Milan, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture announced today that it is developing plans to close the Buford Ellington 4-H Center in Milan by June 30, 2009, and that plans for a new administrative facility for the Milan UT AgResearch and Education Center have been put on hold.
The 4-H Center, which is operated by the Institute's outreach unit, UT Extension, is largely built around 70-year-old housing units that were constructed for the Milan Army Ammunition Plant by the U.S. Army. The facilities need extensive renovations to make them comparable to facilities at the University's other 4–H centers in Columbia, Crossville and Greeneville. UT Extension officials estimate that costs of renovations would be at least $5 million.
“With the capital improvements needed, we can't justify maintaining the current facilities at Milan, Dr. Tim Cross, UT Extension dean explained. “If an opportunity comes along, we would consider reestablishing a camp in West Tennessee, but until such a time, 4-H students from West Tennessee will be well served at 4-H Center in Columbia.”
All affected campers will have the same opportunities as in prior years, with travel assistance provided if needed to campers from counties that must travel farther to camp.
Closure of the Milan 4-H Center would result in the elimination of three regular full-time positions. Cross met with the available affected employees on February 12. Those employees will be encouraged to apply for other positions within UT Extension, he said.
Ten term positions and eight student positions are also being eliminated. Most of these positions have served seasonal needs in the summer and would not be filled this camping season. Term positions are those of duration of less than 12 months.
The Institute of Agriculture's AgResearch unit also announced that due to pending budget constraints on the University, plans for a new headquarters facility for the Milan AgResearch and Education Center have been placed on hold.
“If budget reductions prevent the construction of the planned new headquarters, then we may have to consolidate our headquarters into the West Tennessee Agricultural Museum,” Blake Brown, Director of the Milan UT AgResearch and Education Center speculated. The Museum is located on the North Tract of the Center.
Budget reductions for UT AgResearch are expected to be at least $2.1 million for fiscal year 2010. The cost of the new headquarters facility is estimated at approximately $500,000 for a 3,767 square-foot-office building, which would include a conference room. A new headquarters for the Milan AgResearch and Education Center has been in various long-range plans for a number of years because, like the buildings at the 4-H Center, the present headquarters facility is in need of modernization.
Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch said, “Budget reduction projections for 2010 are still uncertain, so we are unsure at this point of any operating or staff changes that might occur at the Milan AgResearch and Education Center. Still, we do know that we will have to eventually relocate the headquarters.”
Joseph DiPietro, UT vice president for agriculture and vice president of the Institute of Agriculture, said that the current economic crisis is presenting challenges for the university. “These are difficult decisions to make during difficult times. We have to manage our limited funds very wisely and justify every expenditure. Where reductions have become necessary, we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact on our personnel.”
The Buford Ellington 4-H Center opened in 1962 and serves about 2,000 adults and youth annually. In general, the Center is used from the last week of May through the last week of July. UT's other three 4-H centers offer year–round programs.
UT officials said discussions would be held with community groups potentially interested in acquiring the Milan 4-H Center property. If there is no interest, the buildings will be demolished. “We have no set timeframe for disposition of the buildings or the property,” said Dr. Cross. “That will be determined as part of the planning process for closing the Center.”
The Executive Committee and the Research, Outreach and Economic Development Committee of the UT Board of Trustees will be informed of the intent to close the 4-H Center at its 8 a.m. February 27 meeting in Memphis.
4-H is the youth development program of UT Extension. 4-H teaches leadership, citizenship and life skills to more than 320,000 youth in grades 4-12. 4-H also has more than 15,000 adult volunteers statewide.
The Milan UT AgResearch and Education Center is a focal point for cropping systems research. New research is focused on energy crops through applied research, demonstrations, and Extension educational programs, ensuring that Milan remains a critical source of research–based information for Tennessee farmers.