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Groundbreaking for biggest community college capital project in Tennessee set for Tuesday

Rick Wagner • Oct 27, 2018 at 8:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE —  Better late with slightly downsized funding than never.

Northeast State Community College is to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking on its new Technical Education Complex on Tuesday morning on the main campus in Blountville, near the tennis courts on the south side of the campus near Tri-Cities Airport.

Some earth moving and site preparation on the almost $30 million project, formerly known as the Emerging Technologies Complex, began under former President Janice Gilliam. Preliminary site preparation and some utilities installation started in 2016, but progress was halted in 2017 under interim President James King because of financial issues. However, it went back on track this year.

Northeast State will hold the ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday at 10 a.m. The complex will have a courtyard level for administrative offices and two floors that will house classrooms and labs for the divisions of business and advanced technologies.

The address of the main campus is 2425 Highway 75. The event is open to the public, and parking will be available at the back of the campus near the tennis courts. Attendees will be able to access the event through the main construction entrance.

LARGEST COMMUNITY COLLEGE CAPITAL PROJECT EVER

It is the largest single capital project in Northeast's history and is the largest one in the history of community colleges in Tennessee, a record once held by a $20 million project for Walters State Community College to expand its Greeneville/Greene County campus.

The project as presented in 2013 was to be $35 million with a $3.5 million local match from fundraising and grants, but Northeast spokesman Bob Carpenter said Friday the latest from the Tennessee Board of Regents is that it will be $29.8 million, possibly including $26 million from the state and the remaining $3.8 million from Northeast. The Walters State project was $11 million in non-state money and the rest from the state.

Carpenter and TBR spokesman Rick Locker said to their knowledge it was still the largest-ever single capital project for Northeast or any community college in the Volunteer State.

The project was approved in concept by the TBR in 2008 but not included in the capital budget in the 2013-14 state budget, and the TBR approved moving forward with the project earlier this year. After the new construction, two of the oldest buildings on campus will be torn down.

Back in 2013, school officials and Carl Manka, senior director of planning and research in the TBR Office of Facilities Development, and John Fischer of Greeneville-based Fischer and Associates Architects Inc., said the project is likely three years away from completion: about eight months of detailed design work after the TBR Building Commission formally approves the project in mid-July, another two or three months to get bids on the project and award one, and about two years of construction.

Fischer and Associates and Johnson City-based Ken Ross Architects Inc. are principals for the project. According to information from Ken Ross Architects and confirmed by Northeast States, Fisher and Associates and KRA are designers of the project and the complex is a joint project, with John Fischer and Ken Ross listed as the principals.

Fisher said the real genesis of the project was a 1989 master plan that called for the relocation of Holston Drive to open up more space for the college, which used to landlocked between Holston and Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Much of the progress and expansion on campus dates back to that, he said. 

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