By Joel Hall
Before the final gavel fell on the 2009 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a spending plan that included $4.1 million toward a new science building at Clayton State University, and a new library in Forest Park.
State Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) said she helped win approval of the funds as part of Georgia's 2010 budget.
The money, which narrowly avoided getting cut from the budget, will fund the design phase of a new science building on Clayton State's campus in Morrow, as well as a new Forest Park Branch Library. The university and the library system will receive $2.1 million and $2 million, respectively, when the new fiscal year begins in July.
Seay, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in the final days of the session, the House removed the budget appropriations for CSU, and the Clayton County Library System, which the Senate had recommended. Seay said she was able to add the items back into the spending plan before Friday night, when the session ended.
"Throughout the budget process this session, my sole concern has been ensuring that my constituents receive the essential funding their communities need," Seay said. "The Senate recognized the importance of funding education and library projects in the budget this year, and I am pleased that communities in Clayton County will benefit from these legislative priorities."
Steve Stephens, vice president and executive assistant of external relations for Clayton State, said the university currently lacks the facilities to adequately offer the sciences to its student body. He said the money in the state's 2010 budget will help the school design - and eventually construct - a new science building with more laboratory space.
"This has been in the works for a while," Stephens said. "You need to get design money before you can get the money for construction. We are happy that it is in there. Right now, we have seven labs. With a new science building, we will go to 14."
Stephens said a new science building would enhance the school's ability to recruit and retain scientific faculty, and would also give the campus adequate space to ensure that its students are able to take seven hours of sciences, as required by the University System of Georgia.
Carol Stewart, director of Clayton County Library Services, said the $2 million from the state budget will serve as a grant to match $2.5 million the county is contributing to build a new Forest Park Branch Library. Stewart said the library, located at 696 Main St., and built in 1967, no longer adequately meets the needs of the community.
"We have needed a new Forest Park library for a number of years," said Stewart. "It is not accessible to people in a wheelchair. It's very heavily used, and overcrowded and it's almost impossible to retrofit for technology."
Stewart said the new library, the location of which has not yet been decided, will expand the Forest Park Branch Library from 8,100 square feet to 16,000 square feet. She said the new library would have 78 computers and a number of special rooms for toddlers, teens, and computer training classes.
"Right now, public libraries are even more important in our communities than they are in good times ... a lot of people are relying on us," said Stewart. "Our legislative delegation strongly supported this funding. I'm excited for us and I'm excited for Clayton County."