published Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Marion County technical school project still on schedule

Marion County Mayor John Graham describes elements of the proposed new campus site for Chattanooga State Community College in Kimball. Plans incorporate an old horse track into the design.
Marion County Mayor John Graham describes elements of the proposed new campus site for Chattanooga State Community College in Kimball. Plans incorporate an old horse track into the design.
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. -- The plan to construct the first building for a proposed career and technical school in Kimball, Tenn., is still on schedule.

Marion County Mayor John Graham said the county has reapplied for a $500,000 Economic Development Administration grant and expects to find out the results soon.

The county applied for a similar grant in November but was turned down.

Whether or not the new grant application is successful, Graham said the project is moving forward.

"We're still on schedule to bid out the construction during the first week of May," he said. "We have gotten to the point where we are determining brick, floor tile and shades of paint. Basically, the building has been designed, and it's still on track."

Plans are to have Chattanooga State Community College occupy the building.

County Commissioner Jane Dawkins, chairwoman of the board's Education Committee, said material selections and drawings have been submitted to Chattanooga State officials to "see if that met with their approval."

"We're trying to get Chattanooga State to commit more [to occupying the building] than they have in the past," Graham said. "They've seen [a draft of the proposed lease], and they haven't objected to it. They have not signed it yet though."

The proposed lease gives "a lot more teeth" to Chattanooga State's long-term commitment to that building, Graham said.

"I would highly advise that we have [a contract with Chattanooga State] in place before we commit a million dollars to building that building," he said.

Chattanooga State officials are "fully committed" to the project, and will sign a lease as soon as construction is complete and the building is ready to be occupied, hopefully by May 2013, spokeswoman Eva Lewis said.

The new building would house academic courses, as well as the Marion County campus' first science labs, she said, and Chattanooga State will be responsible for furnishing the buildings.

"This is a real boost for Marion County and its support of higher education," Lewis said.

Another hurdle for the project has been the condition of its Construction Manager Steve Hudson, who is suffering from some serious medical issues.

Dawkins said she has met with Hudson's representative and was assured that "95 percent of his responsibilities" have already been completed.

"They are waiting on a prognosis on Mr. Hudson, and then they'll get back with us on that," she said.

Officials said plans for the first building have already been submitted to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation because there can sometimes be a long delay in getting state approval.

"We've stayed pretty much on the schedule that was developed some time ago," Dawkins said. "We actually have the day for the bids to go out for May 9, so we're still on track."

The bid openings for the project are currently scheduled for June 6, she said.

Staff Writer Adam Poulisse contributed to this story.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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