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County commissioners gave the green light Monday for Wilson County Schools to proceed with an application for state funding to build a new $20 million home for the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology.
The $15 million appropriation would come from the state’s Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. The county would kick in its required $5 million contribution.
If Wilson County’s application is approved, WAAT would move from its current location at Beddingfield High School to a new facility at the Wilson Community College Lee Technology Center campus. The state funding can only be used for new school construction.
“I’ve been excited about the Lee campus from the get-go,” said Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Leslie Atkinson. “Wilson County Schools and Wilson Community College partnering on this venture is just wonderful. We want to work with the schools and the community college to make this happen.”
The deadline for the state application is Aug. 31. Lane Mills, Wilson County Schools superintendent, told commissioners that school officials have had many letters submitted in support of the project, including those from large corporations and industries as well as elected officials and students and parents. WCC President Tim Wright and the WCC Board of Trustees have also voiced support.
“For a $5 million investment, we can have a $20 million property,” Mills said. “I really think this is a solid project because it hits a lot of needs: economic needs, growth needs, student needs and community needs.” Mills said he didn’t know how much longer these types of funds would be available at the state level. The school system can only apply every five years. He said it’s vital that Wilson County Schools takes advantage of the money while it’s still there.
“This will be a one-time chance to get something like this in Wilson with a very minimal investment for something that will make a lasting impact for our kids and the community college,” Mills told commissioners.
The school system should know if the funding is granted by the end of September.
Officials have said there is not enough room for growth at Beddingfield, and the potential new facility would provide that growth opportunity, all the while being connected to Wilson Community College.
Mills showed commissioners the building’s anticipated design and the location, which would be sandwiched between the two most recently renovated buildings on the Lee campus.
Krystal Cox, WAAT’s principal, since the school opened in August 2016, staff members have been able to accomplish quite a bit in the current space.
“We really feel like what would take us to the next level is to have more space,” she told commissioners. That would include additional lab space.
She said WAAT currentlyh as 166 students, and within the next two years officials estimate that number to climb to 250.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
• Commissioners unanimously approved the franchise renewal for MedEx Medical Transportation following a public hearing on the matter. The non-emergency ambulance service in Wilson County has held the contract since summer 2016. Commissioner Sherry Lucas asked how many calls the company receives in Wilson County and if there’s been an increase.
Jeff White, MedEx’s chief operations officer, said in 2018, the company had 16,800 calls in Wilson County. He said it’s seen a steady increase between 10% and 12%.
• The board unanimously approved the reappointment of Randy Faircloth as the county’s tax administrator. His oath of office was administered.
• Commissioners unanimously agreed to receive and appropriate two federal grants recently awarded to the Wilson County Public Library for digital literacy projects upgrading the library’s radio frequency identification technology.
• Commissioners unanimously agreed to receive and appropriate funds for the Wilson County Department of Social Services’ Strengthening Families grant and the Adolescent Parenting Program grant.