published Monday, July 25th, 2011

Rhea County, Dayton try to settle who pays welding school costs

Jeff Lowery, Chattanooga State’s instructor at the Dayton, Tenn., campus, watches as Jesse Smith welds a T-bar at his work station.
Jeff Lowery, Chattanooga State’s instructor at the Dayton, Tenn., campus, watches as Jesse Smith welds a T-bar at his work station.
Photo by Kimberly McMillian.

DAYTON, Tenn. — After confusion over which entity is responsible for bill payments on Rhea County’s new welding school, the County Commission is expected to consider a memorandum of understanding in the matter at its August workshop.

Last week, after the commission had tabled the memorandum on payment of the Dayton school’s insurance, taxes and utilities, the county’s Purchase and Finance Committee members agreed a new resolution was needed.

Committee Director Bill Graham said the resolution is needed to clarify specifics about the county’s contribution and the handling of bill payments for the welding school to prohibit future misunderstandings.

The school, a joint effort involving Chattanooga State Community College, Suburban Manufacturing, Dayton, Rhea and state economic officials, opened in May. Suburban Manufacturing donated the building and funding came from various sources.

Last week, Anita Crittenden, Three-Star Community program coordinator with the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council, told members of the Purchase and Finance Committee that “there’s no memorandum of understanding” detailing the payment of expenses, and that she wasn’t certain what bills the county is responsible for.

Commissioner Bill Hollin said a utility bill was sent to Suburban Manufacturing, which had agreed to pay for upkeep on the building. Hollin said the bill then was forwarded to the Southeast Tennessee Development Center, which refused to pay it.

Committee member Ronnie Raper asked Crittenden to explain the misunderstanding on paying the bill.

The committee further questioned who should submit payments for the utility expenses, because the county and city commissions each had agreed to provide the school with $15,000.

Crittenden said $15,000 was received by the city and that the utility bill was paid on July 12 despite the misunderstanding.

On Wednesday, the committee said clarification was needed on the specific amount the county had agreed to pay. In June 2010, the county agreed to $12,000, and in August, it agreed to match the city’s $15,000 contribution, records show.

Last week, there were 11 students enrolled in the welding school and four registered for the fall semester, said Jerry Hendrix, director of the Chattanooga State-Dayton site.

Registration for fall will begin Aug. 27, he said.

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