published Monday, April 1st, 2013

Marion County Commission mulls proposed lease

JASPER, Tenn. — With an eye on a future satellite campus in Marion County, Chattanooga State Community College officials have proposed a new lease for its current facility in the area.

The previous agreement expired some time ago, officials said.

County Attorney Billy Gouger said the expired lease represents a "holdover situation" and the two sides have operated for years under the old lease.

The proposed lease is basically the same as the old one, County Mayor John Graham said, but it will "clean this thing up" and get "a proper instrument in place."

The Marion County Commission voted recently to table the agreement until the board's next meeting on April 22 so members can have time to review the contract and renegotiate points that need adjustment.

Chattanooga State pays the county $135,000 per year for the facility, officials said. The new lease is set to start on May 1 and end Dec. 31.

Graham said he expects the college to present a proposal on the county's first building on the new campus along U.S. Highway 41 in Kimball, Tenn., in September, and he has asked for a minimum 10-year term.

"They were open to consider that," he said. "If they got us a lease in September, we'd have plenty of time to review it and act on it."

The goal is to open the first building on the new campus by next January, Graham said, and that is why Chattanooga State doesn't want to rush into a lease agreement now.

"I think they don't want to present a lease while we still don't have anything going up and no real prospects of when that lease agreement might go into effect," he said.

The county delivered the final required documents on the new campus to the Tennessee Economic Development Agency three weeks ago.

"When they're actually going to release the money, I can't tell you," Graham said. "We've done everything on our end that we can do. It's back in their hands again."

Once the county has cleared the last review, Graham said, the money for the project will be released and county leaders can examine potential bid dates for construction on the first building.

"It seems like we've had so many roadblocks on this project, it's unreal," Commissioner Tommy Thompson said.

The building Chattanooga State now occupies hasn't cost the county anything because it has been paid for through the school's lease, Thompson said.

"That's our goal on this new building" he said.

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

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