Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

May 24, 2012

County to build, operate Big South Fork Visitor's Center

CROSSVILLE — The Big South Fork Visitor's Center may become a reality after the county commission narrowly approved building and operating the facility once the project is completed.

Resolution 05-2012-14 states "the Cumberland County Commission does hereby agree to build and operate, or contract to operate, within the terms of the grant agreement, the Big South Fork Visitor's Center for a term of 20 years with 50 percent of the yearly operational cost to be reimbursed by the city of Crossville."

According to the agreement previously approved by the city, the city of Crossville will also make the $120,000 required matching portion of the grant toward construction of the facility.

The county resolution was approved in a 10-7 vote Monday night during the county's monthly commission meeting and after an amendment was added to the resolution by 9th District Commissioner Carmin Lynch.

Lynch's amendment to be added to the resolution was narrowly approved in a 9-8 vote.

With a full county commission, such passage would require 10 votes; however, since there is a vacant seat in the 9th District, due to the recent death of Clyde Cramer, there are only 17 seats on the county commission and 9 votes constitutes a majority.

Lynch's amendment states, "Whereas Cumberland County's 50 percent share of the operating expenses shall come from the County General Fund and over 90 percent of the incremental revenue, if any, directly attributable to the Visitor's Center, will accrue to the city of Crossville and the Cumberland County School's fund, not to the General Fund, therefore be it resolved that the General Fund tax rates will be increased or reallocated from current programs for the purpose of funding Cumberland County's portion of the operating expenses for 20 years."

The amendment also removed a sentence that stated the city and county would enter into a binding contract within 120 days of the passage of the resolution.

The amendment means tax rate amounts that go into the county's General Fund will either have to be increased, or transferred in from current programs in order to fund the county's portion of the operating expenses of the facility for 20 years.

The motion to add the amendment was made by Lynch and supported by 3rd District Commissioner Dave Hassler. It was approved in a 9-8 vote.

Voting in favor of the amendment were commissioners Nancy Hyder, 2nd District; Hassler and Johnny Presley, 3rd District; Charles Seiber, 4th District; Larry Allen, 6th District; Mike Harvel and Roy Turner, 7th District; Rimmer; and Lynch.

Voting against the amendment were commissioners Harry Sabine and Brian Houston, 1st District; Robert Safdie, 2nd District; Allen Foster, 4th District; Jan McNeil and Joe Koester, 5th District; Terry Carter, 6th District; and Jeff Brown, 8th District.

Rimmer's original motion to build and operate the Big South Fork Visitor's Center was then approved in a 10-7 vote in favor.

Voting in favor were commissioners Sabine, Houston, Safdie, Hyder, McNeil, Carter, Allen, Koester, Brown and Rimmer.

Voting against the motion were commissioners Hassler, Presley, Foster, Seiber, Harvel, Turner and Lynch.

Harvel made a motion that operation of the Big South Fork Visitor's Center facility be overseen by the county mayor's department. Koester supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.

Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey, Jr. asked if that meant he was to develop a budget to run and operate the visitor's center.

"I just wanted to be clear on that," Carey said.

Harvel said he wanted it to come under the mayor's office and Lynch agreed.

In an emailed statement to the Chronicle, Lynch said, "The purpose of my amendment was not to make (the resolution) acceptable to me, but to clearly document that anyone voting for the resolution with the amendment understood that it was also a vote for a future General Fund tax rate increase. My hope was it would dissuade some commissioners from voting for the resolution itself if that was clearly spelled out. Apparently, I was wrong ..."

Mayor Carey said earlier in the county commission meeting that if the resolution was approved, the finance department was ready to send a bill for $120,000 to the city of Crossville.

Bids for the project still have to be accepted and approved. Tuesday morning the Cumberland County's Finance Committee met and went into a recess until Friday, May 25, at 8 a.m. in order to review the bids and determine if the agreements are all in place with the city.

The Big South Fork Visitor's Center is to be located on Cook Rd. near the Roane State Community College campus.

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