Merrill Hall

Merrill Hall on the campus of Jacksonville State University remained vacant in late June, having been damaged by a tornado March 19, 2018. JSU's board of trustees on Tuesday approved plans to replace it and Wallace Hall, also badly damaged, with new structures. 

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State University’s board of trustees approved plans for construction of new buildings in the place of Merrill and Wallace halls, which were heavily damaged in the March 19, 2018, tornado that swept through Jacksonville.

At their quarterly meeting Tuesday, trustees approved the recommended plans for the two buildings by the university’s Building and Finance Committee.

“This will get us a long way toward completing the recovery from the tornado,” trustee and committee chair Clarence Daugette said of the plans.

According to the plans presented to the trustees, the two new facilities are scheduled to be completed during the Spring 2021 semester. 

Wallace Hall

Wallace Hall on the campus of Jacksonville State University remained vacant in late June, having been damaged by a tornado March 19, 2018.

The new 108,158-square-foot business school building will cost $50 million to construct, with JSU on the hook for an estimated $10 million of the cost after Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance and an eventual insurance settlement for the building. The university is currently pursuing arbitration in a months-long dispute with state insurers over a settlement for Merrill Hall. 

The plans for a new facility for the school’s health professions program show a $31 million, 62,438-square-foot building. JSU estimates it will be responsible for $20 million after an insurance payout and FEMA assistance. 

The university received last week a $30 million line of credit from Regions Bank to help pay for the projects.

Since the 2018 storms, the university’s School of Business and Industry has operated at the JSU-owned former campus of Kitty Stone Elementary School, while nursing programs have operated out of the former site of RMC Jacksonville, which was donated to the university after its closure last year.

“How the campus is going to look a few years from now, I think is going to amaze all of us,” said Randall Jones, chairman of the board of trustees.

Trustees entered into a private executive session at the conclusion of the meeting for more than two hours, returning to authorize Jones to enter into a memorandum of understanding with JSU Center for Applied Forensics and JSU Center for Best Practices in Law Enforcement to increase their involvement with JSU’s law enforcement programs.

“This will be a great opportunity to expand our law enforcement programs,” Jones said.

The trustees also authorized the purchase of the property and building of Longleaf Studios at a cost of $328,000. The studio, which produces digital media, has supported JSU programs as its own entity since its inception in 2012 in partnership with the university. 

The deal will see JSU control the building, equipment and branding of the sudio, while allowing the governing body Northeast Alabama Entertainment Initiative to continue to use the studio to develop the film industry in the area. 

“This building will be used for a variety of opportunities. It will be multi-use,” said JSU Provost Christie Shelton.

Trustees approved a new instructional program request for an interdisciplinary film degree drawing coursework from art, English and drama programs. 

The proposed implementation of the major will be in Fall 2020, but the new degree will need to be approved at a future meeting of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education before it can progress.

“Hopefully this will attract students due to the entertainment industry in Atlanta,” said Shelton.

 Also during the meeting, the trustees:

— Approved a “transaction authorization matrix” from the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee that sets in place guidelines for approval of transactions by the university. 

— Approved a project to replace water lines in Houston Cole Library at a cost of $810,312.

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or On Twitter @DMayes_Star.