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East County Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2010 7 years ago

County endorses new MTI campus

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — The Manatee County School District now can officially move forward with plans to construct a new Manatee Technical Institute in the East County.

On April 13, the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a general school plan for the 75 acres at the northeast corner of State Road 70 and Caruso Road — the future home of Manatee Technical Institute’s main campus.

“MTI is very needed in Manatee County as well as in East County,” County Commissioner Donna Hayes said. “I’m glad to see we can finally move along. It’s going to be like a gateway to East County. It’s going to be like a landmark — something we can be proud of.”

The district still is developing plans for the site but has been approved to construct a school of up to 215,000 square feet. The $39 million budgeted for the project includes design, construction and other services.

Doug Wagner, director of adult, career and technical education for the district, said budgetary restraints may force the district to construct the building in phases, but the district is moving forward as quickly as possible.

The district currently is in the design phase of the project. Once design is completed, construction of the school is expected to take about two years because infrastructure also must be put into place, Wagner said.

The majority of MTI’s technical programs, such as culinary arts and business technology classes, would be moved to the new facility once it is complete. Adult education, GED, adult basic education and English as a second language classes likely would remain at the existing Bradenton campus.

However, the district could offer technical classes, as demanded by employers, at the west Bradenton campus as well.

“We want to have a presence in west Bradenton,” Wagner said. “I know our programs are driven by the local workforce needs as well. Our programs are such that we can turn on the dime and meet the needs.”

Wagner said since the economic downturn began, MTI has seen enrollment rise by about 15% as people are coming back to school to be re-trained.

The Manatee County School Board has been looking actively for a new site for MTI since 2002. Under the direction of former Superintendent Dr. Roger Dearing, the board had recommended building a new MTI campus to the north of Braden River High School and reserving frontage along State Road 70 to sell at a later date. The plan was met with opposition from neighboring residents, who complained of potential traffic and noise problems, and also resulted in a lengthy legal battle with Manatee County.

Superintendent Tim McGonegal began reevaluating plans for the overall 195-acre site after assuming his role as superintendent in January 2009. McGonegal said there are 9,000 developable acres within a five-mile radius of Braden River High School, which shows there will be a future need for a K-8 school. His proposed alternative plan placed MTI along S.R. 70 and the K-8 school adjacent to a residential area to the north of Braden River High. The school board approved the concept in December 2009, voting to develop conceptual plans for building MTI along State Road 70 frontage and to develop a master plan for the 195-acre parcel on which it would sit.

As proposed in December, MTI’s layout may allow the district to retain several smaller parcels — about 10 acres in total — along S.R. 70 to sell at a later date.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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