In less than two years, Dalton State College students may have a new building to show off - seven years after it first was proposed.
This week, the Georgia Legislature approved a budget for fiscal 2013 that includes $15 million for construction of an academic building with labs at the school. The budget now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal, who has about a month and a half to sign it before the fiscal year starts July 1.
School officials and area lawmakers are optimistic they finally will get funding for the building.
"Currently our facilities are old and outdated; there's no space for student research," said John Schwenn, Dalton State College president.
Getting the money for the building means a lot, he added, because the school will be able to attract more students interested in science, particularly chemistry.
"This part of the state has a lot of chemical companies, plus the entire carpet industry relies in chemistry and chemicals," he said. Because there are not enough graduates with a chemistry degree, these companies "currently have to hire from outside the area," he said.
This is the second year Dalton State offers a bachelor's degree in chemistry.
Total construction of the 60,000-square-foot building will take about 13 months, and Schwenn said the college is ready to begin construction as soon as the bonds to pay for it are sold.
Furnishings for the building will be included in next year's budget.
The budget approved by the Legislature includes $326.8 million in bond funding for University System of Georgia projects, including construction, equipment purchases, design, major repairs and rehabilitation.
The road to funding the new academic building at Dalton State has been "a long and arduous one," according to school officials. The original project approved by the state Board of Regents in 2005 called for a 100,000-square-foot general classroom facility at a cost of about $22 million.
It later was reduced to almost half the size and a cost of $15 million and the building was redesigned to include more science labs in addition to general classroom space.
Last year, the Legislature approved funding for half of the building but Deal vetoed it.
"At that time, Gov. Deal signaled that's not the right way [to fund a project] and, candidly, I agree with that," said state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton.
"I'm hopeful and optimistic that Gov. Deal supports this project. He understands what it means for Northwest Georgia," Bethel added.