VCCD anounces plan to finish education center

Brianna Kirkham/Commercial-NewsVermilion County Conservation District Board President Jonathan Myers shows the current plans of phases 2 and 3 of the Education Center to VC Chairman Michael Marron.

DANVILLE — After several weeks of back-and-forth discussion between the Vermilion County Conservation District Board and the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation, which operate as separate entities, a solution has been proposed for finishing phases 2 and 3 of the of the Education Center at Kennekuk County Park.

On Wednesday afternoon, VCCD Board President Jonathan Myers, County Board Chairman Michael Marron and members of the East Central Illinois Building Trade Council announced they all will collaborate to finish both the education and meeting center projects.

“The community wants this done, but we have to get it done the right way,” Marron said.

A few weeks ago, several members of the VCC Foundation proposed to lease land to raise revenue to finish the project. This was met with opposition by all VCCD board members as well as union workers who said the proposal did not support prevailing wages.

Now a collaborative effort, the groups say they want to utilize ideas and skills from all their members — as well as interested members of the community — to move forward while adhering to a bidding process, prevailing wages and other laws pertaining to public projects.

Randy Johnson of the ECI Building Trade Council was recently appointed to the VCCD Board.

Myers explained phase 2 is designated to be additional classroom space to accompany phase 1, while phase 3 will be a conference center.

“There’s been an increase in eco-tourism,” Myers said. “This is the perfect venue for high-stress corporate workers to reconnect with nature.”

Marron added in order to be competitive to businesses, it is critical for VCCD to invest in high-speed internet cellular service. Cell service is unavailable at Kennekuk.

While there are some funds raised, the biggest challenge the groups face in finishing the project is cost. Myers said he hopes to first organize committee groups this fall and then obtain solid cost estimates.

A comprehensive marketing plan focused on long-term economic growth, along with a telecommunication plan, are the summer goals on which Marron said they would focus. He added the infrastructure and business aspects will be toughest to nail down.

“The designs made for phases 2 and 3 are a little dated now. Input from district employees will be critical,” Marron added. “We hope those who have supported this in the past will continue to.”

The groups said the public is invited to help and contributed to finishing the community project.