Lenoir City leaders considering taking over operations of Fort Loudoun Marina

Author: Tammy Cheek

Soon Lenoir City Council will have to decide whether to go into the marina business or allow a private operator to take it over. During Monday's workshop, the council discussed Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA's) determination regarding commercial easement at the marina. "Dale (Hurst, city administrator) and I met with TVA officials last week here at their local office on (Highway) 321," Mayor Matt Brookshire said. He explained TVA was trying to make a decision as to how to treat commercial ventures, such as the marina at the city park, and how do deal with the commercial components of these easements. "TVA has made a decision as to how they are going to deal with them," Brookshire said. "From this point forward, TVA will be dealing with the commercial aspect of it on a entirely separate issue."

He said TVA presented two options:

If the city wants to run the marina - taking it over and making it a public marina - then the city would be the applicant, the mayor related. 

If the city does not have any interest in becoming the owner or operator of a public marina, then they (TVA) would work directly with the private operator directly. "The city would have no say-so. The city would have no input. There would not be a 'work through the city first' - the city do a sub-lease like it has been done in the past," he explained.

Right now the application for the marina is in the city's name. "We made the application based on how it used to be," Brookshire said. "The city would make the application with TVA then enter into subagreements with an operator. "The only way TVA can work with the private operator is if we withdraw our application," he said. "How is that going to affect the revenue?" Council member Douglas "Buddy" Hines asked. "We don't get anything?""They showed us their new system, their new revenue formula," Brookshire said."So, we're out of it?" Hines asked. "That's exactly right," the mayor replied.  "Wasn't that like a 30-year deal when we voted on that?" Council member Mike Henline asked. "That hasn't changed," Brookshire said. "That's still the term of the agreement that they will work for is 30 years."

Council member Tony Aikens asked Brookshire if he or Hurst had any discussions with Ed Loy, who is operating the marina. "No, TVA has," Brookshire said. He added there have been no discussions with Loy since the city has submitted its application to TVA. "I really don't want the city to get into the rental business," Aikens said. "That's basically what we would be doing (by taking over the marina)." "That's exactly what it would be," Brookshire said. He said for the last two years TVA has been working on the issue of addressing commercial aspects of TVA easements. There are five within the whole valley TVA is targeting right now. Some are marinas, some are campgrounds and some are a mix of both. "Right now, the only application they (TVA) have is the application from Lenoir City," he said. "That tells them we want to be the marina operator. If we don't want to be the marina operator then we, as a governing body, have to convey to them to please withdraw or ignore our application so a private operator can apply." "What is the advantage to the city (to operate the marina)?" Hines asked.

Brookshire answered he didn't know but observed the city would incur liability expenses. He added the marina could not be contracted out. It has to be operated by city personnel. "You have to bring somebody on staff to manage and operate it," he said.  "I believe that is even less enticing," Aikens replied. 

Giving up control of the marina would mean losing possible revenue. Brookshire explained the city had to go with a temporary agreement with TVA and the marina, and that took away the city's funding at that point. 

Council member Eddie Simpson said when the city talked with TVA about three years ago, TVA had agreed to split the revenues 60-40 with the city getting the 40 percent. "And now, they have withdrawn that offer?" Simpson asked. "Yes, that's right," Brookshire replied, noting the initial application fee was $5,000.  "I don't know if that (fee) comes back to us if we withdraw our application," he said. 

Simpson said he is glad, when the city made an agreement for the park, to include eight acres to expand the park. "It sounds like we're being taken out of the picture by TVA," he said.  "Unless we want to operate it (the marina)," Brookshire added. 

Henline said should the city not have control, he is concerned an undesirable business would go into the marina, such as a casino. 

Brookshire said any business operating at the marina has to be approved by TVA and fit its goals. 

Henline asked if others, besides Loy, could make an application and compete with Loy. "They (TVA) really didn't have an answer," the mayor said. "They recognized that could be an issue but they didn't yet have a policy for how they want to handle it." 

Simpson asked the mayor to have TVA make a presentation on its decision before the council takes any action on the marina. 

"I would like to hear their version of why they changed their mind after the fact, if they would answer those questions," he said. "There's no hurry. This thing has gone on for three years." "I think the only hurry now is Mr. Loy can't move forward with his application because ours is in the way," Brookshire said. 

Henline then asked if the city keeps up the road at the marina. Brookshire answered the city does that. "We signed a contract with them (TVA)," Aikens added. "So they want us to keep the road up yet have nothing to do with the marina..." Henline said. "They want to take the funds but they want us to spend everything," Aikens said. 

Simpson said that adds some weight in a vote to keep the marina because he thought the city would be collecting about $28,000 a year from the venture. Aikens suggested Brookshire get in touch with Loy so he can be at the next meeting as well.  

In other business, the council discussed establishing a three-way stop at the intersection of Yosemite and Biscayne Roads in the Harrison Woods subdivision. Brookshire presented a map made and photos taken of the intersection.  "I know one thing," Council member Bobby Johnson Sr. said. "It will slow down the speeders. I know a lot of people don't like those things (three-way stops), but I'll tell you they work in some places."

Brookshire agreed. "I think this is a good location. "This intersection is kind of an unusual intersection," the mayor said. "It separates the Phase 1 of the development from Phase II, so there is a great deal of traffic just passing through it, going up to the back part of the Harrison Woods property."

The council, during its March 8 meeting, approved the three-way stop on first reading, so the second reading would take place during its 7 p.m. Monday, March 22, meeting. Road Superintendent J.J. Cox asked the council who will pay for the signs for the three-way stop - the city or developers. He observed the signs are custom-made wood ones. 

Brookshire suggested the city talk with developers to see if they are willing to pay for the signs, or perhaps the city and developer can split the cost. "What we put up, typically, are metal signs, not what we put up there," he said. Also, the area is still being developed and not in the city system yet. 

Simpson said he thinks the developer should pay. The council also discussed the possibility of Tire Recycling Center locating in the city. "We got a call from our representative to the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission, Jim Aikens," the mayor said. He noted the commission was informed of a tire recycling company that was looking at two sites, one in Lenoir City and another in Loudon.  "Apparently tire recycling companies fall under the same state statute as landfills," Brookshire said. "So, in order for one to locate within your county, it has to be approved by the county commission," he said. "The way I understand it, even if they are located in Lenoir City, the county commission still has to approve that." 

The mayor noted, after some discussion with the city administrator and the commission representative, he wanted to run it past the council, so the council could offer some input before the next Loudon County Commission meeting. The center would require several acres of outside storage, as well as inside storage. 

"As far as noise is concerned, it is relatively quiet process," the mayor said. "They use the recycled tires for mulch for playgrounds, as well as a wide variety of other things."

The center could potentially bring in 10 to 15 jobs, he added but noted there is not a lot of taxes expected to be generated there.  "They would probably be happier in the county," Henline said. 

Simpson warned the tires are a mosquito haven.