ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Carter County Commission hit the pause button on a property transfer that’s needed for a new $40 million Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) building, but TCAT-Elizabethton President David Hicks said he has “zero concern” about the project’s future.

The delay at the Feb. 21 commission meeting came after officials from the Carter County Schools said they wanted more information about the K-12 school system’s involvement once the new campus opens. A number of high school students would be attending “middle college” and dual enrollment classes at the new facility, which will also include programs offered by Northeast State Community College.

A map showing the Carter County-owned parcel (highlighted in blue) that must be conveyed to the State of Tennessee before a $40 million technical school/community college building is constructed there. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Elizabethon campus is the large parcel at the right of the photo. (State of Tennessee)

The main concern was whether high school teachers from Carter County working at the site would wind up teaching significant numbers of high schoolers from other districts, Hicks said.

“I did not think it was a substantial concern at all,” Hicks said. “They really just wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page in regard to an emphasis will be placed on serving Carter County Schools.”

The deferral by the commission did prompt a Feb. 23 letter from Tennessee Board of Regents President Flora Tydings to Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby. In it, she noted funding for the project, which will include a large new building, “is contingent on the land being conveyed to the Board of Regents. “

Tydings wrote that state representatives “appreciate your support and investment in this project and look forward to making a generational investment in Carter County.”

TCAT-Elizabethton President David Hicks. (David Hicks)

Hicks said TCAT representatives met with Carter County Schools early in the process as it became likely that Gov. Bill Lee might appropriate money for the project at the former Workforce Development Complex. Having further discussions doesn’t bother him at all, Hicks said, and he and Northeast State President Jeff McCord plan to attend the March County Commission meeting to provide any needed clarification.

“There’s no confrontational adversarial situation going on with this,” Hicks said. “I think this is just a normal part of when you transfer property, you want to make sure there’s assurances of what that property is going to be used for.”

He said a purchase option and plan to convey the property won’t have any binding effect on the operations there. Those plans will be finalized with the state and all the regional players at the table, he said.

While students from other school systems would be eligible to take dual enrollment or middle college classes there, “the emphasis will be on filling the programs first and foremost with students from the high schools in Carter County.”

Preliminary plans call for a 66,000-square-foot new building to replace two aging buildings on the site now, Hicks said. Northeast State already holds some classes in one of the old buildings, which would remain until the new building can house those classes.