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PRCC finally replacing buildings lost to Katrina

POPLARVILLE — Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Pearl River Community College (PRCC) campus, construction is finally beginning on buildings to replace those lost to the storm.

Work has started on Lamar Hall, a 108-bed residence hall, to replace a 60-bed dormitory damaged by Katrina.

Crews should break ground before the end of the month on an addition to historic Moody Hall where the storm demolished the auditorium.

Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, wrecked PRCC’s Marvin R. White Coliseum, ripped the roof from the Moody Hall auditorium and seriously damaged Lamar Hall. Although the residence hall was patched up and used for several semesters, building inspectors recommended closing it because its infrastructure was deteriorating.

The new two-story Lamar Hall will feature suite-style rooms, including two handicapped-accessible rooms, a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment for the residence director and common areas on both floors. It is expected to be open by the fall 2011 semester.

Rod Cooke Construction of Mobile is building the $3.96 million facility financed by insurance.

The hurricane damage to Moody Hall’s auditorium forced its demolition in December 2006. Moody Hall, built in 1926, is the oldest classroom building continuously in use at a Mississippi community college.

The three-story addition will be built on the site of the auditorium and face River Road.

“We just got the notification to proceed on Moody Hall,” Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president, said. “We expect in the next two weeks to break ground.”

The addition should be finished by the beginning of the 2011 fall semester. Mac’s Construction of Hattiesburg is building the $2.26 million building, which will be paid for from insurance funds and state bond money.

Lewis hopes that within the next two years, PRCC will open the Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Performing Arts.

“The plans are under final review by the Bureau of Buildings and Grounds and should be on the street for bids within the next 60 days,” Lewis said.

The center has been in development since 2003 when PRCC received $4.7 million from the estate of Ethel Holden Brownstone, a graduate of Pearl River County Agricultural High School.

The center will include a 1,000-seat auditorium, state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment and a dining area suitable for dinner theater performances. It will be built on the current band practice field. Lewis expects construction to take around 18 months.

Still to come is a new coliseum, which will also bear the name of Marvin R. White, who served as college president from 1968-1986.

FEMA’s standard policy is to replace the footprint of a building. However, changes in building codes since the coliseum’s construction in 1972 mean the new building must be 8,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet larger than the old, Lewis said.

He hopes groundbreaking on the new building will be held early in 2011 and expects construction to take about a year and a half.

Construction costs will be paid from the college’s Katrina insurance settlement along with FEMA funds. How much FEMA pays will be determined when the bids are let.

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