Blackhawk Technical College’s continuing effort to consolidate its facilities and minimize duplication of services makes it easier for us to recommend voters give the school permission to borrow $32 million for new training areas.

The projects for students focused on transportation, law enforcement, firefighting and electrical power distribution would be located on the 38 acres of farmland north of the central campus at 6004 S. County G, Janesville. The college bought the land in October 2018.

The district decided in 2016 to consolidate facilities. Although the district’s geography—essentially Rock and Green counties—is the smallest in the state, it had six campuses, the most among the 16 technical college districts. Blackhawk Tech decided to consolidate from six to three campuses and has since sold its campus at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, exited space it had rented at the Eclipse Center in Beloit and has negotiated the sale of the transportation studies center on Janesville’s north side.

Meanwhile, training requirements continue to increase. The state requirements for the school’s police academy, for example, increased from 520 hours of training to 720. Requirements for firefighter and EMT training increased, too.

“We are not prepared for that. I am afraid of the future and the requirements that are going to be needed by our first responders, especially in a time of COVID, and we are unprepared. We have first responder training happening in our hallways right now,” college President Tracy Pierner said.

Blackhawk Tech also started a truck driving program to support the area’s burgeoning warehousing and distribution industry. The school has been using its parking lots for truck driving and law enforcement vehicle and motorcycle training.

“We don’t have enough parking lots, and, frankly, it is a major safety issue,” Pierner said.

The $32 million over 20 years would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an average of $14 a year.

The district’s debt service will drop over the next five to seven years, lessening the impact on taxpayers if new debt is added.

Cost calculations are based on the district borrowing $32 million, but the district will be able to use proceeds from the sale of the transportation studies facility on Highway 14 on Janesville’s north side to help pay for the projects, meaning borrowing will almost certainly be less than $32 million.

Blackhawk Tech has been working to consolidate and be more efficient while expanding its offerings to serve the needs of the community. In this time of increasing training requirements for police officers, firefighters and others the school trains, we think the $32 million cost spread over 20 years is a good deal.

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