Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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ACC trustees review plans for new student center

Alamance Community College’s trustees have approved the design for a $6.2 million student services center that is being financed with proceeds from the $39.6 million bond package that voters approved for ACC in November 2018.

Targeted for completion in June 2022, the new student services center will be built along the front of ACC’s main campus in Graham, facing Jimmie Kerr Road.

The architects who are designing ACC’s new student services center apparently hope to merge the natural world with the functional needs that college officials have established for the design, based on a description and renderings that were presented to ACC’s trustees during their latest meeting.

“When you walk into the main lobby, you see right through the building and see the rest of the campus,” said Gary Lang, one of two architects with FWA Group in Charlotte who are designing the student services center for ACC.

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The student services center would be built on the site of an existing parking lot situated between the Powell Building and Literacy Building on ACC’s main campus in Graham, based on the preliminary design presented to the trustees last week. The student services center would be situated in front of the “Main Building” that houses the student bookstore; snack bar; classrooms, offices, and multipurpose rooms; and an auditorium.

This is the way the new student center would appear from Jimmie Kerr Road that runs in front of the community college.

Spanning 27,400 square feet, the forthcoming student services center will house seven academic and business services that are currently housed in the Main Building and Gee Building on ACC’s main campus in Graham: academic advising; admissions/registration; veteran services; disability services; counseling; career services; and financial aid.

ACC’s student services center would have two stories, with the interior featuring an open floor plan that would enable students and visitors to see where each department is located as soon as they step inside, Lang said. “It will make it much more open and appealing,” he added.

The registrar’s office and academic advising/counseling counseling office would be housed on the first floor, along with a “flex space” that would contain three smaller meeting spaces; offices; a work room; and a storage area, based on the preliminary design that ACC’s trustees previewed.

A lobby and information desk would be housed on the upper level, along with the cashier’s office; financial aid; testing; and staff offices. The second floor would be would be accessible by elevators and what Lang termed a “monumental stair” that would overlook the admissions office on the ground floor, which he described as a “large, inviting space.”

“There really isn’t a backside of the building,” Lang pointed out to the trustees last week, noting that it faces the Main Building. Part of the site, at the back of the student services center, would be set aside for what the architect described as a “future student plaza.”
The building design would lend itself to be opened up for “large functions,” Lang said, referring to such things as graduation ceremonies and other events that the community college hosts. “It does take a very prominent position on your campus,” he said.

Trustees split 6-6 on proposal to upgrade steel tonnage
ACC’s trustees voted 12-0 last week to approve the design for the student services center, but in a rare split, failed to get a majority vote to approve a proposal to allocate an additional $80,000 to increase the steel tonnage in the second-floor lobby.

The construction budget for the student services center is set at $5.1 million; and 2.5 to 3 percent of the total budget of $6.2 million is set aside as contingency for potential cost overruns, add-ons, and/or other services, Lang said. It appears the project will come in on budget, he told ACC’s trustees last week.

This is the “back side” of the student center, as seen from the community college’s current main building.

ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood told The Alamance News last week that FWA Group had brought it to the administration’s attention that a higher grade of steel would accommodate up to 100 steps per minute, as opposed to the standard capacity of 75 steps per minute.

Vibration from heavy foot traffic – as well as from 18-wheelers that occasionally lumber past the Graham campus, toward I-40/85 – “could be of concern,” Gatewood explained. “Once Covid [the coronavirus pandemic] is over, we will have students coming in,” Gatewood said, adding that some events could draw sizeable crowds and produce vibrations that could be unnerving and distracting.

Trustee Bill Gomory seemed particularly reluctant last week to use contingency funds for the steel tonnage upgrade. “If we do this, that’s a good portion of our contingency gone already, right?” he asked vice chairman Blake Williams, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and chairman of the trustees’ building and grounds committee. Williams confirmed that contingency funds might be needed to cover the cost to upgrade the steel tonnage.

Tom Hartman, ACC’s associate vice president for administrative services, pointed to three possible options to fund the proposed upgrade. “We could have favorable bids, so that’s one,” he told the trustees last week. “The other thing we looked at is our capital fund balance and our capital reserves. That’s another thing we could go to if we did need to add funds to the project.” The contingency portion of the budget would be used to cover designer fees; geotechnical engineering services, “all those things that [make up the] delta between your construction costs and your budget,” Hartman said last week.

ACC’s trustees subsequently voted 6-6 on the requested upgrade. Voting to approve the request were trustees Tony Foriest; Pete Glidewell; Dr. Charles K. Scott; Carl Steinbicker; Williams; and Cynthia Winters. Trustees Eddie Boswell; Jim Butler; chairman Dr. Roslyn Crisp; Julie Emmons; Gomory; and Craig Thompson voted against the proposed steel tonnage upgrade.

The trustees’ building and grounds committee is scheduled to meet today to discuss potential funding sources and alternatives to upgrading the steel tonnage.

ACC’s student services center is the third new facility to be funded by the 2018 bond package. Construction is currently scheduled to begin this August, and the county is scheduled to issue the bonds for the project this fall, based on bond project timelines that Alamance County manager Bryan Hagood and ACC officials developed in late 2018.

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