Local leaders continue to discuss bringing in a technical school to Coffee County with the possibility of getting help in paying for the multi-million-dollar facility that would become Coffee’s own Tennessee College of Applied Technology. The Budget and Finance Committee met Tuesday and one of the items on the agenda was an update on the TCAT for Coffee County.
Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell has asked Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling and State House Representative Rush Bricken to talk to Governor Bill Lee’s office about possibly getting grants and funding to help buy a building from Viam for $2.5 million. Two years ago, Viam donated the use of the building for five years, free of charge, to TCAT to open up an industrial maintenance satellite training center. The building is still under a five year lease with the third year starting in January.
Cordell also said the President of TCAT of McMinnville, Dr. Warren Laux, is negotiating with the Tennessee Board of Regents about what options can be offered to help purchasing the equipment they will need for classes in Coffee County. Dr. Laux is also helping to map out the courses and the requirements the classes will need. Negotiations are still ongoing.
The committee members said the idea and concept of having a TCAT in the county is fine but the issue is the price of $2.5 million and fitting it into the budget.
“There are valid concerns and questions about [paying $2.5 million] but definitively we sure gotta have guarantees that there will not be any extra costs to that,” said County Commissioner Bobby. Bryan.
It was then asked, during the county meeting on the issue, if it was possible to get a lease with the intent to purchase the building. Mayor Cordell said he was only given the option to purchase the building. He said he knows there will be some opposition towards purchasing the building but getting a TCAT for Coffee County will be worth it.
“This will cut out the red tape and the years of waiting and trying to get a newer structure and spending more money on it and maybe have the same space,” said Cordell.
Cordell told the committee he would be meeting with the Grundy County mayor and their county commission about making a one-time contribution of $250,000, 10% of the cost of the building. When talking to mayor previously, Cordell said a good percentage of the students at the TCAT will come from Grundy County. He said the mayor didn’t oppose it.
Cordell strongly believes this is a great opportunity to plan for the future and prepare students who are graduating high school and want to work in the county.
“If we can do that for our children, that should take the next step higher for students who are out of high school and have them do training and be prepared to put that in for them,” said Cordell” “I hope to see that we can surely put in $2.5 million to get the next step for students who want to expand their education and stay here and work in our county.”
Talks are still ongoing, and Cordell will update the committee when he receives new information about possible funding opportunities for the building.