Lawsuit blocks escape at FVCC 

Hourly clerk jobs like those offered by the big box retailers springing up next to Flathead Valley Community Collage are what many students are attempting to flee when they enroll in school. The same way smells stir deeply buried memories, a cool, collegiate snap in the air can remind the once wage-bound of their escape from thankless chores like scanning merchandise and re-folding shirts at TJ Maxx.

As far as colleges go, students certainly get the max for the minimum when they sign up for classes at FVCC in Kalispell. The college is trying to grow, but a lawsuit brought by three local residents challenging a December 2002 bond election has halted the construction of new classrooms and facilities. The suit alleges that FVCC violated state election law when it extended the deadline for mailing in ballots. College officials chose to extend the deadline after Flathead County elections officials discovered they had left 15,000 names off the initial eligible voter list.

This triggered the lawsuit, and a district judge ruled this summer that “no alternative available to the College would have complied with all of the statutes applicable to mail ballot elections.” So after sending out an incomplete number of ballots last December, no matter what FVCC chose to do, it was bound to violate some piece of state election law. Now the case is headed to trial, while a growing number of prospective students wait for classroom space to open up.

Had there been no trouble with last year’s successful bond election, a new occupational programs building would be nearing completion on campus. But now, future construction at FVCC remains in lawsuit limbo. Want to enroll in training programs for heavy equipment operators, or surgical technicians or the building trades? Want to wad up that clerk’s vest and toss your nametag once and for all? Take a number. The FVCC escape hatch is crammed full.

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