• 57°

BC to expand

Bainbridge College was given the formal OK by the state Board of Regents last week to begin the process of building approximately 100,000 additional new square feet of space in Bainbridge and Blakely, Bainbridge College President Dr. Tom Wilkerson said Monday.

The biggest building project will be the 80,000-square-foot student life/gymnasium to be built in the center of the Bainbridge campus, approximately where the tennis courts are presently located, Wilkerson said. The gym should seat anywhere from 3,000 to 3,500 persons with the hopes that one day the college’s graduation ceremonies can be held at “home.”

The college also plans to add 10,000 square feet to the Blakely campus, and a 10,000-square-foot butler-type building on the Bainbridge campus is already in the works with money in the bank. Wilkerson said this new building will house some of the more worksite-oriented technical education programs such as welding and electrical wiring, as well as office space for the truck driving program, and tentative plans may include a print shop for BC’s numerous in-house printing projects.

A student life center will comprise half of the new Blakely building and the other half will add more classrooms and lab space.

Funding for the new student life centers and the gym—which will cost approximately $25 million—will ultimately come from the $125 student life fee each student is charged per semester. If conservative projections are correct, the fee will last about 30 years. The fee can only be used to retire the debt for the new buildings.

“I wish if it was possible to do this building without student fees, but the reality is that the state isn’t going to have the money on any timely basis for us to get there. We will have, for the first time, a gym and student center of the appropriate size for the student body of our size,” Wilkerson said.

Georgia Higher Education Authority bonds will be sold in early June by the finance division of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission (GSFIC), a subsidiary of the Board of Regents, that will serve as the financing mechanism where the college can draw upon construction money from the sale of bonds. The construction division of the GSFIC was originally in charge of the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center, but in this case, the GSFIC finance division will handle only the sale of the bonds and it will not be involved in the building project like it was with the Kirbo Center, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said the college will use the private firm of Jones, Lang and LaSalle of Atlanta to assist in the selection and management of the architect, contractor and building firms, hoping to not repeat mistakes made with the now-open Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center.

“Trying to run a $25 million project and overlaying that on the existing administrative staff of the college makes no sense,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said he hopes the process of hiring a architect will be completed by the end of the year and a builder in place by February. Over the ensuing months, Wilkerson said a process will take place where the actual desires and hopes for the new student life centers and the gymnasium will take shape so the architect will have a baseline for his building plans. The president said he hopes to break ground in August 2009, and finish the building about 14 months later in Fall 2010.

The college is also leasing 15,000 square feet that was an old bowling alley located at 316 S. Boulevard St. that will eventually house such programs as cosmetology and some continuing education classes, Wilkerson said. Cosmetology will take up about a third of that building, and the other areas will be devoted to the college’s popular continuing education programs. Federal money and some of the fees paid for the continuing education programs will fund the lease.