Anonymous MCC Source Rebuts Steve Willson Critique of $34 Million Project

The following was passed out at the McHenry County Board’s Committee of the Whole meeting last week.

It was in response to Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson’s critique of the $34 million lab renovation and student services proposal detailed in

McHenry County College

Corrections in Response to McHenry County Blog Claims on Health Careers Renovation Project
April 2016

Below, please find a response from McHenry County College (MCC) to correct recent claims made about the College’s Health Careers and Science Project in the McHenry County Blog.

It is critical to the College and the future success of this project that the community fully understands the factual background and information about this study/project.

[I guess whoever prepared this memo did not think sharing it with McHenry County Blog was important.  I had to file a Freedom of Information Request to obtain what you are reading here.  I would gladly have published it the day it was distributed to the Board of Trustees, if whoever prepared it had made such a request.]

Claim: Instead of examining how best to use MCC’s existing space, the “study” became a wish list by department heads.

FACT: The consultant team met with representatives from nearly every department on two separate occasions during the nearly two-year development of the Planning Study. The first time was at the beginning of the process in order to understand overall concerns about existing learning spaces (quantity and quality) and future needs. The second time was at the direction of the Board of Trustees, after various options were developed to address the projected needs. Meeting with the faculty and staffwhose job it is to educate the next generation of the MCC community is an imperative part of any Planning Study—not a wish list.

Claim: A presentation by Demonica Kemper in August 2014, when it was seeking a contract from MCC, sought to make the case that MCC would grow. As evidence, they showed the projections from the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency.

FACT: The CMAP projections were referenced only during the initial interview but never identified as the end-all, be-all data for demographic projections for the MCC district. In fact, the College asked DKA not to use this as the primary data source for the project. This information is merely one source of data.

After the interview portion of the selection process, many other sources of data were also discussed. It has been stated on numerous occasions to the Board that demographic growth/decline is not a major driver of space needs at higher education institutions. Paulien & Associates was selected by the Board of Trustees based on their extensive experience working with hundreds of higher education institutions across the country to develop Space Use Studies. Their approach has been clearly outlined to the Board. Neither college employees nor the College’s consultants have stated that the needs identified in the Space Study are tied to any projected demographic growth within the district.

Claim: Beyond population, we know for a fact – not a projection – that the student population in McHenry County will continue to decline over the next eleven years.

FACT: Student population at community colleges is based on a myriad of different issues, including the state of the economy, job market, the College’s marketing plans, cost of education at four-year institutions, special incentive programs offered to students, etc. Community colleges are not the same as public school systems—students do not have to attend community colleges. Rather, they choose to attend community colleges. Their choice is based on many of the issues identified above, as well as others. It is difficult to predict with confidence what population growth or decline will occur over a decade. The number of first graders in the district may be a very small indicator of the potential pool of students that will choose to attend MCC over the next ten years, but it is not the primary driver.

It is also important to note that the health care/careers programs at the College do not follow the same average age trend as some of the institution’s other programs. The average age of students in 2016 across all health careers programs is 28. Specific age average by program for 2016 is listed below.
MCC instert 4-27-16Claim: In short, we know that enrollment at MCC is likely to remain flat at best and more likely to decline.

FACT: See response above. It is short-sighted to extract a few years out the 40+ year history of MCC that has shown overall growth and say that this trend will continue into the future. There are always ups and downs in the marketplace, but in general, there is typically growth, especially at a community college that is committed to serving its community.

Claim: And we know further that Demonica Kemper chose to ignore all the data that contradicted their justification for a new building. We also know that Demonica Kemper had a pecuniary interest in showing bad data: they wanted to get hired, and if there is no growth, then there is no need for Demonica Kemper’s services.

FACT: DKA did not ignore the data that Mr. Willson is referring to. As indicated above and through numerous discussions with the Board of Trustees, DKA and Paulien & Associates have attempted to make it very clear what process and data were used. In order to address the accusation that DKA ignored data in an attempt to secure a design contract, it is very important to note that all of the space needs developed as part of the study were developed by Paulien & Associates, the firm chosen by the Board to lead this effort. Once the space needs were identified and presented to the Board, Paulien stepped out of the process, and DKA was responsible  for providing ideas and concepts for the Board’s consideration on how to best address the identified needs.

Claim: Yet the Board majority chose to ignore all the evidence, including the evidence that Demonica Kemper was purposely shading the facts, and hired Demonica Kemper.

FACT: DKA is a very reputable firm with an impeccable record, and has worked with numerous community colleges. The accusations that DKA has “purposely shaded the facts” is both rash and false.

Claim: The $34 Million Addition Proposed for McHenry County College – Part 2.

FACT: The title of Part 2 of this blog is actually very misleading. The College is not proposing a $34 million addition to the campus. It is actually proposing a $27.3 million addition—the balance of the project is renovation work to better utilize existing space on campus.

Claim: Yesterday I ran Part 1 of bond analyst Steve Willson’s analysis of McHenry County College’s $34 million capital projects plan, in which he rebutted the evidence from the College’s consultant that enrollment at the College was likely to grow at a rate far in excess of national and state population projections

FACT: Other than a brief reference to some CMAP data during the interview process as a possible source of data, DKA has not made population projections a significant part of the study, and they certainly  never stated at a Board Meeting, committee meeting, individual meetings with the College administration, or in any of their written reports that MCC was likely to grow “at a rate far in excess of national and state population projections”.

Claim: The report says EXPLICITLY in the first slide that it was “not based upon aesthetics, existing facility conditions or enrollment”. Demonica Kemper said neither the quality of existing facilities nor enrollment were factors in their recommendations.

FACT: The study was organized into two phases. Phase 1 was focused specifically on Utilization and Space Needs and targeted the quantitative aspects of space on campus. Moreover, this portion of the study focused in on specific programmatic needs, not overall college enrollment figures. Upon approval of Phase 1 and authorization by the Board to move on to Phase 2 of the study, the qualitative aspects of space on campus (conditions of existing space) was incorporated into the overall needs, and options to address these needs were developed and presented to the Board for their consideration.

Claim: MCC is reported as using their labs 27 hours per week for teaching credit classes (see graphic below), so it is within the “guidelines”.

FACT: The labs that this graphic refers to are all labs on campus. With respect to science labs and health careers labs, the average lab utilization is as follows: Science Labs – 28.875 hours per week /Health Careers Labs – 36.25 hours per week. Both of these average utilization rates are in excess of national guidelines of 24-28 hours per week for technical labs. It is very important to note that labs, by their very nature, are designed to be program-specific. A chemistry lab cannot be taught in an Anatomy & Physiology Lab and vice versa. Similarly, an Occupational Therapist Assistant lab cannot be taught in a Nursing lab and vice versa. It is also important to note that MCC must abide by both state and accreditation body guidelines in terms of what space to use and how to use it.

Claim: In short, Demonica Kemper and Paulien Associates demonstrated that there is no need to expand the number of labs at MCC, based on current enrollment and utilization.

FACT: This is not true. Much of the expansion identified in the study is not to accommodate new labs for the College. In fact, much of the space need identified was to bring existing labs up to standards in order to accommodate the various training exercises that occur within the labs, safety within the labs, and ADA issues within the labs. The new labs that were identified are, for the most part, associated with new programs (Physical Therapist Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Engineering, etc.), and to provide space for necessary training such as a Cadaver Lab, Simulation Labs, and a Student Resource Lab.
Claim: In the final installment today, Willson shows how a plan to refurbish existing labs morphed into a 100,000 square foot addition, complete with “Student Engagement” space for foosball tables, couches and big screen TVs.

FACT: This comment is misleading. The addition is only 66,500 sf, not 100,000 sf. The balance of the project is reusing existing space to maximize its use on campus, which is everybody’s goal. The Student Engagement Space will accommodate resources for students such as Veteran’s Resources and space for many student organizations and clubs that promote overall student achievement and success. In addition, space will be provided for students to collaborate and socialize, which is an invaluable aspect of learning. This collaborative space is desired by both faculty and students who need places to work together in teams, for tutoring efforts, and special projects.

Claim: Please note even in the graphic above that the station usage of the two nursing labs are 39% and 35%.

FACT: The reason that the utilization is low is because the available stations are actually overstated. If one were to actually go into these labs and see the condition they are in, it would become clear that the average enrollments listed on this chart could not be increased drastically without overcrowding the space. This also becomes abundantly clear when one looks at the average utilization rate of these two labs at 45 hours per week. Remember that the high end of the national guideline is 28 hours per week. Further, this is all about the way that the space must be utilized.

Claim: The NEW plan is NOT to add 5,000 square feet, but to build 103,900 square feet of space at a cost of $34.35 million.

FACT: The 5,000 sf being referred to is an assignable sf number, whereas the 103,900 sf Mr. Willson is referring to is a gross sf number. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The 5,000 sf is the variance between the space standards for current space versus the actual space that exists. It does not account for the new lab space to accommodate new programs (PTA, Patient Care Technician, Engineering) or the spaces that are necessary to support existing programs (Cadaver Lab, Simulation Labs, Resource Lab). This comment is misleading. The current plan is NOT to build 103,900 sf of new space. The current plan is to build 66,500 sf of new space, and the balance of the space will be renovated to maximize its use on campus.

Claim: In other words, the NEW plan increases teaching space by 86% while the analysis in 2014 indicated a “shortage of only 697 square feet in teaching space.

FACT: If you refer to Page 7 of the December 8, 2015 presentation made to the Committee of the Whole, the total ASSIGNABLE AREA associated with “teaching space” (we prefer to call these spaces “learning spaces”) within the proposed addition is 30,320. A significant part of the proposed overall project is renovation of existing space. If we run the same calculation as Mr. Wilson did with accurate numbers, the teaching (learning) space is being increased by only 16% (30,320/188,223)…not 86%.

Claim: And note that the “Science Labs and Health Sciences Renovation Recommendations” suddenly became the “Science/Student Engagement” Recommendation.

FACT: The title of this slide is “Science/Student Engagement, simply because the Science and Student Engagement spaces are the spaces being shown in the new addition on the image. The Health Careers Space is being provided within existing space in Building A to maximize overall space use.


It is clear now that the new liberal board majority had an agenda.

  • The justification for expansion is based on patently disproven enrollment projections.
  • The “space utilization” study was transformed into a wish list without regard to demand or quality of existing facilities.
  • The data prove MCC has sufficient lab space based both on hours used and station utilization.
  • The new plan nearly doubles the amount of space at MCC and includes much more than refurbishing the science labs, despite the title given to the project.

FACT: All of these conclusions are inaccurate based on above responses to the various comments made.


Anonymous MCC Source Rebuts Steve Willson Critique of $34 Million Project — 14 Comments

  1. DKA is Demonica Kemper Architects.

    If it was passed out in the committee of the whole board meeting it should have posted on the MCC website with all the other documents about the project.

    Quite forcing the taxpayers to request documents that should be posted on the district website.

  2. Elected Boards should demand documents be posted on the district website for major projects.

    One problem is the majority of many elected boards represent one or more special interest groups and not the taxpayers at large.

    And the majority of many elected boards are cheerleaders and don’t want any scrutiny that may hinder an agenda or tarnish an image.

    So then it’s up to a watchdog to either lobby the elected board to do so; or take it upon themselves to FOIA information and post it on a website.

  3. 1. It wasn’t called Health Careers Innovation Project before, was it?

    Is the title changing to mollify beleaguered taxpayers?

    It was supposed to be about updating science labs, then ballooned into a multi-million dollar capital expense.

    2. Ok, so now let’s say it is all about health career labs.

    At nursing school at NIU, ‘labs’ are regular rooms fitted out as hospital rooms, and these only require a sink.

    Oxygen, suction, etc. can be provided by modular portable equipment.

    Other accoutrements such as hospital beds, rolling iv poles, and dummy patients are also modular and can be placed into any empty classroom.

    3. So the growth in enrollment will be older students?

    Older students do not need nor want ‘community space’ or any other space they have to pay for with higher property taxes.

    Older students want to get home because they are working, have families, and need to eat/houseclean/do homework.

    And pay bills.

    So lets not hear that the extra open space is for their benefit.

    If only the Team In Charge of Spending OPM were as brilliant at retrofitting existing resources as they are at retrofitting arguments to adjust backstory to answer legitimate objections, we might not be the highest tax rate county in America.

  4. @Susan- are you sure about that?

    Adult students want areas to sit and study between classes, study between the end of their work day and beginning of their class like any other student.

    A community college is just that- a college that serves the whole community.

    I only see posts that reference 18-19 kids that at attending before they matriculate- LOTS of students- dare I say the majority are non traditional students who are trying to re train.

    There is a nursing shortage in this community.

    And a waiting list for most area programs.

    How can you think there isn’t a need?

    I am not saying this is the plan- but stop saying there isn’t a need for these programs- there clearly is.

  5. Yes.

    I am sure there are enough places to sit and study at MCC, having attended as an adult student.

    As for nursing shortage–you are right there is a shortage of CNAs.

    BUT LISTEN: at the Valley Hi Op Board meeting last night: VH Director Annarrella says CNA students coming from MCC have DWINDLED!

    VH used to host more than twice as many student CNA clinicals as now.


    CNAs make $12 an hour.

    It is backbreaking work.

    Burger flippers may soon make $15 an hour, and there will be no hope of attracting more students.


    Ask the nurses at Centegra if they are getting enough hours, or are victims of short census.

    Shortage of nurses at nursing homes may be a function of the hourly pay rate for, again, backbreaking work.

    Just because there is a perceived shortage doesn’t mean there is an actual overall shortage.

    The more social engineering by political insiders, the lower the competition in medical service provision industry.

    And even if there IS a shortage, you can’t make students sign up for a field that will not give them what they want in life.

  6. There was always a waiting list for nursing programs, some of that due to students applying to many different schools/programs at once.

    A waiting list doesn’t mean what you are implying.

  7. Cal:

    Giving credibility to an Anonymous Source?

    Please, if they won’t stand behind and defend their statements, there is no reason to respect them.

  8. There is no longer a shortage of nurses overall.

    There may be some pockets (which employer?).

    What is happening now is employers want nurses with experience.

    There are new nursing graduates that have a hard time finding a job.

    Some of the nurse recruiting fairs have ceased due to the fact there is no longer a shortage of nurses.

  9. So there you have the vicious cycle:

    Tax heavily to subsidize a need that no one can afford to fill:

    MCCD demanding taxpayer funds for a capital spending plan ostensibly predicated upon expanding the health education program, while the CNA program has been downsizing (according to Valley Hi).

    Valley Hi, as one of many taxing bodies ‘serving the most needy and vulnerable’, creating their own customers (needy and vulnerable) by contributing their share of over-taxation practiced by nearly all taxing bodies in the county.

    Schools are the most shameful contributors by overtaxing with the rationale that it is to educate children…but the additional 8% they conscript from a median income household budget (8% more than the average American spends on property taxes) makes it impossible for a median income household to spare college funds for that child.

  10. Do we really need MCC?

    Can’t we just make a deal with surrounding Jr. Colleges …. Seems that would be way cheaper.

    MCC is merely a glorified HS anyway.

    The lame ‘refutation’ just proves the McHenry County Blog’s influence and growing power …..

    The NWH could have been good … but it sold out to the creeps long ago!

  11. **There is no longer a shortage of nurses overall.**

    You sure about that? :

    America’s 3 million nurses make up the largest segment of the health-care workforce in the U.S., and nursing is currently one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country.

    Despite that growth, demand is outpacing supply.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022.* By 2025,

    the shortfall is expected to be “more than twice as large as any nurse shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s,” a team of Vanderbilt University nursing researchers wrote in a 2009 paper on the issue.

    And there are numerous other studies saying similar things.

  12. There is no longer a shortage of nurses overall.

    Here is the whole comment Mark wrote:

    “There is no longer a shortage of nurses overall.

    There may be some pockets (which employer?).

    What is happening now is employers want nurses with experience.

    There are new nursing graduates that have a hard time finding a job.

    Some of the nurse recruiting fairs have ceased due to the fact there is no longer a shortage of nurses.”

    I personally know this to be true. Only experienced nurses are being hired.

    And you left out a key metric: there is a nursing shortage for the price which nurse employers are willing or able to pay nurses.

    As with anything else, the more you pay, you can alleviate a shortage.

  13. The Illinois Department of Employment Security projects that the number of Registered Nursing jobs in McHenry County will increase by 255 between 2012 and 2022; that’s 25 per year It projects an increase in the number of jobs for Licensed Practical & Vocational Nurses of 66, or less than 7 per year.

    How many nursing graduates is the MCC program producing?

    If it vastly exceeds these numbers, then we are guaranteeing that some of our students will either not find jobs or be forced to move.

    In my opinion, the counselors at MCC have an affirmative obligation to explain these numbers to prospective students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *