SCC charts course for major Macon campus expansion

Southwestern Community College leaders unveiled a master plan last month outlining a major expansion of its campus in Macon County. 

The campus would double in size from 20 to 40 acres. The master plan has several phases, but the first phase calls for a 38,000-square-foot science building with 15 classrooms and a lab. The first phase also calls for a new law enforcement training center and indoor firing range.


Future phases of the long-range master plan call for three more classroom buildings of about 30,000 square feet and additional parking. There is no cost estimate for the expansion, which is purely conceptual right now.

The expansion plan is contingent on support from the Macon County commissioners, both with an in-kind land donation and likely financial support for construction.

President Don Tomas gave a presentation to county commissioners last month.

“I thought they were very engaged in the presentation,” he said. “I thought they were very receptive to it. I feel very positive about it.”

The Macon campus master plan has been in development for 18 months and responds to the college’s quickly expanding enrollment.

While SCC’s main campus is in Jackson County, the Macon campus has seen astounding growth since 2007:

• A 74 percent increase in students taking curriculum courses. 

• A 34 percent increase in continuing education courses. 

• A 72 percent increase in law enforcement training center courses.

As a whole, SCC expects enrollment across all its campuses and course offerings to increase by 50 percent over the next decade.

The plan asks the county to cede land it owns to the college for the expansion — namely land adjacent to the existing SCC campus on Siler Road campus.

The proposal now before the county is simply asking for its approval to acquire the land necessary for the expansion. No funds would change hands.

If the commissioners agree, the college would then need to find funding to make the plan a reality. A workshop with the commissioners and college leaders is planned in January.

“We’re really excited that SCC is growing in Macon County like it is,” said Macon Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “I’m certain SCC will continue to grow in Macon County. It’s vital to students, but also as far as the county recruiting businesses. SCC has been a great partner and will continue to be a great partner.”

 “There are so many variables that are unknown at this point,” he said. “We’re just kind of stair stepping and planning that process out. I can’t give it a time frame, but from an educator’s standpoint, we would love to see it happen sooner rather than later.”

The cost of the expansion — and how it will be paid for — is a discussion for another day, Tomas said,

“We are taking it one step at a time,” he said. 

The first step is seeking support from Macon County commissioners for the campus master plan.

“If the county agrees, then we go back and ask ourselves that same question. We have been so focused on the master plan. I don’t get ahead of myself until I know what direction I’m going in,” Tomas said.


Land swap

In exchange for getting 20 acres of land from the county for its campus expansion, SCC will relinquish satellite classrooms it occupies in the county courthouse and government building in downtown. 

It would help solve a space crunch in the county’s government complex.

“The county needs that building back,” said Mike Watson, an architect with Bowers, Ellis & Watson who drew up the expansion plans for SCC, referring to the extension in downtown Franklin. “At the same time, the college has outgrown its facilities.”

And SCC would also relinquish its building in the county industrial park that houses the law enforcement and public safety training center.

More than 90 percent of emergency service personnel in the region — including law enforcement, emergency medics, fire fighters and the like — do their training at the SCC center.

It has run out of room, with the campus master plan calling for a relocation of the training center from the industrial park to the main SCC campus.

The plan also calls for building an indoor firing range for officers to practice and train at.

The architectural firm commissioned an archaeological study of the site SCC hopes to build on. Macon County was heavily occupied by the Cherokee and their ancestors, and it is not uncommon to find human remains or archaeological sites which can cause roadblocks or additional costs for construction projects.

But this site appears to have that all clear.

“We’re still awaiting the formal documents for approval,” Watson said. “But all our verbal signs from the state and the tribe have been positive.”

Beale said he likes the idea of the county getting its hands on the space SCC now occupies in the courthouse and government complex.

“We certainly need the area for the county,” Beale said.

Tomas said the college has not yet considered a timetable for the expansion.



Macon campus enrollment

In curriculum courses:

Fall 2007: 297

Fall 2013: 488

In continuing education courses:

Fall 2007: 1,011

Fall 2013: 1,321

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