COLUMBUS, GA - When Gov. Nathan Deal signed the state's fiscal year 2015 budget last week, final approval was realized for $4.95 million to renovate Arnold Hall, one of Columbus State's oldest classroom buildings.
Work on Arnold Hall will begin immediately following upcoming renovation of Howard Hall that's the result of a $3.95 million state appropriation last year. Howard Hall should close in June and reopen for the fall 2015 semester.
"We are tremendously thankful to the governor, our legislative delegation and the Board of Regents for helping us realize almost $10 million over the last few years for much-needed upgrades to the academic core of our campus," said Columbus State University President Tim Mescon. "We are following the recommendations of our master plan and trying hard to fund projects with private support that will complement these renovations."
Renovating Arnold Hall was recommended by the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents, but final inclusion of this and other minor capital projects was remanded to the legislature for a final recommendation. University officials worked with Columbus-area lawmakers to have the project added to the final budget. Rep. Richard Smith, Rep. Calvin Smyre, Rep. Debbie Buckner, Rep. Carolyn Hugley, Rep. John Pezold, Sen. Ed Harbison and Sen. Josh McKoon all supported the project.
Deal is expected to mention the project when he speaks at Columbus State's commencement on Monday.
Both renovation projects are part of a long-range plan to revitalize the academic core of Columbus State University's main campus. With support from Sasaki Associates, a nationally respected planning and design firm, the university envisions a series of projects to enhance CSU's main campus by improving the quality of the physical and academic environment. Improvements have evolved through careful analysis of university space with a focus on adaptive reuse of outdated and inefficient space not reflective of a contemporary, student-focused, engaged university.
Planners realized that Arnold Hall is cramped, its classrooms are outdated and the building contains limited student support relative to the intensity of its use as a classroom building. Additionally, it is not handicap accessible.
The university is trying to upgrade Arnold and nearby buildings to meet the needs of today's students and to meet the feel, usability and look created by newer facilities built on campus exclusively with private funds, Mescon said.
"Just as we did with Howard Hall, I'm asking the provost to convene a faculty-led committee to guide the work that will be done on Arnold Hall so we can best meet the needs of our current faculty members and the demands of our future students," Mescon said.
"Hopefully, next year we will have good news about our next planned project — a major laboratory addition to LeNoir Hall and a new learning commons addition to the main library," Mescon said. "We're working feverishly to raise private money to meet the state's demand that we bank some money locally before a capital project of that size will be considered."
The fiscal year 2015 budget, which takes effect with the start of the fiscal year on July 1, also includes the largest single-year increase in k-12 funding in seven years and money for some merit and/merit pay increases.