On Tuesday, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, TCAT-Elizabethton President Dean Blevins and other stakeholders met with Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings in Nashville to discuss the project.
Blevins described the meeting as going “extremely well.”
“I think it’s certainly likely. I wouldn’t say that it’s 100 percent go, but I think it’s very likely given Governor Lee’s push for career technical education and increased delivery of CTE,” Blevins told the Johnson City Press on Wednesday.
“(Lee) said this is exactly the kind of thing he wants to see across the state. We’ve got to give credit to Washington County for having the foresight to realize they have a facility there that can be turned into an economic development tool and machine that will help them in the long run.”
Based on current discussions, the TCAT-Boones Creek campus would offer students a mix of new programs, as well as expand programs already offered in Elizabethton.
Most of TCAT-Elizabethton’s current programs have a waiting list, Blevins said. For example, students signing up for the welding program have to wait between 8 and 10 months.
“This will be a compliment that will support students in Washington County, Sullivan County and others to help alleviate some of this pressure on the waiting list for programs it already has,” Grandy said.
“We’ll probably have some kind of diesel mechanics school there, which they already have in Elizabethton. We’re also talking about possibly doing heavy-equipment operator training, a discipline we currently do not have at Elizabethton. So it’ll be a combination.”
The Boones Creek campus would also expand TCAT-Elizabethton’s reach, making it easier for students in Washington, Unicoi and Sullivan counties to attend. Collaborating with area high schools to offer dual enrollment and dual credits is also part of the discussion.
Based on the current 1,200-student capacity at the Elizabethton TCAT, Blevins said the 80,000-square-foot Boones Creek facility could serve between 500 and 800 students per year.
Over the coming weeks and months, Grandy said he will be working with Blevins and the Tennessee Board of Regents to evaluate the facility and begin developing a budget and possible curriculum. A Level 1 environmental study will also be required.
“Probably within the next few weeks, we’ll at least have the TBR (Department of Facilities Development) come up and take a look. We can start looking at the building itself, and (determine) any concerns or issues with renovation to make it a TCAT,” Blevins said.
“For instance, I know we’re looking at the gymnasium as a high-bay shop area for a diesel automotive program. So cutting in an overhead door, those kind of things. Then the round portion, we think that it might fit the bill for a construction trades program.”
While Grandy said he is excited about the prospects, he added, “I try not to be overly optimistic. We could get to a point in this process, and it just not work.”