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Project will expand equine science instruction, renewable energy research

Ag science center groundbreaking

ECC Project will expand equine science instruction, renewable energy research

By LARRY KERSHNER, Farm News news editor

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner

Preparing to dig into prepared ground for a symbolic groundbreaking Monday at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls for a new equine and ag science compus, are, from left, Dale Howard, a major donor; Mollie Teckenburg, ECC provost; Conrad Dejardin of the Iowa Valley Community College District directors board; Robert and Arlene Hamilton, for whom the complex will be named; and Randy Jennings, chairman of the ECC trustee board.
IOWA FALLS — A $15 million project was initiated Monday as Ellsworth Community College broke ground that will bring about a new equine science facility and renewable energy research center on a 40-acre site overlooking Highway 65 and the southern edge of this Hardin County community.

Mollie Teckenburg, ECC provost, told an audience of an estimated 175 people, that the project, named the Robert T. & Arlene Hamilton Campus, was made possible through a $35 million general obligation bond issue approved by the residence within the ECC district boundaries. The Hamiltons donated $1 million for the project.

Of that amount, the equine and renewable energy center received $10 million. The balance is being made up through a $6 million fundraising effort, primarily in Iowa Falls. The fundraising project includes a $1 million endowment for scholarships.

To date, that effort has raised $4.8 million “and we have every intention of meeting the goal,” Teckenburg said.

Constructing the equine center was awarded to Holland Construction, of Forest City, for $6.729 million. The renewable energy research center was awarded to Woodruff Construction of Fort Dodge for $2.873 million.

Construction is expected to begin in earnest by today, Teckenburg said, and the facilities are to be ready for use for the fall 2009 term. Because of escalating steel and fuel costs, the overall project came in over $2 million beyond the engineer’s estimate, Teckenburg said, but quickly noted that the Iowa Valley Community College District has committed to cover the extra cost.

The equine center, said architect Andrew Reich, of Frevert-Ramsey-Kobes Architects-Engineers P.C., based in West Des Moines, is 76,000 square feet, mostly consisting of a full-sized show arena with seating for 545 people. It includes a 48-stall barn for horses being trained in the program, separate spaces to isolate sick animals, another for breeding horses, storage areas and a 98-stall facility, costing an additional $655,000, that can be leased for horse shows.

In addition, noted former student Tasha Kopf, a Hardin County native, the equine building will give students more room for working with their animals, including using a full-sized show arena.

Currently, ECC rents a 16-stall barn on the west edge of town, for its equine science students to train young horses. She described it as “pretty cramped space for two classes, a total of 40 students. They needed a bigger arena.”

Students in the program will train seven different horses during their two-year regimen.

Provost Teckenburg told the Farm News that the program is so successful, “we have a waiting list for horses not even born yet.

“It’s like an exclusive pre-school.”

Kopf, who graduated from the program in 2007, and is now majoring in pre-vet medicine at Iowa State University, added that the new facility will give students a chance to work with a variety of different trainers, learning different techniques for working with horses.

She said that another plus to the new facility is a fenced-in outdoor riding area. Currently, students ride in unfenced areas. If there should be a problem, a student could be hurt well away from the facility and the horse running loose.

“This way it will be more safe for the students and for the horses,” Kopf said.

The renewable energy research center, architect Reich said, will be located just north of the equine center, is a total of 17,753 square feet that will encompass five classrooms, a biotechnology lab and a business incubator, plus faculty offices.

“ECC is fortunate,” Teckenburg said of the local support the college gets from the community. “Just about everyone here probably gave to the (fundraising) effort,” she said.

Robert T. & Arlene Hamilton

Bob Hamilton grew up just north of Iowa Falls on the family farm and attended Ellsworth for the 1942-43 school year. He happened to meet a young woman from Williams who was also attending Ellsworth, named Arlene.

Bob’s father died that year and Bob quit school to work full-time on the farm for his mother. Arlene worked for the Iowa Falls School District in the Junior and Senior High administrative offices. They have one son, Scott Hamilton of Ankeny.

Together, Bob and Arlene developed a farm that included traditional row crops and pork and egg production. In the 1970’s Bob became well-known for his work with Dr. Vetter of ISU on one of the first generations of methane digesters that utilized manure from both the hog and egg production facilities and produced alternative energy for their livestock facilities.

According to Roger Nissly, past president of the Iowa Falls Area Development Corporation, the Hamiltons are known for their hard work and modesty.

“Their $1 million gift to the Vision 21 Capital Campaign is because of their desire to support educational facilities that provide affordable education to students and to further the entrepreneurial spirit and technology of agriculture,” Nissly said.

In a prepared statement, the Hamilton family released the following:

“The Hamilton’s have experienced the benefits derived from establishing and operating a small business and know that the types of courses taught will dictate the value of the their investment being made as a result of the Vision 21 Capital Campaign.

“They believe the building of an Agriculture and Renewable Energy Center and an expansion of student facilities in the Dale Howard Family Activity Center (currently under construction) will increase student enrollment at Ellsworth.

“The Hamilton’s understand that expanding the educational facilities start with the capital improvements of land, brick and mortar, modern equipment and technology. They are pleased with the proposed plans of the Agriculture and Renewable Energy Center to be built on the south edge of Iowa Falls.

You can contact Larry Kershner by e-mailing kersh@farm-news.com.
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