The Roseburg City Council unanimously decided to prepare a letter of support, which includes financial commitments, for a proposed allied and mental health college during its special city council meeting Wednesday.

“This is a project that will help the city and make a difference in the city in more ways than one; the restaurants, the several hundred students, the faculty, the housing, the restaurants everything down there,” Roseburg City Councilor Tom Ryan said.

Ryan then made the motion to write a letter of support relating the city’s financial involvement in the college and support for the Oregonians for Rural Health in raising the balance of the remaining money to develop the project.

Roseburg’s latest investment would equal $400,000. The total cost of building another college in Roseburg is estimated to be around $40 million, city manager Lance Colley said.

“Everything that we can do with development, with infrastructure will help offset the cost and be a valuable component in moving the project forward,” Colley said. “This is the most significant potential economic and community development opportunity that the city has had an opportunity to participate in.”

The city has been working with ORH and other local organizations to establish the college. A memorandum of understanding was signed between ORH and George Fox University in late February to explore building the college in Roseburg.

City staff has been working with ORH, Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, and other local and regional governments to determine the financial support necessary for the project. According to Colley and several community members in attendance, a strong community backing would help secure funding from legislators.

Legislators will ask for $20 million for the project, and further funding is expected from federal and state grants, philanthropy and a variety of other sources. Roseburg will help to support or participate in potential grant processes with partners.

The city council funded the project with $30,000 in early concept stage development work, another $15,000 in 2016, and authorized an additional $25,000 in March to support funding for an economic study to assess the viability and need for the college.

“Several councils ago in a galaxy far, far away. I think (councilor) Bob (Cotterell) was here and (mayor) Larry (Rich) was here and I was here. We passed that first $30,000,” Ryan said. “The director at that time gave this about a 10 to 15% chance and we still voted to give the $30,000 and it wasn’t unanimous, and we did catch some hell in the newspaper, but that’s all our involvement as a council.”

City councilor Ashley Hicks did not attend Wednesday’s special meeting.

Representatives from ORH and George Fox identified a property in the area of Northwest Stewart Parkway, Renann Street and Northwest Edenbower Boulevard to build the college, to be close to medical facilities as well as the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

ORH paid the other half of the cost for the economic study. Preliminary results of that study are expected by the end of this month, with a final report in May.

Wayne Patterson, executive director of The Partnership for Economic Development in Douglas County, did not want to speculate on what the results of that study might be.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203.

Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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Education Reporter

Sanne Godfrey is the education reporter for The News-Review.

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