The first scoops of dirt spelled out another chapter in a local community college's history.
Heavy machinery roared to life Monday on a parcel in west Craig. The sound signaled the beginning of construction for Colorado Northwestern Community College's new Craig campus.
"It's been a long time coming," CNCC President John Boyd said.
At noon, a group of past and current CNCC board members and administrators and other community members associated with the college gathered at the site for an official groundbreaking ceremony. Shortly afterward, workers for Anson Excavating & Pipe began tearing into the ground, setting the stage for the new campus' first two buildings.
Seeing the first stages of campus development also was a long deferred wish for Gene Bilodeau, CNCC Craig campus dean.
Bilodeau came to Craig in 1994 under the impression that new campus construction would begin within a few years' time, he said at the ceremony.
A few years, however, lengthened into more than a decade.
Bilodeau credited Boyd with getting the new campus off the ground.
"We've always had the desire, the energy and the horsepower in Craig to get this done," he said. "But, until we had a president who could actually help us do that, we were just kind of stuck in neutral."
Anson, a Craig company, offered $964,913, or the lowest bid for the work, which includes installing water, sewer and electrical lines.
The project will lay the groundwork for a career technical building, a residence hall and, eventually, an academic building. Work is scheduled to last until Dec. 1.
Both the career technical building and the residence hall are scheduled to open fall 2009. The academic building is projected for completion fall 2011.
Boyd predicted the residence hall will have an especially significant impact on CNCC's future.
"I believe that this campus is going to be a huge area of growth for the college," he said, adding that offering on-campus living quarters could draw in more students from outside the area and ultimately open the door for more college offerings.
Craig resident Bill Sawer already has one such offering in mind.
Sawer, who has lived in Craig for 11 years, was among the crowd gathered at the future CNCC Craig campus site Monday. He once taught soccer at the college and formed a campus soccer team but discontinued the course after one semester.
"When you're a commuter campus, you don't have a solid group to draw from for a team," he said, adding that his former students usually were working during the day.
However, Sawer predicted the residence halls would create a bigger pool of readily available students. He hopes to eventually start another team with such students.
But, Sawer, who has tracked the campus' progress since its early stages, had another reason for coming to the ceremony Monday.
"I wanted to show support for what the campus is trying to do here," he said.
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org