Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

May 11, 2012

City asks county for partnership

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville City Council would like to form a partnership with the Cumberland County Commission to operate the long proposed Big South Fork visitor's center, but the council wants the county to commit to an equal partnership without limits or caps.

At the council's April meeting, members agreed to be equal partners on the operation of the visitor's center for one year of the 20-year commitment the county was making. The council had previously agreed to fund $120,000 to meet the match required by the Tennessee Department of Transportation grant for construction of the building. The county has previously received grants to pay for engineering design, utility installation and the gift of land for the location of the proposed center just off of the I-40 Genesis Road exit.

The county met in a special called meeting April 30 and approved a 20-year partnership at a maximum of $30,000 a year and sent that proposal back to the city. The county commission planned to reconvene that called meeting after hearing the city council's response to their proposal.

County Commissioners Jeff Brown and Sonya Rimmer attended the council meeting. Rimmer said the county had a commitment from the Big South Fork to have their volunteers man the visitor's center three days a week and to provide uniforms.

Councilman Boyd Wyatt commented about the idea that the cost to operate the program would not change over 20 years, "Twenty years is a long time with no increase."

Councilman Danny Wyatt moved that the city form a joint 50/50 partnership to operate the visitor's, center but did not add any cap or limit to his motion. He did include that the partnership continue for the 20 years required for the county to operate the center, instead of the one year offered at the previous council meeting.

Councilman George Marlow expressed his concern about the funding proposed by the county saying, "We can't live with a cap. We are bending over backwards to go along with the county."

The city previously estimated annual operating cost of the facility for payroll, utilities and maintenance at about $100,000 a year to start.

The motion passed with three votes in favor from council members Danny Wyatt, Earl Dean and George Marlow. Councilman Boyd Wyatt and Mayor J. H. Graham voted against the motion.

The council had hoped to approve the resolution moving forward with the long-term bond financing but, due to a delay in getting an approval letter from the state comptroller's office, put the action on hold.

Advisor Larry Kidwell attended the council's audit committee meeting and explained the state was now looking more closely at such bond issues, but he expected the letter to be ready in time for the council's regular meeting. According to Kidwell, because an employee was out sick, the letter did not make it back to the city in time and the resolution will require a special called meeting for approval.

The council has set that special called meeting for May 17 at 11:30 a.m.

The council also discussed possible changes to the city's retirement program at their audit committee meeting. The city may opt out of the state retirement system for future city employees in favor of a 457 plan or a 401a plan. In order to get out of the state system, they must send a letter to the state at least a year before they pull out. Existing employees will continue with the state plan, but new employees would not.

City Manager Bruce Wyatt explained the city should prepare such a letter and then investigate what they would like to do. The city could always rescind the letter and stay in the current system if they decided to. Approval of such a letter is expected at next month's council meeting.

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