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Design for center nears completion

The construction of a new higher education center in Demopolis won’t happen overnight, but one project organizer said big steps have been taken to get actual work under way.

Mark Pettus, head of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, has worked with Chuck Smith and Mayor Austin Caldwell in planning the new education center. Earlier this week, Pettus and Smith met with PH&J Architects out of Montgomery and put the final touches on the architectural plan.

When the city began preparations for seeking funding for this project, PH&J actually helped design an artist’s rendering of the building.

Along with flooring concerns, Pettus and Smith also worked with PH&J on the relocation of a restroom and classroom in the building.

Once PH&J completes the architectural design, they’ll facilitate the city in preparing a list of bid specification.

From there, PH&J will get in touch with contractors who are interested in the project, and they’ll help get the cheapest prices possible. Fitting the construction work into a fixed budget will be mandatory because the higher education center will be funded by a grant from the Delta Regional Authority and administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Once PH&J completes its bid specs, they will deliver that list to City Clerk Vickie Taylor. She’ll then send out bids to construction companies, who will have a month to make a bid on the project.

There’s no definite time when construction actually will begin at the 60-acre site off Higway 43. However, Pettus believes the building will be open for classes next fall.

So far, Alabama Southern, the University of West Alabama and the University of Alabama have all expressed interest in holding satellite classes from the Demopolis campus.

Part of the Plan

Tuesday evening, citizens from Demopolis gathered at the Civic Center to express ideas for growth in the city for the next three years.

The program (see the Weekend Edition for more coverage) is a continuation of a three-year plan assembled in late 1999 for the city.

Kathy Leverett, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said one of the biggest needs the city has had is a higher education center. With the continued work on the new education center, the goals of the city have been realized.

Chuck Smith, project manager for the higher education center, said the city’s initial plan was to have a junior college in Demopolis. For now, the new center &045;&045; located on a plot of land near the parks and recreation fields &045;&045; will only serve as a satellite campus for other schools around this region of the state.

However, there is still talk about turning the Demopolis campus into its own junior college in the future.

According to Pettus, part of the recent meeting with PH&J included discussions about other plans for the 60-acre area where the campus will be constructed.

Smith also has said in the past that plans for the education center include an activity center that would go beyond classrooms and labs.