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Co-Lin presented $1 million from MDOT for campus improvements

A BIG THANK YOU – Dr. Ronnie Nettles, right, president of Co-Lin, along with Wesson mayor Alton Shaw, center, accept a representative check for $1,000,000 from MDOT Central Distric Commissioner Dick Hall on Thursday. The funds are part of a Transportation Alternatives Program grant that will upgrade and re-establish walking access to the historic sections of campus and create a safe corridor from the center of Wesson to the heart of Co-Lin.

Above is a rendering of the project that was done with assistance from Williford, Gearhart and Knight Engineers.

By Joe B. Coates
A bevy of state and local officials and members of the Co-Lin Community College and Wesson communities turned out Thursday morning, June 6, to witness a new beginning on the Co-lin campus.  Dick Hall, Central Mississippi Transportation Commissioner, presented a $1 million check to Co-Lin president Dr. Ronnie Nettles as part of Transportation Alternatives Program grant.
The TAPS grant will be utilized to create a pedestrian corridor at the center of campus along Co-lin Circle.  The drive, which runs from Pine Street into the heart of campus and terminates at the Callendar Activity Center, was closed several years ago to traffic.  It’s high curbs, however, are difficult to navigate, especially for the disabled.
“We will so glad to see those curbs gone,” Nettles said.  “Not only will the circle be enhanced for pedestrians and bike riders, but also will be completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The pedestrian corridor will upgrade and re-establish walk paths to the historic parts of campus, including the Veterans Memorial Gardens and the Time Capsules adjacent to the library and the Ewing Administration Building that was built in 1938.  Access to L. Russell Elzy Hall, which was constructed in 1928 as the original Co-Lin High School building on campus, will also be improved.  Elzy Hall is currently undergoing a major renovation, as well.
Hall explained that competition for the TAP grants is fierce.  “Each project is judged by staff members.  The ones that make it through are presented to me for a final decision,” he explained.
Hall said that what stood out for him most on this project was the impression made by Dr. Nettles and Wesson mayor Alton Shaw on a visit to Hall’s office to discuss the project.
“I was impressed by the support for the project by the Wesson and Co-Lin communities as personified by Mayor Shaw and Dr. Nettles,” Hall explained.  “I firmly believe that this community will benefit well beyond any dollar amount we could place on it.”
The Town of Wesson received a TAP grant months ago to improve the sidewalks from the center of town to the entrance of the Co-Lin campus.  “This will all tie in together, and families will have much improved pedestrian and biking access to and from Co-Lin,” Nettles explained.
A rendering of the project, at right, was completed by Williford, Gearhart and Knight engineering firm and was revealed during the ceremony.  
Shaw said all of this starting coming together during his first term as mayor.  “The vision to get this done started years ago when former Co-Lin president Dr. Howell Garner called my about closing the circle,” Shaw explained.  “From there we developed a partnership that led to us applying for the TAP grant.  In a couple of years, we and the entire community will see and appreciate what our vision has led us to,” Shaw said.
After a ground-breaking ceremony to officially get the construction started, the crowd moved inside the Ewing Administration Building for a reception.  The project will also move vehicle parking to the outer areas of campus and is expected take around 24 months to complete, Dr. Nettles said Thursday.

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