By Marlana Ward
A final decision has been made concerning the proposed youth center and skate rink, which has been discussed and debated for the past year by the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen. With a split vote of three to two, plans to enter an agreement for the property on South Shady Street were refused. This final motion presented for a vote was the culmination of months of research and proposals made by City Mayor Kevin Parsons as well as presentations made by various interested parties at monthly board meetings as the plans for the center changed over the year. The final proposal presented before the board was outlined by Mayor Parsons as being: “The town accept the deed to the property on Highway 421 known as the ‘skating rink’ with no obligation to the city. In three years the town will either have money funded by grants and other means not to include any monies from the town’s budget. Should the town not be able to purchase the property for half of the appraised value or $126,000.00 to include both building and parking area, then the city will deed the property back to the Brown Estate.”
Mayor Parsons requested a vote at the June 4 meeting of the board, but the result was a tie due to one alderman being absent, requiring another vote to be held at a special budget workshop meeting held on June 19. It was at this meeting that Mayor Parsons and Alderman Bob Morrison voted in favor of moving forward with the center as proposed while Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan, Alderman Kenny Icenhour, and Aldermen Bud Crosswhite voted against the motion.
Before the meeting, Parsons sent an email to the Aldermen encouraging them to consider potential revenue for the town as well as providing a service previously lacking in the community. In the email he stated: “All I am asking for is the chance to make something happen for either our youth, our senior citizens, or both as it would create an opportunity for the town to keep much-needed sales tax revenue here at home especially considering what the new restaurants will do in preventing people from leaving town for the products that previously would not be available here.”
Parsons also encouraged the Aldermen to review the proposal again and to approach him with any suggestions or concerns they may have so they could be addressed. “If there are any concerns you have with approving this deal I will be glad to include that in the agreement before we accept the deed to the property with the hopes of getting something good for your community,” he further stated in the email.
While Parsons was confident in the plans for the location on South Shady Street, some of the aldermen maintained reservations about insurance liabilities and construction costs. “We cannot get insurance on the building which could open us to a possible liable law suite which in turn would drain the city financially,” Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan said in an email following the meeting. “Our city mayor is depending on getting donations to pay for the interest on the loan if we purchase the property. He also stated he could get donations to demolish the building and grants to cover the cost of the entire project. I don’t foresee him getting grants that don’t require a match of some sort. This venture could end up costing the town major bucks which I don’t think it would be fair for our city taxpayers to burden this cost.”
Parsons acknowledged the town’s concern about the insurance issues with the property but refuted those claims with information from the Brown Estate, which currently owns the property.“One of the issues that the council had–as so they say–came from our city attorney who continues to say that the building is not insurable and too much of a liability to the city. The building is currently insured through the Brown Estate.”
Jordan went on in his email to explain how the town currently seeks to meet the needs of its citizens through programs and properties currently available to residents.“We currently have Ralph Stout Park, Cunningham Park, the swimming pool, and community center that’s available to all residents of Johnson County, youth, and adults,” he said. “The city is trying to help our youth with these current assets. It would be nice to have a Youth Center in town, but the old skating rink is out of the picture for the above reasons. We need to look at a city-owned property that could be utilized to build a youth center in the future provided funding is available.”
Jordan added, “I think our city government is trying their best with the revenue we receive to help maintain our Parks and Recreations for the youth to enjoy. We definitely don’t make a profit from these departments. We need to seek outside sources and individuals that would be willing to invest their capital in building an amusement center realizing their profit would be low or even a loss. They must have a big heart to do this.”
At the time of publication, no future plans or proposals for an additional community-driven youth center are known.