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Blue Ridge CTC hopes to open new campus in 2012

September 09, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --Blue Ridge Community and Technical College hopes to open the first building on a new campus in July or August of 2012, the school's president told the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday.

"Roughly, we would like to get the construction started by ... this coming March," President Peter Checkovich said of plans for an estimated 55,000-square-foot building.

The timeline for completion could change, but Checkovich said the college is hoping contractors are able to get everything under roof by the fall of next year.

Checkovich said Thursday they are awaiting the results of "geo-physical" studies of the 43-acre campus site off W.Va. 45 for possible contaminants in the soil, environmentally sensitive sinkholes that are common with the region's karst geology and rock formations.

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College officials expect to close on the purchase of the property next month.

Because of the college's rapid enrollment growth since moving to Martinsburg from Shepherd University's campus, Checkovich said Thursday there is already talk of a "Phase 2" building project for the campus.

"My guess at this point, and it could be wildly off ... is that within the next five years, we'll be at 5,000 students," Checkovich said.

Checkovich estimated 3,400 to 3,500 students are enrolled in classes this fall, including 1,700 who are seeking degrees.

The new, L-shaped building that is planned will be about 20,000 square feet larger than the college's leased space on the first floor of the Berkeley County office building at 400 W. Stephen St. in Martinsburg, Checkovich said.

Conceptual plans for the new building that Checkovich presented to commissioners Thursday include two full floors for academic programs, including Allied Health, Liberal Arts and Generals Sciences and a three-story administrative wing.

"Fifty-five thousand square feet sounds like a lot until you start putting stuff in the building," Checkovich said.

While Checkovich expects the number of classroom seats might only increase by 75 with the new building, he said the college still has a build-out option at its Technical Center at 5550 Winchester Ave. south of Martinsburg to make room for another 800 students.

"When we first came to Martinsburg (in 2001), we had individuals tell us we would be lucky to have 1,000 students when we moved here," Checkovich said.

Checkovich said the college is high on a list to net bond funding from the state for a second building and the conceptual plan presented Thursday also included a third.

County Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield told Checkovich that the college's plans for the new campus and relocation from the leased space on the first floor of the county office building was "bittersweet."

"Your plans are exciting and we share your excitement," Stubblefied said. "I think the marriage between Blue Ridge and the county has been very, very good."

The college's relocation to its new campus is expected to free up space for county offices. Commissioners have discussed moving the sheriff's tax office and assessor's office to the first floor to make them more accessible to the public and moving at least some functions of the county clerk's office to the building, County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.

The county clerk's offices are in the historic county courthouse at 100 W. King St. and in a former bank building next door at 110 W. King St.

Last month, commissioners tabled plans to hire an engineering firm for construction of a vault for circuit court records that are being stored in the county-owned building at 126 W. King St. due to cost concerns.

The vault storage is required by state law and county officials had hoped to auction the building after relocating the records. Hammond said there were no plans by the current county commission to sell the old courthouse.

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