04/12/06 — Building will open next year at college

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Building will open next year at college

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 12, 2006 1:51 PM

The floors have been poured and construction continues on the roof of the Spruce Building at Wayne Community College, the last building to be funded by the 2000 Higher Education Bond money.

Officials say they are pleased with prospects of future growth and recently developed a master plan to handle that growth.

Groundbreaking took place in October for the Spruce Building, which will house the business and computer technology department. The $4.3 million structure will measure more than 28,000 square feet and contain eight computer labs, eight general purpose classrooms and faculty offices.

WCC Construction

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

The Spruce Building is under construction on the Wayne Community College campus. The projected finish date for the new building is mid-November. When it is completed, it will house eight computer labs as well as eight general purpose classrooms.

Ken Ritt, vice president for educational support services, said if the project remains on schedule, it will be completed by mid-November.

"We hope to start classes there in January," said Dr. Edward H. Wilson, college president.

One reason for locating business programs and faculty there is to improve efficiency. There are already computer labs in the nearby Magnolia building, with a connector walkway to be built linking the two buildings, Ritt said.

"We only have two technicians that work with over 1,200 (personal computers)," Wilson said. "This will keep them close together and help their efficiency of operation."

The other focus is on renovations. A $1 million project began in December and will affect administrative and business offices, which will be relocated to the Dogwood building.

Ritt said the move will open up space in the current administrative building, allowing for the expansion of the bookstore and other student service offices.

"The whole job is to take this building, especially the first floor, and make it all student services," he said. "From the cafeteria and bookstore to public placement -- financial aid, career center, student activities and the lounge -- it will increase the floor space almost twice."

As for other areas of the building, the second floor, currently used for business and computer technology, will be turned into classrooms. There will be no change to the third floor, the college's library.

The first phase of the project calls for administrative offices to move around the middle of May, Ritt said. At that time, the bookstore will be renovated, with completion expected closer to the end of the year.

The bookstore's current location will be converted into meeting space, a much-needed commodity at the college.

"With the Paramount burned down, we get gobs of gobs of requests for meetings," Wilson said. "We try to provide space."

Although there is no money set aside for it yet, one potential project is an addition to the autobody area, he said. That would entail adding a couple of priming booths for the department.

Additional parking is also a concern.

That need had to be re-prioritized, Wilson said, when the college "had to buy those retention ponds to keep the nitrogen out of the Neuse River. We'll have to build another retention pond before we build any parking lots."

Ritt said the college was fortunate to pick up 40 parking spaces through construction of the continuing education center, housed in the Walnut Building, which opened in October.

"We have ample parking to accommodate our students. It's just not always where they want it," he said.

Wilson quipped that there is a "dirt parking lot behind Pine" building and overflow parking can always be found on grassy areas in the meantime.

Short of contingency money, which optimistically would provide the estimated $300,000 for the autobody addition, that depletes the $13.5 million bond money, Ritt said. To offset the additional amount needed, a request has been made to the county, he added.

"We'll just have to wait until money is provided by the state or the county," Wilson said. "But I feel pretty good about where we're going to be classroom-wise because we're going to be picking up almost 20 classrooms."

Down the road, there might be other expansions or renovations needed, depending on the growth areas. One of those will be to relocate continuing education classes currently being offered on the former WCC campus off of Wayne Memorial Drive, Wilson said.

"We just completed our 10-year master plan, updated it, and it reflects moving the south campus over here," Ritt said. "The board just approved that."

Also, in the fall, the campus will see the addition of the county's 32nd public high school, the Early/Middle High School. Set to occupy the second floor of the Hocutt Building, it will have five classrooms and offices for administrators and faculty.

The building will be easily shared by students, Ritt said, since classes for the high school start at noon.