OWC Trustees Approve Community Services Complex, Discussion with Heritage Museum on Relocation to Niceville Campus


NICEVILLE---Construction of a Community Services Complex that will double as a state-of-the-art hurricane shelter is one more step closer to reality following approval of detailed technical specifications and a timeline for construction bids by the Okaloosa-Walton College District Board of Trustees.

At the board's January 15 meeting, the final planning for the $24 million dollar joint use facility was approved with construction bids anticipated to be opened in early March. OWC President Dr. Bob Richburg has previously noted that construction of the facility can begin by summer 2008 with anticipated completion of the complex by March 2010.

The complex, which will be located on the southwestern portion of the college's Niceville campus, will house Okaloosa County's Emergency Operations Center, various OWC instructional programs such as ROTC, and a new athletic arena. The conceptual design of the facility was approved at the board's July 2007 meeting following a $16,684,647 state appropriation to OWC and an agreement with Okaloosa County which established the county's share of the project at $7 million.

The complex will include an arena seating approximately 2,400 that will become the college's main venue for basketball and major assemblies; an Okaloosa County Public Safety building to support county staff who manage emergencies and 911 public safety communications, including dispatch for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), fire and police; and classroom facilities to house OWC military science/ROTC programs, a new college Wellness Center and other instructional spaces. During emergency use of the complex, classroom spaces are designed to provide sleeping, relief and resting accommodations for emergency personnel. David Alsop, a representative from the design team of Sam Marshall Architects of Pensacola and Orcutt Consulting of Maine made a presentation about the complex to college trustees. The same team previously worked on the OWC Robert E. Greene Science Building, the Learning Resources Center, observatory, a master plan for the Niceville campus and the Mattie Kelly Arts Center.

In other action, the OWC trustees approved a request from Scott Jackson, board chairman of the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida located in Valparaiso, for the museum to begin a feasibility study with the college concerning possibly re-locating the history museum to the OWC Niceville campus. Trustees authorized the college and the museum to study the proposal and bring a recommendation to the board at a later date for consideration. The OWC trustee's approval stipulated that the museum's administration and board understand that college funds cannot be used to construct or operate the museum if it is relocated.

OWC president, Dr. Bob Richburg, explained to trustees that the college and the museum have a long history as the location of OWC's first campus in Valparaiso has been used by the Heritage Museum since 1970, following the college's move to Niceville. Richburg also noted that the Heritage Museum had first approached the college nearly 19 years ago about co-location of the museum on the Niceville campus and the current formal request to move toward that goal was the next step in that process. In other action, OWC Trustees also:

- Approved admission requirements for the new OWC bachelor's degree programs in teacher education. The state previously approved expansion of OWC bachelor's degree offerings to include a bachelor of science in elementary education and a bachelor of science in middle grades math and science. The programs are set to begin in August. Admissions requirements mirror state requirements for teacher candidates and will be posted on the OWC website at www.owc.edu/bachelor;

- Approved detailed construction specifications for the OWC South Walton Center, which will become the college's seventh area location, and a change order to the site work on the center which involves improvement to the storm water retention area as required by Florida DEP as well as utility, sewer and plumbing for fire protection modifications;

- Approved a new scholarship endowment made possible by a $15,000 gift to the OWC Foundation by Ms. Judy Rice of Crestview for a scholarship for the OWC nursing program that will give first preference to being awarded to a single parent who is accepted into the nursing program;

- Accepted the OWC Foundation's annual independent financial audit which reflected a clean opinion with no findings;

- Approved a retirement resolution honoring the service of OWC counselor Jody Swenson of Niceville who has served 26 years in various professional positions, most recently as OWC's coordinator of students with special needs;

- Approved a capital construction priority list which includes remodeling of the OWC college mall on the Niceville campus, building K, to house student services and other functions, potential remodeling of the current gymnasium, and other projects. The priority list helps the college as it seeks funding for capital improvement projects; and other items.

The next OWC district Board of trustees meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the college mall community gallery in building K on the Niceville campus.

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