Lower Columbia College officials are nervously awaiting word on whether the school will get the money it needs to begin construction on its new health and science building later this year.

LCC President Jim McLaughlin said last month that he's worried the college won't be able to break ground this summer on the new, $37 million building on Maple Street. The project would be accompanied by a new parking lot, which will be created at the site of the soon-to-be-demolished Maple Terrace Apartments.

The new building ranks near the top of the list of the state's capital projects, but McLaughlin said he's concerned the state might freeze new construction projects to save money.

Construction would provide jobs and revenue to the local economy and sorely needed laboratory and classroom space for LCC, he said.

"We're getting toward the edge here," McLaughlin said.

Capital projects money is a separate budget and cannot be used to finance additional staff or classes.

Gov. Chris Gregoire included funding for the project in her proposed capital budget that was released in December.

Over the past four years, the state has provided LCC with about $5 million to complete the design phase of the project, and the school is hoping to begin construction by July 1, said LCC spokesperson Sue Groth. Construction could be completed by spring or summer of 2013, she said.

LCC purchased the 63-year-old Maple Terrace Apartments on the corner of Olympia Way and Maple Street in 2007 for $2.5 million.

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