Suffolk County Community College's cutting-edge plan for a $19.5 million Renewable Energy-STEM Building, which lawmakers had agreed to fund, mistakenly fell out of the final state budget last month, officials said.
The project was one of more than 70 at community colleges statewide totaling $129.6 million that had been agreed on in budget talks. Because of an error, the STEM center and other community college projects were not included in bills authorizing the budget. That was then supposed to be fixed with a last-minute "clean up" bill, but it never materialized during the end-of-session rush. Officials say the measure never progressed because of efforts to add too many other unrelated spending items.
"There was no issue. The funding was there and all sides -- the Senate, Assembly and governor -- agreed," said State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), chair of the higher education committee.
Despite the failure to pass a "clean up" measure, LaValle said he still hopes the legislature will authorize funding for the STEM center before year's end.
In addition to the STEM center -- short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math -- a $3.1 million project to renovate the 80-year-old Kreiling Hall on the Selden campus was delayed. In addition, seven Nassau Community College projects, totaling $4.9 million to improve campus infrastructure, security, and technology were not funded.
Suffolk officials had already included $900,000 in this year's capital budget for design of the 33,800-square-foot STEM building on the Brentwood campus, and budgeted construction money next year -- but 50 percent of the funding was expected to come from the state.
Bellone administration officials back the project but say no work will begin until the state aid is approved.
"But we shouldn't spend 100 percent on design, when you have funding to build half a building," said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider.
However, college officials say they will continue to plan the curriculum and program for the new center.The STEM center's preliminary plans call for the building to have an organic roof, solar panels, a windmill and a solar home on tracks that can be moved inside or outside. The idea is to create a building that will produce enough solar, wind and geothermal energy to heat, cool and light itself.
The center also aims to train students for careers in green research and manufacturing in partnership with Stony Brook University and local business. The center plans include 7,500 square feet of space to create an incubator to encourage local economic development in renewable technology.
"This is a win-win," said LaValle, "Not just for Suffolk but Stony Brook, too."