By ABBY SOUZA
If the Economic Development Company of Tuolumne County and community activist Stephanie Suess have their way, the Jamestown mine site will be home to a new vocational school focused on agriculture.
Suess, who approached the EDC with the idea, presented the concept to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors yesterday.
The proposed "regional technical education center" would provide instruction in agricultural fields, Suess said. If the program is successful, classes in auto repair, home health care, computer science and other areas could be added.
The agricultural program would allow students to plant, harvest and sell crops, participate in breeding programs, establish a commercial food-preparation area for local farmers and even conduct a study of revegatation of mine areas, Suess said.
The classes would be offered and conducted through an EDC-Columbia College partnership.
The agricultural program, Suess said, could take advantage of the mine site almost as is. None of the projects have high power needs and water is available already. Anything needed beyond that, like buildings, could be handled by volunteers.
"Those buildings could go up, I think, with community support," Suess said.
Suess is familiar with gaining community support: She and Cheryl Klatt, both mothers, were behind the Heaven for Kids park that was built with donations and volunteers a few years ago on Greenley Road in Sonora.
The kind of community effort behind the playground project, she said, will be needed to launch the proposed vocational school.
Although details have not been spelled out, the EDC will lead the effort and will pay for a project feasibility study.
Further funding for the project could come from grants and matching-fund partnerships with local government and agricultural groups like the University of California Cooperative Extension, Jamestown Sanitary District or Cattleman's Association, according to an EDC handout.
The idea received a warm reception from board members.