published Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Kimball may seek federal loan for technical school, boat ramp

  • photo
    Marion County Mayor John Graham describes elements of the proposed new campus site for Chattanooga State Community College in Kimball in this file photo.
    Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KIMBALL, Tenn. — The plan for Marion County to build a career and technical school along U.S. Highway 41 is pushing slowly forward, but city officials now must find a way to finance their $750,000 commitment to the project.

Last week, the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to request alternate proposals for loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office.

One loan proposal will include the funding only for the city's $750,000, officials said, while the other will include the city's commitment to the technical school plus additional money to construct a boat ramp on the Tennessee River at Kimball Park.

"This might be the time that we can borrow enough money to try and do that along with this," Kimball Mayor David Jackson said.

Officials said the boat ramp would help recruit fishing tournaments to Kimball, and they note that several smaller tournaments have been extremely beneficial to local businesses.

Alderman Mark Payne said to do "a halfway decent job" on the boat ramp would take "some big dollars."

"I've been sketching some figures two or three different ways [on the boat ramp], and it ain't cheap," he said.

Estimates for the boat ramp range from $500,000 to $750,000, officials said.

Kimball doesn't have to borrow the money to build the boat ramp, Jackson said, but "the main thing is to get that $750,000 to get this [school] project under way."

The technical school will be occupied by a satellite campus of Chattanooga State Community College.

Payne said that, when the figures for the boat ramp come in, "I might say, 'Hey, there's no way I'm voting for that.' But you've got to have a number to look at."

Officials said a loan from Rural Development would be the best option for the city because it has a 38-year term and a 3 percent to 3.5 percent fixed interest rate.

City administrators also explored requesting proposals for a bank loan or issuing a bond but those options had more downsides than a loan from Rural Development.

"When it's built, for every dollar these students don't have to spend to travel to Chattanooga or wherever, it will free up money for this local economy," Payne said.

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

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