By AMANDA WHISTLE
JOHNSTOWN - Before this semester, Fulton-Montgomery Community College officials said some students had been on a waiting list to get into the Campus View housing since spring 2010.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College broke ground on its Campus View housing addition on Monday off County Highway 142. Participants included, from left, Johnstown Town Supervisor Jack Wilson, FMCC Board of Trustees Vice President James Landrio, Candice Celestin and Pat Snover of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FMCC President Dustin Swanger.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
With a 35 percent increase in enrollment over the last half-decade, the 144-bed, three-story student housing facility off County Highway 142 fills up fast.
On Monday local officials and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture broke ground on a $7.1 million project that will add another 144 beds for the fall 2012 semester, doubling the campus housing capacity and bringing the college closer to its goal of becoming more of a residential campus.
The project is being funded through part of an $11.3 million loan from the USDA. Those funds also went toward hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to the existing building and the installation of a sprinkler system that extinguished a small fire earlier this semester.
"We've been working on this for over two years," said FMCC President Dustin Swanger, who also is president of the Fulmont College Association, which owns the dorms. "It feels like we're finally doing more than pushing paper."
The college association originally managed students' residential needs while Gross & Cohen owned the property. With use of the USDA loan, the association was able to purchase the property and renovate existing housing.
"The second step was for us to buy it and be in control of our own destiny. The next phase is expansion," Swanger said.
The expansion is part of a five-year strategic plan that ended as the FMCC Board of Trustees adopted a plan that covers 2011 to 2016. The plan includes a goal of expanding the college's resources, including on-campus activities that accommodate a larger residential population.
That includes a plan to renovate the former indoor pool area into Raider's Cove, a student lounge with an Internet cafe, a stage, pool tables, TVs and a contemporary design.
Swanger said construction on that will begin in the summer of 2012.
"There is such a demand for education at the community college level that housing is the next step," Swanger said.
The loan was awarded through the USDA Rural Development's Community Facility Program.
Candice Celestin of the USDA said such projects are important to rural areas as they create jobs.
"It increases the number of residential assistants, residence staff, and it's boosting the economy in upstate and creating an up-to-date facility," Celestin said. "Comfort is key in an educational setting and this federal funding is going to allow all of this to happen."
Architect David D'Amore said this was the biggest project his firm - AND: Architecture & Design, based on Johnstown - has worked on.
"It's the biggest thing we've done to date. A lot of square footage lets you flex your design muscle," D'Amore said.
He said the complex will have a "fresh vibe" with special touches like cupola roof structures.
"The biggest challenge has been the schedule all along," D'Amore said, adding that what should have been an eight-month process had to be completed in 4 1/2 months, creating 70-hour work weeks for the designers.
Construction will be completed in three phases as Bast-Hatfield of Saratoga County began preparing the site Monday.
Through the second phase, Ritz Craft, based in Pennsylvania, will assemble 64 wood modular units and transport them to the site in the spring.
The third phase includes putting the units together and installing plumbing and electrical work.
Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.