Completion expected by March 2015
By Jeff Keeling
The state has approved low bidder Rainey General Contractors to complete the long-awaited interior buildout of Northeast State Community College’s Johnson City campus at the Downtown Centre. Full occupancy of the 13 classrooms there – enough space for at least 1,000 students – should occur by the fall 2015 semester.
Tennessee officials informed her of the approval Friday, Northeast State President Dr. Janice Gilliam told News & Neighbor Monday. The bids were submitted to the State Building Commission in late June by Northeast State’s architect on the project, Shaw and Shanks.
“We’re winding down and the end is in sight,” Gilliam said of a process that began in late 2011 when Northeast State inked a deal with the Johnson City Development Authority to lease the building bounded by East Market Street and Downtown Loop (Buffalo Street). The JCDA also is helping offset costs with tax increment financing. Roughly $2 million of that TIF money won’t be paid back, and another $1 million-plus will be repaid through a five-year lease.
Johnson City-based Rainey’s bid came in well under the project’s “maximum allowable construction cost” of $2,294,000, Gilliam said. At $1,586,000, it was also significantly lower than the second- and third-lowest bids by Preston Construction and J.E. Green Co., both of Johnson City. Preston’s bid was $1,831,000, Green’s $1,849,700.
“It was much less than our bid target, and that’s really good,” Gilliam said.
The contract gives Rainey 212 days to complete the project, which could allow students to enter as early as mid-March 2015. Gilliam said that falls in the middle of spring semester, and while some students could relocate mid-semester, a summer start for classes is more likely with full occupancy in the fall.
“Weather shouldn’t play a major role, since all the work is interior and the heating and cooling is already complete,” Gilliam said. A pre-construction conference is set for Aug. 20.
A partial certificate of occupancy, allowing some administrative staff to get settled in and begin recruiting and preparing for students, is a possibility before full completion, Gilliam said.
“There is a small office area to the left of the main entrance (on East Market) and we’re hoping to at least get in there before too long.”
The first wave of courses offered will mostly consist of the school’s “University Parallel” track for students planning to transfer into four-year schools. Those students will work on associates’ degrees in either arts or sciences, and a close coordination with East Tennessee State University is planned.
Gilliam said courses that move students toward certificates or terminal associates’ degrees in business, office and computer-related fields also are likely to be on offer.
“Those are typically in high demand, and we have students at our Kingsport higher ed site who can gain those degrees without needing to attend any classes at our main campus (in Blountville).”
Students in the midst of degree programs at Blountville but for whom a Johnson City campus will be more convenient also will be able to begin taking courses there.
“We’ll see what demand is, and offer those like we have in Kingsport. This facility will progress in a similar fashion to Kingsport’s, adding programs to meet demand. We are expecting 1,000 students there this fall, and we see huge potential in Johnson City for day, evening and potentially weekend classes as time goes by.”