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County officials want to help tech center expand

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Magistrates approve policy for use of county building

By Stephen Lega

The recallable nickel was defeated at the polls last week, but Marion County officials want to find another way to make improvements at the Marion County Area Technology Center.

Magistrate John Arthur Elder III brought up the tech center during the Nov. 6 fiscal court meeting. He noted that the county brings in around $2 million from occupational taxes.

"Without that funding, this county would be in dire need," Elder said.

He added that the industrial base makes it possible for the county to provide and maintain its infrastructure. He continued to say that the tech center is critical to industries in Marion County and provides opportunities for the youth in the community.

Elder then proposed having Marion County Judge-Executive John G. Mattingly contact school officials, city officials, the Marion County Industrial Board and industry representatives to see if they can find a way to move forward with the expansion of the tech center.

School officials have been saying for more than a year that the tech center needs to be expanded and its electrical, plumbing and heating/cooling systems need to be upgraded.

Last December, Marion County Schools Superintendent Roger Marcum, Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw, Marion County Industrial Foundation President Freddie Higdon, State Rep. Jimmy Higdon, State Sen. Dan Kelly and Judge Mattingly signed a letter seeking $7.1 million in state funds to renovate the existing 35,000-square-foot building and to build a 16,000-square-foot expansion.

No funds for the tech center were included in the state budget, and school officials were pushing the recallable nickel as a way to pay for renovations at the tech center and other school buildings, but the nickel was defeated at the polls Nov. 4.

"Our industry is telling us they need that facility," Elder said. "They need trained, quality employees."

Judge Mattingly said the school board and officials at the tech center have been making an effort to improve the education at the tech center. He added that tech center faculty is trying to provide a 21st century technical education in a 1960s vocational building.

Mattingly and the rest of the fiscal court expressed support for Elder's proposal. Magistrate Larry Caldwell also recommended inviting state officials to be part of the effort.

"The more the merrier," Caldwell said.

Marion County Economic Development Director Tom Lund also supports the collaborative approach.

"I think this is an ingenious approach to something that might actually help industry realize we're serious," he said.

Elder said the county shouldn't sit on the issue and wait to see what happens.

"This is something we need to step up and move forward in a rapid fashion," he said.

  Use policy approved

The fiscal court also gave its unanimous support to a policy for use of the David R. Hourigan Government Center.

Any individuals or organizations interested in using the building will need to make a written request to the county judge-executive's office. The form for the request includes the name of the individual or organization interested in using the building, a contact person, the purpose of the request, estimated number of people who will attend the function and the time and date of the function.

Use of the building will be determined by priority.

Governmental agencies will have the first priority. Second priority will be given to non-profit community educational or recreational groups, youth clubs, athletic teams, labor organizations or service clubs conducting general recreational activities, community affairs, or public hearings for which no admission charge is made.

Third priority will be given to governmental agencies, community groups or clubs, churches or labor unions that either charge participants a fee, collect donations, contributions or offerings or conduct fund-raising activities, meetings or services to promote their organization or cause, product or religion.

Fourth priority will be given to entities that do not meet the criteria for the first three priorities. Any entity that falls under priority four will be charged $100 per day for use of the building. Security deposits may be required and additional charges will be based on the actual expenses to the county.

Facility rules prohibit firearm, alcohol and tobacco in the county building. Likewise, organizations using the facility will be responsible for any damages caused directly or indirectly as a result of their use of the facility.

For a complete copy of the use policy, contact the county judge-executive's office at (270) 692-3451.

  In other business:

• The fiscal court voted 5-0 to pay $500 to join the Heartland Parkway Foundation.

• The fiscal court voted 5-0 to approve a Humana health insurance policy for 2009. The estimated cost of the Humana plan will be $763,682.76 for the year.

For 2008, Marion County's plan is with Anthem. The cost to date has been $673,482.63, and the projected cost is estimated at $734,200.32.

• The fiscal court approved a bid to purchase an ambulance at a cost of $35,000 from John Purcel, pending a review of the specifications by Marion County EMS Director Robbie Turner. The county also received a bid of $46,000 from Ambu-Net.