LUMBERTON — As officials of East Carolina’s School of Dental Medicine cut the ribbon on the school’s new community service learning center in Sylva today, the dean of the school is already looking ahead to the school’s opening of Robeson County’s community learning center in Lumberton.
“Basically we are on schedule, but there have been construction delays,” said Greg Chadwick. “The August date we had originally planned to move into the building has been moved back to the end of September.”
Chadwick said that at about the same time the center in Lumberton opens its doors, centers will also open in Spruce Pine and Davidson County.
The 7,700-square-foot center is being constructed in front of the Pinecrest Country Club, near the county Department of Social Services on N.C. 711 and adjacent to the Pinecrest Village subdivision. It is located on 2.5 acres of land that was donated to the university by the Robeson County commissioners in 2012.
According to Chadwick, the center where students will be trained will also provide dental care to residents of Robeson County and surrounding rural counties at bargain prices.
“We’re excited and anxious to get people to work here,” he told The Robesonian on Thursday. “We’ll be seeing
Medicaid patients and patients who will pay on a sliding scale … . Our patients will pay reduced fees.”
The center in Lumberton is one of 10 the ECU dental school will eventually open in rural areas across the state. It will provide a community-based site for fourth-year dental students and post-graduate residents to learn and sharpen their skills, as well as provide the free and reduced-cost dental care to qualifying residents.
University officials said during a groundbreaking ceremony last September that the Lumberton center is part of a strategy to address the shortage of dentists in rural areas. In addition to the center in Sylva, centers now operating are in Ahoskie, Elizabeth City and Lillington.
Chadwick said late last year that the center in Lumberton is not only going to provide needed dental care to residents of Robeson and surrounding counties, but is going to boost the local economy. He said it will cost about $3.6 million to construct the school , with 10 employees, including hygienists, dental assistants and office staff, being hired from the community.
On Thursday, Chadwick said that when the center opens there will be five fourth-year dental students, in addition to faculty and resident graduate students, using the facility.
“I think this is going to be very good, a plus for the county,” said Ricky Harris, Robeson County’s manager. “It’s going to help … provide some of the dental services needed by county residents.”
On Thursday, Ron Hardin, the superintendent for Metcon, the project’s general contractor, said that by July 30 basic construction will be complete.
“We are now in the finishing phase … ,” he said.. “There will then be another group brought in after that to put in dentistry chairs, some of the cabinetry and other equipment.”
Hardin said that construction began on Nov. 1.
“We’re putting in the last of the glass and testing the fire alarm today,” he said. “Air conditioning is being put in tomorrow.”
Hardin said that much of the work on the building has been done by local area companies, including H&W Glass of Whiteville; Branch Acoustical Inc. of Lumberton; Stone & Stone Painting of Lumberton; and Lowry Plumbing Company of Pembroke.
“There’s a lot of intricate stuff in that building,” he said. “As architects like to say, it is aesthetically pleasing.”