08/06/08 — County approves $20 million plan for WCC projects

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County approves $20 million plan for WCC projects

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 6, 2008 1:37 PM

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday gave tentative approval to a proposed $20 million building project at Wayne Community College, but not before ensuring that the wording of their motion was sufficiently vague so as to not bind the hands of future commissioners.

During a briefing session prior to the board meeting, commissioners expressed concern about the county assuming any additional expenditures. They also said the motion had to be worded so as not to encumber a future board.

Meanwhile, the fate of $90,000 in state money for project planning at WCC hinged on commissioners agreeing to support the proposed new construction with operations and maintenance funds.

That new associated cost could amount to an estimated $130,000 annually in county funding. In the wording of their motion, Commissioner Atlas Price Jr. said "it is the intent" of the board to provide the funding.

Each of the state's 58 community colleges is in line to receive $90,000 for initial design of each college's top project identified in its long-range facilities master plan.

Currently, no funds are anticipated or obligated for construction, WCC President Dr. Kay Albertson told commissioners. But, she said, having the initial design in hand will save months of work should funds, possibly from any future state bond issue, become available.

WCC's top project includes construction of a 41,459-square-foot two-story addition to the Pines Building, which houses the allied health and public safety programs, renovations to the existing Pines Building and a new 13,000-square-foot energy plant.

Mrs. Albertson said the $5.8 million energy plant is needed to replace the one built in the 1980s. The existing plant has reached its maximum capacity and the college will be unable to grow without a new one, she said, adding that the project had been selected after review of county data, and data compiled at the college.

She said that the allied health and public safety programs had stood out as the major project followed by renovation of the college's technical/vocational spaces and expansion of general education classrooms.

The allied health and public safety programs attract 1,500 students annually.

"We could do so much more if we had the space," she said.

She noted that the county's population is aging and that there is an increased demand for nurses, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians and related public safety workers.

Mrs. Albertson called the $90,000 a coup for community colleges since planning money normally goes to the schools in the state university system.

"Community colleges of North Carolina provide the bulk of first responders, prepare the bulk of health care providers, so it is necessary that we be able to plan also," she said.

Mrs. Albertson said that the public is mostly unaware of the external pressures placed on the school. For example, she said the state Board of Nursing and the national nursing board "tells us the number of square footage we need for students and the kind of storage."

Price asked Mrs. Albertson if the construction would open up room for other programs.

"Yes it will free space, but really we will be expanding what we are doing to increase the number we can serve," she said.

Price also was concerned about how far in the future WCC is planning for and the status of its vocational education program.

The Pine Building project should take WCC to 2013. If all three projects could be done, the date would be pushed to 2020, she said.

As for the vocational education program, Mrs. Albertson said that unlike some community colleges, WCC had not deleted any programs in the eight years she has been with the college and that she and the college are committed to the program.