Funding for a new science building for Dalton State College is in the state budget awaiting approval from the governor, and area officials believe it will go through.
The Legislature has approved funding for the building in the past only to be blocked by the governor. This time, said state Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton, it looks like that obstacle is gone.
Both chambers of the Legislature voted Tuesday to approve the $19.3 billion state budget that includes $15 million for a new Dalton State academic building on the main campus.
“It’s a done deal,” said Williams, who is on the House Appropriations Committee. “The governor has agreed not to veto it.”
Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed funding for several college buildings around the state, saying the budget the Legislature approved didn’t cover the full cost of construction. The budget would have provided part of the cost last year and the second part this year. A spokeswoman for Deal didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
DSC President John Schwenn said he’s excited about the funding for the building officials expect to open sometime in 2014. The college plans to expand its science offerings to cater to regional businesses that are currently hiring from outside the area because of the lack of educated workers.
“It will serve our students well,” Schwenn said. “I think our students deserve a new, up-to-date science facility, and this will help meet our student needs.”
Dalton State has asked for the funding several years in a row, but the requests fell during a time of state budget cuts. Schwenn said the building will provide space for students to conduct research as well as laboratories.
Scott Bailey, vice president for fiscal affairs at the college, said a little more than $1 million has already been paid out for design work and planning. Assuming the budget is signed by the governor, construction can begin as soon as the bonds are sold and a contract approved, he said. Bailey said that will likely happen this fall. Construction is expected to take 13 months.
Another state allotment next year would fund furniture and equipment, Bailey said.
“Probably the earliest it could be occupied would be January 2014,” Bailey said. “If not, it should be ready for fall semester 2014.”
“The road to funding the new academic building has been a long and arduous one,” the college said in a press release. “The original project approved by the Board of Regents in 2005 called for a 100,000-square-foot general classroom building to be constructed at a proposed cost of $22 million. The building was listed as a major project (capital projects over $5 million) on the Regents Capital Funding List and was expected to work its way up the list until funded.”
The funding process was later changed, and projects had to be submitted each year for consideration. Planners scaled down the Dalton State building to its current cost of $15 million for a 60,000-square-foot facility and specified it would include more science labs in addition to general classrooms.
Schwenn said the building will be near Sequoyah, the current science building, on a nearby hill. Some science, math and nursing classes will still be in Sequoyah, he said.
“Northwest Georgia has a really big need for chemists, and throughout the carpet industry,” Schwenn said. “Right now, they’re hiring people from out of our area ... I expect a new facility to increase the student body, but particularly in the science areas like chemistry.”