Lower Columbia College is finally going to get a new health and science building worthy of the 21st Century.

Wrapping up a marathon budgeting process Wednesday, the Legislature approved a $1 billion capital budget that includes $38.5 million to build the 70,000-square-foot facility along Maple Street.

The building will enable the college to consolidate its science programs under one roof, ease overcrowded classrooms and bring state-of-the art laboratories to campus, an elated LCC President Chris Bailey said Wednesday morning.

Existing science classes are designed for about 20 students, but most classes need space for 40, Bailey said, noting that LCC has one of the highest enrollment rates in the state community college system, measuring 24 percent more than the state target. The new building will meet the need for larger classrooms and will include a lecture hall for 173 people, he said.

Existing labs on campus date from the 1960s and “are not modern by any stretch of the imagination,” Bailey said.

“Students will really benefit from this. This is a classroom instruction building,” Bailey said, adding that the campus community is experiencing “absolute joy” at the news.

The college will immediately apply for permits to start work on the building, which will sport a “green” roof and will be built to high energy efficiency standards, Bailey said.

The new science building will be erected on the parking lot along Maple Street — the one next to the baseball field and across the street from the Longview Public Library. First, though, the college will build a new parking lot on the adjoining site of the former Maple Terrace Apartments, which have been demolished. It will take two years to complete the entire project, Bailey estimated.

LCC came close to obtaining funding for the project a year ago, but lawmakers then axed the project out of the capital budget at the 11th hour. The LCC building was ranked second in priority on the list of projects submitted to the Legislature this year by the state Board of Community Colleges.

State Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat whose 19th District seat includes Longview and much of western Cowlitz County, said lawmakers passed the capital budget “in recognition that we needed to do a jobs package and put people to work.”

The state estimates the bill will create 18,000 construction jobs statewide.

Bailey said LCC expects to received close to another $500,000 in the capital budget for equipment for its nursing and vocational training programs. The exact amount was not available Wednesday.

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