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WNC Business

State legislature approved $30 million for ICC

Nov 02, 2023 08:56AM ● By WNC Business

SPINDALE – Nursing and other health sciences students at Isothermal Community College will soon learn their trades in a new state-of-the-art facility, thanks to the North Carolina General Assembly.

The state legislature appropriated $30 million in its 2023-25 biennial spending plan for Isothermal during this year’s long session. The budget was approved by the Senate and the House on Friday, September 22.

Dr. Margaret Annunziata, Isothermal’s president, said she is appreciative of the college’s legislative delegation and the strong show of support they have given to help the college build a new home for its nursing and allied health programs. The majority of those programs have been housed in the old 1950s-era Rutherfordton Elementary School, which Rutherford County Schools vacated in 2009.

“The Rutherfordton Learning Center has met the college’s needs for more than a decade,” said Annunziata. “It’s to the point, however, that the high-tech infrastructure needed to prepare the future of health care providers must be addressed and the existing facility cannot meet that need.”

Annunziata started talks with the Isothermal Board of Trustees in 2022 about the need for a new health and sciences building. In addition to renovation and repair needs at the current facility, other drivers included the need to totally update the college’s chemistry and biology labs, which are located in the Administration Building built in 1968, and the desire for nursing students and faculty to return to the main campus permanently. Many students now travel between the RLC and the main campus multiple times each day for classes and other support services.

Last fall, the college engaged the Charlotte office of LS3P to provide initial renderings for the building, based on existing and projected programming to provide increased capacity to prepare registered nurses, practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, phlebotomists, geriatric and homecare specialists, virtual health care specialists, and other allied health specialists.

In early January, the concept of a 62,540 square foot, three-story building including state-of-the-art anatomy, chemistry, and related labs along with high-tech simulation spaces to support healthcare education and training came back with a $30 million price tag.

Trustees like the plan and asked Annunziata to begin to plan to fund the construction of the facility. Annunziata and her staff decided to first ask the North Carolina General Assembly to consider a state capital appropriation.

“We spent a lot of time in the early part of the year talking to our lawmakers about the project,” said Michael Gavin, Isothermal’s director of Marketing and Community Relations. “They seemed very receptive to the idea and what it will ultimately mean for our students and communities in Polk and Rutherford counties.”

They were so receptive, Gavin said, that they ultimately included the project in this year’s budget on both the House and Senate sides, awarding $10 million to Isothermal this year to get started with full architectural plans with $20 million in the next year’s spending package for the college to move into the construction phase.

“Thanks to the fiscally responsible work of this General Assembly on behalf of the people of North Carolina, we have made significant investments where they are needed most,” said Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, on the day the House passed the bill. “The record investments we have made in water and sewer infrastructure, mental health, workforce development, transportation, community colleges, education, and more, will have lasting impact on North Carolina families that will be felt statewide.”

Moore represents the Isothermal service area, which covers Rutherford and Polk counties, along with Sen. Tim Moffitt, R-Henderson, and Rep. Jake Johnson, R-Polk.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to help make this appropriation to Isothermal Community College possible,” said Moffitt. “Having five sons, I am keenly aware of how important it is to invest in the future of the younger generation, especially in the vital field of health sciences - which truly affects not only our local community but entire region.  This appropriation is a great first step and underscores, with confidence, the vision and excellent leadership of President Annunziata and the Board of Trustees.”

Johnson shared he is looking forward to the construction of the facility and has enjoyed being a part of the process.

“We could not be more excited to announce the $30 million funding of the new Health & Sciences Building at Isothermal Community College,” said Johnson. “This is a huge first step in filling the workforce gap in our community while also making sure our kids who want to plant their roots here in Western NC have viable high-paying and rewarding career paths to embark on, right here at home.”

Gavin said the bids for the architectural work are expected to go out soon with construction on the facility to begin in 2024. Initial plans put the building site inside the loop in the space next to the ICC Library, which will expand learning and workforce preparation space to ensure that students have the resources necessary to build knowledge and skills for high-skill, high-wage careers in health care and related fields.

Source: Isothermal Community College