Friday March 1st, 2024 6:27AM

University of North Georgia: Construction projects underway on Gainesville, Dahlonega campuses

By AccessWDUN Staff

Buildings on the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses are coming down, going up and under renovation this fall.

One highly anticipated project is the new North Georgia Astronomical Observatory on the Dahlonega Campus. In January, the University System of Georgia approved UNG's plan to demolish the old structure and replace it with a state-of-the-art facility in the same spot on top of a hill about 4 miles from campus.

"The old one had outgrown its functionality," said Ken Crowe, assistant vice president of facilities.

After UNG received a demolition permit in October, large-scale machinery tore down the existing building in early November. Workers then conducted site work. They are set to pour a foundation and raise the building steel skeleton before the end of the year.   "The iconic observatory domes are scheduled to arrive and be installed in early January 2020," said Adam Strzemienski, assistant director of facilities for capital planning and sustainability.

The goal is to finish the project by next summer. 

GAINESVILLE CAMPUS

The observatory on the Dahlonega campus is one of two projects for the Department of Physics & Astronomy. The second is design work on a Gainesville Campus Observatory. Dr. John Leyba, interim dean of the College of Science & Mathematics, explained the college supplied funds for the design of the new facility after an astronomy faculty member was hired for the Gainesville Campus.

"We decided that it would be very beneficial and convenient for that faculty member and Gainesville students to have and use an observatory on campus," Leyba said. "In addition, we wanted a place where a larger telescope could be permanently mounted."

Ted Forringer, assistant department head of physics & astronomy, said this is the first step in a lengthy process. The tentative plan is to locate the observatory near the pond.

"It's a relatively dark part of campus," said Forringer, associate professor of physics. "The facility will be a good match for the size of telescope that we have."

Near that same site, the biology department's new greenhouse is being erected. Dr. Tom Diggs, associate professor of plant biology at UNG, said it will be used for research and education, as well as propagation of rare and native plants.

"It will be much larger and more useful than the old structure, and we will have experimental gardens and raised beds outside," he said.

Bill Moody, director of facilities and operations for the Cumming, Gainesville, and Oconee campuses, said the project should be completed by mid-December.

Another project in progress on the Gainesville Campus is the renovation of the Student Health Services building. Moody said the project is ahead of schedule and is set to open in January.

As that project ends, crews will start demolition on the Gainesville Campus expansion project, which is estimated to last 90 days. In the meantime, Moody said his department and Jackson EMC are installing underground electrical wiring and laying new gas lines.

"Currently, we have overhead power lines on campus," Moody said. "If a tree limb falls and hits a line, it cuts off power. If it is underground, it is more safe and reliable."

A final construction project underway in Gainesville is a 600-square-foot expansion of the Public Safety building. Moody said the building will have two new offices and a conference/training room.

"I'm hoping the project will be finished in December," he said.

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