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ETSU pharmacy school bids come in $1 million over budget

SAM WATSON • Jan 10, 2007 at 9:27 AM

JOHNSON CITY - East Tennessee State University's plans to develop a permanent home for its new College of Pharmacy hit a snag Wednesday when the lowest renovation bid came in about $1 million over the target price.

The university intends to remodel Building 7 on the campus of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, to house the pharmacy school, which will start classes next week in temporary quarters shared with ETSU's James H. Quillen College of Medicine.

With a $7.5 million budget for the overall project, officials had estimated renovation costs at about $5.7 million, ETSU Vice President for Business and Finance David Collins said Wednesday. But the lowest bid came in about $1 million over the target.

Collins said ETSU had asked Greeneville-based architects Fisher & Associates to work with the low bidder to develop "value engineering" in hopes of reducing remodeling costs.

"We'll just have to go from there, which is nothing unusual with construction projects these days," Collins said.

Along with construction costs, architectural and engineering fees, movable equipment and furnishings are included in the $7.5 million budget.

Collins said ETSU would evaluate the overall budget to determine potential items for cuts before recommending a plan to the Tennessee Board of Regents.

"We've got to look at all the options," he said.

Collins said administrators had asked the architects and the low bidder to provide the value engineering information by Friday. Then administrators will evaluate the project with Pharmacy Dean Larry Calhoun and ETSU Vice President for Health Affairs Ron Franks to determine recommendations within a few weeks.

ETSU hopes to occupy the remodeled building by the spring of 2008.

Plans call for crews to overhaul all four floors of the historic building, one of the first structures erected on the VA campus at the dawn of the 20th century. The renovation would give the college about 40,000 square feet of space for classrooms, student study space, laboratories, and faculty and administrative offices.

The design includes two lecture auditoriums, each with room to seat an entire year's worth of pharmacy students - 72 students are in the inaugural class - and two smaller classrooms, each with room for about half a class.

The state has issued $7.5 million worth of bonds to fund the pharmacy school project. The university will repay the bonds using revenue from tuition and donations, the same way it is funding the pharmacy school's operations. The state approved ETSU's bid to establish the pharmacy school in 2005 on the condition that no state funding be used.

Building 7 is located adjacent to the ETSU medical school's Stanton-Gerber Hall and the university's new forensics center, where renovations already are under way.

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