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2016 October 24 - 04:24 pm

Louisiana Restarts Stalled College Expansion Projects

Community, Technical College Plans Had Been Put on Hold

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Construction is moving ahead again on a list of upgrades planned for Louisiana’s community college campuses that had been stalled by Gov. John Bel Edwards as he reworked state construction spending amid ongoing budget troubles.

More than half the projects on the $280 million list for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System had been put on hold. But Edwards said planned expansions are resuming on campuses in Alexandria, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“The growth at our community and technical colleges across Louisiana reflects the need for these schools and the need for expansion of campus classrooms and buildings,” Edwards said in a statement. “These three new facilities will provide more training and ultimately, more opportunities for employment, which is exactly what we want for our students.”

The governor’s chief financial adviser, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said that the full project list is back on track.

Dardenne said projects had been stalled because the governor wanted to get a better handle on the constraints around state construction spending and wanted to steer more money to maintenance on existing campus buildings. A pot of maintenance money was earmarked in the construction budget for that effort and is expected to go before the Bond Commission for approval within the next few months.

“We weren’t willing to just move them forward earlier in the year until we saw where we were,” Dardenne said of the community college projects. “We don’t want to delay them any further.”

The long-term construction plan was approved by lawmakers in 2013 for the community and technical college system, known as LCTCS. The legislation authorized the financing and construction of 29 projects aimed at improving existing campuses’ facilities and bolstering worker training around the state, to meet industry job demands and aid economic development.

LCTCS President Monty Sullivan thanked Edwards for giving the green light to the projects “at a time when resources are tight.”

“These workforce facilities are strategic investments that will provide opportunities for the people of Louisiana,” Sullivan said in a statement.

Ten projects already were complete or under construction.

Among the new projects announced by Edwards for construction are: a $22 million industrial training campus in downtown Alexandria for Central Louisiana Technical Community College; a $12 million collision-repairtraining technology center at Baton Rouge Community College; and a $27 million Jefferson Parish campus for Delgado Community College.

For the full list of college system projects, the state is expected to borrow about $250 million, while another $34 million is being raised through private donations. Under the legislation, at least 12 percent of the project cost has to be matched with private dollars. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com /melindadeslatte

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