McFee expansion a hot topic

Continuing with McFee Park expansion came under fire when Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed Capital Improvement Projects during a budget workshop Thursday, April 12.

“I would propose that we push out McFee Park expansion for one year, (to) 2020,” Alderman Louise Povlin said. “In last year’s budget we were going to do $3 million in fiscal year 2019 and another $3 million for fiscal year 2022. So basically, what we’ve done is push everything up to fiscal year 2019.

“I think we have some balls in the air we haven’t resolved yet,” she added. Among those, she listed Mayor Bob Leonard Park in relation to tourism goals, finishing Campbell Station Inn renovation and developing a Town Center.

“We still haven’t explored our possibilities in regard to the Town Center and what that might require from a public-private partnership,” she said. “I’d like some knowledge about that step going forward and I think, when we are looking at all these costs for McFee Park, we need community input for a whole picture. I would like a fully idealized comprehensive plan with community engagement and I think, this year, we could do all that.

“(The park) is our property,” Povlin said. “It’s not like we’re in a hurry to get it finished. I think if we put it off a year, we would have a better understanding of where we’re going forward with all the amenities we would like to include in our Town.”

“I think it’s a very responsible proposition,” Alderman Bob Markli said.

However, Vice Mayor Ron Pinchok opposed Povlin’s proposal, saying residents have been waiting for closure on the project.

“We’ve pushed it out and pushed it for five or six years,” Pinchok said, adding he thinks the Board could wait on the work at Campbell Station Inn.

“I think the return on our investment at McFee Park is much greater than we’re going to have on the Campbell Station Inn property,” he said.

Concerning Mayor Bob Leonard Park, he said, “I don’t know where we are going to put another pavilion out there. We’ve been discussing it for two years … it’s all speculation. It’s going to take time doing that.

“To put off McFee Park for another year is a real concern, and I think it would not be right for the citizens of this Town to see that park be pushed back any further,” Pinchok said. “I want to see the next phase started that we’ve been talking about, so from there we can move forward and get public funding to get other things done out there.”

Pinchok said there is money already available in the CIP fund for the expansion.

“I think we need to move forward with it,” he said. “For the last three or four years, I’ve had so many people asking when are we going to develop that park — when are we going to get things moving — nobody’s asked me about Campbell Station Inn,” Pinchok added. “As a matter of fact, more people are upset that we bought that property. I just have way too many people wanting to see something done with the park.”

Pinchok said he has not heard much interest in the Town Center from residents.

“Some people think it’s pie in the sky,” he added. “We need to get a master plan (for the Town Center), I’m all for that, but to take money from the park to get a master plan done, I don’t think that’s necessary.”

While Pinchok said he has been in favor of a Town Center since entering office, he thinks the development is moving too slow.

“We’ve got a bird in the hand (that is) worth two in the bush,” he said. “We’ve got the money to act on the park.”

Povlin countered, “My issue is if we do have things all fall into place (for the Town Center) and we don’t have the money … we’re going to watch something pass us by.”

Regarding the Town Center, Markli said, “We can’t make that happen — the market’s going to drive that.”

He also agreed there is no rush with Campbell Station Inn.

With McFee Park, Markli said the Board already has made a commitment.

“We’ve invested a lot of money in that property,” he added, labeling $6.1 million the next phase “a huge commitment.”

“When the plan was proposed four years ago, it was $8 million for the whole thing — that was tennis courts, everything,” Pinchok said. “Every year this (project passes) it costs more.”

Other CIP projects include adding a sidewalk connection between Orchid Grove to Sedgefield subdivisions, adding a crosswalk to Mayor Bob Leonard Park at a cost of $160,000 and Little Turkey Creek Greenway extension, with $300,000 budgeted for 2022.