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College holds open house for Student Union, training center
new slt open-house-main
Barton Community College President Dr. Carl Heilman, right, and others tour the new mobile Gas Measurement Training center during an open house Thursday. The open house also unveiled major renovations inside the Student Union. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Barton Community College employees showed visitors some of the latest improvements Thursday. During an open house for the fully renovated Student Union, the college also invited people to look inside the mobile training center for Barton’s natural gas transmission and distribution program. The mobile unit is the first of its kind.
The Student Union was remodeled on both floors, giving it a more open appearance and making it more accessible, said Darnell Holopirek, Barton’s executive director of institutional advancement. The amenities range from flat-screen TVs in the dining area to new bathroom fixtures. Students can now eat their lunch at round tables with comfortable chairs – replacing the long tables and the blue and yellow chairs that made the Union look more like a high school cafeteria than a college gathering place, she said. Since visitors often stop by the Union, it will also make it a great recruitment tool.
As previously noted, the remodeling  project was paid for by funds from the Barton Foundation, which were matched by the college at a total of approximately $200,000.  A majority of the Foundation’s portion were part of an estate that was donated to the college by longtime Great Bend resident Theodore F. Deal, but the board approved additional funding when it was needed to finish the job.
“We look forward to more opportunities for the Foundation to work with the college,” Holopirek said.

Gas Measurement Training
Outside the Student Union was the 28-foot trailer that houses training equipment for the gas measurement program at BCC. The equipment in the mobile unit is duplicated in an on-campus version, said Julie Kramp, BCC’s executive director of Workforce Training and Economic Development.
College staff have been working with employers in the gas transmission and distribution industry to offer technology driven training. The mobile unit and the equipment that will stay on campus were purchased with part of a State Energy Sector Partnership and Training Grant.
“This (mobile unit) is meant to travel, because the companies that came to us are located in different states, and they want us to travel to where they are,” Kramp said.
Instructor Vince Orth from Barton’s natural gas program was on hand as well. The mobile unit is so new it doesn’t have the official Barton “wrapper” decals, he said.  Barton’s new gas measurement certificate program hasn’t started yet, but the courses are already being offered and enrollment is growing, he said.
The program is featured in the July issue of Pipeline & Gas Journal, a national publication, and graduates of the program are reporting there are employment opportunities and jobs starting at $25 per hour, Orth noted.
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the mobile unit and new equipment will  be good for students and for the  college’s gas training program.