The idea of bringing such a facility to downtown Kingsport arose unexpectedly last month when Bill Locke, president of Northeast State Technical Community College, asked city leaders if they would be interested in funding the construction of a building where all of the college's medical programs currently being offered in Elizabethton, Gray and Blountville could be relocated by the fall of 2008.
Locke has said he intends to relocate the college's eight medical programs, including nursing and an LPN program, to the new 40,000-square-foot facility, with an estimated 400 students.
City leaders moved quickly on the offer and agreed to fund the construction of the building - the final unanimous vote to issue up to $4 million in capital outlay notes taking place Tuesday night
City leaders ultimately envision an 8- to 9-acre academic village in downtown Kingsport, which will include the allied health building and a proposed higher education center - a project also spearheaded by Locke.
The higher education center is a project community leaders and education officials have been working to make a reality for nearly three years. It calls for NSTCC to operate the 50,000-square-foot facility and offer the first two years of core courses. Participating universities and colleges would then offer their bachelor's and master's programs, with degrees being in the name of the university offering the program.
The higher education center got the green light by the BMA earlier this year, with the city agreeing to fund the building's construction to the tune of $10 million to $12 million.
Since then, Kingsport has been working to identify a site for the higher education center and just last week held an all-day meeting, narrowing down the list of potential sites from four to three - the Clinchfield parking lot (owned by the city) and two privately held pieces of property.
The front-runner appears to be the Clinchfield site since it is located near the Regional Center for Applied Technology and the fact Kingsport has agreed to purchase the Model City Motors building (located on the same block as RCAT) for $156,000. City Manager John Campbell said the city is considering using the MCM building as an expansion or extension of RCAT and possibly house the city's adult education classes.
City officials say a site for the higher education center should be selected by August.
In related business Tuesday night, the BMA approved a contract for architectural services for the design of the higher education center and academic village master plan. The $672,000 contract was awarded to McCarty Holsaple McCarty of Knoxville, Fischer & Associates and Beeson Lusk & Street for architectural and engineering work.
And in other business Tuesday night:
• Mayor Dennis Phillips presented the 11-under Kingsport Indians with a proclamation for their winning the Tennessee State Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Baseball Championship in Nashville Monday night. The team will represent Tennessee in the regional tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 26.
• The BMA presented former Alderman Ken Maness with a watch and key to the city for his years of service to the city. Maness, who served eight years on the board during the 1990s, returned to the BMA last year to serve out the remaining one year of former Alderman Hoyt Denton's term.
• Alderman Ken Marsh was sworn in to a third term of the BMA after being re-elected in the May 15 city election.
• The BMA appropriated on final reading a $250,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The funds will go toward installing lights at the two remaining ball fields at Weyerhaeuser Park and one soccer field at Eastman Park.