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Funding talk continues for nursery specialist
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County officials in the Nursery Capital have been working to replace area nursery specialist Mark Halcomb after his position was eliminated due to cuts in the UT Extension Service budget, and now it looks as if Tennessee State University may step forward and fund a replacement.However, the university has asked the five counties that will be served by the specialist to provide a portion of the funding, something four of the counties involved have declined to do since Halcomb will be working full time until he retires in 2012, and part time in 2013 after his retirement.TSU Nursery Research Center director Nick Gawel met with the county’s Economic Development/ Agriculture Committee to discuss TSU’s plans. During the meeting committee chairman Les Trotman asked Gawel if he had talked to TSU administration.“Yes, and TSU is going to put someone here,” Gawel said. “One of the reasons I’m here tonight and you are meeting here is that they have requested some sort of support from the county for that position.”Gawel quelled the rumors TSU would be adding agents in the area to replace UT Extension Service personnel laid off in the cutbacks, particularly Michael Barry, who worked with the 4-H program.“The only thing in our extension area that’s being added is the nursery specialist position,” Gawel said, noting the current area nursery specialist would still be around for some time.“Mark Halcomb he’s officially retiring, but he will be on board full time until June of 2012,” Gawel said.