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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
After the Orr Corporation and John Wood Community College (JWCC) officially broke ground on Tuesday, Aug. 24, framing of the new 24,000 square foot multipurpose agriculture facility at the JWCC center outside Perry is nearly complete.
JWCC Agricultural Department Chair Mike Tenhouse said that construction of the new facility is moving along on schedule, and he has been impressed with the progress made by contractor Jeff Hughes of Adams County.
“It’s going good,” Tenhouse said. “This fall has been good for construction. So far they have put down well over 700 yards of concrete for footings and floors.”
Tenhouse said that the contractor made a push to get the building covered before cold weather set in in earnest.
“It’s under roof,” Tenhouse said. “They’re putting up siding and doors as we speak.”
Once the building package is complete, Tenhouse said, attention will turn to completing the interior of the building.
“We still hope to have it enclosed by the end of this month,” Tenhouse said. “Once it’s closed up, they can get a little heat on to work over the winter.”
Of the construction project’s total budget of approximately $2.2 million, the Orr Corporation has raised nearly $2 million – all from the private sector.
“This would not be possible without our donors,” Orr Corporation President Matt Bradshaw said at the August groundbreaking ceremony. “It’s very important that all of the funding has come from private sources.”
According to Bradshaw, the new facility in Perry will benefit the region for generations.
“We think that there is an extremely strong need for this,” Bradshaw said. “The dynamics of crop production and animal production have changed dramatically over the last couple decades. The new facility will give us the space and equipment to do things outside the classroom. This new facility will improve the lives of thousands over its life.”
Bradshaw went on to say that no new facilities have been constructed at the agronomic portion of the Orr Agricultural Education Center for over 25 years.
“The last building constructed was the chemical shed,” Bradshaw said. “I helped build it when I was here as an intern in 1994.”
According to JWCC Agriculture Department Chair Mike Tenhouse, the new building will serve three purposes at the ag center – adding needed office and classroom space, housing a livestock exposition hall and housing an animal care facility.
“It will allow us to do a better job teaching in the areas of animal care and animal husbandry,” Tenhouse said. “We’ll be able to teach swine and equine classes with live animals there.”
Tenhouse said that the new building will allow for more classes to be taught at the facility, and it will allow a more complete agricultural curriculum to be taught.
“We’re usually strapped for space,” Tenhouse said. “This gives us more flexibility with scheduling. Of course, the arena and the animal care wing give us resources that we didn’t have before.”
JWCC president Mike Elbe, at the facility’s groundbreaking, emphasized that the new facility will allow for the JWCC ag program to better partner with Illinois Department of Natural Resources and University of Illinois Extension to co-host events and programming.
“It will be a facility that can be utilized for a broad array of uses,” Elbe said. “It allows us to engage a variety of partners. Once it is complete, and people can see it – it will only bring new partners on board.”
Tenhouse reiterated the facility’s importance to the region as a whole.
“We’re going to be able to do a lot of really good things,” Tenhouse said. “Certainly it will be good for John Wood students, but it will be huge for our ability to host community events and activities as well.”
While current fundraising accounts for less than $2 million, and the total project budget is estimated at $2.2 million, the $2.2 million figure accounts for animal handling and care equipment as well as soft costs like landscaping around the new building, so the college feels comfortable moving forward with the project.
Individuals and businesses interested in donating funds to the Orr Corporation for the project are encouraged to contact Bradshaw at email@example.com or by calling 217-248-3239.
Tenhouse said he anticipates construction to be completed in the spring or summer of 2022, with the building being fully operational in time for fall 2022 classes.