County commissioners approved a $1.7 million bond to help expand the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College South Campus.
With the number of Cabarrus County students at the school growing, the college identified its Cabarrus County location as needing more space. The $1.7 million goes towards purchasing one piece of property the college needs to meet that goal, and RCCC will use ConnectNC Bond money to purchase another adjacent parcel.
The board voted 4-1 at the Monday, March 19, regular meeting to approve the purchase. Commissioner Liz Poole voted against but made no comment as to why.
“I think we have a wonderful collaboration with Cabarrus and Rowan counties with the college, and it’s pretty impressive to see the number of Cabarrus residents enrolled in the college have exceeded pretty significantly those from Rowan County,” board chair Steve Morris said. “So they’re definitely growing rapidly, which necessitates the purchase of this additional property.”
Both parcels are located across Trinity Church Road from the college’s south campus and would add 16 acres to the already 23-acre campus.
“We’ve been working for several years to try to acquire this property, and it’s now available for purchase,” RCCC President Carol Spalding said at the board’s work session Monday, March 12. “In fact, we were able to negotiate a reduction in the asking price, which would amount to a donation of $493,000 from the seller, so we’re pretty proud of that. We’re pretty excited about making this happen.”
The college has already negotiated the purchase of a third property to expand the south campus, as well.
Originally, RCCC staff hoped to purchase the two properties jointly with about $1 million in college funds and the rest from the county. They planned to take $1 million of ConnectNC bond money and move it into the fund for the Advanced Technology Center project, but the state didn’t approve of that transfer, considering it supplanting funds.
So the college came up with another plan to use the bond money instead to pay for a series of capital projects totaling about $719,000, and the college would add $218,000 in capital campaign money to equal a $1 million contribution from RCCC.
However, the county had not planned on including the college’s capital requests in the 2018 fiscal year budget.
So RCCC went with plan B, which involved splitting the parcels into two. One property has a building on it, an old restaurant, and the state does allow community colleges to use ConnectNC bond money to buy land with a structure as long as the college renovates it for instructional use.
The parcel is valued at about $979,000, and RCCC staff estimated they would need to put between $20,000 and $30,000 to repurpose the building.
Commissioner Lynn Shue asked Spalding at the work session how they would use a building they had previously decided wasn’t usable. She said that programs such as art that don’t need a lot of infrastructure could work for the short-term.
“It’s not optimal,” Spalding said. “It’s not going to go into a master plan that is our long-term development. But it’s usable for something in the short term. We’ve talked about two or three options.”
“If we use it for five years and then decide we’re going to tear it down and build a new structure, is that OK? And they said there’s no amount of time we hold you to using it,” Janet Spriggs, chief financial officer for the college, said at the work session. “But we’re obviously not going to spend money to renovate and then not use it. We would only do that if we would use it for an instructionally valid purpose.”
The second parcel, which does not have a building, would need money entirely from the county. The total purchase price came in at $2.214 million, but with the discount the final cost to Cabarrus County is $1.721 million.
“Thank you for your help to expand the land around South Campus,” Spalding said at the March 19 regular meeting. “We think it’s a great investment for the future. We look forward to working with you very much in expansion of the college’s mission.”
Morris said he was excited for the potential more space had for RCCC and Cabarrus County residents.
“I think the college has done an excellent job of evaluating any potential properties that might be available in that area,” he said at the work session. “I think it’s clearly demonstrated that expansion is going to be imminent. If you look at the number of students attending Rowan Cabarrus Community College, the Cabarrus number has grown substantially and continues to grow. I think that our society is recognizing the value of the diplomas and certificates that the community college offers. I think it’s important that we plan for that expansion in the future.”