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Contractor selected for SCC health building

A graphic rendering from design company LS3P shows what SCC’s new health sciences building will look like upon completion in 2021. Donated image A graphic rendering from design company LS3P shows what SCC’s new health sciences building will look like upon completion in 2021. Donated image

The Michigan-based Christman Company will carry out a $17.66 million contract to construct a new health sciences building at Southwestern Community College in Sylva following a bid opening for the project Nov. 13.

The project drew bids from four companies — H&M, Harper and MB Kahn — with estimates ranging from Christman’s low bid of $17.66 million to $18.43 million from Harper. Those estimates include all the alternates listed in the bid request.  Construction base bids, which do not include any alternates, ranged from $16.9 million to $17.6 million. 

“Right now it is good news,” said County Manager Don Adams as he presented the bidding results to commissioners Nov. 19. “The facility can be built out within the funds available.”

Christman has an office in Knoxville and will use Asheville-based subcontractors Bolton Construction and Service, M.B. Haynes Corporation and Emory Electric for plumbing, mechanical and electrical services, respectively. 

The health sciences building was first discussed following a master planning process at SCC in February 2016, when it was identified as the top capital project on the school’s wish list. Then estimated to cost $16.3 million, it was envisioned as a state-of-the-art building of 40,000 to 60,000 square feet that would resemble an actual hospital setting and support SCC’s increasing health-related programs. 

Construction and labor costs grew following the recession, and the estimate increased to $19.3 million as commissioners continued to discuss the project in April 2017. The $17.66 million estimate from Christman falls well below that second estimate, though Adams said the $19.3 million budget could leave the project low on contingency funds, suggesting that commissioners consider expanding that allocation a bit. 

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The building, designed by the company LS3P, will include 55,411 square feet and four floors, with a working clinic, eight-bed nursing lab and a lab area for a brand-new surgical technology program. Other features would include labs for physical and occupational therapy, a physical therapy gym and a simulated bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The project is expected to create 236 new jobs in SCC’s service area as new health workers are trained. 

Jackson County will fund the project through a variety of sources. It will use $5.4 million from the N.C. Connect Bond that voters passed in 2016, as well as $2 million from a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant that the county landed in September. The remaining costs will be paid through a $10 million loan that the county plans to pay back using proceeds from the quarter-penny sales tax that voters approved in 2016 to pay for capital projects in Jackson’s K-12 and community college facilities. The $17.66 million price tag does not include additional costs that come with a new building such as furniture and classroom equipment. It also doesn’t account for LS3P’s $1.5 million in designer fees. 

When LS3P was initially hired as the designer, it told SCC trustees that it could finish the project by June 2019. The timeline later shifted to a fall 2018 groundbreaking with completion in fall 2020 following two years of construction. With ground yet to break on the project, the building will likely be ready in 2021. In an August work session, Adams told commissioners that much of the delay was due to the EDA grant application — the county had to wait on the outcome before it could move forward with the bidding process, he said. 

During their Nov. 19 meeting, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to seek approval from the N.C. Local Government Commission to take out the planned $10 million loan. However, a public hearing must be held before commissioners move forward with financing. That hearing is planned for 5:40 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, with the current board of commissioners presiding over the hearing. After the hearing, new commissioners selected in the 2018 election will be sworn in. 


Be heard

A public hearing at 5:40 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, will take comment on a proposal to borrow $10 million to help fund a new health sciences building at Southwestern Community College. The county plans to pay back the loan using proceeds from a quarter-penny sales tax that voters approved in June 2016 to generate revenue for projects at Jackson County’s K-12 and community college facilities. 

Anyone is welcome to speak on the issue, with all comments limited to three minutes apiece. The hearing will be held in room A-241 of the Jackson County Justice & Administration Building in Sylva. 

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