Jackson City Council Moves to Buy Lambuth Campus

The Associated Press

The Jackson City Council has unanimously approved a resolution to spend $3 million toward buying the campus of now-closed Lambuth University.

The council met Tuesday, Aug. 2, to adopt the resolution, and the Madison County Commission meets in special session on Thursday, Aug. 4, to vote on a $2 million stake in the purchase of Lambuth, which ceased to operate in June. The private, United Methodist Church-affiliated institution closed after several years of financial difficulties.

The university trustees have agreed to sell the campus in Jackson for $7.9 million, according to The Jackson Sun.

West Tennessee Healthcare and the Jackson Energy Authority will each pay $1 million to the city and $1 million to the county toward the purchase.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Tennessee Board of Regents approved the transition of Lambuth to a state school late last month.

The property would be owned by the state, and The University of Memphis intends to begin teaching classes on the campus with the semester that begins this month.

The local government entities in Jackson agreed to pay some but not all of Lambuth’s debt. The rest of the debt is part of a filing in federal bankruptcy court that still has to be settled.

Lambuth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection June 30. The filing came the same day a group of Jackson leaders took to the Lambuth board an offer to purchase the campus and its assets. The Lambuth board accepted the offer. The meeting was on the last day the private school was scheduled to be open.

The same board voted April 14 to close June 30 and not accept applications for the fall 2011 semester.

A THEC report also said any plan for reopening Lambuth as a state university will have to address ongoing maintenance needs the state government will not pay.

The report concludes the Lambuth campus has “significant deferred maintenance issues throughout various buildings on the campus.” Those issues include making the campus compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to renovations of Hyde Science Hall.

The state not paying for the campus and not assuming any of Lambuth’s debt were key conditions of the state agreeing to reopen the university as a public institution.

The Tennessee Legislature allocated $5 million in the current fiscal year for the University of Memphis to operate the campus.

Daily News senior reporter Bill Dries and staff contributed to this report.