The April meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners began with two routine budget amendments and the sale of two properties on the delinquent tax rolls. The next item on the agenda was requested by Carmin Lynch and concerned the possibility of ending Cumberland County’s support of the Caney Fork Regional Library which recently ended a book loan program for area agencies. The Caney Fork Regional Library’s Mission Statement states its purpose is:
“To provide materials for the residents of the Caney Fork Region; to provide library services to people who do not have access to such services; to assist local government to develop and expand library services; to train local library staff and trustees; and to serve as a link between the state library and local libraries.”
According to regional library board member Sandra Purcell, the Caney Fork Regional Library decided to reassess the services provided and to concentrate on those that are most effective. The Caney Fork Regional Library is still providing valuable equipment and services to the libraries in the region. No motion was made to end support of the Caney Fork Regional Library.
The item gaining the most attention on the evening was the Big South Fork Visitor’s Center set to be built on Cook Road. As discussed last month, over a year ago the City agreed to fund a required twenty percent match of $120,000 for construction of the facility. The City was also to pay for the annual operating expenses of the center. All of this was contingent on the County leasing the facility to the City for $1 annually. The lease was sent to the County and was never acted upon. As the original offer by the City is no longer on the table, the City has asked the County to fund half of the annual operating costs of the center up to a maximum of $50,000 annually. The fact that the original agreement sent to the County was never presented to the CountyCommission was concerning to me and caused me to ask if the change in terms from the City were in some part the fault of the County’s inaction.
Dr. Steve Morse, a professor of economics at the University of Tennessee, presented his findings on the value the visitor’s center could have to CumberlandCounty. According to projections, if the center brings in an additional three percent in revenue, it would equate to approximately $2.8 million in new tourist spending and $120,000 per year in taxes generated. Most of the tax revenue would go to the City and to Cumberland County Schools.
At this point it seems some want to kill the project, some want to keep it, and others want more information. I fall in the latter category. Grants for construction of infrastructure on Cook road have been accepted and spent. Land for the center was gained by both a purchase and a donation. Backing out could be expensive. We just don’t know yet. Bids are already opened for construction, and the Financial Management Committee will have no choice but to approve the lowest and best bid unless action is taken by the CountyCommission before the end of the month. The Financial Management Committee has no authority in determining the need of a project, only in approving bids and contracts that meet specifications. A motion was approved to set up a joint meeting with the City, followed by a special called business meeting of the CountyCommission, before the end of the month. Hopefully all the details can be discussed and a decision can be made.
What do you think about the Big South Fork Visitor’s Center? Your feedback is important to me. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email. Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County.