OUS Proctorville Center shows signs of future

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2004

There was some good news, some bad news and then some more good news. But most important, there was a permanent sign of progress on Friday for the new Ohio University Southern Proctorville Center where construction is set to begin soon.

More than 50 community members and school officials gathered to unveil a new brick marker for the future 20-acre center at the intersection of Irene Road and State Route 775. Ohio University's new president, Dr. Roderick J. McDavis, joined them for the celebration during his first visit to the regional campus.

The good news according to McDavis: The community has raised more than $1.4 million in cash, pledges and bequests for a new building. The bad news: That amount is about $500,000 less than the $1.9 million goal.

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The other good news: Construction will go ahead as scheduled after a redesign allowing the facility to be built for the amount that has been raised thus far.

"I am thrilled and happy to announce that Ohio University plans to take bids for the proposed Proctorville center some time shortly after the New Year with plans to break ground as soon as weather permits this spring," McDavis said.

In order to remain under budget, some of the facility's proposed classrooms have been eliminated. Should the $500,000 become available, those classrooms will be added back to the one-story structure's layout.

"I want to emphasize that the building we've designed is downsized a bit in order for us to meet the budget," McDavis said. "It is not the building we want, it is not the building that the community says it wants and needs."

Dr. Dan Evans, dean of Ohio University Southern, said he expected construction to begin as early as March or April 2005. Completion is projected in 12 to 15 months with the school opening in time for fall classes in 2006. Those plans are dependent upon sufficient monies, however.

"All the funding pieces have to come together because the state capital bill has to be passed," Evans said. "That hasn't been passed yet and all these other pieces haven't come together."

Evans said the building's cost would be approximately $2 milllion, with the final project costing $2.7 million. The property where the school will be located was donated by Marshall Smith and is worth an estimated $1.125 million.

"We are on our way, but we still have much to do," Evans said.

The current center, located next to the Village Hall along Route 7 in downtown Proctorville, had 263 students enrolled during its fall semester. Open for 25 years, the school's enrollment has continued to grow every year and as a result, its downtown facility has become cramped.

McDavis explained the importance of expansion for the University's five regional campuses that are attended by approximately 8,000 of OU's 28,000 total students.

"They provide access to higher education for folks in areas who would otherwise not be able to get a 4-year or 2-year college education," McDavis said. "They're extremely important to the communities of which they are a part."

The sign unveiling on Friday was one of the first steps toward the school's final goal for expansion. To continue to build on that commitment, Assistant Dean for Development Robert Smith encouraged residents to contribute to the brick-by-brick campaign.

The bricks cost $100 each and can be engraved with the name of the donor(s). He said the OUS had sold 50 already, but they would like to sell at least 150 more to add to the new sign's wing wall.

"This is a wonderful way to help out with the campaign and help us finish the construction of our new building," Smith said.

Despite the chilly temperatures and funding obstacles, school officials were optimistic for its future.

"To some, today may appear dreary, but from my perspective, it is quite different," said OUS Proctorville Center Director Stephanie Burcham. "I declare that today is a bright and glorious day for Eastern Lawrence County. It's bright, because with the unveiling of a permanent sign at the Ohio University Southern Proctorville Center, we can now see the light at the end of a long journey for a new permanent facility. And it's glorious because of you, the members of our community."

For more information or to contribute to the project, contact Burcham at (740) 886-7655.