LAWRENCEBURG, Tenn. — Work is progressing on the Lawrence County Education Center that is planned to open in about 18 months.
“We’re planning on having the first classes there in the fall of 2019,” Lawrence County Executive T.R. Williams said. “It’s an aggressive timeline, but we want to move forward and not miss anymore high school graduating classes than we have to.”
The project, which is a collaboration between state and local governments, Columbia State Community College and Tennessee Tech, will be located on a 40-acre tract of property on the southwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 43 and the U.S. 64 bypass, just south of Lawrenceburg.
“The property has been secured, and the site has already been cleared,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to move an access road and surveying on that has been done. We have the Lawrenceburg Utility looking now to see what is going to be needed and get those plans underway.
“The plan is to have a groundbreaking and start construction in April.”
The project got $4.6 million from the governor’s office. The remaining funding includes $1.5 million each from the city of Lawrenceburg and the Lawrence County Commission.
Williams said another $1.5 million is being secured from private donations.
Columbia State, which already has a satellite campus at Lawrence County High School, will be moving to the new facility, offering two-year classes. Tennessee Tech will be offering junior and senior classes at the facility.
Williams said students will be able to get an associate’s degree, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech. He said Middle Tennessee State University and Martin Methodist College have also show an interest in offering classes there.
“This is going to be a huge addition to the county. Students will be able to get a good education here,” said Lawrence County Commissioner Chris Jackson.
Jackson, who is chairman of the commission’s School Liaison Committee, said it’s exciting to think how education is advancing in the county.
“We are working to build new schools at Loretto and Summertown, and then this four-year school,” Jackson said. “There has never been a time before with education like this in the county.”
Bauer Askew Architecture of Nashville. Tennessee, is designing the facility.
Jim Cone, chairman of the Lawrence County Higher Education Committee, said the facility will be a two-story, 40,000-square foot brick and limestone facility.
Also, a 20,000-square foot facility to house the Tennessee College of Advanced Technology (TCAT) will be located adjacent.
Williams said the TCAT program is being housed now in the old Murray of Ohio manufacturing building in Lawrenceburg. It offers maintenance classes.
He said once the new facility opens, the programs offered will be expanded.
“We want people to get an education to better themselves, to get themselves out of poverty and have the chance to go to work,” Williams said.
He said the project is generating a lot of excitement.
“People are talking about it, interested and ready to see if built,” Jackson said. “It’s almost too good to be true. There are a lot of people who have been skeptical, waiting to see if it is really going to happen.
“Seeing is believing, and things are moving forward," he said. "It’s going to happen and it’s going to have a positive impact not just on our county but southern Middle Tennessee.”