Apparently, Niagara County Community College President James Klyczek and his Board of Trustees see state and county taxpayer dollars as fair game in the name of academic excellence, and so far they have pretty much gotten their way no matter the cost.
Last month, the Niagara County Legislature approved a $12.5-million grant to match a state commitment of $12.5 million for a total taxpayer expenditure of $25 million for a “Learning Commons” project at the college in Sanborn to renovate and upgrade the library, child development center, and faculty resource center. The vote was unanimous by the GOP-controlled legislature.
Also, Niagara County lawmakers said yes to Klyczek’s request for the full amount of $270,000 for a facelift for the $26 million Culinary Center in the Rainbow Mall to create separate entrances for the retail spaces on the institute’s first floor.
Of course, Klyczek’s NCCC Board of Trustees is certainly a strong card in the money chase in Niagara County as a key figure on the board is Vice Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, a former leader of the GOP in Niagara County, and one of the board members is the chairman of the Niagara County Legislature, Bill Ross, also a Republican. It is the GOP-controlled legislature that pretty much gives Klyczek whatever he wants.
For the record, the state of the art culinary center was reportedly something Klyczek had wanted for many years along with the college’s division chair for business and hospitality programs, Mark Mistriner. The nearly $1 million architectural contract for the culinary center was awarded to Cannon Design—out of eight bidders---and included on the design team was architect Mike Mistriner, Mark’s brother. Industry sources say Cannon reaped a windfall on the design contract, well above the state average for an interior retrofit of an empty facility.
While the culinary center has generally received decent reviews, at least one Niagara County legislator, Democrat Jason Zona, believes putting 100-200 students into hotel rooms for nine months is not the way to go.
“”I’m 100 percent against students living in hotels,” said Zona, saying he believes the community and the students would be better served if they lived in housing in the city, helping to build up the city as part of their experience. So far, Klyczek and NCCC have ignored Zona’s requests to consider taking students out of hotels and putting them into the city.
Zona, who is a Niagara Falls fire captain, is a strong supporter of NCCC but believes the college is taking the wrong approach when it comes to housing students in hotels instead of the city during their time at the culinary center.
We tried to reach NCCC officials on Monday afternoon to ask about contracts for the latest big NCCC project, the $25 million Learning Commons, and the student housing issue, but we could not reach anyone in the press office. We left a message.
Unlike what’s going on at Erie Community College where county support is weak, Klyczek seems to have found the right combination to unlock the Niagara County taxpayer vault when it comes to hauling in money.
Since 2011, it appears about $50 million in taxpayer money---county and state---has been pumped into just two Niagara County Community College projects and there’s no end in sight to Klyczek’s zest for creating a legacy on the backs of taxpayers with the backing of a Board of Trustees apparently on the same page.