Board delays funding N. Fulton tech campus

North Fulton County will have to keep waiting for its own technical college campus.

The State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia approved a list of capital projects Thursday that did not include the north Fulton satellite campus Gwinnett Technical College wants to build for about $42.5 million.

"They [the board] put that campus on a list for future consideration," said Mike Light, spokesman for the technical college board. "That reflects there won't be much money in next year’s budget."

North Fulton leaders had promoted the campus as an economic development tool and the start of state-supported post-secondary education in their end of the county.  Sandy Springs, Roswell and Alpharetta expressed interest in being home to the campus.

The college will decide where to locate the satellite campus after hearing how much each prospective host city offers in land, money or both, said Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Bartels.

The governor and Legislature also would  have to sign off on the plan.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, who'd suggested Roswell team with Alpharetta to land the campus, said he was disappointed by the vote.

"Apparently we were overoptimistic," he said. "This is a setback but I'm confident it will be successful in the long run."

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos said she didn't expect the north Fulton campus to be approved this year by the technical college board.

“We are doing advance work so they will get that allocation at some point in the future,” Galambos said. “The actual building of this campus may be in two to four years.”

The state technical college board voted last June to move north Fulton back into Gwinnett Tech's service area. North Fulton was served by Gwinnett Tech until 2000, when the community was moved to Lanier Technical College's jurisdiction. That college had been serving north Fulton and several North Georgia counties.

Bartels and other tech system officials are scheduled to discuss the campus Sept. 16 at the North Fulton Municipal Association. The college is expected to issue a proposal showing what it needs in land and money from the cities.

Bartels said ideally she'd like to start with a 100-acre site, which is about the size of the Gwinnett Tech campus in Lawrenceville. That campus serves more than 5,000 students and has 762 full- and part-time employees. Bartels said more than half the students are in health sciences, a field with high demand.

"It could very well be a three- or  four-story office building that's sitting up there now," Bartels said. "We'd keep going vertical instead of spreading out."

The bad economy is helping tech school enrollment. Light said enrollment rose from 156,000 students in June 2009 to 191,000 in June of this year.

"A large part of that is people who are out or work or underemployed and coming to us for a new skills," he said.

The tech college board approved a $60.6 million capital outlay priority list. The list included $10.33 million for a transportation, logistics and manufacturing center at the Acworth campus of Chattahoochee Technical College.