By GRACE GADDY
PALESTINE — Remember that boy across the street who always wanted to come over to play in your treehouse? Well, swap “you” for the City of Palestine, tell your friend he can fix it up for the privilege, and you'd have it about right.
Accordingly, as part of Trinity Valley Community College's plan to increase their workforce training programs at the Palestine Mall, the city is hoping to establish a longterm lease agreement with the college that will enable them to “fix up” facilities over the longterm.
City Manager Wendy Ellis presented a proposal to Palestine City Council at the Jan. 27 meeting that detailed terms of the agreement, which involves a graduated pay scale. Council members gave their blessing, which means the lease will now go to the TVCC board of regents for approval.
“We need to look at how we continue to encourage the development of the workforce training program out there, but at the same time making sure that we are good landlords. So the lease you have in front of you is put together on a graduated scale on a 20-year term,” Ellis told the council.
She said this gives the college time to be successful with the program – “but it also encourages them to be assertive about using that space, because their costs would gradually increase over time.”
In a followup interview with the Herald-Press, Ellis explained that the new agreement would allow TVCC to make building improvements to facilities in the mall, which at the time involves over 40,000 square feet.
“TVCC has been occupying space at the mall for the last several years, and they had moved some of their nursing programs out there, but it has never been a longterm lease agreement. So what we're working on now is putting it into a longterm agreement,” she said. “They got a grant to put in a welding program, so the city had to do some building renovations and remodeling work to allow for it to fit. And by law, community colleges cannot invest money to do any kind of building projects or capital improvements on a facility unless they're involved in a longterm lease for the facility.”
Ellis said the agreement would give the college a “three to five year period where they have minimal expenses with the facility” and can focus on building up the program.
“They're able to concentrate their efforts on building the programs at a specific rate, and then pricing goes up periodically through the years until it gets to competitive market value.”
Ellis said the partnership would accordingly benefit the community.
“TVCC is committing to expanding their program and providing a variety of workforce training programs at the facility, and that's important to us because a skilled trained workforce is one of the key components for successful building operations,” she said. “It's something businesses look at when considering moving to the area.”
Jeffrey Watson, provost at the Palestine campus, said he has yet to view the approved details of the lease but is looking forward to reaching the mutually beneficial arrangement.
“It has to go to our legal department to be vetted and then it will go to our board for approval,” he said.