Florida’s Pensacola State College is starting a commercial truck driver training program for the fall and Santa Rosa County is going to help.
At a July 12 commission meeting, the county began the process of creating an agreement with the college to lease a parcel in the Northwest Florida Industrial Park at Interstate 10.
At the July 9 commission meeting, PSC President Edward Meadows approached the county commissioners about a long-term lease for five acres of land in the industrial park for $1.
In a letter to the commissioners, Meadows said the plan includes adding a lineman training program later.
With both programs in place, Meadows said, trucking students could receive the commercial driver license training necessary to operate a lineman’s bucket truck.
“The class size is limited to 12 per semester,” Meadows said. “So the max we could handle in one year without a flex schedule would be 36.”
In return for leasing the land for a nominal fee, according to Meadows, the college would guarantee five slots for Santa Rosa County students and waive the tuition for three. He said that he would also be willing to accept the less desirable portion of the industrial park.
The college already has funding and a design for the building for the trucking school. PSC could begin construction and advertise for instructors, according to Meadows, almost immediately should the college and county reach an agreement.
“The good thing about being on a 320-hour clock program is we don’t have to start it on a specific date when all the other students start,” Meadows said. “We can start it at any time during the semester that we are ready to go.”
Commissioner Don Salter asked Meadows how long PSC would like to lease the property. Meadows said he has not spoken with the college’s attorney yet but would like a five-year lease at least with an option for renewal.
Commissioner Bob Cole said he was excited for the prospect of this agreement and thanked Meadows for adding the incentive of the slots for county students.
“I think it would be great, to be an incentive to our employees as we bring them on board, as we see the need for a CDL,” Cole said. “To me, that adds a lot to the value of this program.”
One county resident, Jerry Couey, spoke against the proposal, citing the fear that since taxpayers’ money offsets the cost of the industrial park, the college’s use of it would not help them recoup their money as the college is a government — not industrial — entity. An industrial entity would allow for taxpayers to see a return on the investment, he said.
“This property is also a certified industrial park which we [the taxpayers] paid extra money for,” Couey said. “As a taxpayer who had to chip in to pay for that, I think we should be looking for opportunities for future taxpaying residents of this industrial park.”
Couey said he would like to see industry move into the park that would pay taxes and eventually allow Santa Rosa County citizens to get their money back.