published Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Dalton State College officials seek funding for new building

Office business technology student Angelica Fraire, left, and computer operations student Jonathan Nuno walk past Sequoya Hall on the campus of Dalton State College. A new science building was planned for construction adjacent to the hall, but area lawmakers are trying to raise nearly $15 million for the project after funding from the Georgia General Assembly was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Office business technology student Angelica Fraire, left, and computer operations student Jonathan Nuno walk past Sequoya Hall on the campus of Dalton State College. A new science building was planned for construction adjacent to the hall, but area lawmakers are trying to raise nearly $15 million for the project after funding from the Georgia General Assembly was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

Dalton State officials and area lawmakers remain hopeful they will be able to find funding this year for an academic building that has been in the works since 2005.

"I hope to get funding for Dalton State College -- my last hurrah," said state Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton, who said this week he will retire from the Georgia General Assembly after this legislative session.

"I've been working on this for five years; I've begged and pleaded for it to happen. I'm hopeful this year it will be approved," Williams said.

Back in May, Dalton State received good news when the General Assembly approved more than $8 million to pay for half of the new academic building, with funding from bonds.

But Gov. Nathan Deal cut that project and 10 others worth about $40 million for the University System of Georgia from the budget.

"I can't fault the issue of the governor not funding half of the building," said state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton.

"It's an inefficient way [to fund a building], and there's a history of having done it that way that's really not a way he's comfortable with," Bethel said. "I understand that philosophy. I just wish we had gotten the whole project in last year."

The estimated cost of the 60,000-square-foot building for classrooms and science and math labs has shrunk since the Board of Regents first approved it at $22 million seven years ago. Now lawmakers hope to get $15 million.

"It continues to be an important project, everybody understands that," Bethel said. "Hopefully we can find room in what's honestly going to be another tight budget."

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The school is ready to start construction as soon as funding is approved, Dalton State College President John Schwenn said.

School officials met again with the architects Friday to adjust the cost, including reducing some room sizes and changing insulation, he said.

"The challenge is the different cost of materials and how they change over time," Schwenn said. "The longer it takes, the more difficult it is."

The newest academic building on campus was built in 1999. Enrollment at Dalton State had grown consistently since then, until last year.

Enrollment grew from 4,349 in the fall of 2006 to 5,988 in fall 2010, but fell by 8.4 percent, or 503 students, last fall, records show.

Still, Schwenn and area lawmakers argue a new building is a top priority for the school and the region.

"We are at maximum capacity," Williams said.

Dalton State has 85 square feet per full-time equivalent student, compared to the University System of Georgia average of 184 square feet.

"We are even below the 92 square feet per full-time equivalent average of the two-year college sector," Pam Partain, Dalton State's spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail.

"Of the University System's 35 colleges and universities, Dalton State ranks second lowest in square feet per full-time equivalent," she said.

Bethel said the building and the school are clearly an economic development driver for the area. He remains hopeful about the funding, but knows it's chancy.

"By no means am I expecting this to be an easy thing, but we'll continue to work and make the case of why it's important for growth," he said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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