Gadsden State approves facilities master plan
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jul 26, 2013 | 3300 views |  0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gadsden State Ayers Campus. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Gadsden State Ayers Campus. Photo by Stephen Gross.
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Upgrades to increase space and improve services worth about $18 million could soon come to Gadsden State's Anniston campuses, the community college’s recently published master plan shows.

The strategic facilities plan, released last week, projects various short- and long-term needs for all of Gadsden State’s campuses that the community college can undertake through the next decade. The plan includes approximately $18 million worth of projects at the Ayers and McClellan campuses, from the construction of new buildings to expanding parking lots and roadways, needed for the facilities to better serve students and handle future growth.

Birmingham architectural firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood conducted the research and preparation of the plan through the past year.

Jim Prucnal, dean of finance for Gadsden State, said having the plan does not guarantee that the community college will undertake all the projects, at least not in the next 10 years.

“We’ve been given a good plan of what we need to think about doing, but there is more in here than we have money to do,” Prucnal said. “But we will look at it and prioritize.”

Prucnal said administrators had not yet decided which projects to start first, but will likely begin with more immediate repairs, such as improving drainage issues.

"Then we'll get into more major projects," Prucnal said.

He said Gadsden State could start on some of the master plan projects later this year.

The plan states that the buildings at Ayers have undergone relatively few major upgrades and renovations since the campus opened in the 1960s. The plan states Ayers has several issues that should be addressed, from drainage problems near buildings and a lack of continuous pedestrian walkways to congested traffic circulation on campus. Other issues include lack of space in shop buildings and shortages of computer labs and storage.

The master plan includes many projects for Anniston's two campuses, but mainly ones for the Ayers site. Short-term plans at Ayers include the construction of an approximately $1 million multipurpose building, a $3.8 million new classroom building near the campus' computer science facility and a $400,000 storage building for computer science.

Long-term projects for Ayers include spending $847,000 to improve vehicle travel through the campus and replacing the cosmetology building with a larger facility at an estimated $8.4 million cost.

Projects at the McClellan campus are less elaborate and include expanding the existing parking lot for $100,000 and increasing pedestrian lighting for safety at an estimated $75,000 cost.

Michele Conger, the Ayers campus' director, said the campus has grown in attendance over the years. She said the campus' auto collision and body shop department, for example, has grown considerably in recent years.

“Of course, parking is an issue at every campus, but this campus is not very large,” Conger said. “We'd love to have some more room for buildings for growth ... we use every building we have.”

Conger noted that the increased popularity of the campus makes improvements to traffic flow even more important.

Melinda White, cosmetology instructor at Gadsden State, said a new building has been on the cosmetology department's wish-list for some time.

"We always need space ... we need space for a lot of our programs and for new equipment," White said.

Tony Cobb, computer science instructor at Gadsden State, said his department is a popular field of study at the college and could use more space, particularly for new technology.

"We're always projecting the program to grow," Cobb said.

But despite the need, Conger is unsure how many of the projected plans for Ayers will come to fruition.

"It all comes down to funding," she said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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