Design process on RCCC bond projects to begin

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 7, 2022

SALISBURY — Bond-funded projects that were put on hold for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College because of the pandemic are beginning to see the light of day again.

Rowan County voters signed off on the $45 million bond in March of 2020, less than two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the unprecedented shuttering of schools and restrictions on daily life.

At the time, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners froze some outgoing funding because of concerns about economic fallout due to the pandemic, and the bond was part of that, effectively putting the projects it would fund on hold.

The commissioners freed up $1 million in July of 2021 to begin paying for project planning costs and small land acquisition. The remaining $44 million was handed over in July of this year and the capital projects were approved by RCCC’s board later that month along with the selection of Charlotte firm ADW architects to oversee the project.

Now the college is expecting a contract with ADW to be complete by the end of this month and kick off 12 months of designs, followed by about 24 months of construction.

“That really depends on how we can execute on construction,” Jonathan Chamberlain, chief officer of the college’s environment division, said. “There’s separate buildings in this project: A welding building, an automotive building, a Career and College Promise building and support at our fire training center.”

Chamberlain said the college has to propose its contracts to the state construction process for approval.

The project entails new and improved facilities for the college’s programs, notably machining, automotive and welding. The college says the improvements to program will help the county stay competitive.

The project will also improve dual-credit programs for local high school students and construction of a decontamination facility for its firefighters.

Chamberlain said the cost of the project is expected to go up because of pandemic cost increases and inflation, though exactly how much is not clear yet. He said the college is having to look at cost savings and new funding for the project.

He added everyone is having to take increased costs into consideration because everything is more expensive.

The college is pursuing more funding. He pointed out a 2010 bond-funded project was supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration so the college could do more at the time and the college is speaking to the administration right now as well.

The college is also talking to private partners in the welding and automotive programs to see if they can provide additional funding.

“We’re looking for every possible source of additional funding, because of course what we don’t want to have to do is cut scope,” Chamberlain said, adding the economy could shift over the next year.

Sarah Devlin, RCCC’s Chief Officer of Advancement and Community Relations said the college has been successful getting a number of economic development grants in the past and one way corporate partners can support the college is by providing state-of-the-art equipment for the programs so students can learn on the same equipment the would use in the field.

“It’s a win-win for us, the students and the companies,” Devlin said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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