Attorney general holding up college construction projects

ATLANTA - Construction projects at eight state colleges are on hold because the funding organization for them is caught up in red tape in the state attorney general's office.

The delay is holding up $83 million in new construction and renovations on University System of Georgia and Department of Technical and Adult Education campuses across the state. The projects are revenue-generating - such as student housing, bookstore, parking and sports facilities - funded under the new Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority.

The problem is the authority still has no structure two years after it was created by the Legislature. University System of Georgia officials say they are waiting for an opinion from Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office on how the facilities authority should be set up before they can provide the money for construction projects.

'It's a new program, so we're inventing the wheel to some degree with it,' system spokesman John Millsaps said. 'There are a number of questions as to its structure that have resulted in the holdup of these initial projects.'

Officials with the attorney general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Administrators are looking for alternative funding methods for the top construction priorities, including a new $13 million football stadium at Fort Valley State University near Macon and a $14 million student housing building at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Millsaps said. Those two projects are slated to be in use in the next couple of years, he said.

Fort Valley State officials were hoping to break ground on the stadium this spring but have delayed the ceremony, university officials said.

Other projects on the authority's list include a $6 million parking deck at Dalton State College, a $7 million bookstore at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and a $15 million student center at Darton College in Albany. The facilities authority is not designed to handle funding for academic and research buildings.

The state created the facilities authority in 2006 at the urging of the university system to help keep pace with college construction needs across Georgia as enrollments continue to swell at many campuses.