How are things progressing at Blue Oval City and what is Tipton County doing to prepare for it? What’s the situation with school resource officers in Tipton County Schools?
Those matters and others were discussed at Monday night’s meeting of the Tipton County Commission.
Director of Schools Dr. John Combs said the school system is working on developing more classes that would teach skills to prepare students to work at Haywood County’s Ford Blue Oval facility in the future.
“I’ve talked to the folks at Ford and automotive classes is not one of those things,” Combs said. “They don’t want that.”
What they do want, Combs said, are robotics classes and programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“Even if Ford wasn’t coming, we need to be doing that anyway,” Combs said.
Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman updated the commissioners on how Blue Oval is progressing.
He said site work began in late March and utility easements are ongoing. SK Innovations, a South Korean company that will build truck batteries at the Blue Oval site, will be hiring 1,200 people in 2024 and 3,000 in 2025. The 140,000-square-foot Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus to be located at Blue Oval is expected to break ground this summer. Site work on the roads leading to Blue Oval by the Tennessee Department of Transportation will begin next year once plans are finalized. Construction is ongoing at a pumping station located next to the Tipton County Justice Center. It will pump waste from Blue Oval on to the Mississippi River.
In other matters:
• Combs said a financial plan to get school resource officers in all Tipton County schools next school year has been submitted to the county’s finance committee. He said Austin Peay Elementary, Brighton Elementary, Crestview Elementary, Drummonds Elementary, Munford Elementary and Charger Academy (formerly Covington Integrated Arts Academy) do not currently have SROs, though Tipton County Sheriff’s Office deputies have in the past patrolled the schools intermittently. State funding for SROs is still in flux. If the county had to pay for it all, Combs said, the price tag would be approximately $650,000 per year.
Combs said the school system spent $17.5 million on capital improvements last school year. About $9.2 million came from federal relief and $8.2 million from fund balance. Among the improvements: LED lighting, sidewalks, roofs, bathrooms, playgrounds, turf fields, stadium lighting and agricultural projects.
Enrollment, Combs said, dipped from 10,309 in 2020-21 to 10,257 last school year. He said if enrollment increases once Blue Oval is up and running, they will be ready.
“We had more than 12,000 students at one time, and that was before Atoka Elementary was built,” Combs said. “We have room … It’s kind of like the opposite of Field of Dreams. We’re not building it until it comes.”
• Jessica Hernandez, the director of Keep Tipton County Beautiful, spoke to the commissioners about several things. In an effort to keep trash from flying out of vehicles heading to the Tipton County Landfill, a tarp giveaway will be held at the landfill on June 25 at 6:30 a.m. Sheriff’s deputies will also be issuing warnings to trucks with non-secure loads. In addition, signs have been installed at illegal dumping sites warning that surveillance is underway. She said that has largely stepped illegal dumping.
• A proclamation was read honoring the late Dr. Loren Crown.
• Susan Cheairs, who recently retired as Tipton County’s librarian, was appointed to a three-year term on the Tipton County Library Board.