Government agrees to give property to UGA at no cost

ATHENS, Ga. --- The federal government will give the Navy Supply Corps School to the University of Georgia for a medical campus without charge, the U.S. Department of Education said Monday.

The free land is contingent on Navy approval, but it is the second major hurdle UGA has cleared in administrators' efforts to bring a Medical College of Georgia satellite to Athens.

The Navy still must sign off on the deal and approve a reuse plan submitted in the fall by the Navy School Local Redevelopment Authority, a group of Athens officials and residents.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also has to sign off on UGA's plan to pay a group of nonprofits about $8 million to build new clinics, shelters and other facilities. Federal law requires that the transfer of closed military bases somehow benefits the homeless.

Officials said they are not sure when HUD or the Navy will announce their decisions.

The state Legislature also must fund the medical campus within the next two years or the Navy could sell half of the base for private development, according to the deal between the university and the authority.

The state House has included $7.2 million in next year's budget to plan, hire faculty and renovate a building for the medical school until the Navy vacates its campus in 2011. The budget still needs the approval of the Senate and Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Administrators hope to begin training the first class of about 40 future doctors by the fall of 2009 and later convert the building into a research center.