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HCC practices patience in 2012

By Caroline Klapper | Dec 26, 2012
Photo by: Caroline Klapper A fire at the sawmill on campus destroyed the old building in November 2012.

Patience has been the virtue called upon most often at Haywood Community College in 2012.

The biggest issue facing the college during the past year has been finding a new college president to replace Dr. Rose Johnson, who announced her resignation in the fall of 2011.

The search has extended for more than a year as the college’s Board of Trustees selected candidates, went through an extensive interview process with the staff and community (narrowing the field to five finalists), and then decided to re-advertise the position and continue the search.

“It’s the most important thing that the board is entrusted to do,” said Chairman Bob Morris. “We want to make sure we get the best choice of the president for the college.”

Changes on the board

In the meantime, two members of the Board of Trustees resigned.

Lynne Barrett resigned with three years left on her term, citing questions she had about some of the decisions being made by the board and her belief that some of those decisions were not in the best interest of the college.

Michael McConnell resigned with one year left in his term. In his resignation letter, McConnell said because of the workload involved in opening a new law practice, he was unable to attend some of the board meetings and college events. He also explained that he felt the board met too often and tended toward micro-management on many issues.

Several board members also finished their four-year terms of service on the board. Replacing them are Bill Yarborough, appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue, Susan Sorrells appointed by the Haywood County Board of Education, Mary Ann Enloe, appointed by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners and Bill Barker, appointed by Haywood County Board of Education.

By the start of fall semester at HCC, the board had renewed its search for the next HCC president. Johnson, who originally expected to leave the college in June, agreed to stay on until the end of October while the presidential search continued.

Dr. William Aiken is currently serving as the college’s interim president until a new president is hired. The governing board is in the middle of interviewing and considering the second batch of candidates.

Building progress and setbacks

While there has been work done on renovating and repairing several buildings on campus, the main focus has been on the new $8.3 million Creative Arts Center.

The project was financed with proceeds from a quarter-cent local option sales tax approved by county voters in 2008 to address building needs at the college. The new center will replace the current Professional Crafts building and provide additional space for expanded programs, but costly design errors and change orders have pushed the building’s completion date back several times from the original May 2012 expectation.

Early in the year, $227,000 was paid out from the project’s contingency fund to cover the cost of a fire pump and pump house. A design oversight concerning the amount of water pressure needed to operate the sprinkler system in the building resulted in the revision and delays in the project.

Other change orders have involved soil issues, the addition of security doors, resurveying the parking lot area, extending a retaining wall, building a concrete curb and reinforcing the outdoor patio.

The construction completion date was moved back to October, then November, when the original inspection was done. Finally, on Dec. 19, the building was opened and classes are expected to be held there in the spring semester, starting Jan. 7.

Sawmill burns

As the new Creative Arts building neared completion, one of the oldest buildings on campus, the sawmill, met a sudden end.

While the college’s Wood Products Program and sawmill operations had been discontinued since 2003, it wasn’t until September of this year that the equipment in the old buildings were auctioned off. Maggie Valley contractor Kyle Edwards, who planned to start up his own sawmill locally, purchased much of the large-scale saw machinery.

Unfortunately, in mid-November, an accidental fire raged through the building, leaving little but the largest support beams standing.

Det. Tony Cope with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office said a construction crew was inside the sawmill earlier that day moving equipment and using torches to cut bolts when a small fire started.

The fire was extinguished, but Cope said they believe the fire rekindled inside the mill because of all the sawdust in the area.

Although the college had no definite plans for the building, the fire resulted in its total destruction.

Although it’s been a long and sometimes bumpy road through 2012 in the coming year, HCC will see all of that groundwork pay off with the new Creative Arts Building open and most likely a new president at the helm.

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