The Tennessee College of Applied Technology project on Dinah Shore Boulevard is on budget with plans to accommodate students in the facility’s first classes in January 2020, according to County Mayor David Alexander.
He told the commission at its Oct. 21 meeting that parking lot work is progressing and an addition being added to the initial project’s building footprint is also making headway.
“TCAT is coming along well,” Alexander said.
Alexander said that even with the project being on budget, an additional $10,000 was spent to relocate sewer lines to save two historic trees on the property.
“This is money we chose to spend to save those trees,” he said. “They mean a lot to some people in this county.”
Word was received in September that a U.S. Economic Development Administration $2 million grant was approved, and a 5,000-square-foot addition will be added to the overall project.
Alexander told the County Commission on Sept. 16 about the grant’s approval.
“That’s a really big deal,” he said.
Christine Hopkins, a School Board member who has led a special committee charged with the task to develop a vo-tech school on the former Franklin County High School property in Winchester, said the grant money will be used to add another 5,000 square feet onto the initial 31,000-square-foot facility.
She said a decision hasn’t been made on what the addition will contain.
Hopkins said a survey had been conducted to determine what would give students their best career options, and the outcome leaned toward having the addition house an automotive and mechanics training program.
However, she had said installing the necessary bay doors in the addition appears to be cost-prohibitive, so other options are being considered.
She said an automotive and mechanics program is not being ruled out.
“As long as there are cars that need to be worked on, there’s a need, so it’s something we will always consider,” Hopkins said.
She said other options are being considered by Laura Monks, president of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville, which is the parent entity involved in the Franklin County project.
Monks said Tuesday that immediate plans are to use the addition as a flexible area to train prospective employees based on determined need.
She used an example that if Franklin County were to recruit an industry that needed a workforce, the area could be quickly modified to prepare personnel for employment. She added that it is expected to be completed in May 2020.
Hopkins also said a machining program that would aid industries is on the table, and dialogue has taken place with Motlow State Community College to potentially offer satellite classes in the addition.
Word was also received recently that Franklin County’s TCAT program is also getting a $2 million Tennessee Economic and Community Development grant that is going toward constructing an aviation maintenance technology facility at Winchester Municipal Airport.
Airport Manager Zachary Colescott updated the Winchester City Council recently about how the grant was awarded on July 1, and Winchester will have 36 months to build the facility and have it in operation.
Monks had said it will be the first time in a decade that the TCAT program has added such a beneficial new technological program to its curriculum.
She said TCAT campuses in Memphis, Nashville and Morristown offer avionics maintenance technology courses, but there was nothing offered for potential students in Southern Middle Tennessee.
Monks said the program being offered in Winchester will fill a void and better serve aviation industries in a corridor that expands from Huntsville to the Arnold Engineering Development Complex to Oak Ridge.
She added that aviation industries are being developed in the immediate surrounding area, creating job opportunities for students who will graduate from the program.
“It’s great to be able to offer something that will greatly benefit students in the area,” Monks had said, adding that, at present, any Franklin Country residents interested in careers in aviation technology have to make the trek to Nashville to study in the field.
Colescott said local high school students are discovering that they don’t have to pursue four-year college degrees to have careers that lead to higher-paying jobs.
He said the aviation maintenance technology program will be a great benefit to the local students who venture into the high-tech field.
He said the facility is expected to total about 22,000 square feet.
The aviation maintenance technology program offered through the TCAT system prepares students to inspect, repair, service, and overhaul airframe and power plant systems.
Students also receive training in the electrical and electronics area of the aviation industry.
The program offers specialized classroom instruction and practical hands-on experience in the field of aviation, airframe, and power plant maintenance.
Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to take the Federal Aviation Administration Certification Exam to become licensed airframe and power plant mechanics who diagnose, adjust, repair and overhaul aircraft engines and assemblies, such as hydraulic and pneumatic systems.
The educational field includes helicopter and aircraft engine specialists.