Cumberland County will move forward with the Big South Fork Visitors Center project after funding was narrowly approved for advertising and environmental impact study costs.

Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. told the county commission that advertising costs to request bids for construction on the project would cost between $2,000 to $2,500 and the environmental impact study would cost roughly $2,500.

"There is an Oct. 1 deadline on the project. We honestly don't know if it will even come in under the $600,000 budget," Carey said.

Cumberland County officials recently discovered the project must be re-bid before Oct. 1 of this year or the federal eligibility for the visitor center project will expire. The county must also have an updated environmental document before funding for the project can be re-obligated.

Due to the recent passage of the new Transportation Bill (MAP-21), federal funds must be obligated prior to Oct. 1 of this year. After that date, the federal eligibility for visitor center projects expires, according to Neil Hansen, enhancement coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).

Hansen also said in a letter to the county that due to the county's delay in moving into the construction phase of the project, the federal funding was de-obligated at the request of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in May of 2009.

"So what do you need from us?" Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, asked.

"That's up to you. I am providing the information the county asked me to get at the work session," Carey said.

Koester then made a motion to move forward with the project and fund only up to $5,000 for the advertising costs and the environmental study.

Robert Safdie, 2nd District commissioner, supported the motion and the result was a 9-9 tie vote.

Mayor Carey, who as chairman of the county commission can vote if there is a tie, cast a yes vote, approving the motion 10-9.

"I have spoke to several people on this and there is not a clear direction in which way to go. I vote yes to see if we can get a bid on it," Carey said as he cast the tie-breaking vote.

Other commissioners voting yes were Brian Houston, 1st District; Nancy Hyder and Robert Safdie, 2nd District; Allen Foster, 4th District; Koester and Jan McNeil, 5th District; Roy Turner, 7th District; and Jeff Brown and Sonya Rimmer, 8th District.

Commissioners voting against moving forward with the project were Harry Sabine, 1st District; Dave Hassler and Johnny Presley, 3rd District; Charles Seiber, 4th District; Terry Carter and Larry Allen, 6th District; Mike Harvel, 7th District; and John Kinnunen and Carmin Lynch, 9th District.

The prior bids on the project were rejected because they were either to much, or because the county did not follow guidelines because the bidders did not complete the forms accurately. Therefore, the state and federal guidelines would not allow the bid to be accepted.

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