Crowder College officials blast feds over red-tape for energy center

Friday, June 25, 2010 | 11:33 a.m. CDT

NEOSHO — A planned alternative energy center years in the making at Crowder College has become mired in what school officials view as bureaucratic red tape.

Crowder President Alan Marble on Thursday updated the school's Board of Trustees on the lack of progress in constructing the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology Center.

Marble said the money for the college has been appropriated, but it has yet to receive roughly $5.4 million in federal funds to construct the building that would house its alternative and renewable energy research programs. The college received a $1 million appropriation for the project in 2005, and it also has roughly $2 million in private funds that are tied to the project, he said.

"We're going to do what we have to do to get it," Marble said. "I think we should enlist every power we can to get this money for its intended use."

Trustee Jim Tatum voiced frustration with the federal Energy Department for slowing the steps toward construction.

"It's been approved by the House and Senate, signed for by the president and stymied by the Department of Energy," he said.

Marble said he does not have a clear answer from the Energy Department as to what the exact holdup is. He said part of the delay may be related to an environmental assessment at the construction site.

"It seems to me it's taken an unreasonable amount of time," he said. "It's something the federal government does. Missouri Department of Natural Resources does the same thing, and in relatively short order. We've had two buildings approved (by the DNR) since 2005."

Officials with the Department of Energy in Washington did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment.

One avenue the college has explored is enlisting the help of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt to petition the Energy Department on the school's behalf.

Dan Wadlington, a Blunt spokesman, said Thursday that the office was preparing a letter about the project to be sent to the Department of Energy. He said the office had been in contact with the department and would continue to do so.

"We are doing our best to help Crowder College move forward with the MARET Center construction," Wadlington said.

Asked about the frustration voiced Thursday by Crowder officials, Wadlington said, "The congressman's office is familiar with that frustration."

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