Marion County seeks more funds to build community college

Marion County seeks more funds to build community college

December 6th, 2011 Ryan Lewis, Correspondent in News

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/Times Free Press.

Beth Jones, Southeast Tennessee Development District executive director

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. - The Marion County Commission's revitalized plan to build a Chattanooga State Community College satellite campus in Kimball is going to require money - a lot of money.

Last week, the board unanimously approved a resolution that authorizes the Southeast Tennessee Development District to apply for an Economic Development Administration grant and gives Marion County Mayor John Graham the power to sign the required documents.

The board's finance committee recommended the move, Commissioner Don Adkins said.

Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said the EDA grant is worth up to $1 million in funding for the project, but that's hardly enough.

"[The grant] would take care of the site prep costs, the utility extensions, and putting a road into the college," she said. "It should shore up our funding gaps and actually provide enough funding to bring the initial building to fruition."

Officials estimate the site preparations costs alone will require almost $2 million.

"This is what we've been talking about," Commission Chairman Les Price said. "We think we've got enough money [to start the project], but you can't ever have too much. We'd love to have the [grant] money."

Jones said funding for projects such as the Chattanooga State campus might not be available much longer.

"In today's environment, I don't foresee the government allowing these opportunities going forward," she said. "So, while they've got money, I would rather Marion County be in line to get it than anyone else in the country."

The grant requires a 50 percent match from the county, officials said, but the county is not obligated to pay anything if the grant is not awarded.

"[Marion County] has matching money already in place," Jones said. "If it's not funded, there are no strings attached. Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

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