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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Reception cool to city indoor rec center proposal at county buildings and grounds committee

Cumberland Co. mayor Kenny Carey address the county commission buildings and grounds committee during a discussion of a countywide referendum for an indoor recreation center. 

The plan the Crossville city council had to put the indoor recreation facility on a countywide bond referendum appears that it may not be approved by the full commission.  The problem is lack of adequate information for the comfort level of commission members.

Questions from the county committee included how would operations and maintenance be funded, how would the land be paid for and who would oversee management of the building.  Engineers from Hart Freeland and Roberts that designed the facility at Manchester Tennessee that the city has looked at as a possible model and said the type of facility and amenities would determine the population that was attracted to the facility.  Generally what has been discussed is a multi-purpose gym, and indoor pool area plus other possible classrooms, a wellness center area and more.  Depending on the cost an outdoor water activity area may be considered.

Crossville councilman Pete Souza said that to get the matter ready for the referendum, and the deadline is short, the city and county need to agree on the funding mechanism in order to move forward.  Said Souza, the questions now is, "Does the city and county want to do this, what are the parameters and responsibilities and are we going to do it by August?"

Souza said his personal view was he didn't feel it should be done without a referendum because it was a lot of money and he felt the people should have a say in it.

The referendum wording must be approved by the state election commission and then turned in to the local election commission by August 25 for it to be on the November 8 ballot.
Should the deadline be missed, the next opportunity for the referendum would not be for another two years.

Crossville city attorney Will Ridley said that he hoped to get a definite offer to the county approved by the council at their July 14 meeting that would include the basic details of land donated, operations and funding.  Ridley said he hoped the commission would be willing to consider that offer at thier regular July Meeting on July 18.

County commissioner Harry Sabine had strong comments saying the matter was "completely premature. I don't see anything succeeding and my plan is to vote 'no' to anything coming in front of county commission."  Sabine, a city resident and city voter said, "I think the city ought to do it.  For any referendum to succeed, who ever is doing it, whether city or county or both, they've got to be behind it 100 percent, tell everybody what you're doing and support it. It is almost like, from what I've heard and seen, the city doesn't know what they're doing.  They haven't done anything."

Sabine said he felt the commission would almost unanimously vote the proposal down. "I'm a city resident," explained Sabine, "and I would love to see this.  I will support it and I will be delighted to pay extra taxes for the city to do it."  Sabine continued saying that he wasn't sure the city could even get the necessary package put together to get the referendum on the ballot by August either.

Councilman Souza responded, "Thank you Harry for your candid opinion."

The meeting ended without much consensus other than what Sabine said.

Councilman Jesse Kerley said if the city alone took on the project the tax increase on city residents was estimated at a 35 cent tax increase.  Kerley said the city pays about $6 million a year to the county and added that he doesn't really know what he gets from the county for the taxes he pays.  Kerley continued, "I came up with this idea.  All you are doing is giving people the chance to vote."

Kerley said if the city does it he and his neighbors will have to "pay $20 million so county residents can use this for a smaller fee and I don't think that's fair."  He added that if the project is put off another two years it could be $5 million more.

The item will be on the city agenda for July 14 and the following information was released with the agenda today:

The Cumberland County Buildings and Grounds Committee has requested a proposal from the City Council regarding the potential county-wide referendum on an indoor recreation facility. In order for them to pass a resolution calling for the referendum, they need a proposal from the City Council that addresses the following:
1. What size facility is proposed and what would it include?
2. What is the maximum amount to be spent? (Range)
3. Who would own the facility?
4. Who would operate the facility?
5. Who would provide the land and how much land will be provided?
6. How would the capital costs be funded?
7. How would the operational costs be funded?

This basic framework would be contained in the resolution adopted by both the City and Council so that, if the referendum is approved by the voters, both the City and County know how to proceed. Without these basic questions agreed on in advance, an adopted county-wide referendum would make it totally a County facility and responsibility, with no involvement by the City. The County Commission meets on July 18. Their next meeting would be August 15, which leaves little time to get the proposed referendum question to the State Election Commission for approval to submit to the Cumberland County Election Commission by August 25.

The City Council has previously discussed a $20M referendum and an approximate 66,000 sf facility (similar to Manchester) that would include:
* 16,000 sf gym with two high-school-size courts and one college-size court
* Walking track measuring 1/12 mile
* Competition swimming pool with eight, 25-yard lanes
* Warm water pool
* Outdoor leisure pool with deck and water park-type amenities
* Wellness center
* Martial arts/gymnastics room
* Dance and aerobics exercise room
* Locker rooms

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