By Gary Nelson
The Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce wants to run and operate the The Crossville-Cumberland County Gateway to the Big South Fork Visitors Center once the building is complete and ready to be opened to the public.
The building and grounds committee agrees.
The building is just off Cook Rd. adjacent to Roane State Community College off the Genesis Rd. exit from I-40 and can be seen from the interstate.
Several people representing the Chamber attended Tuesday's Building and Grounds Committee meeting and presented a letter with a sample resolution expressing interest in running the BSF Visitors Center.
Brad Allamong, president and CEO and Ashley Allen DeRossett, senior vice president of the Chamber, discussed several ideas with the committee.
"We see this as an opportunity to take advantage of to help keep visitors in the area and encourage them to spend money in the area at local businesses," Allamong said.
Ashley Allen DeRossett explained the Chamber wrote the grant for $25,000 for parking, sidewalks and landscaping at the new building. She further explained they would staff the center with one full-time manager five days per week.
She also said the National Park Service would supply a part-time employee at 16 hours per week, or two days, allowing the center to be open seven days per week.
"You have to be open seven days per week in order to be listed on the blue signs on the interstate. This would also be supported by volunteers, who would be trained. The National Park Service would also provide some of the training," DeRossett said.
She also explained the center could make revenues, but it would have to go back into the operation of the center.
"This could greatly offset expenses and the budget for the center," DeRossett said.
A sample resolution states the Chamber would provide professional management services and subcontract the necessary professional staffing/operations and management support of the center.
Both Allamong and DeRossett cited the Chamber's experience in successfully operating its office on Main St., which serves as a visitor center for the county, training experience for tourism staff and economic development backgrounds and working with volunteers, which would be vital to the new center.
"I have no objection to subcontracting it out to the Chamber, providing an agreement is reviewed by our attorney and they follow every condition required by the grants," Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, said.
Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. said he had met with Chamber officials and they fully agreed they would follow and meet the conditions.
"How does the mayor feel? What's his opinion?" Lynch asked.
"I think the Chamber is more poised to operate the center and it's the purpose of their business. I think they'd do a much better job operating it than the county could do. It's my recommendation they should be the ones to run the center," Carey said.
Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner, moved to recommend to the full county commission the Chamber be the ones to operate the visitors center and Mayor Carey get with county attorney Randal Boston to work up the agreement between the two and to prepare it before the next county commission meeting.
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.
A letter was also provided to the committee from city of Crossville Manager David Rutherford, expressing the city has no objection to the county subcontracting the operation of the visitors center to the Chamber.
The city of Crossville and Cumberland County have agreed to split operation costs of the facility.
Earlier in the meeting, Skip Freitag of Freitag Construction gave a report on the progress of the visitors center. Freitag said paving at the center should begin next week and that most of the exterior stonework was up and the gas lines and electric were roughed in and there have been no change orders needed up to this point.
"We have a few rain days built in. We will be pushing it. I'm trying to keep everything (jobs) I can in the county. I have a few concerns because there have been some delays with having to use DBEs (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises)," Freitag said.
The center should be complete sometime in December.