SIERRA VISTA — Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony held at the Cochise College Sierra Vista campus marked the next chapter for the school’s automotive technology program.

James Krause, department chairperson of automotive technology, said this will be the first time since the program’s creation in 2005 that the shop will be housed on campus. The new building will be located south of the CTE building in Sierra Vista and dirt has been moving since early November after receiving board approval.

“For me this is 12 years in the making,” he said. “We never really had a home.”

There are currently 75 students in the automotive technology program and 12 classes offered for the certificate or associate’s degrees. The students work on light duty trucks and passenger vehicles, which are either supplied by the college or the student’s personal vehicle.

Krause said classes rarely have open spots and often times there are students who have to be put on a waitlist for the class.

“The automotive program has been on a steady growth since its inception,” Krause said. “It’s because of the growth ... that we really were out growing the old facility.”

The current automotive complex is located at 645 State Highway 92, and limits class sizes to 16 students. Krause said the layout of the shop has his students split in two garages and he has to go back and forth between buildings. Cochise College has been leasing that space for roughly seven years.

Rod Flanigan, dean of Business and Technology at Cochise College, said the board first approved funding for architects in 2018 and the start of construction on Nov. 8, 2019. Cochise College selected local companies like DLR Group for architectural services and Diversified Design and Construction, Inc. as the Construction Manager at Risk for the new automotive technology building. Diversified Design & Construction, Inc. is a member of the Sierra Vista-based Southeast Arizona Contractors Association (SACA).

A number of local companies including Expert Pest & Weed, GTS/ Gilbert Technical Services, Inc., Harvey Plumbing Inc., KE & G Construction, Inc., Port A-Pot, and many others out of Tucson are helping with the project.

“We are excited to work with DLR Group, Diversified Design, and Construction along with various local companies,” Cochise College President Dr. J.D. Rottweiler said in a statement sent to the Herald/Review. “The college worked with DLR Group and Diversified Design and Construction when the Downtown Center was built. The automotive technology building will also reflect the same modern design.”

Flanigan said the building is slated to be one story and 24,590-square feet. It will consist of two classrooms, which double as a computer labs, faculty offices and an equipped shop with lifts and alignment bays. The new classrooms will allow for a maximum of 20 students in each room.

Flanigan added that the classrooms will be utilized by other programs as well since the door leading to the shop can be locked when not in use.

“These are public funds we’re dealing with and we take that seriously,” he said.

The college’s governing board approved a $6.25 million price tag for the building, which also includes the construction and everything that needs to go into the building. Flanigan said the plan is for students to be working in the new building in January 2021, at the start of the spring 2021 semester.

“(The new building) expands the capabilities ... and significantly increases the scope of what we can do,” Flanigan said.

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