Local colleges line up for bond money

Stop the presses! N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt and Sen. Jesse Helms actually agree on something: Both men have endorsed the $3.1 billion in college and public-television bonds up for voter approval on the Nov. 7 ballot.

If enough voters check “yes” on the ballots, WNC stands to gain nearly $300 million for its three universities and 11 community colleges, to be used for new construction, renovations and technology upgrades. And UNC-TV would get $64.5 million to upgrade to digital service (the U.S. government has mandated that public stations do so by May 2003). Western Carolina University in Cullowhee would get the biggest chunk of money: $98.47 million.

State Treasurer Harlan Boyles reports that no tax hike is needed to pay off the bonds and that the debt repayment would amount to less than 1 percent of the state budget each year for the next quarter century. However, some counties would have to pitch in matching funds for community-college projects.

Here are the highlights of what the bond monies would mean for local universities and community colleges:

Appalachian State University ($82.34 million): More than half of the money would be used to fund construction of a new library. About $4.83 million would be dedicated to technological upgrades.

A-B Tech ($14.07 million): Buncombe — having funded A-B Tech projects extensively in recent years — would not be required to provide matching funds to qualify for this bond money, which would pay for two new buildings — a 50,000-square-foot computer center (doubling the college’s computer-lab space) and a 65,000-square-foot Hospitality Education Center). The money would also be used to renovate the Birch Building and convert the former BASF headquarters into a business incubator/corporate-technology training and conference center.

Blue Ridge Community College ($3.41 million): Upgrades to the Henderson County campus would include renovating the fire-training and basic-skills/continuing-education facilities and building new facilities for vocational training and distance learning.

Haywood Community College ($2.64 million): The bond funds would pay for expanding and renovating two classroom/laboratory buildings, as well as for developing an on-site day-care center.

Southwestern Community College (Jackson, Macon and Swain counties – $10.46 million): Jackson County would have to match the bond funds with $4.2 million for new construction; Macon would have to provide $2.9 million (no matching funds are required for renovation or repair projects). The bond monies would fund contruction of a new general classroom, laboratory and conference center (Jackson campus); renovation of the Swain center; general renovations, campuswide, to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and renovation of the burn center/fire tower in Franklin.

UNCA ($49.91 million): More than $22 million would be earmarked for a new math-and-science building; more than $11 million for renovating and expanding the Highsmith Center; about $5.5 million to renovate Carmichael Hall; just over $1 million for electrical-system upgrades; more than $6 million to build a new physical plant; and $751,200 for technology-infrastructure expansion.

Western Carolina University ($98.47 million): Planned projects include construction of a humanities-and-fine-arts building with a 1,000-seat hall for music and theater performances ($26.03 million); renovation of the Stillwell Lab Building ($15.05 million); a new student-housing building ($15.20 million); infrastructure improvements, including replacing overhead electrical-distribution lines, some of which are 40 years old ($10.63 million); comprehensive renovation of the Forsyth Classroom and Computer Labs Building ($7.06 million); and expansion of the school’s technology infrastructure ($5.01 million).

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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