After plans fell through in the summer of 2011 for a suitable plot of land for the project, the parties involved went back to the drawing board. Plans to construct the 65,000-square-foot, $13.6 million facility have been in the works since 2008.
Catoosa County originally purchased a 37-acre parcel at Cloud Springs Road and Dietz Road with $437,377 in special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) funds allocated for Fort Oglethorpe’s recreation program.
Fort Oglethorpe had planned to develop a recreation complex, but opted to swap the land in order to fund an-other recreation project, contingent on the college being constructed at the proposed site.
But a survey of the site showed two wetland areas that drain into West Chickamauga Creek, making it a situation that would require mitigation through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an action that would add $20,000 to the bottom line and eat up six to nine months of time.
Traffic concerns were also an issue, according to Georgia Northwestern president Craig McDaniel, who said that without widening Dietz Road, the location would not accommodate the anticipated 800 cars for daily students and administrators.
County manager Mike Helton said the widening of Dietz, a two-lane county road that often has considerable traf-fic congestion during morning and evening commute times, is one of the projects the county submitted to the re-gional transportation roundtable, but approval and funding would take quite awhile to accomplish.
Officials are now focused on a 51-acre county-owned parcel on Ga. 151 (Alabama Highway) south of Ringgold. The site, which is approximately 17 miles from the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, has potential, McDaniel said. A strong focus of the college curriculum is automotive and manufacturing.
“The county-owned property is suitable and we have an architect under contract.” McDaniel said. “The plans for construction are basically complete. I think we will be able to move forward on the project as soon as the property is acquired.”
The Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission, which provides financial and construction manage-ment services for projects of state agencies like the Technical College System of Georgia, has been sitting on go for the past year as well. Spokeswoman Katy Pando said that while her agency oversees financing and construction, the college has the say-so about the location on which to build.
“We have consulted on the design and cost of the project and are ready to proceed with the permitting process,” she said. “The funds have been allocated so we are just waiting on the site selection to be finalized.”
Helton said the conditions for purchase are a little different for this piece of property, as opposed to the Dietz Road site.
“There has been a lot of investment into that property for economic development,” Helton said of the land, pur-chased with $2 million of SPLOST revenue. “But if the college is willing to buy it, we’ll be happy to sell it to them.”