MALONE — North Country Community College will stay in Saranac Lake if Paul Maroun has anything to say about it.The lone Republican on the Franklin County Board of Legislature said Thursday that he has not seen any hard evidence yet that would convince him to move the main campus out of the Village of Saranac Lake.The college's Board of Trustees is exploring its options to either extensively repair its existing campus buildings in Franklin County, at an estimated cost of $62 million, or buy the former Biotech building in the Town of North Elba in Essex County and renovate it, for $52 million.There was also mention of a fourth campus for the college, but no firm plans have been discussed.Franklin and Essex counties jointly sponsor NCCC, which is why they are part of the college's decision-making efforts.They also provide an annual stipend to the college, which was $1,063,165 each in 2006.NCCC, which has satellite campuses in Ticonderoga and Malone, met with leaders from both counties Wednesday to discuss the preliminary plans and said a decision on the Biotech-property purchase must be made by April 18."Just because a building is available doesn't mean we have to buy it," Maroun said. "I think we have to look at this as a college."A college is not just bricks and mortar," the Tupper Lake-area representative said. "It's the people who work there and are in there."I know the (existing Saranac Lake) building is old, but you don't take Siena College out of Loudon and move it to the other side of Albany because there is a building for sale."North Country Community College should stay where it is," Maroun said, adding that he would be willing to listen to other solutions "if they come up with a compelling argument. But I don't see one."He said he is aware of the repairs that are desperately needed and that it would be expensive to bring the existing structures up to current building-code standards."But unless they can come up with a more compelling story than that the (Biotech) building is going to be sold," Maroun said, he would oppose a move."God bless North Elba, if that happens," he said of the Biotech building sale, "but that's their problem."Our problem is keeping a college in Franklin County. It's a community college. It's a community, not a lot of new buildings with a fireplace in the lobby."Malone Democrat Earl Lavoie said he was also disturbed by the fast-track timetable and wants more information and more time to think about the best solution."North Country is a home-based college that already has three (campuses) going, and they're also talking about a fourth," he said.He would also like to know more about the retention of students who graduate from North Country to learn if they stay in the region or find employment elsewhere.The "fourth campus" is possible college courses in Newcomb. It would not be a full-blown campus, just another outpost where people can take classes.
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