Planning for a new Natural Resources building at Ogeechee Technical College is on hold after Gov. Nathan Deal took $730,000 from the college’s budget.
He denied several other planning projects for other colleges and technical schools as well, said state Rep. Jan Tankersley, R-Brooklet.
“The Governor treated everyone equally and fairly,” she said. “Everyone that has planning money got pulled.”
According to a weekly column by Sen. Jack Hill, “There were seven ‘design’ projects, one for Regents institutions and six design projects in the technical college system that were vetoed by the Governor.”
Deal also pulled the money because the project was on a 20-year bond, Tankersley said. “They want a physical asset on a 20-year bond.”
This doesn’t mean the Natural Resources building won’t be constructed, but it will be next year before the project can be submitted again for budgeting, she said.
“I’ll be lobbying heavily for this project to have high priority, with design and construction money, not just design money,” she said.
The proposed building would house classes and resources for students interested in agricultural and ag-related careers, said Dr. Dale Grant, OTC Board member. “Needless to say, agriculture is significant in this area.”
The proposed building would be 58,620 square feet and would replace two aging mobile classroom buildings. The programs housed would include agribusiness, wildlife and plantation management, environmental horticulture, forest technology, geographic information systems, forensic science and criminal justice, among other programs.
The proposed $730,000 would have only funded planning, not construction. The planning would have included site survey, architectural plans, and other services needed before construction began.
Rachel Edwards, another OTC Board member, said she also noted Deal removed all budget items that were on 20-year bonds.
“I think this will just put a delay on construction – this may mean this is a building that may be put off for some time,” she said.
In Hill’s recent column, he said “The Governor's veto message on the design projects stated that five year bonds should be used for planning versus the 20-year bonds proposed by the Legislature. Five-year bonds have traditionally been the length that the Legislature and the Governor have used when funding planning and design separately from construction.”
The building is important for OTC’s growth and continued success, Edwards said. “The building would be a permanent home for several other programs as well.”
The delay has put a “real hardship” on OTC and its students, Grant said. “It makes it really hard on the faculty and students (dealing with) facilities they have now that are not adequate.”
Tankersley said the budget cut does not mean an end to the Natural Resources building, and said she hopes to see the project reintroduced next year, to include construction costs in addition to the planning costs.
The building “would be an incredible asset, not just for Bulloch County, but for southeastern Georgia,” she said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.