McNally: Administration revising Fall Creek Falls privatization plan

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is revising its plans to privatize Fall Creek Falls State Park and will change provisions seen as bypassing the State Building Commission, reports the Times-Free Press.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, shed additional light on the controversy that forced Department of Environment and Conservation officials to abruptly drop a request for proposals from companies interested in operating the 26,000-acre park in rural Van Buren and Bledsoe counties.

The plan includes giving whomever is eventually picked as the concessionaire some $22 million appropriated in this year’s budget to tear down and build a new park inn and convention center.

“Well, the administration has backed it up, and I think they’re going to go back through the Building Commission process, which is what we wanted,” McNally said. “They’ll have to have the plan approved there, and then the Building Commission will also have to approve the design.” 

McNally described the controversy as “somewhere between a bump in the road and a roadblock. It’s not a roadblock, but it’s not as insignificant as a bump in the road.” 

Would-be concessionaires were to have responded with their proposals on Thursday. But that was abruptly scrapped, the first evidence being an undated new schedule on the department’s website for the process that simply said “postponed.” 

Park employees, Van Buren County officials, the Tennessee State Employees Association and a bipartisan group of legislators have been battling Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to outsource operations at the park since it was proposed in December. 

The administration argues the move to privatize will save the state money, result in better facilities and put hospitality experts in charge rather than the state. 

But the tipping point for the General Services Department’s freeze on the request for proposals proved to be objections raised by architects and engineers over the plan to change decades-old State Building Commission requirements.

Note: Previous post HERE.

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