Two weeks ago, Dalton State College unveiled its 10-year, three-phase Campus Master Plan designed to grow and develop our campus to serve a projected enrollment of 8,000 students.
Last week, work began to transform that plan into reality.
Monday morning, four members of the Board of Regents’ Real Estate and Planning office were in Dalton to discuss options for implementing our vision for the campus over the next decade. It begins, of course, with the construction of a new 61,000 square foot academic building that has been approved by the BOR but not yet funded. The building will include labs and general classroom space. The rooms will be of varying sizes that can accommodate small seminar-style classes to large lecture classes.
Design funds of $1.3 million were appropriated by the Legislature last session, and architects are completing a draft proposal for the building which had the input of faculty, administrators and students. We remain very hopeful that lawmakers will fund the project (estimated to cost $14.5 million to build), if not this year then next so that construction can finally begin on this badly needed classroom space.
The academic building will be funded through the sale of general obligation bonds issued by the state. During this time of economic recession, the state has limited the amount of bond-financed construction in order to keep Georgia’s bond rating high, thus making the state more attractive for economic development purposes. We understand this conservative approach, but we are ready for our building to be constructed.
Construction of residence halls on the south end of the campus will begin around the same time –or perhaps sooner--than the academic building and we expect that project to go much faster.
Funding for construction of residence halls will be accomplished either through a private/public venture with the Dalton State College Foundation, or through the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority (GHEFA) which bundles revenue-generating projects (residence halls, parking decks) of the University System together and finances them through the sale of revenue bonds. Qualifying projects must have a dedicated revenue stream for repayment, such as rent from housing. The $6 million parking deck at Dalton State was a part of the System’s original GHEFA project; bond payments are derived from student parking fees.
There is an additional advantage to funding residence halls as a GHEFA project: timelines are dramatically shortened. What previously might have taken five years to occupancy can be reduced to as little as 15 months through GHEFA. By bundling projects from across the University System, we accelerate planning, design, and construction, focus decision-making at the institutional level, streamline bureaucracy, and take advantage of alternative delivery methods.
Other aspects of the first phase of the Campus Master Plan could also be candidates for GHEFA, such as construction of an expanded Pope Student Center. More residential students on campus will require additional resources as we develop Dalton State into the dynamic collegiate environment students tell us they want it to be. Expanded services for dining, meetings, study, and other activities will require us to nearly double the space of the existing Student Center.
Additional space for recreation will also be part of phase one of the Master Plan, and important questions will need to be answered. Will athletics be played on campus or elsewhere in the community? Do we add another basketball court to the Bandy Gymnasium? Do we fill in the pool to create more space for fitness machines and activities such as yoga and weight training? Results from a study on athletic services at Dalton State will help provide direction to our developing recreation program.
Student fees will cover the cost of financing both an expanded Student Center and enhanced facilities for recreation.Implementation of phase one of the three-phase Campus Master Plan will help us create an infrastructure for the vibrant campus life that students –and others—have indicated they want for Dalton State. We are anxious to get started!