Trustees Approve Sale of Ft. Madison Center


At its regular April meeting on Monday, the Southeastern Community College Board of Trustees authorized the sale of SCC’s Fort Madison Center at 1602 Avenue F to Harmony Bible Church.

SCC President Dr. Michael Ash says the organization approached college officials in the fall of last year about the possibility of purchasing the center.

The Board approved Dr. Ash to enter into negotiations for the sale last month. After a round of negotiations, Ash and Harmony Bible Church agreed on a purchase price of $230,000. The sale will become final and the building will change hands on June 30.

SCC has operated the facility as a learning center since 2004. Originally a church, the renovated building now contains three classrooms and office spaces on the main floor. Its finished basement is currently being used by the Fort Madison alternative high school. The center hosts high school equivalency classes, continuing education workshops and meetings, college-level classes, and corporate training workshops.

Ash is quick to point out that SCC will continue to serve residents in the Fort Madison area but that analysis by college officials shows that the facility isn’t meeting college or community needs.

“There are some challenges with the center in terms of location and facility limitations that makes it difficult to justify some of the major investment we will soon need to make to keep it in good shape.”

Ash explains that the way residents utilize SCC’s services has changed over time resulting in a drop utilization of the facility. The opening of the Highway 61 by-pass has made it easier for Fort Madison residents to travel to West Burlington or Keokuk for classes than in the past. With more existing offerings available at each campus, local students are opting to make the drive instead of attend the center. This has led to fewer classes meeting the minimum enrollment threshold.

Another contributing factor to is Fort Madison Community Schools’ decision to relocate its alternative high school back to the main high school.

“That leaves us with a building that’s too big for our needs,” concludes Ash.

The sale of the center will have no impact on SCC’s current partnership with Fort Madison High School to offer college-level, concurrent enrollment classes at the high school.

“We believe that we can find a new location that’s more appropriate for our needs yet gives us the flexibility to adjust to the types of services the community needs SCC to provide.”

In recent years SCC has partnered with Lee County Economic Development Group to develop training programs that support the skilled job openings in the region. Some of those programs took place at the center. Ash says he intends to work with similar groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, to develop programming tailored to the needs of the community.

“This gives us the opportunity to assess the community’s needs and identify ways we can meet them and what it will take for us to do so,” Ash explains.

College officials have been in talks with developers interested in a relocated SCC facility as being part of a larger plan to revitalize a stretch of Avenue G that runs through downtown.

“There are a lot of benefits of relocating downtown. It would be closer to more business traffic, we could engage with the developer to have a say in the layout of a building as it’s being renovated, and our presence could help serve as a catalyst for further downtown development.”

SCC has commitments that require it to maintain possession of the facility until June 30. Officials are developing a plan for relocation that would allow for minimal disruption of services. Ash will bring the plan to the Board once it is complete.

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