In a special Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 21, the trustees voted unanimously to end its contract with Universal Helicopter Inc. as the provider for its flight school program.
The program has come under controversy over the Veterans Administration allegedly billing the college for close to $33 million which it is disputing it owes.
"The status of the program is that in spring 2017, we stopped enrollment in Dodge City as a result of the Kansas State Approving Agency removing veterans approval," DCCC provost Adam John said to the board. "They stopped enrollment in Provo, Utah, and Prescott and Scottsdale, Arizona for the same reasons.
"As of right now, we are close to regain approvals in Arizona and hopefully be up and operating soon."
However, the board will now be searching for a new provider for the program.
"The program off the bat was set up wrong," DCCC president Dr. Harold Nolte said. "We had an outside provider running the program and when they hired someone to run it (in 2008 when the program was made available), that persons record wasn't all that good so when I got here I made comments that I was a little concerned when I first came on board."
According to John, the college net income for the program over the past 10 years comes in at $3.5 million, not counting the potential debt owed to the VA.
"We did have a loss of $140,000 this year but over the years the income gained from it has been used in Dodge City to pay for tech expenses, raises for the faculty and staff and to pay for facilities such as the Student Activity Center.
"It has been a significant benefit to Ford County tax payers, students and employers."
Despite the unanimous vote on ending the UHI contract, trustee members squabbled over letting the public know what was taking place, including DCCC counsel Glen Kerbs and Arizona counsel Alan Baskin, that is representing the college through negotiations with the VA.
Baskin said in the meeting that information released to the public that is misleading and with misinformation could be harmful to the college in regards to the negotiations with the VA.
"Having an investigation of the investigation and things like that play out in newspapers doesn't help the school, it hurts the school," Baskin said.
Baskin is referring to letters to the editor submitted to the Daily Globe by trustees Dan Reichenborn, Floris Jean Hampton, Kathy Ramsour, Mia Korbelik, and Gary Harshberger discussing the ongoing issues with the flight program and VA.
"You as decision makers need to know what is taking place for the college," Kerbs said to the trustees. "It is important the public is informed of what takes place, but the timing of when the public is informed can't be done at the cost of the college, and that is what's happening here."
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