UT Martin breaks ground on Somerville Center - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

UT Martin breaks ground on Somerville Center

source:  UT Martin source: UT Martin
(KFVS) -

Danielle Ables was determined to attend college after earning her GED certificate from Fayette Literacy.

The 20-year-old Somerville resident found the educational opportunity she needed close to home at the University of Tennessee at Martin Somerville Center.

Ables joined fellow students Courtney Burns and Elizabeth Wilburn and other officials for a ground-breaking ceremony Dec. 7 that marked the beginning of major renovations to the center’s new home at the former Methodist Fayette Hospital.

The new facility is expected to open in fall 2017.

 “It’s just amazing how we can actually go to school and get a better education here in our hometown,” Ables said. “It means a lot.”

She also sees the center’s future location benefiting both students and the area. “I think it’s going to bring more people to Somerville, hopefully more students,” she said.

Discussions about a possible Fayette County higher education center began in 2004.

The University of Tennessee and UT Martin became involved in 2012 when a new building for the center was initially proposed, but the project was cost-prohibitive.

Methodist Fayette Hospital closed in March 2015, and Fayette County officials suggested Methodist Healthcare give the facility to the town.

The facility was transferred to the town in July 2015, and Methodist Healthcare gave the city $250,000 to assist with the facility’s renovation.

On July 25, the State Building Commission approved a lease between the University of Tennessee and the city of Somerville to house the UT Martin Somerville Center in the former hospital building.

Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly approved $250,000 in recurring funding for the center in the state’s 2016-17 budget.

Also approved was $875,000 in one-time funding to support the hospital’s renovation.

Gov. Bill Haslam visited Somerville on July 26 to formally present UT Martin with the total $1.125 million in funding from the state to establish the new center.

Also participating in the ceremony were Marlin Mosby, higher education committee member and donor; Bob Turner, administrator for the town of Somerville; Kara Tapp, UT Martin Somerville Center director; Dr. Bob Smith, UT Martin interim chancellor; Dr. Brian Donavant, interim executive director, UT Martin Office of Educational Outreach; Skip Taylor, Fayette County mayor; Ronnie Neill, Somerville mayor; Ellen Wadley, architect, Fleming Architects; state Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-District 26); and Charley Deal, UT Martin associate vice chancellor for alumni relations and annual giving.

Learn more about the UT Martin Somerville Center at utm.edu/departments/somerville/ or call the center at 901-465-7313.

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