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Bevill State starts landscaping project
Drainage ditches will be covered; plan to install lights, walkways, parking

Staff Writer, Journal Record

HAMILTON - Construction has started on a $1.4 million project in the rear of Bevill State Community College-Hamilton, which will cover drainage ditches and improve the asthetics to give it more the feel of a college campus. Crews have been seen in recent days digging up earth for what is being called a "pedestrian improvement and landscaping project," while some entryways to the back area, near National Avenue, have been blocked.

"It’s going to dramatically improve the look and the feel of making it into a more modern campus," said Dr. Russell Howton, the interim associate dean for the Hamilton Campus, noting the original structures go back to 1965. "I think it will be a night-and-day difference," which should help in recruiting students. Howton said on April 24 that the project, which is being undertaken by Gregory Construction of Columbus, Miss., began on April 1 and should take 120 working days to complete. "We’re probably looking at October, November, something like that for completion," said Heath Reed of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood’s Northwest Alabama Division office in Vernon, which has been working on the designs since the start of the project. A penalty of $500 per day will be assessed if the project runs late, he said.

Officials said that the college obtained a federal $450,000 Transportation and Community and System Preservation Grant. Reed said the total cost of the project is $1,434,061. Reed said the federal grant is being given to Bevill State through the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which will act as the grant administrator.

The project has been in the works for seven years. Howton said the project took so much time because of having to go through government channels, and because of a temporary hold on projects at ALDOT due to funding issues, which was later lifted for this and other projects. Howton shared an overview of the project, which was placed on the agenda when the Alabama Board of Education approved the plan.

The notation said, "Bevill State Community College proposes to improve the landscape of their Hamilton Campus to include replacing the parking with a dedicated lawn area, sidewalks, a shaded terrace outside the cafeteria, landscaping and irrigation, site furnishings, lighting and a new asphalt parking lot on the campus perimeter (meaning next to National Avenue on the far back end). "The concrete ditches are to be removed and replaced with drainage infrastructure. These open concrete ditches pose a safety issue for students and visitors, especially at night with inadequate lighting."

The campus "includes buildings in a traditional U-shape quadrangle format. The current landscape includes parking in the interior quad with four parallel concrete drainage ditches that run across the campus. The ditches and asphalt make for an unfriendly atmosphere on campus and are not pedestrian-oriented or attractive. "These improvements will go a long way in transforming the campus into a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly campus. The increased walking activity will improve the health of students and faculty. The quality of life and environment is improving by creating enjoyable outdoor space." Howton said the plan is to put the drainage ditches under the ground. Reed said some arch pipes, both 29-inch by 18-inch and 36- inch by 23-inch in size, will be used. Then, the pipes will be covered up and sodded with grass. "It will give the campus a whole different feel," he said, noting it was difficult to walk across campus without being blocked by the ditches. Only a small handful of grated walkways were available to cross them, and one had to know where they are, Howton said. Worse, officials worried about people or vehicles accidentally falling into the ditches. There will be sidewalks installed in to the project to make it easier to cross the back of the campus. Closer to the back entrance, which also leads to the student center, there will be a canopy area. "Where they park, all that will be grass and sidewalks," he said.

At the same time, officials will create a new parking area with 164 spaces near National Avenue. There will be a pedestrian walkway that will guide people from that parking lot to the back of the campus. Parking will not be lost by moving some spaces to National, Reed said. "There will be equal or probably a greater number of spaces on the new parking lots," Reed said. A number of the parking areas will also be improved with islands of trees in the parking areas. Outside the back entrance to the student center will be a courtyard, with a shade cloth-covered pavilion with casual seating and tables. A walkway to the building will have grated concrete, somewhat like the plaza areas of Hamilton’s downtown revitalization project. To the east of the new courtyard will be a current service road that will now stretch from the dorms to the Bevill Center area without interruption. Howton said there will be parking allowed on this road, including some handicapped parking spaces. Handicapped parking spaces will be added at the cosmetology area.

Going across the service road will be the scored concrete coming from the student center, which will connect to a flagpole and the lawn dotted with trees and shade around it. With the courtyard to the west, the lawn will be flanked to the east side by the the cosmetology building. Parking is expected on the north side of the lawn. The lawn area, which will have casual seating on the edges, is where informal play like disc throwing, will take place, said Howton, who said there was a lack of play area on the campus. "Exterior lighting will be improved," he added, addressing a problem that has been particularly seen near the entrance to the student center.

The drawings point out that landscaping will include "trees of different seasonal interests, such as fall color, spring blooms, and different texture and scale." Howton said crepe myrtles, box hollies, elms, Liriopes and Hawhorn bushes are planned as part of the landscaping. Officials said the new drainage should also improve a marshy condition that has been on several parts of the campus. Howton said maintenance has had trouble mowing some areas in the summer because it is so wet.

Howton said the project comes on top of some other improvements. All career tech classrooms have been updated with new floors and furniture. Since January, three rooms in the health sciences building have now been set up for nursing simulation rooms, with mannequins and hospital room settings. Also, the old lockers in the main building were taken out during the Christmas holidays, with the space renovated to put something else in, which will be decided at a later date. "The lockers were never used, and it kind of dated the building," Howton said.

With the new career day, the Bevill Torch competition and in hosting Skills USA, Howton said the college is now having a number of potential college students passing through the campus. "We need the improvements made in order to appeal to today’s students," he said. "Hopefully, the improvements will pay off in the long run." 

Article and photos courtesy of The Journal Record.

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