SLCC prepares to build new college campus in St. Martinville

South Louisiana Community College could begin construction of its new $7 million campus in St. Martinville in November and move in 12 months later.

The new campus, which will replace the college’s existing one on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in St. Martinville, has been planned for the past five years. Construction was to begin last summer, but was put on hold to find a more suitable site.

Initially, the new campus was planned on property donated by the St. Martin Parish School Board that is across the street from the current campus; however, designers urged the college to consider a new location that wasn’t landlocked and that allowed for future expansion.

A call for land donations of at least 9 acres followed, and the city of St. Martinville donated 9 acres off La. 31 near the old Martin Mills plant for the college’s new site.

The design of the building requires slight tweaks because the original design placed the building’s entrance at a corner based on the former lot. It will need to be adjusted to the new property, said Christine Payton, SLCC communications director.

Bid documents for the project should be complete by early October and construction is estimated to begin sometime in November, Payton said. If the project stays on schedule, substantial completion of the building is set for mid-October 2015 with a move-in date sometime in November 2015.

“The college is ready to offer citizens of St. Martin Parish a quality education in a brand-new facility,” Payton said. “Anyone who wants to earn an education should be able to do so, and we’re glad that St. Martin Parish residents can study where they live and work soon on a brand-new campus.”

The request for land donations led to an unusual predicament — two donors fighting over the right to donate their property for a public project.

Besides St. Martinville’s donation of 9 acres, the Ray Pellerin family, of Breaux Bridge, also donated 9 acres of land for the college to build its campus.

The site donated by St. Martinville was selected by a committee of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Facilities Corp., the third-party, nonprofit company created to facilitate LCTCS’ capital projects.

Earlier in the summer, Breaux Bridge businessman Ray Pellerin and his son Frank called the selection process flawed because the selection committee did not follow its own requirements outlined in the request for land donations document.

The Pellerins asserted that their pitch for 9 acres of their property in Breaux Bridge, which has easy access to Interstate 10, was better suited and build-ready in contrast to the St. Martinville land.

In a June 12 letter, the Pellerins were informed by Stephen Smith, chairman of the LCTCS Facilities Corp. and a member of the LCTCS board, that an external review of the selection process would be conducted.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

On June 30, an executive committee of the LCTCS Board of Supervisors approved the donation of the St. Martinville property.

The Pellerins did not receive any update about the external review and doubt that it was conducted, said John Davis, the Pellerins’ attorney. The family has dropped its challenge of the selection process, Davis said.

“When we realized that they were not going to go forward with the external review and it was going to be decided by the executive committee, we knew that we were at the end of the process,” Davis said. “We wish them the best.”

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.