Campus delay is near end

Associated Press
Rep. Ben Harbin has long supported a Columbia County campus.

A two-year wait for construction to begin on an Augusta Technical College campus in Columbia County soon could end.


Multiple hiccups that slowed construction for the 22,000-square-foot facility recently were resolved, and groundbreaking at the site could begin by spring, officials said.

Once built, Columbia County's Augusta Tech could serve as many as 500 students, offer programs tailored to the needs of nearby industries and provide a selling point for marketing the county to outside companies, officials said.

"This is a process that has taken a little bit of time to work through all of the details," said Zack Daffin, the executive director of the Columbia County Development Authority. "It's been a continual work in progress."

A major holdup was a delay in selling bonds for the $4.6 million project.

Poor state accounting practices under a former governor's administration left Georgia with a high bond rating, said state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, a staunch supporter of the campus in Columbia County.

State officials wanted to wait until accounting figures were corrected and the state's rating improved before selling bonds, Mr. Harbin said.

The bonds were sold and became available in the fall, he said.

"We've been waiting so long, we've all been a little anxious and nervous," Mr. Harbin said. "This is done. It's ready to go."

Another hang-up was financing a road leading to the campus, which will be in the Horizon South industrial park on Horizon South Parkway near Grovetown.

"What we were looking at was a cost-sharing effort and structuring it in such a way that one entity hopefully will be able to build the entire road," Mr. Daffin said.

The 1,100-foot road will cost about $1 million, with the expense divided between the county, Augusta Tech and the state Department of Transportation, Mr. Daffin said.

He said he expects a letter from the state Department of Technical Education this week authorizing the cost-sharing plan.

Officials also had to wait for the transfer of 34 acres in Horizon South from the development authority to the state for the Augusta Tech campus.

"The land transfer didn't finally take place until late last summer," Augusta Tech President Terry Elam said.

Currently, architectural plans for the school are about 80 percent complete, Mr. Elam said.

Both Mr. Elam and Mr. Harbin said construction could begin by spring and finish in a year to 18 months.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or