Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In this day and age of belt-tightening and ever-shrinking pools of grant and loan dollars, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to finance infrastructure and economic development projects in our region.
That’s why the recent efforts of Bluefield College and the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors are impressive. The college and the county have already secured $4.5 million in grant and loan funding to develop the new School of Dental Medicine at the Bluestone Regional Technology Park.
During an interview last week, Bluefield College President Dr. David Olive said both the county and the college are working together to help finance the construction of the dental school through grant and loan dollars.
“As part of this process, the county and Bluefield College plan to seek support from external resources to reduce the amount being provided principally from Tazewell County,” Olive said. “A grant of $1 million has been committed toward the construction and equipment of the facility, along with a $3.5 million loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority.”
Olive adds both the college and the county are currently looking into architectural bids for the design of the dental facility. While an actual start of construction date is still pending, Olive notes the goal is to have the facility completed by the summer of 2015 to accommodate the first class of students in August of that same year.
“We have $4.5 million for the brick, mortar and equipment part of the building,” County Administrator Jim Spencer said earlier this week. “We have a lot of applications for funding pending. There is another larger pot of funds we will be applying for in July. The college is applying for some and the county is applying for some. This building is not your typical architectural project. You are basically designing a small hospital.”
A contingency plan also is in place in the event that the new dental school is not completed or finished by the summer of 2015. If the facility is not ready, the first class of dental school candidates would then attend school at the old Virginia Department of Health building in Tazewell while construction is completed on the new campus at the Bluestone site. The old health department building is currently owned by the county. It is located near Tazewell Community Hospital.
The dental school’s first dean, Dr. Frank Serio, also was in the area Monday. He will begin work this summer helping to establish the curriculum for the dental school as well as interviewing potential educators for the program.
Olive says Serio will lead critical staff and faculty searches that are essential for the first-phase of the dental school construction while also pursuing accreditation for the new school with the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
We congratulate Serio on his selection as the dental school’s first dean. And we also applaud Bluefield College, and the county Board of Supervisors, for their efforts in securing the $4.5 million in grant and loan funding to date for the construction of the dental school. This impressive accomplishment only goes to show what an aggressive attitude, and a willingness to fight for the ever-shrinking pool of grant and loan dollars, can accomplish.