The University of Montana's plans to build a new College of Technology campus on the UM Golf Course are prompting a group of locals calling themselves "Advocates for Missoula's Future" to ramp up their opposition to the project. "The movement is starting to grow," says Ian Lange, who's working to prevent UM from erecting buildings on the city's oldest golf course.
UM President Royce Engstrom announced in December that the university plans to build its new COT campus on the 88-year-old course. This month, the Advocates began gathering signatures of like-minded locals who have a laundry list of concerns about UM's plans for a new COT. As of March 27, the Advocates' online petition had 97 signatures.
The group doesn't dispute that COT needs new digs. Classes at the school's South Avenue West facility are sometimes held in doublewide trailers. But they say that UM's planning process has been less than transparent. For instance, they want to know why a 2005 plan for an environmentally friendly COT campus, called the "Futures Park" at Fort Missoula, was scrapped in favor of building on the golf course, seen as a precious piece of urban open space.
"The whole thing just doesn't make sense," says Lange, who's a professor emeritus in UM's Department of Geosciences.
Lange and the Advocates also want to know where the tax dollars that funded the Fort Missoula plan went. In 2004, former Montana Sen. Conrad Burns secured a $750,000 grant for the college through the U.S. Department of Energy. Congress also appropriated $750,000 annually for a four-year term to support Futures Park's development. "We're talking about our tax money here," Lange says.
The university did not respond to questions posed by the Independent stemming from the Advocates' concerns.
UM has announced that it intends to ask the Montana Legislature during the 2013 session for $47 million to build the new campus on the golf course. The Advocates plan on submitting their petition to UM administrators, the Montana Board of Regents and, Lange says, perhaps most importantly, Montana lawmakers. "We're going to meet with some legislators; I think that's the key."