By Allen Turner
Southeastern Community College President Dr. Tony Clarke Monday night presented Columbus County commissioners with an ambitious ten-year capital improvements plan that includes $7,218,402 in local funding for construction and improvements.
The college is asking commissioners to include $745,572 of that amount in the budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, a dramatic increase from the $140,000 commissioners gave the college for capital spending in the current fiscal year.
“We need sufficient capital outlay to support economic development and jobs in Columbus County,” Clarke told commissioners.
Among the prioritized needs in the plan are $2.54 million for expansion T Building for the mechatronics, electrical and machine programs, $2.14 million for M Building infrastructure for HVAC and welding programs, $1.66 million for B Building infrastructure for electrical and computer aided design programs, $500,000 for improvement of campus infrastructure for safety and security, $1.51 million for renovating welding and HVAC areas, $942,800 to create new instructional space for nursing, health technologies and STEM programs, $2.37 million for renovations to the student services area, $1.9 million for improving science labs and instructional space for college transfer programs and $513,088 for improving the basic skills area for students pursuing their high school equivalency diploma.
The ten-year plan for $14,080,022 in capital improvements includes $6,861,620 in Connect NC Bonds funding and $7,218,402 the college seeks from the county over that timeframe.
An impassioned Clarke told commissioners that the ten-year plan has SCC asking the county for an average annual capital outlay allocation of $604,988. He said the planned requests are realistic. “If these requests are not met,” Clarke said, “in 10 or 15 years a president of Southeastern Community College will be here asking you for $20 million.”
Clarke told commissioners that, at that the $140,000 level of funding commissioners gave the college for capital funding in their last budget, it would take 50 years for the college’s capital outlays to be funded, assuming no cost increases. At $353,920 per year, it would take 20 years to complete funding, while at $707,840 per year all the requests could be funded in ten years.
Clarke told commissioners the college is completing for students with online schools, such as the University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, Western Governors University and snhu.edu, as well as with in-state educational institutions like UNC-Pembroke, Cape Fear, Brunswick and Robeson Community Colleges, East Carolina University and Western Carolina University.
“We care about our kids,” was a recurring theme in Clarke’s presentation. “We want an educated workforce for jobs and economic development,” he said. “SCC is the bridge to get our children ready for jobs in Columbus County.”
Commissioners will make a decision on the college’s outlay request when they adopt the budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1. A budget workshop has been scheduled for commissioners at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25.