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Trading Builds?

GAVC considering options, possible alternatives for building trades project

GAVC junior Ryan Potochnic uses a miter saw to cut and install strapping for drywall Tuesday afternoon at the GAVC student built home in the Fields of Saratoga subdivision in Morris.
GAVC junior Ryan Potochnic uses a miter saw to cut and install strapping for drywall Tuesday afternoon at the GAVC student built home in the Fields of Saratoga subdivision in Morris.

Unease in the local housing market could impact area students taking part in the Grundy Area Vocational Center's Building Trades program.

The GAVC board is currently considering which direction the program should take as students wrap up their project house in spring 2013, and a new project is introduced next fall.

GAVC Director Lance Copes said the issue was raised at the last board meeting and no formal action has been taken, but said the board may consider alternative projects. At this point, Copes said the GAVC board is in conversation about how to proceed.

"In the last four years, we have sold our houses without any concern," he said. "Being in the market we're in, if a house does not appear to be moving quickly, we might want to consider other options."

Board member and Coal City Community Unit School District 1 Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg agreed.

"The building trades program at GAVC has a long history and it's just been a tremendous program for our kids, but the housing market has caused some challenges for us," Bugg said.

Bugg said the declines in employment in the construction industry have had an impact in enrollment in the program, and pointed to the cost of building the house.

"Building the house is a big capitol outlay expenditure," he said. "It's never been an issue in the past, because we were always able to turn around and sell it quickly, but the market's turning right now."

Bugg said the cost to build the home averages about $200,000, which is split among GAVC member schools — Morris Community High School, Coal City High School, Minooka Community High School and Gardner-South Wilmington High School. He said that investment has been returned in past years, but it's less certain if that will continue to be the case.

"In the past, we've been able to make a profit on the project," he said. "It's just a different market right now."

Prior to the recession, Copes said the Building Trades students completed a house as a two-year project. To help offset the slower market, the board lengthened the project to three years before the current house was started.

Copes said whatever the board decides, they support the aim of the program in equipping the next generation of tradesmen and women with the skills and knowledge to be able to transition into careers.

"The board is very committed to keeping this program alive," he said. "We are going to see a need for building homes and carpenters and I'd hate to lose the program."

Bugg echoed Copes' interest in keeping the program.

"It's a real challenge because I think everyone at GAVC values that program," he said. "The instructor does a great job, the kids (get great experience), but we also have a responsibility to be fiscally responsible to our taxpayers as well."

Copes said other similar programs statewide have been shuttered in recent years, but GAVC is in a good spot at this point. He noted the fact that they have eight lots to build on, which were purchased long before the recession.

"We're just trying to make sure we're keeping the best opportunities for our students available," he said. "We want to make sure that students are building a home. If it isn't a home, it'll be something else."

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