College campus makeover almost complete

From the The Brunswick News

The campus changes that have accompanied the academic transformation of College of Coastal Georgia from a community college to a four-year baccalaureate school have taken another step forward with a legislative committee approving funding for renovations to one of its oldest academic buildings.

The Georgia House Appropriations Committee recently approved the college's budget request through the University System of Georgia to renovate the Academic Commons South.

The building, which currently houses classrooms, science and computer labs, as well as faculty and technology offices, could see a $2 million renovation if the request is approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Valerie Hepburn, president of the college, is already thankful for the committee's recommendation.

"For us as a campus, it would mean every one of the oldest buildings will have been comprehensively renovated, which is huge, because they're very old and they weren't the kind of learning environment that today's students expect," she said.

"For $2 million, we can renovate existing buildings to be good as new versus having to spend $20 million to make an entirely new one."

Hepburn added that the renovations would create a more cost-effective building. The existing technology and heating and air-conditioning systems are older and cost more to operate.

The renovations would also provide for expanded classrooms and learning spaces and better accessibility.

"This is sort of the last key piece in our strategic master plan, in terms of improving the quality of current space, in addition to adding new space," Hepburn said of renovating the last older building on the campus.

"This modest request, if successfully passed, will enable us to modernize existing classroom space and laboratories constructed in 1964 with no significant improvements since 1998."

Along with renovations to existing buildings since the two-year Coastal Georgia Community College became the four-year College of Coastal Georgia in 2009, the campus has added several new buildings. Those include a new sciences building, teachers education building, student center and a residence hall.

Several local legislators, including state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, have been instrumental in getting the request for the final major renovation as far as it has gone, Hepburn said.

"Rep. Atwood, who now serves on the appropriations committee, led the charge for the college and the community, emphasizing students' educational needs as a top priority in budgeting while truly respecting the taxpayers' investment in our existing structures," she said.

"We're extremely grateful to the House committee, as well. We've received a lot of support for what we've been trying to accomplish."

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Release Date: 3/13/2013
Source: The Brunswick News

By SARAH LUNDGREN