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Construction workers have begun preparing the site for the long-awaited new science building at Lower Columbia College.

Workers from Emerick Construction of Portland "just wanted to come in and get started," said LCC spokeswoman Sue Groth. Tuesday, workers removed concrete light posts and cleared soil. "They've been prepping since July 23," she said.

The ceremonial groundbreaking on Maple Street will be in September after LCC's fall quarter begins, she said.

The three-story, nearly 70,000-square-foot building will hold all the college's science programs — including nursing — under one roof, Groth said. The classrooms will hold 40 students instead of the current 20, and the college's aging laboratory equipment will be replaced.

It also will house a 173-seat lecture hall, which can be rented by the public, Groth said. Parking will be in the space formerly occupied by the Maple Terrace Apartments, which were demolished a year ago.

The Legislature in April approved $38.5 million for the project, which will cover Emerick's $22.18 million construction bid, architectural design by Leavengood Architects and purchase of the apartment property, Groth said.

The project is scheduled for completion in early 2014, she said.

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