ELIZABETHTON — An investment of $2.5 million in county funds for expansion of broadband internet into remote areas of Carter County, and another investment of $100,000 to complete a chemistry lab at the Workforce Development Complex were some of the items the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission will recommend to the full commission next week.
On a lighter side, the committee will also recommend spending $36,000 for an ice-skating rink in the Covered Bridge Park during the upcoming holiday season.
The recommendation on the broadband internet investment is in response to a recommendation from the Building and Grounds Committee, which met last week on the matter.
The $2.5 million in county American Rescue Plan money would be used as a 30% match for state grants, which would provide the 70% remaining of the broadband funding.
The Budget Committee voted unanimously to recommend the funding to the full commission at next Monday’s meeting.
The $100,000 investment to complete the chemistry lab is just one part of a major renovation of the Workforce Development Complex in the Watauga Industrial Park.
The building houses the Elizabethton campus of Northeast State Community College and is being further developed for career and technical education classes for the Carter County School System.
Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby said the first phase of the renovations to the Workforce Development Complex will include the completion of a chemistry lab that will allow Carter County students to complete their chemistry credit at Elizabethton instead of having to drive to Blountville to the main campus of Northeast State Community College.
The chemistry lab would also be used by dual enrollment students in the Carter County School System to earn college chemistry credit. This will also open up the workforce chemistry certification that is required for students seeking a career with Eastman Chemical Corporation or Nuclear Fuel Services.
Woodby told the Budget Committee that it will take about $250,000 to complete the chemistry lab, which was previously started in 2015, but worked stopped after a fire marshal visit and other matters.
In addition to the $100,000 in county funds, the renovation would also include $50,000 from the Governor’s Three Star Program and a $100,000 donation from the Carter County School System.
Woodby said other immediate renovations would complete two other classroom needs in high demand at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology. These include an additional welding classroom and a cosmetology classroom.
Phase II would include the renovation of the rest of Building 1 of the Workforce Development Complex. Renovations would then move to Building 2.
The committee also will recommend that the County Commission go into a partnership with the city of Elizabethton and the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce to have a synthetic ice skating rink at the Covered Bridge Park during November, December, and possibly the first part of January. The county would pay $36,000 for the rental and installation of the ice skating rink.
The plan was presented by Chamber Executive Director Joy McCray and Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains. McCray said the rink does not use ice and it does not need to be frozen. The cost would be $10 per hour. The original plan was to rent the rink from Nov. 20 to Dec. 12, but a friendly amendment requested the rink remain at the Covered Bridge Park until January.
The motion also requested that $70,000 from the proceeds be used to rent a larger rink next year and place it at a larger venue, perhaps Edwards Island. The rest of the proceeds would go to a local charity.
The recommendation that the county go into partnership to operate the ice skating rink passed by a 6-2 vote, with Charles Von Cannon and Travis Hill casting the “no” votes.