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Tens of millions of dollars proposed for Southern Oregon projects

A list of capital projects that are in line to receive funding from state bonding includes $8 million for a Rogue Community College Health and Science Center, $4.7 million for renovation of Britt Hall at Southern Oregon University and nearly $10 million for youth corrections facilities in the Jackson-Josephine counties region.

While it was one of the smaller amounts, there is also an intriguing item of $100,000 for a city of Medford "conference center feasibility study."

Obtained by The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, the list is not official, but the newspaper says it appears to be close to the final plan for dispersing some $1 billion in funding from state bonds. The bonding proposal still must make its way through committees and final votes by legislators.

Other Southern Oregon funding on the list includes $2.5 million for cable barriers on Interstate 5 in Southern Oregon, $2 million for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, $10 million for the Coos Bay rail line, $10.5 million for a Roseburg veterans home, $1.6 million for repair of docks at Brookings-Harbor and $500,000 for work at Riverside Park in Grants Pass.

The $8 million earmarked for RCC has been in the works since 2013, when the Oregon Legislature approved a matching grant that required the school to also raise $8 million. The combined $16 million project would be used to build a health and sciences facility in Jackson County and upgrade facilities in Josephine County, according to reports at the time.

The school's allied health care program includes training for certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians and dental assistants. When the matching grants was announced in 2013, the school said it planned to add programs for clinical laboratory assistants and acute care certified nursing assistants. RCC estimated it could train 460 students in the first three years after the new facilities were built.

Officials at RCC could not be reached for comment Friday.

The $100,000 line item for a conference center feasibility study in Medford comes after decades of discussions by government and business leaders about the need for such a center. Tourism officials say Medford is limited in the size of groups it can solicit for conventions, because of a lack of suitable space for larger groups.

SOU's $4.7 million earmark for remodeling Britt Hall would extend the university's building and remodeling spree that has seen more than $130 million in construction since 2010. Britt Hall, built in 1937, houses the registrar and admissions offices and communication department faculty. Previous projects include a $56 million residence and dining hall, $29 million for athletic facilities, $11.5 million for the Theater Arts building and $6.4 million for Churchill Hall, which primarily houses administrative offices.

A $9.9 million allocation for the Oregon Youth Authority facility in Grants Pass is part of a statewide push to improve the OYA's facilities and outcomes. It would pay to cover deferred maintenance, build a treatment and education center and renovate living units.

The I-5 cable barriers are intended to reduce head-on collisions caused by vehicles crossing the interstate's median into oncoming traffic. They already have been installed on long stretches of I-5 between Eugene and Portland.

Other funding included on the tentative bond list includes $65 million to be divided among all state universities for capital repair, renovation and accessibility, $125 million for school district capital projects, $175 million for seismic work on public education buildings, $40 million for affordable housing, $30 million for water projects, $20 million for mental health housing and $45 million for Connect Oregon, which directs lottery money to nonhighway transportation and economic development projects.

But a long-debated renovation of the state Capitol was not included. The renovation would add meeting space and improve earthquake safety. But some lawmakers worried voters would be unhappy to see lawmakers improving their own building while many schools are left in need of maintenance.

Lawmakers last year approved about $30 million for planning work for the Capitol project. "It seems courage and leadership have left the building, throwing away 10 years and $30 million of deliberations, planning and design," said Fred Neal, chair of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation.

Bob Hunter is editor of the Mail Tribune. Reach him at bhunter@mailtribune.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.