The Stokes County Commissioners are considering the next steps to take in planning for the county’s own community college campus in the Meadows area.
At a meeting on Monday night, the commissioners agreed to move to next meeting’s action agenda a form which serves as tentative approval of the county’s intent to pursue a project up to $6 million. The board also set dates for future school site visits with Forsyth Technical Community College officials to look at examples of community college designs.
According to the proposed North Carolina Community College System Tentative Approval for Capital Improvement form, the Stokes County Forsyth Tech campus would be roughly 20,000 square feet and located on the Meadows property off of Dodgetown Road. The total estimated cost is $6 million.
County Manager Rick Morris said the figure is just an estimate and that the county hopes bids will be lower. He said the form was the next step needed to keep the process going, since architectural designs cannot be done until the form is completed. The county does not have to commit to full architectural designs at this point, but at least preliminary designs with a site plan are necessary. Board Chairman Ernest Lankford said for Forsyth Tech and the state to approve this as a project, the county would need to sign the form.
Commissioner Leon Inman, who sat in on a recent meeting with community college officials, said his questions about the project were answered. He said $6 million is just an estimate and is a “not to exceed” number.
“I’m okay with it,” said Inman of taking the next step.
Commissioner Jimmy Walker said when the four-cent tax for the schools and community college fund was added last year, that was a commitment to do the community college.
Commissioner James Booth had several questions about the design phase and plans for water and sewer service. But he added, “We’re going to build that college, because we committed to it.”
Commissioner Ronda Jones stated that when the community college is built, it could mean a large boom for the Meadows area, so she hopes the designs will do something to complement the prison and Hanging Rock.
After moving the item to action, the commissioners set dates to go on fact-finding trips with Forsyth Tech officials. The officials will meet on either Oct. 15 or Oct. 23 to tour a few schools in the area and get ideas about architectural designs.
Ann Watts, director of Forsyth Tech programs in Stokes, presented results of a community survey to the commissioners on Monday. She noted that enrollment at the current Dodgetown Road site has increased over the past year. In order to see what kind of programs residents will want to see at the full-blown campus when it is constructed there, Forsyth Tech conducted survey research and held town hall meetings.
Watts reported that 4,000 paper surveys were given out and web surveys were submitted to six of the largest listserv groups in the county. Forsyth Tech received 2,430 completed surveys, and all current Stokes County high school students were included. Three town hall meetings were also held in June across the county.
According to the survey results, 78 percent of those surveyed said they were interested in taking classes in central Stokes County. Sixty-seven percent were interested in weekday morning course options, and 70 percent preferred hybrid formats for classes, which includes a web and in-person component to instruction.
The degree program ranked highest on the list of programs people want to see in Stokes is a business program. College transfer, computer information systems, health technologies, agriculture sciences / horticulture and vocational trades were the other top choices for courses to be offered in Stokes.
Watts said it was great to hear the enthusiasm people had at the town hall meetings for the community college project. She reported that an overwhelming number of people said they wanted to see meeting space for the community at the college. Other suggestions were green construction and sustainable technologies for the building’s construction, elements that will showcase the skill and art of farming, food service space, a career center, agricultural and trades programs, personal enrichment classes, partnerships with businesses, entrepreneurship programs and training or retraining for veterans.
Commissioner Walker asked how the county could take this information and incorporate future needs. Watts said the college will continue to watch enrollment trends.