SMITHFIELD — At a public hearing last Wednesday night, Johnston Community College President David Johnson made an impassioned plea to commissioners to increase county spending.
Last year, JCC received about $4.6 million from the county. Johnson has requested $419,000 more in the year ahead to help renovate deteriorating buildings on campus. Instead, commissioners might give the college $4 million. That’s $600,000 less than the current year and $1.19 million less than what JCC is seeking for 2013-14.
At the meeting, Johnson presented a slideshow titled “The Crumbling of JCC’s Infrastructure.” He said buildings, roofs and parking lots on campus are starting to decay. The danger, he said, is that JCC will fall too far behind on its building-repair needs even as it constructs new buildings to house a growing enrollment.
“We’re approaching a very delicate time in the history of our college in that our infrastructure is crumbling,” Johnson said. “We need to maintain and move forward.”
Johnson’s slideshow included photos of cracks and potholes in parking lots on campus.
The crumbling asphalt has made students and staff members angry, Johnson said, and some of them write him about it.
“I get emails from time to time – I’m sure some of you do too – from people wanting me to pay for the realignment of their cars,” he said.
The slideshow also had photos of the Wilson Building, where bricks are beginning to protrude outward – often a sign of cracks in a building’s foundation. Johnson said it’s becoming a safety concern.
Commissioners did not commit to more funding.
Cookie Pope asked if it whether the Wilson Building woes were an example of poor workmanship or simply a bad foundation – the college was built on a swamp.
“I think ‘yes’ on both cases, but I can’t speak to the workmanship side of things,” Johnson said. “This could probably have been alleviated with better engineering and design.”
Commissioner Chad Stewart wondered if a shaky foundation could potentially become a problem every few years. Johnson said it could, unless the college fixes the foundation.
Stewart asked, “Can it be done?”
Johnson responded, “I think so … but it’s going to take money.”
In November, Johnston voters will decide whether to borrow $7 million for JCC. The college would use the money to help build a new student-services building, renovate the Tart Building and buy 26 acres that would allow the college to expand.
Johnson’s proposed budget increase for 2013-14 would help hire maintenance staff and purchase equipment.
Commissioner Allen Mims wanted to know how much money the college has in savings. Johnson said JCC has about $644,000 in reserves but plans to dip into about $75,000 of that.
Pope asked how the state budget proposals floating around Raleigh would affect funding for the college. Johnson said JCC would see cuts of $800,000 to $1.2 million under any of the budget bills.
Commissioner Jeff Carver, the board’s chairman, said the rest of the county would feel state funding cuts as well. “We feel your pain on what the state is taking away from you because they’re also taking away from us,” he said. “The courthouse has crumbling infrastructure outside.”