Commissioners adjourn special meeting without plan

By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published June 15, 2012

The grass is knee−high at the new Burns ball complex site and town officials agree they have to do something about it before the state pulls grant funding. But they don’t know what they’re going to do.

Burns commissioners knew they were on deadline to complete the first major phase of construction for the 50−acre ball field and park complex neighboring Stuart−Burns Elementary School, and that deadline passed over four months ago.

Town attorney Tim Potter laid it out for the commissioners during Monday’s special−called meeting − the town either needs to seek a loan to finish the first phase of construction, or raise taxes to generate the needed funding.

He added the town can try to collect donations for the park − which presently appears to be the main course of action. Potter cautioned this method will continue to drag out the park’s completion.

Town officials, however, remain stumped about how to generate at least $150,000 to complete the project before the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation pulls the $425,000 grant awarded the town for phase I construction of the park complex.

The town had till Jan. 31 to install lighting on one ball diamond; erect a concession stand and ADA−compliant walkways; bring utilities on site; and carve out two infields for the fenced−in ball diamonds. Construction at the site halted last fall after KW Lankford Excavating, of Dickson, finished grading the site and an access road and parking lots were paved.

The contractor also erected fencing for two 200−foot ball diamonds, where knee−high grass is reclaiming the cleared lot.

During several prior regular and special−called meetings, Parks and Recreation Director Chris Ward presented the commissioners with individual figures for each remaining need in phase I, including estimates for lighting both 200−foot ball diamonds and lease packages for paying off the expense.

During Monday’s special−called meeting, Ward reported speaking with an official, who worked in the TDEC grant department under former Gov. Phil Bredesen and oversaw grant requests.

Ward relayed that the official noted TDEC grants are the worst state grants “to mess up on,” and by law a pulled grant can prevent the town from receiving any future state grant funding for any project or department.

To light one field, plus a concession stand, ADA−compliant walkways, utilities and carving out the infields, will cost upward of $150,000.

Commissioner Jerry Baker suggested the state just wants to see some type of progress at the site, and the commissioners should focus on completing smaller projects remaining in phase I, like lighting the fields first.

Baker alluded to White Bluff’s implementation of a “pay−as−you−pave” plan − to pave town streets with immediate available funding − as a model Burns could apply to the construction project, allowing “small bites” to be taken out of the $150,000−plus estimate.

Initial funding

In February 2011, the commissioners approved KW Lankford Excavating’s low bid of $454,308.36 for grading, drainage and erosion control for the access road to the park, construction of the access road and some parking spots, and rough grading for the ball fields. TDEC’s matching grant paid for a chunk of that expense.

The Dickson County School Board agreed in November 2010 to fund $219,000 for the park’s improvements, including $172,500 for the access road and $46,200 for their share of the turning lane into the facility.

TDEC is withholding a 10 percent retainer until phase I construction is completed. The town will receive $33,000 from the state when TDEC releases the retainer funds.

The Rotary club has committed $12,000 to building the concession stand; and Ward and Commissioner Chris Holland have promises for more labor donations and funding that will chip away at the $150,000−plus figure.

The commissioners, however, must find funds to cover the majority of the final construction estimate. Monday’s meeting adjourned without any consensus for a course of action.

What’s next

The commissioners are set to hear a second and final reading of the town’s 2012−13 fiscal year budget during July’s regular meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. July 2 prior to the regular meeting.

The commissioners did not discuss a tax increase during Monday’s special−called meeting.