Dickson officials and the Tennessee Board of Regents are reviewing a draft lease that will allow Nashville State Community College to continue offering classes in Dickson County while it searches for a permanent home.
At the Aug. 15 meeting of the city’s Finance and Management Committee, Mayor Don L. Weiss Jr. and City Administrator Rydell Wesson presented to city council members a lease that would allow NSCC to begin offering classes in the current Dickson Senior Center at 206 West College St. for the Spring 2023 semester. The city is currently remodeling the former Dickson Athletic Club on Payne Springs Road and plans to move the senior center there as early as October.
Under the terms of the draft agreement, NSCC will lease the 11,000-square-foot building for $60,000 a year for a three-year term through December 2025 with an option for the state to extend the lease two years to May 31, 2027. Nashville State officials have announced a temporary arrangement with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Dickson to offer a combination of in-person and online classes for the Fall 2022 semester.
“We reported to the council, I guess, at the last meeting that we had been in discussions with Nashville State and I just can’t emphasize how important I think it is that we do everything we can as a city to keep Nashville State here in our city,” said Mayor Weiss. “They had to leave the current Renaissance Center rather abruptly. TCAT has been nice enough to furnish them two classrooms there and they’re having to do the rest online for the Fall semester. Our hope is that we can help them with the senior center.”
Nashville State leased space at The Renaissance Center at 855 Hwy. 46 S. from Freed-Hardeman University since 2008. In June, Freed-Hardeman sold The Renaissance Center to the David Rives Ministries of Lewisburg for a reported $6 million. NSCC President Dr. Shanna Jackson said the new owner declined to continue the lease and the college had to move out of the building by July 28.
Wesson said under the agreement the City of Dickson will continue to pay utility and exterior maintenance costs for the senior center building while Nashville State will fund the interior remodeling necessary to create classroom space and pay the cost of telephone and internet services.
“They have the right to terminate with notice prior to the expiration of the lease,” Wesson said. “As the mayor stated, we’re trying to assist and help them keep classrooms here and we feel like this document does that. They can extend it. It’s currently set for just a little over a three-year period and they would have another option to extend out to May of 2027.”
President Jackson has said Nashville State hopes to obtain property and build a permanent campus in Dickson, perhaps in conjunction with TCAT-Dickson and/or a public four-year university.
“They want desperately to have their own facility here,” said Mayor Weiss. “That’s their ultimate goal is to have their own facility here. So, we’re just trying to help them in the meantime and hopefully we’ll be able to work with them on finding a place where they can have their own facility at some point in time.”
Matt McLean, director of the Dickson campus for Nashville State, said the college is excited about the possibility of staying in Dickson.
“We want to be here forever,” McLean told the committee. “I tell this to everybody I see. Dickson County is the third-largest provider of students to Nashville State, just behind Clarksville-Montgomery County and Metro-Davidson. So even though they’re the fifth and the largest cities in the state, Dickson County is still pumping out a better type of student and enrolled in the healthcare programs we’re usually better prepared, better ACT scores and better students overall. So, they’re very excited to keep Dickson County folks enrolled in our classes across all our programs at all campuses.”
McLean said even at the height of the COVID pandemic, Dickson County produced 400-450 students across all of Nashville State’s campuses.
“We’re looking eventually to build a permanent location with TCAT as a partner, as well. They are landlocked and out of space as well. And we’re wanting to expand both of our institutions’ programs and keep training and educating this community,” McLean said.
The draft lease has been presented to the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s community college system, and to the members of the city council. Mayor Weiss said he will ask the council to vote on approving the lease at its Sept. 19 meeting.
The lease includes a projected start date of Oct. 1, which McLean said gives Nashville State time to make renovations to the building before the Spring semester begins Jan. 17. Wesson said the city is pressing its contractor to complete the renovation of the new senior center by its contracted date of mid-September.
Due to the Labor Day holiday, the city council’s next regular meeting has been rescheduled to 7:00 pm Monday, Sept. 19, in the Council Chambers at Dickson City Hall, 600 East Walnut St. All meetings are open to the public.