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story.lead_photo.caption NTI (Northwest Technical Institute) campus in Springdale taken Friday June 2, 2017.

SPRINGDALE -- A Northwest Technical Institute board member pressed administrators Thursday for details related to a construction project set to begin soon on campus.

Derek Gibson asked for a clearer picture of all construction and operating costs associated with a building planned for the welding program. He suggested the board discuss the project more in depth so "everyone's on board with what we have to deliver," he said.

Northwest Technical Institute

Northwest Technical Institute is a state-supported school that offers programs for high school students and adults in industrial maintenance, diesel technology, nursing and information technology. A five-person board oversees the school.

Marianne Neighbors served on the board for 10 years until this month. Her last meeting was Thursday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will appoint a replacement.

Source: Staff report

NTI President Blake Robertson offered Gibson a chance to join administrators in a pre-construction meeting with the contractor Wednesday.

A 14,000-square-foot building for the welding program is planned for the middle of campus. Officials expect to break ground on it next month and expect the building to be ready for classes by August 2020.

The original bid process on the project resulted in a low bid of more than $2.9 million, which exceeded the institute's budget. Administrators adjusted the design by cutting some cosmetic details, including a canopy and some landscaping, Robertson said. The building still will look good despite the cuts, he said.

The revamped plan was put out for bids. Legacy Construction Management of Tontitown earned the job with a low bid of $2.63 million. It was one of three bids submitted this month, according to Mike Hamley, vice president of finance and administration.

Gibson said he wanted to make sure board members are all comfortable with cuts made to the building's design. He listed numerous questions he'd like answered, including ones having to do with the operating expenses of the new facility and whether the institute can afford them.

Robertson did not answer all of Gibson's questions but said after the meeting the institute is prepared for the building's costs.

"Mr. Gibson is a banker, and he wanted things in banker terms," Robertson said. "That's kind of like me speaking Spanish. I need to understand his language. So, we're just working through his concerns."

Tommy Free, board chairman, said the discussion at Thursday's board meeting was a good one. He added he has the "utmost confidence" in the administration's ability to manage the school's resources and building projects.

Gibson and fellow board member Aaron Wright suggested the board meet every month or every two months -- as opposed to its usual quarterly meetings -- to stay informed on building projects and other school initiatives. The board's next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 12.

The institute is using a $2.9 million donation it received from the Jackson G. and Ella Frances Byrd Trust to build the welding facility. Robertson said he expects to be able to roughly double the number of graduates from the program each year, from 16 to 32, with the additional space the building provides.

Another facility project on campus for the ammonia refrigeration program is also in the planning stages. The building will go in just east of where the welding building will be and behind the building currently used by the ammonia refrigeration program.

The refrigeration building will go before the city planning commission next month. The next step would be to get state approval before the project is bid out, said Sam Efurd, director of ammonia refrigeration and industrial maintenance.

The 20,000-square-foot building will have a nonworking ammonia system and two working ammonia systems and working boiler and two nonworking boilers.

"We'll be the only school in the nation that has a working boiler," Efurd said.

Three other schools in the nation offer an ammonia refrigeration program like the institute has. They are in Georgia, Virginia and Kansas, she said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended a formal announcement last summer of the refrigeration building plan, including the news he was releasing $1 million from his discretionary fund for the project. Tyson Foods donated another $1 million for the building, Robertson said.

More than $2 million in equipment has been donated for the program as well, Robertson said.

The institute offers an 11-month diploma program in ammonia refrigeration that trains students to be an entry-level technician. It also offers training for people already in the industry, Efurd said.

Program graduates find employment in food and beverage processing, in cold storage facilities or with manufacturers and installation contractors of mechanical ammonia refrigeration system components and systems, according to the institute's website. Jobs in the industry are plentiful, she said.

NW News on 06/24/2019

Print Headline: Board member seeks detail on Northwest Technical Institute building project

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