Stepping toward a new college

Pellissippi State president asks advisory committee for input on new site for campus

By Lance Coleman
Editor
Blount Today

The money is in the bank. Now it’s a matter of picking a site.

For the Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Technical Community College, that process started Monday, July 9.

Sixteen business and community members toured six proposed sites in college vans, listened to discussions of the needs of
the college from Dr. Allen Edwards, and discussed their impressions of the parcels they visited.

Gov. Phil Bredesen put $17 million in this year’s budget to help construct a new home for Blount’s Pellissippi campus. Pellissippi State president Allen Edwards assembled a 23-member special advisory committee to offer input on the site selection of the new campus.

At the end of the morning, the consensus of the 16 members who toured on Monday, and of two members who toured early and left their votes, was pretty solid. Two sites got the highest marks, both of which are located off West Lamar Alexander Parkway.

The two sites receiving the top votes were the third and fourth property toured. Property 3 is off West Lamar Alexander Parkway between Old Grey Ridge and Nelson roads. There are 39.6 acres available at $35,000 per acre ($1.4 million); and Property 4, 30 acres in Partnership Park South off West Lamar Alexander Parkway at $35,000 per acre ($1.05 million).

The vote was unofficial and non-binding. The purpose was simply input. Edwards wants Blount college’s faculty and staff to do the same exercise. He is also open to the possibility that other sites may be brought to his attention. When impressions are in, Dr. Edwards will present two to three sites, along with his recommendations and reasoning, to the Tennessee Board of Regents. They will make the final decision regarding the location of the campus and pass it along to the state building commission for approval within 30 to 45 days.

Bill Eanes, assistant dean of the Pellissippi State’s Blount County campus, said this move is one of the most important decisions ever made in Blount County.

"Where we build this is very important. (We need) something with visibility and access both for the community and students," he said. "We want something that looks like a college campus, something that’s not going to cost a lot money to develop, and where, if we want to expand, we can.

"It’s real important we find the right site, whether it’s at Partnership Park South or the site at U.S. 321. We did eliminate sites, but I think we’re still a long way from finding the site."

Jerome Moon chaired the committee and explained the reason for asking the business and community leaders to come together. "The reason is for public input," said Moon. "The more you involve the community, the better overall outcome you have."

The college is looking for visibility and access, the committee was told as criteria to judge the sites were discussed. Edwards said where growth in the county is projected to be strong is also a consideration. When he makes his recommendations to the chancellor, Edwards said he wants to have clear rationales for his choice. "That’s why we did this," he said.

Edwards told the group before their tour that the college plans to have a facility with 42,000 square feet of usable space. "That will be about twice what we now have here," he said.

Edwards said this is the first time he’s ever been given the opportunity to build a new campus.

"It’s an opportunity to do something really special. You can really do something for generations to come," he said. "You
have to ask, ‘For the next 100 years, is this the right place for the campus?’ We don’t want to do something short term that hurts us long term."

The committee members looked at the following properties. Cost per acre and amount of acreage is shown in parenthesis.

  • Middlesettlements Road near Robert C. Jackson Drive ($65,000/acre - 40 to 60 acres).
  • Mt. Tabor Road off Middlesettlements Road ($40,000/acre - 40 plus acres).
  • West Lamar Alexander Parkway between Old Grey Ridge and Nelson roads ($35,000/acre - 39.6 acres).
  • West Lamar Alexander Parkway in Partnership Park South ($35,000 an acre - 30 acres).
  • Big Springs Road near the Morganton Road intersection ($44,000/acre - 47 acres).
  • The current campus in the old Bungalow School on Middlesettlements Road. The college already owns 18.5 acres, valued at $3.2 million.

    Committee members were told that Site One is close to the current campus, and it will have an upgraded road coming through it in the near future. Rock and existing power lines on the site are negatives, Eanes said.

Site Two on Mt. Tabor Road adjoins the Denso property. It also has a lot of rock on site that would need to be removed, Eanes said, in answer to questions about site preparation.

"Utilities will probably be a challenge. Access will be a challenge. If we can access it off 321 (West Lamar Alexander Parkway), it would help. It’s a beautiful piece of property," Eanes said.

Site Three is farm land off West Lamar Alexander Parkway. It has 1,800 feet of frontage on West Lamar Alexander Parkway and is between Nelson and Old Grey Ridge roads.

"This is more of a narrow, longer site than we’ve seen," Eanes said, as he pointed out the features at each visit. "There’s also four to five acres on the other side of 321 that goes with the property. The owners have said they will pay up to $125,000 for sewer.

"From a visibility standpoint, I don’t know we could find a better site. There could be issues with site development. At this point, I don’t know."

Site Four is at the Partnership Park South industrial park just off West Lamar Alexander Parkway and inside the City of Maryville. The site, which some in the community believed had already been chosen for the new campus, offers access from Big Springs Road and from a boulevard that Industrial Development Board vice president Bryan Daniels says would be built to give access to West Lamar Alexander Parkway.

Daniels said there is no rock on the site. There are 226 acres in the park left to be developed, but Daniels and Blount County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Fred Forster said there would be "no smoke stacks" at any of the neighboring businesses and much work has gone into maintaining the landscaping and scenic views.

Of Site Four, Eanes said the Partnership Park site is beautiful and gives the college and students great access to business and industry. "It allows us to continue our relationship with the Industrial Development Board, the county and the cities," he said.

Site Five is near the intersection of Big Springs and Morganton roads. The site was rolling and had a creek that cut through a portion of it.

"From a convenience standpoint, it is close to nearby businesses," Eanes said. "There was concern because it had only two lane frontage on Morganton or Big Springs roads, both busy roads in Blount County."

Following a tour of the sites, committee chair Jerome Moon led a discussion on the sites and asked members for input. Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett was first out of the block and definite in his choice: Partnership Park South.
"As far as I’m concerned, Partnership Park South is a no-brainer," he said.

The assistant county mayor said that if the college got $3.2 million for their current Middlesettlements Road campus, much of that money would be spent on preparing any of the other sites, whereas the Partnership Park South site wouldn’t require that expense.

Committee member Geneva Harrison was impressed with the Partnership Park South site. "I think this is really great," she
said. "It’s close to industry if (the students) want to work part time."

Harrison also liked the site on West Lamar Alexander Parkway. "It’s easily accessible from U.S. 321," she said. "A beautiful building could be an attention-getter."

County Commissioner Gary Farmer said he liked the Partnership Park South site best. "I guess the only problem I see would be the view. You want to see it clearly from 321 (West Lamar Alexander Parkway)," he said.

The committee members present voted by writing their top two choices on index cards. The site on Middlesettlements Road garnered three votes, the second site on Mt. Tabor Road got no votes, the site on West Lamar Alexander Parkway between Maryville and Friendsville got 12 votes, the site at Partnership Park South got 17 votes, the site on Big Springs Road got two votes and the current site got no votes.

Moon said the site on (U.S. 321) West Lamar Alexander Parkway near Old Grey Ridge and Nelson roads was an outstanding site, but so was Partnership Park South.

"To me it’s a dead heat between the two sites. Partnership Park South and (the site on U.S.) 321, both are outstanding sites and would be a good home. The (U.S.) 321 site would probably help us pull Loudon and Monroe counties with the visibility," he said. "It’s got site prep, but they all have site prep. That’s the only thing there that would be a problem."

Moon said he believed the community knows the importance of the college to the county. "We’re just trying to get the very best site for the future," he said.

West echoed Moon’s thoughts. "It’s important for industrial development to get better jobs," he said. "This college really means a lot to the community."

Committee members West and Peggy McCord are spearheading efforts to raise $2 million to help build the new campus. Dr. Edwards said that the challenge in the fund raising will be that some will say Pellissippi is a state school, so the state should do all the funding. The $2 million being raised, Moon said, will make the new campus something Blount County will be proud of. West said the funds are needed to do what is wanted at the campus.

"We’re doing it the Blount County way," West said. "Once we get the site, we’ll get full into fund raising."

For information about fundraising efforts for the Blount campus of Pellissippi State Community Technical College, call Pellissippi State Foundation Office at 865-694-6528 or on the Web, click http://www.pstcc.edu/campaign.

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