Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 30, 2014

Bluefield College suspends dental school project

BLUEFIELD, Va. —  Bluefield College is suspending work on a proposed dental school project planned for the Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park, college officials said Monday.

Tazewell County officials have informed the college that the county has decided to suspend funding for the public-private project and terminate a memorandum of understanding agreement, Bluefield College President Dr. David Olive said.

As a result, Olive said the college has put the dental school project on hold until a decision on a funding application is made this fall by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

“While our board of trustees remains supportive of the dental school project, we are suspending our activities until we know funding for the construction of the facility has been obtained and we have a new memorandum of understanding with the county,” Olive said. “This was a joint venture from the beginning, and it isn’t practical for the college to take the project forward on its own.”

Olive said together the college and the county have funded operations for the dental school since the fall of 2012 with the help of gifts and pledges from numerous supporters, but together can no longer continue to fund operations without added support. Olive said the most vital piece of funding the college and the county are waiting on for construction is a $19.2 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

However, that application may no longer be considered by the tobacco commission if the college is pulling out as the county’s academic partner, Charlie Stacy, chairman of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, said.

“We have to have an academic partner for the dental school project for it to even be feasible with the tobacco commission,” Stacy said. “But if the college is suspending their work on the project, I would think that the application would ultimately have to be withdrawn from the tobacco commission.”

Chris Shoemaker, a spokesman for BC, said the college is of the opinion that the tobacco commission grant application is still applicable.

“The college’s opinion is that the application is still pending with the tobacco commission,” Shoemaker said. “We will continue to have some operating activity, and continue to look for more funds to support the project.”

Olive said the suspension of dental school operations will continue at least until the tobacco commission acts on the funding application and a new memorandum of understanding is approved between the college and county.

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