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New Driver Testing Center closer to green light
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The Driver Testing Center has one foot in the front door of City Hall.

McMinnville officials approved on first read a lease agreement with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security on Tuesday night.

In order to get both feet in the door, the lease requires one more passing read. The time of that reading has not been set.
The measure passed 5-1. Mayor Jimmy Haley, Vice Mayor Ben Newman and Aldermen Ryle Chastain, Everett Brock and Steve Harvey voted in favor. Alderman Jimmy Bonner voted against. Alderman Mike Neal was absent.

Per the five-year lease agreement, the city will furnish the space and utilities to the state for free and the state will supply its own janitorial services and janitorial supplies.

The lease also covers other items. Upkeep is at the city’s expense. A clause allows the state to terminate the lease with a 60-day written notice. And the city must meet state requirements on renovating the space.

Prior to the full board vote at 7 p.m., a Building and Grounds Committee meeting addressed financial concerns. While the city recently approved spending up to $50,000 to renovate the basement for the state to use free of charge, the state also requested the city hire an architect to oversee renovation – an item not in the cost.

City administrator Bill Brock informed committee members he has contacted AEI Architects, Engineers and Planners president Peter Metts about overseeing the renovation plans with the state’s interior planning specialist Rissy Littlepage.
“I contacted Peter because I had heard that she had done some intern work with him when she was in school and he was going to try to use her once she gets her architectural license,” said Brock. “He would want to use her on this project. He told me he would be glad to stand behind this project and he could be the architect that stamps the plans. He’ll let her do it and he’ll oversee it and walk her through a lot of things.”

While the cost of Mett’s services is unknown, architects usually charge a percentage of the overall project. With Littlepage performing the bulk of the work and Metts consulting, Brock said he’s hoping that will keep the cost down.
Alderman Steve Harvey voiced concern for the lease agreement exceeding costs.

“We agreed to spend $50,000,” he said. “If we enter into this lease agreement with them and we find out it’s going to cost $100,000, what happens then?”

City attorney Tim Pirtle laid out the legal options. One option, he said, is to pass the ordinance pertaining to the lease on first read that night but postpone second read “buying a little time” until an estimate on cost is known and officials are in agreement on it.

All board members, excluding Alderman Mike Neal, were present during committee discussion and verbally agreed to go with that option.

Committee members, Harvey and Aldermen Ben Newman and Ryle Chastain, also voted unanimously to allow administrator Brock to contact Metts about generating cost for his services and a cost estimate on the project.

The closure date for the state’s current facility is May 31. It is not expected basement renovation will be complete in time. However, if a lease agreement is entered into, the state will move in when it is ready.