meetings regarding the merger.
As a result of the non-voting session on Saturday, DCCC Board Chairman Merrill Conant said the trustees will set up workgroups with various stakeholder groups to hammer out the details largely lacking from the 5-page framework approved by the board last month.
"If we don't talk, if we don't discuss, we're all going to be at loggerheads," Conant said.
Absent an organized response from non-affiliated Ford County residents, the college faculty and members of the administrative staff have become the most present group applying criticism to the process, which weeks ago was described by proponents as a matter of years, not months.
The instructors have questioned the mix of speculated enrollment numbers thrown out by proponents and whether it is accurate to call the proposal a plan for a four-year school in Dodge City. The proposal mostly focuses on the technical institute, likely consisting of two-year degrees. According to statements made by Bangerter and FHSU President Ed Hammond, four-year programs at the upper division college would be based on demand.
The faculty has also taken criticism for concerns over their jobs and potential loss of contractual protections, including due process rights, previously negotiated by its bargaining unit.
"I need people in the community to know they are asking the faculty to take a significant leap of faith," faculty member Marg Yaroslaski said, noting the absence of hard numbers and with a deadline looming.
Officials with public and private agencies have been publicly bullish on the idea. Both Dodge City Commissioner Kent Smoll and Ford County Chairman Chris Boys have voiced their approval for the plan. Boys has also floated ideas about the city and county unloading downtown property to the new venture to bring college students to the city center.
Joann Knight, the director of the quasi-public development corporation, said potential business investors have passed on Dodge City in the past due to a lack of four-year college and four-lane highway.
Likewise, Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce President Dan Schenkein sees the plan and the speculated injection of college-age residents to the area as a way for retailers to find a workforce in low-unemployment Dodge City.