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Campus/library partnership down to 1
LCDA drops out of downtown development
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Academic history

Through the 1990s, Liberty County, Hinesville, the Liberty County Board of Education and Liberty County Development Authority helped Savannah Technical College rent a campus here.
In 2004, the same four entities asked to partner for a new AASU campus supported the effort to build Savannah Tech’s campus on Airport Road.
LCDA donated the 60 acres from its Hinesville Industrial Park. Some $2.5 million of SPLOST went to help put up the 40,000 square foot building. And the local support for the campus convinced state officials to kick in nearly $5 million more for the project.

Funding for a proposed, downtown college campus and joint public library dwindled to two when Liberty County Development Authority backed out Monday, following two others.
Hinesville is the lone supporter after the county commission jumped ship earlier this month and the board of education dropped out in March.
LCDA weighed how they would carry part of the $8.5 million project and funnel $80,000 for the next 30 years.
“Which is $2.4 million, ya’ll,” LCDA member Brian Smith said. “Let’s realize what we’re talking about.”
A bustling downtown and economic boost was the big attraction to the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority when it pushed to build the new facility, which Armstrong Atlantic State University would be expected to rent. 
Smith, who also sits on the downtown board, said Savannah College of Art and Design’s Savannah facilities were used as examples.
“It sort of took a different life of what we talked about,” Smith said.
But Smith would be open to another venue, calling a college a “great investment in our community regardless of where it was.”
LCDA administration and finance director Carmen Cole said a stumbling block has been AASU’s inability to make a long term commitment.
“Part of your problem with that project is not just the location…,” she said. “The harder problem is that Armstrong is set on a commitment they have no flexibility in how much they can contribute.”
AASU has said its contributions are capped at $240,000 per year, renewed year-to-year.
And authority members questioned why the request for a campus was coming from the school’s independent foundation not the Board of Regents.
LCDA CEO Ron Tolley explained the 30-year commitment threw the LCDA staff for a loop, considering they were told about a 10-year commitment when AASU first proposed the project. He said the staff recommended against committing to the partnership.
“But the staff recommendation would be, with it down to only one partner, we don’t think it would be very financially feasible to do,” Tolley said.
Authority members were reluctant to abandon the project and fished for other options.
“We’re caught for something any other county would die for,” member Al Williams said. “I can’t think of anything better than to have in a community than a college.”
The board suggested AASU reduce the size of building or change the terms of commitment.
“I’d just like to see all the parties stay in,” LCDA Chairman Allen Brown said. “Somehow I’d like to see all the entities get together and discuss it one last time before we do away with it completely.”
Tolley said he doubted AASU would pull its current privately rented campus. He feared the sudden thumbs down wasted time for the school.
AASU could have started renovations years ago if its planners knew the county agencies were not going to help support the new campus.
“It makes it tough when others back out,” Williams said. “I think we need to know if Armstrong had any alternative plans. Is there something else we can look at?”
The authority agreed a vote was not needed, but authorized Tolley to send a letter Armstrong.

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