York Tech takes 3rd try at Chester bid

CHESTER -- Twice frustrated by bids that were too high, York Technical College officials hope the third price search for building a Chester County center will be a success.

The latest set of bids could come back by the end of September, college officials said, and they hope construction will begin soon afterward, with some classes beginning by late 2008.

"We've done everything that we know of to make this thing a reality," said York Tech President Greg Rutherford. "While we cannot predict the future, we feel confident that we're going to be able to make it happen."

The approximately 31,000-square-foot facility is planned for 40 acres off S.C. 9 east of Chester. A road and sewer system already are in place.

County leaders have said the campus will help the county recruit industry because a nearby technical college means companies won't have to send their workers away for training.

Leaders have said the center was a major selling point for Poly-America, a plastics company that announced in October that it would build a plant near Richburg and bring 400 jobs to the county.

"A lot of people are looking for it," said Ed Duffy, the college's vice president for development. "That's why we're doing so many other things. ... It's been frustrating."

York Tech already offers courses in Chester. The college announced last week that it's moving the York Street center in Chester to the former Duke Energy Office on Saluda Street.

That facility is being renovated and should be finished in time for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 20.

The building is 3,800 square feet and larger than the York Street site. The facility includes space for a 25-student classroom, a computer lab/classroom for 15 students, an assessment center, a distance learning classroom and a library area with computers for student use. The site also has ample parking.

Because of the larger facility, 10 additional credit classes have been added.

But college officials hope the new center won't see more holdups.

In September, they said they had decided to reduce the sizes of lab spaces and classrooms in the construction plans rather than ask for more money to fund a proposed $8.5 million center.

Engineers had provided estimates on the center, but from the time the estimates were complete until about three months later when construction was set to begin, prices of raw materials increased significantly.

In order to avoid a third bidding failure, Rutherford said the college officials have fine-tuned their plans, trying to reduce cost without impacting their goals.

To cut costs, officials opted for windows that can't open as opposed to ones that can. They also saved money by choosing a less complex heating and cooling system. They even looked at such small items as hand rails.

"We literally went through (the project) with a fine-tooth comb," Rutherford said.

Officials also looked at funding some center costs outside of the bid, such as landscaping and curbing.

Although officials are confident their third effort will succeed, what happens if it doesn't?

"We are going to find a way to put a center in Chester County to serve the citizens of Chester County," Rutherford said. "One way or another."