Green and Rock county residents soon will be receiving surveys asking if they would support a $32 million referendum to help build a public safety and transportation center at Blackhawk Technical College.

At its February board meeting, the Blackhawk Technical College Board reviewed a survey designed by School Perceptions, an independent firm that specializes in such work. The survey was paid for by the Blackhawk Technical College Foundation, which does not receive any tax dollars.

In October 2018, the college bought 38 acres of farmland north of its central campus, 6004 S. County G, Janesville. At that time, only a track for an emergency vehicle operator course was planned.

But then college officials toured other facilities and talked to local law enforcement officials, fire chiefs and businesses. They realized the facility could be more useful both to the college and the community if it was more than just a track, college fire science coordinator Rob Balsamo told the board in November.

The primary feature still would be the track, but the center also would include specialized areas for semitrailer truck and motorcycle training, a practice tower and pond for firefighters, a “tactical village” for police exercises, a more realistic practice area for electrical power distribution students, an educational building, and a new home for the college’s transportation studies program, according to board documents.

The transportation studies program is now located at the corner of highways 14 and 51 north of Janesville. The college has been trying to sell that building and move the program back to the main campus.

Vehicle training now takes place in the parking lot of BTC’s main campus on County G.

Using the parking lot for training is risky because of student and transit traffic. In addition, the area isn’t designed for trainees operating large vehicles, Balsamo told the board in November.

At the same meeting, college President Tracy Pierner said he and his staff met with law enforcement groups, fire chiefs, and other city and town officials who said they would support a public safety and transportation center.

The survey, which includes a detailed description of the project, asks, “Would you support a $32 million referendum to build a Public Safety and Transportation Center?” Respondents can chose from one of five answers ranging from “definitely no” to “definitely yes.”

If such a referendum was to pass, the district would borrow money for the project.

The impact on taxes to pay off the debt would be an additional:

  • $3 for every $100,000 of equalized property value for the first three years of the loan.
  • $2 for every $100,000 of equalized property value for year four.
  • $1 for every $100,000 of equalized property value for year five.

During years six to 20 of the loan, the tax rate would remain at or below the 2019-20 rate of 59 cents for every $1,000 of equalized value or $59 on a home valued at $100,000.

The survey includes an additional nine questions regarding the college’s performance in areas such as ability to transfer, its relationship with area school districts, its role in the region’s workplace and economic success.

Even without the referendum, the college plans to break ground on the track this spring, according to board documents.

The state allows technical colleges to spend $1.5 million on new construction every two years. The college spent $600,000 on the land, so it has about $900,000 to spend. At a meeting last fall, Pierner said that would cover the cost of the basic track and part of a skidpad.

If the college decided to build the center in stages to stay within the $1.5 million limit, the whole facility would take between 10 and 20 years to complete.