First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON — Robeson Community College leaders on Monday approved a new written agreement with the University of North Dakota to continue its joint aviation program.
“This is in keeping with our agreement with the state system office … and it will clear up any gray areas on our partnership with UND,” RCC President Charles Chrestman said following the board of trustees’s regular meeting Monday night.
The six-page agreement follows a special audit by the North Carolina Community College System that showed problems with the program. Chrestman said the new agreement is designed to show the college’s commitment to “making it all perfectly clear” that the program is “above board.”
The audit determined the program, which was established in 2005, did not receive a proper sign-off by the state system’s president, H. Martin Lancaster.
RCC officials maintain they did nothing wrong, and have expressed frustration with the system office for an embarrassing press release dated Jan. 18 which revealed the audit’s findings. The information was made public the week before college community presidents from across the state were on the RCC campus for their annual meeting.
The aviation program prepares pilots, air traffic controllers and airport administrators. Two years of the program are at the RCC campus, and two are at the North Dakota campus.
The new agreement was drafted as part of a settlement with the state, said Charles Floyd, an attorney who works for RCC.
“As you’ll remember, we thought we had their approval before … this should take care of that,” Floyd told the trustees.
The agreement now goes to UND officials for their approval.
Chrestman said once the signed document is returned, he will personally deliver it to the state system’s office in Raleigh. He expects that to happen after Scott Ralls becomes the system’s president on April 1.
“We think this agreement addresses everything … that could be asked about our relationship with that entity,” Chrestman said of the UND Aerospace Foundation.
Earlier Monday, the trustees hosted a dinner meeting with the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. The meal was prepared and served by culinary arts students.
There was a short discussion of the college’s budgetary needs for the coming year.
Aferward, during its regular meeting, the board approved a 2008-2009 budget request of more than $3.6 million for local money — an 11 percent increase over the college’s current budget. About one third of that money would be used to re-roof three buildings on campus.
Chrestman said the budget also beefs up campus security and covers a cost-of-living increase for employees.
The budget request now goes to county commissioners for approval.
In other action, the board:
— Learned a grant program will help pay for a second year of its Heavy Equipment Operator Program. In its first year, 38 students entered the program. All 38 finished the program, and 30 have found jobs in the field.
— Approved more performance bonuses for faculty.
— Heard details of a master plan suggesting several major capital projects, including construction of a building for a basic skills instructional program, doubling the space for law enforcement training, adding a fitness area, and replacing aging heating and cooling systems. A consultant is recommending a wetlands assessment before any major projects are planned.