By Jim Young
It looks like the fireworks are back at Centennial Park for the Fourth of July following preliminary action by the Crossville City Council last week, and a motion to rescind previous council action to provide matching funds for the Big South Fork Visitors Center project failed 2-3.
Last year during budget hearings for the current fiscal year, one of the items cut due to funding concerns was $30,000 for the annual fireworks show at Centennial Park. The council's action created a lot of community comments and a few unhappy citizens.
One local citizen, restauranteur Bruce Cannon, had an idea and began to talk to city officials and other residents about collecting donations to help pay for a fireworks show after all. According to city Marketing Director Billy Loggins, he and others had talked to the previous fireworks contractor, Pyro Shows, and if there is to be a fireworks show, a decision is needed by March first and the size of the show will be needed by June first.
According to Loggins and City Manager Bruce Wyatt, an account has been opened to collect funds and it was announced that Bruce and Carmen Wyatt had made a donation to get the ball rolling. Loggins asked about the possibility of the city matching whatever funds would be raised, perhaps up to a cap amount.
Councilman Danny Wyatt moved to hold a fireworks show with the size based on matching funds raised by the community. Souza supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.
Once again the matter of the city's partnership with Cumberland County on the Big South Fork visitor's center came up on the agenda following the latest change in the building's specifications and a new set of bids received by the county. Previously the city had voted to provide the local match portion of the funding in the amount of $120,000 and then to equally split the operating costs of the center with the county.
After a brief discussion and recap, Souza took the floor and moved to reconsider the previous action and to rescind the vote to fund the project. Souza's motion was seconded by Mayor J.H. Graham III.
Souza commented that initially he felt the idea was good but the current proposed location is a bad one. Souza said he was concerned about traffic around Stone Memorial High School and added that the 20-year agreement to to operate the center, “is something we don't want into. It could cost us over $1 million.”
Graham agreed saying he felt the idea was originally a good one when it was on Highway 127. He added that he did not like the name of the center and felt that the operating contract should be only on a year-to-year basis, like the agreement between the city and the county on the animal shelter.
Other council comments included Councilman Jesse Kerley who wondered why this issue was coming back before the council again for the fourth time. Kerley said he supported the idea to promote local tourism.
Danny Wyatt said he felt the project would be a benefit to the area's tourism. He also pointed out that the city has a lot of competition now for tourism and retirement and he felt the center would help in those efforts.
Councilman George Marlow said he felt that if the city did not intend to follow through with the project, they should have decided that before. Marlow added that he felt the city had made a commitment to the county and it was too late to back out.
Two members of the audience commented on the matter, one in favor of the visitor's center deal and the other opposed.
The vote to approve Souza's motion failed with Souza and Graham in favor and council members Kerley, Wyatt and Marlow opposed. The project will move forward as planned.