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News: Ground broken for new science lab at Roane State’s Campbell County campus

News: Ground broken for new science lab at Roane State’s Campbell County campus

Officials are all smiles after groundbreaking ceremonies for the new lab building at Roane State's Campbell County Higher Education Center. From left: Danni Varlan, member of the Tennessee Board of Regents; Ed Wheeler, retired banking executive who donated property for the center; State Rep. Dennis Powers; Tracy Powers, site director of Roane State's Campbell County campus; State Sen. Ken Yager; Campbell County Mayor E.L. Morton; William C. Vinson III, president of Community Tectonics, architect for the project; and Roane State President Dr. Chris Whaley.

Aug. 11, 2017

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

LaFollette, Tenn. – Because the Campbell County community showed its involvement – because it had “skin in the game” – a new state-of-the-art science lab is under construction at Roane State’s Campbell County Higher Education Center.

State Rep. Dennis Powers said during groundbreaking ceremonies Aug. 3 that the public’s participation in building the center was a key reason why lawmakers’ efforts to obtain $1.1 million in state funding for the new facility were successful.

It’s the first time the state has chipped in building funds for the Campbell County campus, which was created 11 years ago through $3.5 million in donations from local residents, businesses and organizations.

The 4,400-square-foot addition to the center’s Wheeler Building is targeted for a March 2018 completion and will be ready for students in the fall 2018 semester, site director Tracy Powers said.

At present, Campbell County students taking mandatory science labs have to commute to Roane State’s Oak Ridge campus for those labs.

“For many students, that’s a great hardship,” she said. “This will make a huge difference in their lives.”

The addition under construction at Roane State’s Campbell County campus will include a science lab and two classrooms.

The new laboratory, designed by Community Tectonics and being built by Danco, Inc., both of Knoxville, will include all the needed lab equipment and accessories for general biology, chemistry, geology and anatomy and physiology studies. Two classrooms will also be included.

Rep. Powers said he and Sen. Ken Yager started seeking funding for the lab addition several years ago.

In the last budget cycle, he said he and Sen. Yager met with state Finance Commissioner Larry Martin and Deputy Governor Jim Henry to seek a budget appropriation for the lab. “They said we needed to have some skin in the game,” Rep. Powers recalled.

Those officials were reminded of the community’s fundraising effort to pay for Roane State’s Campbell County campus, he said. Donations included the pastoral nine-acre site nestled at the base of the Cumberland Plateau, donated by retired banking executive Ed Wheeler, and a $1,250,000 bequest from the late Lillian Michaelis.

The current campus building is 18,000 square feet and includes six classrooms, two computer labs, a learning center, library, community room, faculty offices and a student lounge. Tracy Powers said about 400 students are typically enrolled.

Sen. Yager, whose affiliation with Roane State has included posts as an administrator and assistant professor, said the Roane State campus is “one of the best assets that Campbell County has.”

Campbell County E.L. Morton and Roane State Foundation board member Rhonda Longmire also expressed their excitement about the new lab and how it will help students take more courses close to home.

Rep. Powers said he remembered waiting on the unveiling of the latest state budget and seeing the $1.1 million appropriation for the lab “as the last budget item.”

“This has been a long time coming,” Roane State President Dr. Chris Whaley told the crowd during groundbreaking ceremonies, held next to construction site, its foundation already under way.

The foundation for the new science laboratory is taking shape behind the Wheeler Building of Roane State's Campbell County campus.

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