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September 7, 2018

Town committee will vet LFCC expansion proposal

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The donation would double the size of the campus just south of town.
The expansion of the community college would be a wonderful thing for the community. And, I hope we that . . . we can work towards a mutual solution that benefits us all.
— Warrenton Mayor Carter Nevill
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Staff Journalist
A novel plan to double the size of the Fauquier Campus of Lord Fairfax Community College near Warrenton will require the extension of town water and sewer service to the proposed site.

County Administrator Paul McCulla on Thursday night gave the town council an overview of Fauquier’s plan to donate 50 acres to the LFCC Educational Foundation.

A larger campus would mean more training and instructional opportunities at LFCC in Fauquier, explained Mr. McCulla, who conceived the expansion plan.

“Many of our citizens who want to take classes . . . have to drive 45 minutes to go to the Middletown campus, because the current classes aren’t offered here,” the county administrator said.

Options for the proposed site, which adjoins the campus parking lot, could include the development of a trade skills building.

The county board of supervisors supports the concept, Mr. McCulla said.

After the Sept. 6 work session in Town Hall, the council referred the matter to its Public Works and Utilities Committee for review a recommendation.

The panel, which includes Councilmen Brett Hamby (Ward 3) and Kevin Carter (Ward 5), will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Warrenton already provides water and sewer service to the campus.

A 1995 town agreement allows the college to use a maximum 5,000 gallons of wastewater treatment capacity per day.

But two years of data for peak use show that the college uses only 553 gallons a day, or 10 percent of the total, according to public works and utilities department Director Edward “Bo” Tucker.

Mr. McCulla suggested that a remaining portion of the available treatment capacity could be used to serve potential buildings at the proposed site.

Planned improvements to the town sewer plant, approved to handle 2 million gallons of wastewater per day, should make it operate more efficiently.

While no council members commented on the expansion plan, Mayor Carter Nevill voiced support for it.

“The expansion of the community college would be a wonderful thing for the community,” Mr. Nevill said. “And, I hope we that . . . we can work towards a mutual solution that benefits us all.”

Warrenton and county officials seemed less concerned about the town’s ability to supply water for an expanded campus.

Fauquier several years ago identified four wells on the proposed site that produce two to 27 gallons per minute, Mr. McCulla said.

Those wells could be incorporated into a system to help serve uses on the site, he added.

“I think for the proposed use, that’s not a big issue,” Mr. Tucker said of water service to the site.

The proposed land donation also needs the community college foundation’s approval.

Donating land to the foundation would permit the nonprofit to establish public/private partnerships to fund new projects a lot more quickly than through the state capital review and budget process.

The foundation’s method to build the LFCC student union center at the Middletown campus represents a kind of model — an approach that allows the nonprofit full control over such projects.

Bypassing the commonwealth’s cumbersome review system — and statewide political jockeying for limited funds — the eliminates years from conception to completion of capital projects.

The foundation received a 20-acre donation, secured a $9-million loan, hired an architect and selected the contractor, which completed a two-story 31,800-student union on the Middletown campus in about 12 months. It opened January 2014.

Using the foundation approach greatly would accelerate the development of a skills trade center at the Fauquier Campus, Mr. McCulla said.

“You’re essentially going from a multi-decade process to get another building to a three- to five-year process, or less,” he told the council.

The state project approval and funding process moves at a snail’s pace, he suggested.

For example, “It took 20 years and a $1 million donation from the Hazels to get the new (planned) science building (at the Fauquier Campus) moving forward,” Mr. McCulla said.

Construction soon will begin on Hazel Hall, a 40,000-square-foot science and technology building. It will cost $20 million.

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