Banning agrees to site improvements at MSJC property

The Banning City Council, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, enthusiastically supported Mt. San Jacinto College on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 when it approved spending $750,000 on a future campus located within the city.

In session as the Redevelopment Agency, the council unanimously approved an agreement between the city and the college that will pay for offsite improvements to the 50-acre site on Sunset and Westward avenues.

Mayor Bob Botts said the development of the campus would help the redevelopment agency's mission of bringing local jobs to the area.

"One of the first things business and industry asks is 'Where's your college?' This will go a long way in helping us with economic redevelopment," Botts said.

MSJC Board member Eugene "Gene" Kadow, who has spearheaded the effort to open the campus since 2002, and Superintendent/President Roger Schultz told the Redevelopment Agency that the college plans to initially place five modulars and hold up to 16 classes at the site. The classes will include day, evening and weekend classes. Currently, the college can only hold evening classes in the Pass area at Banning and Beaumont high schools.

The college plans to have the fledgling campus open within 18 months, but will work hard to open it sooner.

Mr. Kadow and Mr. Schultz have worked with Banning city officials for about 18 months on the agreement. They told agency members that while their first step was to seek help from the city of Banning, they will also reach out to Beaumont, Calimesa, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and Riverside County officials for additional funding because the college serves all of those communities.

Don Robinson, chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency, read aloud letters of support for the MSJC campus. The letters were written by Banning Unified Superintendent Lynne Kennedy, 65th District Assemblyman Paul Cook and the Banning Chamber of Commerce.

All of the Banning council members praised the prospect of having a college in the community. They said residents will be more inclined to attend college since it will be within their own community.  They also expressed enthusiasm at the jobs the site will create.

During public comments, Banning schools trustee Pelton Teague told the agency he has wished for a community college in the area for some time. He said it would attract high school students and adults alike to get higher education.

Banning resident and former mayor Don Smith spoke highly of the project during public comments.

"It's probably the best thing you can bring to Banning. This was something that was missing from this area," Smith said.