State officials applaud BSC expansion

Published 11:55 am Thursday, May 2, 2013

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and local legislators congratulated Bainbridge State College on its planned $3-million expansion of River Birch Hall on Thursday.

Cagle, a guest of state Sen. Dr. Dean Burke, spoke Thursday evening in the solarium of the BSC Kirbo Center, stating that the state-supported project is an opportunity and an investment for not just Bainbridge, but the entire southwest Georgia region.

“We have the opportunity to continue to invest and continue to build something here that is going to make a difference, not just for us, but for generations to come,” he said.

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The expansion will add 10,000 square feet to River Birch Hall, which is currently 8,260 square feet. River Birch Hall, also known as the 800 Building, is currently used by BSC’s paramedic program and other health-sciences programs. Once completed, the renovated hall will include several additional state-of-the-art classrooms, computer labs, faculty offices and a student gathering space.

Cagle praised the community leaders who took the risk 40 years ago of starting a college in Bainbridge. He also praised the work of Burke, who was elected to office in February to take the place of retired state Sen. John Bulloch.

Burke, a physician with his office in Bainbridge, went to Atlanta with the General Assembly already several days into its legislative session.

“This is a man who said, ‘I don’t care about politics, I care about doing the right thing,’” Cagle said, of Burke. “That’s what separates a ‘politician’ from a ‘statesman.’ I’d much rather have a statesman than a politician.

“This is an individual who has exceeded every expectation that I had for him.”

Burke and other local legislators also spoke Thursday, including state Reps. Jay Powell, Darlene Taylor and Gerald Greene. Retired Rep. Gene Maddox also attended Thursday’s ceremony. Powell represents the northern portion of Decatur County, and Taylor represents the southern portion.

Burke pointed out that Georgia is not only competing in a national economy, but also a global economy.

“We’ve got to have the workforce that can do the jobs that the 21st century is going to require,” Burke said. “Institutions like this are what it’s going to take.”

Powell said that southwest Georgia legislators had to fight to keep the expansion project’s financing in the state budget. The project had been recommended by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents and survived several budget battles within the General Assembly in 2013.

“Education is important,” he said. “We need it for our region.”

Taylor said that the success of institutions like BSC will help the region keep its young bright minds at home, making a difference in southwest Georgia.

“This community needs this institution to be successful,” she said. “You have put your life and souls into this.”

BSC President Dr. Richard Carvajal thanked the state delegation for its support in seeing the project through. Construction is projected to begin in late 2013, with the expansion possibly opening in late 2014.

“There is no question that we would not be here today were it not for the amazing leadership of Lt. Gov. Cagle, Gov. Nathan Deal, our University System Board of Regents, Speaker David Ralston and all of our local delegation,” he said.