Since the completion of asbestos remediation, quiet has again settled around the old City Market/Chaco building at the corner of 6th and Meeker streets in Delta. But looks can be deceiving.

There may not be any visible activity, but there's a lot going on, reports Michael Klouser, director of the Technical College of the Rockies.

The building was purchased by Delta County Joint School District #50 and the tech college in 2017 with the goal of supporting entrepreneurs and business growth through the ENGAGE program. Grants for planning, design, renovation and operations were pursued in partnership with Delta County Economic Development, Delta County, City of Delta, DOLA and Region 10.

While office space will still be available for DCED, Region 10 and the Small Business Development Center, use of the remaining space has changed. Stakeholders determined the greatest need is for expansion of the health programs offered at the tech college. Partnering agencies have also expanded, to include Delta County Memorial Hospital, the hospital foundation and Western Colorado Area Health Education Center (WCAHEC).

A Denver architect is working on an interior design that will accommodate health care and EMS programs currently offered at the campus south of town. "In addition, we will have office space and a large area suitable for community functions, with a capacity of about 200 people," Klouser said.

Design work for the 22,000-square-foot building is being funded through a Department of Local Affairs grant. For construction, the tech college has applied for a $3 million grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

These funds just recently became available to the three technical colleges in the state, when the state Legislature set aside $4 million for capital projects. Each request must be approved by the Legislature so there's no guarantee of full or even partial funding, and the decision won't be made until the next legislative session. The earliest funds would be available is July 1, 2020.

Klouser also presented the health care center concept at Rural Philanthropy Days and received some positive feedback.

While both the school district and the tech college are budgeting funds for the project, Klouser said community partners are vital to the grant process and ultimately to the completion of the project.

If funding falls into place, Klouser said he's "cautiously optimistic" the renovation of the building could be complete by the fall 2021 term.

"After we're done with the project, we expect to expand programs for LPNs, nurse aides, and medical/clinical assisting program, and to build on our EMS programs," Klouser said. Currently, there's a waiting list for the practical nursing program, the EMS program has grown to near capacity, and nurse aide programs produce 75 to 80 nurse aides every year.

The state-of-the-art health care facility will also provide a venue for continuing education courses for licensed health care professionals.

"Everything will be new and be purchased through an advisory board, with input from WCAHEC and Rocky Vista University in Parker," Klouser said.

"Once programs move out of the main campus, we will be able to expand programming here to include training for the transportation industry, HVAC, carpentry and welding, to name a few." Automotive/diesel mechanics, drafting and intro computer classes can also be expanded.

One benefit of bringing students to the downtown area will be an increase in foot traffic to restaurants and shops, Klouser said. "During peak class time, we could have 150 people in that building. I think that is where our partners at the city and county really see a benefit to this thing going forward."

A downtown campus will also reduce commute time for high school students, increasing their exposure to the world of higher education and the career opportunities that lay beyond high school.

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