By Ben McNeely
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is very close to signing a lease agreement for a building on the North Carolina Research Campus.
RCCC President Carol Spalding said, after further negotiations with campus developer Castle & Cooke, the lease agreement could be ready by the end of this week.
Friday, the N.C. Community College Board gave its approval for RCCC to move forward with a lease agreement.
Once signed and construction started, it will take about 15 months to get the building constructed and open. The project’s stimated cost is about $26 million.
The building will house RCCC’s biotechnology degree programs. The building will feature a flex lab, where students will learn lab procedures in an industry-standard environment.
In November 2008, Duke Energy gave RCCC a $250,000 grant to purchase equipment for its new education building at the research campus.
The college hopes the building will be open for the Fall 2010 semester.
The construction delay of the building has only been exacerbated by the worsening economy. Castle & Cooke hasn’t been able to get financing for the building, Spalding said.
“This is the fourth time we’ve been close, then the bank has said, ‘We can’t do it. We can’t put out $26 million right now’,” Spalding said on Thursday.
Yet the need is there, she said.
This semester, RCCC has 5,978 students enrolled — 900 more students than Spring 2008 semester. It is the largest semester enrollment increase since Pillowtex closed, college officials have said.
RCCC also has reactivated its foundation to start asking for private contributions for programs and equipment.
Spalding said they are looking for a part-time foundation director to get the fundraising effort going.
But the funding request effort comes when legislators are facing a $2 billion budget shortfall.
State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, r-Concord, said in January legislators really don’t know what the budget situation will look like until about April, when tax collections start coming in.
Cabarrus County, a primary source of funding for the community college, has cut $58,600 frrom its allotment of about $1.9 million this year.
And RCCC has already cut $1.2 million out of its budget this year, as per state directives.
• Contact reporter Ben McNeely: 704-789-9131.