By CRISTIN REECE
The city of Palestine and Trinity Valley Community College are working together to weld solid futures for the area’s youth.
City council members on Monday approved authorizing renovations to the city’s mall facility to support the local community college’s creation of a new welding program.
The school operates its Palestine Workforce Education Center on the west side of the mall and recently received a grant through the State Comptroller’s office for the creation of the one-year certification program.
The city will revamp the mall facility this summer to accommodate the new class, which school officials told the City Council would begin enrollment as soon as August and hold the first classes in the fall semester.
“This program would be more advanced than what our area’s high school welding classes are offering,” TVCC-Palestine Provost Dr. Jeffrey Watson told council members during Monday’s meeting. “We are working with our high schools to make sure we build on what students should already know.”
According to the school’s website, students enrolled in the classes would earn a welding certification through the one-year program, which would qualify them for most welding jobs.
“I think it’s a very positive thing for the community,” Palestine Parks & Recreation Department Director Roy Crouch said. “It creates jobs in Palestine, it provides our residents with a way to improve their skills and their lives.”
Crouch said the mall renovations include electrical upgrades, adding and removing certain walls and tile work, as well as some asbestos removal.
“We knew the asbestos was there already – it’s about a 30 by 30 foot section of flooring,” he told council members Monday. “That’s really the only issue we’ve encountered and it’s relatively minor.”
City officials said they are in the process of working with the school to set a renovation schedule.
The facility, which opened in April of 2011, already boasts a nursing program, a certified nursing assistant program and a medical assistant program.
“It’s a great location,” Watson said. “It’s working out very well and we’d like to move more programs out there. Unfortunately, the funding to do that hasn’t been available lately. But we hope to be out there a good long while.”
The city of Palestine purchased the Palestine Mall in 2010 and began leasing a portion of the building to TVCC for purposes of conducting classes at the facility the same year.
The Palestine Mall building includes TVCC’s space, which formerly housed a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas call center; the Palestine Public Library, which occupies 30,000 square feet of the facility; and the remaining space is for retail entities.