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Board remains in limbo on tech center

Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:59 PM

A proposed technical center in Lebanon remained in limbo Friday as the Wilson County Board of Education and Tennessee Board of Regents continued negotiations with a Monday deadline looming.

“As of right now, it’s still a pending thing,” said Wilson County Board of Education chairman Don Weathers. “We don’t know right now if they are going to work with us to get it pushed through.”

The Wilson County Board of Education tentatively approved an agreement with the Tennessee Board of Regents on May 6 to locate in the former Wilson County Career Technical Center facility at 418 Harding Drive behind the old Lebanon High School.

At that meeting, board member Ron Britt moved to enter into the agreement upon recommendation by board attorney Mike Jennings with some added stipulations.

Board chairman Don Weathers said the Tennessee Board of Regents must approve three additions to the agreement before the college can move into the Lebanon facility.

Weathers said the Tennessee Board of Regents must agree to accept responsibility of Wilson County high school students while they are on campus in dual enrollment.

Weathers said college officials must also work with Career Technical Education coordinator Bill Moss to help Wilson County students find local jobs by offering classes to fit the needs of Wilson County employers.

Finally, Weathers said the college must assume responsibility of the building and make any needed repairs. He said this requirement would keep the Tennessee Board of Regents liable for any damages since the board is not charging rent in the 20-year lease agreement.

On Wednesday, James King, vice chancellor for the Tennessee Technology Center System, said three issues remain, but it's merely wording at this point.

"I really think it’s semantics when we are talking about a lot of this," King said. "But at the end of the day, I really think it’s going to work out. I think everything is positive, and we are all going down the right track."

The three sources of contention include the board's safety concerns for Wilson County students in dual enrollment while on the college campus, the college holding slots just for Wilson County students and terms of the lease itself, which the board wants to review each year.

“It will benefit the community,” said Director of Schools Mike Davis. “I’m not sure it will benefit the school system, but it could. I haven’t really been involved with it, and I really don’t have a recommendation on it. Having a tech center in the county could be a feather in everyone’s cap.”

Timothy Setterlund will assume Davis’ role as director of schools July 1. He said Friday he hopes the plan is approved.

“I think that it’s a very interesting offering for Wilson County,” Setterlund said. “I think the board members have expressed some concerns, and I’m hopeful [the Tennessee Board of Regents] will see those concerns and meet the needs of the board by Monday.”

Board attorney Mike Jennings, who is also mayor of Watertown, said Tuesday he’s hopeful a final agreement can be reached by the Monday deadline.

“I don’t think it’s done,” Jennings said. “I’m really hopeful we can work something out. We’ve come a long way in the last 60 days. We haven’t gotten there yet, but I think we can make it happen. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Weathers said if the plan falls through, there are other options for use of the space, including opening a second MAP Academy in Wilson County.

“There are a lot of things we could use it for,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, the board is also expected to:

• honor Doug Shephard with a Little Red Schoolhouse award.

• consider on final reading changes to board policies regarding using private vehicles.

• consider final approval of facility use procedures for the upcoming school year.

• consider first reading approval of changes to board policies regarding granting tenure.

• consider agreements with Wilson Bank & Trust for signs at Elzie D. Patton Elementary School, Gladeville Elementary School and W.A. Wright Elementary School.

The board will meet Monday at 6 p.m. at the Central Office at 351 Stumpy Lane in Lebanon.

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