A win for all?

New West Knox County senior center would share space with Town community center at ex-Faith Lutheran site

A plan to share space for a community center and senior center could become a “win-win-win” for Faith Lutheran Church, Town of Farragut and Knox County.

Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to purchase property belonging to Faith Lutheran Church, 239 Jamestowne Blvd., for a community center — which also would double as an alternative senior center to Frank R. Strang Senior Center just east of Farragut — during its meeting Thursday, July 12.

The Board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Town and Knox County to jointly operate the building as a community center and a senior center.

“Obviously, a community center is something the Town has not had in our history,” Town administrator David Smoak said. “It would allow us to do many other things we do not have the space to do currently, provide many other programs and services.”

“We’re very excited about the possibilities,” Sue Stuhl, Farragut Parks & Leisure Services director, said before the meeting.

“This (purchase agreement with the Town) should be a good fit,” said the Rev. Dr. Robert Stelter,

senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church. “We’re very happy to partner with the Town as a service to the community.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.

Still, the purchase and the MOU would hinge on whether Knox County Commissioners approve the MOU, which is expected to be on the Commission’s Monday, July 23 agenda. That meeting begins at 5 p.m. in City-County Building, downtown Knoxville.

Board members gathered for a workshop about 30 minutes before their regular meeting to go over the agreements.

In 2010, Smoak said the Board formed an advisory committee to consider having a community center.

“We vetted that and looked at different places available, including this property (on Jamestowne Boulevard) … (it) just didn’t make sense for the Town to utilize the whole building.”

Several months ago, though, Smoak said Town and Knox County officials started talking about a joint venture to share space.

All the while, the former Faith Lutheran Church building has been up for sale since the church moved to an adjacent church building.

“When those discussions started taking place, we quickly realized that we could utilize both spaces (of the building),” Smoak said.

According to the MOU, the Town would purchase the property for $2 million while the county would pay $2 million for renovations.

Knox County Commission is scheduled to take up the matter at its next meeting, which begins at 5 p.m., Monday, June 23, in

“If the renovations actually take more than $2 million, the provision in the agreement is that we would share that excess cost equally (50-50),” Town attorney Tom Hale said.

“Do we have a cap on (the shared renovation costs)?” Alderman Bob Markli asked. “What if they decide we need $8 million of improvements to the building? From what I read here, we’re committed to that.”

During the meeting, the Board voted to add a cap so renovation costs would not exceed $2,250,000.

While the Town would be responsible for upkeep of its part of the property and the county for its portion, the two entities would share maintenance costs on shared space and utilities would be 60 percent Town, 40 county.

The proposed property has 5.72 acres, which includes a 35,900-square-foot building and parking. Smoak said the Town would use a little more than 16,000 square feet, the county would use 9,600 square feet, and the two entities would share 9,600, which would include the gymnasium, a kitchen, restroom facilities, elevator and a stage.

“One of the main contingencies is the Town being able to secure a tenant for a portion of the space,” he said, referring to the county. “If an agreement cannot be reached, then the purchase would not proceed forward.”